5 ideas for keeping the online conversation civil

Some online communities thrive on a snarky, provocative tone, and their members love a good foodfight.  But if your community members prefer a more mellow, live-and-let-live environment, it can be up to the community manager to ensure that it stays that way.  Here are some ideas for maintaining a friendly, civil energy within your online community.

  1. Set the example - whenever you post, use the conversational tone the community wants to have; be the role model for new members.  And don't let a troll bait you into breaking tone.
  2. Use humor - just as in real life, sometimes a little chuckle can defuse a tense situation.
  3. Let it run its course - if the situation gets tense, don't whip out the "banstick" immediately.  Often, a good back-and-forth will settle itself if you let it go.  If it starts to get personal, then you might want to step in and remind the members of the community guidelines.
  4. Give it a separate area to breathe - we've used this idea with good effect; if you have a small group of members who want to spar with each other, you can create a special forum or area where they are free to do so.  This leaves the rest of the community in peace while they lock horns.
  5. Use some behind-the-scenes counseling - if you have a means of contacting members privately (either via email or private message), sometimes a gentle nudge can bring them back to civility. A private reminder saves embarrassment for the member, and keeps the argument out of the general discussion.

What are your tricks for maintaining civility in your community?

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