So, you just joined the Yahoo! Contributor Network and want to take advantage of the forums? There are a several things to keep in mind when participating in this (or any other) online forum. From simple etiquette, to following guidelines, and even reporting issues, here are some things I have learned from being a long-time member of the Yahoo! Contributor Network forums, as well as many others.
Be excellent to each other! This is something stated in the forums often by staff and contributors alike. If you expect people to be nice to you, do the same yourself. If you have personal beef, take it up privately. If it’s a matter that needs to be reported, report it. It’s not a good idea (and it’s also against TOS) to harass and intimidate people in the forum. If you have nothing nice to say, it’s probably best not to say anything at all.
Read the guidelines before posting. This is the very first thing you should do before replying to or creating threads in the Yahoo! Contributor network forums. You can find the forum guidelines posted at the top of the forum. Anyone participating in the forum needs to follow those rules, as well as adhere to the TOS.
Browse around before posting. This is very important because someone else may have already posted about the subject you have in mind. It keeps the forum more organized and helps everyone network more easily when there aren’t several threads about the same thing. If it’s involving a technical issue or something else the Yahoo! Contributor Network staff needs to resolve, it’s even more important. When there are ten threads on the same exact issue, it takes the staff longer to answer all the posts, which means issues may not get resolved in a timely manner.
Be sure your post is in the correct location. Keep your posts in the location most relevant to their topic. For instance, if you need help from staff, it’s not wise to put your put your post in a contributor discussion area. It may strike up a conversation with your peers. But it will also take longer for staff to see it. Help requests should always go to the Help Desk forum or email. This helps staff get to a resolution faster because those are the places they go for things like that. Likewise, if you have a question or discussion topic that doesn’t require staff help, it’s best to keep it out of areas designated for help from staff. Read the topics of each forum and place your post in the one best suited for its topic and purpose.
Be proactive, not reactive. Help others whenever possible. That is one of the main purposes of pretty much every forum, including those of the Yahoo! Contributor Network. People come to the forum seeking answers. Whenever you know the answer, it’s common courtesy to help others figure things out. It’s also best not to say anything if you really don’t know the proper response. If someone gives some advice you don’t agree with, it’s fine to state your thoughts. But it should be done in a way that’s productive to the community.
Present issues fairly. It’s understandable that when things go wrong, people will be upset. However, blaming Yahoo! Contributor Network staff or fellow contributors is not the proper way to get your point across. Present the issue and give people a chance to help you resolve it before making a judgment call. Playing fair also goes for general conversations. If you start off blaming people for things, don’t be surprised when the response is not a happy one.
Respect differing opinions. It’s just a fact of life that people are going to have varying views on a wide array of subjects. Don’t expect everyone to agree with what you say. Likewise, don’t feel as though you need to agree with everything others post either. If everyone felt the same way, there would be no point to having a discussion board. But remember that disagreeing does not entitle disrespecting of fellow forum members. Respect the thoughts of others even when they do not align with yours. Unless there is a violation of community guidelines or the law, everyone has the right to post their viewpoints.
Expect constructive (or even critical) feedback. Anytime you post something in a forum, there is going to be someone who disagrees with you. Their disagreement may actually be constructive for you. It may prove your point, theirs, or even give things a whole new perspective. Don’t take it personally. Most times people post these things to help someone because they may feel someone is doing something that is detrimental to their person or their career. Even when someone is outright rude, know that is the risk you run when you post in any forum. If it’s bad enough, report them instead of making the situation worse than it needs to be.
Respect personal info. Do not post emails, phone numbers, private messages, or any other personal info for yourself or others unless it is public information and you have the right to do so. Another thing to avoid posting in the Yahoo! Contributor Network forums (or anywhere else it could be seen by anyone other than yourself) is information about your highest performing content. Unfortunately, people can use this information to damage what you have built up.
Avoid spamming. The Yahoo! Contributor Network forums are not there for posting sales ads. If you sell items, post about them in appropriate venues. This also goes for article links. They should be posted only where conducive to the conversation or in areas designated for such purposes. It’s not okay to post links to your articles, services, or products all over the forum. If you’d like to advertise on the site, go through the appropriate channels.
Avoid too many posts within a certain time period. This can go hand-in-hand with spamming. There are others who would like to post their thoughts and concerns. Play fair. A couple threads in a row is fine. But posting repeatedly is disrespectful to fellow forum members.
Avoid making it all about you. Remember that you are in a forum that thousands of others belong to. The Yahoo! Contributor Network forum is not just about you. It’s about everyone in the forum. This would be true, no matter the forum – unless you create your own forum all about you. But that might get a bit lonely and boring after a while. If you post something, expect others to have an opinion. If you aren’t comfortable with group discussion, a forum is probably not the best place for you to be.
More from Lyn:
How to Get Your Work Published on Your Favorite Yahoo! Sites
New to the Yahoo Contributor Network? How to Use the Social Networking Features
How to Be an Objective Reader in Social Writing Circles
More on Forum Productivity and Behavior:
The Newbie Guide to Associated Content Forums
Forum Trolls and the People Who Bait Them
How to Balance Time for Writing, Networking, and More at AC