Recently, in an online community I am involved in, the members decided to get together in real life (IRL). Nothing unusual in that, around 20.1% of social network members that meet online will meet offline each year. Think tweetups (twitter meetups) and you’ve got the idea. So the group booked a venue interstate, a dinner, hotels etc and submitted a deposit to the moderator (community volunteer admin) who agreed to organise it all. The moderator had been a mod for around a year, and was someone the administrator had selected from the community. This mod promptly scampered away with the money.

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Outrage ensued. Around 18 people had put up nearly $400 between them. Most of them $20 each. The mod was vilified – though they claimed they were trying to get the money back to people. It actually felt like most of them got their 20 bucks worth by screaming and tantrum’ing.

What would you do in this situation, as a community manager? It could just as easily be organised by a member of your Facebook page or done through a myriad of meetup.com sites, in your brand name – what would you do?

The Admin removed everything, going back 3 months to do with the absconding community manager – not locked but removed to the moderators subforum. If you didn’t know the furore had occurred you still wouldn’t know. In fact, community moderation of this type reminds me of the saying “history belongs to the victor”, with conflict oftentimes being sanitised for the sake of peace. You certainly can’t rely on a forum to show the full history of what has happened to that tribe!

For more see: Trust and Reputation in Online Community post

Besides the moral outrage is the shock of a trusted community member betraying the group. Remember, this member was selected to be a moderator due to good work and time on site. So, a known figure, a known quantity. Betrayal. The fact that it probably wasn’t premeditated, that the group are low income (mods and members), and that the Road to Community Hell is Paved with Social Intentions is certainly part of the mix.

Cartoon: Gaping Void

The community has already recovered, the mod is MIA, and I didn’t personally put any money up. The forum is not being shut down, no one is overreacting, though some are threatening to call the Police, Lawyers and Guys Who Break Knee Caps.  Just another day in the life of an online community manager….