These forums are an example used to illustrate a few of the concepts and ideas discussed in the book, Managing Online Forums. No, not the one about never using the default template that your chosen community software comes with! If this were an actual community, it would definitely would have its own look.

No, this community was set up simply to showcase some of the ideas about staff and management infrastructure (take a look at the Problem Users and Trash Bin forums, for example). If you'd like to find out more about the book, please visit the book website.

Example Forums Moderator Situations Guide

This forum is for private, staff member only discussions, usually pertaining to the community itself.

Example Forums Moderator Situations Guide

Postby Patrick » April 10th, 2008, 4:30 pm

The Situations Guide is a supplement to our Moderator Guidelines. Where the guidelines detail how you go about doing your job, this guide will help you to deal with more specific situations and assist you in distinguishing what is and isn't a violation.

Accidents, Duplicates and Cross Posting

Accidental duplicates are identical posts posted on the same thread or identical threads started within the same forum within a short period of time. In these cases, please remove the post(s) or thread(s) and reply to the thread(s) (once inside of the Trash Bin), noting that it is a duplicate.

If the time period between the posting of the identical posts in the same thread or identical threads in the same forum exceeds a short period of time (longer than 5 minutes or so), it is not considered an accident. It is considered a duplicate post that is a violation of our User Guidelines and is documented and handled like any other violation.

Cross posting is when the same thread or post is posted in two or more locations. Either the same post posted on two or more threads or the same thread posted in two or more forums. It is a violation of our User Guidelines and should be handled as such. The time span between the posts is unimportant.

Banned User Contacts You

If a banned user contacts you with a site related matter, do not respond (if you must respond, you can simply refer them to me). Simply document their message to you in it’s entirety in their Problem Users thread and I will take care of it.

Banned User Signs Up For a New Account

When a banned user signs up for a new account (and it becomes plainly apparent to us that it is, in fact, the user we had previous banned), that account must be banned. Their posts should be removed, but do not make contact with them. Simply remove them and document that you removed them in Problem Users. If they attempt to contact you, do not respond to them. Document their private messages in Problem Users and disregard them. I will ban them upon my next visit to the site.

Creating New Topics From Existing Topics

There are times when an existing topic will take a turn off topic in a way that would be deserving of it's own topic. To create a new topic from these posts from an existing thread, you can use the split function. Simply select the initial post that brought the new topic up and all of the posts in reply and split them off into their own topic. Another example of this in action would be when someone posts their introduction on someone else’s introduction thread. You could split their introduction off, giving them their own thread.


Hotlinking is when you link directly to a graphic (.jpg, .jpeg, .gif, .png, etc.), video (.avi, .mov, .mpg, .mpeg, .wmv, etc.), audio clip (.mp3, .wav, etc.), archive (.zip, .rar, etc.) or otherwise downloadable or streamable file instead of linking to the page where that item can be found.

Generally, people place this content on their websites as a means to bring people to those websites. When you link directly to the file, the person clicking the link does not visit the site, while using the site owner's bandwidth, which costs money and/or resources.

Instead, we require that users link to the page where this content can be found, rather than directly to the content itself. This is unless they have permission to link directly to the content or the site owner has posted on their site that it is allowed. If you can easily verify that this is the case (i.e. by visiting the site and looking around), then an attempt should be made. Otherwise, we ask that they provide us with information that allows us to verify it.

Here is an example of a link that might be hotlinking:

Now, when considering whether or not a link is probably hotlinking, look at the domain name portion of the link. In this case, it’s "" Now, I own, so if it’s me using that link, it’s not hotlinking. But, if someone else is using it without my permission, then it is and it should be removed.

Does the domain name match a domain name listed in the user’s signature or as their profile homepage? If so, it might be their site, as well. If this is the case, it is alright.

If the domain name appears to belong to an image or file host (free or otherwise), check out their site and see if they say anything in their policies, terms, etc. about hotlinking or linking directly to files. Often times, file or image hosts allow hotlinking or direct linking.

If the link passes those tests and is otherwise allowable under our User Guidelines, it is most likely alright.

Inappropriate Links/Banned Links

A link is inappropriate when the content displayed at the site is determined to be inappropriate for our userbase. The site does not have to be quite as clean as us, but if a site features excessive vulgarities, nudity, illegal content, etc., the post or link must be removed.

From time to time, we will ban a link from being mentioned on our community. When users try to post a URL to this site, they will not be able to. Posts that previously featured this link will now see the link replaced by an asterisk (such as http://www.*.com). Any post like this must be removed as featuring an inappropriate link. Attempts to circumvent a link ban are treated the same and must be removed.

Inflammatory Comments

An inflammatory comment is generally an unnecessary remark made on a thread that usually doesn't serve much purpose other than angering people or inciting a negative emotion. Often times, people say something that the thought behind would normally be alright, but they say it in a way that is inflammatory. Examples of inflammatory comments would be:

"You don't know what you're talking about."
"You're crazy!"
"Don't talk about things you clearly don't know about."
"Well, if you actually did any research..."
"Karate sucks."
"All doctors are stupid."
"Only an idiot listens to rap music."
"Micro$oft." (inflammatory name substitution)

This is just a handful of examples of mostly lower level inflammatory comments, to illustrate what they look like. They get a lot worse. An insulting comment is an inflammatory comment. We don’t want people to say something "sucks", we want them to say why. Similarly, we want people to attack the point, not the person making the point.

Short, negative statements can also be inflammatory. For example, one person posts their view on a subject. And then someone else posts something like "That’s wrong." Or "Uh, no." And that’s all they say. If people are going to disagree with someone and say that something is incorrect, we require that they describe why the person is incorrect, that they elaborate, not simply say that it’s incorrect. Otherwise, it adds nothing to the thread outside of hostility.

Links in Introductions

Links in introductions are perfectly fine (as long as they follow our User Guidelines). This is the one time where someone is allowed to link to their website for no apparent reason. However, the whole purpose of the introduction cannot be to send someone to another website. They can mention their personal ventures and links as part of their introduction, but there must be more. If they beg for users to go to their site/register at their site, that must be removed as advertising, as well.

New User Asks if Anyone Has Heard of a Site/What They Think of it

If a new user, or a user with a few posts or less, creates a thread to ask our users if they have heard of a website/what they think of a website (even if they don't appear to be affiliated with it), their post must be removed as advertising. When a user becomes an established member of our community and they post similar remarks and appear to not be affiliated with the site, we give them the benefit of the doubt. But, new users are not given that benefit until they establish themselves.

For the very same reason, anyone who joins up and immediately starts posting links to outside sites may require similar attention as well.

Referencing Administrative Decisions

Most typically, posts are removed for referencing administrative decisions when they comment on administrative decisions/activities or potential administrative decisions/activities. Here are some common examples:

"My thread was removed."
"Well, I had already tried to post this once, but it was removed..."
"They banned Jerry."
"Why did you remove my thread?"
"Why was Paul banned?"
"I was going to post, but I’m afraid they’ll remove it on me..."

These sorts of comments must be removed. Sometimes, as with comments like "Why was Paul banned?", a post can be considered both referencing administrative decisions and site related (more on that below) and should be treated as such.

Report, Don't Respond

When someone directly responds to a serious or obvious violation of our User Guidelines, we send them a report, don't respond private message and document it in their Problem Users thread. We do this to encourage them to help us by reporting these posts instead of responding to them and to make it clear to them that this stuff is not permitted here. We don't do it whenever someone responds directly to a violation - just when they respond directly to a serious or obvious one. Here are some examples of cases where we'd send a PM:

Disrespectful comments directed at them. i.e. "You're an idiot!"
Racist comments.
Illegal activities.
Advertisements that are so obviously junk. i.e. "Check out my Vicodin site!"
Excessive use of vulgar language.

And here are some cases where we wouldn't:

Simple site related questions. i.e. "How do I change my avatar?"
Posting of personal, real life information.
Posting in a language other than English.
Advertisements that are sneaky where it's not really clear that it's an advertisement.
Duplicate posts or cross posting.

However, if the person mentions in their post that something is a violation of our User Guidelines, they are always sent a report, don't respond private message, no matter how serious the violation, even if there is no violation, because we do not want regular members attempting to enforce our guidelines.

Reported Posts

When users report posts to you, you should always thank them for reporting them and assure them that we will handle it appropriately. Appropriately does not mean that you will do anything. Always consider such things with a discerning eye. If action needs to be taken, take it. But, if it doesn't, don't. Don't do something simply because it was reported.

Similar Threads

There will be times when users will start threads to cover a subject that is similar or exact to the same subject covered in another recent thread. In these cases, you should close the new thread and, in a reply to the thread you are closing, politely send the person to the other thread that had already existed, by linking to it. Do this only if the topics are identical or near identical. For instance, "Why is the sky blue?" and "What makes the sky blue?" are similar whereas "Who likes apples?" and "How much fiber is there in apples?" are not.

If there is an exact or near exact thread, but it is not recently active (the last reply is more than 4 months old), allow the new thread to proceed. Topics need to be revisited through new threads as our userbase welcomes new faces - do not close a topic because there is an old thread covering the same subject.

Site Related

Site related means anything to do with this website itself. We do not allow comments related to the site - whether it be how it works, how its run, etc. Some examples would be:

"How do I upload an avatar?"
"Why was my post removed?"
"Would it be alright if I post this?"
"I would like to suggest a new feature."
"I think the site should have different colors."
"Why was Larry banned?"
"I think this site should have such and such - who’s with me?"

These should be removed, documented in Problem Users with a private message sent using our Contact Templates. If you are able to answer a question, please do so in the space provided in the contact template. Make a note that you answered the question when you document it in Problem Users. The types of questions you can answer include things like how do I upload an avatar, what are the post count based rank titles, how do I change my signature, etc. Any questions related to new features, why people were banned, etc. must be left for me. If you cannot answer the question or do not feel comfortable answering the question, please feel free to leave it for me. If you don't mention that you answered it in the Problem Users thread, I will assume that you did not and will take care of it.

If someone makes a duplicate topic and then edits it to say "duplicate, please remove" or something to that extent, it is not a violation. Simply remove the post, mark it as a duplicate and you are done.

As was mentioned before, certain questions, such as "Why was Larry banned?" are considered as both site related and referencing administrative decisions and should be handled as such.

Spamming and Trolling

We don't ever tell people that they are spamming or trolling. These terms, while probably accurate, give a negative connotation that we do not need to use. Instead of spamming, they are violating our User Guidelines as advertising. Instead of trolling, they are violating our User Guidelines as being inflammatory or disrespectful or they are making remarks that are not relevant to the thread or ... you get the idea. We don't use those terms.

Staff Member Violates Our Guidelines

If you feel that one of your fellow staff members has violated our guidelines, please send me a private message or e-mail at Do not remove it or do anything else. I will take care of it.

Current staff members do not get documented in Problem Users and should not be contacted by other staff members in regard to violations.

User Wants Copy of Removed Post

Sometimes users will ask for a copy of the removed post. If it was a post that made valuable contributions to the community but had to be removed because of a small thing or two, feel free to do so. If it was more serious and much of the post was a mess, tell them that it would probably be better if they started from scratch.

Violations in Private Messages

If a violation in private messages is reported to you, please document it in Problem Users and I will investigate it and act appropriately.


We allow people to say damn, hell, crap, freaking and anything as or less severe. We do not allow as* (LMAO and similar variants being the single exception), ars*, shi*, bastar* or anything as or more severe.

This goes for abbreviations, as well. For example, WTF (typically short for "what the fuc*") and a-hole are both violations. Self censoring (such as "f***") and attempts to circumvent our word censoring feature are violations, as well.

What is Too Religious?

In the case of signatures and the like, we allow for the use of some basic religious terms or related items. This is not the easiest thing to define, but here are some examples of things we allow and don't allow, to give you an idea.


A cross as an avatar.
Most types of quoted scripture.
"Yours in Christ," (and similar sign offs)

Not allowed:

He died for YOU.
You need God.

When Are Videos or Audio Appropriate?

Videos and audio are generally appropriate when they are linked to in a fashion that allows them to be viewed, but not downloaded. This, of course, excludes sites that simply shout out "illegal." If a user links directly to the video or audio file itself (sometimes, this means that the link will end in .avi, .mov, .mpg, .mpeg, .wmv, .mp3 or .wav, but that is not a be all or end all by any means) and it appears that the user may not have permission to link directly to videos or audio on that site, that post should removed as hotlinking - they should link to a page on that site that features links to the video(s) or audio in question.

If a video or audio file is downloadable (such as links to third party file upload sites) and the copyright is not clear or cannot be reasonably verified, that post must be removed. Likewise, any posts that specifically request that videos or audio be sent to them or that the user be PMed are inappropriate. Threads that ask where a video or audio clip of such and such can be found are appropriate, but those threads must be monitored for links that violate our User Guidelines.

As with anything, if you are ever not sure about something, please feel free to contact me and I will give you a definitive answer. If you have a suggestion for a situation that could be outlined here, please let me know.

Thank you for your contributions to Example Forums.
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Joined: February 3rd, 2008, 5:48 pm

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