Build a vibrant online community
Time to start your own board!
By Mike Slocombe for Internet Magazine, May 2004
One of the best things about having a bulletin board on your site is that it allows your visitors to get involved. And if they feel involved, they're more likely to keep coming back for more.
But it's not a one way process: if you don't listen to your members demands, they'll be off to find a forum that does, so ignore their feedback at your peril
Running a successful community is not just about keeping people happy. Boards need constant attention and part of an administrator's job is to ensure that they stay focussed and relevant to the site's aims.
If you find that your 'Bird Twitching and Trout Fishing' forum is being overrun by loud oiks, scaring off the regulars with coarse football and lager talk, you're going to have to wield your editorial axe.
Even if you're lucky enough to find yourself at the helm of a growing community of chilled-out, loyal chatterers, things can still go awry.
The more users you have, the more bandwidth you're going to burn up and soon you might find your web host knocking at your door demanding wallet-sapping server charges.
Increasing popularity has proved a common problem for many community sites and - sadly - there's no easy solution to the thorny problem of funding costly bandwidth bills.
Some sites have elected to switch to a risky subscription-only model while others get by on a diet of donations, goodwill and endless grovelling to their web hosts.
Several much-loved boards have bitten the dust completely when their communities shamefully vanished at the first rattle of a cyber-collection tin. (See:Coping with web success)
But these are the exceptions to the rule. Most bulletin boards trundle along quite happily with small, lively communities enjoying each other's company.
For most webmasters, bulletin boards remain a cheap, fun and easy way of adding real value to their site, while encouraging user loyalty, feedback and involvement.
Go for it!
Not everyone will have used bulletin board software before, so include a posting FAQ, along with links to help files, your privacy statement and an admin contact.