If you've ever owned a community-oriented site, you probably know that there are both pros and cons associated with them. From an SEO standpoint, they can be wonderful for creating rich, long-tail content, and building large sites based off the backs of the users themselves. However, administrating, managing, and maintaining community sites can be quite a challenge. Forums, for example, are rife with feuding members who must constantly be patrolled and cajoled into playing nice. It can start to feel like you are the parent of thousands of bickering children, rather than a webmaster.
I own a forum that has had its share of ups and downs. Huge highs as interest became intense...big lows as the expenses began to outweigh the income. In fact, I've even begun thinking it was time to sell it off as my frustrations grew. Yesterday, however, forced me once again to remember that community sites have positive aspects as well, usually emanating from the members themselves (who are often the reasons for the negative aspects too, of course).
Sometimes...Community members do incredible things.
For example, two of my most active forum members took it upon themselves (after asking me for permission) to create a weekly podcast that would be focused on both the forum subject matter, as well as the forum itself. These two kids are young and enthusiastic, and they released the first episode of the podcast yesterday. I was amazed. It was fun! It was interesting. And I absolutely loved it.
I didn't come up with the idea.
I didn't do any work to make it happen.
But, two community members, with no incentive to do so, created some killer content for my community site all on their own. And they are going to continue to do so every single week. Wow! How cool is that?
I hate the drudgery of owning a forum and dealing with the hassles. I hate the fact that forums make so very little money. I hate the members when they act like whining 2 year olds. But those very same members are devoted to my site and give of their time (quite a lot of time usually) to help my site grow. That's amazing. Simply amazing. So I love them too.
If you own a community-oriented site, or plan to, be aware of the problems and pitfalls, but watch for the good as well. Much depends upon you, but much will also spring from the members themselves. Enjoy it when it happens.