[Editor's note: Community member nekobun contributed a piece to our Weekly Musing subject on how to make gaming communities suck less. Please post your own over on the Community blogs. It may get read during our panel at PAX this Friday! -- CTZ]
One thing I've found to be a great boon to many online communities, regardless of their focus, is letting self-moderation have a fair amount of influence.
Over the past few years, more communities have been coming to the fore where moderators take more of a background role, and the unwashed are left to fight things out amongst themselves. You'd think this would turn into chaos, but not with proper nudging. Sure, moderators are expected to step in if things become petty or get out of hand, but the objective of this format is to encourage cooperation, discourage any idea that the people "in charge" are particularly almighty, and leave the weeding out of trolls and other unsavory characters to the general public. While typically a mess when first started, these sort of forums have been my favorites to revisit.
Condescension doesn't happen here, and it's very welcoming when even the head honchos make it clear that they're your peers. Heck, I was listening to RetroforceGO!'s 100th episode, and was both stunned and delighted to hear that they actually pay for everything they play and discuss on the show, rather than working from advance copies or other freebies.
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