Community Central
Advertisement
1-CommunityBuilding AdminBadge 1 (1).png

In this course, we will be talking about a wide range of topics focusing on building and overseeing a wiki community. A few topics we will cover include working with users from all different backgrounds and making sure they feel welcome, how to talk to users, how to handle difficult situations and when to escalate those situations to Fandom staff versus keeping them local, and plenty more.

Course Video & Quiz


TAKE THE QUIZ: Click here (Google Forms)

Course Script

Welcome to Admin Plus!

We at Fandom are excited to welcome you to our Admin Plus series (or A+, if you’re fancy.) This series will review three core foundations of helping to facilitate a wiki community on the Fandom platform. These foundations are Technical Foundations, Content Development, and Community Building. After you have completed this course, go check out the other two!

In this course, we will be talking about a wide range of topics focusing on building and overseeing a wiki community. A few topics we will cover include working with users from all different backgrounds and making sure they feel welcome, how to talk to users, how to handle difficult situations and when to escalate those situations to Fandom staff versus keeping them local, and plenty more.

For some people, this might all be review, but that’s okay! Building a healthy community is about being proactive, and sometimes that means giving yourself a reminder of a few things that might have gotten lost in the day-to-day of helping run a community. For some, the topics we talk about here might be new, and that is okay, too! This course was designed for admins who have been on the wiki platform for years as well as newer admins who are just beginning to build their communities. We welcome you all and hope that this course will be beneficial to both you and the communities you love.

A quick reminder before we jump in: for the sake of brevity, you will hear “your community” and “your wiki” a lot in this course and in the other courses, as well. We want to remind you that a wiki does not belong to a single person or even to the original founder. A wiki belongs to the community, the group of regular users who visit, edit, and interact with the wiki. As an admin, you help run the wiki and make sure that the community is working together for the benefit of the community.

We welcome all members of our community to watch these videos and learn how to best contribute to their communities.

Please be aware that Fandom awards badges of completion only to admins who have served in an admin role for at least 90 days and manage wikis that are 100 pages or larger. While the background and information we cover here today is critical information, we believe a mix of this information and real-world adminning experience best qualify someone for recognition.

Badges are awarded to eligible admins via a third-party service called Credly. More information about how Credly works and awards badges of completion to admins are available on our A+ homepage.

Hi there! My name is John Todd and I’m the Director of Community Experience here at Fandom. I’m excited to talk with you today about Community Building. It’s a passion of mine and, by the end of the course, I hope it will be a passion of yours too.

Now, let’s get started with an introduction by our keynote speaker, Jimmy Wales. Jimmy needs little introduction, but we’re going to give him one anyway! Jimmy helped found Wikipedia then later Fandom, originally named Wikicities, in 2004. He still remains an influential voice in online communities today, and we are excited to have him speak to you about what it means to establish and administer a wiki community.

<JIMMY WALES INTERVIEW AVAILABLE IN THE VIDEO>

Thanks, Jimmy!

Now, let’s move on to our agenda for today. In the Community Building course of the Admin Plus series we’ll talk about the following: creating a welcoming environment, communicating with users, fostering a healthy community, accessibility, inclusion, how gatekeeping harms a community, handling difficult situations, and escalating issues to staff.

Let’s start by talking about how to create a welcoming environment.

It can be scary for new fans taking that first step into the wiki world. Maybe they’ve discovered a movie or game and have fallen in love with it. Maybe they did a quick search and found the wiki. Now they want to jump into the community and start talking and participating with other fans. To be honest, that can be a little frightening to somebody who is brand new to the wiki world.

We have all started as new users, whether the first time you logged in was ten years ago or yesterday. It is important to remember what it was like for you starting out, as well as what it might be like for someone starting out now. So, keep an open mind, especially when talking with someone new. It might take them a little while to get used to the culture of the community, especially if the wiki and community are already pretty large.

New users have various ways they can join the community - maybe they make their first edit by fixing a typo in an article, or maybe they join in on a post in Discussions. No matter how they join, it helps to make them feel welcome.

Some communities set up automated posts on their wikis, but that is not necessarily the best way to go. We have found that long, generic messages are often ignored. Instead, we recommend offering a simple welcome and starting the conversation with a question. You might ask things like “are you new to wikis?", "what do you want to contribute here?", "do you need any help?", "have you seen our ___ section?" Answering a question can inspire a user to come back and contribute more to the wiki and the community. It’s awesome to start a conversation with a quick question rather than a long wall of text.

You can also welcome a new user by taking notice of their contributions and thanking them for helping out. This kind of encouragement does two things: helps people feel more welcome in the community and lets them feel more comfortable with editing.

Don’t forget to let them know that you are there to help if they need it. Editing can be difficult for a new user, and many can have questions about where to start, what to edit, etc. Let them know you are happy to help with those questions if possible.

We use these terms a lot throughout Fandom, so let’s talk about what they mean.

We always want to assume good faith in a user's actions. Good faith does not always mean "reasonable" or "good for the wiki" - it means their intent is good. For example, a user may make an edit that does not adhere to the wiki’s formatting policy. That doesn’t mean they are trying to vandalize the wiki or cause it harm. It could be that they did not understand the importance of policy or maybe they did not find the policy before they made that edit at all. Instead of immediately blocking the user or telling them off, gently let them know their mistake and help guide them so they don’t make the same mistake again.

Unfortunately, sometimes users are at a wiki for bad reasons, or bad faith. Bad faith users can show their harmful intentions in many ways, but a few common ways are: blanking pages, adding gibberish to articles, putting clearly false information on pages, repeatedly ignoring policies about spoilers, and more.

Now let’s turn to best practices for communicating with users.

One of the biggest problems when talking to each other online is reading tone. In verbal or other direct forms of communication, people can express additional context clues that give their words more meaning than if the words were written, like body language or voice pitch. We aren’t always able to see or hear those extra clues when we are talking to someone online, making it difficult to read tone of voice.

We all have different backgrounds and ways of communicating. This can influence how we read tone, as well. Try to stay away from assuming things like age, gender, culture, etc. when talking with someone online, and try to remain objective and non-judging in your communication with them.

This cannot be repeated enough - we need to assume good faith. Most people are good and mean well. We can’t forget that, even if their actions have you spending 20 minutes reverting bad edits.

Before calling someone out, try to consider varying possibilities - did they miss a point in the wiki’s policy? Did they edit without realizing that their edit will be live? Did they honestly feel like they were being helpful with their edits? If you have already sent a message, are they ignoring you on purpose, or have they maybe missed the notification? There are a lot of valid reasons for making a mistake, and we need to be open to them.

Even if they have made a bad edit, try to acknowledge their good faith when telling them their edits are a problem. For example, you could say something like "I'm sure you didn't mean to, but you overwrote an image by uploading one with the same file name. Can I help you fix that?" They probably meant no harm, and there is no reason to attack them.

Keep an open mind with new users, too. Maybe they have a question about a wiki policy or they don’t understand it. “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” is a pretty bad answer to why a policy is put in place, so try to stay away from that line of thinking. A new user might have an idea or a suggestion that could help out the wiki and community. Give them the opportunity to voice their thoughts and ask questions if you don’t understand or are unsure of the benefits.

In some instances, though, a block is still warranted against a good faith user. They may not be intentionally trying to cause harm, but maybe they’re not quite understanding your explanations. In those cases, giving a quick block might help them take a moment to realize what they are doing. Let them know the reason for the block and point them to where they can find guidance to not make the same mistake again.

Unfortunately, though, not every editor operates in good faith - it comes with the wiki territory. Trolls are gonna troll.

When you come across a user who has caused harm to the wiki, always keep calm and polite. (Don’t forget about assuming that good faith!) When you are calm in your outreach, you might find that they were honestly trying to help the wiki and didn’t know that their actions were bad. Let them know what happened and provide some guidance on how to make sure they stay away from the same mistake. You now have someone who is motivated to help out more, awesome!

Even if it comes to light that they are a bad faith user, remaining calm will show you in the best light. Remember that you don’t always need to reply to every message they send. What is important is the wiki and the community; what’s not important is having the last word. If you have let them know what they have done, and they continue to cause harm, then sometimes it is just better to block according to the wiki’s blocking policy and walk away.

If the trolling or vandalism is very clear, it is usually best to simply block without comment, however don’t forget to write the ban reason. Remember to make that reason clear and polite rather than ranty.

Trolls want to provoke an emotional reaction. They want you to be annoyed and angry, and when they get that validation that they have succeeded, they will be motivated to keep messing with the wiki. Don’t give them that power. Remain calm, and deprive them of that motivation.

We’ll talk more about this later on, but if the issue continues, let Fandom staff or SOAP know, and we’ll try to help.

Moving toward how you can foster a healthy community.

One of the top priorities for every wiki is to create a healthy community. So, what does that actually mean?

Communication is key. Every user should feel as though they have a voice and feel comfortable expressing their opinions — even if those opinions are different from those of the admins or other users. Everyone should be able to have a conversation, talk to each other and discuss conflicts (for example, edit warring), and admins need to be focused on being helpful and encouraging good communication. A community’s aim is to drive for best content and best discussions and to work for the betterment of the wiki and community.

It is alright if conflicts arise - many people may be editing the wiki, and with those many people come many personalities and editing types. Conflicts may happen. These should not be left alone, however. These conflicts should be identified, mediated, and resolved when they come up, so that a toxic in-fighting environment doesn’t build up. User versus user grudges can linger for a long time if not properly resolved.

One way to help build a healthy community is to have a clear set of rules on the wiki. Rules don’t need to be completely focused on formatting or referencing (but these rule sets are good to have!) The wiki’s policies should give clear instructions for how disagreements can be handled. They should encourage editing, not perfection, and should aim to help all community voices to be heard. Consider having the community help decide on rules, too. They may have some great ideas! Here’s an extra tip: if the community discusses or votes on a policy, try linking the discussion or vote on the updated policy. This will give good reference to new users and will show transparency.

Don’t forget to set and clarify block lengths on the wiki. If a user needs to be blocked, they should understand the reason why as well as the set block length. Admins and other rights holders should stick to these lengths, too. If you see a fellow admin given strange block lengths, gently give them a poke and ask if there has been a misunderstanding.

Sometimes not everything can be covered by specific rules, so it can be useful to have a “don’t disrupt the wiki” policy. However, this needs to be used fairly. Make sure the rights holder groups on the wiki understand what this means. We recommend admins talking with each other and/or the community regarding any issues that are not covered in the rules before placing a ban. This helps to ensure that the “don’t disrupt the wiki” rule stays fair for everyone. If you find issues are coming up that are not already reflected in your current policy, talk to your admin group and to your community about adding rules to help with future problems.

Overall, as an admin, your responsibility is to take care of both the wiki and the community. Never forget to listen and learn from the community, be open to discussion, and get opinions from others when making decisions.

Our next section is inclusion and accessibility - Why it’s important to consider how different types of editors and readers can participate on your community.

Inclusion requires respect and support for differences. Most likely, users in the community will not come from the same background as you and will have had many different experiences in their lives. They may come from different cultures, use different languages, have educational differences, and so many more. All good faith users should be accepted and made to feel welcome in the community.

There are so many awesome ways to make sure your wiki and community are inclusive to all people. Let’s talk about a couple.

As admins, you need to set the expectation that inclusivity is important from the very beginning. Let users (both old and new!) know that diversity is welcomed and appreciated in the community.

Don’t assume all people are the same, even if they share similar qualities. Listen to them.

Be open and kind when it comes to language proficiency. A new user may not be perfectly fluent in the language they are editing or communicating in. If you find a grammatical error in an edit they make, it is okay to do a quick fix, but there’s no need to draw a large amount of attention to it.

Respect everyone’s pronouns if you know them. Never assume them either. To avoid misgendering someone, use they/them/theirs pronouns until you know their pronouns. Keep your eyes on Community Central’s LGBTQIA+ Resources for some helpful tips, as well.

Part of being inclusive is making sure your wiki is accessible to everyone. Here are a few tips to make sure your wiki is available and usable to all fans.

Check out the designs on both the light and dark themes. Take extra care that your wiki is using high contrast colors with all your elements. You can make sure that the contrast is compliant with WCAG, or the web content accessibility guidelines. Sites like https://accessible-colors.com/ lets you do so easily.

Think about your background image choice. An image that is too busy can become distracting and make it difficult for people to focus their eyes on the content of the article.

Coding to make things light up or animate, or giving giant text shadows can be cool and useful to draw people’s attention to something, but it is easy to go overboard and make things completely unreadable, especially for people with visual impairments. This is the same with using special fonts. In general, less is more, and your page design needs to enhance your goal. For example, a main page’s goal is to be attractive and draw attention, so coding enhancements can help further that goal. A content page, however, aims to inform, and too much flash will distract the reader.

Do not rely on color alone to differentiate and convey information, since not all people can see all colors. It’s important to have textual descriptions or icons as well (or, check your design for colorblind compatibility).

Write descriptive captions for all of your images. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better crawl and rank the wiki — and good SEO is good for everyone!

Don’t use CSS to resize the text, especially not to make it smaller.

We realize these are a lot of ‘don’ts’, but keeping these in mind when working on the wiki can make sure that the entire community (all fans!) are welcome and included.

Let’s talk next about a common pitfall for active online communities - gatekeeping.

Unfortunately, gatekeeping happens in many online spaces, whether intentionally or not, so let’s talk about it. Gatekeeping is when someone (or, a group of people) takes it upon themselves to decide who does or who does not have access or rights to a community or identity. It is a control mechanism and all about shutting people out, which is the complete opposite of the wiki spirit. Like we talked about previously, in order for a wiki to be healthy and successful, everyone who is there in good faith should be welcomed.

Gatekeeping creates a toxic atmosphere and negative social environment where some people in the community are seen as “superior” or “better than others.” Those people then decide who gets more power, opportunities, etc. and who does not. It can be based on favoritism, how long someone has been an editor, how long someone has been a fan of the IP, someone’s personal opinions, etc.

People who are viewed as lesser, newer, or not good enough will be intimidated and afraid to contribute. They will be scared to voice their opinions or go against the more powerful people. This turns into more of a dictatorship environment rather than the collaborative spirit that a wiki should operate in. Without an influx of new editors, the wiki will struggle to grow and evolve.

Most people (hopefully!) do not intend for their actions to be gatekeeping, but often, even if we’re coming from a place of good faith, our passion can turn into over-protection, leading into gatekeeping. When you are so deeply ingrained into a fandom, it can become a major part of your identity. It is natural to feel protective of that and to want to maintain the perceived “sanctity” of it, especially if someone’s opinion feels like an attack on your community or identity.

Knowledge is power, and it can often be seen as a flex to know everything there is to know about something. However, that does not make you better than everyone else, nor does it give you the ability to determine who gets “let in” to the community. This can be seen a lot when fans have differing opinions about an IP. These fans shouldn’t be treated as outcasts for having opinions or thoughts that are different from yours.

Always remember that the only “requirement” to being a fan is to simply like a certain topic. Nobody needs to know all possible knowledge and consume literally every piece of content relating to the fandom in order to be seen as a fan.

Treat everyone as equals and be welcoming to all. Every good faith person on a wiki has the right to contribute and participate in a community, regardless of whether they have an unpopular opinion, whether they have been a fan for 12 years or for 12 hours, whether they have been a long time editor or are just getting started. No one, not even admins, is above anyone else or gets to dictate how others share in the passion of their favorite fandoms, as long as they are acting in good faith and following the rules.

Ultimately, if someone enjoys the same things as you and wants to participate in the same community as you, that is a positive. Shared fandoms and interests are what brings us all together, so let’s support people instead of trying to shut them out or police how they can be a fan.

Now for a section focusing on something we at Fandom get asked a lot - Tricky situations - how to handle them, when to try to help resolve the situation, and when you should escalate it to staff’s attention.

Handling difficult situations in an online community is, well, difficult. Everyone has their own thoughts about an issue, and sometimes those can clash.

When trying to resolve a conflict between multiple editors, stay clear, calm, and concise - get each person to state their side of the problem then repeat it back in simpler terms. Try to find areas of agreement, as well. You should also try to “section off” by insisting that the conversation happen in a single location or a limited area and not all over Discussions, article comments, etc.

Sometimes mediation is not a choice, especially when harassment is involved. On-wiki harassment can take on many forms, but one of the most commonly seen is a user messaging (or spamming) another user multiple times even though they’ve been asked to stop. In situations like these, set out clear rules for the person sending the messages - for example, “(This person) is feeling harassed. You need to leave them alone. Please do not contact them.” You may need to remind them of the wiki’s block policy and block lengths.

The difficulty moves to another level when that type of harassment goes cross-wiki, and the person takes their issues and spreads them across several different wikis. (Maybe even more than several!) Stay calm. If you’re able to contact the admins of those other wikis, you can let them know about the ongoing problem. You can also let Fandom staff know via Special:Contact, and we will take a look at what is going on.

Throughout all of this, try to stay away from passive aggressive behavior and make sure to shut it down if you see others engage in it. This can happen when another person (knowingly or not) talks about the harrassee in a place where they can see the conversation but is not directly included in that conversation. Be careful with this. It can bring about feelings of being left out or picked on in someone who might already be in a rough spot.

How about when a situation crosses over from Twitter or another social media platform onto the wiki? You might find mobs of users you have never seen on the wiki before for a reason you’re not sure of, and it might be possible that the issue you thought was wiki-only has spread to other platforms. Fill in Fandom staff and let us know the details of what is happening. We’ll try to help if we can.. If the wiki is being vandalized because of this, you can contact the SOAP team either on the Fandom/Gamepedia Discord server or on the SOAP wiki, and they will be able to help out, too.

Speaking of reaching out to Fandom staff or the SOAP team, let’s move on to escalation. When should you raise a concern or problem to staff, and when it is better to try and solve the problem within the community?

It is often best to try and solve a problem locally, or within the community when you do not have a reason to believe someone’s safety or well-being is at stake. For situations where maybe a user breaks a wiki policy or shows that they might be acting in bad faith and you aren’t sure what to do, try talking to the other admins or even the community for their thoughts. Work as a group to solve the problem when possible.

When working on a local problem, try to be exact with what the problem (or problems) is and to get details from the source. It might involve a little digging into what the problem is and where it came from, but try to stay away from second hand sources, if possible. You will also need to leave any biases aside and remain objective. If the situation directly involves you, try getting a second opinion from someone who can remain objective.

Like we mentioned before, you can contact staff when you’re in a situation that is causing the wiki and the community harm and are not able to solve it locally. Although there are many situations where it is best to contact Fandom staff, here are a few examples of where you should definitely get Fandom staff involved:

A user is unsafe - someone may have left a message or post on the wiki that indicates they might not be in a safe situation or may be planning to harm themselves. If you see anything like this on your community or on another wiki, please contact Fandom immediately via Special:Contact. Please include a link to where the message or post is, so we can see the message as quickly as possible. We understand that you want to help a fellow community member, so you might want to reach out to them yourself. That feeling is important. However, Fandom staff have had specific training and follow industry-standard policies that can help people in these situations. We want all users to be safe, and the best thing you can do for someone who may not be safe is to let us know.

Terms of Use violation - no need to go out and memorize Fandom’s Terms of Use, but if you see a user posting hurtful comments or images, there is a good chance they are violating ToU. Every once in a while, give the ToU a quick review so you are up to date on any changes and are ready to act in case of a violation. You can find the Terms of Use at fandom.com/terms-of-use.

A second opinion - sometimes the community cannot come to an agreement about a topic that affects everyone on the wiki. It is alright to send a quick message to Fandom staff to get an objective, second opinion. Though, we won’t be able to give an answer in every situation — especially if the question is related to the specific IP of your wiki — we’ll always try to help.

You made it! You’re at the end! We went over a lot today. Good faith users versus bad faith, helping your community be inclusive and accessible, staying away from gatekeeping, and so much more! Our biggest hope is that you will take what we have talked about here today and share it with your fellow admins and your community. We want you to have fun being on the wiki and hopefully make it a fun place for other fans, too.

Below this video, you will be directed to take a quiz outlining some of the points we went over. (We’re sure you’ll pass that with flying colors!) This quiz will give you a chance to review what you learned today as well as have an open-ended question that encourages you to think about how you can apply this topic to your admin style.

When you have passed the quiz, you will receive directions on next steps and how to receive your completion badge.

Thank you for attending today’s A+ session. Here at Fandom, we are committed to providing our admins the best resources available - if you have any feedback about what we talked about today, we encourage you to write into our support portal and we will be happy to review them. Remember, we also have a large Help section on Community Central that dives deeper into many of the topics we discussed today.

Thanks again for watching and happy editing!

Advertisement