September 2007: Content Rulez: First Place: Mates Up-OverInterview by: GizmoInterviewee: Rose
It's been a while since we've pushed a Content Rules contest out the door, but I'm glad to say that this one was a rousing succuess! The Content Rules contest honors our outstanding member communities which have been developed into vibrant communities. Out of a large ammount of entries we painstakenly weeded down to our top 3 sites, with the winner being Rose with Mates Up-Over.
Tonight, we take a quick jaunt down the way to meet up with Rose
to find out how she works so well with her community.
Mates Up-Over can be found at: http://www.matesupover.com/Dev:
Firstly, I'd like to congratulate you on winning first place in the UBBDev content rules contest and for having a great (and visually pleasing) community!Rose:
Thanks! We love Mates Up-Over and we're very proud of it. It's great to have others think it's good too. Dev:
It's always good to love ones community
... Tell me about the history of your site; how, and when you got started.Rose:
I'm an Australian expat myself, living in the U.S. after having married an American man. When I moved over here, I quickly realized that I needed some Australian camaraderie and support from other Australians in the same position. I wanted to find other Australians in the U.S.
When I looked online, there were only one or two websites for Australian expats, but they didn't provide the sense of support and community I was looking for, so with my husbands help and support, we started one of our own. That was over six years ago, and we believe (as do our members) that we are achieving what we first set out to do.Dev:
It can be hard to find such support when creating a community, I'm glad it's come so easy for you guys. Where did the name "Mates Up-Over" originate from?Rose:
In Australia, people call their friends, "mates". And in the U.S., Australia is known as being "down-under". So the U.S. must be "up-over", right?
So Mates Up-Over pretty much says, "Friends in the U.S." Since we opened it, a sister site has opened up, calling themselves "Yanks Down-Under". Dev:
Well, it's definitely a unique name I must say hehe; I like the idea of both communities (yours and the sister site); it can always be hard to move from one place to another, let alone another continent... How many members are on your forum/site, both total and regulars?Rose:
By many standards, MUO is not a huge website, in as much as we have a smallish member-base. We have a community of about 1000, but given that it's a close-knit community, the smaller member-base adds to the very personal and family-type atmosphere. It's like living in a small town compared to a big city. Our members like it that way. Dev:
I'll take quality over quantity any day
. What are the most popular forums on your board, and what makes them so popular?Rose:
The most popular forum is called The Bar. This is where people talk about all thing related to being an Australian expat in the U.S, moving and immigration matters, and topics related to Australia. This is very much a "find information" and "support" forum. The next most popular is The Beer Garden, where people just chat about pretty much anything that doesn't fit into the The Bar.Dev:
Everyone knows me and my relationship with bar's; sounds like my kind of place
hehe. What kind of topics are typical for your forum?Rose:
Well, mainly support and information type topics. For example, an Australian might be about to move to the U.S., and would like to know other people's experiences with immigration, moving their furniture, their pets, prices of housing, and best places to live. A huge part of the topics are related to the "culture-shock" of being a new Australian in the U.S. Australia and the U.S. have very similar cultures, so the unwary Australian is caught by surprise when they find "differences" in the U.S.
The type of support we (the community) try to provide, is both informational, and cultural acceptance.Dev:
Oh wow, just leaving the country here can be a huge ordeal, I can only imagine actually relocating from somewhere to here... Besides the Forum, what other content or features does your site offer?Rose:
While we've always called the forum "the heart and soul" of MUO, there is actually much more to it.
Firstly we have a "registration" feature (called Find People), where Australians can register themselves as living in the U.S., so that other people can find them, and so that they can find other Australians living close by.
Our Culture Shock page is very informational and offers many practical hints and tips about the American culture and how to deal with the differences. After the forums and the Find People registration, this page is our most popular.
We have the usual Links page, an Australian Recipes page, a page for Immigration information, and a Community Events page - which lists the many social events we have on MUO each year. Other pages continue the theme of "information" and "community".Dev:
I love the idea of a directory for Aussie Expats, you never know how hard it can be for old friends to find you in a "new world". What are the other main interests of the members on your site?Rose:
Apart from giving and receiving "expat" information and support, the main interest of our members, is involving themselves in a community in which they can chat and joke in a non-threatening and familiar atmosphere. Topics in the Beer Garden are of a huge variety, and mostly just fun.Dev:
You know me, just the type of guy who can't take anything seriously; always have to make things "fun", definitely seems like the laid back atmosphere I try to make things
... What methods of promotion do you use to attract new visitors to your site?Rose:
We haven't really done a lot with promotion, apart from getting links posted on like-websites. Recently though, we went through the exercise of getting ourselves well-supported by popular search engines, and it's really paid off. We have had many new visitors and members since then.Dev:
Well, the first start in a successful community is getting things off the ground, seems like you guys have done everything right thus far
. Do you have any tips on building or improving a community?Rose:
Wow, I could write a book on this subject.
I think that building a successful community is incredibly difficult. We made some bad mistakes in the first year or so. We wanted to give people the freedom to say whatever was on their minds, and to feel comfortable doing so. This was disasterous, a haven for trolls resulting in flame wars and a hostile atmosphere. It didn't help that our forum software had no features for controlling and dealing with troublesome people.
We put several measures into place to fix the problems before our community died a spectacular death.
- We put together "goals" for the website, that would allow us to establish a community atmosphere. The goals should provide purpose and direction, for both the administrators and members.
- From the goals, we created a set of rules that we could use to guide the expectations of community members.
- We encourage a sense of ownership in MUO. We want members to feel that their participation is vital and welcome. This is important, because it fosters loyalty in the site and the site goals. Members become big believers in the purpose of site.
- We bought new forum software (UBB) that allowed us to have some registration control, and banning control.
- We encourage the "community" aspect of MUO. We have community events, and community get-togethers both online and in real life.
- We understand that as administrators, we sometimes have to make decisions that, while made with the best of intentions to foster and protect the community, may be unpopular with some people. We sure do understand the term, "You can't please all of the people, all of the time". I think that making decisions that you know will be unpopular is one of the most difficult things to do. You do it for the sake of the community as a whole, and it takes courage sometimes.
So it would be nice if there were a book out there called, "Building and maintaining a trouble-free online community" with step-by-step instructions. But there's not, so my suggestions first and foremost are to put together community goals and rules, and administer by them. It doesn't matter what the rules are, as long as they are enforced equally. After that, most everything else will fall into place.Dev:
Thanks for the sugguestions, I'm sure everyone will find them quite helpful! Again a vast congratulations on winning 1st place in the contest!Rose:
Thanks! This is the first time I've entered MUO in any contest, and it's so great that other people see our website as being as wonderful as we do. It's an honor, and I'd like to thank UBBDev for creating the opportunity for everyone who entered to show off their sites, and to the judges whom I'm sure had a very difficult time. And of course, most of all .. thanks to UBB.threads for such fantastic software!