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Old 11-18-2009, 09:45 AM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Franktown, CO
Posts: 7,556
Keeping the Forum Healthy: Help Vampires

If you're like me and you read, or at least try to glance at, everything on the forum then you're probably interested in keeping the forum a healthy, thriving community. If you're reading "Forum problems, comments, suggestions" then I would also wager you're like the majority of people on this forum: ready, willing and able to help, provide opinions, answer any question.

You are what makes this forum so great.

It is for that reason that I want to educate you on a potential risk the community could face, and ways to mitigate the impact. I've seen it over and over in communities all the way back to the old BBS, but until recently it hadn't been defined. I'll be you've seen them too:

Help Vampires.

It is at this point you think I'm kidding. Ha, ha, check the calendar, it's not April. Help Vampires are a real problem across the communities of the Internet, and they prey on healthy communities just like ours. Full of willing victims all too willing to help, the very people who make the forum great are at the greatest risk- burnout.

I want to be clear here, this is about YOU not them. You can't control them, you can't stop them, there will always be seemingly meaningless questions from valid members. The next person to ask "What's a Sportsmobile?" could become our next forum guru. The only thing you have power over is your response and how you spend your time on the forum. Don't not answer, don't not participate, just don't feel obligated to the point where you do not enjoy your time here anymore.

Why? Vague, broad questions that don't contain enough specifics to be answered. Questions that cover very basic things that have been answered and answered. Questions and topics that ignore the 32,000 existing posts even to the point of asking about non-Sportsmobile community related topics (Understand the community defines the view of the "Sportsmobile Community" not simply whether or not you have a brand name SMB in your possession).

If you're railing against this description, saying to yourself, "But I want to help, I like answering questions, that is what the forum is about to me!" then you are at the most risk. Here is how it can happen:

Someone asks about the 4wd systems for these vans. It's answered. Someone else asks if a locker is enough. It's answered. Someone else comes and questions if anyone ever really needs SMBs 4x4 system. Answered. Another question about Quigley vs. S&K. Answered. Back to "Can I get by with 2wd". Answered.

At this point, there is enough wealth of information that people start linking to existing topics.

Is Quigley better than SMB? Answered and linked. Can I get by with a locker? Linked. Locker front or rear? Answered.

Etc. And on and on. Don't get me wrong, this is what the forum is all about. This is what makes the forum good. Linking is healthy, drawing on the bank of knowledge an opinion that most of us have contributed to. Maybe you've even written a masterwork post on every available 4x4 system, their pros, cons, and summed up all the opinions.

That's where it starts. That's where we are now. A healthy community with a growing wealth of information. You link to your masterwork a few times. Then the same question comes up and you say to yourself, "If they had just read x they would have the answer" even as you summarize for them yet again and maybe link to the information they could have read in a dozen places.

Generic questions... not "What are the advantages of a F350 transfer case over an Atlas?", but "Where can I get 4wd?" The former is a discussion that shows a basic understanding of the topic, at least a level of cursory research. The latter is a generic question that has been answered again and again.

That's where we are now. The future is what I warn against. The third or seventh time you're summarizing all the manners and ways one can get 4x4 on their van, you're just being helpful, right? But you start to resent. You start to snap, or stop answering all together.

Then someone asks "Where can I rent an RV in South Georgia?" An RV? That's hard to say as a Sportsmobile related question, that's not even related to the community. But you want to help, you answer. Maybe do a quick Google to show them how easy it is to find the information themselves- because it's not SMB, SMB like, or even SMB competition the information is not on this site.

Burnout. You- the best and brightest among us. No longer do you want to answer, no longer do you want to post. You slowly stop participating as much, and not because you're on an SMB adventure!

The Help Vampire moves on. They didn't care about the answer, not really. They don't want to learn. They just wanted the information handed to them. And they are long gone, while you're left disaffected with the forum.

So, how to avoid burnout? How to control the Help Vampires?

This article helps Help Vampires: A Spotter's Guide. (You may have to scroll down, the slash7 layout is broken)

Also:[*] Learn to recognize hollow questions, as opposed to legitimate discussion. This is a very gray area and a personal choice. A month ago you may have welcomed a hearty discussion about "Ford vs. Jeep", but recognize today you should ignore the question of which is better.
[*] Remember that there are many people here who can answer, you don't have to be the one to illustrate the differences of 4x4 every time.
[*] Recognize burnout and avoid it. You enjoy the forum, make sure you continue to enjoy it. It's not a chore where you have to answer every question. Stop posting and browse random images for awhile, or go do something with your van.

Healthy members who are serious about their vehicles (even Roadtrek, Tiger, and others) will find and participate in the community regardless. It doesn't hurt to set the welcome bar high- to scrutinize newer members- the community is a valuable resource and shouldn't be left open to be drained by any yahoo who is just passing through looking for easy generic answers. Even so the door is open to just such people, so learn to recognize them before they get you.
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