The Advanced WordPress Facebook group (AWP) is making a radical change. After three years of allowing members to post freely, the group’s administrators voted to restrict posting to admin-approved content only.
The popular WordPress watering hole has amassed more than 28,000 members and plays host to many lively conversations. Over the years some have suggested the group switch to using a WordPress-powered site or forum, but Facebook’s infrastructure has proven to be a vital part of the community’s success. Most members are already tied into Facebook’s notification system for their personal accounts and posts receive much more exposure than if they were on a separate website.
In more recent years, the group has struggled with a constant stream of low quality content, prompting admins to re-examine the group’s approach to posting.
“Our current mode of moderation is reactive,” AWP admin Matt Cromwell said. “Every time a low-quality post gets posted to the group it adds to the noise, and sometimes it might be hours and hours or even a day until an admin removes it — which means thousands of people have experienced the group with more ‘noise’ than it should have. Our only tools in the current setup of the group is for that noise to be added automatically, and the admins having to clean it up after the fact.”
Cromwell said the group reached “a crisis moment” and several admins with experience in other large groups said content quality is much higher with admin-approved posts. The majority of the group’s 28 admins voted over the weekend to make the switch to admin-approved content only. Cromwell said the vote breakdown included one abstention and six hesitant no votes.
“Some might think that is a lot more work for admins, but the truth is that we’ll actually be able to focus less on moderating in a reactive way, moderating profiles and negativity, and instead admin in a proactive way, moderating content,” Cromwell said.
AJ Zane is one of the six admins who voted against the new rule. He said he sees AWP as an extension of the physical San Diego AWP group where he and other members enjoy open-table discussions.
“I’m voting ‘no’ because I think this group is about self moderation, open discussion, and letting the posts with good content bubble to the top,” Zane said. “If the physical AWP meetup was not a round table group of people sharing wins/bugs/discoveries/questions, but had curated presenters, I know I would not have been as excited to attend the sessions. You want curated content? Go to Torque, listen to WP Weekly. You want to share that you just realized a method you’ve been using for years has a parameter you never noticed, come to AWP.”
Zane said he realizes that it is idealistic to say that “good content bubbles to the top,” since AWP wouldn’t have this problem if all the top posts were high quality.
“Our group has grown to the size that we apparently need some guidance from the admins that care about a high caliber of content and a vibrant community, as opposed to the people trying to get quick fixes and actively malicious parties,” Zane said. He proposed that the group build a forum website where they could use Facebook’s authentication and set up curated and free-post rooms, but said he sees it as “a nice pipe dream,” since few people would have time to build it.
Members responded positively to the news that posting is changing, with a few exceptions who are worried about moderators having conflicts of interest. Others expressed concerns about not receiving timely posts and replies if someone is in need of assistance. Admins reminded members that the purpose of the group is not for receiving personalized support on projects.
Several members commented on the announcement, saying they were considering quitting the group because the negative posts and noise level had gotten so high. Many are hopeful that fewer posts will generate more engagement on the content.
“We also would like to starting hosting new kinds of content,” Cromwell said. “With admin-approved posts we can better facilitate an AMA, or a Facebook Live, or any other type of content.”
Cromwell said he expects there will be more work for admins in the first 4-8 weeks until members start to understand more intuitively what makes for a good post in the group. Members who are not sure if their content is appropriate can run it through the AWP Contribution Wizard.