Advanced WordPress Facebook Group Moves to Curb Low Quality Content with Admin-Approved Posts

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.


21 responses to “Advanced WordPress Facebook Group Moves to Curb Low Quality Content with Admin-Approved Posts”

  1. Thanks for covering this, Sarah. It is a big move for us, but like you said, it seems 99% of members who have reacted so far have reacted very positively. That’s good news and affirms the demand that our members have for higher quality content with less noise.

    I hope to report back in a few months on how well it’s all going. Thanks!

    • Thank you for taking this on. It’s an additional workload for the moderators and it will pay off. Let me know if you or the team need additional support

  2. Really great write-up Sarah, thank you!

    As delighted as I’ve been over the years by all the people that have come up to me at WordCamps around the world to tell me how much they love AWP, I’m also saddened by how many tell me they’ve left the group because of the just can’t stand the noise and the non-advanced BS.

    I am really looking forward to the group refocusing on its original mission:
    “The idea behind this group is simple, a place for WP developers on Facebook to meet and share ideas and knowledge with a focus on the most advanced features and functionality without necessarily having to go into any basics.”

    I hope I can even coax some of those friends I know who’ve left over the years to return, you know who you are :D

    • I’m one of those who left because of the amount of noise, too simple questions ( where the answer is often straight in the WP documentation for those who use search engines ) etc. I’ll indeed look at it again.

      • Looks like it is already working!

        P.S. Thanks for the write-up Sarah! We are all trying to make AWP better. I hope this will bring back the good days :) for the group.

  3. In my view this is the same sort of elitism that plagues most successful open source projects after a while. While I would understand the need for consistent high quality content while barring the noise it interferes with the transition of mid-level skilled WordPress developers as they try to transition into very skilled WordPress developers. A balance has to be maintained between controlling noise and being open. The very fact that admins have been taking a while to react simply means they will take time to approve.

    The fallacy here is that, as implied by the vote, the admins are the only experts in the WordPress world! While the group was open before a member could post a question and an expert who was not a admin could make their contributions on the matter. Now people will be posting at the pleasure of the admins and what they deem advanced.

    It seems to me after Brexit and Trump we might be having a WordPress first cult after all ;)

    • This change is not at all implying that the admins are the world’s single source of WP masters. If you ask any of us, we’ll quickly provide a list of more experienced WP users and devs. Although I votes against making this change, the fact remains that unmoderated posts detract from the group because there is a window where spammy content fills up the wall. Posts are encouraged just as they always have been, but not our community will benefit from knowing that 100% of the content will have gone through a light litmus test.

  4. I agree that the noise level in that group is a bit on the high side, but I must say that some attitudes (even some admins with exceptionally huge egos) towards some not-so-advanced users are somewhat condescending if not outright demeaning, so for this reason I ultimately stopped lurking there and now I only stop by StackExchange, which feels not so cliquey.

    • Totally agree. I entered that group a while back (via reading about it on the Tavern). I made 1 single post to get some eyes/feedback on a GitHub project I was starting. I was hammered by just a few donkey’s who: A) knew nothing about me, my skill level, my intents; B) did not understand my project whatsoever; C) replied with holier-than-thou trollable-comments. Upon scrolling that group’s content–I didn’t find anything too “Advanced” that would entice me to contribute/value. Slack is much better. I immediately removed myself from that group. Not worth my time or efforts.

  5. If it took an admin up to a day to remove the noise, how long is it going to take them to approve a post? What may be noise to one moderator, may be a valid post to another. It’s not like they all have a hive mentality. The vote to go all iron curtain is proof of that.

    Being that this is Facebook, once non-moderators have trouble posting new posts, a new non-moderated group will be created.

    • You’re right about a new group being created. There’s already offshoot groups that serve different purposes (Plugin Suggestions and WP Beginners to name two). I’m also sure that the unmoderated group will undergo the same issue as AWP. FaceBook’s tools just don’t provide an efficient resource to cut out spam before it hits the wall and let truly quality content bubble to the top

    • Really, the problem is that FB is a terrible way to do a large group with diverse interests. Take these use cases:

      1) Beginner dev, can do a basic them, wants to ask about something that’s kind of intermediate (maybe a custom nav walker).

      2) Intermediate dev, wants to talk about best ways to solve a truly intermediate level theme issue.

      3) Intermediate dev, wants to ask about plugin dev. Question is somewhat basic but not entirely.

      4) Advanced Dev, advanced question.

      Then you have:
      1) Non-dev asking about hosting.
      2) Non-dev, asking about a plugin to use for, say, membership sites.
      3) Non dev, asking a tricky question about a specific complex plugin’s configuration.

      Now, fit all of those in a reverse chronological, 1 dimensional feed. And that doesn’t include outright spam…

      A real site with decent forum software could simply create boards for many of those cases. FB doesn’t have anything like that because that’s not really its purpose.

  6. Excellent idea, we have done this with many of the pages we publish on Facebook. This helps you avoid rouge and poor quality recommendations, Also be aware that (read now and laugh later) the Nigerian scammers are moving into the WordPress word – I receive a constant stream of “recommended” plugins from spam and scam emails.

  7. I am afraid this is the similar mentality in the Linux world in the past: this place belongs to l33t only, n00b are not welcome here and will be told to RTFM. That mentality prevented Linux from being adopted widely until more and more n00b-friendly distros are developed such as Ubuntu, Zorin OS, elementary OS, and etc.

    IMHO, the post approval will only make this group more exclusive and will send a strong message that this group is l33t. Maybe you should change the name to WordPress l33t Group.

    • There’s nothing l33t about this switch. All comments were already being vetted by an admin. Now, the rest of the community will know that every post made is of high quality and has zero chance of being deleted. The group still requires people to submit content, just the same as it’s always been.

  8. I think moderating the posts is a great idea, I’ve personally never given the group much attention because every time I do it is filled with very basic questions that are easily answered with a quick search. The group is called Advanced for a reason, maybe someone should make a non-moderated Beginners WordPress group as well if one doesn’t exists already.

  9. Great writeup, Sarah. It was a pleasure talking with you about this new phase for the group. Although I was against the decision, it was for different reasons than most nay-sayers. I wrote a followup article that goes into my reasons (link below) but the gist is that, to me, AWP is a community that strengthens its users by pushing them to explore and share new WP concepts. Unfortunately, FaceBook’s management tools weren’t letting us efficiently prevent spammy posts from constantly filling up the wall. This change should help by making sure the content you see is high caliber. Nothing else has changed, and the group still needs the community to post and share content. Really, there is no difference. Every single post that’s older than a day was reviewed and approved by an admin – otherwise it would have been deleted and you wouldn’t see it. All that this change does is make sure our community doesn’t get spammed by posts that would ultimately be deleted anyway.

    ~AJ Zane |

  10. “..He said he sees AWP as an extension of the physical San Diego AWP group where he and other members enjoy open-table discussions….”

    Which really was one of the issues with it. At 28k members from all over it long ago left behind being an extension of the SD group.

    “… I must say that some attitudes … towards some not-so-advanced users are somewhat condescending if not outright demeaning…”

    Well it’s the ADVANCED WP group. I’ve not been in there for 2-3 years but once they exceeded a few thousand users they kept getting, over and over and over, questions like “what’s the best host?” and “What’s the best plugin for X?” which simply don’t belong in an advanced group. Frankly, I’d bet that perhaps 10% of the 28k members do anything resembling actual WP development.

  11. Oh lovely. They do this AFTER they ban me for discussing the low quality of content that is consistently pushed to the top. SMH


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