Improving Content and Conversation Quality in the AWP Facebook Group

On Monday, April 17, we’ll be implementing the Admin Approved Posts feature of the Advanced WordPress Facebook Group. We discussed over a period of time with all Admins and many members and believe this will greatly improve the value and quality of AWP for everyone.

Over the course of the life of our AdvancedWP Facebook Group, we’ve had a couple milestones that influenced the direction of the group significantly. The decision to change the contributions from open to admin approved only will definitely be the latest such milestone.

I want to explain how we believe this will improve the group, and provide some recommendations to our members for how to keep contributing going forward.

The Problem

It’s no secret that many members and general WordPress professionals scoff at the name of our group. “Advanced WordPress!? I don’t see ANYTHING Advanced about the posts in that group at all!” As the lead Admin, I’ve gone to bat with many a WP Developer over that issue, but it’s not without merit. Despite the fact that we don’t moderate based on what’s “Advanced” or not, even less advanced posts need to have quality — need to have their homework done, and unfortunately with 28K+ members too many low quality posts slip through.

But more importantly than the advanced nature of the posts — in my opinion — is that our current mode of moderation is reactive. 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 — reactive.

Another factor that many people bring up is that the tone of the group can be very negative or abrasive or sometimes even abusive. As an example of how that sentiment hurts our group, back in 2014 we had the pleasure of having Matt Mullenweg do an AMA in our group. Recently, I reached out to ask him to try that out again. He basically said that he’d prefer not to interact with such negativity. While I was disappointed, I understood where he was coming from.

Lastly, what often happens when we as Admins moderate posts or comments heavily, we start to see new posts crop up saying “Why did my post get deleted!?” Most often, the post was deleted for obviously violating our rules and/or guidelines. Adding this additional complaint just adds more “noise” to the group and makes others focus on the group itself instead of the content within the group.

All these items together have brought the group to a crisis-point

Each of these items individually are pain-points that lessen the overall quality of the group. But take all of them together and we feel like we’ve reached a crisis moment. Our options for improving the quality of the group are few because of the limited tools Facebook provides for Groups. Fortunately, several of our Admins also admin other large groups for other niches and brought up the fact that many groups have much higher quality when they are admin approved posts only.

The Solution

“Admin approved posts only” means that you can post a thread just like always, but it will not appear live in the group for everyone to see until an Admin approves it. 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.

High quality content is easy to recognize, as opposed to moderating Facebook profiles with very little information attached to them. Moderating content also gives us much stronger abilities to directly improve the overall quality of the group.

Moderating content also gives us much stronger abilities to directly improve the overall quality of the group.

Naturally, this only applies to new posts, it doesn’t apply to comments in any way. All members will continue to be able to comment on everything just like always. Ideally, this will mean much more engagement on posts because there will be less of them and their quality will be higher, making them naturally more engaging to discuss as well.

The Goal

We believe that this will greatly improve the quality of the posts, the engagement within comments, and make Admining the group much more enjoyable, leading to being able to attract more and more Admins.

Another result we expect to see is that many of the WordPress Developers that stopped paying attention to the group might slowly start coming back and contributing again. This is good both for the perception of the group, and ideally for the overall quality of the group.

We also would like to starting hosting new kinds of content. With Admin approved posts we can better facilitate an AMA, or a Facebook Live, or any other type of content.

We do expect that the first 4-8 weeks of this will be a bit more work for us than previously, but in the long run we’ll be able to tackle it more quickly, reliably, get more admins involved, and members will start to know more intuitively what makes for a good post in AWP.

How to Contribute

Overall, if you’ve had posts in the group that got a lot of positive engagement, you don’t have to worry about changing the way you post to the group at all. But here’s a few tips or reminders on how to contribute constructively in AWP, particularly in light of this new development.

To the self-described “Advanced” members:

  1. Share your code! This is what our group was made for, and we’ll be excited to approve posts that describe a problem you solved with your custom code for WordPress.
  2. Comment on other awesome posts. Contributing isn’t just about sharing your own stuff. As you peruse the group, comment on other great content, even if it’s just a “nice work!”. Comments help quality posts bubble up to the top of the group.
  3. Put together a great, succinct post about something you’re learning. Maybe it’s the beginning of a blog post you’re writing, or just some random thoughts. These kinds of posts often create great discussion.

To the self-described “Not Advanced” people:

  1. Double-down on putting together a really great question for the group. Start by re-reading our AWP Contribution Wizard. That’s the most important guideline for what we will and won’t approve.
  2. Comment on the advanced stuff with your questions — great learning experience. Comment on the stuff you learn the most from. Your encouragements and comments keep the good stuff at the top of the group.

To all the self-described “lurkers”:

  1. You’re welcome 🙂 — honestly, I love the lurkers. I chat with them at conferences and WordCamps all the time. You guys get to just keep doing what you always did, but you’ll enjoy it MUCH more now. And who knows… maybe you’ll say something about what you’re reading now.

Comments are open on this post, and we’ll be moderating comments here for tone. But we’re excited to hear your thoughts, both your concerns and fears and your encouragements. The other admins and I will do our best to reply to every bit of constructive comment shared here. Thanks!

24 thoughts on “Improving Content and Conversation Quality in the AWP Facebook Group

  1. Dude, what an awesome group y’all have nurtured to this point. Trying to be reactive to all the posts is definitely WAY harder than being proactive and moderating what is posted. I dig it. Looking forward to great content from the AWP group.

  2. I don’t think this move will be as controversial as you may have expected. It’s a practical solution to a known problem. As long as you have enough admins so that good posts don’t get delayed too much, I see it as a positive step.

  3. Matt, I always get concerned when a community moves tightens down moderation. That too many voices get lost in the shuffle. However, the problems you’ve described are real and I think given the format that facebook provides (vs. something like reddit)… you folks are making a good decision. Ensuring a quality content and dialogue for nearly 30,000 people is no small task and I respect you folks for it.

    1. Thanks for your careful consideration, Michael. I personally didn’t propose the change and when I first heard it I was also very skeptical. But as I weighed the Pros and Cons you can see my glowing endorsement in the article above now. Keep contributing!

  4. You’re right about developers leaving the group for the quality of the posts and the tone of the comments. I for one am one of those developers. It just got to be overwhelming for me and my Facebook feed. All WordPress, all the time. To me there was a lot of noise and the same questions being asked with the same results.

    I think this is a natural evolution of the group due to the tools and format put in place on facebook. To loosely quote Andrew Norcross at loopconf, you have to curate the community you want.

    I will readd the group into my feed and look forward to the changes.

    Thank you Matt and all the other admins who put their time and effort into making this group more than it is now.

    1. Yes, Norcross is right, and this is our current strongest card we can play to help make this community what we think it DESERVES to be. Thanks Jonathan.

  5. I’ve learned so much from the group, my only concern is that my questions (and answers for that matter) would not be “advanced” enough. There’s been very low quality posts that had some of the best advice out there. I’m looking forward to the higher quality content but at the same time I feel like I’m going to miss out on conversations that would help me grow faster.

    1. We won’t be changing the types of content that we moderate for now. Like I said in “How to Contribute” above, questions will definitely need to fit the guidelines of having done their homework and be thorough and not something easily Google-able, but that was supposed to ALWAYS be the case previously, but it just got too difficult to implement well. Thanks Joshua!

    2. There will definitely be fewer post approved, not as few as I think people fear. The hope really is that as the very low quality posts disappear people stop even trying to post those things, you know things like “What is good WordPress hosting?” and “What plugin should I use to filter products on my client’s WooCommerce store?”.

      I feel those tend to be an attractive nuisance that prevents the kind fo discussion we hope for.

  6. This makes me so happy. I can re-follow the group again and not have my Facebook feed explode as a result. Thanks, Matt – and was great meeting you briefly at PressNomics!

  7. These are definitely great news although I imagine it was a hard decision to take.
    Those who don’t see this as good news will need to wait for the quality-only content that AWP will offer.
    Thank you!

  8. I still think Matt (Cromwell and that other one, too) is a turd. While my gut is not onboard with this move I am interested in trying a different approach to see what happens. I think the underlying motives are in the right place and it’s something that was discussed at length. That said, I’m hopeful that this move improves the AWP community and shapes it how we always envisioned it.

  9. Thanks for reading all the comments and especially for taking this step. Your quote sounds almost like one I did on twitter or in the group directly. So, yeah, there has been the hell of ludacris posts in this “Advanced” group and even more nonsense comments. I am happy that you run this group proactive and moderate all incoming posts now! 🙂

    Please remember one thing: WordPress Foundation might not allow you to use the trademark “WordPress” among those restrictions – unless the restrictions are made for legal reasons. How do you think about that? I guess some permission is needed there.

    If you need help moderating in the first weeks then let us know 😉 Cheers.

    1. Thanks for your encouragements.

      Regarding the use of WordPress, I’ve discussed it with many folks and we’re just a FB group, so there’s no restrictions there. We’ve had this name since 2012 and Matt Mullenweg is actually a member. There’s no restrictions on naming a group in this way. Our website uses “wp” advancedwp.org … we’re good to go there.

      Thanks!

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