Eight months ago i decided to create my own forum, this was for many reasons like being off university and bored but the main reason is what drives me and that is to have a forum with a fantasic atmosphere.
We've all joined forums with hostile cliques, bad moderation, admin on power trips etc and i got tired of looking for a board that i felt welcomed and comfortable with, hence the creation of forum junkies.
To achieve my goal i tested out a few boards until i found one i liked and started the design. I wanted a fun, original design that would instantly attract like-minded people. I added forums aimed at lightheartedness and some on a more serious note.
My next task was to get members, and this is no easy feat when you are running a board for mere pleasure instead of an extension of a busy website or to profit financially. So out into the www i went, searching high and low for members that would be fun, friendly, welcoming, open and interesting.
As the board grew i had to set up a good team. I looked for moderaters that were keen, loyal, likeable, helpful etc. I then set guidelines for them to work by. We have no pressure for the team, we discuss everything openly, talk all issues through and reach joint decisions.
Now i had the desired set up i had to work on the atmosphere. To do this i slaved over a hot keyboard for 10 hours per day, getting members to meet each other, relax, participate in all the forums events etc and this worked great. I promoted forum equality and encouraged members to take up roles on the board such as forum reporter, quiz master etc. I then created cyberland, a forum for members to show off their part of the world by posting pics of local landmarks, local radio stations, local history and this helped members get to know each other on another level. They began to interact, have fun, debate. They went on to tell their friends who told their friends and we continued to grow slowly until 8 months later over 500 members were regulary visiting and having fun in one spot in the www.
Yes, we had trouble along the way. The occasional spammer, forum rivalry (and as long as i live i will not understand this) and little niggles here and there, but with a well trained team behind us we managed to overcome the obstacles and grow as a closer community.
Looking back on how i achieved such as friendly and fun forum i can honestly say that it grows by example. If the team behind the board are welcoming, then the members will follow, those who don't like it go, probably to join a clique on another board, and good for them, if that's what they like. But me, give me a friendly atmosphere any day. Sod the graphics, the design, it's the members and team that make a community grow and florish.
So my advice to admin, both old and new that wish to create/run a community is to concentrate on the atmosphere. The design might encourage new members to sign up, but the atmosphere is what encourages them to stay.