We are one the few instances on Lemmy that has community creation restricted to admins. There are a few reasons for this.

One of the big first discussions we had about communities when creating Beehaw was whether we should allow porn or certain kinds of NSFW content. In short, legally speaking, this is an incredibly risky move. We’re obviously not VC-funded with lawyers on retainer, and we’re not particularly interested in taking on any of the headache such a space would require without money and legal help available. NSFW spaces on the internet also inherently break a lot of social norms. We’re not sure the diversity of behavior seen in NSFW spaces can be easily moderated or is particularly compatible with our core ethos - creating an explicitly nice and safe space. If it is compatible, it involves answering a lot of complicated questions about acceptable behavior that we don’t have the time or energy for.

Another reason why we’ve locked down community creation also has to do with creating an explicitly nice and safe space here. One suggestion we’ve seen discussed many times since our inception is a space on mental health. As many of our users have rightly pointed out, these spaces often invite trouble for a number of reasons. To be perfectly clear, we all take mental health very seriously. But none of us are mental health professionals. Ultimately if you’re seeking mental health care, we highly suggest that you speak with a professional. Communities like mental health often require users to be willing to hold the proper and healthy amount of space for someone to work through a problem - as working through these problems can surface strong emotions - to ultimately become a better person. Unfortunately, this can run counter to the need for members in the community to feel respected, to be treated nicely, and to be safe from feeling any need to carry anyone else’s emotional burden. Mental health is often an emotionally charged subject and even though we’re all human and want to hold space to allow this kind of healing, a dedicated community would be inviting the need for a lot of moderation to make it successful and compatible with our ethos and guiding principles.

Mental health isn’t the only community where we might potentially run into the issue of playing nicely with our only rule, to be(e) nice. Sometimes, our hesitation comes from how we’ve seen communities focused on a particular subject play out across the rest of the internet. A few examples of this that you’re probably familiar with:

  • incel and men’s rights communitieso - often misogynistic
  • unlimited free speech communities and platforms - often allow a lot of hate speech
  • certain kinds of communities focused on taking pictures of humans - often becoming dominated by thirst traps

We don’t want our communities falling into any of these traps or creating a non-nice space on Beehaw, so this may be the reason behind a hesitancy towards creating certain highly requested communities.

Finally, in our experience small communities on the internet need to reach a level of activity to sustain themselves. People are typically not willing to eternally refresh and revisit a website that is not receiving a ton of traffic or without a reasonable cadence with content. Small communities often remain dormant for a very long time until some kind of viral attention brings enough content to sustain the community on an ongoing basis. This is part of the reason that we have not split out communities such as gaming into tabletop gaming, specific platform gaming, or even genres of gaming. This will likely happen at some point in the future as the example of gaming is a rather popular community but it’s the reason behind our encouragement to post related content in the most appropriate existing community. We also think that there is a lot of benefit to not getting hyper specific with communities, because too much granularity can lead to people not discovering related content organically: imagine communities only existing at the level of each video game, rather than at the level of platform gaming, video gaming, or gaming as a whole. However, this needs to be balanced against overall activity and the ability to interact with and comment on posts. If a community gets too large and the majority of the community is focused on a particular kind of content, then it warrants splitting the community or creating more granular communities so that people can find the content that they’re looking for rather than getting lost in the noise.

How are New Communities Created?

With all of those hurdles, and community creation limited to admins, how do new communities get added to Beehaw? We do create new communities from time to time, but we have a very deliberate process for doing so:

  1. We open a topic to gather suggested communities from Beehaw users. Users can upvote suggestions that they are most interested in.
  2. Admins and existing community moderators privately discuss the most-desired new communities. Some of the things we consider include whether the new communities would likely be subject to major problems, whether there are people willing to moderate them, and whether there is already an existing community that could serve the same needs. The end result of this is that some ideas are moved on, some are held for further discussion, and some are removed from the list.
  3. We put together a web survey where users can vote on the remaining list of potential communities. Crucially, the question is not “do you want to see this community?” but rather “would you participate in this community?”
  4. After the survey closes, we create new communities. We’ll take into account the projected participation rate, the availability of moderators, and the passion of those who want the community, among other factors.

There’s no fixed schedule for this process, but we anticipate creating new communities a few times per year.

Last updated 10 Sep 2023, 13:37 -0400 . history