Let's talk about something not talked about very often: MM, Maintenance Mode. If you haven't opened yet, then the majority of this won't apply to you. But if you are an established forum, then take note.
Maintenance Mode is where you "shut down" your forum and only allow staff to log in. Members and guests alike are greeted with a login screen, and not the forum listings.
MM : Not Guest Visible
MM by default means that guests and visitors can't see the forum. Even if the software allowed registration while in MM, they still won't be able to see the forum. In other words, you've just decreased your ability to attract new blood to your site to exactly 0.00000% . Guests rarely consider non-guest-viewable forums, let alone MM ones.
MM : Estranges Players
MM also means that players can't or shouldn't be playing. What good is a game that players can't play? You've put yourself on a slippery slope with player relations. So, if you're a player and you find your forum has just gone MM, what do you do with your new chunk of free time? The first thing that you do is look around for a new site.
And when a player finds a new site, they may or may not come back if you re-open.
MM: Unnecessary and Preventable
There are very, very few reasons why MM should ever be used, and chances are that your reason isn't one of them. Players aren't idiots - they also know this, and your site will leave a bad taste in their mouth.
Seriously, you have to shut down the entire site just to discuss and re-word your guidebook? Do you really have to make it look like you're closing just to make a backup or archive some threads? Really?
Not only are most reasons for MM unnecessary, but they are also preventable : the answer is simple. Create temporary place for them to play while you do whatever it is that you're doing.
MM: Lowered Incentive to Finish - Because No One Is Playing
Muse and motivation are very fickle things, and if it looks like your forum is a ghost-town, chances are that your drive to finish up is running close to empty. The mere fact that no one is playing - because you told them not to - can destroy your incentive to finish up and re-open.
Chances are that in MM, you aren't playing anymore, and at that point, your forum stops becoming a game and starts becoming "work". Procrastination follows.
MM: Luke-Warm Answer
MM can be an excuse to shut down your forum, cleverly disguised in your subconscious. It's important to really understand why you want to do a MM. It may very well be the case that you feel tired or overwhelmed and just want a break, to not have to worry about things. This may sound fine and dandy - you've earned it, right? - but really it can be an internal excuse to turn your back on it, leaving members to wander their own way.
For many, MM is like standing outside a train and being unable to decide whether or not you want to board. Your decision wasn't "yes, board", nor "no, don't board". While you're standing there, is the train going to wait for you? No, it's not, and when it leaves, your "can't decide" decision becomes "no, don't board". By being indecisive, you're implicitly decided to give up and not continue on.
MM: Always Takes Longer
For many reasons, some of which I've detailed above, players know that MM always takes longer than listed.
MM: Death Mode
Players don't really understand why MM means death, but they equate them just the same. Often because many old and dead forums are on MM, and wear the screen as a tombstone. The correlation between the two is very high. It's like saying that "cigarettes cause cancer". Cigarettes don't directly cause cancer, but the correlation is quite high.
MM: a WIP for Forums
I wrote an entry about why WIP=fail and many of the psychological reasons still apply, though not so much the thread mechanics and confusing.
Common Mis-Uses of MM
MM isn't for discussing things.
Discuss it beforehand. If you can't reach a decision or if your staff isn't responding, then MM won't change this dynamic.
MM isn't for developing new things.
You can do that beforehand on your own. If really and truly necessary, you can even create a second, test board to develop on.
MM isn't for catching up.
Either your staff are doing their job or they aren't. Putting the forum on hold isn't going to change how well they get their word done - consider hiring or firing as needed, instead.
MM isn't for starting a re-vamp
There's nothing wrong with re-vamping, but if you have to go MM in order to start the process, then you're doing it wrong. Have everything ready before hand, or better yet, just start without doing a MM. You can give a warning in your cbox so that users know what's going on.
How to Successfully Do A MM
If you've thought long and hard about MM and decided that your case falls into the 0.01% of cases that really, really need MM, then it can be done in a successful and orderly manner without causing worry or illness. The trick is to plan, and to be crystal clear and perfectly transparent.
First, figure out the dates when your MM should begin and end. No, I said dates. As in May 1. Not "next summer". If you're going to give an estimation, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons and you might as well throw up your hands, roll over, and die. Either you are devoted enough to your forum to give crystal clear dates, or you are playing a pretend game. You want to get your MM done ASAP. If it will take more than a few days, then again, you're probably doing the wrong thing and should re-think your need for MM. Any more than two or three days means that you yourself aren't prepared nor ready for MM - don't do that. Have everything ready to go, written, and tested as much as possible and then do MM.
Second, you need to do a bit more planning. Make sure that either your cbox will be usable when the forum goes MM - generally this means either having the URL handy or placing it in a sidebar. If your MM is going to be longer than a few days, perhaps longer then 3 days, then put up a temporary forum where they can continue to play amongst themselves. It may or may not be a hit, but it shows that you are trying, and that you're not sneakily "giving up" on the forum.
Third, announce your MM ahead of time. "Planned maintenance" is a good wording. Include your definite dates that you decided, both the start and end date, like May 1 - May 5. Make it clear what the users can or can't do. Should they continue playing? Say so. Should they continue chatting? Say so. Did you set up a temporary forum for them? Include the URL. Be honest and tell the users what they will doing - this will help them to feel that your MM is indeed justified and not some mamby-pamby excuse to kill their beloved home.
Fourth, do the MM. On the day it should go down, put up MM. Include all the previous information: start and end dates, whether or not they should play, use the chat, the URL of the temporary forum, etc. Start working like crazy. Don't procrastinate and get it done ASAP. If you find that you run out of steam, re-open immediately and schedule the rest for another time.
Fifth, re-open. Tell users what was done. Welcome them back.
Why Maintenance Mode : Yer Doin' It Wrong and Killing Your Site
Blog entry posted by xexes, Jul 15, 2012.