This probably isn't the sort of article that mostly gets posted here, but it's one of the few admin topics I find really interesting...
Democracy is an odd concept for a website; by definition, someone owns a website. Someone has to run it. So democracy is a null concept, right? Right? Wrong. Setting up a sort of "Forum Democracy" is actually an excellent way to make the people on your forum into a true community. It gives them a much greater investment in the processes of the forum, lets you have a better turnover of moderators and admins who you now know a lot of your forum members approve of, and helps tie the community together.
So here's some tips for setting a system up;
- Don't give it too much to do. Democracy will be slower than admin powers, and you need to keep the ability to make fast executive decisions.
- Give it a bit of ceremony. Have some fancy titles, something related to your forum; it sounds much better than "voting forum" and "elected admin" and other unspeakably dull titles.
- Don't have it open to everyone. Most systems I've seen have a second "tier" of users, either of people with over a certain post count or of people co-opted in by current members.
- Don't make one then ignore it. You have to be the greatest advocate of your own system, if anything. Administration without representation is one thing, but if you create a democracy then behave like a dictator nobody likes it.
- You don't need to have everyone "vulnerable" to it, but make some people in worthwhile positions electable. On my own forum, we have one of our five administrators elected on a 6-month basis and elections for all but two places (mine and the techie) on the retirement of current occupants. In addition, all our moderation staff are elected every 6 months.
- Give your higher-tier members a few perks to go along with the business of helping run the site. Private forum or whatever, or even make them fancy sig banners. People like to throw their weight around a little.
- Power of recall for moderatoion staff is also something citizens tend to like. It also means that you don' thave to be the only one worrying about whether your moderators are being too heavy-handed; it actually takes pressure off as an Admin if you can point to the citizens and tell 'em it's their job. :P
Hope this helps someone out there!