I’ve been an admin at the group My Efficient Electric Home (MEEH) on Facebook for over seven years. Here are some tips and advice when participating in online advice groups, MEEH in particular.
by Richard Keech
Rule #1 is be nice. Keeping things civil is really important. Most participants value being in an online community where conflict is avoided.
Tone is important
Aggressive tone: “This is a beat up“.
Using an aggressive tone and insults isn’t helpful.
Don’t try to get the last word
This is the internet. It’s OK if someone disagrees. The group members don’t want to see a long back and forward between two people in disagreement.
Example: “This is a page for rich nerds.”
People here come from a range of backgrounds and budgets.
Be open to alternatives from experts
It’s common to see people posting questions relating to design of large new homes. The admins and experts don’t want to judge you and we don’t know your circumstances. However, don’t be offended if an expert/admin suggests that you consider a smaller design. New Australian homes are often larger than necessary.
Party-political jibes not welcome
Example: “No thanks to Scomo …“.
Park your cynicism at the door
If you can’t be constructive, best to say nothing. So comments like this are not welcome: “it’ll never work here because of government seat warmers.“
Don’t try to be funny. It often comes across as rude, trite or just inappropriate.
Example: “turn your container into dope-growing heaven 😉“
Don’t use animated GIF images or memes.
Topics. The group is created specifically for people to learn more about:
- Home energy efficiency;
- Home electrification;
- Home solar power;
- Electrification and getting off gas;
- Heat pumps; and
- The problems with gas.
Australian-focussed. The group was set up by, and is predominantly comprised of people from Australia.
Topics to avoid. Given our focus we don’t welcome posts about:
- Wood burning. This topic is highly divisive, and not what we’re about;
- Electric cars. There are plenty of other groups;
- Climate change. Clearly it’s important. It motivates a lot of us. But MEEH is not a climate-change forum;
- Off-grid. Off-grid power questions are very niche. Questions should be directed to a dedicated off-grid forum.
Advice, not commentary
MEEH is mostly about asking for, and receiving advice. Many of the questions/subjects are highly technical, and what you say may stay online for others to see for a long time. So:
- Don’t guess. Ask yourself ‘is this just my opinion?’ If you can’t say something with authority, then perhaps leave it to the experts;
- Answer the actual question. Too often people respond to something that isn’t what the OP asked for. If you must respond to something that’s not the actual question, then at least acknowledge the question;
- Avoid sharing articles. MEEH is not really intended as a place for sharing articles. Sometimes it’s OK, but the admins would really prefer you didn’t. If you do share an article, it needs to be on-topic (see ‘be relevant’ above).
Assume that your question has been asked before. Before asking a question, use the group’s search function. Lots of questions are asked again and again. This can cause a bit of ‘expert fatigue’. So, please, search first.
Give your location. We have people from all over. Where you are is nearly always relevant when considering the right answer to your question. So, please always indicate approximately where you’re from when you post a question.
Use someone’s name. Too often someone provides a response after many other comments are already made. It can be unclear whether the response is with respect to the question in the original post, or to a subsequent comment. And, in any case, it’s polite. So, when responding to a question, it’s good to preface it with the name of the person you’re responding to. Use the “@” feature to help tag the person you’re responding to.
Avoid confusing units. Sometimes people refer to house floor area in squares. Squares is a legacy unit of measure that is used only in some places. Please use square meters when referring to floor area.
Floor-plan orientation. If you post a floor plan, then make sure you mark which way is north.
Block orientation. Describing the orientation of a block of land can be ambiguous. Saying a block is ‘north-facing’ could mean either:
- the front of a house built on the block would face north, or
- the living area of a house built on the block would face north.
“F” comments. If you want to follow a thread, don’t post “F” or ‘following’. It amounts to litter and isn’t necessary. It’s better to simply hit ‘like’ on a post and you’ll see follow ups.
Use an image in a post. Posts get noticed by members much more when they include an image. It doesn’t have to be a particularly relevant image. An image will make a post more memorable. It will also make the post rate more highly in the Facebook algorithm, so more people are likely to actually see it.
Avoid single-word responses. Even if you’re responding to a post posing a question with a yes/no answer, avoid simply responding ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Full sentences are preferred.
Avoid initialisms and jargon. Don’t assume that everyone knows what (for example, an ‘MHRV’ is.
Avoid URL vomit. If you’re posting a link (an internet URL), then sometimes these links can be overly long and take up unnecessary real estate within a post or comment because of redundant tracking codes encoded in the link. Links can very often be shortened. For example, this link has a long code starting at the question mark:
This can be shortened to simply:
It’s not a democracy
The group has been created with a clear and explicit purpose. If you don’t agree with the goals of home electrification and getting off gas, then MEEH is not for you. Don’t be offended if we cut short commentary that disagrees with the purpose of the group.
Don’t be offended if admins actively curate what gets said, close comments on a post, delete a post, or block a user.
Posts of a commercial nature are allowed, within limits. Group guidance on commercial posts is here.
Reach out to the admins
If you have a problem with group content, then report it to the admins straight away. If you think someone’s being offensive, then don’t engage, just report.
All example quotes used are from real comments made on MEEH recently.