Thoughts on maximum post length?

I have a user in my community who posts extremely long, in-depth articles in the forum. They’re good content, but he often hits the character limit within the platform, and has repeatedly requested that it be raised. This has been done for him a couple of times, but he only hits the new limit eventually and the problem repeats. His content get some views, but generally don’t generate replies or conversation.

My reasoning for maintaining the limit is that the platform isn’t really the place for this, that overlong posts will deter rather than attract readers, and he’d be better off hosting his content elsewhere - perhaps sharing brief summaries or updates in the community and linking to his content. Outside of posting these articles, he shows little engagement, and has on occasion been a bit of an “intellectual bully” in responses to other contributors.

Before I put my foot down, is there any argument to be made for just giving him what he wants and providing a very high character limit?

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Is there anything else that counts for posting in your online community?
:heavy_check_mark: Content quality
:heavy_check_mark: Expertise
:x: Length
:x: Views - relevance and usefulness
:x: Replies - others responding
:x: Conversations - others engaging
:x: Engaging with others
:x: Helping others
:x: Respecting others

He may well appreciate your consideration and clear explanation. I did when I once maxed out a Drupal node with a long technical article.

We’re designing our forum to have three basic types of posts

  1. Information sharing: events, jobs, and quick asks and offers
  2. Discussions where the goal is to generate engagement: “meaty” questions, requests for feedback, prompts
  3. Learning where the goal is to create a high-quality, in-depth resource. THIS is where the long-form content exists.

We separate out these types of posts by category, so it’s clear what kind of content is expected where, and people with different preferences can actually selectively mute or follow different categories. We also don’t expect too much engagement on the learning posts, but they’re still useful.

The “intellectual bully” question is a different one.

Perhaps the way to approach the conversation is one, clearly communicate the boundaries of your community and protect it and two, figure out what this person needs and refer them to a more appropriate online space that would better meet those needs.

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I’m going to throw out some ideas and questions to you because there’s a lot of unknowns with your technology and your scenario:

  1. Is there the possibility of giving him his own space, like a personal blog, where he can write to his heart’s content without disrupting the main community content?
  2. Can he break up his content into, for example, a Part 1 and Part 2. This will allow him to dive into the esoteric knowledge even more!
  3. Some users just want a place to say their piece. The seminal research by McMillan and Chavis identifies influence as the second element of Sense of community. When you do interact with him, make sure you emphasize that you appreciate the influence of his knowledge and expertise.
  4. Can you afford to lose him? It sounds like your community will him along quite fine without him. But I feel like kicking someone out is “managing out,” and not “managing up.” So use this as your last resort for a user who is truly disruptive.
  5. Can he maybe write featured articles for an ezine or newsletter for your community? And let him have a regular column?
  6. Just how long is long? Usually communities love indepth, long form content.
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