Friday, June 28, 2019

Setting Limits For Your Streams

I've spoken before about always cultivating the kind of community you'd want to be a part of. Creating certain rules and enforcing them with varying levels of strictness can drastically change the way your community acts toward you, toward each other, or just acts in general. Having a strong set of limits for what you are and aren't willing to allow on your channel will strengthen your brand, allow your community to feel more comfortable, and make you less susceptible to trolls or other manipulative chatters.

In the entry 'Your Twitch Chat is a Reflection of Yourself', I gave you some insight into how I like to implement various rules, and the amount of flexibility I give any new rules I'm trying out. But what if you've been trying many things and nothing seems to work, or if you don't even know where to start? This entry will cover some of the specific kinds of limits I set for my own channel, and which aspects of them are important to me.

Before we begin, remember that the exact guidelines that work for my channel won't necessarily work for yours. Everyone's Twitch streams are completely different, and I was only able to arrive at my own limits through trying, failing, and constantly refining based on the kinds of situations I've encountered. What you should pay attention to instead, are the logic and reasoning behind the decisions I've made, and apply that process to your own style of streams if you think it might help.


Just because the games you play have profanity
doesn't mean your community has to follow suit.
Many people have different stances on swearing in their chats. Personally, I like to keep swearing, sexual references and other inappropriate language to a minimum. Many of the games we play on my channel are rated 'Mature' and involve heavy use of foul language, but we've always made sure to draw a distinction between what is said in the games on screen and how our viewers actually interact with each other. This may just seem like a personal preference, but I think it does help cultivate more positive vibes within the community. You never know who is made uncomfortable by rude language or certain kinds of jokes. You may find that staying within the bounds of a PG-13 rating helps to keep people around overall.


Pay attention to the subtext of comments and interactions in your chat. It's obvious that you shouldn't have any overtly racist, sexist, or homophobic comments (or at least, I hope it's obvious) but that doesn't mean that people won't still say things that are charged in certain directions. Stand up for the things that matter to you, even if they're limits not typically enforced by other streams on Twitch. Is there some stereotype you particularly dislike? Make sure you're not letting it slide just because it's used commonly or allowed in other channels. I personally have been shocked by the amount of harmful stereotypes people throw around other Twitch chats without anyone batting an eye.

Always take time to actually read things BEFORE you read them out loud. Many new streamers will take a 'leap without looking' approach to reading comments, simply repeating back whatever's put in front of them before they actually comprehend it. You don't want to accidentally end up saying something that violates your personal values on stream just because someone put words in your mouth.


If you can't bring it up at a party, it's probably
not okay for people to bring up in your chat.
There are three things you're never supposed to discuss in mixed company: religion, politics and sex. Unless your channel is centered around your identity as a minister, or arguing politics is the only thing you want your channel to be about, I strongly recommend you stay away from these topics. These are what I call 'bad conversation starters' - once you get going with these, it's only a matter of time until the discussion turns ugly. Not only will you be potentially alienating MAJOR portions of your audience faster than Thanos can snap his fingers, but you will notice a huge shift in your community's disposition. People will be more argumentative, negative and divided. Plus, you will oftentimes wish you didn't hear the answer. Make sure you're thinking two steps ahead, and look for the red flags signaling a bad conversation. The way I look at it, we all get enough of the real world in the actual real world. Let your Twitch streams be neutral territory.


A major part of Twitch streaming is sharing thoughts and experiences with everyone in the community, and hearing their own stories in return. But how much about your personal life are you comfortable sharing? Do you talk about what you do for a living? Do you talk about your love life or relationship issues? How specific are you about where you live? Some streamers are completely transparent about all of these topics, and others would be mortified to go near them. Just because there is no wrong answer doesn't mean you shouldn't have a plan for how many answers you're willing to give.

You don't have to share everything on your Twitch streams, solely in the name of building a closer community. One streamer I watch does live broadcasts from a small restaurant he owns. He openly discusses all sorts of topics, but has a rule about never revealing the location or name of the shop itself- you could imagine the kinds of issues that could crop up if he didn't have this limit in place.

So make sure to take a few minutes and think about how much you're willing to divulge about different aspects of your life. People will understand- they know that you're a real person, and you have things that you're not comfortable talking about. The only truly wrong thing to do here is to not have a plan for when some of these topics appear.


Twitch's AutoMod is great for many common
taboo topics.
Now that you have limits for some of these major categories set in your head, it's time to put them into action. Make sure you have chat commands that explain some of the rules you would like people to know about. In the entry 'Your Twitch Chat is a Reflection of Yourself', we covered how to communicate the intricacies of these rules, and how best to implement them. For many topics, Twitch's expanded AutoMod settings can detect red flags, offering slider bars for profanity, sexual content, discrimination and hostility that you can adjust behind the scenes. If your channel is large enough, having trusted users to whom you can grant 'moderator' status will help immensely as well.

In addition to all of this, sometimes the best way to discourage a certain topic is to just ignore it. There might be personal things that you don't want to make overt rules about, but also likely don't want to discuss. Telling one person out loud that you don't want to talk about your breakup, your job search, or your upcoming final exam for example, will inadvertently cause others to inquire about it because they're concerned for you. This will then become its own 'Bad Conversation Starter' like we talked about earlier. You're not obligated to respond to 100% of the comments in your stream after all. If something makes you uncomfortable, it's your right not to have to put it in the spotlight. You can even silently delete that comment to make extra sure others don't start asking as well.


Don't forget, it's also important how you conduct yourself on stream. You're not likely to be able to uphold a 'no swearing' policy if you yourself are speaking like a sailor the whole time. Chatters will take their cues from how you are acting in addition to how the community itself is acting. People want to be a part of the larger group after all- most of us don't want to enter someone else's Twitch channel and start causing trouble.

It might sound like setting rules and limits on your channel will create less interesting conversations or make your channel feel too strict. Just know that it's something that everyone on Twitch has to do eventually as they grow. Your community will turn into whatever you allow it to be, so make sure that the edges of the mold are in place before anyone actually crosses the line. Having strong values isn't about being completely wholesome. It's about knowing exactly what you are and aren't willing to bring to the forefront of your streams. No matter what kind of channel you have, storms of challenging, toxic and inappropriate topics are waiting over the horizon. If you've established limits beforehand, you'll already be equipped to weather those storms whenever they appear.

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