Educating the community

So I found a really fascinating post over here that got me thinking.

I’m a huge fan of education and training people to do what you want/need them to do. Discourse, of course, is built around the same principles. That’s one of the reasons I chose it! We’ve always been very mod-heavy… not editing, but very “word from on high.” I’m moving us gently away from that to more community-oriented leadership principles.

So how have YOU done this in your communities? I love the idea of using our TL3 lounge for this purpose to help train people that yes, YOU can affect your site.


We have a small, private forum which consists of members of another forum that was retired this past summer. Many wanted to remain in contact with one another so we formed our own forum. With everyone being members of the other Discourse forum, we all know the value of staying on topic. We do allow some leeway because of the closeness of the group, but everyone still tries to stick to what the topic is about. At most, there may be 3 off-topic posts but it quickly goes back to the topic. A few posts may be a mix of on- and off-topic remarks, but not many. I think that in the past 4 months we’ve only had to move 4 posts (and a few replies strictly pertaining to them) to an existing topic or to a new topic. Not too bad. Aside from a short “cat fight” between two members at the beginning, things quickly worked themselves out and the forum is running smoothly.
As for the lounge, we use that for some discussions that newer members and those that don’t pop in too often (therefore have lower TLs), but the majority of off the wall conversations are usually posted in a topic we’ve named “Random Thoughts”. This seems to work out well as even though there may be a couple of different subjects discussed at once, the use of quotes helps immensely.
I believe that each of our members realizes that everything they post not just affects the forum itself, but strengthens the bond between all of us.
In 4 months time, only 2 posts were edited by a mod. All others edited by the posters themselves. Even when someone posts or makes a reply, after rereading it, I’ve seen them delete the post/reply themselves. They must have thought twice about how it would affect others and took care of the matter themselves. As administrator, I could very well look to see what had been posted, but I feel if they deleted it, that’s their personal business and I never look at deleted posts. I respect them for that. It’s the same way with PMs. While I do see the count on PMs in the Admin Dashboard, I have not once looked at anyone’s PMs. They know this and appreciate it. We all trust one another which makes for a great forum. We must be a lucky group. :slightly_smiling_face:


We pay people who have the most helpful flagging ratio. This turns the mod team from 6 staff into 60+ advocates who now have some skin in the game. Since the ratio concerns itself with helpful flags not N flags it’s a very cheap self healing system.

The “messaging” then isn’t the same few staff tut tutting every 5 minutes, it’s users explaining to users and defending why they flagged something and sorting it out mostly between themselves. Staff log on and clear the flags then get on with staff things rather than moderating things.

I’ve always considering moderating to be a productivity/efficiency sink. Discourse via trust and flag behaviour and ratios is the best attempt at crowd sourced enforcement and education I’ve seen to date.

For the borderline cases we stick a staff notice onto the post in question to nip it in the bud or remind someone of something and leave them to it. Works well.


Well, it is my literal job, so I don’t consider it a productivity sink. :wink: We have a very large community (160k+ active at any given time at peaks) so we have to moderate. I’ve been moderating long enough to know that not moderating isn’t an option. With that said, we have a phenomenal community that is good at self policing. I want to empower them to do more through education, since they have been unable to do so until now.


So much this. Empowering the community to dictate the culture is a fundamental part of the philosophy of Discourse.

The main thing to remember here is that the key to selling (or teaching) any behaviour change is to get the motivator right. Focus your messaging on the one thing that they want the most – in this case, probably control of the culture.

Interesting reading along these lines: Changing Member Behaviour In A Community | FeverBee


I can see how that would add some bias… :wink:

If you want to attach brand ambassadorial roles and training and whatever else into the base idea of a “moderator” then fair enough, it doesn’t change the point that less educated, cohesive communities need more mods. More educated and cohesive communities [The thing you’re seeking right?] need less, and less and less…

You asked how to make use of your community to educate…

  • Form a think tank with 1% of the top/best users [use data explorer plugin] to produce material that educates the user on whatever you want ideally with a youtube video or infographic. Embed this content into the in-house ads set to appropriate trust levels.

  • Make full use of group review teams for categories and grant them move/edit rights as users where possible. They tend to collaborate over flags and tend their garden with pride, freeing up mods

  • Give move rights to high trust members generally so they can organically re-tag and sort categories for you and have them leave a note [Moved to X and tagged Y] under the post/.topic. Skew tags and categories make information harder to see and the gestalt harder to “feel” which = more modding.

  • Divide the userbase superficially into the houses of hogwarts [Or red vs blue doesn’t matter] and put your content into a custom user wizard and grant a team badge for 1st 2nd 3rd place for N members from Teams completing the wizard. Gamify it if it has to be boring.

  • If you’ve got 10 moderators get rid of one, take half their salary and apply that as a 25 way split for the top 25 most helpful flaggers, paid weekly via paypal or something. Take the other half and give it as a pay rise to the other mods who are doing less trench work more productive work. Repeat as necessary. “Show me the money”.

You consider your work productive, that’s fine. Considering the people who you want to co-opt as trainers in the lounge as productive too would be an ideal conceptual starting point :+1:

The fact my mods are so talented at what they do in their professional spheres is what drives me to do all I can to stop them having to mod anything, and be productive on the things they can actually create/produce with/for. Mods here would rather be doing anything else than repeating themselves or dealing with flags I’m sure.


I went to your organization’s website and read for quite some time. Now I understand the scope of your situation. I won’t call it a problem, based upon the wide age-range and the sheer number of “newbies” that you experience each year in less than 2 months’ time, but one heck of a “challenge.” Your “user set” is, luckily, a more self-aware group than the majority of forums. They all have a personal goal to achieve and, with their active participation in the forum itself, realize that self-policing, helping others and making the forum a better place for everyone is a “growing experience” which will help them achieve their potential.

And a belated happy 20th birthday to your organization. (I saw that it was July 1st.)


Thank you for taking the time! Tis definitely a unique population; they’re not our “customers” per se, not in the tradition sense, anyway, but they do have that unique artist temperament as well. They also have a tremendous amount of passion and I have a core group of year-rounders who would be ideal for this concept. They already do, to a degree, I just want to full-on give them “permission” them to do so and give them an understanding the tools they have at their disposal.

Thank you! We tend to celebrate in November (for obvious reasons) so it’s not belated at all. :wink: Kinda nuts this has grown into the phenomenon it is now. I joined in 2002.


That is great. We have a few members that realize certain posts or part of posts shouldn’t be at all (extremely rare) or should belong in other topics. At least they ask about the tools at their disposal before using them. I’m sure they don’t want to “mess up” in front of everyone. :slightly_smiling_face: When they do use the tools, they’ve always informed the others as to what they did and why the action was taken. We’re down to one Mod at the moment since the other’s husband has had heart problems, but it has been almost 2 months since the Mod has had to anything. She also has health problems, so there is always myself to step in if needed. My last action was to move my own post to a different topic. :laughing:

It’s awesome that there are members in your Discourse that are sticking around year round and want to help with it’s function and growth. Truly a good group of people! I’ve bookmarked this topic and check in every day here. Good luck and I’ll be thinking of ideas which may help you out in even the smallest way.

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