How does your forum community best achieve civil discussion when things get heated?

To those here who run forums with categories that lend themselves to heated discussions, how do you moderate such discussions, or do you?

I’ve found this process to be a constant dance on the line between being too strict and causing members to leave and being not strict enough and causing members to leave. And by the way, every member has their own idea of where that line should be and it’s never where you think it should be.

How does your community determine what constitutes as “civil discussion” and is this something you as admins/staff determine or do you let your community help define this for your forums?

I’d love to hear some ideas that are working for you all, especially if your community’s focus subject is more traditionally prone to drama.


Totally agree with your points.

We tend to do these things. As I moderate 2 forums the principle is the same.

You could start by sending a PM a friendly reminder to user(s) that instigated the problem and send what is expected of them in a public topic

  • Repeat offenders get official Warning

And moderation guide follows thorough

We sometimes close topic as a cool down period and it opens a few hours later. Similar to a system flag topic closure.

We normally let discussion run under watchful eye and when flags start to pop up frequently moderators step in. Basically the members define the ‘stepping over the line’


Let’s say that some users in one topic have started posting irelevant stuff to the current discussion or you think it’s about high time for a break. What you can do is call a Time Out by closing the topic for some hours. That’s what system does automatically when there have been many posts flagged in one single topic in a very short period of time. Messages play a crucial role too, I don’t disagree with that. But keep in mind, that when the user is angry, they will get angrier if they receive a warning message from the admin team. Furthermore, a member of the staff team can step up and calm things down. They can also moderate the topic by deleting posts, which will cause users to argue more.

You can also ban everyone! Nah, I am kidding, haha.


Definitely approach a few hours later. Great tip.


One of the best things is done in advance: make sure you have a really solid set of rules and guidelines. It makes moderators jobs much much easier if you can clearly cite where a rule was broken — and users are much more amenable if they don’t feel personally targeted.

Beyond clear rule violations, I tend to favor a light touch. Splitting topics is invaluable, because it doesn’t feel like censorship but you can punt them to a category like #off-topic or even unlist it. This can allow the conversation to resolve instead of festering and popping back up in new topics.


In addition to the things mentioned above (which are all good suggestions) there are a couple of other tools at your disposal:

Staff notices
Add a staff notice into the topic that says something along the lines of “Hey guys, things are getting a little heated here. Please be kind and keep things on track or this topic will be closed.” That lets people know that you’re watching.

Encourage flagging
Encourage a culture of flagging. That empowers your community to drive the kind of behaviour that they want to see. If you start seeing a number of flags in a particular topic then there’s your sign that things aren’t cool.


Reminder that too many open / pending flags in a topic will automatically institute a timed close on that topic for 4 hours. It won’t re-open until the flags are cleared.

What I view as a big problem is …

  • personal attacks, which should always be flagged and removed under penalty of possible suspension
  • excessive replies

… we don’t do much for the latter (except for new users who are limited in how often they can reply anyway) but we probably should. Even for established users. :thinking:

We do have the “did you know you have replied to this person a bunch of times” just in time reminder but it has no teeth and probably needs 'em to be effective :tooth::tooth::tooth::tooth::tooth:


Your “words to use” here are on point!

@007, FWIW, I have seen this strategy be quite effective, particularly with a sentence added to describe what reply behaviors might be more/less productive (depending on the situation), a sentence noting that “xyz” might lead to mods locking the topic, and a link to FAQs/guidelines, as long as you…

…and that those guidelines are understood and enforced consistently amongst mods and users, as @mbauman said.

  • When users feel targeted for their opinion or posting personality, they get defensive if they receive even an unofficial heads up message from the same mod repeatedly, which is why consistency amongst mods is critical.
  • It often helps–when true–to state in the message to a user that theirs were not the only posts flagged, removed, etc, without disclosing more details about other users.

I have seen this be effective when posts are removed or split while the topic is temporarily locked and a mod replies in the topic about why posts were moved/removed prior to reopening, once again with a link to clear guidelines.


Moderate…The Community I have the fortune to moderate is quite civil and other users seem to take pride in that fact alone a lot of the time. For the most part it is noobs, trolls, etc.

If they are suspect and thier post seems out of place then we do have the option of moving it to an area where the sharks lurk…
This can often bring out the true troll and so on.
From that convo we can either kill or cure by side moderation.
As an aside some flip moderator humour below.


Who and what do moderators do

Moderators have some basic “guidelines” as posted on the moderator forum section to which you should have access.

What constitutes infractions are not always clear and open to some interpretation or experience by individual moderators.

Our armoury consists of wits, experience, and the blood of the enemy button provided by Arduino, oh and a vast army of loyal Arduinites spread through all territories of the Arduino nation.

We quite often have to rely on “reports” from other Arduinites to do a few main things.

  1. To guide us to a post “they” think breaks forum rules.

  2. To be able to use a decision based on past experiences of similar instances to assess if the reporter is correct or not.

  3. In the case of LINKS we sometimes put ourselves in the line of fire by visiting those links directly to assess them external to Arduino. We live for the smell of danger and a random or occasionally risky link.

  4. And lastly make a final decision on what action to take.

We are often Judge, Jury, and executioner and do those duties every time we visit the forum more often than most employees would be able to spend time in there.

We do those duties to the very best of our abilities and with each day face new challenges.

Sure there will, on rare occasions be a mistake but by far they are super rare probable less than 0.1%.

Occasionally we will use the moderator section to query our own decisions amongst ourselves (again you should be privy to those conversations).

You should also have full access to the moderation logs which show clearly all major interactions with that regards (apart from when it bugs out).

I understand you or your teams may not have the forum experience some of us have which in some cases at least dates back to pre-internet BBS days.

They should at the very least get to grips with the reports moderators deal with by following up the posts and the actions taken

If we say its legit then it will be up to you guys to show us where we made a mistake and for us to learn from that and not the other way around !

Then there are all the other NON LOGGED moderator interactions where we may simply post something so users know a moderator has an eye on a certain post.

Oh and lets just cover SPAM itself for a moment.

Did you know a lot of it never even gets reported ? Well that would be because the spammers are not really the brightest bulb in the room.

They often spam a post that a moderator has been involved in. That means we go look at it and hey presto big red button and zero reports.

Then there are those where your Spidey sensors tingle before a report even if you were not involved in a post, often spotted as a “NECRO” post or a name that cries out spam.

Yep there are no reports for them either.

Then there are the PM reports from people you deal with on a regular basis “Hey can you take a look at this post it looks odd”. You guessed it no reports for those either.

Or where we may simply do a minor edit on a person’s post without further action.

Or where we decide that no further action on a report is needed and simply close it.

There are also times we need to open multiple tabs of a single users posts from their profile to check things (more so for cross posting or relevant behaviour issues)

Other occasions may require a post to first be SPLIT from its parent topic, and then MOVED to a new section before being MERGED with a similar post by the same user.

And don’t forget the forum needs that to be done in a specific manner or it will cast the random back to main forum page spell on you. leaving you with no idea WTH just happened.

Then there is the thought that crosses a moderators mind (Don’t ask its odd in there My witchy therapist says) What if the user also did multiple infractions or whatever at the same time ?

So off you go and check more of their posts that were not yet reported and as if by some telepathetic spell or your crystal ball you see laid out before you yet more things to do.

Yes you probably guessed they get dealt with and there are zero reports involved.

And while we are on dark arts lets talk about an IP address. They are exceptionally useful to moderators. Sort of like POKEMON you catch one you gotta catch em all.

Often worth a look to see how many other names may be called up in that IP.

Chances are that if there is more than one user name there may be another spam account that may have been missed in the past.

Certainly don’t block that IP as it may only be part of a larger network with innocent users but it can often be a clue to other things.

Some occasions require delicate PM’s to offenders to avoid official sanctions.

Yes we can tread on eggshells and even do the Flamenco on them if we need (omelettes anyone ?)

Then we have our own needs or areas we like to take a little more interest in.

Moderation is not simply point and click, we are part psychologist, part peacekeeper, part guru, part relationship counsellor, part clown, part customer relations, part detective, part masochistic (only explanation for it), and many other things.

There is so much more to the title and duties than most people are aware of and I have only touched on the major points here.

Every post or action including all your own are often subject to your own extra scrutiny.

Are we done yet ?

Oh hell NO !

We do much more than just moderate we also act as a dating agency hooking up members with other members where interests may cross paths or another member may have the experience to answer an OP’s Q with a larger degree of skill.

This may go as far as generating sales leads for both members and Arduino alike. Reason enough alone for Arduino teams to keep an eye on the forums where odd but stray questions about such things crop up.

We hold a fine line between customer support and the thousands of users per day passing through the forum.

Oh and did I mention we do it all for fun and free usually being in the forum often more than 5 hrs a day often 7 days a week ? ( yea masochistic is the only word for it.)

Where do we release all the feelings built up after a session ?

Well we often have other things we do to take us back to a peaceful realm but on occasion we let loose in the “BAR SPORT” section a little.

Some aspects of moderator duties are an acquired art / skill and some think its witchcraft and that all moderators should be banished to some nether region.

We have a secret location :wink:

As a gentle reminder to you all that moderators are also humans too even if we have to hold ourselves above many things.

So PLEASE if you undo something we did let us know who, what, why, where, so we can learn too !

Visit the forum and all its sections. Involve yourself where you can even as an employee.

See and learn what type of people are in there. Can you assess a person’s character, level of English, technical level from a few posts and respond back at a level that suits them ?

Oh and did I mention the FORUM SOFTWARE is cursed and has a mind of its own and often tries to thwart anyone and everyone from noobs to senior posters and even moderators with quite random spells and incantations.

The most famous of these is to whisk you off to the main page where there may be yet another report…Hmmm which do you take first or do you decide to multiple tab and risk everything ?

Next week we will discuss potions and lotions to counter headaches, cankers, ailments, broken bones, warts or whatever else may ail you.

Remember snake oil needs dragons blood and fairies spit to be effective otherwise it’s just a extreme laxative so don’t drink and fart !