Some recommendations for difficult moderator situations


(Jeff Atwood) #1

I’m in the process of coming up with some basic recommendations for Discourse owners and moderators, on how to make challenging moderator decisions in a sustainable, community friendly way.

Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Share moderation duties with multiple people. Having a single focal point for all mod decisions is fatiguing and can lead to undue flashpoints, and personal attacks. If there’s only one person in charge, is the forum “you”? What if you’re tired, or cranky, or in a bad place? What if you find yourself overly involved in a topic and want to defer moderation to someone else? That’s a dangerous path to be on.

  2. When you must ban, be decisive. Certainly give people another chance if they make a mistake, but then cleanly, decisively ban them. It is not your job to reform this person. You are not obligated to let them try over and over. You can keep the door open by advising them to email you in 6 months or a year if they want to try again. But the impetus to recognize the problem, apologize, and ask politely to try again – that is on them.

  3. Discuss bans, but not too much, and only in the right place. Please don’t celebrate bans or constantly bring them up, and definitely don’t clutter unrelated topics with ban conversation. Keep ban discussion in the “forum feedback” category.

  4. Keep heated moderation talk in private. If things are getting heated, remove that part from the public topic, into a private group message. Maybe even take it offline if needed, to email or voice. At minimum move it to the “forum feedback” category so other topics aren’t cluttered with off-topic moderation stuff.

  5. Take a break. Sometimes people just need to walk away for a while and take a break from the discussion. A short closure of a contentious topic, or a day suspension, might be in order. Avoid making hasty decisions in the heat of the moment, and discourage others from doing so as well.

Does civilized discourse entail tone policing?
(Bankole Oluwafemi) #2

On the forum that I manage, we’ve found that being clear about the reasons why we do the things that we do makes the community more cooperative. If a moderator is perceived to be arbitrary, it causes problems. Of course that means we’re constantly iterating our community guidelines. But it’s not so often that we’re getting bogged down by rules.

When we have to impose sanctions, our default mantra is to set blasters to stun. Serious action like thread closure (our people don’t like to be interrupted) or suspension requires more than one pair of eyes to go through.

(Joshua Rosenfeld) #3

That. 110%. Over at Stonehearth any “major” action that is taken is discussed by at least 2 staff and typically ends up being discussed by all active staff before taking place. We’ve taken advantage of the updated blocking feature, to prevent public posting while we chat quietly with a user. If necessary - and thus far very rare - we’ll go for a suspension. If the offense is clear, non-disputable, we’ll block without discussion, but that too is quite rare. The only instances where a single moderator would block without discussion would be an inappropriate username and/or profile image. Even when we had a clear spammer posting pornographic videos, (which were quickly flagged into oblivion), we didn’t delete the spammer until after a (brief) discussion.

Another focus for us is leading by example. Our staff is active in the community, and many users don’t immediately associate us as staff, just as a friendly user. We try to welcome each new user after their first post with a “hello and welcome” reply and be as friendly as we can. If a user posts in the wrong place, we’ll move it, and then post a reply explaining why. 95% of the time, users are appreciative, and this helps foster a friendly and helpful community. With this, most users will seek us out when they need help, and we aren’t some unknown being watching over the forums.