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  Moderating Forums?
What are some of the methods for moderating forums? Also, do you think that moderated forums discourages people from posting?

There is a fine art to moderating a forum. Moderation is not simply the monitoring or deleting of posts, but entails introducing and encouraging conversation, guiding and supporting community members, as well as promoting the features of the site. Moderation methods should not be portrayed or viewed as censorship or the presence of the “Thought Police”. When moderation is approached from a more proactive angle it becomes a valuable asset rather than a discouraging element. If this angle is taken then moderators themselves are viewed as an integral and positive part of the community, not an external negative force acting on it.

With this in mind, there are several matters that play a crucial role in moderating a forum. Let’s take a more in depth look at what to consider when providing moderation;

TIMING – How often are you going to check your forum?

Single sweep method – Checking board messages or listserv messages, as well as interacting with members once a day. This may be appropriate for low traffic forums or forums where there is a recognizable “peak” time.

Constant sweep method – Checking board messages or listserv messages several times day, as well as interacting with the members during the sweep.

It is important to remember, moderators should encourage conversation by being present. However, there is a really fine line between being present, not being present and being overbearing. Moderators should view themselves as a participating member, and contribute to the conversation, not be a fly-by-night poster or go to the other extreme of controlling and over-running the conversation.

On-demand method – Messages require moderating before being posted live to the forums, thus requiring a nofication method for moderators to respond to on an as-needed basis. This is not supported by all commercial message forum software but is necessary in some circumstances where content is sensitive, e.g. a children’s public forum.

METHOD – How are you going to handle the need to remove posts?

Deletion but no notification – moderators may delete messages but do not inform participants that they have done so. Often the notification will come from managers or not at all. Unless there are particular practical considerations, this method should be avoided, as it is likely to lead to questions about authority and censorship on your forums, and a feeling of mistrust.

Deletion and e-mail to member – moderators are able to both delete messages and communicate with members about deletions. In the e-mail the moderators include the reason a post was deleted with information or a link to the site guidelines. In this instance, both moderators and managers should be prepared and able to discuss the deletion with the member concerned.

Deletions are never fun, and it is important to keep in mind, if there is a question or doubt about what to delete it is best to refer to the guidelines set on the site. This will be your support during the times when deletion is necessary. When a deletion has been made, it is best to notify a member off the boards that their post has been deleted, why it was deleted, providing a link to the guidelines and an e-mail address that they can use should they have questions.

You will find that if you are open with your members about deletions, taking the conversation about deletions off the boards and in e-mail, this will help to keep conversations on track and foster more proactive discussion, rather than quarrels regarding the feelings of censorship.

Editing of posts by moderators should also be considered in the same way as deletions.

An open and fair policy on moderation should not discourage posting. If members understand why moderators are present and can see the value of their presence then they will be more inclined to post. Experience shows that what discourages posting is inconsistent or unclear moderation or no moderation at all.

Best of luck to you!!

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
http://communityanswers.com
http://cornerways.com
http://cwlive.com
 
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