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  Moderator Guidelines?
What are some good guidelines for moderating posts made in a forum? Such as editing, deleting?

Background information: The individual that submitted this question provided us with the following additional information:

Actually it's a p2p site that I belong to and the guidelines I am interested in are for the Moderators group there... There is little involvement from the Admin there so we are pretty much responsible for policing ourselves. Unfortunately we are in dire need of some rules for ourselves there as entirely too many of the group can't seem to agree with each other... If we have rules for any other members it seems only right that this group should be following too. Thank you for your help and time.

It is often very difficult as a member or a moderator to implement and enforce guidelines where there have been none in the past. Finding areas where you agree about the need for moderation is a starting point, and then you can move on to how those moderation needs should be practiced.

In order to begin creating guidelines for yourselves it is important to list the negative aspects of the current moderation climate and tie this into the community itself. For example, think of the problems or hindrances to participation that you have seen and how the moderators response to those has been ineffective or inconsistent. It's important at this point to ensure that your group can see the benefits of a more effective or consistent approach to moderation. Use examples from the site itself, but you probably should refrain from naming the individuals involved as that is likely to provoke a defensive response. It may well be difficult to get everyone to participate in developing the guidelines, but the offer should be extended to all as a form of consultation. It may be wisest to perform the discussions away from the site and the forum, but rather in a neutral space or via e-mail.

Your aim in the discussions should be to come up with clear, concise and consistent statements regarding a moderation policy and how it should be effected in practice. If there are existing guidelines for members then that is your starting point. If not, then there is a need to create those first.

A moderation policy example might read:

Posts will be removed or edited if they violate any of the guidelines listed below:
1) Contain content that can be construed as a solicitation or spam.
2) Promote illegal activity.
3) Defame or threaten another member on the boards.

A moderation practice example might read:

If posts are removed because they violate the guidelines
1) E-mail the poster of the message to notify them of the reason for the removal and providing a link to the guidelines.
2) Copy [insert administrator/community manager name and e-mail here]
3) Invite the poster to discuss the removal via e-mail ONLY.

For most of the policy guidelines you should have a corresponding practice but for "grey areas" of policy then a clear process to follow should be stated. For example:

If you unsure about whether a post DOES violate a guideline
1) Temporarily hide the post or do not approve it.
2) Send a copy of the post via e-mail to [insert administrator/community manager name and e-mail here]
3) If you do not get a response within x hours, then telephone or consult with a senior moderator, copying [insert administrator/community manager name and e-mail here] on correspondence.

For more examples of community guidelines, please feel free to revisit one of our previous answers; Community Guidelines (TOS)?

Once you and your fellow moderators (and/or members) have decided on some key guidelines, it is then time to compile them alongside solid supporting information as to why they are necessary. Some benefits would be as follows;

1) Guidelines support quality exchange and prevent damaging content being associated with the site.

2) Outline the site expectations for exchange and provide a point of reference when posts need to be removed or edited.

3) Ensure member safety and encourage repeat visits and new user participation.

4) Provide a consistent guide/resource for moderation.

When you are truly happy with the document you have drafted it is then time to present it to the administrator. Crucial to these guidelines being well received by your administrator is presenting them from a positive standpoint. If the policies have an impact on your relationship with the members of the site, change how you will be dealing with the membership in the future or even require some changes being made to member guidelines, then these should be communicated. The members should be part of the process of acceptance. Most importantly of all, guidelines for moderators and members should be highly accessible and part of the assignment and registration process respectively.

Our hats are off to you for wanting to support the site and seeking to ensure the safest and best quality discussions. We wish you the very best of luck in drafting and implementing guidelines. We hope our suggestions have been helpful and if we can be of further assistance, please do let us know.

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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