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What Is Your Version Of Moderation Done Right?

Other than free-for-all what are the positive attributes you seek in a mod



5:42 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I understand there are those who view any moderation as an offense. I'm not seeking a reaffirmation of that perspective.

If you were writing a moderation policy or a job description for hiring a moderator what would it say?


5:48 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

First: Mod and god are not synonyms.


6:22 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Here's a rule my site initiated after some mods got into arguments with users and then "moderated" the people they were arguing with:

When you post, you are not moderating. So, choose which one you are and don't be both on the same thread.


6:25 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

ken_b, what defines or separates godlike from non-godlike moderation?

As best I can articulate what I'm after in starting this thread is that it should focus on what defines a good moderator or good moderation.

I know there's a lot to either hate or rub people the wrong way, when it comes to humans acting as moderators. I think I've read a fair bit of "that feedback".

What I'd like, as a take-away, is everything that everyone has to offer about "how it's done right", be that personality traits, behaviors, mannerisms, practices, etc.

What makes a good mod a good mod?

When you either see or are subject to moderation what makes YOU say:

"That's moderation done right."


6:43 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As a mod you're stepping up in the world of judges, but then for forums, aren't you? As being a lawyer yourself I'm pretty sure you can "judge" for yourself what is tolerable in the mind of free speech and what isn't.


6:51 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Mods make mistakes and sometimes need to be moderated themselves. Have a clearly posted policy where a moderated poster who feels he/she was moderated unfairly can escalate the issue to an Admin.

Mods should admit when they made a mistake and apologize if necessary.

I agree with jbroder- mods should not try to wear mod and user hats at the same time. Mods should try to understand that even though they may be posting as a user, the people may see it as a moderator post.

If continued moderation is required in a thread where there is an issue between a moderator and a user, it should probably be done by a different mod or an admin.


6:58 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

As moderators, like judges, we have a degree of discretion in applying "the law" (TOS/TCU) to "the facts" (forum acts).

Unfortunately, when a judge/mod chooses to act within their perceived discretion, that election can lead to some saying that moderation, or judging, is being applied unevenly.

So, does a "good mod" strictly interpret and follow "the rules" (TOS, TCU, Charter) or does a good mod act with a degree of discretion? I'm guessing most would say "the latter" but you can all probably appreciate how such an approach will predictably lead to times when someone says something about "not following the rules".

Right or wrong: You expect a "good" moderator to act with a degree of discretion and, when that discretion doesn't go your way, you accept that so long as you can see . . . everyone dog has his day. ;)

I'm really interested in everyone's personal version of "moderation is best when . . . " . . so I'm going to totally shut-up for awhile. ;)


7:05 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

When you either see or are subject to moderation what makes YOU say:

"That's moderation done right."

When the mod explained their actions. I know moderation is a *very* inexact science and someone will almost always be unhappy. But when a explanation is given that's always been a real plus to me. So that I could understand the the why of the moderation, or in some cases lack there of moderation.


7:17 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

moderation policy or a job description for hiring a moderator what would it say?

1. Separate moderation from participation. It should be very clear what this means. If you wish to participate, participate in a different post, separate the moderation posts from the participation posts in such a way that it would be very clear which is which.

2. Always refer to policy when moderating. I know this is redundant and tedious, but is vital and diverts the moderation from "you" as the member.

3. Revise the policy. On the previous point, it's always been my opinion that the policy here is vague and open to interpretation in some areas and it often gets brutally stretched. I posted a topic once in foo - can't even remember what it was - and it was removed because it could be, in some twisted form of interpretation, be construed as a "political discussion." This topic was so far from political you'd need a logging chain to make the connection, and it made no sense to me. I wasn't worried about it, "when in Rome" and all that, no big deal. This kind of stuff must make life hell for moderators. Often I see stuff removed "just to be safe." If you have to take a guess at "what is safe," your policy needs work.

This is why I've declined invites as a moderator, I doubt I'd make the right decisions. :-)

4. Devise a collaboration of moderators. You may already have this, but many boards have a private forum just for moderators. If you're not sure, you confer, "is this inappropriate or are the flaggers just being whiners?"

4.a. Remove the vagaries of "discretion." If it's a judgment call, use the above to add it to policy, make a decision, make it clear.

There's my four and a half cents . . .

[edited by: rocknbil at 7:19 pm (utc) on May 27, 2010]


7:18 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I moderate on several forums, and I think the best advice I've seen given is to "give the user the benefit of the doubt". Many new users may not have much experience in forums, and so are unaware of the typical 'netiquette'. Or they may come from another country/culture, and English is a second language for them, so they failed to fully understand a rule. I think it's important to look at one's post and analyze it in context, and then, if it looks like an infraction, handle it with the least necessary force. A PM may suffice... perhaps an infraction is called for... occasionally it's patently obvious that they were fully aware they were breaking a rule, but decided to do so anyway, so you give 'em the boot! I've found that consistency is the best teacher. If all the mods are singing from the same book, and each responds fairly and similarly to issues, whether they are in agreement with the poster or not, they build credibility as a group.

Whenever a large group is brought together, there are bound to be disagreements. Moderators ideally (IMO) try to steer things in the right direction when possible, but jam on the brakes only when really necessary.

Members, on the other hand, need to remember that mods are often constrained, either by the rules set forth by admin, or by their inability to express their own opinion fully, lest it reflect poorly on the board.

BTW, I agree wholeheartedly with the comment about the difference between being a mod and a member, when posting. Not always easy to do, I realize, but mods deserve the opportunity to post on the forums as members... let their hair down a bit... without being seen as the bad guys. Their voluntary actions help make the board a lot more pleasant for the rest of us.

Just my two cents worth.


7:27 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

To me a moderator is someone who intervenes when a discussion between two parties threatens to get out of hand or a user doesn't follow or is unaware of certain forum rules then he/she points the user in the right direction.

All other posts by moderators are considered the same as posts by members.


7:33 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Here's a basic person profile/ list of what I felt was occurring when mod's "got it right".
The list could go on, but few people have enough time to do the job without making it completely impossible ;)

Demonstrates the theory and practical application of:

1. Weber (The person is not the same as the position. That deals with perceived mis-use of position, inconsistency, failure to account, etc.)
2. Personal fallibility (The moderator's position is not fallible - the person in that position most certainly is. That deals with potential issues of arrogance/presumed superiority.)
3. The logic and analysis of argument (Especially the fallacies - ad homonym, calls to the majority, etc. This enables them to understand the flow of discussion, identify when/how to respond/intervene, and to not make those mistakes themselves)
4. The credibility of evidence (For example, opinion is not the same as fact. See above)
5. Compassion (The ability to see another's point of view and the willingness to do so. See above)
6. Objectivity (The ability to evaluate and take required actions without subjective or emotional involvement. See above)
7. Emotional balance and tolerance, intellectual generosity and emotional and intellectual forgiveness (And capable of acting that way when given a position of privilege. See above. This avoids the issues of mods with a downer on life, a personal band-wagon, narrow-mindedness, a long memory for a suspected slight/grievance, vendettas against members/products, etc)
8. A solid grasp of the language - or willingness to consult a dictionary (Good moderators are adept at re-stating a poorly put question, smoothing barriers created if English is not a posters first language, and inserting that "I think so-and-so really meant xyz" comment that smoothes tensions and keeps discussion on-topic. For avoidance of doubt, this does not suggest moderators should have English as a first language. It highlights the importance of being able to utilise the language to facillitate discussion. Quite a differnt thing.)
9. Interpersonal skills (The ability to adopt the tone and language that communicates moderator actions in a balanced, objective, fair, equitable and consistent fashion, and in terms easily understood and accepted by the membership - regardless of the situation.)
10 An appetitive for vigilance and micro-detail. (Lots of effort seems to go to sniping url drops, pointing newbies to TOS's, checking threads are staying on topic, etc.)

Note there is no requirement to be an expert in the field. Just competent.

Moderators moderate discussions, perform the admin to keep the forum tidy and the good ones encourage, prompt and promote really good robust discussion. The best convey an open-minded, even-handed, positive approach to life, a thirst for extending their own knowledge (enquiring mind) an appreciation for others (nuggets from newbie's), and convey this. That is rarely the same skills required to achieve expertise in the forum subject matter.

Many have both, but having moderators moderate, while experts discuss and debate is one way of ensuring moderation does not become a synonym for domination.

Reference has been made to the long, complex threads of yester-year. Yet many make amiable, although robust reading. It is noticeable the members - led by mods, acknowledged each others contributions, asked questions to prompt further discussion, clarify, etc. Mods openly told members to "cool it" when tensions get high rather than just snipping. That is they assumed members would moderate their own behaviour rather than requiring it be imposed by a third person. They would make a comment to ease conversation towards less polarised ground, and as would be expected, members followed that open, human lead by behaving as you would expect from people being treated like thinking adults: By apologising, making a joke that eased tension, "agreeing to disagree" etc.

WebmasterWorld is still alive: Look at the activity in here. Look at how positively people have responded when mods put up a thread to deal with an emerging issue - then left it to run ;) Food for thought.

... rocknbill made the mod/participant point much better - posting at the same time ;)
[edit]for spelling and to practise what I preach ;)[/edit]


7:51 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I think every moderator should have a formal anti-conflict (de-escalation) training, specifically for the online world. A mod needs to be able to calm down participants of a discussion while NOT stiffling down the discussion. That's an art in itself, hence the formal training.

(And yes, in a former life, c. 1996/1997, I got such a training, believe it or not, specifically for online communities. It really works, and I'd make such a training a requirement for any mod working on a commercial discussion forum.)


8:50 pm on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I double zett's vote for conflict resolution training in moderators. I've had courses in it too, and at the time I thought I knew all there was to know about arbitration / mediation. It really is valuable for any kind of role where communication is important.

The problem with it, though, is that people tend to think it's silly and obvious and all touchy-feely, which it can get. So it may not be popular amongst the mods.

I don't mind moderators posting to any thread they want. The key thing for me is that a moderator act balanced when in the moderator roll - touching on both sides of an issue - and when he or she wants to show a bias, for them to say outright, "This is my own personal bias..."

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