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Forum Moderators: lawman
That knowledge and $2.85USD will still get you a cup of coffee and a wireless connection at most Starbucks in the US today ;-)
In alot of ways, we have become a victim of our success. There just wasn't time to get through all of the postings. After update Dominic last month -- where over 5000 messages were left -- we had to do something to increase the quality.
The problem is that the update threads were gateway threads for new members. That was their only experience of webmasterworld. Those threads were in the chat or irc style chit-chat format. The quality was simply not up to par with WebmasterWorld history. That style of low quality posting has invaded WebmasterWorld top-to-bottom.
Members were not pleased with the lowered quality standards here in the Google forum, or elsewhere on the site. Critical comment after critical comment streamed in about the Google forum for several months. It was clear that something had to be done that didn't require a mass army of moderators to handle. All that happened in the foreground, while in the background management stress escalated. Time spent dealing with problems in the Google forum went from a few a week in 2002, to several dozen per day by May 03.
Pre-Moderating the Google Forum
So, last month we took the radical step of testing premoderation in the Google Forum. Under premoderation, all new discussions will have to be moderator approved.
So far, most feedback has been very positive. There are occasional problems with the new system, but far less than the old one. Lets go through some of the reasons for the new system that point out problems with the old system:
1) Duplicate Content.
One of the hot Google Webmaster topics for the last six months has been duplicate content. We have a form of the same here, in that we get so many duplicate topic postings. It was not uncommon to see the same topic posted 5-10 times in a few days. By moving to premoderation, we are able to weed those duplicates out at the front door before they become a problem.
2) Privacy issues, promotional issues, and posts against the forum charter.
The most repetitive issue here is the dropping of promotional urls and/or keyword searches.
3) Raves, Rants, Flames, Trolls, JuJu Beans.
4) Bad thread titles.
As a optimizer, potential optimizer, or weekend webmaster, it is your mission to learn how to write a quality thread/page titles [useit.com].
We've discussed it and harped about quality titles for three years. No longer. There is a ton of quality info on the site and out on the net related to titles. Use Google to find those pages.
We are all adults here and responsible for our own learning. I've told the moderators to not even read a post if it has a poor title.
Titles must reflect the content of the post.
The biggest problem with thread titles is that people tend to feel the need to comment
Recent examples (last 4 hours):
"Puzzle me this"
"What am I doing wrong?"
Both were not approved because of low quality titles. (you expect us to do better and hold us to a higher standard - catch-22 - we expect you to do better too).
5) Personal issues with Google.
Those that fall here are the large numbers of "I've been banned" or "I got a #1 ranking" type posts that include very specific info about a site.
6) Off topic.
Messages that go off topic to the original post will be deleted. It is up to each posters to see that they stay within the confines of the original message.
We strive to have all new submissions dealt with in a timely manner. Don't be surprised if it takes a few hours for your post to show up.
In a perfect world where we had 36 hours in every day and 20 moderators for this forum, each post that was not approved would receive a email about it. Replying to everyone is not always easy to do.
Why should I give a slice of bread to someone who is hungry because they are too lazy to learn how to bake a loaf at home? It is annoying to see the repeated posts, like "Is it ok to CSS the H1 tag?" Come on already, this has been discussed to death.
ON THE OTHER HAND, there are duplicate posts in which something didn't get discussed enough- There are some posts that get few responses and deserve to be discussed again if the original post cannot be revived- either because there are new developments or new ideas.
I prefer meaningful discussions with original ideas.
There has not been one single post disallowed that would have contributed value-added content. Not one. In fact, some have made it out there that wouldn't have turned into the good discussions they became without premoderation. There are a few reasons for that - but it works to an advantage in that respect.
Actually, the elimination of much of the unnecessary volume has increased the amount of content of value in terms of both quantity and quality because people aren't being as easily turned away by being over-whelmed.
>>A redundant post or two aren't bad, but fifty or a hundred redundant posts in a day will shove the meaningful ones into oblivion.
Not only shoved into oblivion, but turning away some of the very people who could provide meaningful input.
>>Ditto for bad titles - one or two are no big deal. But nobody has the time to look at dozens of "Need Help" or "I Can't Do This" to figure out if the topic is of interest or is something they can contribute to.
Ditto the amount of moderating time needed, putting it all together. I've done some controlled timing - some for just the Google forum alone. Even after pre-moderation, which has in fact made it far, far easier.
It all looks very different from the perspective of putting in multiple hours of moderating time a week and trying to evaluate what needs of members appear to be, who's who and who's doing what.
To be perfectly honest, personally speaking there are some I have considerably more sympathy for than others. There are some who do little more than lurk looking for information they themselves find valuable, and/or make an occasional casual comment, and do little more - if anything at all - other than derive benefit from those who do participate and post. That's fine - but there are others affected there certainly needs to be more concern for, IMHO.
There are those who actively participate on an interactive level, on a continuing basis, as active members who make valuable, substantial contributions to the community by their participation.
There is no such thing as an online community growing, or even continuing to exist, without active member participation. There is no participation without posting and being an integrated part of the community, maintaining a level of active, visible involvement.
Though the lurkers in the first group have also probably benefitted tremendously by pre-moderation, it's the second group I personally have gratitude to and concern for. Forum 3 has been quite interesting to observe since pre-moderation started, BTW.
Unfortunately, when thinking about a voting system I have to admit to having serious reservations, a good deal of of it stemming from what I've referenced in regard to the two groups described above. I believe it could possibly lead to a very inequitable situation.
>>community moderation (i.e. Slashdot style)
I never have liked the Slashdot style of moderation. Still don't, never will. I wouldn't personally participate at Slashdot, with the system they have - never have, never will.
I'll have to see it in action to really know for sure. Fortunately, in all the time I've known Brett and seen him in action - I know if there's any way to invent a better mousetrap, he's the one who can do it - and he does do it. It's been proven over and over.
A google chat forum sounds like a good idea.
but then we may have ppl who think 'can I CSS my H1?' is a serious topic, and they wouldn't post it in the google chat area.
I'm not sure that an 'extended-google-discussion' forum and a 'open-google-discussion' forum would solve the problems. Human nature would be to go where you think you'll get the most serious answer, if you believe your question to be serious (which, all novices will).
You would have to instill the feeling that both forums are for serious discussion, just one is for serious discussion if you've been doing this for a long time. A high level questions vs. low level questions forum...
but I think the same problems would arise from that setup. if you've got too much traffic, you've got too much traffic. quality will remain a problem.
I also must respectfully note that -- as much as I like this site and admire the founders and so many of the participants -- the existing search engine leaves MUCH to be desired!
If I, a pretty savvy geek, get massively frustrated trying to find simple things via the WW search engine, I can imagine how flummoxed more newbie folks must feel.
So yes, it's very irritating -- and in some particular cases, rather inexcusable -- when someone posts a 'duplicate' topic. But until the search engine on this site is improved, I would suggest that we not be too harsh.