Forum Moderator Issues

Open: A proposal for community standards of forum behavior

Moderator: Discussion & Debate Managers

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Nalates
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Nalates » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:09 am

The problem is troublesome. When the admin & mod are misbehaving the typical forum member has little control.

There are few choices one has in how they respond. One of the primary mental concepts that I think creates unhappiness is the idea admins and mods should be fair, an expectation. I gave up the expectation. They are or they aren't and I adjust my posting accordingly. If they blow them off, delete them what ever, I deal with it. We have other forums and it is fair to move ideas to other forums.

An example of this is the child protection I'm interested in and think should be a part of our plans for MOOU. The idea it was NOT an issue was not acceptable to me. Having to wait for a problem and possible injury just seemed foolish. I moved the idea across the forums until I got it ingrained in the development thought process and found supporters. I left the individual flames on their respective forums. I argued my ideas on merit without ad hom attacks. So, we now have protection as a consideration.

The SD&D is about how forum members can handle these types of issues. Respect, honesty, fairness and rational thought are all things the general populous likes and respects. Name calling, disrespect, double standards, mocking, innuendo, unfair treatment of others and other tactics and petty behaviors are frowned on at best. Understanding how those work giving forum members the tools to address various abuses without solely relying on moderators is a motivation for SD&D.

Of course the ultimate recourse is to not post on a forum that allows abusive behaviors. I think when one has good references to those abuses then sharing your opinion in other places is appropriate. The challenge is keeping it factual and objective.

The problem of abusers stalking a person has come up. A couple of people got so bad I had to keep a list of links to their abusive posts, regarding me and others. When complaining to a mod on another forum, offering that list was reasonably effective. When those people move to other forums both the members and the mods have to deal with them. I see no point in being PC. As objectively as possible a case is stated and people decide. One of the J-name members flat out labeled an another a liar in a remarkable post that used personal experience and decisions to state a position. It was done in such a way there was little to argue with. Support from others supported the post. I hope the SD&D will provide the info for people to understand how to be objective and recognize well known negative behaviors that have names, even some with Latin names.
Nalates
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Mac_Fife » Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:06 am

Nalates wrote:One of the primary mental concepts that I think creates unhappiness is the idea admins and mods should be fair, an expectation. I gave up the expectation.
...
Of course the ultimate recourse is to not post on a forum that allows abusive behaviors. I think when one has good references to those abuses then sharing your opinion in other places is appropriate. The challenge is keeping it factual and objective.
Yes, you're probably right; I do have expectations that a moderator will act rationally and fairly. "Fairness" is perhaps subjective (debating what is "fair and equitable" in law seems to be a great source of income for lawyers), and the problem, I guess, with many fan run sites is that there is tendency for the site creators to attract a group of like-minded individuals around who will end up in roles like forum moderators. When those people have a passionate like or dislike of something then the whole site can develop a tone or bias in that direction.

It's similar to the editorial content of a newspaper. The publishers/editor may align with a particular political viewpoint that colours the entire journalistic effort. If you don't like that viewpoint, then go buy a different paper. There many URU-oriented forums around; I have joined only three (that I can remember). There is no obligation to be part of any particular discussion other than one's own desire to do so. You could argue that this then leaves the "controlling group" facing fewer opposing voices and a greater sense of "their way being right", but it's likely that those opposing voices would not be permitted freedom to speak openly within that forum anyway.

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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Nalates » Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:12 am

I had not thought of it that way, but you are right. Somewhere there is a limit to how far one can go to avoid a problem. Many towns no longer have a newspaper. Those left are often in lock step presenting only one opinion and skipping the facts. Somewhere I think one has to take some action to correct the problem.

However, editors have to decide if they will go with their bias or be as impartial as possible. That used to be a journalistic standard. I think abandoning it has contributed a great deal to the decline of newspapers. I think the same would be true of a forum.

One has to decide if impartiality will be asked of the mods. Usually when people are asked to do something in a volunteer organization they try to meet the request. One does have to remember to ask.

One still has to deal with people being blind to their own prejudices and biases. Just as people tend not to see their own faults we tend not to be aware of our own biases.

When one can provide a good definition and example of a bias it helps people to work through them.

Other than setting a guideline for moderators to be as impartial as possible I doubt if there is any other practical step one can take. Problems will get handled as they come up. When a moderator exhibits a bias that upsets the community, the Admin has to make a decision or the community has to decide to stay and work to fix it or leave. Not many other solutions.
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Mac_Fife » Sat Jan 09, 2010 6:34 pm

I guess what we're saying is that there's a "pyramid of integrity" with the Admin sitting at the top. They need to have the integrity to appoint moderators that they believe will act responsibly, fairly, rather than just giving jobs to their buddies. Those moderators then need to endeavour to live up those expectations. When they get it wrong, which will happen from time to time, maybe for reasons such as has been discussed under Transference, they accept the error, learn and move on. No drama.

If the Admin has an "agenda", whether hidden or overt then even a good moderator probably can't work effectively.

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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Nalates » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:17 pm

I think that is right.

I also know we select those around us that we get along with. I have more friends that think like I do on politics, religion (fewer), relationship, how they treat others, etc. So, to some extent I would always build in some bias and preferences.

When thinking of moderating this forum I considered that. I believed I could ask existing moderators when I ran into a conflict of interest. JWP and I do not always agree but he has clear reasons for his opinions and the thinking is clear enough even if I don't like the result. :P I beleive he will tell a friend or anyone when they are out of line. You too seem fair and clear in your thinking. So, I can get some thoughts on problems other than mine.

I also knew when I started this it might not come out the way I wanted. I had to avoid that expectation and control... or illusion of. I also expected some of the problem cases to stay away simply because I was moderating. I hope some of those with divergent opinions decide to participate. Dark has somewhat challenged the ideas of SD&D at MOUL. But he and I don't seem to be able to communicate, at least I don't understand what he writes as being related to the topic and posts he responds to. To me it he is dealing more with words than ideas. If that is correct thats why we have difficulty. With such conversations I often have to ask others to keep s sense of where I am. But these are all things in one's personality. It is challenging to get guidelines or rules that bring out fairness and get us past personal biases and prefs.

I think all the guidelines could do is suggest how an admin selects the moderators. Suggesting picking those that rationally see and explain things differently than the admins to give some balance. I guess we could write one that tells the owner/admin not to be a jerk... :lol: But, its sort of pointless. They either are or aren't...

PS: No shots at JWP there... :)
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by JWPlatt » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:40 pm

None taken. Heh. I prefer to delegate to responsible people and let them make the decisions. It's part of stress management - spread it around and don't worry so much. Perspective on the scope of what you are doing and how big a part it plays in your life makes a big difference. Winning every word is important if you live on a single forum and do nothing else in life. Most people have other things to do and this is a small part of their life and they can easily move on. Sometimes a mod can help by facilitating a perspective.

I've always wished that law would require a paragraph of plainly worded intent be included with the strict letter of the law to help moderate positions by considering the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it when there is a disagreement over its application. Maybe forum rules should be like that. When you start getting mired, like the debate with DarK, in the semantics, grammar and parsing, it's like comedy - it loses its humor or meaning under the microscope. Will the same thing happen when you debate rules of debate and discussion?
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Mac_Fife » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:49 pm

Nalates wrote:You too seem fair and clear in your thinking.
Heh! Thanks! I like to think so, but I'm sure someone somewhere will disagree.
Nalates wrote:Dark has somewhat challenged the ideas of SD&D at MOUL. But he and I don't seem to be able to communicate, at least I don't understand what he writes as being related to the topic and posts he responds to. To me it he is dealing more with words than ideas.
Going a bit off topic here, but I have skimmed that thread a few times over the past couple of weeks. The impression I got was that the two of you aren't a million miles apart on the key elements, but started out from quite different perspectives, so "saw" the issue differently
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Nalates
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Nalates » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:07 am

JWP wrote:I've always wished that law would require a paragraph of plainly worded intent be included with the strict letter of the law to help moderate positions by considering the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it when there is a disagreement over its application. Maybe forum rules should be like that. When you start getting mired, like the debate with DarK, in the semantics, grammar and parsing, it's like comedy - it loses its humor or meaning under the microscope. Will the same thing happen when you debate rules of debate and discussion?

That is probably a good idea. Rule, paragraph of intent and include an example or two. I know that courts go back and try to determine the legislature’s intent when a law was written. If that is done with a time perspective and common sense I think it works well.

With Dark I run into my tendency of trying to understand, then allowing my thought process to expand what other meanings one may have tried to make or what else one might be responding to that is not in the words.

On the GoMa it took dozens of posts to come to the point a person was actually complaining about that GoMa was censoring free speech. Once several of us pointed out it was never GoMa’s policy, intent nor in the rules to provide complete free speech, he gave up and as best I can tell has not posted again, which I think says something about the initial intent.

Will the same thing happen when trying to select text to define rules & guidelines? I don’t think so. The type of mis-communication going between Dark and myself is less likely. We will be focused on a single idea and how to turn it into words. Even if Dark participates I doubt it would happen. His direction at MOUL was words to meaning and this situation would be meaning to words. His analysis in such a case might be really helpful. (place shrug emoticon here)
Mac_Fife wrote: Going a bit off topic here, but I have skimmed that thread a few times over the past couple of weeks. The impression I got was that the two of you aren't a million miles apart on the key elements, but started out from quite different perspectives, so "saw" the issue differently.

I was certainly lost. Which is why I asked the thread be spit off… My tactic was to narrow down to one idea at a time to see if I could make a connection.

Since he and I kept it civil... and in its own thread... it doesn't seem to conflict with rules or guidelines. Unless there is some surgeon general's waring about boring I haven't seen.
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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Lord Chaos » Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:19 pm

Dot wrote:And then the moderators in another forum feel free to insult, criticise and belittle those they are moderating. How is one meant to deal with that sort of behaviour? What recourse do ordinary forum members have?
That's when people start "voting with their feet," and simply leave. I've left various forums because of this, and also because of uncontrolled nastiness on the part of members. People have different thresholds for a "nastiness-derived departure," which is hard to predict. This doesn't make the moderator's job any easier. :)

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Re: Forum Moderator Issues

Post by Dot » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:20 pm

Lord Chaos wrote:That's when people start "voting with their feet," and simply leave. ...
Yes, that is what I have done.

Unfortunately, the forum is a core repository of specialised knowledge which makes it vital for some tasks.

Because of the potential for nastiness, one cannot safely direct interested newcomers to that forum in order to have their questions answered. Though there are many good, helpful people working there, the actions of just a few can spoil the whole.

(Hmm, should I be moderated for saying this? Though it is true in my experience.)

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