The real purpose of forum moderators revealed

by Martin Reed on 19 December 2007 in Articles

The purpose of forum moderators

As your forum becomes popular, you will inevitably need help administering it. Many forum owners understand the need for forum moderators but few understand what their real purpose is. This article will reveal what forum moderators should be used for – follow this advice and you will have an immediate head-start over your competitors.

Forum moderators are not police officers

The biggest mistake forum owners make when taking on forum moderators is expecting them to police the community. Many see the main role of moderators as enforcers of the site rules, as people who delete posts they don’t like and lock topics the moment they run off-course. If these are the priorities of your moderators, you are doing it all wrong.

As I have said before, you must never repress your community. You must ensure that you moderate your forum effectively – this means adopting a laissez-faire approach and allowing your members a large amount of freedom. If you or your moderators crack down on members the second they step out of line, you will be sending a negative signal to your community that free speech is not tolerated on your site. You will make people nervous and discourage them from getting involved – hardly the ingredients for a successful community!

Forum moderators should promote interaction

The primary role of a forum moderator should be to promote interaction. A forum moderator should be posting new threads and adding new content to the site. They should be helping out members with their queries and they should be keeping threads alive by asking questions.

I am not saying that forum moderators shouldn’t be allowed to delete or lock threads that are inappropriate – of course this should be one of their roles. What I am saying is this should never be their primary role.

When you take on forum moderators you need to make it clear exactly what you expect from them. Most moderators see themselves as forum police officers and will only edit/delete/lock content without creating any themselves. This is a mistake – make sure your moderators know that their primary role is to encourage interaction, to encourage member involvement, and to encourage a sense of community within your forum.

Your moderators

Do you have moderators on your forum? Have you made their role clear to them? Have you advised them that their primary role should be to create content and encourage member interaction? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.

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{ 93 comments }

Smiley December 20, 2007 at 2:43 am

There’s only myself and one other person that moderates the forum. I don’t think we’ve deleted one post as to now.

You’re right, though. I’ve been a member of several boards where topics are deleted or locked just because someone disagreed with the moderator, or because the moderator didn’t like that person’s post.

I left those boards.. so people will do the same with yours if you act the same as the above mentioned moderators!

Amish Made Furniture December 20, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Yes, Smiley has got it right. The moderator has got to understand that the role is to moderate not to be a censor!

Jewelry Luvr December 20, 2007 at 6:16 pm

I have a moderately sized niche forum (~ 3,000 members) and I disagree to a certain extent. I think there are certain topics that cause more harm than good to a community. These topics are religion and politics and I have banned them outright. Beyond that everything goes. The primary role my mod team fulfills is killing spam as it pops up.

Online furniture store December 21, 2007 at 3:33 am

Actually it is more interesting when it is a little controversial and a healthy debate (as opposed to acrimonious argument) should be encouraged by a moderator rather than nipped in the bud.

Sudarshan December 21, 2007 at 11:22 am

What you say as real purpose of forum moderators is absolutely true…They should really understand their role and act accordingly

Manze December 26, 2007 at 3:34 am

Well, I’m a moderator of a forum with about 400 active members. There are technically no rules there – the admins expect everyone to use common sense. While most people abide by that, there will be a poster every once in a while that comes around and abuses it to post whatever they feel like. The most recent incidents involved the most uncreative racial slurring I have seen in my life. His reasoning was exactly as I expected : “There are no rules, so I can post whatever I want.”

In cases like that, I see post deletion / thread closure without a word to be completely appropriate.

Live Music Los Angeles December 30, 2007 at 3:28 pm

I agree with banning comments that are on religion, politics, and racial-ethnic slurs.
Otherwise, freedom of speech should prevail
James

Adiadi December 31, 2007 at 7:20 am

It is no doubt moderators actually play a very important role. Whether a forum will be successful or not depends on the moderators part to promote the forum and encourage positive interactions among members. Most important I believe, is to help out with members seeking help at the forum.

mobile credit card processing January 2, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Moderators are the most needed person in any forum. I got some real help from them and before that I was thinking what they can do but now I know how much they can do for the users of a forum.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 2, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Smiley – I couldn’t agree more. I also like the fact you only have one moderator in addition to yourself – some forums have too many staff members and as a result become far too overbearing and more like a community of police officers than a community of regular people!

Ramana – You’re right; the definition is in the word ‘moderator’ not ‘oppressor’ or ‘police officer’!

Jewelry Luvr – Banning controversial subjects can be a good idea as it can prevent arguments, however a little controversy can be healthy for a community as it encourages debate and interaction. I am glad to hear that you haven’t fallen into the trap of making deleting and locking topics the primary role of your moderators.

Reena – You’re right; a little disagreement from time to time is a sign of a healthy, vibrant community. Just as long as it doesn’t degrade into downright abuse!

Sudarshan – I am glad you agree. Do you run a forum website?

Manze – I don’t think I completely agree with you on this one. Whilst your site doesn’t have any rules, you will have people that cause you problems and use the same excuse you have just mentioned. Draw up some site rules, and you will see less abuse and have more legitimacy when you need to delete or lock threads.

Live Music Los Angeles – I don’t think that controversial subjects should necessarily be banned as these help create and encourage interaction. You just need to be careful that threads on controversial subject don’t get out of hand.

Adiadi – I completely agree. Moderators represent you and how you want your community to be perceived. If your moderators are friendly and approachable, you will encourage long term visitor loyalty.

mobile – You’re right; moderators are an integral part of any online community and that is why they need to be given clear direction from the community owner as to their role and what is expected of them.

Mahadi January 8, 2008 at 4:07 pm

In any forum Moderators are most important person. I believe
that Whether a forum will be successful or not depends on the moderators part to promote the forum. Thanks for this great one.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 10, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Mahadi – Good moderators are extremely important to any forum. Even more important than moderators though, is the quality of the content contained within the forum!

Zane Friedman January 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm

I believe that moderators should also act as role models for the rest of the users. They should be able to find a happy medium between being too strict and being push overs.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 30, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Zane – I completely agree. Members often follow the examples set by staff members; if your moderators are friendly and welcoming, your members will often be the same way.

Thelis February 7, 2008 at 7:40 am

Hi all, I am a moderator on Computerforums.org, which has 31,240 members as of today. I’d just like to say that Martin wrote a great post that I agree with completely. Over at CF, we the mods do not just look for rule breaking. We like to think of ourselves as normal members, with privileges that allow us to make the forum better. There is nothing worse than a trigger happy mod.

I just want to say one thing though. In your article, you mentioned “If you or your moderators crack down on members the second they step out of line, you will be sending a negative signal to your community that free speech is not tolerated on your site.”

I agree with that, but from personal experience on a very large forum, I have to say that a certain degree of strictness does have to apply. Interfering with what people have to say (editing out facts/opinions/information from posts is not OK, but not allowing flaming is. If freedom of speech for a certain member means being able to flame others, then it is not truly freedom of speech.

Thanks,
Thelis

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 7, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Thelis – You’re right that at times moderation does need to be stricter than normal. Moderators should be encouraged to take a laissez-faire approach to their role as enforcers, but shouldn’t be scared or hesitant to take decisive action when it is needed.

Thanks for your contribution – I hope you’ll stick around, and I look forward to reading more of your comments in the future.

BeoPuppy February 19, 2008 at 8:20 am

Would you then say that strictness is an attribute that comes from size? So, the bigger the board the stricter the policy?

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 20, 2008 at 2:14 pm

BeoPuppy – I do find that larger forums sometimes have stricter rules, but this is often because they are more able to afford to lose members that are put off by an extensive list of rules or through bans.

I still think a large forum can be successful without draconian rules and regulations, though – it all depends on your community’s personality.

Jason Bates - Lushable.com February 24, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Great post, depending on how big the forum is then it means you will need more moderators

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 27, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Jason – You’re right that larger forums tend to require more moderators, but this isn’t necessarily always the case! Thanks for your comment.

Gadgets March 1, 2008 at 6:19 pm

I agree with you. When forum owners get some volunteer moderators, they forget that it is their sole responsibility to keep the forum clean and not mods.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 4, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Gadgets – You’re right. Moderators should be a complement to your own job of checking all is running well with your forum. They shouldn’t completely replace you!

Max Power March 11, 2008 at 5:44 pm

I post on a forum/site of 3,000 users, and growing, that has no moderators. You can post anything you please as long as it is not illegal.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 15, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Max – You give a good example of a rule that is simple, basic and effective. Thanks for your comment.

Max Power March 18, 2008 at 12:47 am

Quite welcome. That rule is enforced through community moderation. Seems to work so far, will see as how effective that is as the number of users grow.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Max Power – You may find that as the community grows a few more rules may be needed, but until then they should continue to work on encouraging debate and interaction rather than stifling it through an excessive number of rules.

Nai March 23, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Reminds me of a forum I joined once, a few years back. Long story short, the forum died (users moved to another identical forum) because the moderators were acting like police officers – just like you said :). Instead of promoting more meaningful discussions, they were more interested in deleting posts.

uk plumber March 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

They’d have to be regular contributers and have a feel for the subject in question before given the role

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Nai – An all too common story, yet many forum developers fail to realise this. Forum moderation should be focussed on encouraging interaction, not hindering it!

Plumber – Agreed. They should also have demonstrated their maturity, commitment, enthusiasm and passion for the community before being invited to become a staff member, too.

Ash March 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Awesome article every host should read this, A moderator should not be a censor

vietunity.net March 27, 2008 at 7:58 pm

thank you for the advice. i’m starting a new community and your blog is very helpful.

sad-but-true March 29, 2008 at 12:31 am

If you want to see a police state along with a weekly brawl, you should visit dnforum.com.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Ash – Thanks for your kind comment. A moderator should be a censor, but only when they absolutely have to be!

Viet – Good luck with your new community; keep in touch and let us know how you get on.

Sad – Well, I don’t use that site so I can’t comment on the accuracy of your statement!

Dogboy March 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I know one well-known forum board that have too many moderators (and few administrators) practicing the very worst sort of forum moderating tactics. They put too many members in state of perpetual fear of being scolded, punished or censored, their accounts suspended or demoted to PG-rated forum boards (it’s strictly a hierarchical-leveled forum board with few graded forum boards). Moderators there are behaving like PC-obsessed commissars “empowered” to do what their tyrannical forum administrators ordered them to. Censorship is their rule in order to keep the forum board “thriving”, which it’s bullsh*t. The name of the forum board is called Above Top Secret. Google it. I’m not kidding about what I said and I left it because I cannot stand that kind of practices. There’s no room for interaction or freedom of expression at ATS.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 2, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Dogboy – Thanks for the great example. Whilst I am not aware of the site you mention, the fact is that whenever people are hesitant to post for fear of repercussions, your community is in a very bad place.

Moderators are there to encourage debate and interaction – not stifle it!

Off Topic April 14, 2008 at 3:37 am

I just opened this site, theofftopic.com and I definitely can relate. I know the last thing I want is my userbase to become fearful of the mods.

You have to find the balance between letting people just troll all day and protecting the rights of the users.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 15, 2008 at 10:58 am

Off Topic – You’ve got it spot on. However, if you lead by example you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with trolls – be welcoming and engaging and your members will follow your lead. Good luck with your new site.

DebtFreeDave May 21, 2008 at 4:24 am

A good moderator will save you time as well. I’m lucky and have two good ones that have really taken it on. I don’t always have the patience to go through it all the time. One of them is addicted to it. He may need therapy.

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 25, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Dave – A moderator addicted to your community, eh? I guess in a way that’s a good thing, let’s just hope they don’t turn into a bunny boiler!!

Trilastin May 31, 2008 at 9:56 am

I have a really hard time giving up control, especially with a forum I have nurtured. It is very difficult for me to add new moderators.

Tri

Martin Reed - Blog Author June 3, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Tri – Yup, it can be hard. As long as you choose the right people, and effectively communicate your expectations to them though, there is no reason why you should see it as a loss of control.

Dofollow Blogs June 26, 2008 at 8:07 pm

The moderators on the forum I used to go to (I left due to the mods, actually) were pretty awful – they banned at a pindrop and just overall sucked. I’d refer them to your guide if I were still there =D

Martin Reed - Blog Author June 26, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Dofollow – Thanks for your comment. This just goes to further strengthen my argument that forum moderators are there to encourage interaction – NOT stifle it!

Quotes July 15, 2008 at 2:40 am

After being an active member of Gametrailer’s forum for a few years now, i have developed a special hatred for forum mods. They can be so rude at times and can ban your account without notice and for the silliest reasons. So mods can go overboard just because they feel as though they are “the law” and we have to obey them. And don’t even get me started on locked topics..lol.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 17, 2008 at 12:49 am

Quotes – You give a great example of why poor moderation can be extremely damaging to a community. Moderators should be there to primarily help members and encourage interaction – not to act as police officers! Over-zealous moderators can destroy a community and alienate members, as you have experienced yourself.

Julie August 28, 2008 at 6:11 pm

What a great post – this was really helpful. My moderators are definitely more the “police” type, but it makes so much more sense to have them be encouraging threads to continue, asking questions, starting new threads, etc. I will for sure be communicating new expectations to my moderators.

Thanks again for your post, really helpful!!

mine September 23, 2008 at 9:11 pm

I’ve left several forums because of moderators, they really have no useful purpose. Deleting a thread here and there, sometimes subjectively, doesn’t amount to an absolutely necessary action for the forum to survive and prosper.

Soham September 26, 2008 at 3:27 pm

The importance of a moderator depends on the type of the forum. Forums where politics and religion and even celebrities are discussed, moderators needs to be on a full-day duty.

Synchroserious September 30, 2008 at 1:43 pm

I was banned for disagreeing with the site owner of DWF.NU.I have helped others there for 3 years to understand my late fathers invention and it’s history but this iron fist site owner who bought the forum has been putting grease under my tires by constantly suggesting the wrong help.This of course forced me to disagree and offer my oppinion since i have hands on experience with this unique product.He wanted to build my official website at one point which i declined because i was aware of his controling manner.Well this upset him.Long story short the guy has belittled me numourous times since and i finally reacted with a few flamatory remarks.I feel I should be given the chance to apologize to the regular community before being banned.There is a moderator for the Synchronar section but hardly ever has he posted anything related to the watch.Anyway the site owner with motto” a community based on honesty and helpfulness” has not been polite at all in his emails to me and tells me no one within one mile of my office will be able to post.Is this too much censorship?Opinions?

kouji October 1, 2008 at 7:46 am

i’ve seen that happen in one forum, where it seemed that an administrator was inadvertently offended by one of the members, in one of the threads, so the administrator berated him, locked the thread, and threatened to do so for other similar threads started by that member. left a really bad taste in my mouth, as it did feel repressive.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Julie – You need to moderate your forums in the style that is right for you and your community. I prefer to be more laissez-faire and feel moderators should be used primarily to encourage interaction – not stifle it by excessively policing the community.

Mine – Certain topics, posts and threads do need to be deleted; I would never advocate complete and unrestricted free speech in an online community. That being said, there is a fine line between ‘moderation’ and ‘policing’.

Soham – I completely agree! Some topics require stricter and closer moderation than others.

Synchroserious – Thanks for sharing your experience. You have shown exactly what happens when moderators become a little too power hungry. Of course, you shouldn’t have reacted how you did but sometimes it is hard not to bite. Yet another reason why forum moderation should be done carefully – excessive ‘policing’ can actually create more problems than it solves.

Kouji – Well, it depends on what the banned member posted. I have banned members on occasion for being personally offensive towards either me or my staff and would do so again in the future. Sometimes strict action is necessary, but it should be the exception rather than the norm.

Colin Klinkert October 7, 2008 at 5:51 am

I agree with you. The insights you have so provided here helps and I have enjoyed this post. More power Martin!

Yaj October 15, 2008 at 7:52 pm

I don’t understand how people don’t think this way. I used to be part of an online gaming community. The primary method of communication and information about the game was through the forums and not the website. I even brought it up a few times… about how being that strict wasn’t helping community building.

But the mods and admins there were so strict that they stifled everything. There were so many rules and procedures to everything. If you were new, and you didn’t follow one of the rules, or if you forgot to go by 1 of the 2,000 rules, you were sometimes permanently penalized. It was a free game, but payment gave you extra perks and equipment. I paid for the game because i enjoyed playing it. I stopped playing the game because I started resenting the community and its unnecessary stringencies. There were way too many mods for the forum anyway. And when they all behaved like prison guards, I left. And I took the money I would have spent with me.

When I joined, I was a student with low income and spent what I could spare. Now I’m working with a higher income and can spare more, but have no interest in it anymore. I hope to one day build a community, and to NEVER do what they did.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 23, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Colin – Thanks for your kind comment, I am glad you enjoyed the article.

Yaj – Thanks for the comment and for sharing your experiences. As you say, if moderators are too strict and have no discretion they can end up stifling the community – exactly the opposite of what we (as community managers and developers) are aiming for.

Online communities should be welcoming, inviting and friendly. Yes, they need rules and they need moderators to enforce the rules but there needs to be some amount of discretion. Moderators should be promoting interaction, not discouraging it.

Trevas October 24, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I completely agree with your assertion – an involved moderating team that ensures every post is replied to and actively facilitates communitication is way better than the team who justs locks threads.

Smiley October 25, 2008 at 4:28 am

I’m liberal when it comes to moderating. Forum moderators should be there to help. There’s only myself and my co-host that moderates the forums, I didn’t want to get in a situation where we had different moderators for different categories, everyone doing things differently, everyone competing to see who can be the strictest.

My co-host & I work very closely and they know how I like things ran, so we’ve never had any problems. It’s very rare a post is deleted or locked.

If I do delete a post, though, I send a polite PM reminding the poster of site rules. I don’t publically scold nor do I penalize them.

I like to pass on examples as it may help others get an idea of how to approach “troublesome” posters.

One of the rare posts I delete happened yesterday, a certain member was banned a while back for persistently belittling members in the serious section. She has no social etiquette at all, she seems to lack the ability to discuss things in a civil manner, she almost always resorts to abuse – and I mean nasty abuse, not your ordinary in the heat of the moment abuse that you would normally expect in a serious section.

But anyway after behaving for a few weeks after rejoining (she was banned from another forum and e-mailed in to beg me to unban her from here – she ran out of places to go lol) yesterday she made one of her old-style abusive posts that i had to delete, so I sent her a standard PM my co-host & I decided on. We used to issue warnings, such as “First warning” as the subject. Now we issue “Code of Conduct reminders” – not much difference, it’s basically a warning. Just a much more friendly one.

Hi, *** (name censored).

This is to remind you of our site rules. Attempts at belittling and offensive remarks just for the sake of seeing how far you can cross the line will not be tolerated at Friendly Chat.

Please feel free to air your opinion by all means, but do it in a civilized manner. Abuse, insults, and belittling are not necessary on a site such as this.

It’s policy now to remind members in breach of rules of the site’s Code of Conduct.

Quote:
By using these forums you agree to the following rules;

* No signing up just to spam. If you sign up, spam, then disappear your post will simply be deleted.
* No signing up with the sole intention to belittle or abuse members of the community.
* No being offensive just for the sake of being offensive.
* No soliciting, advertising or condoning illegal activities.
* We will not delete your account on request if we feel you’re just throwing a temper tantrum. If you wish to leave, then simply don’t login!
* Being an international site, we must ask you to stick to the universal language of ‘English’.
* Usernames that include sexual, harassing, intimidating or generally inappropriate comments or words are not permitted.
* We do not allow the spamming of URLs, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, real names, MSN addresses or any other similar content.
* You agree to only sign up with one username, not to spam or post abuse to fellow members.

If you have any questions, complaints or criticism don’t hesitate to reply. We are happy to discuss site policy in a civilized manner.

_________________
Tom,
FC Management

I got no reply back, but later that day she was posting on the site again, and being much more civil in her posts. I think this kind of approach is much better than deleting, locking & banning.

That, to me, is how a moderator should handle things – I lead by example and my co-host & I are always consistent.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Trevas – I am glad you agree! Thanks for your comment.

Smiley – You definitely don’t want to have too many moderators cracking down on every infraction your members make! Leading by example is definitely the way to go. It’s definitely a good idea to contact members advising them of any violations they make – otherwise you aren’t really giving them the opportunity to change their behaviour for the better.

Yatch November 1, 2008 at 10:07 am

I absolutely agree with you on the moderators acting as a police point. I have been on the recieving end once when I was given 3 infractions within 10 minutes for a single offence on a popular webmaster forum. I woke up next day and logged in only to see that “You are banned for seven days” . Not the kind of start you would like for a sunday.

Mark Nagurski November 6, 2008 at 10:38 pm

I’ve acted as a mod on a few forums and I agree that the laissez faire attitude is best. Real communities are not all peace and harmony – they’re made up of real people who, from time to time, might not get on.

I think the role of the moderator is to keep the conversation flow open – removing spam, ensuring there’s no bullying and acting as the 2nd point of contact for community questions (the first being the community itself)

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 17, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Yatch – Very odd; I wonder why the moderators saw fit to warn you multiple times for the same infraction?!?

Mark – I agree, but sometimes it is a challenge to determine what is playful ‘banter’, and what content needs to be removed!

mila December 4, 2008 at 9:50 pm

I’ve been on a community for about a year. I applied and was recently made a moderator. I haven’t been given any instructions on what is expected of me. The other moderators and admin have not been communicating with me; I’m slightly confused. Any advice? I have no clue what’s going on…

Martin Reed - Blog Author December 6, 2008 at 12:12 am

Mila – It makes me cringe to hear this happening, but it doesn’t come as a surprise. I think you should contact the administrator (or whoever gave you moderator status) and ask them exactly what is expected of you. Ask them what you can and can’t do, and how you should go about it.

Good luck!

Anthony Gianfrancesco January 15, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I think that if a person owns a forum they have a right to whatever they please. For a more safe forum there should be places were politics, religion, and even sports should be banned; but there should be a spot for people to talk about it if they please. There is no reason to have people’s voices not heard, just make the section like an 18 or over place so nobody gets in trouble for swearing and what not.

Matt T January 21, 2009 at 2:57 am

Hello,

I’ve seen a few people mention that too many mods can feel overbearing. Do you think that there is a good ratio to go for? If there are too many, I feel like it might become too “in-crowd”-like, and regular members might feel sheepish. Assuming the mods are polite and encouraging discussion and answering questions, can there be too many?

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Anthony – I find that most abusive users are over the age of 18; age restriction doesn’t really solve anything. Regardless, do you really want an area of your community that will be full of abuse and offensive content?

Matt – Mods shouldn’t be overbearing. You need to emphasise the fact that they are members of the community, too. Make them identifiable, but give them personal names. Ensure they are involved and active in the community. Ensure they are approachable and friendly.

Hardcore members can make your community appear segregated, just like having too many moderators can. It’s a challenge. Just have as many moderators as your community needs. If there isn’t much intervention required, and the community is small then one person is just fine. Grow your staff numbers as your community demands and requires.

bobo the clown January 30, 2009 at 4:49 am

I feel that forum members should be allowed to discuss politics and religion. This is a free country and freedom of speech is our right. Saying that, I feel if things get out of hand or there’s too much nastiness then of course, a moderator should step in and calm it down and if that doesn’t work, remove the thread. Debate is good and healthy as long as it’s kept civil.
I’ve was just recently banned from a forum just for not telling everyone what sex I was and that I was telling stories. The moderators felt I was lying to the members on the forum so my account was deactivated.
I admitted to a moderator in a private email that i was gay after he asked a personal question and 5 days later my account was deactivated. I mean in this day and age.
What kind of moderating is that? It’s not for them to judge people or their opinions on topics.
I’m a member now of the MyLesPaul forum and that’s how a forum should be run. The modertors there are not judgemental and they don’t go locking threads and deactivating accts. Thanks for treating us like adults and giving us the respect and freedom all people/members deserve.

Edward February 24, 2009 at 11:02 am

One community manager I know calls herself (in the moderating role): “traffic cop with empathy”

I think that sums it up really well. She is there to guide, she CAN be firm (but isn’t that way by default) and is the sympathetic ear to the other members.

bobo the clown: I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you. :( I’d like to say I’m surprised but unfortunately I’m not. What sort of forum was it, if you don’t mind me asking?

Richie February 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

Hi, interesting reading all of the above posts and wondered whether there are any ladies posting on here ? Because one book’s discussion forum I often visit has 2 only male laissez-faire moderators yet sometimes the books under discussion are written by, and I think mostly for, women.

The question is could the fact that the moderators are male make you feel inhibited in any way ? I suppose the reverse scenario might be possible too ?

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Richie – It’s an interesting issue, and depends on a number of variables. Namely, how sensitive the moderators are and the subject matter of the discussions taking place. Ultimately though, I think as long as a moderator has the right skills, their gender shouldn’t be an issue.

Tom February 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I try to make sure the % of my staff are mostly women. I feel the users can relate to them more, women tend to be slightly less powermad than males, and more empathetic. They tend to listen more and are more reasonable.

My female co-host for example, I don’t think she’s ever had to ban anyone since she started as staff. Anyone who wasn’t on my compulsory ban list anyway. She prefers to use gag and then PM them and talk to them. I see some amazing turn-arounds regarding people’s attitude after she has gotten them into PM.

Because I advertise FC as a “perv-free site”, and we do all we can to keep perverts out, the majority of my regulars are unsurprisingly female. They’ve finally found a site they can chat in without getting bombed by people ASLing them or asking them if they’re horny! So it’s only natural they feel more secure with a dominantly female staff base.

Then of course if they need to feel the wrath of authority they have me. :D

Tom February 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm

The last part being a last resort.

Sarah April 22, 2009 at 3:08 am

Some one should really post this to the people who moderate over at a forum I know, talk about a police state im sick of being hit over the head for having an opinion and be accused of abuse and harassement for no reason.

kateri July 28, 2009 at 8:39 pm

It takes time for the ramifications to hit a forum who censors its posters, but, the ramification will occur, eventually. Websites are not immune to lawsuits. Online discrimination suits will be a new realm of law, eventually. Moderators, be warned. Moderate don’t discriminate. Some of this bigger commercial forums have the ability to shape society as a media. They will not be able to wield that kind of power unchecked for long. Its just a matter of time until the law catches up and begins to protect citizens from abusive forum moderators who intend to shape content so that it does not reflect real public opinions.

Mathew Davies August 4, 2009 at 11:19 am

Great article. Just a note, You have to make sure your moderators aren’t power-mad because your members will end up leaving. Why would they stick around to be treated unfairly? Keep that in mind.

-Mathew

Mr Truth August 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Hi. I agree that you need control on how much you ban/lock topics while enforcing the rules which I wish happened in my case.

I once went to a place that claims 10,000+ midis though I doubt it’s that much. :P

I recently joined their forums and even though it’s not a large one they have like 200 rules where you get yelled at for the slightest infraction and they have a moderator for every section. :(

If I hadn’t seen the forum first I’dve assumed it was big due to the sheer # of rules.

The point of my message is that I misunderstood a moderators when her website wasn’t working except the home page and she got after me thinking I was rude and belittering when I stated in an assuming way that her site was down though I should’ve put it in question forum.

I later apologized for sounding like I know more but the moderator wouldn’t forgive me and continued to accuse me of being rude when all my other posts where on topic.

The discussion was about Creative Lab Soundfonts for your SounBlaster and I sent an angry email because the person would tell me what I was doing wrong and how I should change my behavior to better the community.

The moderator’s practices where complety wrong and she didn’t post much.

*sigh*. I have basically given up on forums as they are a waste of time and only people who don’t have a life or much intrests hang out a lot on them in my humble opinion.

Mr Truth August 15, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Edit: When I sounded like I knew more I didn’t resort to flaming her either during the confrontation. I didn’t call names on her or swear at her.

I just said. Your website really isn’t working which means you need to read* as her first reply was.

“That’s odd it was working when I last checked it*

and she finally told me why her site didn’t appear to work as I had an old version but afterwards she wasn’t friendly with me for no good reason.

Martin Reed - Community Manager August 16, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Mr Truth – Thanks for sharing your experience. I removed the references you made to the name of the site and the moderator involved. This isn’t really relevant, and it would be unfair for me to publish that information without being fully aware of the situation and knowing both sides of the story.

HMonk August 16, 2009 at 8:19 pm

As I read these post, three things come to mind:

1. An established forum is akin to a family. All families have their way of doing things – neither right nor wrong – just their way. Don’t like the way my family conducts itself, find another – and don’t even think about telling me how I SHOULD be doing things based upon some arcane tenets.

2. Rampant among many forums is the celebrated, so-called laissez-faire attitude where members’ raison d’ętre seem to be to out-flame and out-curse each other. At the opposite extreme are those forums that tell you to leave your pail and shovel at home or go play in someone else’s sandbox.

3. Finally, it is not a privilege for me to be asked to be a moderator on a forum: it is a privilege for the forum owners to have me as a moderator! Unfortunately, given the conjunction of their arrogance and dearth of knowledge, skills, and abilities, many forum owners cannot appreciate this axiom.

Depending on how a forum is policed (an obviously dirty word if the above posts are any indication) all forums will acquire a unique personality, as someone mentioned above. The collaboration between the owners and the members will determine if a forum is cordial or hostile, profane or respectful, mature or immature, professional or amateurish. No one forum can be constructed to satisfy the gamut of extremes encompassed within the Internet. To suggest otherwise is, to me, nonsense; to actually strive to accomplish such an end, foolish.

Monk

Tom August 16, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I don’t much care for you tarring everyone with the same brush, Mr Truth. I would recommend that you e-mail the site owners about your experiences with said moderator, though, rather than going around on the internet spreading gossip.

Perhaps if you talked to the site owner(s) then the issue would be resolved :)

Richie August 17, 2009 at 10:53 am

Hi, haven’t been around for a while :-)

I’ve tried to read as many of the above posts as possible but as time is short can’t tell whether the word “Respect” has already been mentioned or discussed or not ? If it has my apologies in advance, but the presence or lack of it would seem to cover most of the above issues and problems I think ?

Respectfully….

Richie

Richie August 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

Of course having posted this just noticed HMonk’s post yesterday ! :-)

Tom August 17, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Indeed, Richie. Respect your members and they, in turn, will respect you.

You gain respect by being fair but firm. By being consistent and unbiased. You gain respect by talking to your members like human beings if they have a problem, and you gain respect by taking criticism on the chin – and even thanking them for the criticism as all comments should be encouraged about your site.

You do not gain respect through fear, oppression, threats or mass-bannings or mass editing/deleting of posts. This is when you get a rebellious member base, and this is when you get the problems.

Haven August 17, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I agree Tom, couldnt have said that better myself, i recently experienced your last paragraph in a forum i was using, alas i dont use it anymore and many others dont bother due to the lack of respect from the mods so effecting the level of respect they got in return.

Richie August 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Spot on Tom, don’t see so much of it these days either sadly.

At the annoying risk of sounding holier than thou, not forgetting too that respect not only has to be worked for and hard earnt, often over very long periods of time, but that no-one, but no-one (!) has the right to expect or demand it automatically without instantly losing such respect. And still the message never seems to sink in.

Respect’s just like Trust really…

Off me soap box now ! :-) :-)

Mr Truth August 30, 2009 at 9:23 pm

I understand that and thank you Martin for actually treating me like a human being when you mentioned why you removed the link and the name of the moderator M. :)

That is the way a Mod should work if I did something wrong and I didn’t know posting a link was bad as I have seen other members more towards the top post which forums they have had bad experience in.

I just posted that I thought the site for Mod X didn’t work and I later gave a humble apology after I caught my error but she didn’t forgive me.

I tried to give her a PM though I may have been a little too critical but I try to be constructive the best I can and didn’t call her any names or make fun of her. All she had to do was read-between the lines as I tend to be blunt or too d—n confusing otherwise.

:(

I did talk to the mod by PM but she didn’t reply and thats when I found out she still didn’t forgive me and I think it’s from the time I thought her site was broken on her signature! :o :o

I am autistic so I don’t understand very well how to *approach* to somebody when I feel they have abused their position of power as a result of not body language and reading-between the liens very well.

This is a new thing for me and any *constructive* advice would be appriciated and used to the best of my abilites.

One thing I feel I have learned is if a person in authority have done something bad you cannot repsond back with anger or your experiences will be ignored.

I shouldn’t have made death threats too her but I don’t know how to handle it when a forum administator or Admin *abuses his authority*. I have read sites on how a forum modertor should behave and he didn’t at all treat me like a human and the mods act like robots when someone breaks a rule………………………no matter how small.

I am know as *Triforce of Time* on that board I linked too in case anyone is curious. I don’t know if all my posts were deleted or not. I’ll just tell you the main site instead of the forums.

Vgmusic (dot) com and it is a decent site for video game midis but like I said the staff are like robots and even the FAQ’s expect everyone to be *perfect* like Jesus.

Mr Truth August 30, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Like I said they were *robot* enough for me to understand their motives.

I almost feel as if they and the site admin aren’t even humans and may be aliens from another planet as part of the goverment cover up! :O :P

Mr Truth August 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Don’t forget HKMonk that some *families* on post number 1 are disfunctionable and/or are so emo you can’t communicate with them AT ALL and they throw the shoe at you over the slightest *constructive* criticism which can be the same on forums. ;) It can be a mad-house! :o

Off my soapbox. *huffs and puffs out of breath*

PS: Can you please make the math spam protection a tad bit harder like 10 + 2 = 12?

Scott Allen October 24, 2009 at 7:22 am

I have to agree with what has been said about abovetopsecret.com. I am a moderator and know first hand the discussions that go on among fellow moderators where they single someone out who really hasn’t done anything any worse than anyone else. It’s just that the person pisses them off because they have a different point of view and are better that making an argument supporting it and many moderators take it too personally and develop a grudge or axe to grind against members like that.

I have seen many times where a moderator will ask a member to instigate a problem with someone using ridicule and a lot of antagonism until the member unknowingly being singled out, finally says something that can be seen as “disruptive” justifying a post ban.

Some of the best writers ATS ever had are gone now and all they seem to attract now are smart ass kids. The place is looking more like a pathetic joke and the moderators themselves, I believe it would be un-fair to say they all act like forum police.

in fact they act more like the gestapo especially one clique of vigilante types who believe it is the mission to eliminate certain “kinds” of members and act together in a “you scratch my back, ill scratch yours”, to back each other up in their campaigns to get the rest of us to agree this or that member is a problem until they finally get the ok to ban the unsuspecting member. Fredt, malaria, intrepid, ngc2723, Gaotu, average about 70-80 mod edits the past year but they were very unfair about how they go about it and to whom. We had to get rid of one mod for his bias but in my opinion, the worst ones are still there.

Whats really sad are the biggest ass kissers on the mod staff, say the most disparaging remarks behind the backs of the owners. They all say yes yes great and wonderful to the amigos but behind the scenes, they have their own ideas as to how ATS should really be run and the agendas have been suspected, they are hard to prove and anymore, I couldn’t care less. Let the place evolve into the internet for hollywoods answer the national enquirerer, it has got that ridiculous over there.

Slicer2469 November 24, 2009 at 7:58 pm

If I was an Forum Administrator, and one of my Moderators was getting a power trip and abusing his or her powers (after numerous complaints by members), I would first warn that Moderator to “knock it off”, especaily if the member was suspended or blocked for a stupid reason such as having a differing viewpoint. The next step would be removal of that Moderator’s power (i.e. a demotion), and a warning that future action would constitute banishment from the forum. A blatant abuse of powers by Moderators such as numerous outright bannings for silly or stupid reasons for result in not only the Moderator having his or her power removed, but being banned altogether from the forum, as an example to the other Moderators to stay within the limits of the power and authority that was given to you. You may enforce the rules, but you are not above it. Period.

Damion December 13, 2009 at 11:18 am

You guys have to realize a few things:
(1) Forums only exist in the virtual world; thus, your forums should act as a form of recreation. Free and open. Never serious.

(2) Human beings are innately free; thus, you “should not” be trying to control behavior. We have enough of this through government imposed laws. What are you guys trying to do? Impose a communist online world?

(3) You guys have no power or authority over anyone, and you should not try to dictate ‘your’ rules onto anyone. People will just walk away.

What I cannot figure out is – Why embrace another series of rules? Since our offline lives are crippled by government imposed laws, one would think that online ways of thinking would be existential. Don’t you people think that there are enough laws that dictate our offline lives, and that any online laws would only counterman our push to develop a free and open society?

If you guys have a problem with seeing my perspective, look up the phases Generation X, Hippies, and Metalheads.

I would think that you guys would embrace an open society on and offline. Your number one rule should be “As long as you are acting civil, there are no other rules.”

Moderators should not even exist. Forums should only be altered if the owner sees fit. Nothing else.

Martin Reed - Community Manager December 15, 2009 at 11:29 am

Damion – I disagree. Serious forums can be extremely valuable (depending on how you define ‘serious’). For example, http://www.visajourney.com is a forum that helps people migrate to be with loved ones. I would consider that a serious forum, and one with huge value.

Forums should have rules – although they should be kept to a minimum. If someone threatened your life and posted your personal information, would you want that to remain? Surely you’d want it removed? How would this happen if there was nobody in place with the authority to do this?

You then go on to say there should actually be a rule, ‘act civil’ – however, you’d still be dictating this rule onto your members – so you’ve discredited your own argument. In any case, how could you even have this rule if no moderators exist (as you advocate)?

The main thrust of my argument in this article was that forum moderators should be there to primarily encourage conversation – not to ‘police’ the community, In this aspect, I think we are in agreement.

Liberty February 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

I don’t believe forums should have rules at all. Ordinary people can moderate their own discussions. The only purpose moderators have is to fulfil their own ego needs.

Mark February 24, 2010 at 4:05 am

rant by an often “disgruntled” user of websites/forums:

Successful business is a respectable reputation. Respectable reputation is good public relations. Good public relations is “The customer is always right!” (excluding obvious exceptions).

I can personally attest to how as a customer/client how much I appreciate “The customer is always right” compared to the opposite and abusive treatment by most (big) businesses (insurance companies, banks, gaming companies, and etc) and their websites/forum moderators.

Unfortunately, these businesses are so big, it is almost impossible to do anything about it. They (and especially internet websites) are pretty much completely immune to anything/anyone. Heck, it is nearly impossible to even do your constitution right of protesting and boycotting against them. You can’t complain or expose their bad behavior or bad moderators, as it is almost prohibited everywhere on the internet. And, if you don’t use the internet, your protest/boycott isn’t going to reach anyone, so as to gather people to make it significant and noticed.

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