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Article Submission: Message Boards: Moderator Ethics

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  • Richard Lowe Internet Tips And Secrets
    Copyright (C) Richard Lowe Jr. and Claudia Arevalo-Lowe, 1999-2001. Permission is granted to reprint the following article as long as no changes are made and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2001
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      Copyright (C) Richard Lowe Jr. and Claudia Arevalo-Lowe, 1999-2001.
      Permission is granted to reprint the following article as long as no
      changes are made and the byline, copyright information, and the
      resource box is included. Please let me know if you use this article
      by sending an email to mailto:articles@...

      Article Title: Message Boards: Moderator Ethics
      Author: Richard Lowe, Jr.
      Contact Author: mailto:articles@...
      Publishing Guidelines: May be freely published w/bylines
      Web Address: http://www.internet-tips.net
      Autoresponder Address: mailto:article-191@...

      A properly moderated message board is one of the true pleasures of the
      internet. The constant interaction of dozens or even hundreds of people
      in continuous conversations is a sight to behold and a joy to
      participate in. I have fond memories of the countless hours I spent
      "talking" with friends whose faces I have seen about an endless variety
      of subjects.

      On the other hand, an unethical moderator creates friction, annoys
      people and causes an incredibly large number of problems. These message
      boards tend to consist of flame wars, derogatory comments and massive
      posts about the moderator (justifications and vilifications).
      Oftentimes, the moderator will desperately attempt to control the board
      by deleting posts and banning members (with virtually no success), and
      occasionally they may shut down the board in disgust (leaving with a
      vile comment or two back to the members).

      An ethical moderator should be a friendly presence, someone who is
      always present, yet is virtually invisible in many ways. Their job is to
      make the conversations flow smoothly, keep them on topic and keep people

      Some of the tasks performed by an ethical moderator include:

      - Promoting the board to obtain new blood - all boards need a constant
      flow of new members to survive and prosper. Without new people lurking
      and posting, the board tends to become stale and useless.

      - Gently keeping the subjects reasonably on topic - There is usually no
      need to bring out the sledgehammer. A simple note here and there is all
      that is necessary in most cases.

      - Keeping the old guard happy and making new people feel welcome - This
      is a very critical function of any moderator. The board must be useful
      to both groups to thrive.

      - In extreme cases, removing hostile entities - some people just want to
      cause trouble. A good moderator knows the difference between a trouble
      maker (constantly flaming everyone, for example) and someone who is
      upset or does not have the best social skills.

      - Actively contributes - This is a must for all good moderators. They
      must contribute constantly to their own boards to keep the conversations

      A very important fact that must be remembered by all ethical moderators
      is they don't need to agree with a post - they just need to keep things
      more-or-less on topic and civil. Boards with moderators which attempt to
      crush all opposing views quickly degenerate to hell holes of deleted
      posts, banned members, flame wars and constant disruption and

      Some examples of ethically run message boards include:

      Webmaster world (http://www.webmasterworld.com/index.htm) - This board
      has a number of topics of interest to all webmasters. I like this board
      because it makes both old hands and newbies alike feel at home. You can
      tell other people like it as well because of the massive number of

      Ring Manager (http://www.topica.com/lists/ringmgr) - Want to learn about
      webrings from a group of great, caring, intelligent people? Join this
      message board and you will feel like you are part of a friendly group.

      The best example of unethical moderators that I have ever witnessed was
      during a three or four month period starting in roughly August 2000 with
      a Yahoo Club known as WebRingNews. I found this club (a club is a kind
      of enhanced message board) and immediately thought I had found a great
      group of people. There were quite a few people posting their views about
      webrings, which was a topic in which I had an interest. The community
      was closely knit and virtually everyone enjoyed themselves.

      At that time there was a rumor going around that Yahoo was going to
      change webring into a new and wonderful place. There were some vague
      letters supporting this - which naturally led to many discussions about
      the ramifications and possibilities.

      In September 2000 Yahoo destroyed webring, which caused the Webringnews
      group to get very active. Everyone was extremely unhappy, because the
      Yahoo implementation was, well, severely lacking (this is an
      understatement if I ever heard one). The conversations grew heated and
      the anti-yahoo sentiment got high.

      The moderators did not like this kind of behavior and began deleting
      posts without warning. They banned people who refused to bow to their
      demands to cease discussing alternatives to webring, and even went
      through ALL of the old posts going back months, deleting each and every
      one. These moderators became shrill and totally desperate, until the
      group finally fell apart.

      This is the perfect example of completely unethical behavior on the part
      of message board moderators. Yes, on occasion a moderator may need to
      delete a post or two (especially in regards to spam), but it is
      completely wrong for mass deletions to occur. When moderators start
      banning people right and left, perhaps they should step down and let
      someone else hold the reigns.

      In fact, a good indicator of a moderator who is out ethics is a vast
      number of posts from the moderator attempting to explain his actions,
      and a large number of posts from others (sometimes on other message
      boards) who have things to say against the moderator. Note that
      sometimes this is not bad - a good moderator may have to ban or annoy
      someone once in a while. 

      The key indication is that the topic of the message board changes to
      protecting the message board. In addition if the moderators seem to be
      spending most of their time keeping out individuals and deleting posts,
      then perhaps they need to take a hard look at their ethics.

      It's as simple as that. Good message boards almost run themselves, and
      the effort required by the moderator to keep it going smoothly and
      on-topic is minimal. Bad message boards require huge amounts of effort
      by the moderators and become barren wastelands in short order. There are
      few things on the internet that are more sad than a once-proud message
      board reduced to rubble by an incompetent or malicious moderator.

      NOTE: The following information must be included if you reprint this
      Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This
      website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet
      profits, enjoyment and knowledge.
      Web Site Address: http://www.internet-tips.net
      Weekly newsletter: http://www.internet-tips.net/joinlist.htm
      Daily Tips: mailto:internet-tips@...

      Claudia Arevalo-Lowe is the webmistress of Internet Tips And Secrets
      and Surviving Asthma. Visit her site at http://survivingasthma.com

      List of articles available for reprint: article-list@...
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