Article Submission: Message Boards: Moderator Ethics
- Copyright (C) Richard Lowe Jr. and Claudia Arevalo-Lowe, 1999-2001.
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Article Title: Message Boards: Moderator Ethics
Author: Richard Lowe, Jr.
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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
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
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Claudia Arevalo-Lowe is the webmistress of Internet Tips And Secrets
and Surviving Asthma. Visit her site at http://survivingasthma.com
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