This site is not popular. Moderating it is easier than moderating other blogs. I expect that will always be true. However, even if I don’t need to do it, I do know how to moderate effectively. Today I’m going to discuss a bit of how not to.
To start, I’m going to quote a disturbing statement from a moderator:
Something I should have added to my post was that there’s also an element of democracy in blog moderation. The recent frogmarching comment is an example of this.
This seems exactly wrong. We don’t vote on whether or not a person should get arrested. Whether or not a rule was broken is not a matter of democracy. Whether or not a comment should be moderated should depend upon that comment, not how people feel about that comment. Anything else just means you’ll allow (some) abuse to happen until people complain about it. Similarly:
I am not always consistent in my moderation but I feel that I have logical reasons for this, most of the time anyway. Sometimes I’m just having a bad day.
No! Having a bad day is not an excuse to moderate differently. Two people posting the same comment should be treated the same way. One should not be moderated while the other isn’t simply because of the moods a moderator might be in.
Not only is that horrible on principle, it’s just begging for abuse. If a moderator’s mood is allowed to determine (even some) moderation decisions, anyone the moderator dislikes is at risk of being treated unfairly. That’s ridiculous.
My reasons are as follows: Calling someone you are having a discussion with an idiot is not going to foster a good debate and my role is to foster the debate. Calling someone you are not having a discussion with an idiot, but who might read what you have said, is also counterproductive. But a person completely unrelated to climate change discussions probably won’t read the comment and so I am more likely to let it stand in these cases.
What the…? In what world is it better to insult a person who can’t defend themselves than a person who can? What kind of debate is this supposed to foster? How civil can you expect people to be when you say it’s okay to insult people as long as you do it behind their back?
I don’t get the logic of that at all. Everything about these statements seems not only wrong, but exactly backwards. Moderation should not be subjective. It should not depend upon moods or whims. It should not depend upon indiscernible and inconsistent standards. All of these things beg for abuse so much it is practically impossible for the resulting moderation not to be biased.
Moderation is actually quite easy. All you have to do is pick clear rules then stick to them. For example, if you don’t want incivility from name-calling, ban name-calling. It’s that easy. People will know what is and is not allowed, and if the decision is enforced, they’ll abide by it. And because there’s a clear standard, moderation decisions will be easier, requiring less time and thought.
Of course, people are fallible. Moderation cannot be perfect. Having an ideal solution doesn’t magically solve everything. However, it does give us a good target to strive for and a clear standard by which we can be judged. That’s what matters most.
It’s certainly far better than blithely saying people can’t possibly know what to expect from a moderator.