1 : one who arbitrates
2 : one who presides over an assembly, meeting, or discussion: as a : the presiding officer of a Presbyterian governing body b : the nonpartisan presiding officer of a town meeting c : the chairman of a discussion group
3 : a substance (as graphite) used for slowing neutrons in a nuclear reactor
[source: Merriam-Webster Online]
The dictionary does a passable, but brief, job of describing the duties of a SimHQ Forums Moderator. The part about slowing down nuclear reactions is very apropos. Whether it’s due to a full moon or High Noon, no one can say, but sometimes the reactions in the forums get critical and go nuclear.
Hi, my name is “20mm” and as the article title implies, I’d like to talk with you about Internet forum moderating, specifically how it’s done here at SimHQ. I’m the Forums Manager and it’s my job to oversee forum moderating, offer some assistance when needed, answer questions, establish direction and philosophy, and make adjustments to that direction in our continuing efforts to make this site better.
In the course of this article I will try to give you all an understanding of how we do business here. Why we do what we do and how it works. A sort of “glimpse behind the curtain” if you will.
Having given you an admittedly brief and incomplete job description of a Moderator, let’s talk about something a little more basic. Namely, why do it at all? What are we trying to accomplish? As we explore this a little, I’d like to pass along a fairly representative sample of member questions and comments (not exact quotes mind you) I’ve seen over last several years:
- Why bother? After all, our members are intelligent, mature folks. Leave them alone and they’ll behave themselves, and if someone gets out of line now and then, they can handle it.
- SimHQ is the worst moderated board I’ve ever seen. Talk about playing favorites! If you’re a part of the in-crowd you get away with murder, but the rest of us unwashed get the shaft.
- Why is it that anything, or anyone, that conflicts with the happy, glassy-eyed fanboi bunch, gets jumped on immediately by that crowd and you guys never do anything about it? Just more proof that you all are in the developer’s back pockets.
- Your moderating sucks. Totally inconsistent. One Moderator says one thing, another says something totally opposite. One person let’s all kind of garbage go, another is just waiting to pounce with the slightest provocation. Don’t you people have any guidance or direction?
- Why is it that Moderators lock threads that are not problems? If the subject matter is one they don’t agree with, ka-pow! It’s locked-up. Or maybe a developer wants you to squash any negative reaction, so again, locked-up. The members should decide when a topic is done, by their lack of interest in posting, not you guys locking up threads and stifling dissent.
- Your Moderators think they know all the answers, but they’re clueless. You have members that are known trouble-makers and yet you never do anything about it. You just let them spout their crap and ruin it for everyone else.
- Your site is all about the military, but you won’t allow discussions on topical, real-world military actions.That’s a contradiction!
- Don’t you all have anything in your Moderator bag of tricks? You have a problem with someone and the only thing you know to do is to ban them. Or even worse, round after mind-numbing round of warnings. Isn’t there some kind of moderator school or training you can attend?
- You all think you’re above the law, don’t you? I see it all the time, Moderators or Admins posting stuff that one of us lowly members would not get away with for 10 seconds. Do the phrases “two-faced” or “hypocrites” ring any bells?
- I’m sick and tired of the censorship around here. Anytime anyone posts something a Moderator doesn’t like, all of a sudden that thread is deleted. You guys just cannot handle any comments that don’t fit your shiny happy idea of how things should be, so you just swoop in and delete it.
- How come no one ever talks about the “sit-down-and–shut-up” era of SimHQ? When Moderators were Kings and Queens and all us little serfs were told exactly how we would behave at all times, and woe upon us if we transgressed even slightly. When the wall was built between the lowly members and the Royal Moderators, so we could never question their actions, never dare to ask why they did something, why someone was banned, why anything. You all talk a good game with the “sense of community” and the “neighbors talking across the backyard fence” stuff, but SimHQ felt more like a prison surrounded by barbed wire than a backyard fence back then. Glad you reversed course, have to assume you got pressured into doing so, but again it is never discussed. We’d all like to know why.
Geez, those sound really negative, don’t they? Are we really that bad?
Certainly not all comments we get are negative. Many are quite complimentary, of the site in general, and the Moderators and Staff in particular. We are always heartened to see those. But since moderating is by its very nature linked with conflict, I thought it was instructive to see some of the criticisms, rather than a list of kudos and “atta-boys!”.