So, why moderate at all? I think it comes from having standards, from wanting to appeal to the best of people, not the worst. Sure, there are Internet sites that have no or very little moderation, and while some are popular, it’s almost always the case that those boards tend to degenerate to the lowest common denominator. Whether it’s human nature or human Internet nature, I don’t know, but I know it’s true. Left to their own, Internet forum members will not adequately police themselves, and those that try usually get zinged for daring to act as though they have some special undesignated power and imposing their will on everyone else.
Having standards implies having rules of behavior, and we do. First, we have the Registration and Use Agreement that’s located here. All new members are required to acknowledge they will abide with these house rules. We have some additional rules of forum conduct and those are found at the bottom of every forum page in admittedly “tiny type”. I’ll get into those in a little bit, but I would say the main thing to remember about our expectations of forum behavior is to treat each other with respect. No doubt I will repeat this phrase numerous times throughout this article. I hope you understand that this is really the heart of the matter.
OK, we’ve established why our boards are going to be moderated. Now, what is SimHQ’s moderating philosophy? Across the spectrum of Internet forums you will see a lot of different approaches, from very lax to very strict. I think we’re probably toward the stricter end of the scale than the lax, but everyone can draw their own conclusions about that. Our philosophy begins with the site’s mission. I’m not saying that this is our formal mission statement, but it’s an informal one, and like all good mission statements it’s good because it’s brief:
Provide the simulation community with the best articles, news, message boards, tips and information on the Internet.
That’s it. As you can see, the forums are only part of the equation. And yet, they are where all the interaction with our members, Moderators, and Staff takes place. Think of them as the communications center.
I know the words simulation community get used a lot when describing our members, but within our forums I really do have a sense of that community. Because at SimHQ we have a bunch of people from all walks of life, from all over the world, of all ages, who enjoy talking and sharing with each other. People discuss the good times and the bad times, their joys and heartaches, accomplishments and failures, births, deaths, the whole human experience. People who have never and likely will never actually meet in person really do care about one another. It’s amazing when you think about it.
To quote from the Forum Registration and Use Agreement:
SimHQ’s forums are intended for our members to learn and exchange information about our common interests, share experiences and enjoy time spent with one another. We expect members to treat each other with respect and civility.
I told you, there it is again, treat each other with respect and civility. Even the best of communities have some members that do not necessarily follow that rule, or at least not all the time, and that is true with us as well.
It’s all well and good to say you want to be the best, but how do you do it? I think about it like this: SimHQ has rules for the site as a whole and rules of behavior for the members. It is the Moderators job to enforce those rules, while allowing the flexibility for members to talk, to learn, have fun, to argue and debate. All in an atmosphere where they can relax and get away from the stresses they may have in everyday life. We want to encourage civility and respect, discourage rudeness and disrespect.
If that sounds pretty simple, let me assure you that in practice it is no small feat. We have posts being made from all over the world pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The forums can be pretty busy places at times.
Whether it’s the differences in cultures, that simmers tend to be very passionate about their beliefs, the nature of the Internet, charged WCE (World and Current Events) topics based on politics or religion, the reality that some of our community like to tweak each others noses and stir things up, grudges that members carry over from other sites to ours, all of the above and more, the fact is that some participants in our forums are going to get combative with one another from time-to-time. When they do, the Moderators responsibility is to restore order and civility.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Before moving forward, we’ll next take a look backward in time.