Message Boards: The Role Of The Moderator : Article
Most people have visited a message board at one time or another in their life. I would guess that the vast majority has never posted anything at all, preferring just to lurk (view) rather than to contribute their ideas and thoughts. Most of those that have contributed have posted useful input to discussions which are valued by many of the subscribers to the board.
It's the small minority, however, which has created the need for moderators. These are the people who read all of the articles and comments posted to a board and ensure that they are suitable for the audience.
Moderators are very necessary. If you've ever visited a board (or the near cousins: newsgroups and elists) which is not moderated, you know exactly what I mean. These often are filled with spam of the worst sort: silly money making programs and pornography. Quite often they degenerate into meaningless collections of junk visited by no one except automated spamming programs.
I always find it sad when I visit a board in this condition. I mean someone put some effort into creating a community on the web, then for whatever reason neglected or abandoned it. The truly sad boards are those that were obviously active, useful areas full of vibrant communications which have degenerated into uselessness. It's exactly the same feeling I get every time I visit the long abandoned Marineland in Southern California. Kind of an uncomfortable, ghost- town-like spookiness of the wrongness that permeates the area. What is the job of a moderator?
Some boards require user registration. In very strictly moderated boards, a moderator must approve each person who registers to access the board. This allows some measure of control over who can post. Security levels can further restrict what visitors can do. Good judgment in allowing people to join the group can obviate the need for extreme policing of postings. In other words, don't allow the bad apples into the barrel in the first place.
Postings are policed. You can have two forms of moderation. In one form, articles are posted automatically. They are reviewed by the moderator after they are posted to the board. Moderators can delete postings which do not measure up to board standards. Personally, I dislike this kind of moderation, since unnecessary postings are available for reading until the moderator reviews them.
In the second form, a moderator must review each posting before it appears on the board. This makes for a cleaner experience, although it demands a lot more work from the moderator.
Ensuring the board remains on-topic. The best message boards stick to one or more specific topics. A major job of a good moderator is to review postings to ensure that they are of the same subject as the board. At the very least, off-topic threads should be discouraged quickly or gently moved to other, more appropriate arenas.
Minimize flaming. Flames are critical or derogatory remarks. A flame war is kind of like a shouting match where insults are hurled between people until they all flee, exhausted and battered. Good moderators gently prod people into posting responsibly by discouraging flaming.
Eject troublemakers and spammers. As moderators read through postings, it can become obvious very quickly that there is a troublemaker in the group. These troublemakers need to be handled - either by gentle persuasion or more harsh measures if necessary. In fact, the moderator must be ready to eject severe troublemakers from the group if these people are continually causing problems.
The best boards are good because they remain on-topic and the communications between individuals is civil and useful. A good moderator works to ensure that this remains true so that everyone can benefit from the community as well as contribute to the discussions in an intelligent manner.
The best moderators work with the board members to create an environment which is enjoyable and beneficial to all. A bad moderator can produce the feeling that one is being watched by the Gestapo or secret police, where every word is watched and postings are often deleted without apparent cause or need.
Members of the board need to feel that their comments are desired and valued. Randomly deleting large numbers of postings for no apparent reason other than the moderator disagrees will certainly cause a board to become useless and empty of life. In fact, one of the things that can make a board truly outstanding is lively (not insulting or demeaning but lively) discussions about various topics.
And that's really the job of a board moderator. To ensure that the board remains viable, active and alive. To promote and ensure that an environment exists where people can post without threat or fear. And to be sure that disagreements do not flare into all-out warfare.
Richard Lowe Jr. http://www.internet-tips.net 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@GetResponse.com