Moderating online forums – how to moderate discussion sites

Online forums have become a vast discussion tool for internet users all over the world. Their scale of growth also brought problems such as derailing, irrelevant comments, trolls, flame wars, disturbances and spam. Moderators are an important aspect of keeping online discussion communities clean, relevant and enjoyable.

The role of an online moderator involves policing and enforcing forum rules and policies. Depending on the message board, moderators are given certain powers to modify or delete posts and to suspend or ban non-complying members. It's an intricate juggling act involving many facets from lending a helping hand to members in need to maintain order within the community.

How to moderate Online Forums without conflict?

It's a moderator's duty to remove non-complying posts or comments and to delete or suspend members involved in spamming. Whilst it's important to weed out spammers, there can be instances of unintentional breach. Pedantic or obsessive moderation can be worse than no moderation whatsoever.

A member may feel alienated or picked on when they see their post or account deleted without any conceivable reason. You may not have the opportunity to explain your reasoning if the member decides not to take up the issue and simply leaves the message board. Don't forget it's the members who make a quality forum.

When should you take action and how?

If you find an inappropriate comment, contact the member direct (don't embarrass them in front of their peers), explain or point them to the relevant rule and allow the member to remove the comment themselves. They will appreciate being treated as a valued user.

If the comment needs immediate deleting, go ahead and delete it yourself. Advise the member of your actions and the reasoning behind them. Even issue a warning if the breach is serious. Before deleting the member's account, it would be wise to provide them with some form of forewarning and reasoning. The member may alert you to some form of explanation for their behavior or even apologize. If they continue to disregard your warning, then it's morally acceptable to delete them. You've done all you can to caution the user albeit their indiscretion to keep breaking rules.

Prior notification and communicating with these members is a way to keep things civil. It will also save you a lot of unnecessary vile comments being placed on blogs and other online discussion sites. It's all about good communication.

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Being impartial when moderating online forums

It's not a sufficient reason to delete posts or comments simply because you disagree with the poster's opinion. Forums are all about free expression of opinion. Members will soon start ostracizing the forum if they can't legitimately express their view albeit different from yours.

If it's the site owner's policy to delete opinions which differ from the majority, then its members will realize the forum is not objective and not worth contributing to. Differences in opinion are what spark the controversy and conversation essential to content rich, entertaining, relevant and informative posts.

Site owners must be specific in their policies and training manuals. Moderators should know exactly what's expected of them and how to enforce rules. Disallowing different opinions is certainly not a good policy to have. Moderators should also be given the power to edit posts as well as delete them.

Knowing the Forum Rules

For a moderator, there's nothing worse than being corrected by members. Before starting your role, read the forum rules over and over. Memorize them. The first few times you need to enforce a rule, refer back to them and even quote by copying and pasting the relevant rule if you have to. Misinterpreting or misquoting a rule can be disastrous and will make members lose respect for you.

Staying part of the online forum community

Members like to become friendly with the moderators, especially when they're approachable and get involved beyond their duties. You can be pleasant and firm at the same time. Make sure to check in regularly. You don't need to stay for hours to keep up your presence. Make an impact on the members, get to know them and have fun being there. Try to find a forum site that interests you. It will be all the more interesting and fulfilling, making your job easier.

Moderating can be stressful at times, but being involved in an online community can also be rewarding if done properly. Follow these guidelines and you will be respected. Don't let the bad apples deter you.

Source by Jimmy Bedmar

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