Friday, April 3, 2009

How are Forums moderated?

Last month, Servitor Lucem posted the following question about someone who might be a poser (in my comment section): On moderated fora, why do such posts get to the list? Now there is a mystery.

And while I do not know the specifics of that particular case, I do know something about the moderation of internet forums. After all, I have done that myself on occasion. So exactly how and why are internet forums moderated?

The how is that the owner, and sometimes a couple of other people they appoint, chose to approve posts before they are "published" on the internet.

There are various levels of moderation which makes it hard sometimes to figure out who the moderators are. For instance, on the Golden Dawn Forum, which is moderated by VH Frater CN (Martin), Pat Zalewski is on the "automatically approved" setting; his posts go though as soon as he hits "post". Due to this, new members often think that he is one of the moderators; he is not; it is just that his posts are preapproved.

There are a couple of forums where my own membership is on auto-accept for my posts. I am not a moderator, but I have gained the trust of the forum owners so my posts just go though without having to wait for a moderator to approve them manually.

Conversely, some people have annoyed the moderators of various groups so much that none of their posts get approved. The most infamous example of this is Enochian Chess Steve. Given his style of arguing and the fact that he does so much advertising, most Golden Dawn forums are not letting his posts though at all.

In between these two states are all the rest of the members. The very fact that some posts make it to the boards without moderation makes it hard to tell if your own posts are getting though. There are a couple of forums where occasionally it can take a couple of days for a post to be approved. Sometimes you can even tell when someone thought that their post was rejected because they rewrite it and try again, and end up with a couple of posts on the same subject (one complete with an apology for the rejected post that actually ended up being approved).

To understand why certain posts get approved and others rejected, we must understand the why of moderation.

At one time on the internet, moderation was not even possible. Yes, back in the first pixel age, everybody's posts were automatically accepted. It was a happy time, then some unhappy people invented flames and spam; they ruined it for the rest of us.

When I first started running forums, I did not use moderation. I thought that there was better uses for my time.

Then I had a forum go down in flames. Within a forty-eight hour period, there was so much mud slinging and setting fire to people that I was forced to put the forum on moderation. The forum never recovered.

Since then, my forums are either private (invite only) or automatically moderated. The latest one that I am kicking around ideas for, Rocky Mountain Golden Dawn (I might be changing the name of it), is already set for all posts to be moderated. The doors have not even been opened yet (though you could join if you want to), and I am presuming that trouble could happen if I am not careful.

If it wasn't for flames and spam, none of us would go though the trouble of moderating posts; it is a time consuming task; it also involves checking you email on a regular basis, a pain if you are busy with other projects.

So how do I personally chose what posts are allowed to go though (the same holds true for the comment section of my blogs)?

First off, I have a short list of people that I trust. As long as they do not spam the group to death (the occasional ad is fine, but you better be contributing a lot more than just that), I just let their posts though. Some people will never get on this list: spammers, flamers, and politicians (do not tell me your Order is better than mine).

After that, I will admit that it is based on whim and my mood. On a day, I am feeling good, I will let things though that on a bad day, I would reject automatically. Then there is the fun-filled, let's feed the sharks moments.

Like the recent might be a poser, his posts are just the type I might let though because I am curious to see the reactions of the other members. It is like throwing a bloody pig into a shark tank; it is amusing to see the feeding frenzy.

(I never claimed to be a nice person, have I?)

Now, one of the big things that the leaders of the Big Name Orders would like to see is the automatic rejection of anoymous attacks. Now, I have rejected several attempts to post links to smear sites in my comment section here. Personally, I reject such things because they are not what I want to read. And I have no desire to create them myself ( I believe that the best Orders will succeed based on what they have to offer to their membership; nothing else matters).

But I am not sure that it will become standard policy of moderated forums. And there are always the rogue forums that crop up (typically called "watchdog"). But that is a subject for another day. So there you have it: it is sadistic whim that allows the posts of possible posers though; someone wanted to be amused by watching the sharks feed.

(By the way, I am innocent; I am not a member of that particular forum's staff. As always when talking about the workings of other group, this is only my opinion; I could be wrong.)

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