Are moderator groups counter-productive to interaction?

I've noticed that once people become moderators on a site, they appear to lose interest in participation, and seem to think their only reason to be onsite is to censor other people's contributions. Rightly or wrongly. This appears to be the case regardless of whether they remain a moderator, or not.

Please note that this is <b>not</b> aimed at anyone in particular, <b>nor</b> is it aimed at all moderators. This is just a general observation, based on limited experience.

Given that moderators are usually selected based on their contributions, the idea that making a user a moderator will stop their contributing is a hard one. I think this is not good. Perhaps moderator groups by their nature are counter-productive to an lively and interactive site?

Thoughts, anyone?

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24 thoughts on “Are moderator groups counter-productive to interaction?”

  1. I have moderated several forums and groups. In most i found that when i posted it was generally assumed that my thoughts and opinions were those of the management. On several of them we started having the mods use two accounts one mod account and a seperate account for when they wanted to take part in discussions as an individual. worked pretty well.

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  2. I think a lot of moderators become lurkers and participate less because they need to observe a lot more than they might otherwise so they can get a better overall view of the various participants and watch for potential problems.

    My opinion is that diversity is the strength of any community. If we were all the same then there would be little to talk about. But many people have the opposite view that it is about conformity. If we make too many rules and try to fit people into boxes then it will reduce participation. Moderation means walking a fine line. If you intervene too much or too little then it can either reduce participation or lead to problems that could have been extinguished before they began.

    As I said previously, it is a thankless task. In the end, not everyone is going to agree with the umpire/ referee.

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    • In my experience, predominately on discussion boards, the best moderators are those who are well known and well liked on the board because of their contributions and the respect they have established within the community as a result.
      When things get heated, this person can calm the situation quickly. They don't need bully tactics, all they have to do is cool the situation by getting people to take a step back for a moment.
      To a large degree on this network, moderating feels more like policing vs keeping the peace. The majority of activity is preventing inappropriate content, and ensuring the integrity of new accounts, to keep fake profiles to a minimum.
      Having been involved in social media, forums and moderation for many years I find there are 3 broad types of moderator. There are those who feel it is their duty to moderate, demonstrate that they are moderating, and become very active moderators. These are your parking inspectors. They're frequently on the prowl for infractions and are often sticklers for the rules. Occasionally these types can do more harm than good, but just need the site admin to keep them in check and not getting too carried away.
      The second kind know the neighbourhood. They know who's who, what's what, and are very good at weeding out trouble makers lurking in the shadows. It's usually this kind of moderator that can spot a fake profile from a mile away. It's very useful having this kind of moderator on the team.
      The third kind is the type I eluded to at the beginning of the post. They usually moderate by not moderating, but when a nasty situation comes about, they're the ones who can cool hot heads and bring about a calm resolution.

      I personally think when moderation is a thankless task it's probably better to stop moderating. If you're involved in a community and are enthusiastic about the subject matter, or the objectives of the community, moderation is simply a matter of keeping an eye on things, but predominately taking part and helping set the tone and standard.

      Richard raises an important point. The level of moderation on the Naktiv site is actually quite low. In the early days there was a lot of discussion about what was appropriate imaginary, and people had varying opinions. The rules got fine tuned, moderation team expanded, but on the whole, there's rarely any spam or other significant issues. A good deal of that is community standard and knowing who's who. What I've found in most groups, is the community standard sets the tone. You might get one new comer who blindly posts an inappropriate remark or image, but the community usually comes down on them pretty fast, and a moderator may follow up as required.

      That is the ideal situation for one and all.

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  3. People might also not realize how *little* moderation goes on in the Naktiv site. Almost the only things which are moderated are inappropriate images and the occasional fake profile, (and deliberate misinformation). Otherwise, mostly people are free to post what they like, (within the rules of course). Naturally some people think they can therefore post any old twaddle! 😀

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  4. When one becomes a moderator then participation will likely drop because it is easier to be critical from a distance and it is harder to do so when you are friends. A wall of separation is useful for many people. I am not saying that it needs to be this way. Also it can reduce the criticism that you are playing favourites.

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  5. I suspect that the drop in contribution from moderators has more to do with misalignments between values and objectives vs any other factor. It could be the case that you notice moderators more than former contributors because of their status.
    Aside from various people who have stormed off in a huff, there are many others who have simply stopped contributing to the conversation.
    The foremost problem forums face are people who are content to read the views of others and not contribute their own.
    A lively debate is better than no debate at all. One must examine the reasons people visit and contribute.
    If the forum fundamentally becomes a place to post pictures and little else, that is predominately what you'll get.
    If its a place people come to discuss various ideas, then that is what you'll get. In far too many cases people got way too emotive about topics and killed the conversation with ill feelings all around.
    I'm starting to notice a couple of interesting topics worth contributing to.

    I suspect one problem the Naktiv site faces is you can't be all things to all people. It might be necessary to pick an objective and stick to it. You can't for example criticize FBs censorship but then have your own censorship people have difficulty agreeing on.

    Maybe focus on one specific concept and pursue that.

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    • I have to admit to being quite amazed, shocked even, at the amount of bad feeling generated by a few people with a particular agenda. And to see a whispering campaign begun offsite is equally sad, especially when you consider how enthusiastic these same people were at the time. Perhaps many people are simply unable to cope with freedom when it's offered, like children when they get too many presents at xmas. In fairness, I suspect inexperience at moderating a site was probably contributory to the administration not handling the flames better at the time though.

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      • On the whole I think people take far too much too personally. Two really interesting aspects I've noticed about the Naktiv site are, first, it's been a great place to discover one's limits and reexamine them.
        On more than one occasion I've had my thoughts and views questioned, and reassessed them as a result. It's been a challenging environment in a good way.
        The second thing that's always struck me as unusual is the backseat role you've always played Richard. By that I mean, despite this being your creation, in many instances you've permitted the moderation team to collectively call the shots and have the lead. I've always thought that to be extremely admirable. It's often the case people haven't felt inclined to take that lead, none the less, it's always been evident to me at least, that you've always put a great deal of trust and faith into the people you've designated moderators.
        In my view, the moderation team have always been quite diverse, and I believe that is a good thing. So much so, I haven't always agreed with others. To me that's a sign there's a good balance. If I agreed with everyone, or they always agreed with me, it would almost be a sure sign there's a bit of one sidedness going on. It could have indeed been something along those lines that upset people. For my part, I'm happy to express a view, and if people don't agree, that's how it is. There's no benefit getting upset and huffy about it.

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        • Backseat was a policy decision which was taken a long time ago. Because it's important for a social media network to function standalone; for it to not be handheld (imho). This is why the Naktiv site has been very hands-off on occasion, it's been deliberate.

          And yes, discussion is crucial (also imho), which is why the polling was introduced for moderation decisions, rather than simply "delete" functions. It may seem rather haphazard, but actually there's quite a lot of thought gone into it – believe it or not 😉

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  6. Moderating a group is a thankless task and more work than most people expect. Once you make a rule then you have to start splitting hairs and soon there is no end to them. I think the fewer rules the better with the ability to ban trolls as needed is the best route. I belong to many groups (mostly technology related) and have seen some horror stories. Burn out is a serious concern.

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