Online Forum Moderation – How to Moderate Discussion Sites

Online forums have become a great discussion tool for Internet users around the world. Its growth scale also brought problems like derailment, irrelevant comments, trolls, insult wars, riots and spam. Moderators are an important aspect of keeping online discussion communities clean, relevant, and enjoyable.

The role of an online moderator involves monitoring and enforcing the rules and policies of the forum. Depending on the message board, moderators have certain powers to modify or remove posts and suspend or ban non-compliant members. It’s an intricate juggling act that involves many facets, from helping members in need to keeping order within the community.

How to moderate online forums without conflict?

It is the duty of a moderator to remove non-compliant posts or comments and to remove or suspend members involved in spamming. While it is important to weed out spammers, there can be cases of unintentional breaches. Pedantic or obsessive moderation can be worse than lack of moderation.

A member may feel alienated or annoyed when they see their post or account deleted for no conceivable reason. He may not get a chance to explain her reasoning if the member decides not to bring it up and simply leaves the forum. Do not forget that it is the members who make a quality forum.

When should you act and how?

If you find an inappropriate comment, contact the member directly (don’t embarrass them in front of their peers), explain or point out 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 removal, go ahead and remove it yourself. Advise the member of their actions and the reasoning behind them. Even issue a warning if the violation is serious. Before deleting the member’s account, it would be wise to provide them with some kind of warning and reasoning. The member may alert you to some sort of explanation for her behavior or even apologize. If they continue to ignore your warning, then it is morally acceptable to remove them. You have done your best to warn the user, even if it is because of her indiscretion, to continue breaking the rules.

Prior notification and communication with these members is one 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.

Be impartial when moderating online forums

It’s not a good enough reason to delete posts or comments simply because you don’t agree with the author’s opinion. Forums are about the free expression of opinions. Members will soon begin to isolate themselves from the forum if they cannot legitimately express their point of view even if it is different from yours.

If the site owner’s policy is to remove opinions that differ from the majority, then their members will realize that the forum is not objective and not worth contributing to. Differences of opinion are what spark controversy and conversation, essential for content-rich, entertaining, relevant, and informative posts.

Site owners need to be specific in their policies and training manuals. Moderators must know exactly what is expected of them and how to enforce the rules. Not allowing different opinions is certainly not good policy. Moderators should also have the power to edit posts and delete them.

knowing the Forum Rules

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

Remain part of the online forum community

Members like to befriend moderators, especially when they are accessible and involved beyond their duties. You can be nice and assertive at the same time. Make sure to check in regularly. You don’t need to stay for hours to maintain your presence. Make an impact on members, get to know them and have fun being there. Try to find a forum site that interests you. It will be even more interesting and rewarding, which will make your work easier.

Moderating can be stressful at times, but participating in an online community can also be rewarding if done correctly. Follow these guidelines and you will be respected. Don’t let the bad apples determine you.

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