I’ve been thinking about moderation today. Moderation of internet forums, comments, films and everything that people let others write. Or in short: of communication.
What purpose does it serve?
Sadly, too often it is used to control what people say or do. Silence criticism. Prevent talks about competition. Remove all information that moderator finds sensitive. I think this approach is wrong because it goes against the main purpose of moderated mediums – to let people communicate. And the more important the thing that you try to stifle is, the higher likeness that users will communicate it anyway, just in a different place. So it brings little benefit for you and hurts your users, often the most important thing about your site.
In my opinion, moderation should be viewed differently. As a service provided to users, meant to improve their experiences.
It’s hard to get right. Different people have different needs. I’d like to mention 2 approaches…
One extreme is Frost. It’s a censorship-resistant, anonymous, unmoderated forum. Total freedom. And pure chaos. Some like it. I spent literally minutes on it, couldn’t stand all the threads about child abuses and all the spam.
On the other side of the spectrum are Ubuntu Forums. I certainly doubt it’s the most heavily moderated site on the internet and if I wanted, I would find one. But still, its goal of being safe for children forces them to put a lot of limitations on how they let their users act.
For me, both approaches are wrong. In fact, all approaches that I’ve seen are wrong.
Because different people have different needs and everybody tries to shoehorn all their users into 1 category. I totally see uses for family friendly sites and I think that being one is good for Ubuntu. Nevertheless I would like the place better if they didn’t remove emotional but unkind actions. The place could be much more lively.
Why no forums lets users choose their level of moderation?
A couple of checkboxes, ‘spam’, ‘hate speech’, ‘curses’, etc.
It doesn’t seem hard to carry out and would work much better.
And I have 1 more thought.
The service does not have to be provided by the same person / organisation that administers the medium. A mechanism that lets anybody become a moderator and provide their own view of the medium would be a great choice. Don’t like the default moderation? Provide your own. This is surely not an option for those who think they are entitled to control what people talk. But it’s something that would make your site more valuable to your users. There will always be ones who don’t like the way you moderate and alternatives could serve them better…and, oh, providing such feature is only some capital expense (though probably quite large), operational costs would be carried by users themselves.