Friday, March 16, 2007

Ten Simple Rules for Forum Moderation

This will probably be of interest to fellow new marketers and old HeroClix friends. My buddy Brandon, who started at WizKids recently, found my "Jason's Ten Rules for Forum Moderators" that I'd created in my tenure there. Basically, I wanted a document I could point to that had rules in case moderation got out of hand, and I wanted a way to articulate my philosophy behind how a transparent online community should be run. It's dated November 30, 2005.

  • Moderating is a time-consuming responsibility. It will require you to read the appropriate forums at least once a day, if not more often. We will also require that you read the forums on weekend, holidays, and other times when you might not want to. You can take vacations, of course, but making a commitment as a moderator means you need to take your time responsibilities seriously.
  • You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Oftentimes, belligerent posters will become less belligerent when you don't rise to their bait and instead take a calm, reasoned approach to discussion.
  • Error on the side of forgiveness. When moderating, it is best to politely warn someone that their behavior is out of line before handing out a warning point. Often a private message (or, a public reply if the user has turned off private messages) will take care of 90% of most problems. Use warning points only when someone has been warned verbally first.
  • Zero-tolerance issues. The previous rule can be ignored in instances where a user is blatantly violating a forum rule. For example, excessive profanity, personally attacking other users, discussing religion or politics - these should be dealt with quickly.
  • Remove a thread or post only when absolutely necessary, and never delete them, ever. Most of the time, warned posts can linger as warnings to other users. Only if they are zero-tolerance issues should they be archived.
  • Complaining can be good, within limits. Remember that part of the entertainment value that WizKids offers is lively debate - and that can include complaining, too! After all, forum complainers have helped WizKids identify potential problems. However, if someone has shown that he or she is more interested in complaining than offering constructive input, feel free to remind him that each post should contribute something to the discussion.
  • What's good for the goose is good for the gander. As tempting as it may be to let something slide when a poster is defending WizKids, if the poster is breaking the rules, warning should be issued regardless of the tone of the post.
  • Personal feelings have no place in moderation. You may not like a user; you may find a user is the most annoying person on the planet; you may wish the user bodily harm. That's fine. However, those feelings should not interfere with your moderation responsibilities. If you find yourself reaching for the warning button on a particular user you dislike, stop and ask yourself if you would do the same thing to a user for whom you have no particular feelings.
  • Our main goal is to encourage discussion that is the extra entertainment value of belonging to the WizKids community. Take care not to intentionally stifle different points of view; they can be responded to logically, of course, but should be moderated only when necesary.
  • The flexible tree bends in the storm, while the rigid tree breaks. Remember that these rules are written on paper, not set in stone [note: Thank you, 3rd Ed D&D]. Part of your responsibility is knowing how to separate the spirit of a rule from the letter of the rule.

I haven't been back to the WizKids forums to see if the moderators there are still following these rules, but I would certainly implement a new version of them at the next community I help create.

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