Moderating a Forum: Lesson 101

Most people have visited a message board at one time or another in their life. The vast majority has never posted anything at all, preferring just to view rather than contribute their ideas and thoughts. Most of the members that have contributed have posted useful input to discussions, which are valued by many of the subscribers to the board.

Why Are Moderators Needed?

The need for moderators often comes about because of the fact that on any forum, small minorities of people post useless and irrelevant information, sometimes with the sole purpose of creating havoc. Moderators are people who read most of the comments posted on a board and ensure that they are suitable for the audience.

Keeping in mind that most boards are intended for fans of all ages, the moderators have the responsibility of keeping the discussions tasteful and appropriate, keeping to the standards of the site they are moderating.

Responsibilities

1. Moderators assume the role of hosts and welcome new users to the board. They are also responsible for setting the tone and the style of the forum(s) they moderate.

2. A good moderator’s major task is to review postings to ensure that they are of the same subject matter as the board. At the very least, off-topic threads should be discouraged quickly or tacitly moved to other, more appropriate areas. Deleting posts that are spam and posts that mention other competitive message boards are also part of the requirements.

3. Prevent flaming. Flames are critical or derogatory remarks. A flame war is kind of like a shouting match where insults are hurled between people until they all flee, exhausted and battered. A good rule of thumb is to question whether the comment was directed at the member or at a situation, at the topic on hand. Good moderators gently prod people into posting responsibly by discouraging flaming.

4. As moderators read through postings, it quickly becomes apparent when there is a troublemaker amid the group. These troublemakers need to be handled – either by gentle persuasion or more harsh measures if necessary. In fact, the moderator must be ready to eject severe troublemakers from the group if they are continually disruptive.

5. Moderators must ensure that the board remains viable, active and alive. They must promote and ensure that an environment exists where people can post messages without threat or fear, and make sure that disagreements do not flare into all-out attacks.

Powers

1. You can move postings to the archive that go against any of the forum’s guidelines, are inflammatory, irrelevant to the forum, or impose spam. Note: Randomly moving large numbers of postings for no apparent reason other than the moderator disagreeing with the topic at hand should not be tolerated.

2. You can recommend banning a user who is posting spam, inflammatory comments, acting inappropriately, or disrupting rather than contributing to the board. When such action is appropriate, the moderator should discuss the situation with other moderators.

3. You can edit posts that contain language, trick words not caught by our profanity filter (e.g. f_u_c), or that are insulting and degrading to fellow board members. When you edit a post put in your username and the reason for the edit. Note that a good moderator will do a lot more editing of posts than locking of threads.

4. Most forum platforms leave the moderators with much more power such as managing, merging, etc… If you find a duplicate thread, merge it to the first one posted instead of locking it and if your forum allows for it, leave a temporary trace that you have done so.

Most common mistakes to avoid

1. Moderators are not locksmiths. Locking threads or topics should be the exception, not the rule. While some topics are more difficult to moderate, the moderator must let the discussions take their toll and allow them to die on their own. Locking a thread because a few members are bickering is preventing the majority of members to discuss the topic in a respectful manner.

2. Abuse of power. Moderators are often participating members with their own opinions. Deleting messages, kicking members out of a thread or banning members because they don’t share your opinion is the worst thing a moderator can do. Preach by example by respectfully disagreeing and not making discussions personal.

3. Keeping cool. As a moderator, you are representing the web site, the board. Your behaviour must remain professional at all times, even when other members challenge you (and they will). Think twice before accepting the position offered to you or before putting your name forward to become a moderator on a forum.

4. Disappearing acts. When committing to become a moderator, there is an underlying understanding that you will be present regularly on the board and that you will not let the other moderators do all of the dirty work. On most forums, the expectation is that you will be present daily for at least a few minutes in the forum(s) you moderate. If you don’t have time to action an infraction you noticed, you must report it to your colleagues to action for you.

5. Leaving no explanation. Members cannot read your mind. If you have time to edit or delete a post, you must also take the time to leave a footprint explaining the reason(s) for your action(s) so that members whose posts are removed or edited understand why. Nothing is more frustrating for a member than to take the time to reply to a post only to come back later and be unable to find it or to find it edited with no reason(s) provided.

You still want to be a moderator on a forum? You now have some very solid guidelines to study and to take into consideration before accepting and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Like anywhere else in life, there are good moderators and bad ones. We’ve all seen both and it’s not because a member is a good member that he’ll necessarily become a good moderator.

Happy moderating!

Open letter to Geoff Molson

As the talks are stalling and the threat of a lockout become more and more of a reality, fans are left wondering where they stand in the big picture, keeping some hope that somewhere, someone is working for them behind the scene in this battle between millionaires and billionaires.

We, as fans, understand that the NHL is a business and while we may not be “in the know” when it comes to the details of what’s being discussed behind closed doors amongst Governors and during the CBA negotiations, we understand that labour talks are not easy. We’ve read reports that some teams can’t keep up with the cap floor and that some are pretty much guaranteed to lose money before the puck is dropped to start the season and that, in spite of a hard salary cap and some sort of revenue sharing. We, fans, want the NHL to be healthy and we want our favourite sport to thrive.

Fans also understand that the players are loved and that they are the reason why we like the game. Players are the ones being idolized, they are the ones signing autographs, attending different events and giving their time to different charity events and making public appearances. They play a huge role in our love for the game. But fans understand that for that to happen, owners need to have profitable franchises.

While there is no doubt that the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season was hard on the owners and the players, fans survived with most thinking that this was necessary to allow the NHL to right the ship, to fix its internal problems. They did, directly or indirectly, support and understood that it was a sacrifice which, hopefully, was going to make things better for the future of this league, for the good of the game we love.

You, Mr. Molson, have done an amazing job since taking over as the owner of the Montreal Canadiens. You recognized that previous management was destroying your product. You hired a trusted and knowledgeable friend and hockey man in Serge Savard to help guide you in your hockey decisions and from there, you hired a well-respected, young up and coming executive at the position of General Manager in Marc Bergevin. You understand marketing and the importance of public relations, promotion of your product and mostly, you know your market in Montreal, in Quebec and across Canada. You are putting money and great efforts into bringing back pride, just like it was back in the days of Hartland Molson and the Molson family during your team’s glory days. You, Mr. Molson, are doing your part to promote your product, to keep and grow your fan base.

Hartland Molson

But as a fan, I must ask you how you feel when you see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman conduct business the way he does? Does he have blind support from the NHL owners, carte blanche to do or say what he wants, or does he follow strict orders and guidelines put forth by his employers, who by the way pay him amazingly well, perhaps too well?

Owners who work this hard at building their franchise the way you do must cringe at some of the comments made by your representative. “Players make too much money”, was Bettman saying just the other day. Does he think fans are that stupid? Who, Mr. Bettman, is giving the players those contracts? Who put a gun to Craig Leipold’s head to give Ryan Suter and Zach Parise the money that he gave them? Yes we, fans, understand that there is peer pressure to be competitive and that in some markets, it is difficult to draw big name UFAs. But please, don’t let Gary Bettman tell us that the players are making too much money when owners agree to such contracts!

And now, fans are reading that Gary Bettman and the owners are not concerned about the effects of another lockout, a third one under Bettman? “We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans”, Bettman said. You know Mr. Molson, this type of game being played, this attitude is a very risky one. Taking the fans for granted and thinking that they’re idiots, sheep that will follow no matter what because they have in the past is very, very dangerous.

The first Habs’ captain to lift the Stanley Cup after my birth was Jean Beliveau so I’ve seen the good and the bad of the NHL. I can tell you that now, I’m seeing the ugly and while it may be a good old classic movie, it is not one that this fan wants to see in the NHL. To think that you and some other owners are putting so much effort into getting your ship back on track while the commissioner is raising a storm has to hurt you as I do strongly believe that you are a man of pride and honour, an owner with integrity. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have done what you’ve done this summer with your team, you would have been happy to pocket the money.

It is my opinion that your commissioner is ruining this game with his gimmick rules to cater fair-weather fans in the US, perhaps following orders from his good friends Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider. This fan is growing more and more frustrated and while I never thought in a million year that I would feel this way, I am seriously thinking that perhaps, it’s time for me to find another passion.

There better not be a lockout Mr. Molson or if there is, it better not drag. I have full faith that if anyone can do something about it by talking some sense to the owners, it is you. I have faith in Geoff Molson. I can’t say the same about the person representing him and the other owners.

Kind regards and Go Habs Go!

Slightly different version on allhabs.net: NHL Owners or Bettman: Who’s Driving the Bus?
En français sur fantomesduforum.net: Lettre à Geoff Molson