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Virtual communities, moderation

If I had a linklog (which I will, soon), I'd simply put this in there, but until then, I'll have to comment a little bit. Teresa Nielsen Hayden discusses how online communities deal with spam, trolls and stalkers.

Some choice excerpts:

1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself.

2. Once you have a well-established online conversation space, with enough regulars to explain the local mores to newcomers, they’ll do a lot of the policing themselves.

3. You own the space. You host the conversation. You don’t own the community. Respect their needs.

4. Message persistence rewards people who write good comments.

5. Over-specific rules are an invitation to people who get off on gaming the system.

7. Things to cherish: Your regulars. A sense of community. Real expertise. Genuine engagement with the subject under discussion. Outstanding performances. Helping others. Cooperation in maintenance of a good conversation. Taking the time to teach newbies the ropes.

8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they’re valuable the rest of the time.

9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible.

10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

13. If someone you’ve disemvowelled [or temp-banned —RD] comes back and behaves, forgive and forget their earlier gaffes. You’re acting in the service of civility, not abstract justice.

Uhm, yes. Most of her points are good, as always. I've always had difficulty dealing effectively with jerks in online communities, and found moderation a thankless task. I'll keep these guidelines in mind, should I ever try again.

Also, in the comments to the post, someone mentions that America Online is going to drop support for Usenet newsgroups, causing another commenter to quip that September is finally over. Good. I approve.


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