Some of the moderators have been encouraging me to make a public announcement concerning recent tendencies at EvC Forum toward being contentious and quarrelsome. Some have urged a period of stricter enforcement of the Forum Guidelines. I resisted the suggestion and responded that any moderator could post an announcement, but so far none have done so.
It can be often be difficult to decide when administrative action is necessary. Some members never post anything that approaches a guideline violation, others do it frequently but only to a minor degree, others do it rarely but in a major explosion, and some violate the guidelines a lot much of the time. Only for this last group is the decision easy.
Complicating this is how other members involved in a debate respond. Some members let offensive comments roll off them, others get upset and complain, yet others respond in kind, yet others see offense where none exists.
Complicating things further is the small but very visible presence of some number of the clueless. Most such members are full of knowledge and facts but bereft of logic and rationality. Tempers flair as people cast themselves hopelessly against impassive, impenetrable and unfathomable walls of uncomprehension.
Complicating things futher still is another usually vocal type of member who views any admonitions from moderators as examples of unfair bias.
What's a moderator to do?
Each moderator works his own way through these puzzles, often with help and advice from other moderators in the admin forum. But what are we to do about the current situation? EvC Forum's goal is to provide more light and less heat. The idea is to learn from each other, not beat each other across the brow. But temporary suspension of posting privileges tends to create a lot of heat, too.
My feeling is that we can't let concerns about people's feelings affect board administration. If we lose some of our best but more volatile members because they resent a temporary loss of posting privileges, then we'll have to keep in mind that they clouded their light with their own smoke, and that perhaps in the long run EvC Forum will be better off by having more high quality and informative discussions.
In other words, I'm encouraging the team of EvC Forum moderators to step up enforcement of the Forum Guidelines, particularly those concerned with treating others with respect, and with constructively moving discussions forward. This policy should be applied uniformly across all members, except that perhaps newbies should have some leeway for a while.
This message has been edited by Admin, 04-26-2005 11:27 AM
There's a lesson I keep learning and forgetting. It is very rare that someone joins and after being contacted by a moderator replies, "Oh, you want me to be polite here," or, "Oh, you want me to support my arguments here," and then becomes polite, or begins supporting his points. For the most part, the stripes people exhibit when they first join are pretty much the ones they're always going to exhibit.
But with fair frequency someone joins who, though they have trouble following the guidelines and moderator requests, either seems to have something valuable worth contributing that justifies putting up with their guidelines violations, or who seems very promising for some reason, and the moderators begin spending time with them. This almost never works out.
The lesson is that moderators shouldn't be coaches. Moderators should act like this: see violation once, give warning. See violation twice, use judgement, perhaps give warning, perhaps give suspension. Explanations should be limited to, "Please follow the Forum Guidelines." Anything more than that is a waste of time. Either they're going to get it or they're not.
One more thing I might mention that I've found helpful. Like other moderators, I used to post replies noting off-topic posts or guideline violations that shouldn't be replied to. This was frequently unsuccessful, because the message containing the request to not reply came later, and people didn't see it till they already replied. So I've changed habits to instead edit in a request at the top of the offending message. This seems more effective at stifling off-topic activity, and at preventing members from replying in kind to potentially offensive or overly inflammatory posts.
Dunno if it has been tried, but if borderline transgressions are worrying mods, could the combatants be banned from that thread and told to take it to Free for All? That way they could slug it out without detracting from the thread. Or is it too much trouble to police and move the offenders if they try to re-enter tthe thread??