Why Online Communities Need Moderators

By E. Brown

It never ceases to surprise me, how some people online conduct and express themselves. Either, many forums and communities are overrun with idle youth or teen-aged-mentality adults. It reminds me of a quote I once heard:

Age is never a measure of one’s maturity.

So true.

From The Future of Communities Blog, Mike Rowland wrote this post based upon a PC World article. Below is an excerpt.

We’ve seen an upswing in blog posts and articles related to the growing issue of incivility on the Internet and in online communities. The most recent article from PC World’s John Dvorak sums it up nicely:

“Nastiness is an earmark of many bloggers, podcasters, and members of the herd; a few insane people; and those who feel that being an out-and-out mean and profane presence on the Internet is cool or funny. The level of nastiness that floats around the Net in various forms, forums, and Web sites is incredible.”

We know from our experience that there are always going to be members who are visiting only to disrupt, argue, and complain. Most of these members only come to attack those who have differing opinions. They do it with strong language and abusive comments. They also are the first members to bring up “Freedom of Speech” and my “Constitutional Rights” as soon as a moderator steps in. When their commentaries and attacks are edited or deleted they attack the moderator and host organization rather than looking inward. Then they enlist their online friends to continue the attack on your organization. You will never please these people.
read more…

I know children that have more maturity than many adults and I know several adults that are stuck in a Middle School mindset. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy and am an advocate of having fun, yet there is a distinct difference in being childish and child-like.

In some communities it seems easier to gravitate toward crass behavior than toward adult expression. It reminds me of the comedic geniuses over the last years. What is it that distinguished them from the host of other wannabe’s?

They were thoughtful and creative.

Anyone can walk into a Men’s room and copy bad jokes off the wall, but a stand out talent shows maturity by looking at life in a humorous way that many people can relate to. For the latter, it takes no effort to tell locker room stories but to stand above the trivial and mundane you have to spend some time and effort to come up with original material.

Maybe that’s it — if members do not like a community or comment, it’s easier to fire off a salvo of 4th grade words rather than spend the time and effort to think through the matter and deliver a mature response. A symptom of the microwave culture we live in? What do you think?

In the meanwhile, make sure you have some good, strong-willed, and mature moderators for your communities. Eventually, the kids will get bored and move on to the next fad of a site.

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2 thoughts on “Why Online Communities Need Moderators

  1. ben simpson says:

    I am sorry I do not agree with you. Childish or rude blogger are not helpful but your method of giving MODERATORS the right to censor negative views or view that maybe they do not agree with.
    There is only one thigh that’s worse than nasty blogger is Invisible Moderators.
    I hope I haven’t upset you with my comments. I apologise if I have.

    • @ben simpson – Thanks for the comment. No, you haven’t upset me at all. Good and thoughtful debate and discussion are always welcome — it is a productive way to learn. The point of the article was aimed at unproductive rants, comments, and childish behavior in online forums. This type of behavior usually helps no one and has no benefits. It is unfortunate, but there are those who choose to conduct themselves in such a manner and therefore are moderated. Some of this comes back to motivation. Why is a person behaving a certain way? To help or harm? Many forums have a policy of conduct and have set an expectation as to the behavior they expect from users of the forum. As such they can choose to moderate users. It’s their forum.
      An analogy that comes to mind is visitors to my home. If you come in and start bad mouthing my family I’ll at first ask you to refrain. If you persist, I’ll ask you to leave. I am the Moderator of my “home” and you can either have a fun and productive time or go to another “house.”
      Any other thoughts?
      -eb

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