As we have an active member of the community who claims to be an expert on the subject, I hope our fellow mutants will take this opportunity to view this talk:

And hopefully @codinghorror will engage with his thoughts when there are questions.

Let’s make this a meaningful discussion utilizing a resource.


Hmm, I think this one might be more relevant


I was just about to chime in with “what problem are we trying to solve?”



I sincerely hope this can be a constructive exercise.


It’d be a bit more concrete to anchor the discussion on “what problems do we regularly have here, that we can potentially fix?”

Because not all problems are … fixable.


How about “what is a problem?” Also, “what is a community?” I mean, it’s clear that the people who run the space and the people who formed the community for the longest time have a major difference of opinion on the latter.

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Juat to be clear:

If this is a topic on general community building, have at at!

If this is a topic to specifically discuss this community, specifically moderation decisions, there is a topic for that already.


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Wherein one may or may not be permitted to discuss that very goddamned topic…


That’s not true at all. If you want to discuss community policies, I’m happy to do so, as well as my own moderation decisions. I’m absolutely not going to shut down that conversation. But I’m also not going to also have that conversation here.


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Agreed. For example, I’ve seen the following non-trivial problems in a few communities over the years:

  1. Site owners who, due to their own inexperience with moderation and posting as public figures and due to the pressures of running the financial and business operations aspects of the site, sometimes fall into the trap of resenting constructive user input and becoming needlessly thin-skinned and disrespectful. In my past experience observing the problem these were one- or two-person sites where the owners didn’t have experienced colleagues and a literature of community-building practises to draw upon, so perhaps this is somewhat fixable when staff works together.

  2. Trolls who are clever or lucky enough to stay within official rules but still constantly post bad-faith, disrespectful, and/or attention-seeking comments that tend to derail discussions. This is not as fixable, especially in a forum that promotes open discourse and a diversity of opinion. However, there are ways – technical, human (both staff and trusted community members), and analytic combinations of the preceding – to mitigate the problem and identify consistently bad actors.


Hey, you didn’t want us to talk about what folks want out of a community on that topic, so someone opened a topic on community, which was ruled as trolling. So now we’re having a discussion about what we want out of community here in this thread. Because it’s a major issue and “moderating decisions” are just a symptom of an underlying problem, IMO.

I think a lot of people spent weeks of time and effort building, then trying to preserve something that you all who manage the site didn’t want. That’s a waste of time all around. Aside from the obvious fact that you can’t fully determine the shape or nature of a community of disparate individuals, to what extent can moderation, etc shape the community and is it really acceptable to antagonize and hurt the individuals comprising the existing community to achieve what you want, knowing that no matter what, you can’t really control how things are going to turn out?


The intent was to open up a conversation about this community, it is what we have in common.

I do not think specific moderation decisions are a helpful, or even safe thing, to discuss here.

I reminder to all, let’s be aware of our state of mind and try to use more neutral language.


From my participation (and frequent moderation) in BBSes in the 80s to eWorld and AOL chat rooms in the mid 90s, to IRC rooms of the early aughts, to popular comment boards, Digg, Reddit, and all 3 (4?) iterations of BB comment boards, there are a few consistent things that IMHO drive a real sense of community.

  1. As antithetical as it sounds, the hivemind is generally what attracts people to a board. From Kuro5hin to SomethingAwful, a vast amount of the community had a similar point of view. But the loyal opposition has a solid presence, which when they argue with cogent points is tolerated, if not encouraged. Otherwise, the community sees it as trolling, regardless of the intent.

  2. Regulars make the community. People get attached to the avatar+name+attitude, not necessarily anything else, and seeing the same folks day in, day out provides a sense of continuity. Do you remember the previous iteration of BB comments that allowed anonymous posts? It did not drive community and led to seemingly much more frequent TNH disemvoweling.

  3. Like it or not, the moderators are part of the community. Moderators that engage regularly (thanks, @orenwolf, @falcor, @Antinous, etc) build that community much faster, and are seen by members as contributing to the community’s well-being. If moderators only swoop in, moderate, and do not engage further (or engage in a negative manner), they’re seen as authoritarian and disliked, and that will be perceived by the community as an attempt to ruin the experience.

@codinghorror: do you have statistics for this particular site for busiest days of new registrations and also for account deletions? It would be interesting to correlate key events to mass migrations.

  1. Trust is important. Be it newbies, lurkers, infrequent commenters, moderators, site owners, or regulars, we all operate on the trust that everyone wants to make the community better. When that trust is broken, the community will disappear.

Concur! You could also make a pretty good case for

  • some of the moderators should be elected by and from the community, when and if possible

  • “one degree of separation” between site owners and site moderators for better objectivity

  • multiple moderators making decisions together, insofar as it is possible, to avoid suboptimal one-person snap decisions… this kind of mod diversity also allows a mod to recuse him/herself if the subject involves them

Not arguing for 8+ mods, that would be cacophonous, a number like 3 seems excellent to me. Really any number > 1 is good.


Should the site owners be moderators then? I’m of the opinion that they should have the right to run their forums like little despots if they want, but if they want a vibrant community, they probably shouldn’t… at the very least, they should have to switch out to a moderator account to exercise their admin rights (sort of like how they do it in Reddit).


All really good points. Regarding point #1, sometimes the most active users are of a different mindset than the majority of readers/participants. This can be good/bad at the same time but makes things harder for moderators.

Now there is something that this community would benefit from.


The thing is you don’t know until after the fact if a single moderator taking action is good or bad. Sometimes you don’t find out for quite a while and sometimes what in the immediate time following what looks “bad” turns out to be “good”. That combined with the fact that sometimes you just can’t convene a team meeting to review a particular situation.

Don’t know what that has to do with what I said. I’m agreeing with the community expert, and valdidating that his opinion and mine on that point line up. I don’t claim to know what is best. I do intend to listen to codinghorror and not be flip.

Perhaps you made a snap decision about what I meant?

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