I have a panel coming up at SkepchickCon/CONvergence talking about dealing with trolls online. Last week, I asked people to tell me what defines a troll. Commenters were pretty consistent in their baseline views, both among themselves and with the definition I use and have seen elsewhere.
This week, I’m collecting resources on moderation. What follows are a few of my go-to resources. Please add good ones I’ve missed in the comments.
If there is hope, it dies with the trolls
Chris Clarke on why comment moderation is important.
As with so many other externalized evils in this world, the people most likely to be harmed by an act of bad faith are the ones saddled with the task of minimizing the effects of that bad faith act. Who is most likely to be harmed by a comment such as the one I deleted from the spam queue last night? Well, Muslims, for starters, and people whose loves include Muslims, and people longing for justice and a cessation of racism. And there are those who find unpleasant the pissing matches that usually arise from such posts. And those who prefer not to comment when the response might be a nasty slam made in bad faith. And those of us who may not mind the provocateurs, but who would benefit from hearing the points of view of those remaining silent.
Freethought, and freedom to express yourself on someone else’s private property
Jason Thibeault on the idea that moderation stifles dissent.
The funny thing about this is, we also have a lot of disagreement in almost every one of those areas. We have libertarians and woo-peddlers and antifeminists who still call themselves atheists and humanists, and actively confront what they find to be contentious on our blogs. And we have a vested interest in driving discussion about each and every one of these beliefs that each individual blogger happens to have, but in many cases, a point is argued to death by abusive people who derail conversations into unrelated matters, who spam with the same nonsense over and over again, who frequently contribute nothing to the discussion but acrimony, and whose voices must be curtailed lest the signal-to-noise ratio completely bottoms out.
Moderation, community, and rules I’ve added since 2005
Teresa Nielsen Hayden with guidelines for moderators. (Note: I don’t follow all of these because I’m looking for a slightly different kind of community than Making Light has, but they’re all at least worth thinking about.)
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. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting your front yard to automatically turn itself into a garden.
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.
6. Civil speech and impassioned speech are not opposed and mutually exclusive sets. Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness.
More posts from Teresa here.
A 5-minute framework for fostering better conversations in comments sections
Matt Thompson presents the secrets to Metafilter’s success in keeping discussions on track.
Don’t blame (or credit) “The Internet.” It’s your community that matters. For some reason, while it’s easy for us to understand the dynamics of different places and people in the offline world, we still talk about the online world as one undifferentiated blob. When referring to the offline world, we talk about “bad neighborhoods” and “angry mobs” and “obnoxious loudmouths.”
But every conversation about bad online discussions seems to ascribe the failure to “the Internet” rather than a specific online space, although the particular dynamics of a place matter online as much as they do offline. NPR.org, like many websites, encompasses many different community spaces; some feel friendly and personal, others feel like a muddle of passing strangers.
So what else should people know about moderation?