Ustream chat room moderation

This is just a heads up. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I kind of hate the chat room environment on Ustream. Ever since we’ve started there, we’ve gotten hundreds of people watching each show live. It’s often kind of a free-for-all of random stream of consciousness babbling, profanity, trash talking, and the kind of explicit sexual comments that are unlikely to leave a good impression on casual viewers.

Up until recently we’ve fielded email complaints about this by stating that the chat room is a free speech forum and we don’t have any responsibility for what people say. The upside of this approach is that nobody has to do any work. The downside is that, well, it remains an incredibly hostile place for new viewers.

So we’ve been experimentally moderating the chat room. I’ve done this a couple of times myself, on weeks when I’m not on the show just log in, and kick out people who are being disruptive. Several other regulars have also been in on the act.

Moderation is necessarily a subjective judgment call, especially in the situation where lines of text are being fired off so fast that they scroll off the screen within about ten seconds. As a result, it’s inevitable that people who get kicked off for (for example) using “gay” as a swear word, or using language that would probably be used freely (but sparingly) on The Non-Prophets, or being one voice in a dozen people who are participating in a hilarious conversation about rape, will think they have been treated unfairly. If you get kicked for deliberately insulting a moderator, probably even more so.

My message to those people is: tough luck. The chat room is a privilege, not your graffiti wall. If you’re a regular it’s very unlikely you will be kicked, but Phil Plait’s often maligned advice, “Don’t be a dick,” very much does apply here. If you’ve been kicked, you are welcome to keep watching the show without chat. If you decide that you refuse to watch the show anymore as a result of having been kicked, well you know… don’t let the door hit ya, etc.

I’m confident that the chat room can become a friendlier place over time, but for now the phase one solution is that people will be watching and wielding the big stick to keep the annoyances out.

[Edit: Changed the post to say “Ustream” instead of “blip.tv”, as I had the archive site and the live streaming site mixed up.]