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January 29, 2005

Moderating Online Conversations

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog: Some Things Teresa Nielsen Hayden Knows About Moderating Conversations in Virtual Space: There appear to be thirteen of them:

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....

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.

7. Things to cherish: Your regulars. A sense of community. Real expertise. Genuine engagement with the subject under discussion. Outstanding performances. Helping others. Cooperation in maintenance of a good conversation. Taking the time to teach newbies the ropes. All these things should be rewarded with your attention and praise. And if you get a particularly good comment, consider adding it to the original post.

8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they’re valuable the rest of the time.

9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it... as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things....

10. Another important rule... the minute you get two or more [jerks] egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them....

11. You can’t automate intelligence. In theory, systems like Slashdot’s ought to work better than they do. Maintaining a conversation is a task for human beings.

12. Disemvowelling works. Consider it.

13. If someone you’ve disemvowelled comes back and behaves, forgive and forget their earlier gaffes. You’re acting in the service of civility, not abstract justice.

Posted by DeLong at January 29, 2005 11:35 AM