Moderation?

Natalie K. Björklund umbjork1 at cc.UManitoba.CA
Thu Jun 12 18:17:22 EST 1997


>To: yeast at net.bio.net
>From: binkley at genome.stanford.edu (Jon Binkley)
>Subject: Moderation?
>Date: 11 Jun 1997 15:25:31 GMT
>NNTP-Posting-Host: genome.stanford.edu
>
>
>Would the proposed moderators simply cut out the offensive dreck,
>Spam, pyramid schemes, and chain letters, or would they cut out the
>vaguely yeast-related dreck as well?
>
>Would they tell the kids asking us to write their lab reports
>for them to go to the library and do their own research?
>
>Would they tell the people seeking quick remedies for Candida
>infections to see a medical doctor?
>
>Would they tell salesmen hawking dissecting microscopes, zymolyase,
>or two-hybrid-system kits to go jump in the nearest lake?
>
>This extra work would be a Good Thing, in my opinion, but it
>would be extra work and would require some possibly controversial
>judgement calls.
>

I am not a regular reader of this group but I was asked to comment on the
moderation process by someone else who sent me a copy of the post above.
Speaking as a moderator of a nonscience group, may I make a few suggestions
based on my own experience as a moderator?

Moderation works best when, _BEFORE_ the moderation actually begins, you
get the new moderators to write a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
outlining exactly what they want to eliminate and how they plan to define
an unacceptable post.  After a couple of weeks of discussion of the FAQ
itself and modifications to it that reflect the opinion/general consensus
of the group where neccesary, the FAQ becomes like the group's
constitution. From that point forward, the group has to trust the
moderators to do a good job.

If the moderators are getting a lot of well meaning but off-topic postings,
then it is worthwhile to post the FAQ on the group about once or twice a
month to help people understand what is and is not appropriate. Spammers
never read FAQs so it won't help with those *%#^@&! Most other folks,
especially anyone newsgroup savy will before posting.

You can include in the FAQ the standard answers to things like the question
on Candida infections and science fair projects. Alternatively, or in
addition to the FAQ, you can have someone prepare a separate "Advice on
XXX" that includes all the standard information you might send to any kid
asking about his science fair project. (We don't really want to discourage
the kids do we?) Is there a question about culturing yeast or getting into
a genome bank or some such thing that comes up again and again and again?
Someone might want to prepare an "Advice on" series for those on topic but
repeat questions. This can be posted once a month or so by the moderator,
the writer, or by another volunteer. It means a little extra clutter for
the regular readers, but a lot less than in an unmoderated group. Such
information is really appreciated by new comers

As for ads, it might be worthwhile collecting all the ads that are
appropriate for the readers of the group but you really don't want
cluttering things into one message that is put out once a month so you can
get the information if you want it. Legitimate advertisers will cooperate
eagerly with such a format and one of them might even volunteer to prepare
the monthly ad message.

It is also really nice for a moderator to have five or six volunteers to
whom they can feel free to send an article to if they are unsure about
admitting it. On our nonscience group we have a formal five person "Board
of Appeal" so that if a writer feels their work was unfairly excluded, they
can send it directly to the board for a review of the moderator's decision.
The appeal process is strictly formalised with a regular posting of the
appeal process and how to invoke it. Our group is a "fan writer" group
designed to exclude the adult/pornographic material that is rampant on the
other fan writer newsgroups. Decisions about what is and is not suitable
for younger teens and older children is often a hotly contested matter. I
hardly think that a formal "Board of Appeal" would be neccesary on this
type of group. Perhaps just a group of five to seven volunteer
"consultants" to whom the moderator can turn if needed.

Not everyone will be happy with all decisions of course (especially the
spammers) but with a well designed FAQ, the majority of the users will be.
Also by having a well defined FAQ prepared in advance, the moderators don't
have to explain over and over again why a post was rejected. They simply
mail the postee a copy of the FAQ if they ask.

All of these things should be decided by discussing all of them publically
on the group. The questions in the post I am responding to are an excellent
place to start the discussion with. Finally, remember that it's your group,
so it will be as useful as you make it.

If anyone would like to see a sample FAQ or wishes additional information
on being a moderator, feel free to send me a message.

Natalie (Speaking with both hats on now.)

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Natalie K. Bjorklund, (Umlaut on the "o" where possible, please.)
Grad. Student, Dept. Human Genetics, U Of Manitoba
T042, 770 Bannatyne Ave, Winnipeg, Man., Can., R3E 0W3
Ph: (204) 789-3828,  Fax: (204) 786-8712 <umbjork1 at CC.UManitoba.ca>
Moderator #3: alt.startrek.creative.all-ages
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