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A Bit About How (my) Moderation Works (at present)

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 pm, November 29th, 2020 - 26 comments
Categories: The Standard - Tags:

This Post should be read in conjunction with weka’s recent abundantly clear and highly informative one A bit about how The Standard works, this site’s Policy, and ideally also the site’s About.

Two things irk me more than anything as Moderator when commenters respond to a Moderation note of mine:

    1. moderation is personal
    2. moderation is because I disagree

It irks even more when I get these kinds of pathetic responses from commenters whom I moderate because they don’t read OPs and/or comments well and (thus) because they don’t respond to or address what was written. This does not make for good discourse and wastes everybody’s time.

Moderation is not personal. In fact, Moderators often moderate to make comments less personal – play the ball, not the man and don’t shoot the messenger.

Personally, I don’t know anyone on this site in a personal fashion.

There are currently only two main Moderators on this site. Of course, there are others who moderate less frequently because they are busy doing other things, here and (mostly) elsewhere, and seem happy to leave it to weka and me. Moderation is time-and energy-consuming.

Moderators tend to moderate differently and rarely do two Moderators moderate the same comment/commenter; there is a natural division of labour, which saves time and energy.

It is therefore not surprising that a recidivist offender receives several warnings and/or Moderation notes from just one Moderator, e.g. from me. This does not make it personal; it is the way things work on this site, at present. With Moderators coming and going, and being more or less active or inactive, in different times such as Election periods, and with different levels of Moderator exasperation, Moderation does change. Moderators are people with (busy) lives, as are Authors and the SYSOP, and they have better things to do than patrolling and policing the ‘pre-school sandpit’ that some commenters here seem to have or prefer as natural habitat.

Moderation is to enable and encourage (and sometimes, to initiate) robust debate. We highly value differences of opinion. However, when (strong) opinions are not well argued or not argued at all, the discussion thread will not be a good one, in most cases. When a commenter displays poor behaviour, e.g. weak or no arguments, not listening to others and mis-reading OPs and/or comments, simply parroting the same thing (i.e. doubling down or digging in), et cetera, they can expect a note from me. Ignorance is no excuse, but being wrong is ok as long as you are willing to acknowledge and address/correct it, if applicable, especially when asked by another commenter in the discussion thread, which is often a trigger warning for a Moderator. It does not really matter whether this behaviour occurs under an OP or in OM, the same rules apply, more or less, although each Author can moderate their own posts as they see fit and some write a special ‘disclaimer’ at the bottom of their posts to guide commenters.

Some recipients of a Moderator note take it as intended, i.e. as a warning and/or a request to do better or take corrective action, but others, unfortunately, take it personally and claim that because I disagree, I pick on them, (and) because it is my “prerogative”, i.e. because I can without accountability or (negative) consequences (NB this assumption is incorrect as some previous Moderators of this site have found out). Without exception, they choose to miss and/or ignore the points of the Moderation note. Such pattern behaviour usually leads to a ban.

HT to joe90

 

What about bias? Bias is often intertwined with personal and disagreement. This is another one Moderators are frequently accused of. It is undeniable that there is an element of bias in Moderation, but not necessarily in the way some seem to think. As said by weka in her Post, moderation takes considerable effort. I make a considered effort to eliminate as much bias as is practical without turning Moderation into a limp slap around the ears with a wet bus ticket, i.e. utterly ineffective.

Everybody who supports the running of this site is a volunteer. None is High Court Judge, for example, and we all make mistakes, correct them when/where we can, and apologise – be the change you want to see. This site is free for everyone to comment and even submit Guest Posts. If you don’t like moderation you are free to leave and go elsewhere or start your own blog site.

Unfortunately, some who are banned here, temporarily or permanently, feel the need to spew their bile about their ‘unjust and unfair treatment’ on other NZ political blog sites and they can get very personal towards TS Moderators in their rants. It is obvious that their sense of entitlement and hurt ego skews their perspective, which comes through in their comments that resulted in the ban in the first place.

As an aside, I feel more often biased against (!) comments from ‘Lefties’ here and not just because of the fact that on this left-leaning blog there are many more than from other ‘ideologues’. Anyway, when you ‘needle’ me enough I will oblige and reciprocate. This does not mean the initial Moderation note was biased but it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that I cannot easily avoid without turning into a timid tosser instead of an effective Moderator.

I hope this short post helps to dispel some of the misconceptions about my moderation in particular. As such, I hope it will help to make this site an even better one, with the help of a high-quality commentariat.

Disclaimer 1: If anything of the above feels like it is about you personally, you are probably correct, because I used it as an example, and yet you are wrong, because it is not personal. Please do not go down that path. Please feel free to ask questions but do not take this as an invitation to tell us what to do here or to litigate previous moderation because that will remove any doubt that you have not read the above links and not understood this post, in which case it might be better you say nothing until you are ready and willing to contribute here in good faith. When in doubt, ask. Thank you in advance.

Disclaimer 2: To be 100% clear, this Post is entirely my personal views on The Standard and my moderation.

26 comments on “A Bit About How (my) Moderation Works (at present) ”

  1. Drowsy M. Kram 1

    Moderating comments and commenting behaviour must be a time-consuming, thankless task. Kudos to 'The Standard' moderators (and authors) for their deft efforts to encourage (and inform) good faith discussion and debate.

  2. ianmac 2

    Thankyou Moderators. This site has a great balance and the extremes of opinion are kept away from my frail mind. So Ta for that.

  3. Shanreagh 3

    I am all for moderation and the moderation concept. It works well and the moderation over the time of the election period was very professional.

    What I don't get, and do not like, is the repeating of pejorative words that may have been used by a poster, in the moderation response……eg yesterday we had the ghastly 'bleating' and today we have 'pathetic'. These are unnecessary and read as 'personal' even though they were possibly meant to apply to the argument giving the benefit of the doubt.

    To deliver a robust and less snaky response a bit of advice is to remove the adjectives or, at least, carefully review them for 'tone' from a moderation response.

    Believe it or not the moderation note will read much stronger, measured, believable and more authoritative as readers pick up on the fact that neither pejorative adjectives nor bad language has been used.

    Possibly I am a minority of one but I did not see the need for the tone of the moderation on the exchange yesterday and if it was needed it should have started with whoever first used the word 'bleating'.

    One point though that I find disconcerting is that a Moderator, while on duty, may then come onto the board as a poster and come close to, in my view needing moderation themselves. The case in point was the discussion on crime and police discretion where I was not given the benefit of the doubt by the Moderator cum poster about my inability to open some tables. It was only when another poster mentioned that they too were unable to open the same tables that mention was made that this was happening.

    Is there any benefit in on duty moderators not participating in threads personally while on duty? Ot, who moderates the moderators when they are commenting in a thread they are also moderating in.

    • weka 3.1

      There's usually a reason why moderators get pointed, snippy or rude, and sometimes that's not visible to commenters. Eg maybe there is a history that you're not aware of, or the moderator has been moderating for decades and likes to cut things off promptly.

      There's a line here in terms of not telling moderators how to moderate. It's useful to read the Policy on this and how it is likely to be received.

      Personally I have no problem with moderators taking part in conversations. Some handle that better than others, but the main point is that we're giving up our time here, and it's not reasonable to expect us to give up our participation in discussions as well.

      Without a link it's very hard to know what you are referring to re the tables.

      • Shanreagh 3.1.1

        There's a line here in terms of not telling moderators how to moderate. It's useful to read the Policy on this and how it is likely to be received.

        I am not 'telling' moderators how to moderate. I am making suggestions. An enlightened CE I worked for said 'unsolicited comments from people on how to make our business better are like gold and should be treated as such'.

        I have read the Policy.

        1 Perhaps it is a high expectation but my expectation is that we should always be aiming to do better. Otherwise we perpetuate the truism about doing the same things and expecting changes to happen. Clean, un snippy and matter of fact moderating that does not include adjectives that could be construed as personal, goes a long way to winning a 'naughty' poster to your point of view and educating the rest of us.

        2 Posters value being able to post so by delivering what, I class, as poor moderation and then using this moderation in a tally sheet of whether a poster should be suspended or banned completely to me is not fair. When we deny privileges to someone even if if is in a semi private situation as we have may taken away a freedom to speak. It behooves us to be clear and clean in what and how we moderate.

        3 I am hoping that comments are welcome. If comments are not welcome then the post should have been closed for comments.

        Personally I have no problem with moderators taking part in conversations. Some handle that better than others, but the main point is that we're giving up our time here, and it's not reasonable to expect us to give up our participation in discussions as well.

        I agree with that but the query remains as to how moderators when participating as posters are then moderated?

        • RedLogix 3.1.1.1

          I agree with that but the query remains as to how moderators when participating as posters are then moderated?

          The short answer is that it's damn near impossible to pull off seamlessly. The most challenging scenario encountered is a thread that you're taking part in, suddenly goes south. If you step in at that point it's almost always perceived as an abuse of power. The alternative is to let the issue go and hope some other moderator picks it up. (And just in case you were wondering, collusion on this in the back end was rare in my experience.)

          At the same time I strongly agree with incognito that asking moderators to never participate (which would be the only certain way to prevent this problem) is also unreasonable.

          In the long run I think the compromise we have at the moment is working. Both primary moderators have strong experience at this now and in my view are doing a good job on the whole. Better I have to admit, than I ever managed. If a moderator earns respect for being even handed and fair most of the time, then it's up to the community to back them when necessary.

          At the same time if someone challenges a decision or general approach respectfully, and backs themselves with a decent argument, this should be at the very least listened to without the implicit threat of being silenced simply for having the temerity to speak their mind.

        • weka 3.1.1.2

          Usually, but not always, gets dealt with in the back end.

          The point about the line between telling us how to run the site vs suggestions is that the line is determined by mods and the Sysop, not commenters 🙂 Commenters arguing about that line suggest they think they know better.

          • Shanreagh 3.1.1.2.1

            The point about the line between telling us how to run the site vs suggestions is that the line is determined by mods and the Sysop, not commenters. Commenters arguing about that line suggest they think they know better.

            Right got it. I'm off this topic. This is what I mean by coming close to a moderation note.

            If comments were not expected then the posting by Incognito should have been closed ie for info only and comments not allowed.

            • weka 3.1.1.2.1.1

              Actually I think you should pay attention to what I am saying. Because as a moderator I can tell you that a) comments are welcome in this post and b) we, the moderators, get to set where the line is on what kind of comments are welcome (commenters don't get to set that line). Those two things aren't incompatible if you follow the lead from the mods.

              This is a core part of moderation on TS, pay attention to the boundaries we are setting and you will be fine. Arguing with us about it is what causes problems. If you can't comment without arguing then I agree you should probably stop commenting.

              • Shanreagh

                Arguing with us about it is what causes problems. If you can't comment without arguing then I agree you should probably stop commenting.

                Despite what you are saying, comments & suggestions are not welcome otherwise there would possibly have been a discussion about the points I had made about moderation being stronger (therefore more acceptable) by removing emotive words. I would not have been told:

                The point about the line between telling us how to run the site vs suggestions is that the line is determined by mods and the Sysop, not commenters Commenters arguing about that line suggest they think they know better.

                The reason I made the comment about not posting further is because of the futility of trying to put forward a view and having it discussed without replies being about The Rules, my place as a 'commenter' etc. I am NOT leaving this discussion because I cannot draw a line between commenting and arguing. That line has NOT been crossed in my posts.

                If TS is/was not prepared to accept/welcome/discuss comments or views, on moderation whether or not they accord with current practice, then do not open a post on Moderation to comments. This could have been done from the start. Simple.

                I am quite happy having all my comments on this thread taken down if that would help reinforce that a discussion and comments on the ABCs of TS Moderation practice is not expected as a follow-on from Incognito's opening piece.

                Cheers and
                I am watching the door and it is not about to bang me on the way out!

                • weka

                  I was a commenter here for maybe five years before I became an author and then moderator. During those five years I routinely engaged in conversation and debate on TS about moderation without getting moderated. Including with authors who had a short tolerance for being told how to moderate or what to do. I'm guessing the reason I was able to do that is I could read the room. I could tell if a moderator was setting a boundary, I was generally respectful, and I accepted that the moderators have not just the authority by dint of the tech, but the moral right to say what happens here because they are the ones who volunteer to provide this space for us to debate in.

                  I put a fair amount of time now into explaining how moderation works and why. Incognito does as well. Lprent at times too. I welcome people engaging with those explanations, and there is still a boundary where we get to have some control over what happens (often depending on whether a moderation is 'live' or not).

                  "If TS is/was not prepared to accept/welcome/discuss comments or views, on moderation whether or not they accord with current practice, then do not open a post on Moderation to comments. This could have been done from the start. Simple."

                  That isn't a suggestion, it's clearly telling us how to run the site. All that I'm doing is explaining repeatedly why it's a problem to talk about moderation like that here on TS. I don't need to moderate you in this thread, no idea what Incog will make of this conversation when they catch up with it, but you can't say you weren't warned.

                  I get that the left is endowed with a lot of anti-authoritarian types, I include myself in that. But in the end I also have learned that 'my blog, my rules' is a really good way to run spaces where labour is a limited resource and that if I really want to take part in a particular space then respecting the kaupapa works way better than acting as if I get to say how things should be done. As should have been obvious from the other thread, there is so much that commenters just don't see.

  4. weka 4

    darklol the idea that there are no consequences or accountability for moderators. Some of it is even visible on the front end.

    • Shanreagh 4.1

      I am sorry I do not really know what you are meaning here and it starts with 'darklol'. I have looked this up online and see that one meaning is 'you see something funny on the newsfeed but cannot share because it will expose your dark side'. I have not seen a moderators comment removed or amended but take your meaning that sometimes this happens and is visible on the front end.

      Not commenting anymore on this issue as I sense I am coming perilously close to being moderated for something. My comments are well meant and aimed at making this a better place……

      • weka 4.1.1

        I'm not seeing anything that needs moderating.

        Darklol here means I am laughing grimly at an idea that is not true. There have definitely been consequences for individual moderators of various kinds. Some of those are visible in the front end, some aren't. The point being that commenters who believe that there are no consequences are just wrong.

        • Shanreagh 4.1.1.1

          The point being that commenters who believe that there are no consequences are just wrong.

          I have not mentioned consequences for moderators. I support the moderation function. I trust that the organisation will support moderators who are exercising this function for the organisation.

          It is the nexus between a moderator moderating and then the same moderator posting as an individual that goes 'off' a bit. Are you saying that sometimes this has been picked up, perhaps by another moderator? If so that is reassuring.

          • weka 4.1.1.1.1

            generally moderators are left to their own devices until it becomes a problem for the site. Sometimes it is mentioned in the back end. Very occassionally it becomes a big enough issue that there is serious discussion. Often the community sorts it out tbh.

            When I was a commenter I didn't find it that hard to deal with moderators who I disagreed with on moderation or how they were managing modding a thread they were participating in. Stopping replying to them is an effective and underrated strategy. Changing how I engage works well too. Finding other threads/topics to get involved in. Stepping away for a while if I am taking things personally. Self-preservation when I'm up against a moderation edge*. Bearing in mind that I've been neck deep in some of the most controversial and inflammed debates on site. So it is possible.

            *I just assume now when people poke at moderators deliberately they are ok with being banned, but self-control is a learned skill I guess.

            • weka 4.1.1.1.1.1

              obviously I'm talking generalities, I still have no idea what you are referring to specifically.

              • Shanreagh

                What I am talking about and have been hoping to get some discussion on are the ideas I had in post 3.

                To deliver a robust and less snaky response a bit of advice is to remove the adjectives or, at least, carefully review them for 'tone' from a moderation response.

                Believe it or not the moderation note will read much stronger, measured, believable and more authoritative as readers pick up on the fact that neither pejorative adjectives nor bad language has been used.

                Possibly I am a minority of one but I did not see the need for the tone of the moderation on the exchange yesterday (NB Sunday) and if it was needed it should have started with whoever first used the word 'bleating'.

                Just putting some suggestions forward that possibly would/could ultimately make the moderating role easier and more understood by onlookers/participators/commenters. It is not a poke at moderators or trying to argue or break the rules or tell anyone what to do.

  5. greywarshark 5

    One sentence can be Big Medicine! When someone just hits a sensitive button or is droning on:

    Stopping replying to them is an effective and underrated strategy.

    And I love the Bear. He has a good attitude that Fozzie, tries hard.
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG2SpRq1EWo

  6. Shanreagh 6

    Please remove my posts from this thread. Thanks

  7. peter lepaysan 7

    I completely respect the mana of the moderators, (I lack ,their patience and moderation

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