Some guidelines about current moderation. I’m writing this from my perspective as a moderator on The Standard. Other moderators may take a different approach, but I think what I am about to say is a reasonable guide for how we manage to keep the commentariat focused on robust debate.
The first rule of moderation
Don’t waste moderator time. Whatever sympathy we might have for your position or situation, it will evaporate quickly once our time starts getting sucked up unnecessarily. I cannot overemphasis this point: a large part of moderation happens because of wasting the time of people who volunteer to keep the commentariat on The Standard in good working order.
If you get moderated, stop and listen to and think about what the moderator is saying. If they don’t make sense or you don’t understand, then ask. Take a break if you need to, then come back.
It also pays to read the moderations of other people, because this is the best way to learn and understand how moderation works here.
Wasting moderator time is things like arguing against the moderation, hassling or attacking the moderator, and not providing evidence or explanation when requested.
Moderation is a range of things,
Things you will get moderated for,
Things you may get moderated for,
Moderators mostly put moderation notes in your comment, in bold. eg,
[please stop attacking other commenters – weka]
We then reply to your comment saying something like “mod note for you”. There is an expectation that you will read comments to you from moderators (that is all the authors on the site). You can see replies to you in the Replies tab on a lap/desktop, or in the desktop version on a mobile device (ask if you don’t know how to find this).
Sometimes we write a mod note in a reply instead, bolded or unbolded. Because moderators also take part in debates here, at times it can be unclear if a comment is a moderation or not. I try and put “moderation note” or similar at the start of the comment. If you are unsure, ask. Asking without snark or aggro will go a lot further.
Moderators tend to take a dim view of people that simply don’t respond and turn up a week later as if nothing has happened.
We keep notes in the back end of most moderations, so we can see patterns of behaviour. Patterns of behaviour that disrupt the commentariat or waste moderator time are the main reason why people here get banned.
There are two issues with moderation currently, these easily take the most of my moderation time: linking when quoting, and providing evidence when asked by a moderator. It’s particularly irksome that it is regulars who are causing these problems.
Linking when quoting
Any time (seriously, every single time), you copy and paste a quote you have to provide a link to where you copied it from. Every time.
It doesn’t matter if the link is paywalled, or you are on a phone, or whatever other reason you have, you still have to link. If you don’t know how to link, please ask.
If you are copypasting from something not online, like an email or book, then please provide a reference eg Labour Party email to members 27/6/23
If you don’t link, you risk the copypasta, or even the whole comment, being deleted (depending on how much time moderators have and whether it’s an ongoing problem. Newbies get an explanation, repeat offenders get their comments deleted).
The site Policy says this,
We encourage robust debate and we’re tolerant of dissenting views. But this site run for reasonably rational debate between dissenting viewpoints and we intend to keep it operating that way.
What we’re not prepared to accept are pointless personal attacks, or tone or language that has the effect of excluding others. We are intolerant of people starting or continuing flamewars where there is little discussion or debate. This includes making assertions that you are unable to substantiate with some proof (and that doesn’t mean endless links to unsubstantial authorities) or even argue when requested to do so. Such comments may be deleted without warning or one of the alternatives below may be employed. The action taken is completely up to the moderator who takes it.
The bit that I’ve bolded is particularly important. There’s a concerning tendency at the moment, especially on controversial topics, to make declarations of fact that contain exaggerations. All sides of various debates are doing this.
I’m asking the commentariat, especially the regular Standaristas who maintain the standard of debate here, to stop and think this through. We live in an age of increasing disinformation, from all sorts of sources. At The Standard, we hold a strong ethic of robust debate and key to that is that the information we share here has to be evidence based. If we don’t hold this standard, then the site will degenerate into social media reckons and divided, entrenched positions. The Standard is one the few places online now where we control for this.
We don’t generally expect people to provide evidence every single time they say something, some things are well known and don’t need backing up. But you do have to provide evidence when asked (see policy quote above).
Providing evidence needs to be in a way that is easily accessible to authors, moderators, readers and commenters. These are the guidelines I currently use and expect people to meet,
To be really clear here, a link on its own is insufficient. Moderators don’t want to have to read a whole article to try and parse your argument or what you consider to be evidence for it. Readers generally don’t want to either. The onus is on the person making the claim to provide the evidence easily visible, readable and understandable in a comment.
If using video/audio as evidence, please provide the link and a time stamp to the relevant bits, as well as your explanation.
If you can’t provide that, or you have made a mistake, then just acknowledge that and withdraw the claim of fact.
Commenter: the Greens have said they will never support National into government
Moderator: can you please provide evidence for that?
Commenter: This post in 2016 explains how the party chooses who it will be in government with. This position has been consistent within the party since then,
Both James Shaw and the rest of the Green Party itself have repeatedly stated that they will not form a government with National. The membership developed the current position of the party in 2011 (there is a more recent one that is worded slightly differently).
Moderators try to be fair. Sometimes we go out of our way to help a commenter meet moderator requests. But there are limits and ultimately the first rule of moderation is about moderator time. I give clear explanations of what is expected and I’m always open to requests for clarification.
At the moment I am spending more time on moderation than I am on writing posts. My patience for that is fast running out. The closer we get to the election, the more posts will take a priority.
I hope this post will help people understand what we do and why we do it this way. Thoughtful and respectful commentary, feedback and questions are welcome below.