My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

BoingBoing makes moderation policies fun

Anyone writing a moderation policy for a news website - and there must be a few of you doing just that at the moment - might want to check out BoingBoing moderator Teresa Neilsen Hayden's Q&A on their moderation policy.

Moderation is the business of checking comments submitted by website users to make sure they're not defamatory, inciting hatred or racism, off topic or obscene. It's increasingly going to become part of everyday life in newsrooms as websites expand and community content - comments, user stories, images, blogs and so on - is beefed up.

The BoingBoing moderators' Q&A strikes me as a great example of writing clear guidelines in a way that works for your audience - light years ahead of those nasty legalese Terms and Conditions that some news sites are still using.

Not only did it make me laugh (always welcome on a Wednesday afternoon) but it taught me a lot without making it feel like I was learning anything.

Favourite new word: disemvowelling.

Q. All the vowels have disappeared from a paragraph I wrote! What's going on?

A. We did it. Someone (a moderator, one of the Boingers) was expressing displeasure at your remarks. The technique is called disemvowelling. It deprecates but does not delete the remark. With work, the disemvowelled text should still be readable.

Favourite quote of the day:
"Life is an unending series of auditions. Get used to it."
On why moderators are necessary:

Q. Why does Boing Boing have to have a moderator?

A. First answer: Because every general-interest online forum that's worth reading has some kind of moderation system in force.

Second answer: Because four years ago, Boing Boing's first, unmoderated comment system went so septic that it had to be shut down. The Boingers want to never go through that again.

On courtesy:

Q. I thought I was being reasonably polite when I got into an argument with Bonzo, but two of my comments got removed entirely, and he just had a couple of paragraphs disemvowelled. Why me? Why not him?

A. There are many possibilities. The biggest one is that you were insufficiently polite. In the heat of an argument, your own remarks are going to seem more justifiable, and Bonzo's arguments are going to seem shabbier and more malicious. This temporary distortion is best addressed by being more polite than you think should be necessary.

On people who comment only on how bored they are:

Q. It's obvious that you won't tolerate anything but supportive comments from brown-nosers and yes-men--right?

A. I'll venture a guess that you responded to a new entry on Boing Boing by announcing that it was hopelessly lame and boring, and then came back later to discover that your comment had disappeared.

Q. Yes! Why did you remove it?

A. This is another one of those questions that has multiple answers.

First: you didn't explain why it bored you. Without an explanation, announcing that you're bored is neither useful or entertaining. Also, it's a real bringdown for readers who lack confidence in their own opinions.

Second: because frequently the "I'm so bored" thing is just attitudinizing. There's a whole big internet out there, and it's full of people who, if they don't like what they're currently reading, move on and read something else. They don't post about how bored they are just to have something to say.

You may need different rules and tone than BoingBoing, of course, but it's not a bad starting point.