5 Questions To Ask When Wondering If To Moderate ("Censor")

Moderation and censorship often raises their heads when I introduce the "new approach" to Intranets (or whatever they should be called now). It is particularly prevalent around the use of blogs, wikis and discussion boards.

Let me start of by saying that "moderation" and "censorship" are not inherently bad and are merely activities that are carried out. How they are perceived, "evil", "appropriate", "for the good of all", are merely attributes placed upon them by the person you're talking to. In reality any act of moderation can be viewed as any combination of the above by three different people.

(I'll use the word "moderate" from now on as it implies more thoughtful and constructive reasoning than "censorship")

As an external consultant it's not for me to place my beliefs upon the organisations I work with - particularly as I come from a very open background which my be totally inappropriate for, say, the a Prison Service.

So what to do?
Let the business decide for themselves by following this path:

Who to ask
Ask the following questions of all (as many of) those that are affected by the decision to moderate. These should include, as minimum:
  • The author of the content being moderated
  • The readers of the content
  • Those charged with setting culture of the organisation (HR, senior management)
  • Legal representatives
Be aware that you may have different rules for different communities, audiences and situations. Treat each as such and repeat the process. The following will probably have very differing approaches to moderation:
  • Internal personal blogs
  • Team discussions
  • Company wide Wiki
  • External blogs
  • Press releases
  • ...
You may find that already have moderation processes in place - how do you ensure that people don't scrawl over the toilet doors, how is it that people don't send email spam within your organisation, what ensures people are polite, considerate and appropriate in meetings involving external people?

When to ask
Before you moderate!

You must set the rules before content is generated and well before you have to actually moderate a piece of content. That way people understand the playing field and will usually self-moderate thus doing the work for you.

What to ask
To tease out the rules get the audience to discuss the following.
Oh and be open, honest and courageous in the discussions challenging assumptions and world views - that's where I, as an independent, can have a slight advantage over permanent staff:

1: What is the worse that can happen if no moderation occurs?
  • Commercial risks
  • Staff/HR implications
  • Privacy situations
  • ...

2: What is the likelihood of this "disaster situation" occurring?
  • 100%
  • Only with certain staff
  • Posibly with our current technology environment
  • ...

3: What will be the downside of moderation?
  • No-one will post
  • People will only follow the 'party line'
  • Discussions will happen elsewhere
  • ...

4: What processes and behaviours already exist that can lessen the need for moderation?
  • Management disciplinary processes
  • A culture of respect
  • The community has it's own means of dealing with "unwanted behaviour"
  • ...

5: What can we do to limit the need for moderation?
  • Highlight current culture
  • Remove anonymous posting
  • Raise the visibility of postings
  • ...


Once you have the answers to these questions you will have a very clear idea of the explicit rules you will need to apply to this particular situation. Post these rules in the appropriate places, specifically in the face of an author as they are typing (no point having the rules hidden away*).

Be specific about:
  • What can be posted - give examples
  • What cannot be posted - give examples
  • What will happen if moderation happens
  • What further action happens with 'repeat offenders'
I would post these up even if there is no moderation - tell people it's a "free for all".


Further reading:

* Hiding rules away is something organisations do very well and Douglas Adams nailed it with this line from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, episode 1:
"Yes. The plans were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard"- Arthur on plans for demolition of his house

Comments

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  2. That comment ^^ has to be spam.

    ps. didn't know how else to respond to the g-reader question, so feel free to delete this

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