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Author Topic: The moderation decision process  (Read 6451 times)

hbelkins

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The moderation decision process
« on: January 14, 2017, 02:17:58 PM »

So I log on today and, not unsurprisingly, the Trump thread has been locked. But surprisingly, the only nasty comment came from NE2 (which in itself was not surprising, but up until that point and beyond it, the discussion had been civil and pretty high-level, focusing on issues and not personalities.)

In that thread, one moderator had posted a purple note requesting civility, and at least one other moderator posted his own personal opinion. It wasn't until well into the thread that a moderator closed it down.

This once again raises questions about the moderation process and policy. Why is it that two mods had posted before a third mod shut it down? Why didn't the third mod let it continue since two other mods had apparently blessed the thread with their postings in it?

That's why I've always been skeptical of the moderation process (not specifically here, but in moderated forums in general). Was this the sole decision of the mod who shut it down? Was it some sort of group decision? If so, what was the vote among the mods and who voted how?

Of course, it often seems that even a call for transparency in moderation can often be controversial. No doubt this one will be too. But I again raise the question in hopes of shining some light on the process.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2017, 02:27:44 PM »

Scott is an Admin, so I would assume that would "trump" (pun not intended but hey why not?) the moderation process?  Really that thread was on dangerously thin ice from the start.  Alex spells out the stance of political discussion in the Welcome Board:

http://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=992.0

I know on the Pacific Southwest politics have come up many times, but they have related directly to transportation measures.  There was a big back and forth with funding ideas for Caltrans that had a point of origin of a specific user talking about a usage tax.  I don't recall any conversation being shut down for those reasons, so long as it stayed kind of in the sphere of transportation measures.  Wasn't there a thread about Trump Administration Transportation Secretary that is still alive somewhere on the forum?

nexus73

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2017, 02:51:28 PM »

If all it takes is one nasty comment to lock down a thread, all I can say is that this is a "sensitive" site.  Some are like that!  Others are not.  I have seen free for all forums hang in there and stay active as well.

AARoads Forum, however it is moderated, still has a great value to me though.  After all, I do love roads!  Maybe we need a Mad Max subforum where it's anything goes...LOL!

Rick
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2017, 03:06:06 PM »

If all it takes is one nasty comment to lock down a thread, all I can say is that this is a "sensitive" site.  Some are like that!  Others are not.  I have seen free for all forums hang in there and stay active as well.

AARoads Forum, however it is moderated, still has a great value to me though.  After all, I do love roads!  Maybe we need a Mad Max subforum where it's anything goes...LOL!

Rick

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J N Winkler

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2017, 07:40:18 PM »

This once again raises questions about the moderation process and policy. Why is it that two mods had posted before a third mod shut it down? Why didn't the third mod let it continue since two other mods had apparently blessed the thread with their postings in it?

That's why I've always been skeptical of the moderation process (not specifically here, but in moderated forums in general). Was this the sole decision of the mod who shut it down? Was it some sort of group decision? If so, what was the vote among the mods and who voted how?

Of course, it often seems that even a call for transparency in moderation can often be controversial. No doubt this one will be too. But I again raise the question in hopes of shining some light on the process.

In British administrative law there is a concept called "Wednesbury reasonableness":  a particular exercise of a discretionary power (such as a decision to grant a cinema license, or to lock a thread on a Web forum) should not be disallowed unless it is (1) discriminatory, or (2) so outrageous that no sensible person would have arrived at it.  It is closely related to the "arbitrary and capricious" standard in American administrative law, which is the criterion judges apply when they throw out actions taken under administrative discretion.

As I see it, Scott's decision to lock the thread was Wednesbury reasonable, and neither arbitrary nor capricious.  I would not necessarily have made the same decision if I were in his shoes.  (In the past, as manager of a different forum, I was in his shoes and generally preferred a more progressive approach for long-running threads, where I would lock a thread for a fixed period of time if it showed signs of overheating, and lock it permanently if it overheated again after one or more of these cooling-off periods.  One time I locked a thread of more than 700 posts and said it would remain permanently locked until someone presented a convincing case that flamewars would not resume if it were unlocked.  No-one approached me to present such an argument.)  However, I could see the thread was starting to get out of control.  People were starting to make politely worded but very long posts showing very different "reads" of the same sets of political issues, with disturbing hints of working from divergent sets of "facts" (or, more precisely, received understandings of current events).  Sooner or later someone would have given in to the temptation to "take the other side to school" and then we would have been off to the races.

I don't see any reason the participation of other moderators in the same thread should have affected Scott's decision to lock it.  Most Web forums that have multiple moderators have to operate on at least an implicit understanding of collegiality and collective responsibility in order to avoid the disruption that occurs when moderators duel.  This means that when one moderator decides to lock a thread, the other moderators honor it, and it is left to higher authority (such as a lead moderator) to intervene if the moderator's action seems motivated by personal spite or some other inappropriate reason.
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vdeane

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2017, 07:15:38 PM »

I'm surprised the thread was allowed as long as it was.  Normally political threads seem to be locked on sight.
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jakeroot

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2017, 08:16:59 PM »

I've had this thought rumbling around in my head for the last couple of days following the thread being locked.

I have had a tendency to moderate on behalf of the moderators, by reminding users of certain rules that I have been made aware of over time, mostly to ensure that a thread does not get locked. The thread in question was no exception; right off the bat, I had to remind Ghostbuster of the rules regarding political discussions. I have a feeling that my tendency to moderate, when it's not my responsibility, resulted in the thread being allowed to continue, just to spite me.

Of course, realistically, that's almost precisely what did not happen.
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hbelkins

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2017, 08:18:32 PM »

I also find it funny how it is against the forum rules to post about politics, but yet over in the chat room all they (including a few mods) want to talk about is politics. Like what's up with that?

I never got into the chat rooms. Neither here nor the old IRC chats. There was a Facebook chat going on once among a bunch of the roadgeeks and they added me to it, and I like to never have gotten myself extracted from it. I kept getting notifications and I was not the least bit interested in participating, even though for that particular chat for some reason I was the topic of discussion.
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Alps

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2017, 08:48:47 PM »

Chat is freewheeling. Chat is not the forum.
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Alps

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2017, 08:49:48 PM »

I'm surprised the thread was allowed as long as it was.  Normally political threads seem to be locked on sight.
Sometimes "sight" takes awhile.
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hbelkins

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2017, 09:37:17 PM »

I'm surprised the thread was allowed as long as it was.  Normally political threads seem to be locked on sight.
Sometimes "sight" takes awhile.

That was part of my question. Two mods "sighted" and posted, apparently having no problem with its presence, before a third one closed it.
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NE2

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2017, 11:03:09 PM »

Would be nice if Trump supporters could be banned. Fuck them.
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jeffandnicole

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2017, 11:50:45 PM »

I do agree though there are a lot of inconsistencies on this forum with the moderating.

By its very nature, moderating is going to be subjective.  There's always going to be those threads that are on thin ice but survive, and others that close up.  Compared to other forums, this one is pretty good.  They made it known in the beginning that politics should be a no-no, so any thread that even talks about politics (and has nothing to do with transportation) should just be considered a little bonus candy till it gets closed. 

Really, the blame should be on the person who created the thread in the first place, or the person that threw politics into the discussion, as that forced the moderator's hands.

Any type of reffing or umpiring is like that.  Millimeters are the different between a strike and a ball.  Grabbing the jersey an inch either way is holding or not. 

If a thread is locked, I don't take it personally. It was fun while it lasted.
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formulanone

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2017, 09:45:35 AM »

I think we all knew it was destined to fail by the rules, though once the 1-or-2-sentence/image posts were removed, it was polite...I've had to mod threads (obviously, elsewhere) like that before, and you have to put your personal bias away and stick to the rules when doing so. The problem lies in that you get accused of using personal slant when you have to intervene. I suppose they know that some people are going spill their thoughts into every other thread, so consistently keeping to policy keeps the boat afloat. After all, there haven't been threads here allowing direct discussion of the Obama Administration, nor those prior to it, except those related to DOT or Federal spending, et al.

I don't think it was a purely personal decision; after all, there's a current thread about Trump's Transportation Secretary which is more relevant.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2017, 09:50:57 AM by formulanone »
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nexus73

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2017, 10:24:12 AM »

Would be nice if Trump supporters could be banned. Fuck them.

Let's flip that one around and see how you like it!

Rick
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NE2

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2017, 10:58:39 AM »

Would be nice if Trump supporters could be banned. Fuck them.

Let's flip that one around and see how you like it!

Rick
Oh look, someone who thinks Trump is normal.
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DaBigE

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2017, 11:29:07 AM »

And let the countdown begin until yet another thread gets locked.

Moderation suggestion [if a variant of this policy doesn't already exist]: If you cause x number of threads to get locked (most of these seem to be obvious as to who the instigator was), you get banned.
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NE2

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2017, 12:01:26 PM »

Trump gets banned? Awesome.
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US71

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2017, 12:18:47 PM »

Would be nice if Trump supporters could be banned. Fuck them.

Let's flip that one around and see how you like it!

Rick
Oh look, someone who thinks Trump is normal.

Normal is a setting on an iron.
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freebrickproductions

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2017, 12:29:37 PM »



(Quick y'all! Let's turn this into Alanland 3.0 before it gets locked!)
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nexus73

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2017, 03:26:59 PM »

Would be nice if Trump supporters could be banned. Fuck them.

Let's flip that one around and see how you like it!

Rick
Oh look, someone who thinks Trump is normal.

Normal is a setting on an iron.

It is also a town in Illinois!

Rick
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Big John

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2017, 03:36:16 PM »

Normal is also perpendicular to tangent.
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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2017, 03:42:38 PM »

Normal is still normal in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German.

Combining the city with the mathematical concept, I-39 is normal to I-55 where they intersect in Normal. This must be intentional — almost parallel Business US 51 is a few degrees off.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2017, 03:45:34 PM by 1 »
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Alps

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2017, 07:52:03 PM »

I vote to ban everyone who ever starts this thread.
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1995hoo

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Re: The moderation decision process
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2017, 08:56:01 PM »

It seems to me that the solution is simply to ban political discussion except when it's clearly transportation-related. That solution worked well on another forum I used to frequent, and the moderators there implemented that rule because political garbage was causing too many hard feelings between people who had once been fairly friendly.

The thing I don't understand is why one member is routinely allowed to ignore a couple of clearly-stated forum rules. Obviously that's the moderators' prerogative, but I got put on the warning list for far less obnoxious conduct than NE2's routine behavior. I mean, really, did anyone really have any doubt that NE2 was going to post his usual profane crap when that thread started? The only question was how long it would take, and frankly I was surprised it took as long as it did.

(FWIW before you-know-who calls me a kook and tells me to fuck off as a Trump supporter, I didn't vote for either Trump or Clinton—I voted Libertarian. But I'm intelligent enough to recognize that the whole POINT of elections is that people are going to have different opinions.)
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