Some thoughts from Dr. Brian Monger
I own, manage and moderate a number of groups on LinkedIn. I contribute to a few others and have an “Influencer reach of something like 1 million direct readers. I think I know a bit about managing and moderation
I started moderating when I started to find out what Social Media was all about. I soon discovered that sites like LI offered good opportunities but were generally poorly managed and moderated. I wanted to make the groups I participated in better for members and for me as well.
Mostly I disliked all the “Non Discussions” that appeared in the Discussion groups. At best most were self-promos. At worst some of these folk were just blocking up the groups arteries and needed to go elsewhere.
Moderation? What is Moderation?
Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. In a group or forum a moderator may remove unsuitable contributions in accordance with the Rules and/or their moderation system.
A moderator oversees the communication activity He or she monitors the interchange of contributors.
Laissez faire or managed? Some folk think that LI groups are public forums and that they should have the right to what they consider to be “free speech”
LI is Not a public forum. Groups are about membership and accepting the groups Rules
How to be a good moderator
Get to know your community of a group especially the most active members. Talk to them, let them propose ideas, try to tell them what projects you have in mind for this forum and tell them rules that you are imposing for each sections you moderate.
A group is good mostly because it has good members. Try and cultivate those who do the best posts/contributions. Refer to them. “Like” their posts.
Good moderators are primarily working to try to make their groups better for the members, not for themselves.
Moderator duties are as diverse as the group topics themselves. Some moderators are virtually invisible; they surface only when situations arise that do not seem likely to resolve themselves. Other forum moderators are always there; ready to intercede at the first hint of discourse. I am mostly of the latter way of moderation. I step back when I can though.
Moderators often have to enforce not only many rules but also the conduct and decorum of Discussions. Some contributors will tend to communicate without enough thought for others, which can upset other commenters.
Don’t leave input for too long in the pre-moderation queue
It is disrespectful to contributors
You may not regularly have time to send personal messages (I often used to moderate about 600 posts on some days). But try when you can. Some messages can be of the cut and paste variety (egg – John. Re job ads We only post those that feature a location in the first two lines.
Ensure that most topics are about what the group is about. But sometimes it is good to introduce something just for extra interest. The group manager should be the one who determines the direction and tone
You will sometimes see posts about things you see as a good cause. 99% of the time you need to steel your heart and should not post them.
References or Definitions needed?
Some Discussion topics need more than just personal opinion. They will benefit from a requirement that comments need to be backed up with something objective. Not all however. It will depend on your groups focus and the discussion.
I have a rule of thumb when a member says “We must define “XYZ” or “Please state your reference or authority on that”. I ask will this hinder or help the discussion? My objective is to encourage engagement – reasonable thoughts and ideas
Civility, politeness courtliness and communication respect
Unusual as it is on LI overall, the best groups show civility, politeness courtliness and communication respect for other members and their input. This does not mean input cannot take the form of robust comments and argument.
If the tone of a forum becomes hostile or starts to move in the direction of personal attacks, the forum moderator has the discretion to stop the discussion to prevent heated, interchanges.
Conversely, topics that deserve further examination can be allowed to continue indefinitely
In addition to acting as the guardian of forum content, forum moderators are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of the forum in other ways.
Language, spelling and Grammar
It’s up to your groups tone, but I tend to give great leeway here. It is a quick medium. People make mistakes. English is not everyone’s first language either
Input in “foreign languages”
The language of the group should be stated in the Rules. If you cannot read it you cannot moderate it. Even if you do speak Lettish, do your members?
Like a referee in a sports game, attacking him/her or abusing their decisions cannot be accepted.
Input and ideas, personal perceptions and preferences about how you should manage and moderate are all useful, as time permits, but as required good moderators are prepared to step up and dictate. Be a benevolent dictator though
Discussion participants should be encouraged to have their say but have no final say in how a Manager moderates a group. This is of course undemocratic, but the alternative would be chaos.
A good moderator needs to be allowed more leeway in their comments on the group. Direct comments may not always be entirely civil or polite. Effectiveness is what really counts.
If a contributor behaves in a way that is contrary to the Rules or in a way that lacks sufficient civility politeness or respect of other contributors (and it’s ultimately your call) their input may be deleted. They may also be placed into auto moderation – Usually with a warning note, but not necessarily if it is felt immediate action may be required.
If an abusive contributor refuses to cease unacceptable behaviour, the forum moderator usually has the discretion to ban (Block) the user.
Some posters will try and hide behind ambiguous comments.
Just like those sneaky kids at school I seem to remember. If I think they are trying to hide their inappropriate comments this way I am included to err on the side of caution and delete their comment. I also feel that if they will not own up to their sneakiness they need to spend some time in the sin bin – auto moderation.
Your own input
Moderators and managers have the advantage of posting without being pre-moderated. They should also have some further leeway in what they post. It is a small enough form of payment
Editing and Re-writing
LinkedIn does not allow us to edit or alter posts from group members and I am happy about that. In some groups the moderator or manager can rewrite posts for clarity or content to make them more in keeping with being an actual discussion
The Rules in my group do make it possible for moderators to rewrite a non-discussion post to make it into an actual engaging Discussion. It requires more time. I either then give attribution for the idea – egg. “Suggested by John Snow Marketing Manager. The Wall. Or I allow the original post to just go into Promotions as well.
Contrary to the assertions of some, it is rarely an opinion, or differing opinion that is deleted or not posted, but the manner that is used
A bad Comment may be because the poster is having a random bad day or forgot their meds – but we need to focus on what is currently happening. Usually the first step is to put the transgressor into auto-moderation and send a message
Too offensive, provocative for the group?
A little bit of offense should be OK if it is not meant to be personal and is focused on the idea.
Is it OK for a member to retaliate inappropriately (to abuse someone) when they have been insulted first?
No. But it is understandable. Best advise them to let the moderator know by direct message or by flagging the offensive stuff
Abuse of a moderator.
Not to be tolerated. Like any referee or umpire, a moderator gets more protection. You don’t need to put up with abuse or someone continuing to question your call.
If a member seeks to abuse you (or others) privately – sends you a direct message or email you should have the right within the Rules to publish what they send.
I see group management as having another dimension to moderation
A group manager makes decisions regarding content and the direction of threads. Keeping topics organised.
Other duties of a group manager may include relocating discussions to sections or even other groups within his or her control. I find this a useful activity as I try to develop similar groups into having different focuses.