In Frank Sanchez’s earlier community series piece, you learned what we look for in a post, even if it is a seemingly pointless “I quit” post, but I’d also like to reveal to you how the poor individuals who have to deal with bad threads — the forum moderators — handle things. Forum moderation is hated by many and loved by few and yet it is a grossly misunderstood necessity that keeps the peace, lets the discussion flow, and encourages the community to grow.Without it, horrible threads linger, making the forums suck and the community a worse place for all of us. So without further ado, here are some examples.
If you pop into any gaming forum, you’re sure to see complaints about moderation. These complaints are usually coupled with the terms “Nazi” as well as “fat” and “virgin.” They often decree “freedom of speech and expression” yet simultaneously take personal pot-shots at specific employees of the developer. To the chagrin of the original poster, these type of posts are removed because they do not provide feedback we can use; or to put it simply, there is nothing about, “hey mods, go die u fat Nazis” that screams “valuable feedback.” Worse, if left alone, these threads act as a bleeding sore within the community – a place where people share a sense of camaraderie in their frustrations – which only works to aggravate the negative feelings felt by other community members. Unfortunately, taking action against these kind of threads usually results in the next type of thread I’d like to mention.
Threat threads, or “popcorn threads,” are the worst forms of negative feedback. They usually go something like this:
- User creates thread: “mods, if you remove this post, it means war!!”
- A moderator removes the thread.
- User responds by creating another, usually with an even more creative thread title.
- Moderation team, F5ing the forum, removes the thread 53 milliseconds after it is made.
- A moderator may choose to take action on the user, asking them to please provide feedback through the proper channels.
- While a moderator is creating a warning/infraction/PM, user has created 3 more of the same thread.
- The same moderator clicks checkboxes beside every thread user has created and removes them all at once. Moderator may take further action, if the original warning was read.
- User responds by taking 5 minutes to create a new thread. It is a glorious thing – a true digital masterpiece – full of ASCII middle fingers, quotes of the warnings received, and .gif images of George Bush [Jr.] dancing.
- The moderator — the forum equivalent of the trap-door spider — awaits the new post, refreshing the user page every couple of seconds.
- User posts his “AHA!” thread. It is removed in under 1 minute, with 2 views. But the user has learned. He has adapted. Now he has copied his old post content. So he goes into the subforum and clicks “Create New Thread.” With a single set of keystrokes, he has remade his old thread. He types out the title: “F U MODS” and hits submit.
- “Your posting privileges have been suspended.”
As community members ourselves, we understand that getting moderated sucks, but we’re not your enemies — we’re merely doing what we think will strengthen the community in the long run. And let me state this loud and clear: there is no such thing as freedom of speech on forums.
Which brings me to the next type of thread that goes right into the fiery pits of hell: insults (also known as “stirring the pot”). I’m sure you’ve seen them – threads that are targeted towards specific community members, whether they are players, guilds, or developers. These threads are much like the first type of thread I have discussed. They generate negative feelings in the community by creating a “you versus them” type of situation, where “them” is a specific guild or member or even a person on the development team. This is unhealthy because it creates divides in the community and feelings of distrust – two ingredients that are not part of a recipe for a healthy, vibrant community. Instead, may I recommend that you take personal problems with another player to a private form: Private Messages. Just know that this is not a way to get away with sending penis ASCII messages to someone — if the other player is feeling threatened or harassed, the moderation team will intervene.
The last type of thread that is just downright awful and deserves a rake to the face are spam threads. I’m talking about the types of threads that lurk outside of the realms of Off-Topic forums. They are the beacons of intellectual stimulus – ranting and raving (or complaining for complaining’s sake), L2P posts, tl;dr quips, and a personal favourite of mine, “go back to WoW.” Any thread or post that contains this type of language is spam – it doesn’t add anything to the discussion and only serves to inflate a post count. So next time you feel like resorting to these type of posts, take the old saying to heart: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Dealing with crappy threads means the moderation team has less time to recognize the hidden gold mines of feedback and discussion. The moderator’s job, after all, isn’t just to deal with bad threads but also to find those little gems that have been overlooked. So while making a rage thread or even an irritated “learn2play” post may make people feel good in the short term, they are not good, long-term community builders, which is why they are dealt with the way they are. Less threads that suck means that people who would otherwise avoid the forums if they saw them will join and share their unique perspectives — something that makes every community a stronger, happier place in the long run.