The #cmgrclass topic of the week is a tricky one: moderating commenting in communities. To me, this seems to be an art form reminiscent of governments and their people.
There is the dictatorial approach, in which the moderator has the final approval on all things, and nothing sees the light of day until it has been reviewed and stamped as allowable for community consumption. The second is more of a democratic approach, where community members enjoy a greater freedom in posting comments, but the system implements methods to protect the community from spam and undue profanity. The third, and least restrictive, is akin to anarchy where anything goes, and all community members, be them lunatics, posters, spammers or deviants, enjoy the same level of freedom in community conversation.
Of course, each of these techniques has its place in different communities with different moderators, and there are pros and cons that can make a strong argument for or against each.
In the post Moderating Comments and Managing Online Communities, Tara Coomans offers positive and negative aspects of each.
For the dictatorial approach, which she dubs the “Unlock Policy”, Coomans offers the following:
Pros: Keeps out all the riff-raff.
Cons: Delaying comments prevents organic timely conversation. Can you keep up with reading every single comment and approving in a timely manner?
Due to the pro, which is keeping out fight-seekers and spammers, this tactic may be aptly applied to communities that feature particularly controversial subject matter. However, taking into considering the con in this case, this may only be practically applied to a rather small community, as reviewing and approving each comment individually in a large, fast-paced community is difficult if not impossible.
For the democratic approach, coined by Coomans as the “Knock-First Policy”, she says:
Pros: Keeps the community free of junk without over reaching-gives the community a true voice that is consistent with the community’s own language. Not terribly time-consuming to manage.
Cons: Comments can create community drama without being spammy or profane.
This in-between approach takes a protective hand in filtering spam and profanity, but enjoys a greater level of freedom in allowing community members to post without the need for review and approval. This tactic is prime for a mildly controversial topic, because it will allow community members to rapidly reply to each other and offer bold opinions without being subjected to undue spam or profanity. Would also be well applied to a variety of other communities due to the harmonic balance it strikes.
For the anarchic technique, or rather the “Open Door Policy”, Coomans states:
Pros: The community is completely transparent to one another, with the exception that people will often use pseudonyms on communities like this.
Cons: Spam and lowest common denominator magnet. These two elements will likely crowd out your actual community.
While this gives community members the greatest level of freedom, it also subjects them to distracting spam and overly controversial or profane statements that may dilute the overall quality of the conversation.
While there are subsets of these categories that may be tailored to be applied to the full spectrum of online communities, it is these three main categories from which they are derived. For each community there is a commenting policy, and for each commenting policy, a community.