28 votes

The Comment Moderator Is The Most Important Job In The World Right Now

9 comments

  1. [6]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. [4]
      FallMonkey (edited ) Link Parent
      Your words truly resonated with me and I want to write my first Tildes post to share my feeling. This is about a forum with millions of active users, hundreds of sections (mostly gaming) and mod...

      Your words truly resonated with me and I want to write my first Tildes post to share my feeling. This is about a forum with millions of active users, hundreds of sections (mostly gaming) and mod structure of top-mod (1), mods (5-10) and submods (over 200+ for different sections). Please feel free to skip my long post since it adds little value to the discussion but mostly personal feeling that I'm still struggling with.

      I've been through one of the most mentally depressing period of my life (still in it) because I was exiled by my former co-mods "friends" at the cost of also causing five of them to leave the forum permanently after a dramatic post of criticizing me and original owner of the website. What's intriguing about that drama post is how they described their effort of maintaining "justice" and "equality" by adding strict rules and forming cliques (so multiple mods need to agree on major moderation decision) was undermined by me and top-mod's "disagreeing with them for personal and selfish reasons", while with their moderation submods receive considerable less punishments than users for similar speeches and rules for moderations, originally made by previous mod, rarely receives any modification, let alone input from users.

      As of today I'm still trying hard to resolve the hostility of some remaining mods towards me (they will ban my account through all means as I'm considered menace to the entire website, they will try to erase my existence like replacing a section's icon which is using my personal avatar, or removing anything related to me from their daily moderation), as I'm only one of "them who even dare to challenge mods". For the five leaving mods, they all refuse to speak with me any further and have described me as a bad human being to multiple friends who are still willing to talk to me and helping me with resolving the conflict.

      It all started ten years ago when I was just a submod of a single section and decided to reply to every single complaint in the complain section as I felt like I could do something with the power I have. That gained me reputation being "the super friendly mod" since I tried to keep people staying and allow "free speech" as long as it's not personal attacking. I know people have different thought and my job is to get more interesting people talk out reasonably. But over the long run, I've made mistakes like undoing other submod's punishments without negotiating, interfering other submod's job by making my own judgement (like giving user reps more than they usually do) as I still carried the thought that "do what I can for users and everything else will follow" while forgetting that my fellow mods all have their own feelings and minds. And definitely I've built my own groups of sub(mods) who "might" share similar thought and privately discussed with them how I dislike some other (sub)mods because they care little about users. Just like you described, I've seen countless of (sub)mods forming different groups and blaming users for being inferior or mindless and thus justifying any punishments as if they're discussing some non-human being of "it". Super typical Standford prisoner case.

      As times goes, I've been away from daily moderation and new mods showed up (I've personally mentored some of them by resolving user conflicts or sharing my principle) and slowly added more rules for (maybe) ease of moderation, which though seems quite user-unfriendly to me (like banning user commenting moderation outside complaint section, and spending wall of texts to prove bad faith of users before banning their accounts but still leave the post there as public execution). When I realized they've completely built their own moderating culture with similar submods sharing the "us vs them" mindset, it was too late and I tried so ugly to change that with my little influence, which ended up involving original owner (the only top-mod who's mostly doing development work) debating with them multiple times and leading to the breakup as they try to get top-mod to follow their clique "with rich experience of moderation and fighting them".

      As a result of them leaving, I also resigned as mod after trying to stay for modding and realizing that the culture of forum has changed and I could only bring more damage to it if I tried to be that "friendly moderator" while most other submods have been used to strict moderation of users. That gave remaining mods chance to execute punishment as they want on me as they couldn't do that technically to mods and they could always excuse it just like previous mods did - find anything in rule that might remotely relates to the case and justify it. They would temp-ban my account for commenting on past moderator, they would delete my post for sharing my thought about how moderator can work with users, and they would perma-ban my account because they got leakage of chat record between me and a "friend" submod whom I shared my complaints with, without realizing that he was spying on me in the first place. Speaking of that, some of the mods I ever befriended and privately discussed complaints with also contributed to it now that our path diverted and they only wanted to exile me.

      It's truly astonishing when you look back how much effort and preparation people could put into it for the power you mentioned (even if they couldn't get it in the end), even though I'm not the victim in this story since I've definitely done damage to those mods whose moderation got troubled by my interference and reputation got damaged from my private gossip or the contrast between me tolerating “bad users” and them punishing “innocent users”. I'm still on my long journey to slowly go back to the forum since I still have many (maybe) friends there asking when I return, and I do work closely with top-mod as well as business side of the forum. It just pains me whenever I think about all the planning and actions of mods against me and is really hard for me to still believe that we're all doing this for forum's greater good, especially for some (sub)mods who often take unreasonable, sometimes overnight, effort to bogart attention in the name of spreading moderation principles and "purifying the forum", and who would participate the most in exiling me directly or indirectly (like setting up all the spying channels to collect any bit of inappropriate words of mine).

      I've done inappropriate things in the name of helping forum and keeping users happy, but ultimately for personal satisfaction of feeling good from "helping people", yeah for sure. But I'd never realize what I do could lead to such resentment towards me from so many people who I ever considered as decent human beings for their contribution to the forum or their kindness to users. Those leaving mods are definitely some of the more lovely users I've met before moderating, making rules and forming cliques, but eventually they all decide to take effort they would spend on banishing people threatening with harmful things to them, on me. There might still be quite some conspiracy behind all this but I'm just too tired to think about it any further.

      Anyway I suppose my final point is just to agree with you that, no matter how decent a group of people might be, I've never seen anything good coming from mods forming any cliques in the name of "justice". Clique might work when it's very serious business with supervision, otherwise it's only making everyone involved making worse decision since collective intelligence (alas, The Crowd) in this case might be just worse than an ordinary person.

      10 votes
      1. [2]
        Atvelonis Link Parent
        This is something I've struggled with a certain amount myself, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. For context, I'm more or less the equivalent of the "top mod" on a fairly popular video game...

        This is something I've struggled with a certain amount myself, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. For context, I'm more or less the equivalent of the "top mod" on a fairly popular video game wiki. MediaWiki's user rights system is perhaps slightly more egalitarian than, say, Reddit's strictly top-down approach, and I think that this quality helps to minimize systematic mod abuse on wikis somewhat. However, it does nothing to address the concern you've brought up, which is the social exclusion of moderators and the formation of cliques. I think that this can only really be prevented by maintaining a thoughtful and integrated moderation culture, a tone which is fundamentally set by the leadership but is necessarily upheld by all other staff members.

        About a year and a half ago I had the displeasure of being the fence-sitter in an extremely vitriolic series of personal disagreements between the site's most senior administrator and a clique of irritated moderators who had begun to detest his presence on the team. They had their reasons, some of them very reasonable (others less so), and eventually presented him with an ultimatum: "quietly resign from your position to save face or we will forcibly remove you," in summary. He set aside his tools a few days later, very, very bitterly.

        As a community leader, it was painful for me to watch significant portions of the team that I had carefully recruited over several years collapse in on itself. Look back a year or two previously and there were no hostilities; there were jokes being made and friendships being formed and enjoyment being had. How can a closely-knit team like that devolve so rapidly into a cliquey mess? It's not like there was even a single trigger moment. There was just a tonal shift, and after a while the movement hit critical mass. The strangest part about the whole thing is that in the months after the administrator in question resigned, a number of the folks who had pressured him out also left! Talk about irony, right?

        Prior to this moment, I'd been fortunate enough to have never had a friendship just snap in half. But then, all of a sudden, this guy whom I'd been fairly close to in years past all but refused to speak to me. I have since reached out to him off-site to make amends in the most sincere way that I can, although I think we both recognize that there isn't really any coming back from something like that, at least not for a while. I can hardly even imagine his perspective on the matter, but I can say that the whole situation definitely made me extremely cynical about the future of the community. It sent me into an introspective spiral that I still haven't really got out of; I've questioned my skills as a leader and basically everything I've done on the site for the past few years to no end, very much in a negative light. I would venture a guess that there are more than a few people on your site who feel the same way about you, even if it doesn't seem like it.

        The internet can be an awfully depressing place, and the faceless nature of moderation can make the exclusion of "the people we don't like" a much more acceptable prospect for many. Now more than ever, in this increasingly web-dependent world, we need more positive, collaborative, and intellectual approaches to content moderation. There's been very little scholarly research on internet moderation, so there aren't a lot of useful academic resources off of which to plan an organized staff management strategy. In lieu of such things, I think it's completely worthwhile to share perspectives like yours online, especially in places like Tildes, which attract a somewhat more poweruser-esque set of readers than other sites. People will be influenced by them, and will in turn influence the tones that they set as online leaders. This is a really valuable and powerful way for moderators, current or former, to contribute to the collective discourse in contexts broader than their home websites.

        8 votes
        1. FallMonkey Link Parent
          I really appreciate your response and truly wish you (and myself) a near future where we could settle those mess down internally and externally with some of those who have yet to accept our...

          I really appreciate your response and truly wish you (and myself) a near future where we could settle those mess down internally and externally with some of those who have yet to accept our apology. I've taken the fact that there are people who might never share the path with me even if we're both reasonable and rational, but there's always chance for us to part peacefully. During past months, I've also got friends who would reach out to me to encourage me since after 10 years of samaritan moderation, anyone will end up with someone who's appreciated your help, and I believe there're more people than you realize who would stand with you for what you've done for the website or them.

          I cannot agree more on your stance about how immature internet moderation is as of today. Over my 10+ years of moderation, I've closely watched how average users become more and more sophisticated and cynical about everything (and I'm not talking about exisiting user but new user to the website), while accumulating experience of trolling against all kinds of oversights of forum rules or moderation practice, i.e. it's doomed to be a waging and losing war for moderators if our goal is to "moderate them" instead of growing the community. The evolution of moderation tools (quicker banning, user-filtering) simply doesn't match the armory of trollers in any manner, and much of the moderation is in the wild west where each moderator has to fight alone based on his or her interpretation of rules since there's no transferrable practice. Ironically, those leaving mods were exactly trying their best to systemize ways of moderation by setting a strict way of moderation, like setting internal threads sharing their mod principles on fighting users, restricting and site-banning comments about mods, preventing submods from commenting on user complaints and aggresively shielding submods (by banning) from user attacks or possible traps of trollers, some of which I do appreciate and understand.

          Yet in the end, over countless attempts, every single mod including me has left a trial of PR crisis where we didn't handle the case well so that great user trust was lost when we tried to cover submod/website's butt and tried to persuade the responsible submod to apologize or fix the causing action. And their clique has climbed to the height that no one shall question, or simply bother questioning since 95% of (sub)mods are unpaid, except a few who actually run the website in the company owning it. And the website culture has become very hostile between users and mods where users will make use of every opportunity to mock mods/websites and mods will be seeking chances to discipline users or highlv elusive on communicating with users, since you cannot never expect a loosely defined rule written by some random folk to be good as constituion, do you?

          What's interesting here is that a couple years ago website rolled out a "like" system which boosted this process by allowing mods/users to focus on those comments supporting their decision/speeches and I often saw them justifying their decision simply based on how many users like their post, which might be a small fraction of all readers. So you could see a user using swear words against a moderator and receiving over 1k upvotes while mod could mock some user who's not familiar with rules

          I've thought about this many times since months ago when I was exiled and come to the same conclusion as you. Someone has to be the king and set the a strong tone to be upheld by all the rest, and in my case top-mod should have stepped up to educate all mods yet he's more like an introvert geek who would sympathesize with punished users but lack the motive to actually argue with mods. Without that leash, all mods are doomed to exhaust all the good wills in the endless fight with trolls (it's only a matter of time until you lose patience) and resorted to whatever ways that can "efficiently" moderate "them" since moderator gotta moderate...from its name. Someone gotta take the leash and keep all mods in check for greater good of the community.

          3 votes
      2. Luna Link Parent
        My experience with being a mod on a forum was short-lived. One week in, a power-mod made a post saying something about being gay, then changed the poster name to one of the more active users who...

        My experience with being a mod on a forum was short-lived. One week in, a power-mod made a post saying something about being gay, then changed the poster name to one of the more active users who had done some impressive work and was one of the smarter people on the forum. I sent screenshots of the mod logs showing the poster name change to him (the guy who was impersonated by the power-mod) via Skype, he complained (and referenced my messages), and I got demoted.

        Remember when Spez changed some comments on r/The_Donald and the sub got angry? Kinda hilarious how similar it is to the petty forum drama commonplace when forums were all the rage.

        3 votes
    2. Pilgrim Link Parent
      That's the crux of it isn't it? You're an unpaid editor, not a moderator anymore. And as far as your lack of support goes, we could look to print newspapers and the history there and think about...

      I'm beyond being a simple comment moderator because of my editorial power.

      That's the crux of it isn't it? You're an unpaid editor, not a moderator anymore.

      And as far as your lack of support goes, we could look to print newspapers and the history there and think about how editors act and are presented in print, and then think about what sort of changes we can make to platforms to add in those aspects. Letter from the editor? Actually getting paid!? The feeling that you're driving the values of the place you moderate. I'm not sure what else, but I can't imagine what you've experienced is much different from a poorly resourced newspaper editor. So what I'm getting at, is these problems may have been solved in some way already in a different medium, so we might look there for some answers.

      4 votes
  2. Algernon_Asimov Link
    Ain't gonna happen. While an AI moderator might be able to identify the obvious abuse, there are more subtle abuses it won't pick up. You need a real flesh-and-blood human to look at comments to...

    It’s clear that human moderators are something that platforms like Facebook or YouTube believe they can eventually optimize away. Last spring, Mark Zuckerberg, while being questioned in front of Congress, referenced artificially intelligent moderation more than 30 times.

    Ain't gonna happen. While an AI moderator might be able to identify the obvious abuse, there are more subtle abuses it won't pick up. You need a real flesh-and-blood human to look at comments to assess their offensiveness. And, as I read in another article posted here on Tildes, those humans need to be culturally local: what's offensive in the USA is different to what's offensive in Australia, and what's offensive in India is different again.

    Users will wait until the middle of the night and flood the boards with grotesque images, writing, “mods are asleep.”

    This tactic/joke always failed in any subreddit I moderated - because we Australians are awake when Americans are asleep. Trolls forget that this here world-wide web is world-wide. ;)

    12 votes
  3. [3]
    meghan Link
    And will continue to be so long as the Internet exists.

    The Comment Moderator Is The Most Important Job In The World Right Now

    And will continue to be so long as the Internet exists.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      Nmg Link Parent
      Yeah, I don't buy it. There is only one place on the internet where I participate in social media or place comments on a regular basis: here. I like this site, but for the most part, it is a small...

      Yeah, I don't buy it.

      There is only one place on the internet where I participate in social media or place comments on a regular basis: here. I like this site, but for the most part, it is a small part of my day. Many other jobs impact me much more...

      1 vote
      1. meghan Link Parent
        Because you've probably realized that participating in comment sections don't typically have that much return on emotional value, just as many others have too. But that doesn't stop the...

        Because you've probably realized that participating in comment sections don't typically have that much return on emotional value, just as many others have too. But that doesn't stop the millions/billions of posts and comments from being made every day.