One thing I learned from running Internet forums

is that when you get banned, you can’t even really take it personally, because moderation is not an exact science.

It’s not like when you run, say, a wiki, and you can judge people more objectively, based on the quality of their contributions. A forum is more of a casual hangout and therefore it’s more relevant how likeable someone is, and how well they fit in socially.

That’s somewhat relevant in the wikisphere too, in that if a guy is well-liked, he might be allowed to add a bunch of content that nobody cares about, or that’s of dubious quality. But in the wikisphere, it doesn’t really matter as much because content that isn’t promoted mostly gets buried. On an Internet forum, new posts appear more prominently, so if someone is spamming up the site with a bunch of garbage, it’s more distracting and annoying. It can derail threads, for instance, and get in the way of the flow of conversation.

In the wikisphere, there’s mainspace and talkspace; on an Internet forum, there’s just talkspace. So it’s a lot different. There’s not really as much of a collaborative “work area” on a forum.

A lot of times, on Internet forums, what the mods do depends on whether posts get reported, or whether the mod is worried a particular poster is going to piss people off and wreck the atmosphere and mood of the place, as he attracts a bunch of flames. But that could sometimes be the fault of the flamers, rather than the user being flamed. So it can be a judgment call, and a lot of times it’s an arbitrary judgment, based on what kind of community culture one wants to promote. That can change from time to time, at the moderator’s whim, so a post that’s allowed in January 2018 might provoke a warning in February 2018, just because the mod had a change of moderation philosophy.

That’s why I don’t take bans personally anymore. The moderators are just figuring out as they go along how they want the site to be, and the community and its needs change as users come and go. One month, you might be able to get away with posting some edgy content; and the next month, you can’t, because a bunch of the old guard that used to defend you has left, and some new users have showed up who complain about the kind of content you want to post.

This can’t be reduced down to consistently enforced rules, because the rules have to bend somewhat to accommodate the needs of the community, and the mods feel the need sometimes to go outside the rules if they want to address what they see as an emergency. An “emergency” is whenever people are starting to flip out and start a flamewar that seems like it’s getting out of hand, or when there could be some pressure from outsiders to shut down the site.

Internet posts are, themselves, a form of art, so moderation is to some degree a form of curation and art criticism. What could be more subjective? What’s “good” art depends on what genre you like, what message you agree with, etc.

Now of course, any time someone writes a long post saying “x doesn’t bother me anymore,” there’s a strong likelihood that x actually does still bother them

A lot of times, when you get banned from a forum, it is indeed because of a judgment by the users and/or the moderator that you’re loser, that you have no talent, etc. The ban is a form of face control, and could be because people have decided you suck, and therefore say that your posts suck because they don’t like YOU (when they might have responded totally differently to the same post, had it been written by someone else; this is one of the reasons why some people use alts).

One of the thing mods hate, I notice, is when you come in with an attitude that the site’s culture sucks and needs to be changed. The site’s culture reflects both the mod’s own style (which is partly a result of their own personal preferences, and what they’re comfortable with), and what has developed organically. Their attitude will often be, “The door’s that way, if you want to create your own site, with a different culture.” In my experience, though, a lot of suggestions by users are actually helpful.

The other thing about culture too is that a lot of times, the culture is established and reinforced by bans, which let it be known by example what behavior will get people banned. Therefore, there always has to be someone to be the first to get banned, to set the precedent. But precedents are always subject to being overturned at any given time without warning, as the mods (and/or the community, who react to posts and potentially report stuff to the mods) decide to go in a different cultural direction.

One thought on “One thing I learned from running Internet forums

  1. It’s not always all that easy, but I try to maintain an attitude of “Hahahahahahahaha How The Fuck Is Cyber Bullying Real Hahahaha Nigga Just Walk Away From The Screen Like Nigga Close Your Eyes Haha” when it comes to events that occur exclusively on the net.


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