Suggestion Third party moderation

  1. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 15,935
    Gold Member

    My suggestion is that members who are also moderators, when involved in a discussion, should not be the ones who moderate that thread.

    If a member who is a moderator engages in a discussion, they should enage as a member, not a moderator for that thread. If, in the course of a discussion, they feel that some rule has been breached, he or she should - just like everyone else - report it to a third party to objectively intervene.

    There is too much of potential for a perception of abuse if a moderator is involved subjectively in a discussion when it starts going awry. I have seen this happen more than once.

    I've seen members get a warning from a debate opponent when, in any other circumstance the disagreement would have been trivially dealt with in-thread; I've seen members get banned when they crossed a debate opponent who had the moderator trump card.

    Note: There will be differing points of view in every case (including the above ones) about whether the acton was justified or whether it was an inappropriate use of power. The point here is an ASSURANCE of objectivity to ALL parties.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. apeiron

    apeiron 2,432
    Gold Member

    I second that motion :rofl:. But of course I can't say why. Well, not without further infractions and deletions.

    But a separation of the powers of judge and executioner are indeed basic common-sense in any fair society. I would be interested in the reasons why PF would feel differently.
     
  4. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Typically, moderators will only act in clear-cut cases if they have a conflict of interest and will otherwise bring the issue up for discussion first. Either way, all moderator actions are "public" in that all moderators are informed of the actions of other moderators via a thread being opened in the moderator's forum.

    And, of course, all members are welcome to PM other moderators to discuss the actions of moderators.

    Also, either way, "airing of dirty laundry" is inappropriate and insults are infractionable.
     
  5. Okay, well I don't see any airing of dirty laundry here or insults, so I guess we're in good shape so far. But there have been instances that Dave's describing, of a moderator who is part of a conversation also moderating that conversation, when there is no clear infraction beyond disagreeing with the moderator in the capacity of a thread participant. (I can't even tell whether or not that sentence made sense.)

    I have to agree and ask that there be some formal rule that -- unless there is gross abuse happening in the thread that shouldn't happen at all or in any event -- the moderator taking part in the discussion ought not be the one moderating it. I'd hate to feel as if I need to keep ideas or opinions to myself out of caution because those ideas aren't in concert with the moderator taking part in the discussion.
     
  6. apeiron

    apeiron 2,432
    Gold Member

    I support such privilege when it is earned and not abused. But the shield of secrecy should not be there just to protect the blushes of moderators.
     
  7. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Thirded. I think I have seen Mentors overreacting when they took part in the discussion (very, very rarely, but I remember being surprised by what have happened), after all, Mentors are humans, not machines :smile: Personally in such cases (me feeling abused and wanting to react) I would always ask others to judge the situation. That is, unless I would explode earlier, I am human as well :devil:
     
  8. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,519
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If an infraction is issued that is claimed to be unfair, the infraction may be reversed by a vote of the staff, or by Greg if he chooses to intervene. No one here is moderating in isolation. Controversial decisions often involve a fair bit of staff discussion before a final decision is made.

    It would be all but impossible to reasonably assign bias. Simply starting a thread does not imply bias. And taking a side is what we do as moderators when, the rules are being violated, the discussion has spun out of control, or the facts are not properly represented. People would be claiming bias everytime they don't like a moderating decision. In fact, that is common already. We have all received plenty of hate mail and insults of every variety, and we do regularly. No one likes being moderated.

    That's why we have worked hard for years to develop guidelines for the forum. In fact, the guidelines are most valueable for the moderators. The rules are our working guide so that subjective judgements are kept to a minimum. The guidelines also allow everyone to know the rules and what is expected. All moderating decisions must be in compliance with the rules. Personal bias plays no role. If an infraction is issued unfairly, we already have rules to address that problem.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  9. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,519
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I would add that what you see may not be, and often is not representitive of what actually happens. While you may only see a strike in someone's name, the offending posts have probably been deleted. The staff can see them and review the actions taken, but you can't. By definition you would not normally see the posts that resulted in someone being banned, or infractions being issued. You really have no way to know what happened behind the scenes, so what you think you saw is almost certainly not the entire story.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  10. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 15,935
    Gold Member

    That's even better; the process is already in place. It should be a trivial matter to have one of those other staff take the action instead of the participating moderator.
     
  11. Greg Bernhardt

    Staff: Admin

    Dave, your OP is something the staff has talked about in the past and take efforts in doing.
     
  12. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 15,935
    Gold Member

    I probably should have led with this but it's never too late.

    This post is not a criticism of PF or the moderators. Without exception, the moderators are doing a spectacular job. Nobody knows this more than me, whose 'Report Post' key is worn down to a nub. IMO, the quality of PF is, in huge part, due to their pretty much thankless and tireless devotion, and their thick skins.
     
  13. lisab

    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, I think anyone who's been around PF for a while and has also been on other forums, knows this to be true.

    But I don't think it's a bad idea, having a third party monitor a lively discussion involving a moderator. It avoids the appearance of a conflict of interest.
     
  14. cristo

    cristo 8,394
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    A third party will monitor a thread when it is obvious that there is a conflict of interest. However, we only know about these threads if a member reports the thread, if the mentor reports it and states they have a conflict of interest (which happens quite often), or if we happen to stumble upon the thread by chance. As is always the case, if a member sees something that they think should be looked over by other mentors, they should report the thread.
     
  15. Good to know. I'll keep that in mind, then.

    And I'll take the shorter typing route (and because he said it better than I could have anyway) and echo what Dave said. Yes, absolutely.
     
  16. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Seconded. If I am supporting Dave that's not because I have any doubts about honesty and amount of work Mentors put into running PF (and - having some experience - I know it is not an easy task to moderate forums with a lot of traffic, kudos to the whole Mentors team). Still, I remember being surprised by actions taken in threads which I have traced closely enough to assume I have seen most of the posts (if not all). And I don't remember who was involved, I just remember being surprised.

    I don't pretend to know all, my feelings at the time could be easily wrong. I just like the idea.
     
  17. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    The problem when a different mentor gives an infraction to a member "out of the blue" is that the member then begins arguing with the uninvolved 3rd party mentor, which is a waste of time for both the member and the 3rd party mentor, as any new questions will just go back to the original mentor to be answered.

    Members always have the opportunity to question an infraction. The guidelines state that the member should first contact the mentor that gave the warning if they feel that it wasn't warranted. If after speaking with the mentor they still wish to appeal, they may then contact another mentor, and if needed, Greg.

    As Ivan mentioned, mentors cannot issue infractions without it opening a new thread in the mentor's forum showing all details of the post, member, explanation for infraction, type of infraction, points etc...

    I think members may not be aware that we routinely report posts that may need infractions and ask for feedback from other mentors before action is taken.

    Any mentor can take action in any forum. I think members may automatically assume if a mentor is assigned to a particular forum that all infractions, deletions, etc... come from that mentor, and that is simply not the case. You also can't assume that just because a mentor is involved in a thread that they are the one requesting the infraction. It may be another mentor, or even another member.

    I think it is good that these questions be brought up here so that any misunderstandings about how the infraction process works is clear.
     
  18. I think moderators should be dedicated moderators. In other words, that's all they do, and they should never be allowed to participate in threads.

    This is the way it was on another large forum where I used to post. The moderators were obligated to maintain disinterest in the outcome of any discussions, and only responded to reports of abusive behaviors or rule infractions. They weren't permitted to participate in any discussions.
     
  19. cristo

    cristo 8,394
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    That goes against the whole point of being a member, though. I for one would not stay here if all I was allowed to do was to deal with rule breaking, tell people off and deal with squabbles.
     
  20. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed. The only situation I can imagine is when you are paid for the moderation, then being a member is (can be) secondary.
     

  21. I think that's a bit extreme. I have a current events message board and both the other owner and I participate in all of the discussions, but when one of us runs into trouble with another member, the other deals with it, including having discussions with each other about whether or not we ought to have done what we've done. Now, we're a much smaller bunch, and easier to manage than something as large as this place, but still, if someone's yanking my chain, I stand back and let the other lady deal with it just in case my buttons are getting pushed and the other member isn't actually behaving unreasonably.

    The mentors/mods are valuable contributors to the conversations on these forums, and I'd really hate to see any of them stifled. I fall squarely in the camp of, if a mentor is having issues with someone within the context of a thread where they're a participant in the conversation, then the mod ought to ask someone else to review the situation. Or, as was pointed out, the other member contact another mod to help, I guess. But excluding mentors from the conversation just isn't a good plan.
     
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