Who would be a moderator and why?

Hi. Just picking up from recent discussions on other threads, I was moved to muse on this...

I stepped forward as a potential volunteer and was persuaded to do it as part of a team. My motive was entirely community-minded. What I and others ought to hope from a moderator is not some one who panders to the forum owner (which I clearly don't) but acts independently and impartially wherever possible - and perhaps more importantly in my view, can see things in perspective and in context.

When someone cracks a joke for example, as a moderator I would hope to see whether the joke is mainly meant to make people laugh (whether I see it as funny or not) or whether it is clearly at someone else's expense. That is a grey area and a matter for judgement and sometimes, referral to the other moderators who, I should say, demonstrate a great team spirit with determined impartiality and great wisdom in my view, whenever we see fit to confer.

We can see things differently and as individuals will show this in some of our postings as such.

But the task of a moderator is surely to be a guardian of the forum; to try to let it flow and facilitate discussion, but to always be vigilant in case anyone breaks rules which could lead to serious action being taken against them. In other words, we are on occasions protecting some posters from their own stupidity - deleting or moderating some posts before the libel lawyer comes knocking...

I do not see myself as some kind of power-crazed control freak who wields the axe whenever someone steps out of line - we have all seen plenty of those in corporate and sporting roles, haven't we? No; far from it. I believe people should be grown up enough to have a discussion and not to take part in anything that they might be over-sensitive to and to use the privilege of free speech as far as possible without using it as a weapon to insult others. Play on; let the game flow...

I despair sometimes at some people's lack of sensitivity and other times at people's over sensitivity. I wonder whether, in many cases, people are so socially conditioned that they are programmed to take offence - sometimes even on behalf of others - rather than actually feel offended on an intrinsic level. I do admit sometimes to quietly scoffing at people jumping over each other to show sanctimonious outrage at whatever (deemed) politically incorrect post might find its way onto this, or even some other forum.

I also wonder whether some people have any sense of perspective at all. Are we really so "educated" into believing what we are told by anyone who we believe (or have voted for) to represent us? Are we so incapable of thinking for ourselves that we have to go googling to find text to cut and paste into here to evidence the points we wish to assert?

Are we really so naïve as to think that you cannot argue with verified statistics when, all too often, the stats are shown in such a mutated context as to render them dangerously misleading? Is the word "dangerous" overstating this? A couple of instances spring to mind with respect to the (illegal) war on Iraq - namely the "45 minutes" claim on deployment of (non-existent) WMDs and the tragic demise of Dr David Kelly, who was naïve enough to think that presenting the facts in the right context was his firm brief... 

Is it a part of natural human evolution that we have a built-in tendency to oppose people with views different to our own - regardless of how intrinsic or conditioned those views might be? Why do we feel so threatened by people with different points of view? Is it not the same instinct - that of fear - that leads us to respond so robustly to different views as does the fear of different races or persuasions of people that which makes some of us deemed as racist?

Is it not the case that the goalposts of political correctness are constantly on the move...?

And who moves these goalposts...???

Should there be a two-tier discussion forum: one for those who can discuss things objectively and constructively and another for those who wish to have an online punch-up?

I'd like some views on this (and I'd appreciate it if the origin of these thoughts is from somewhere outside of the cerebral cortex) as it genuinely keeps me awake some nights.

[Maybe I'm not cut out to be a moderator. Perhaps I am just not moderate enough... ]

Always trying to see things from several points of view in order to get the healthiest perspective from which to see the way forward isn't easy and it doesn't always get appreciated. Being a mediator can sometimes be an impossible task if all opposing factions are determined not to budge. A conciliatory stance can at some times be unwelcome and at other times seen as downright obstructive and time wasting. I have experienced this several times first hand in some interesting relationships and encounters.  

Does the media circus that is our party political system condition us to be so staunchly partisan in our everyday discussions?

Or is there hope that some day, we will have some charismatic community leaders that can demonstrate that it is possible and desirable - essential even - to seek a solution with the idea that all parties with a challenge can achieve a better outcome with creative, collaborative spirit with the application of some emotional and social intelligence?

Or should I just get out more...?

[Bets are already placed on who responds - and how - to the last question].




  • Dear Glyn, from the beautiful photos you and Chris post, I'd say you get out more than most !  I'm sad that you are losing sleep over trying to keep this Forum show on the road.  There are those people who read and enjoy but don't comment, and I'm sure they appreciate what they learn from the Forum, and would miss it if it were closed down--as happened before.  But maybe any sensible person would walk away from unpaid unpleasantness.

    My late father-in-law liked to say that " A text out of context is a pretext."  Some people would have to resort to arguing with themselves if there were no one else to oppose. 

  • Thanks Gloria for your supportive comments.

    So is our apparently widespread inability to present or interpret things in the right or intended context a result of a rather 2-dimensional education or just an unfortunate and unintended consequence of (anti-) sociàl developmemt...?
  • Glyn, I really appreciate your common sense and moderate style. Perfect for a moderator!
    Like many people, while I enjoy reading the various threads on the Forum, I get heartily fed up of certain members, who obviously have too much time on their hands and feel they have to be "clever." Just wish they'd shut up!

    People like SaraRaquel, who just made a comment about cyclists on the pavement, must have wished she'd never bothered. Some of the posts were slightly unpleasant and others were not funny. Humour is great but snide digs are not.

    Keep up the good work.
  • edited August 2016
    Thanks Glyn - a lucid posting about the trials and tribulations of being a mod. I share your thoughts entirely. Just a comment to the users of the forum - please remember we mods have a dual identity - we have to firewall our personal presence from our mod presence. And that isn't easy sometimes when we become subject to some of the pressures/observations/complaints/criticisms to which we are exposed...
  • Thank you to the moderators for moderating.  It would be a pity to lose the Forum again as it is sometimes very useful but some threads become very tedious.   I like the idea of a sub Forum for those who want to have a punch up  as then I would not have to bother to skim through it.

    I do wonder if the facility to cut and paste previous postings   is a bad idea as it does tend to encourage slanging matches.
  • Glyn you have  proven yourself to be a valuable  contributor to the forum and I trust your judgment  and integrity  as a moderator. I feel that some people have a blind spot when it comes to some topics and post in a childish, sometimes spiteful  way.There are many forum members whom never post. I wonder why. Glyn try not to lose sleep over  your role  Thank you
  • edited August 2016

    I do wonder if the facility to cut and paste previous postings   is a bad idea as it does tend to encourage slanging matches.

    No it doesn't!

    On a slightly more serious note though, I think that the Mods rock. It must be like being a school dinner attendant in the playground, having to step in to separate warring factions, smooth ruffled feathers and generally try to keep the peace without being able to actually bang heads together.

    The point about a lot of people not posting and some of those probably fearing attacks is, sadly, probably true. I think I responded to a request for thoughts about a particular subject (only my second posting on the forum) and was attacked by one particular member of the community ... it certainly makes you wary about future interaction!

    Some of the topics do get incredibly tedious and I often wonder if it would be possible to ignore/hide a particular thread so that it doesn't keep popping up on your screen with a "new" orange box, tempting you back in to see if anything sensible has been contributed ... normally not the case

    Back to the Mods ... well done to you guys, please keep it up, and thanks everything that you do to keep the forum going.

  • Thanks all for your supportive comments.

    Perhaps the title of this thread suggests the forum is in peril of closure but the decision is not mine and in any case, my rhetorical starter on this thread is out of fascination (and yes, not a little frustration) with some of the destructive quirks of human behaviour, as is often exhibited on here, so i am really looking for insights from others with expertise or perhaps the same fascination as me.

    As some of you may have seen, traffic has been up on the forum, so its popularity (at least by dint of the stats chosen by Jason to back up his point) is not in question; but what prompted me to post this was that people have been telling me that they don't bother checking into the forum any more because of some of the distasteful, immature bickering and even downright attritional threads.

    So whilst the traffic has not decreased on the forum, perhaps the nature of the exchanges has become less pleasant and maybe this would imply that those who have remained are those who prefer a good old scrap.

    As much as I admit to occasionally getting dragged into a bit of banter, I do worry sometimes that some people can get rather wounded by what goes on. 

    I also fret sometimes over how differently people can behave behind a cloak of anonymity. For example, if i am having a bad day in the car and someone drives badly or inconsiderately, I am much more likely to shout at them if the windows are done up and they can't see or hear me than wouod otherwise be the case if they could.

    It is much easier to have a banter with people you know and trust than it is with a stranger. Plus, i come from a background of playing a lot of amateur sport where fierce competition on the field is always under the respectful code of the law and in the expectation of a warm greeting after the game has finished, regardless of the outcome. I do wish there was more of this spirit on the forum...
  • Keep up the good work mods and I agree with Savvy that on the odd occasion I have posted something it starts well but is then subject to so many negative comments from the same few that apart from this post I no longer post. Hopefully this forum keeps going as it is so helpful and maybe it needs policing more as suggested above and remove distasteful and immature bickering as stated by Glyn
  • All valuable feedback as I see it. Thanks Malcolm.

    I will just move to say that there are many shades of grey when it comes to what is and isn't distasteful and immature and indeed people's tolerance thereof.

    So to moderate to the most sensitive level would make the forum rather dull (which is also what I sometimes hear by way of feedback), so there will be occasions where the mods will be guided by popular opinion, (as opposed to blatant one-sided lobbying) even if we don't agree as individuals.

    Strange isn't it, that the majority of mediators only get busy when there is a crisis of conflict... ;-)
  • Glyn said:

    So is our apparently widespread inability to present or interpret things in the right or intended context a result of a rather 2-dimensional education or just an unfortunate and unintended consequence of (anti-) sociàl developmemt...?
    That's a big question, Glyn !  Here is a small, specific response. I'm not keen on emoticons, but sometimes without them I think people often mistake the spirit in which an email or post is written.  Intentions and expectations in communication is a minefield, even without it being virtual and anonymous.  You get into philosophy and psychology if you want to dig deeper.  It's a wonder any of us ever come to common understanding on anything !

  • Just a brief comment on people no longer using the Forum because they've found some threads upsetting/offensive.  I'd simply suggest these are avoided, in the same way we change channels on TV.  Some threads may also be too predictable/boring, but the same remedy is at hand. Some threads can be relied on for consistent, quality delivery, esp. those to do with wildlife/what's on/bird & other photos, advice on eating/drinking, good local services  etc.

    Surely it's not that difficult...?
  • Glyn, I hope you're not too despondent. Moderators are website traffic wardens - and look how much fun they have doing that job. I briefly moderated some of the BBC News website 'Have Your Say' forums a few years back and it's always a thankless task. So long as some key rules of taste and decency are upheld, forums usually have to be left to find their own personality (and thus reflect Wivenhoe, I suppose, in this case). Or the forum ought to make it explicitly clear about what strict kind of atmosphere it's accepts and expects ('my gaff, my rules'). If it's an 'anyone anytime, chat away' idea (which I find a little naive) then expect certain customers to ride roughshod over the quieter ones.

    People who take part in online feedback or forums often perceive themselves to be writing to their own rules (they're using their computers in their homes, after all; plus they're invited to 'have THEIR say'), so they can forget they're in a public place (albeit a digital one). That can mean people's decorum slips. If we were all in a bar talking about a subject and two people started getting argumentative and rowdy, they'd be told to take it outside. The other customers might be put off. If too much of that happens, they'd start to find the pub 'rough' and go somewhere else. The excuse of 'if you don't like it, look at another subject' is rather boorish. If a conversation starts politely and engages several people, it's not fair for the loudest, most-belligerent correspondents to feel they can take over the conversation. It's saying 'I'm the loudest and most important so get lost'. Again, if this were a public place, the louder ones might take the temperature of the room and moderate their behaviour to suit their surroundings. Without that barometer (remember they're at home or on their own smartphone) then they just get louder.

    What's more, despite posting a message for global viewing, some people just don't feel like they're heard. If you're in a crowd of people and no one's picked up your point, you might quietly assume 'they're not interested'. On a web forum, people rather inflate their importance (and thus language and tone) and think their witty missive deserves a small round of applause from the crowd. If they don't get it they might embellish with sarcasm, exaggeration or insults (but mostly cliches). Those types can't accept being disagreed with; they only made their point public in the first place because they think they're the ones who are 'right' and so it should be 'conversation over'. I believe they're in the minority. They're the loudest but remember: a lot of people might come to read the forum rather than participate in it.

    When you moderate these things, Glyn, you cannot win. If you stop 'person x' saying something then you're denying them free speech. But if lots of people then have a go at 'person x' because he/she has said something odious, then YOU are not doing your job in protecting their clever and intelligent point (which is usually backed with an 'I'm just saying what everyone's thinking - I'm a person of the people' kind of defence).

    On the BBC website, I was accused of being 'anti Israeli' as much as I was 'anti Palestinian'; I was also 'clearly part of the BBC loony left' as much as I was 'clearly an anti-Labour pro-Tory stooge'. I tended to think that: if I was accused equally from each side then I'd probably got it as right as I could and given it my level best.

    Perhaps there's a traffic warden who might have some handy hints on how they cope?

    But don't give up. It's only people. And it's only words.

    ...and good luck, Glyn.
  • Colin and others (I missed some of the earlier posts)...

    Thank you so much to Colin in particular for your insights and shared experience. It has been a fascinating ride so far and an eye-opening (as.much as eye-watering sometimes) experience.

    I think that the best way to learn from any experience is with an open mind and a sackful of humility. As the forum and Colin's astute observations have shown, it is sadly lacking in some of the posters on here and on other platforms, for whom the most important outcome of a discussion is to win it!

    I hope this discussion has made a few people think about how we can have more constructive and enlightening exchanges on here and have some pride in the way they conduct themselves in this little online community. 

    Sometimes doubts can creep in as to whether impartiality and humility can be seen as a sign of weakness, yet we so often see it as admirable qualities in some of the greatest people the world has ever known. 

    Thanks all for engaging in this and for your best wishes. My fellow moderators are both great people and we are lucky to have such balance and wisdom to keep this forum.on track. My insomnia is not out of worry; it is out of curiosity. 

    I'll get back to doing some wildlife soon. There's an Osprey over on Geedon saltings so i might nip out early doors tomorrow and see if i can catch it fishing...

  • Thank you @colin. Printed and kept handy for re-reading for when despondency strikes ;)
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