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Vienna Safety Presentation - Group Moderation
Posted June 24th, 2009 - 7:52 am by from Montreal, Canada (Permalink)
Dividing my presentation in 3 parts for your convenience, here is the part about Group Moderation. Others will follow in the next days. This post is flagged and you are free to translate or cross-post it (using the permalink).

I added my notes to the speaker's notes so you can view both as you are viewing the presentation. You have to click on "Action", "View speaker notes" and rearrange your screen so that you can see both at the same time.


Otherwise, if you just want to read the contents, here it is:

Group moderation

In the last years, CouchSurfing has grown from a collection of member to both an online and offline community. Groups and Events are sectors that are more active than ever, and increased human activity also means increased potential for conflict.

While all group moderators are not ambassadors, many ambassadors also moderate groups. It can be a tricky task. People express their sensitivities and reply sometimes very quickly to group threads, which means that situations can degenerate fast, sometimes in a matter of hours. In cases of long on-going conflicts or when sensitive current events displayed in the media, moderators are expected to act and literally "moderate" the issue/conflict, as in "bring away from extremes, supervise, mediate".

What powers do group moderators have ?

There are already many other options for group moderators and it is helpful to be aware of all of them.

- Flag messages

While not directly related to conflict resolution, flagging posts can help everybody in the group to have some important posts/reminders handy. Flagged posts appear in a link at the top of all other posts, however new they are. Moderators or group users can refer to them when new people come to the group with frequently asked questions.

- Set group guidelines

Group guidelines are a list of things that the group has agreed to and are used as guidance in operation. At a quick glance, everyone can see what rules a group functions by. They can be created either by moderators or group members, depending on the group's settings.

Group guidelines can be used to orientate newcomers, define appropriate language/topics, add extra internal rules for group discussion, group management, etc. As a moderator, you are invited to define them together with the other moderator(s), make sure they are in line with the wishes of the group members & make sure that they are maintained.

To create new guidelines:

- View All Guidelines
- Create a new guideline (at the bottom of the page)
- Fill in the form and Save !

- Change group settings

Who may see this group

Requires password

Who may see group messages?

Group Members only

Who may join this group?

Invite only

Who may post to this group?

All group members
Moderator ONLY

All groups under "Places" category must be set to Anyone & All group members

EXCEPTION: *Country* CS Org group or other ambassadors sub-groups

In the second part, moderators have more flexibility, according to the group's own history, sub-culture, needs. Remember that if you change the "Notify on new user" setting, it affects all moderators of this group.

In About This Group, you can use some basic html tags such as img src=http://www.couchsurfing.org/something.jpg" or a href="http://wiki.couchsurfing.org/en/Mycity" Mycity on CouchSurfing Wiki - Useful tips from and for CSers /a

- Creating/Managing Polls

Don't forget that you can do it, if needed!

- Add people to a group

Please note that when you fill this form, the values that appear by default are your own group options. Make sure to change them (especially the "Moderator" field).

Please don't add people to a group without their consent/knowledge. This has caused people to complaint in the past.

- Managing members

Removing members
Promoting/demoting other moderators

These two functions are pretty straightforward, and should be used carefully to avoid miscommunication. Please note that a member removed from a group can in effect rejoin at any time.

- Contact people privately

Because it's not a moderator super-power, people tend to forget that they can contact group members privately to welcome them, advise them and in some cases issue warnings. Private contact has the advantage of being a softer and more humble approach to conflict resolution. Its inconveniences are that it looks publicly like no one is acting, and that you have no control over your communication being reposted publicly or not.

- Post in the group

As a moderator, you have more or less moral authority over the group. This means that by posting an assertive, calm and clear message in a stormy/conflictual thread, it might be enough to moderate the discussion. Your experience, dedication and neutrality can help. If you doubt being neutral enough, it might be better to bring the issue to another co-moderator's attention.

Mediate conflicts - Some definitions first

Troll: someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community [...] with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Symptoms... Trolls..

* don't care about the group
* don't really want to solve the problem
* deliberately overwhelm people by their posting
* polarize the discussion (opposite of moderating - dividing people)
* insult, threaten, spread rumours, ignore guidelines, fail to read other people's posts, repost publicly private messages...

Don't feed the Troll!

The best way to handle trolls in public forums is usually to IGNORE them

* I would like to report an inappropriate post or member in a group.

Please contact the group moderator(s), as he/she/they may already know how to deal with the issue. If you are the group moderator, or if the group is not moderated, please send us a message, and be sure to include all links to the relevant posts (click on "Permalink" at the top of the post in question and copy the URL from your browser's address bar).

From the Groups CUQ - FAQ (Contact Us)

This information can be found when you Click on "Contact Us" at the bottom of each page. Once you enter the category (i.e. groups) you get to a page with a few questions and answers

What is a Permalink?

It's a link associated with a single post, not to the entire thread. People sometimes send us a link to the thread saying: please have a look at this, and do something about it! Some threads have more than 100 message in them and it's very hard to understand what exactly is problematic. It's very useful to understand what is a permalink because you will be asked to provide them when contacting us. There are two ways of getting them under Windows. You can either right-click on permalink and click on "Copy the link" or you can click on them and the main page link in the adress bar at the top will become the same as the permalink you just chose, and you can copy and paste it as usual.

What to do if you are the moderator?

You can take a few steps prior to contacting us and be a direct factor of conflict resolution. According to our Terms of use, members are responsible for their interactions with other users, and you are not obligated to try to control members' behaviour, but you may also be able to help build a more peaceful community.

Now, we acknowledge that it's a difficult job and that the tools you are provided are not perfect. There is a lot of work that is done behind the scenes to make this job easier, but the results are not visible yet. It's not possible to tell when and what will be possible at the moment, but in the meanwhile, you have some powers, as we have seen earlier, and there are some techniques that can help you moderate.

Some elements to be considered prior to acting:

How are you feeling about the issue?
How close are you to the involved parties?
Can you word yourself firmly, friendly and professionally?
Is the offense minor, the debate healthy and the members learning from the conflict?
Can the group self-moderate? Is your intervention necessary?

You are expected to act neutrally in case of conflict. You job is not to decide who's right, who's wrong but invite parties to calm down. They can either try to work things out in the group (very hard to handle in big active groups) or to work their differences out in private.

Conflict prevention/resolution in a few simple steps

1) Create Guidelines: Set guidelines for the group according to its mission, and remind group members of the guidelines as necessary. Do you already have guidelines? If so, review what's covered, and if the current conflicts that you are experience are not covered, update them to include it.

2) Your voice: Respond to problematic posts in a calm, reasonable manner, and ask people to discuss the issues respectfully. Don't feed the troll! If inappropriate posts are posted, it may be worth contributing to the thread with a very polite, calm and gentle reminder of the guidelines and perhaps if the debate is heated, try and calm everyone down without pointing fingers at anyone in particular. A simple post like "Hey guys, we all have our opinions, how about we respect those of others and enjoy a civil chat in here. No need for hostility, etc" can work!

3) If inappropriate posts continue, email the member privately to ask them to re-read the group guidelines, and think about the effect their posts are having. People may be more responsive if communication happens behind the scenes, as they are less likely to feel victimized or humiliated if you speak with them privately.

4) Removal of members: When doing so, communicate with members, letting them know you have removed them from the group, and asking them for a "time out" period. Members can rejoin a group as soon as they wish, so it's advisable to ask them not to rejoin for a pre-determined period of time, such as 15 or 30 days. If they do not abide by this request, you may Contact Us.

If the member co-operates after that, you've done a great job!

If not, please let us know. Please provide links to member's profile, permalinks to posts, or links to threads, and also an account of what actions you have taken and when, as this will help us immensely. CS Group Management Team will take it from there!

(A very brief reminder about...) Post deletion requests

"CouchSurfing does not now, nor has it ever censored members' email or group postings. We allow our members to write and share whatever they wish, so long as it adheres to our anti-spam guidelines and is not considered defamation. We have a policy of inclusion. In addition, we welcome and have structures in place for member feedback and critique. We are a network for and by the people, and appreciate constructive criticism as a means to growth and improvement."

- CouchSurfing's FAQ

Moderators have repeatedly asked over time to have the power to remove posts from groups. Experience shows that there is a high risk of arbitrary censorship when this power is within a large amount of untrained people and therefore CouchSurfing does not intend to provide moderators with this power anytime soon.

In some specific cases, you can request posts to be deleted from groups. You don't have to be moderator to do that. Here is the current criteria:

I would like to have a post/thread deleted.

As CouchSurfing does not censor its members, group posts can be deleted only for a few very specific reasons:

* You have accidentally included some personal information (address, phone number, etc.) in a post; please do not send third-party requests
* A post in a group you moderate is clearly spam, commercial, scam, or an attempt at phishing; if you are not the group moderator, please contact him/her first
* A post is posted multiple times in the same group due to an error on the site

From the Groups CUQ - FAQ (Contact Us)

Additionally, it can be removed when it is defamatory or libellous towards a third party or if it clearly breaks CouchSurfing's Terms of Use.

If the person that posted the spam is an active CouchSurfing member, consider a friendly reminder first. Deletion is not always an absolute necessity - it is the last resort.

If the post you wish to see removed fits in one of these categories, please contact CS Groups Management through Contact Us, under the "groups" category. Please include a direct link to the post(s), i.e. a Permalink.

Thanks for your help !

Posted June 24th, 2009 - 10:24 am by from Montreal, Canada (Permalink)

All groups under "Places" category that are based on geography only (country, region, province, city) must be set to Anyone & All group members

Posted June 26th, 2009 - 2:57 pm by from Gaborone, Botswana (Permalink)
Excellent advice and information, thanks.

Is there a page published on the site (like www.couchsurfing.org/moderation) where group moderators can quote the official line on CS Group Monitoring - ie to protect themselves against the "who do you think you are", "what right have you got to tell us what we can and cant do/say" etc?

ie detailing the role of moderators, what the generic "rules" are regarding posts (i know these are covered in the terms & conditions etc - but no harm in reinforcing them). What moderators can and cant so...

I think that would be very useful in instilling the purpose and "powers" of moderators and help in the fight back against groups turning into personal attacks, tittle tattle and/or facebook walls and give a framework in which moderators and members can align their actions and responses to.

Post removed.
Posted June 26th, 2009 - 3:07 pm by from Rome, Italy (Permalink)
This post has been removed by the user.

Deleted Post
Posted September 6th, 2009 - 1:18 am by from Furtwangen im Schwarzwald, Germany (Permalink)
salam ann,
maybe list of Not To Post in scale,like;
CouchRequest > scale HIGH
Hotel > High
Commercial Travel & Tour promotion > Medium
Flights offer > Medium

something like that, it be help full