On Moderating a Discussion Forum…

It’s remarkable to see how large our MacRumors Forums have grown. We’re at over 138,000 members and 4.4 million posts, and represent the most active Apple forum on the internet.

I added the forums to the site in 2001. Before that, I had experimented with integrated comment systems for our stories, but these tools were very immature at the time. In the end I reluctantly decided to add a full forum with user registration and additional sub-forum discussion.

I say ‘reluctantly’ because I knew the baggage that comes with launching a forum. Spam and moderation become major issues. I also knew that with me having a more-than-full-time day job, I simply didn’t have the time to police the forums. But I launched them anyway.

As I could have predicted, after a few months, the forums discussions had spiraled out of control into massive flame wars. There would be lengthy threads with people cussing each other out back-and-forth. It was ugly.

In trying to sort out the issues, I recruited a few moderators, banned a few users, and set up some rules to try to prevent this from happening again.

Now the rules I instituted may seem odd 6 years later, but I still feel the reasoning behind it holds true.

While you can read the lengthy rules as they stand today, the cardinal rules remain the same:

- Don’t personally insult someone else.
- Keep discussion on topic.
- Don’t waste my (our) time.

Don’t insult others

How do you stop threads from degenerating into flame wars? In looking at the numerous examples of flame-wars at the time… it comes down to this:

At one point, someone stops debating the topic, and starts attacking the individual.

Once that happens, things degenerate very quickly. So, how do you stop flame wars? Stop it at the cause. Personal insults are simply not tolerated. It worked in 2001, and we keep it in place today for the same reason. It’s not that hard. And if you can’t control yourself after multiple warnings, then there’s nothing I can do for you.

Keep discussion on topic

At its heart MacRumors is about rumors and news about Apple. The purpose of the forums is to discuss those news and rumor items. In news story discussions, we are strict about it. We simply delete off-topic posts. I also find this “rule” self-evident. People might complain about being censored, but if your news-story post doesn’t directly have to do with the news-story, then most people don’t want to see it.

With news-story discussions exceeding 100′s of replies now, I think this remains a very important rule.

Don’t waste my (our) time

In 2001, I added this as a simple “catch all” to keep my workload manageable. Then, as today, I had a very limited amount of time to devote to support issues surrounding “problem” users. In the end, once a problem user started monopolizing my time, banning them became the only option.

In 2007, our moderation staff has grown to be able to handle far more issues… but at the core, this concept remains. The moderator staff is an entirely volunteer one, with full time jobs outside of MacRumors. While they are diligent about following up on all issues, there’s always a tipping point, where one problem user could consume too many resources.

This entry was posted in MacRumors.com. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to On Moderating a Discussion Forum…

  1. Jesper says:

    The rules work really well. The attitude at the forums is usually very helpful and extremely nerdy.

    Which I of course love.

  2. Bb says:

    Do you have an RSS feed for MacRumors? That’d be very handy.

  3. Hemanth says:

    Nice post. I was looking though your forums after seeming the post in vbulletin.com about the macrumur’s specs. My forums i still in growing path and I’m glad to hear that two round-robined PHP + 1 MySQL server can handle a huge forum like your’s.

    Back to the topic i’m also struggling to keep up with the ever growing flaming and spams along with my “More than Full time” Job.

    Cheers mate and Welldone !

Comments are closed.