Community Strategy Insights

The latest insights on community strategy, technology, and value by FeverBee’s founder, Richard Millington

Decisive Moderation

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

We believe in decisive moderation, something we want to
outline here.

There are three principles at work here: 

time is valuable.
You have limited time. Every second you spend on a
reactive task (or negative members) is time you can’t spend proactively
developing the community. You want to spend
as little time on reactive moderation as possible
. Every second you spend on
reactive moderation hurts the
community. The time you spend helping one member, might hurt the community

For every moderation activity you undertake you should ask; how do I make sure
I never do this task again? Refine your activities and ensure you focus on the
most important tasks.

your emotional and mental energy
. You have limited mental energy. This work
is exhausting. It will make you miserable. If you’re demotivated, it shines
through in how proactive you are, how you engage with members, and in your
broad approach to the community. Limit the emotional and mental energy you
spend on the community.

Reactive moderation (removing bad stuff) can be broken down
into four separate categories. 

1) The immediate bans (bots / spammers / serious crimes/bad fits)

2) The escalation ladder (rule breakers /
antagonistic members)

3) The conflict resolution ladder (member

4) The inbox (responding to members queries/complaints)


Immediate bans

Bots and members that join to spam deserve none of your
time. Members which make any comments which could be considered a crime offline
(racism, sexism, homophobia, threats) can also be removed. Simple technology
tweaks, for example asking a simple question a bot can’t answer resolves most
automated spam.  

You can also remove those that have disruptive
personalities. Personalities rarely change. You might want to remove members
with, for example, a victim complex, unable to resist insulting members, whose
tone never matches the rest of the community, or are otherwise constantly

Most moderators will claim you need to give warnings to all
of the above. This violates our first principle, the time you spend warning a
member is time you could spend doing positive activities, for example
recruiting members who are a great fit for the community.


The escalation ladder
(rule breakers / antagonistic members)

The other two groups are more challenging. Existing members who
break rules or antagonize others enter the escalation ladder.  


First step is to do nothing. Some behaviour (trolling,
antagonizing other members, or promoting own activities) might help a
community. Other times it’s simply not worth tackling unless it’s clearly
harming the community. Your time is too important.

Second step is to try the reason / befriend / distract
approach. You might try to reason with them. Understand what they’re really
angry about. Ask how you can help resolve the issue.

Alternatively you can try to befriend them. Use the standard
question / comment / praise technique. Finally, you can distract them. Give
them their own column to express their unique views.

If that fails, take a stronger attitude change approach.
Make them ashamed of their behaviour and showcase how it’s making them
unpopular within the community. This is via a carefully, crafted, message.

Finally, suspend or remove the member. Suspension rarely
changes behaviour. 

For the tiny number of members that hide their IPs, create
new accounts, and repeatedly attack the community, you may need to contact
their ISP, police, or even contact their employer (you would be surprised how
many employers dislike their staff trolling communities). Alternatively, train
volunteers to spot this and remove it on a daily basis.


Conflict resolution
(fights between members)

Conflict resolution ladder is very similar and based upon
the accommodation, avoidance, collaboration, compromise, and competition model
by Thomas and Kilman.


First, do nothing. Conflicts usually increase the level of
activity in a community. Second, halt the single conflict in a thread (lock the
thread – “I think everyone has made their
key points now”
). Third, again reason/change attitude to the behaviour or
distract them by giving them their own columns/polls to seek support for their

Next, final warning – with new ground rules for those
interactions between members (no personal insults, clearly aggressive language)
and then suspend/ban members.


The inbox (member

The inbox is typically filled with four categories of

1)  Complaints about the brand, community, or other

2)  Questions about the site (how do I change my password/profile etc.)

3)  Suggestions/ideas

4)  Misc

A few principles here:

the common questions, problems, and complaints
. Update the FAQ, send a
community-wide e-mail, or feedback information to the community. In the FAQ,
for example, add any repeated questions about the topic, brand, or the
platform. You should be able to remove 50% of your inbox messages through this

the platform
. For lost passwords, platform questions, and similar issues,
try tweaking the platform to resolve the problem to  reduce the need of members to message you.

and ideas
. If a member has a suggestion or an idea for the community, ask
them if they want to make that idea happen. This is especially useful if it is
a suggestion they can do within the community.

separate community inboxes
. Your inbox shouldn’t be used for the minor,
easily resolvable, problems. Create a community account [email protected], [email protected],
etc…which volunteers can access to resolve these issues. 

This won’t resolve or remove all the moderation issues, but
it should significantly reduce the number of messages you do receive. Moderation
is a time-exhaustive, mentally exhaustive, and often a resource-intensive task.
The goal is to be decisive in your moderation approach and spend as little time
on reactive moderation as possible.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here

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