The 4Chan/StackExchange Continuum

October 23, 2014Comments Off on The 4Chan/StackExchange Continuum

Imagine moderation on a continuum.

At one extreme is 4Chan.

4Chan allows pretty much everything that won't get Chris arrested. They wipe their database of conversations every night. 

As a result they get a lot of activity. Most of it is gibberish. A large quantity is pornographic. Yet the sheer quantity of that gibberish creates a powerful sense of community and widespread cultural influence (in memes).

At the other extreme is StackExchange.

StackExchange has a strict moderation policy that aims to generate the single best response to any discussion. They want facts not opinions. You can't ask 'What is the best widget?.' That's too subjective. Who defines best? You can ask if Widget {x} has more ZZ Bits than Widget {y}. That's informative and facilitates information – not opinions. 

As a result, StackExchange greatly restricts the sense of community but gets high quality discussions. 

Both of these moderation approaches are powerful positioning statements. They attract a specific type of audience. They facilitate a certain type of discussions. 

Most communities fall somewhere in the middle. They allow some off-topic and casual chatter, but not too much. They allow some bad language, but not much. They allow some debate, but restrict intense arguments. 

And if you want an average community without any unique positioning, this is exactly what you should do.

The alternative is to push the community (or create the community) more towards one of the two ends of the continuum. Be clearer about your moderation policy. Use it to set you apart from the crowd. Use it to attract the people you want and facilitate either high quality information exchange or a strong connection between members. 

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