moderation? hosting? or linking out & making contributors take responsibility?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m all for making the moderation process for message boards, comments, etc more transparent to the user.

Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, even “low quality” comments from users all have their place – and add authenticity to the voice of the audience. Afterall, not everyone who reads your website and has something to say is an editor on staff at the Economist or a Times columnist. A radio phone-in presenter would never jump in as a caller made their point and say “can you not use that accent” or “actually it’s an apple, not a apple”. I’ve come across a few other bloggers saying the same sort of things this morning.

Jeff Jarvis writes on Buzz Machine that:

“But don’t think that you can tidy up comments any better than you can tidy up the world. People are messy and so’s life. Get used to it. Nonetheless, I do believe that this is my space and I have the right — and sometimes responsibility — to maintain a proper atmosphere for conversation. I rarely kill comments but I choose to sometimes when someone goes overboard.”

“A VC” explains the way he moderates the comments on his blog:

“I believe in open and free speech and blogs are best when they are open for free speech. People can parse through what is mean, hurtful, and wrong and what is thoughtful and intelligent. But let them do that on their own and don’t try to do it for them.”

Moderation and hosting are vastly different activities . Moderators, on the one hand, is a bit like police – you only know they are there if you overstep the rules and get caught or if you find yourself in trouble and have to ask for their help. Moderation is negative. Hosting, on the other hand, is positive and reinforcing. It IS possible to keep an online community safe through hosting alone although it can take a lot of time and effort. That’s why anyone encouraging the growth of communities around their brands, websites, etc are starting to look at new models where trusted users take some of the responsibility.

Another idea I like, and Jarvis (see above) talks about too, is the idea of simply linking to audience generated content on third party sites rather than trying to collect, moderate and take ownership of it. I think that’s a realistic model and one that I hope we’ll see some high profile experiments with in the future. In fact, I might just know of one such project but can’t let you in on the details just yet…