Moderator guidelines

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The Talk Forum is a critical source of knowledge, communication, discussion and debate inside the Dallas Makerspace. Some portions of Talk are visible to the outside community as well. We strive to achieve the right balance of open discussion while presenting a civil face to the external community.

Behavioral expectations on Talk are described here.

Moderator Team Membership

The Infrastructure Committee sponsors a team (Moderator Team) to moderate the Talk Forum. The Moderator Team desires and promotes an open, transparent environment on Talk that promotes inclusion, diversity of opinions, knowledge sharing, fairness and respect while respecting privacy of all individuals. The objectives of this moderation are to:

  1. maintain an orderly, organized structure to facilitate knowledge search
  2. promote a civil environment that is free from harassment, ad hominem attacks, vulgarity, offensive communication or anything prohibited by law.

The Moderator Team is granted certain electronic privileges to perform this moderation. The Board of Directors has granted the Moderator Team the authority to enforce actions taken in support of the objectives above. The authority of the Moderator team is limited to moderating those actions that occur through the electronic forums of the Dallas Makerspace; Talk/discourse, mail (PM's), and wiki.

The Moderator Team is comprised of individuals with two different levels of electronic privileges; Level 4 Talk Users, and Moderators. “Moderators” have a higher privilege level than Level 4 users. The Moderator team will contain no fewer than five and no more than nine members. Disciplinary actions can only be taken with a specific number of moderators in concurrence. This multi-moderator team protects members from unilateral disciplinary actions by a single moderator, while retaining enough moderators to allow an individual moderator to recuse himself/herself due to personal interests.

In addition, the Infrastructure Committee relies on users with administrative privileges who perform IT-related tasks to maintain the site, such as creating new categories, installing updates, etc. The Administrator role does not confer Moderator Status, although an individual is allowed to perform both roles if selected to both.

Community moderation is performed through Flags. This is a function of the Discourse system upon which Talk is built, and we have retained this function. Any user can flag a post as either off-topic or offensive (or spam). Three flags on a single post will hide the post from view. In essence, this is community moderation.

Organized Structure

Structure definition: The contents of Talk are organized into Categories, primarily related to committees. Each category may contain threads, which is a collection of related posts; i.e., a discussion of a topic. A post is a single entry into the discussion, either to start a thread or to continue a discussion.

Categories

Posting threads in relevant categories helps make the knowledge on Talk searchable. Each person who posts should determine the suitable category. Sometimes the category of a post should be changed when it is not in the most relevant location or when the original poster (OP) has neglected to specify a category. Level 2 users and above can change the category of their own post. Level 3 users and above can change the category of other user’s posts. Neither of these actions are restricted to the Moderator Team.

Any posts that appear in any of the Members Only categories should not be moved to an open view category without the permission of the original poster (and preferably all respondents as well). All users who have permissions to move posts are asked to comply with this.

Threads

The other mechanism for maintaining organized structure is the ability to join and split threads as they wander off of the original topic. When numerous posts in the same thread have strayed from the original topic, they may be consolidated into a new topic to retain this new “off-topic” information and source of knowledge in a more appropriate location. Level 4 Users have the ability to perform splits and joins. Splitting multiple related posts into a new thread is preferred over hiding them via the Flag system.

Posts

A post is a single entry into a thread. Any member has the ability to flag a post as being off-topic from the original post.

Civil Environment

The DMS Code of Conduct stated in the Rules and Policies requires that we “Don't merely respect each other; be excellent to each other.” This is a basic tenet of the DMS philosophy.

Further, the Anti-Harassment policy states “Harassment is prohibited and will not be tolerated”.

Flagging

The Talk flagging feature is a key component for the community to identify transgressions that violate this code of conduct. Any member can flag a post that he/she feels is inappropriate. The Flag states, “This post contains content that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or a violation of our community guidelines.” Flagging is appropriate if the post contains vulgarity, ad hominem attacks (i.e., name-calling), deliberate intimidation; and/or threating, abusive or insulting words. Flags are not to be used to target or to deliberately censor another user.

The identity of flaggers will be protected and not disclosed to the person who was flagged.

Only Moderators but not Level 4 Users have the electronic privileges to act upon flags. A Moderator can take the following actions:

  1. Defer. The moderator acknowledges the existence of the flag, but the moderator is allowing community moderation to take its course. If three flags accumulate the post will be hidden; if fewer than three flags accumulate the post will remain. This is the preferred moderator action.
  2. Agree with the flag. Post is immediately hidden.
  3. Disagree with the flag. Post is unhidden.

In addition, Moderators can contact either the flagger or the person who has been flagged for clarifying information. This contact will be accomplished via Talk Private Message (PM) and will copy the entire @Team_Moderators.

A common occurrence in Talk has been where someone posts a lengthy post full of interesting and valuable perspective, but has resorted to name-calling or adult language in a small section of the post. The community has flagged the post as “inappropriate” and the entire post – not just the offending section – has been hidden. The Moderators will strive to identify those sections and offer the poster the opportunity to edit those offensive sections in order to allow the remainder of the post to be visible. The Moderators will not edit any such post themselves.

This re-edit possibility does not extend to personal attacks. There is zero tolerance for personal attacks.

Members of the Moderator Team are allowed to have personal opinions. They can flag any post as an individual user, wherein their post would be given exactly the same consideration as any other member post; i.e., it would go into the flag queue for another moderator to act upon. Moderators voluntarily do not act upon their own posts.

Trend behavior

The Moderator Team may become aware of recurring behavior that transcends single flags. This behavior can include, but is not limited to, targeting through flagging or online harassment, which is multiple/repeated derogatory comments directed at specific individuals. The Moderator Team is empowered to curtail this trend behavior through the progressive discipline steps outlined below.

Overriding Moderator Actions

Non-moderators shall not take actions to override or reverse official moderator actions, nor to reverse community-moderation such as hidden posts. Moderator actions should be clearly identified as official acts. Re-posting “inappropriate” content hidden by either community flags or moderator action is one example of prohibited behavior. Moderator actions should be clearly identified as official acts except in the case of flagging where it isn’t practical to identify that as a moderator action.

Consequences

Violators will be subject to progressive discipline. These are the guidelines for progressive discipline:

(1a) First Offense – civil environment. Official Warning. The offender will receive a private, “official warning” from the Moderator Team that their actions are a violation of our community guidelines. Specifics will be provided as much as possible. This official warning can be given with the concurrence of at least three members of the Moderator Team. Moderators are advised to use the phrase “official warning” to avoid ambiguity or confusion.
(1b) First offense – overriding moderator actions. Temporary block (one week). The offender will receive a seven day block from Talk for the initial offense. This can be enacted with the concurrence of at least three members of the Moderator Team.
(2) Second Offense. Temporary Talk Block (two weeks). A repeat offense of the type of action(s) generating the official warning will be cause for a temporary block from Talk. This temporary block can be enacted with a simple majority of the members of the Moderator Team. The block will be posted on the Talk Forum, so as to avoid the appearance of special treatment or secret proceedings.
(3) Third Offense. Formal Complaint to Board of Directors. Persistent offenders who have repeated the offense(s) causing them to be blocked will be referred to the Board of Directors for further action. This can be initiated by a simple majority of the members of the Moderator Team. This action will be published through the agenda/minutes of the Board of Directors meeting.

A person who feels the need to provide clarifying information regarding a first or second offense can do so via Private Message (PM) with the Moderator team.

Actions that are imminently threatening to another member may bypass progressive discipline and be escalated immediately to the Board of Directors.

If a person posts something patently illegal on Talk, local law enforcement will be contacted and it will immediately be escalated above DMS enforcement.

Privacy

As much as is possible disciplinary action, including ongoing deliberations, will be kept privy only to those with a “need to know” – the affected individual(s), the Moderator Team and the Board of Directors; plus Talk Admins when a Talk block is enacted.

Moderators will not disclose in-process moderator deliberations to anyone outside of the Moderator Team.

Guidelines for Operation of the Moderator Team

  • Moderating with a light hand is the preferred philosophy
  • The Moderator Team, including Level 4 users, will perform actions to maintain an organized structure, either as unilateral or consensus actions.
  • Moderators, excluding Level 4 users, will perform actions to maintain a civil environment.
    • Unilateral actions by a single moderator to maintain a civil environment are not preferred, but may be necessary in the case of egregious violations.
  • A single moderator should not unilaterally reverse the actions of another moderator. Contentious actions should be discussed among the moderator team.
  • Moderator team communication with other non-Moderator members regarding moderation actions should copy the entire Team_Moderators, to keep all Moderator Team members informed and to avoid the appearance of any secret proceedings.
  • Moderators may convey personal opinions through the Flag system, but only as individuals and not as moderators.
    • Moderators should not act upon their own flags.
    • Moderators should not act upon flags where they have a personal or family interest.
  • Moderators should recuse themselves from disciplinary actions where they have a personal or family involvement.
  • The Moderator Team can highlight individual posts with “staff colors” to call attention to official notifications. A person on the Moderator Team will only highlight posts that he/she has authored or with permission of a Moderator who was the original poster.