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It’s natural to want to make decisions quickly, and most decisions happen just like that. There is this pressure online to act fast and respond quickly. Otherwise, you are asleep at the wheel, or you don’t care. Sometimes you just have to put those pressures aside, take a step back, and speak to those who are directly affected by the decision you will make.

At KarateForums.com, we have an articles section where members submit long form pieces that are then proof read and published. They receive a bit more polish than the average post. Due to that, they are placed in their own section and, on average, receive more attention than they might as a random thread.

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Last week, I published an interview with Bassey Etim and David Williams. Respectively, they lead the teams that moderate comments for The New York Times (NYT) and CNN. They said a lot of great things, and I really enjoyed reading it.

I didn’t want to dilute their words by making it a 2-parter, but the resulting article was so long (more than 4,000 words), that I decided to hold off on sharing my favorite takeaways. Here they are.

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CNN and The New York TimesNews organizations and online comments. If you think about that combination, what comes to mind?

There was a time when many regarded the comment sections on mainstream media sites as an example of some of the worst discourse on the web. But it is slowly getting better. Among the community management professionals leading the charge, at the highest levels of the media, are Bassey Etim and David Williams.

Respectively, they work as community managers at The New York Times and CNN. Both have been in the field since 2008, both lead the teams responsible for the moderation of comments posted on their news organization’s website.

I’ve known David for a few years now and just recently connected with Bassey. They are tremendously smart community managers and experts in moderation. If you work in this profession, you should know their names. They deal with moderation at a volume that few can fathom, in an environment that is highly charged, in a space where many people expect to be able to say their piece, no matter what that is, without restriction.

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“Photoshop this girl: Photoshop anything on her, about her and can someone please Photoshop her fat :-D.”

This is a recent post made on PhotoshopForums.com, a community that I manage. I don’t think that “make this person fat” is all that unique of a request for Photoshop and graphic design focused communities. After all, one of the things that people use the software for is to manipulate images. Sometimes they make people skinnier, sometimes they make them bald (we have had a surprising number of requests for people who want to see what they would look like bald before they actually shave their head), sometimes they put them on a bicycle.

That is to say, I am sure there are communities that would allow this request. I don’t know that I want to necessarily condemn them (it’s easy to get judgmental, harder to be patient and compassionate). But I just know that I don’t want to be one of them.

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Comic Book ResourcesComic Book Resources (CBR) is a large, long-running and influential comic book website, featuring news, reviews, blogs and an active community. Created by Jonah Weiland and launched in 1996, the site’s media kit reports that they receive more than 24 million pageviews per month from over 6 million unique visitors.

On Wednesday, Weiland announced that CBR’s current forums would be closing and would remain online for 14 days, in order to allow members to retrieve old content they wanted to save. The old forums have 12.9 million posts, with public discussions going all the way back to 2006. In their place, a new community was launched. None of the old content, nor membership information, was preserved. I learned of this story through Mark Wilkin.

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Handcuffed , Tokyo
Creative Commons License photo credit: mskogly

I had a member, who recently joined our community, create a post to criticize a martial artist they had encountered and, among their many gripes, they claimed that this person had stolen $800 of equipment from the dojo where they practice. And they named the person – first and last name.

There is an issue with this. To say that this person stole $800 worth of equipment from you, you are claiming that they have committed a crime. It is a criminal accusation and it is serious. For a very long time, I have had a policy on my communities against specific criminal accusations being made of individuals.

The reason is simple. If the person stole from you, call the police. Don’t use my community as part of a smear campaign, which is what a majority of the people who use forums for this purpose are doing. Either that or they’ve called the police and the police didn’t agree with them. Regardless, my community is not the place to make criminal accusations – it just isn’t the right venue.

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This is not a political article. I cannot stress that enough. Our comments section should remain free of general thoughts about President Obama, the Affordable Care Act or any topic that is generally political and not related to community management, moderation or the circumstance I am about to describe. Thank you.

President Barack Obama joined Quora earlier this week. His first two answers, posted Monday, were both to questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (answer 1, answer 2). They were of good quality, in my estimation. They both answered the question asked and did so thoughtfully. The only negative is that both included brief messages encouraging U.S. citizens to sign up for health insurance prior to next week’s deadline.

Those statements take up less than a quarter of the overall message and, since the discussion is ACA related and this is the President, I can understand how they may be generally forgivable. A tradeoff for getting the President on your platform.

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Christopher WalkenYou watch those nature documentaries on the cable? You see the one about lions? Look at this lion. He’s the king of the jungle, huge mane out to here. He’s laying down under a tree, in the middle of Africa. He’s so big, he’s so hot. He doesn’t want to move.

“Now the little lion cubs, they start messing with him. Biting his tail, biting his ears. He doesn’t do anything. The lioness, she starts messing with him. Coming over, making trouble. Still: nothing. Now the other animals, they notice this. And they start to move in. The jackals; hyenas.

“They’re barking at him, laughing at him. They nip his toes, and eat the food that’s in his domain. They do this, and they get closer and closer, and bolder and bolder. ‘Til one day, that lion gets up and tears the s*** out of everybody. Runs like the wind, eats everything in his path. ‘Cause every once in a while, the lion has to show the jackals who he is.”

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When you hear the term “forensic evidence,” you think about police work and court cases. You think about DNA, blood and finger prints. You don’t think about online communities.

But our communities are home to a great deal of digital DNA and trace information. This evidence can be used to identify people who are trying to abuse or take advantage of our communities. Yet I don’t know of any software options that are making use of the data in this way.

There are certain key areas where this could be very helpful, where it could take a task best performed by machines and let a machine perform it.

I am sure that there are many ways this would be done, but I’ll give you one good example. Members who hold multiple accounts to push an agenda, agree with themselves or promote something. How could the software help, you might ask? Well, what if you received a notification in your admin area whenever any of these things happened:

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Sometimes, when you are visiting your community, you will see a post that is really borderline. After consideration, you determine that this post is OK and does fit within your guidelines, even if it is just barely.

But your moderators don’t know that, unless you tell them. And because it is borderline, there is a fair chance that a moderator will remove it. If they do, you’ll have to correct it. How can you prevent this and inform them that the post is OK?

You could make a post in your documentation system, as a note tied to the member who made the post. But that might not be seen before the post itself. You could post in the general staff forum. But that has the same problem. You could send a private message or email to each staff member. That will probably work. But it is a little more unwieldy and time consuming, for everyone, than is necessary.

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