Tracy O’Connor of I Hate My Message Board spoke on Twitter of a situation she was dealing with on her community, where she was trying to determine whether or not she should act on something that had been done within her community. This inspired me to talk about how I personally deal with this sort of issue.

At this stage, most issues tend to be cut and dry on my communities. I’ve been at this for a while and can usually spot when something is appropriate or it isn’t. Something is either inappropriate or it’s not. Something is either a violation of our guidelines or it’s not. If it’s not, then it carries on. If it is, it is dealt with.

But, then, once in a while, there are issues where I am not sure, and I have to think about it. Sometimes, I’ll bring it up in my staff forums so that I can get their feedback in considering the issue. In both of these cases, I find it helpful to ask myself and them two questions. With these two questions steering feedback and steering the thought process, the answer usually will become clear. These are the two questions:

1. “If this were to happen everyday, would that be good?”

It’s not this one instance of the issue that is such a big deal, necessarily. It is the idea that this thing, if allowed, will continue again because people will have the belief that it is acceptable. Is that something we want? It can be easy to dismiss something that has happened once, but it won’t be easy to dismiss something that could happen all the time. Think of it in that way.

2. “We want to be inviting to people of all viewpoints. We want someone who disagrees with this person to be able to join our site, explain his or her perspective and not feel intimidated. Does this encourage or discourage that?”

Many times, with one of these question issues, it is how someone has chosen to approach an issue that they disagree with. Most of the time, we’d want to have an environment where someone that would disagree with them would feel comfortable becoming a part of our community and joining the discussion. If someone is impeding this, that’s not consistent with our overall goals.

When you’re dealing with complex issues, it can help to simplify and to come back to your core. What are you all about?