Magazine article Information Today

Online Discussion Groups: Successful Moderation Requires a Light Touch and a Heavy Dose of Tact, Empathy, Patience, and Self-Effacement

Magazine article Information Today

Online Discussion Groups: Successful Moderation Requires a Light Touch and a Heavy Dose of Tact, Empathy, Patience, and Self-Effacement

Article excerpt

At their best, online discussion groups expand your business and social contacts, exposing you to information, opinions, and worldwide camaraderie that you wouldn't find otherwise.

In one discussion group I frequent, this camaraderie was recently shattered when the moderator banned one of the regulars because he continued to post inflammatory and insulting comments, despite complaints from other members and warnings from the moderator.

It was an agonizing decision for the moderator, and although members agreed with the decision for the most part, the group consequently erupted into a paroxysm of analysis and debate about the incident.

Instead of discussing the subject matter of the group, people speculated about the mental status of the person banned. "There's a lot of anger in him, which is very sad," wrote one person. Another wrote that she liked him, and "the rising level of antisocial behavior has me worried for him." When online, such situations are sometimes inevitable.

Online discussion groups may or may not be moderated. With the latter, people usually are free to speak as they wish, with the main constraint being group pressure. With the former, people have to speak according to tighter rules and guidelines, or they risk being censored or banned.

These days, it's easier than ever to form your own online discussion group, whether you do it through your organization's Web site, from your own personal blog, or with the help of Yahoo! Groups (http://groups .yahoo.com), a part of the Yahoo! conglomerate of Internet services (which include Web searching, e-mail accounts, online shopping and auctions, news and weather, and more).

Yahoo! Groups is a free, advertising-supported service that lets you join and/or create discussion groups. Creating them is easy: Yahoo!'s automated system walks you through the process and even provides a handy way to send an e-mail that invites people to join.

Yahoo! recommends that you first look through the Yahoo! Groups directory.

This will let you know if there's already another group like yours. You may rethink creating your group or determine how to categorize it if you do create it.

People can participate in your group via e-mail or from the Yahoo! Groups Web site (e-mail participation is faster and more convenient). You receive e-mails from other participants as you would any other messages, but, when you respond, your text goes to everybody in the group. …

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