Moderating/Admining Discussions

Whether you’re starting a new discussion or have been promoted to Admin in an existing one, moderating a discussion comes with a whole new set of challenges. The way that Admins and Owners behave sets the tone for a discussion, and can shape both how eager others are to participate, and how positive an experience they have when doing so. The early steps you take setting up a discussion can also have a significant impact on how well users understand and interact with your discussion (see: Structuring a Discussion).

Admins and Owners are the only users who can see suggested claims and suggested comments (see: Suggesting Claims and Suggesting Comments). More importantly, they’re the only users with the power to accept suggestions – or to discuss improvements with their authors prior to accepting them. Given that suggesting a claim is in most cases the way a user will first interact with your discussion, this is quite important.

If suggestions wait too long for a response, users are likely to move on from your discussion – and won’t necessarily come back when they do eventually get a response. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be prompt about responding to suggestions – even if you’re not accepting them. Because this can become overwhelming if just one person is doing it, this will often necessitate seeking out others to help you moderate your discussion – either by asking friends or other users you know to help, or by being proactive about promoting those who are making good contributions in your discussion.

On the other hand, whether or not to accept a suggestion is an important decision in its own right. Claims that don’t fit well in the discussion, have confusing wording, cover more than one argument, duplicate existing claims or are badly located can all quickly derail a discussion. Common outcomes of accepting too many suggestions with these issues include large amounts of duplicate content (as others respond to a duplicate claim), structures that make crucial content hard to find (by burying it under too much other content on the same level, or locating it somewhere unexpected), and confusing chains of claims that jump between unrelated arguments. All of these can make your discussion less engaging – both for you, and for other users who want to participate.

As such, it’s important when moderating a discussion to be a little bit picky – to be proactive about looking for duplicates, to be willing to explain problems you’ve spotted with suggestions to their authors, and to delete claims when problems are noticed later on down the line.

Like other aspects of moderating a discussion, all of this is easier when there are other engaged users who know your discussion well – so it’s a good idea to invite people leaving good suggestions to become Writers, and in turn promote good Writers to Editors.

For any important choices – such as deleting a large branch of claims, or demoting a participant – it is highly recommended to get the opinions of other Admins before taking action, rather than making a decision individually – especially in larger discussions. Other Admins may propose a suitable alternative course of action, or, at the very least, will likely appreciate being checked in with beforehand – no one enjoys being blindsided by large changes. Kialo discussions are a collaborative space, and appropriately, any large or impactful decisions should be discussed beforehand for the benefit of all participants.

While all of this advice applies regardless of whether you’ve just started a blank discussion, or have been invited as an Admin to a discussion with 3000 claims, there are some additional things to keep in mind when joining a discussion already in full flight.

  • It’s important not to be intimidated by the size of the discussion. 
  • Take some time to familiarize yourself with the existing content – using Guided Voting is a good way to get a fast tour of key points – but don’t try to do everything at once. 
  • In the early days of moderating a discussion, you may find that there are some suggestions that you’re more confident to deal with than others – those in branches that you’re more familiar with and those that are more specific to their suggested location (rather than sweeping new argument roots for the discussion), in particular. There’s no shame or harm in leaving those for other Admins, or in asking for help or advice.

Because it gets harder to get started as an Admin the larger a discussion grows, if you’re an Owner or Admin of a new discussion, it’s a good idea to look proactively for other potential Admins from as early on as possible – it’ll make it much easier for them to get a good grasp on your discussion!


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