Should A Mod Who Participates In A Thread Be Its Moderator, Too?

tomndebb was a participant in the ZPG Zealot thread about adoption. I have no problem with his participation. As anyone else on this board, he’s entitled to his opinion. However, I don’t think that a mod who participates in a thread like everyone else should be modding the thread, and that includes making the decision to close it.

Please consider a mod policy that if a thread needs modding, including closing the thread, that it comes from a moderator who is not a participant.


I strongly believe this should be the case. When you mod a thread that you’re participating in as a partisan (especially in Great Debates), there is at a minimum a risk of the appearance of biased moderation.

At a bare minimum, there should be a rule among moderators that you do not moderate when someone is violating a rule against you. If someone calls tomndebb a fascist in a GD thread, it’s easy-peasy for him to ask marley or someone else to come and take a look at it. At the same time, sometimes a second mod will take a look at it and gently suggest that the person attacking the first mod is actually within the rules, or at least isn’t so far beyond them as to deserve a warning.

There’s some moderating that isn’t as bad when it’s done by a thread participant. If poster A calls poster B a nasty name, and it’s unambiguous, I don’t mind when a moderator-participant steps in.

But lately–and this is one of the reasons I’ve abandoned GD–there’s been moderation that crosses way over the line, and from my seat it’s had all the appearance of biased moderation.

Actually, I have tended to let attacks on my person slide, because I know that people tend to get worked up, This appears to be a solution in search of a problem for the most part. As to handing off attacks to other Mods, we are hardly all on at the same time and in the middle of a back-and-forth brawl, I doubt that a mad poster is going to be amenable to a Mod saying, “Can you hold that thought for the next ten or twelve hours while I go see whether someone else might want to smack your hands?”

Each of the last dozen or so times the same four or five posters have made this claim, I have asked for an example. So far, none has been presented.


It’s improper to mod a thread and be a participant in the same thread. One or the other. You avoid any and all perception of bias.

Then lock the thread pending a review by another mod. A wait of ten or twelve hours means nothing in the grander scheme of things when it comes to integrity, credibility and lack of bias by the powers that be. In light of an ongoing perception of the lack of all of these attributes, starting from the top down, one would think that board integrity should be more important than a clock.

That they have made a challenge means they have a perception. Perception is reality. That’s all that matters.

I’ve been trying to explain this principle to **Tom **for years now. I’ve now taken up teaching my dog to fly.

I have not read the thread you linked to, but I agree with the your OP in principle.

However, there are mutliple variations of involvement of moderators in any given thread.

  1. A moderator who posts in the thread as a regular poster, and then makes a mod decision in that thread, where the subject of the action is not directly related to his participation as a poster.
    e.g. In MPSIMS, a mod is participating in some thread, sharing stories or whatever with many other happy posters. Another poster comes in and insults one of the posters. Should the mod who is already participating in the thread not issue a warning just because they were participating in the thread?

  2. A moderator who posts in the thread as a moderator, and then makes a mod decision in that thread, where the subject of the action is not directly related to his participation as a mod.
    e.g. In this thread in ATMB, I post this post as a mod. Somebody else comes in and insults another poster. Should I refrain from warning the poster?

  3. A moderator who posts in the thread as a regular poster, and then makes a mod decision in that thread, where the subject of the action is indirectly related to his participation as a poster.
    e.g. In GD, a moderator is involved in a thread. Two sides argue, perhaps endlessly. The mod is clearly on one of those sides as a poster. The thread goes off the rails, or in some other manner clearly violates GD rules/etiquette. Should the moderator who posted to the thread not take corrective action?

  4. A moderator who posts in the thread as a regular poster, and then makes a mod decision in that thread, where the subject of the action is directly related to his participation as a poster.
    e.g. In IMHO, a mod and another poster argue about a serious difference in opinion. It gets heated. The poster clearly breaks some rule. The mod warns the poster. Should this mod have warned the poster?

In Cases 1 and 2, I think it’s OK for the mod to take mod action in the thread.

In Case 3, I think it would be preferable in theory if another mod made a call, but practically it’s easier for the participating mod to make the decision. Most mods choose to mod forums in which they are regular participants. They understand the culture of their individual forums better than other mods. If I were required to make a call in a GD thread that is 6 pages long, I might need to read the entire 6 pages before I could make a call, and then I wouldn’t know what the GD guidelines and precedent for that violation are. OK, so maybe another GD mod should step in. Maybe. But if there is already a mod who has read the entire thread, it would be more practical for that mod to act. Again, I think it would be better for another mod to take action in Case 3, but it’s not always practical.

In Case 4, I strongly agree that another mod should intervene, even if it takes more time and/or effort for the other mod to act.

So, yes, I see your point. But do you see ours?

I will bring this thread up for discussion in the mod loop. I don’t see us forming any new policy, but maybe we could agree on a general guideline.


I started reading this thread in full expectation of agreeing that mods should not close threads in which they have participated as posters, under any circumstances.

But the very thread that Duckster links to changed my mind. I’m not sure how long I just spent on that thread, but I got sucked in and read it from start to finish. It almost certainly took me an hour or more, and I do not feel like a better or happier person for having had the experience.

Whether or not tomndebb did the right thing by closing the thread (and I’m fine with the closing; in fact I’m grateful, because otherwise I’d still be reading it, and I’m really really relieved to be finished), I can’t imagine asking another mod to read that whole thread simply so that tomndebb could sidestep responsibility for closing it.

In the case of a really long and complicated thread like that one, best to let the mod who has been paying attention all along make the judgment call, rather than asking another mod to familiarize him/her self with it. It’s just too big a favor to ask someone to wade through a 9-page thread full of bizarre allegations - and yet, in a case like this one, it wouldn’t seem right to close the thread after merely skimming it.


Except for one-on-one basketball, every sport needs a referee that is not also trying to score. Mind you, sometimes we are short on people and arbitration falls on hands of the players but that is more likely to go wrong than when it is an impartial third party.

This is a tricky one. Moderators are chosen for their forums partly because it is a forum that they frequent as posters. This makes it more likely that they will spot things gone wrong and makes it more amenable to them than policing a forum they don’t like. So by definition they are posters in the place they monitor.

But that’s why there is more than one mod per forum, you would say. Yes, but none is in 24/7. They are many to work as a tag team, not in concert.

Then again, as said already, a wait for moderation while the other mod (or anyone else that is not a regular of that forum) jumps in is not that terrible. This is not a chat room but a message board. The rhythm of it is supposed to be slower.

Then again, once you institute this as policy that mods cannot mod the threads where they post, then you will have the complaints that police officers don’t get speeding tickets as their buddies give them a free pass. Cannot win that one.

I agree wholeheartedly with the OP, but the solution is not as trivial as you might think on the first pass.

What’s the point of having moderators if they don’t moderate?

The people selected as moderators have to establish a reputation as a poster before they are considered for the job. They are selected/approved at least partially because they are seen to be level-headed and able to handle the power. If there is a case of a moderator abusing her power, cite it in ATMB for review. Hell, report the post and ask for a second look.

xash made a detailed and considered response. The only case that looks even questionable to me is case 4, where the mod is engaged as a poster in a heated debate, and then takes moderator action against another poster on the other side. Maybe it would be appropriate for those cases to get bumped for a second review.

Maybe have a stated rule that if a mod post gets reported it has to be reviewed by someone else. But I can see how that could be abused, too.

All good points. The other complication is that moderators might simply step down because they are no longer interested in moderating forums or threads that they wouldn’t otherwise have been reading.

When I first applied for mod, I specifically requested for GQ, because that’s where I spent most of my SDMB time, and I thought that that was where I could contribute best to the community. I wouldn’t have enjoyed moderating any other forum. If I was told then to moderate GD or the Pit, I would have most probably declined. I’m still reluctant to mod those forums :slight_smile:

Additionally, the time I spend on the SDMB behind the scenes is a whole lot more than the time I spend posting or modding. Given the limited time all mods spend on everything SDMB, it becomes that much more difficult to require everyone to read threads they wouldn’t otherwise have wanted to read.

There are many good arguments on both sides of this issue, but as you stated, it’s not as easy as saying: OK everybody, stop moderating any threads in which you have posted.

Oh, and CairoCarol, I just wanted to say I really liked your post. It made me go read the thread, even though I had no intention to do so initially :slight_smile:


Thank you for a reasoned, thoughtful response. As part of your mod loop discussion, please consider the following:

I don’t believe that a moderator should be banned from the forum he/she moderates, or even any given thread.

What troubles me is the expansion of moderator action. The rules against trolling, insults and being a jerk are often subjective in their interpretation and application.

Still, it is not terrifically difficult, and not nearly as difficult as attempting to judge the quality of a posters content. But that exactly whats been happening, with increasing frequency.

What we’ve been getting then is not so much, "Your posts lack substance and credible cites and you need to straighten up" (itself highly objectionable and damaging IMV) but, rather,“Your posts lack substance and credible cites and I/ the board regulars disagree so you need to straighten up”

I think if you research this you’ll find that in virtually every instance the poster being admonished has taken a position that the moderator and/or the board regulars strongly disagree with.

Thats damaging to the quality and diversity of the board. There are no rules against anemic or poorly constructed arguments and so when a moderator puts on a moderator hat and rules on the quality of a posters argument (including asking for cites, or criticizing a poster’s cites etc) he/she is simultaneously acting as a poster and moderator.

Well intentioned or not, it unlevels the playing field and it is an abuse of power.

I think all of the moderators do a fine job. It is a thankless job and they do it with grace and a level head. I have no problem with Marley23 or** tomndebb**, the moderator I clash with most, poster to poster. I think he does a fine job.

It is my impression, however, that there has been an increase of “moderator as poster” going on that I find very troubling.

Agreed. I only skimmed the first page or two of the thread, but I’m not shocked that moderator intervention was ultimately needed.

What did bother me was that a few of Tom’s posts seemed to be along the lines of, “Prove this, that, and the other, or concede that I am right and you are wrong–otherwise I may have to question your motives,” suggesting a rap across the knuckles with the mod stick may be forthcoming. That was a paraphrasing, obviously. Tom never explicitly threatened mod action, but the suggestion was there.

Xash made an excellent presentation of why Mods can participate in a thread they are modding. However I do have doubts that they should continue modding a thread where they have expressed an opinion and then needed to take action against a poster where that action can be construed as hinging on that persons opinion. Obviously things such as spamming would not fall into this category.

The Mods need to be aware of the unprofessionalism that attaches itself to being exposed in a situation where you can be construed as taking sides.

My thanks to all who’ve offered constructive thoughts here, especially xash. I still stand that a moderator either moderates a thread, or is a participant. Doing both is just not proper. That does not prevent the participating mod who detects something may be going off the rails to ask another mod to raise their radar and visit the thread. One would think an offside conversation between the two mods to bring the other up to speed should be sufficient for the other mod to make a public comment (modding the thread) or even closing the thread if need be. But the mod participating in the thread publicly does not mod the thread.

This isn’t a chat session or IRC so a real-time wait of several hours shouldn’t have any effect.

Having said all this, for the large part I don’t have any super gripes against the moderators. I don’t envy your volunteer job.

Other than changing “offside” to “off-site,” this is my point.

I chuckle at this faux-outrage nonsense about “time-sensitivity” and “allowing the poor moderators a taste of the pleasure they formerly had in participating in threads.” When Tom feels that powerful, uncontrollable urge to participate in a GD, enlightening us all withi his wisdom, he has a bunch of options:

he can shoot some other GD Mod an urgent message: “Please, take over modding thread X asap. I cannot keep my fingers from typing some insight much longer, and the world cannot go on with the untruths being uttered there.”

Until such time, however, that this back-up emergency Mod can be roused from his or her coma, or GPSed backpacking in the Himalayas or whatever, Tom can hold back his wisdom a few more minutes or hours, or he can recuse himself from modding for the duration of the thread, and let the b-u e. M. clean up whatever disasters ensue during the lawless period in which **Tom **couldn’t possibly restrain himself any longer and the b.-u. e. M. was notified that his/her presence woiuld be required.

But, no, instead we get a lot of hooey about **Tom **must be allowed to express himself immediately or the universe will implode on itself AND that a different Mod cannot possibly be notified in time.

It would be nice if we could, but it’s going to depend on circumstances. The fact is that bringing in another mod requires time.

We’ve already had numerous complaints about timing, because we’re NOT on 24/7. When we issue a warning in post #183 saying, “Hey, way back in post #7, you broke such-and-such rule”… well, the thread is pretty much WAY the heck past there.

If a mod sees a significant offense in a thread in which she is participating, there’s probably already been some delay. The time it takes to get another mod in, to read the whole long thread, can be lengthy. The only way to implement this practically would be to send a note to ALL mods, not just the other mods in that forum… and that would lead to worse inconsistency than what we’ve got now. If I were called in to GD, for instance, I’d probably be handing out sixteen or seventeen warnings per heated thread. :slight_smile:

yes, either that disaster would ensue, or else (horrors!) Tom might have to recuse him from participating AS A POSTER for the duration of that lengthy, often endless, process.