What are the options for moderation?

As we have seen in the 2016 election, social media and forums such as this are invaluable tools for connection but also provide the opportunity for more unscrupulous individuals to affect others negatively.

What sort of tools exist within Discourse to moderate / filter discussions to curtail the following?

  • Cyber-bullying
  • illegal activities, such as selling drugs or posting revenge porn
  • excessive spamming
  • etc.

Further, what number of dedicate moderators do you expect would be needed?
Would GC members be responsible for this time commitment?

There are problems associated with GC hosting unmoderated content, both from a public image standpoint but also from a legal standpoint.

Overall, I like this design and I like the concept, but we have to formulate a working plan to address this topic before public release.

Also, semi-unrelated: what are the options for direct messaging in this platform? Because if that is enabled, we’d also have to worry about preventing harassment. However, that would be a boon if we set up a GC leadership site.

That’s a great question @anon49885067. I have edited and made visible a preliminary version of our Community Guidelines (feedback always welcome) that should answer most of the concerns you raise here.

In addition, I would like to point out that currently, this instance of Discourse is running on a machine managed by me personally, but as we see it growing we will switch to a cloud-hosted solution and use the University Single-Sign-On system (Shibboleth) to let users enter the site. This will prevent any external party from potentially harming the community. Further, the new URL could be either community.grad.uchicago.edu or gradcommunity.uchicago.edu (other potential names: discuss.grad.uchicago.edu / talk.grad.uchicago.edu / forum.grad.uchicago.edu / discourse.grad.uchicago.edu).

I envision the moderator count growing as we scale, but I also believe if we grow the community in a meaningful way, grad students will take care of it without needing much moderation.

About GC’s role: I believe there should be a dedicated person responsible for this site from the Grad Council to make this effort sustainable in the long run. Plus, when we move to a cloud-hosted solution we will also need some dedicated funds to keep this running. Since GC receives a substantial portion of the student life fee, I believe that’s the right organization to be adopting this online community. I propose having a technology officer or some such role that should be taken up by someone with a reasonable amount of nuance with tech skills needed for maintaining such a forum.

By default messaging is enabled for users with trust level 1. Again, I believe we can trust grad students to act like reasonable human beings and not lead to problems. There are mechanisms in Discourse to report/flag posts/messages etc which can be dealt with automatically or by the mods.

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I like the Community guidelines; they encompass everything in a thorough but humorous manner. I do hope that grad students can act like reasonable human beings but lest we forget, Richard Spencer was also a UChicago grad student and sadly, I doubt he was the last of his ilk.

I think this is a good proof-of-concept

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Also it is possible to change the default preferences for emails so that users can opt-in to email notifications instead of opt-out?

Oh, I was completely unaware of him or his relation to UChicago.

In any case, I think the trust system and the flagging system will help us keep any such problematic users in check.

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Are you referring to email for PM? I think that’s a good default. You do want to be notified of a PM usually, not the same for posts.

We can certainly customize further as users give more feedback.

@anon49885067 were you referring to daily digests? See: Is anyone getting daily email digest updates?

@anon49885067 here’s another feature that helps with moderation and we just hit the 50+ users milestone. (posting here to collect moderation related content together)