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RIGHTNOW GUIDE: Community Moderation

Matthew Lees, Social Media Consultant and Analyst

Š2010 RightNow Technologies. All rights reserved. RightNow and RightNow logo are trademarks of RightNow Technologies Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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Guide to Community Moderation

RIGHTNOW GUIDE | 2010

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TARGET AUDIENCE ..................................................................................................................... 1 EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW/ABSTRACT..................................................................................... 1 UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM ........................................................................................ 1 ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM THROUGH BEST PRACTICES ...................................... 1 Introduction: Foundations of Community Moderation ............................................................ 1 What is Community Moderation? ............................................................................................. 1 Policies and Guidelines ............................................................................................................... 2 Moderation Resources ................................................................................................................ 2 Discovery .......................................................................................................................................... 3 Discovery via Automated Systems ............................................................................................ 3 Discovery via Community Members ........................................................................................ 3 Discovery via Direct Observation............................................................................................. 4 Moderating Content ........................................................................................................................ 4 Moderation Settings .................................................................................................................... 4 The Moderation Queue .............................................................................................................. 4 Moderating Threads and Posts .................................................................................................. 5 Moderating Members ...................................................................................................................... 7 Editing Member Accounts ......................................................................................................... 7 Best Practices.................................................................................................................................... 8 Moderation Checklist .................................................................................................................... 10 CONCLUSIONS/SUMMARY ...................................................................................................... 10 ABOUT THE AUTHORS .............................................................................................................. 11 ABOUT RIGHTNOW TECHNOLOGIES ................................................................................ 11 DISCLAIMER ................................................................................................................................... 11 COPYRIGHT .................................................................................................................................... 12

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Guide to Community Moderation

RIGHTNOW GUIDE | 2010

TARGET AUDIENCE

This guide is for community managers and moderators, those people tasked with ensuring that the community is a safe, friendly environment. EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW/ABSTRACT

This guide discusses how to moderate communities running on the RightNow Social Experience platform. It discusses the system’s moderation tools and workflows, as well as best practices for ensuring a safe and productive community environment. UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM

The lifeblood of online communities is user-generated content. Thus, it is critical to the success of the community for the manager or moderator to encourage member participation on an ongoing basis. ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM THROUGH BEST PRACTICES Introduction: Foundations of Community Moderation

Community moderation doesn’t isn’t only about editing comments and suspending members. It’s about doing everything possible to ensure the community becomes and remains a safe, secure, and productive environment for all members. What is Community Moderation?

Moderation can mean different things to different people. We define moderation as the steps necessary to ensure a safe, friendly, and productive environment. While this guide focuses on the policing aspect of moderation—identifying and dealing with user-generated content (text, pictures, video, etc.) that is considered to be inappropriate for the community—it does also touch on other aspects of moderation. Note that we differentiate moderation from both administration (setting up and configuring the community) and engagement (encouraging and promoting community participation). Community moderation primarily deals with users and content, particularly inappropriate content. Examples of such content include: Cyber-bullying – personal attacks Spam – unsolicited and unwanted advertisements Words, images, and other forms of media that are considered to be of a sexual or violent nature (this is not just about profane words; offensive things can be said using perfectly acceptable words) Other things that the community and the community team (business sponsor, Community Manager, and others) consider to be inappropriate Note that defining what content is and isn’t appropriate can be a challenging task. When uncertainty arises, the final decision is ultimately up to the Community 1

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Manager. The important things are to moderate consistently over time and learn from issues as they arise. Policies and Guidelines

The following policies and guidelines should be in place before any community launches. They should all be readily accessible from the community. Terms of Use / Terms of Service. A formal document that lays out the conditions under which visitors can use the site. As it typically applies to an organization’s entire Web site, it may need to be updated before the community launches to include community activity participation. Privacy Policy. Another formal document that describes what the organizations will and won’t do with personal information provided by users. As with the Terms of Use, organizations usually have one Privacy Policy that covers both their corporate sites and their communities. Community Guidelines. This document covers some of the same ground as the Terms of Use, but is less formal in nature. It lays out, ideally in a friendly, conversational tone, what is and isn’t appropriate within the community. Moderation Resources

The moderation team is responsible for all aspects of community moderation. The makeup of this team can vary greatly depending on the type of community, the sponsoring organization, and other factors. For small communities the team can consist of one person (who likely has other responsibilities, as well), while in large communities, it can have a dozen or more people. Moderators can be full or part time, and they can be employees of the sponsoring organization, contractors, or volunteers. Predicting moderation requirements for a given community is more of an art than a science, as the number of moderators (or moderator-hours) has a great many dependencies. These include the size of the community, mode (public or private), focus (service and support, insights and innovation, etc.), industry, sector (B2B, B2C, government, education/academia, not-for-profit, etc.), organizational culture, and other factors. The important things are (1) to complete the foundational work described in this section, (2) to be prepared with at least some moderation resources—the RightNow Customer Success Manager will provide some guidance here—and (3) to be responsive to moderation needs after the community launches. It is essential for those moderating the community to have the appropriate permissions to perform their duties. This means that their User Type should be one of the following, depending on their overall responsibilities: Administrator. Can perform all moderation tasks and administrative functions. 2

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Guide to Community Moderation

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Moderator. Can perform most, but not all, moderation tasks. (For example, can not delete a user account.) Discovery

Before moderators can take action on something that requires moderation, they need to know about it. This section discusses the ways in which moderators can find out about such content. The sections that follow address the specific steps that go into moderating this content once it has been ―discovered.‖ There are three primary ways in which content requiring moderation is discovered by moderators: Discovery via Automated Systems, Discovery via Community Members, and Discovery via Direct Observation. Discovery via Automated Systems

By ―automated systems‖ we mean technology that can identify potentially inappropriate content and take some action based on this. The RightNow Social Experience platform contains several such automated mechanisms: Profanity Filter. This filter is essentially a list of words deemed to be inappropriate by the Community Manager and/or other stakeholders. The platform comes with a default ―Filtered Word List.‖ When the Profanity Filter is enabled, community content is run through the filter. When the filter ―catches‖ a text string on the list in a piece of content, it automatically replaces the offending string with three asterisks. Report Abuse Threshold. As discussed in the next section (2.2), through the Report Abuse link, community members can identify content they consider to be inappropriate. If enough people consider a particular piece of content to be inappropriate, that content can be removed automatically (or, to use the correct terminology, suspended) from the community. Only those with administrator permissions can set this threshold. Discovery via Community Members

As community members have a vested interest in maintaining a comfortable environment, they are often very helpful in identifying content they consider to be inappropriate. The phrasing here is important; members can report content to Moderators via several channels (described below), but it is up to the Moderators to decide if the content in question is indeed inappropriate and what steps should be taken. The mechanisms are: Report Abuse. Each Post or Comment has a ―Report Abuse‖ link next to it. When a member clicks this link, the Post or Comment is flagged by the system and lets the member know that the content was reported. Moderators 3

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can view and manage all such flagged content from the Moderation Queue (see Section 3.2 below). A member can report abuse on a given Post or Comment only once. If enough different members report abuse on this Post or Comment so that the threshold is reached (see above), the item is automatically suspended (i.e., removed) from the community. (Moderators can view and manage suspended content from the Moderation Queue, as well.) Posts about Questionable Content/Issues. Members sometimes post their concerns about content directly in the offending thread (or in a new thread). While they are not typically encouraged to do this, there is nothing to prevent this. Private Messages to Moderators. Members can send private messages to Moderators to alert them directly to questionable content. Discovery via Direct Observation

The third way in which moderators can find out about inappropriate content is by being present in the community and having ―an ear to the ground.‖ Moderators should know, for example, when a sensitive conversation—one they should keep an eye on—springs up. Leveraging system tools such as Subscriptions and ―New Since Your Last Visit‖ panels can be very helpful. It is worth repeating that, just because a piece of content has been flagged—whether by automated means or through an abuse report—it doesn’t automatically mean the content is inappropriate. It just means either the system or a community member thinks there is something about the content that warrants moderator attention. It is up to the moderator as to what, if any, action is taken. Moderating Content

This section discusses the actions that moderators can take to deal with content requiring moderation. (Moderation actions that can not be performed by those with moderator status, but by those with administrator permissions, are identified as such.) Moderation Settings

The Moderation Settings are found in the Admin > Moderation area. From here, Administrators and Moderators can: Enable/Disable Community Flagging Set the Community Flagging Threshold Enable/Disable the Disruptive Use Filter The Moderation Queue

The Moderation Queue is where moderators can manage flagged and suspended content. This queue is accessed from the Admin > Moderation area. Look for the following links: 4

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Guide to Community Moderation

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Suspended Posts (#) Suspended Comments (#) Flagged Posts (#) Flagged Content (#) Clicking one of these links will bring you to the relevant queue. You can change the view (if, for example, you prefer a table or full view) and sort alphabetically, by date, and so on. Clicking into a specific message in one of the queues allows you to moderate it. Moderating Threads and Posts

Once the have been accessed from the relevant Moderation Queue, Threads and Posts can be managed and moderated in a variety of ways. Editing Posts and Comments. To edit a Post, click the Edit Post button. To edit a Comment, click Edit. Both these operations open the Edit window and give moderators the ability to edit any part of a Post or Comment, such as changing the text in the title or the body, removing an image or file, deleting a link, and so on. Moving Posts. Note that only Posts, not Comments, can be moved. (This is because Comments are attached and relevant to specific Posts; moving a Comment to a new Post would remove the context.) In addition, moving a Post also moves all Comments attached to that Post. In essence, then, moving a Post is the same as moving a Thread. To move a Post: o Select Move Post from the ―More Actions‖ drop-down list. o A list of Hives will appear on the next screen. This displays all Hives that can receive the Post (based on the Moderator’s permissions and the appropriate post types). o Select the Hive to which you want to move the Post. o Choose whether you want to keep or remove any tags that had previously been applied to the Post. o Click Move Post at the bottom of the page. Suspending Posts and Comments. Suspending content removes it from the community so that it can not be viewed by members, only by moderators and administrators via the Moderation Queue. To suspend a Post or Comment: o For Posts, select Suspend from the ―More Actions‖ drop-down list. (For Comments, click the Suspend link in the description line.) A confirmation message will appear at the top of the page that says ―This has been suspended by a moderator.‖ o The Post or Comment has now been removed from the community.

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Restoring Posts and Comments. There may be occasions when you want to return content that has been removed from the community back to the community. Suspended Posts and Comments can be restored o Go to the Moderator Queue to look at Suspended Posts (or Suspended Comments). o Click to the Post or Comment you want to restore. o For Posts, select Restore from the ―More Actions‖ drop-down list. (For Comments, click Restore next to the description line.) A confirmation message will appear at the top of the page that says ―Post/Comment has been restored.‖ o Note that restored content will appear back in the same place in the community—to the specific Hive and/or Group—that it originally came from. Deleting Posts and Comments. Deleting content completely removes it from the community database. Caution: this is a non-reversible process. It is recommended, then, that content be suspended from the community rather than be deleted (forever) from the database. o Both Posts and Comments can be deleted by clicking the trash icon for that post. o When this is done, the following pop-up window appears. Select either OK or Cancel.

Closing Comments (a.k.a. Locking Threads). There may be times where you don’t want any Comments added to a given Post. This could be if there is an informational Post for which you don’t want any Comments, or if there is a divisive conversation around a Post that you don’t want to remove or suspend from the community, but you do want to stop (either permanently or temporarily). o Select Close Comments from the ―More Actions‖ drop-down list. A confirmation message will appear at the top of the page saying ―Post Settings updated successfully.‖

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o To reverse this action, simply select Open Comments from the ―More Actions‖ drop-down list. It is important to communicate with users, either individually or as a community, when certain moderation steps are taken. For example, it may be confusing for members if their posts are deleted or moved to different areas without any explanation. See section 5 below on Best Practices for more information. Moderating Members

This section discusses the actions that moderators can take to deal with members. (Moderation actions that can not be performed by those with moderator status, but by those with administrator permissions, are identified as such.) Editing Member Accounts

Editing a Member Profile. Click on a user name to go to that user’s profile page. Click the Edit Profile link on the left. This opens up the Basic and Extended Profile sections. From here, you can remove and/or edit a user’s… o Avatar o Display Name o Tagline o First Name o Last Name Deleting a Member Account. (Note: Only Administrators can delete member accounts.) Care should always be taken when considering deleting a member account, as this action can not be undone. To do so, go to the Profile page for the account in question. Click the Edit Profile link on the left, and then the Account link under Settings, also on the left. Follow the instructions, which ―Deleting this User will instantly and permanently delete it and all its content. If you are sure you want to do this, you may continue to the delete page.‖ Changing a Member’s Status (including Banning/Unbanning a Member). The RightNow Social Experience platform provides four member status levels. These are: o Active – Use the active status for accounts that are currently in use by approved members. o Inactive – Use the inactive status for accounts that are no longer in use or currently on hold. o Suspended – Use the suspended status to disable accounts that are illegitimate, including those with a history of abusive behavior in the community. o (Template – Any account can serve as a template, making it easy to reproduce copies)

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o Mark as Troll – When set to this status, a member can continue to post in the community, but all of his/her activity will be invisible to other members. To change a member’s status, from the member’s profile page, click the [edit] link in the Admin Only area on the right. This brings you to the Edit Admin Settings for [User Name] page. Select the desired status from the drop-down list. Best Practices

Section 4 above discusses the actions that moderators can take to moderate community content. It explains how to perform these actions, such as editing a post. It does not, however, discuss why or when (i.e., under what circumstances) a post should be edited. The ―Why‖ and the ―When‖ fall under the domain of practices, which are somewhat subjective. One community may be more or less tolerant of certain behavior that another community. There are many best practices around community moderation, and many external resources that discuss them. Here we present a collection of ones that communities using the RightNow Social Experience platform have found particularly helpful. 1. Collaborate in a Private Area Just for Moderators. It is recommended that Moderators have a private area within the community to share and discuss their experiences, recommendations, and best practices. 2. Moderate to the Community Guidelines. The Community Guidelines (and the more formal Terms of Use / Terms of Service) are the touchstones for moderation, as they lay out the core tenets for appropriate behavior. When Moderators make decisions on how to handle particular content, it should always be based on the Guidelines and Terms. When communicating with members, both publicly and privately, Moderators should also reference these documents as the basis for their actions. 3. Educate in Public, Reprimand in Private. Nobody likes to be scolded in public. If someone is just learning the community culture and, perhaps unintentionally, violates the Terms of Use and Community Guidelines, it may be best to let that person know through a private message, rather than in the thread itself. 4. Be Judicious when Setting the Report Abuse Threshold. The default is set to 5, which means that if a Post or Comment receives 5 abuse reports (one report each from 5 different members), that piece of content is automatically suspended from the community with the fifth report.

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The threshold can depend on several factors, such as the size of the community, the familiarity and level of trust among members, and the community culture (in particular, its tolerance for controversy, spam, and other forms of potentially inappropriate content). A low threshold removes content quickly, tending to nip things in the bud, while a high threshold, which requires more complaints (via ―Report Abuse‖ clicks) before the content is automatically suspended, lets such content remain on the site longer. Setting the threshold number too low means that just a few people can cause content to be removed from the site; setting it too high means that, for all practical purposes, the automated suspension will never kick in, meaning that moderators will have to manage all flagged content themselves. In all cases, it is recommended that moderators are quick to look into all flagged content in the moderation Queue, whether or not it has reached the threshold. 5. Suspend Members Sparingly. Trolls are always unpleasant, but suspending members often carries unexpected consequences. Suspend members as a last resort. 6. Document Moderator Activity Using Notes. While the platform logs Moderator activity, there is no substitute for Moderators providing helpful context by documenting the actions they take. Moderators should be encouraged to (and, ideally, held accountable for) use the Notes capability as much as possible. 7. Communicate Effectively. Good writing skills are crucial, in terms of both tone and mechanics. In particular, moderators should adhere to the following practices: Be Encouraging. Not everyone gets the process or the lingo right away. Patience and encouragement go a long way. Be Evenhanded. Taking sides in disagreements may mean you’re heading for trouble. Perception may vary from person to person, so resolving differences can be touchy. Try to bounce responses to these types of situations off trusted colleagues before posting. Be Clear. Effective communication means your message is easily understood. Multiple back-and-forth posts can often be avoided by clear and concise language. Be Firm. Stand by your (and other moderators’) decisions. This is especially true when a problem escalates to the point of banning/suspending a member. If there’s a good reason for doing so, then do it tactfully, professionally, and unapologetically. The overwhelming majority of members will understand and support the decision.

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Set a Good Example. Use proper grammar, correct spelling, and so on. Whether or not the use of Internet slang, such as LOL and TTYL, is appropriate for moderators will depend on the community’s culture. Moderation Checklist

Community Moderation Checklist Pre Launch Complete the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Community Guidelines Configure the Obscenity Filter Set the Report Abuse threshold Grant appropriate permissions to moderators Decide on (and document) moderation policies and workflow, including: What type of content will result in a post/comment being edited? Moved? Suspended? Deleted? What type of behavior (e.g., posting inappropriate comments more than X number of times) will result in a member being warned (and how will this warning occur? Who will deliver? Etc.), suspended, and so on? Train moderators Set up a moderators-only area Post Launch Community manager to ensure that community moderation goals are met Is moderation team View moderation reports Revisit policies every 6 months; update as warranted Update documentation

CONCLUSIONS/SUMMARY

This document presents the moderation tools within the RightNow Social Experience platform and discusses best practices for using these tools and in moderating communities in general. But many aspects of community moderation are specific to individual communities. In one community, moderators may allow certain content, while in another community, 10

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moderators would edit, move, or suspend it. In one community, moderators may provide not provide any warnings before taking a certain action, while in another community, moderators may follow a three-strikes-you’re-out rule. For this reason, it is recommended that community managers not only develop the moderation practices that they use in their communities, but also document these practices in their own Moderation Guide. This document should be used as a basis for training new moderators, and kept up to date as processes and practices change. ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Matthew Lees, Social Media Consultant and Analyst Matthew Lees is a social media consultant with over 15 years of experience helping organizations leverage technology to build stronger relationships with customers. As an analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group’s Advisory Service, he covers the online community and social media industry, researching and writing about vendors, products and best practices. ABOUT RIGHTNOW TECHNOLOGIES

RightNow (NASDAQ: RNOW) is helping rid the world of bad experiences one consumer interaction at a time, seven million times a day. RightNow CX, the customer experience suite, helps organizations deliver exceptional customer experiences across the web, social networks, and contact centers, all delivered via the cloud. With more than eight billion customer interactions delivered, RightNow is the customer experience fabric for nearly 2000 organizations around the globe. For more information, please visit www.rightnow.com. RightNow is a registered trademark of RightNow Technologies, Inc. NASDAQ is a registered trademark of the NASDAQ Stock Market. DISCLAIMER

The content contained herein may represent customizations made to our standard commercially available software and should not be construed to represent or guarantee our standard product capabilities. By sharing our product capabilities with you, we are not undertaking an obligation to develop the commercially available software with the customizations or features that may be demonstrated or reflected herein. Standard commercially available software capabilities are subject to change. RIGHTNOW TECHNOLOGIES MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, AS TO THE PRODUCT CAPABILITIES REFLECTED IN THIS DOCUMENT.

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COPYRIGHT

This is a preliminary document and may be changed substantially prior to final commercial release of the software described herein. The material contained in this document represents the current view of RightNow Technologies on the topics discussed as of the date of publication. Changing market conditions may impact the positioning and challenges faced by the consumers of the material in this document, the content should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of RightNow Technologies, and RightNow Technologies cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication. This publication is for informational purposes only. RIGHTNOW TECHNOLOGIES MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, AS TO THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT. Complying with all applicable copyright laws is the responsibility of the user. Without limiting the rights under copyright, no part of this document may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), or for any purpose, without the express written permission of RightNow Technologies. RightNow Technologies may have patents, patent applications, trademarks, copyrights, or other intellectual property rights covering subject matter in this document. Except as expressly provided in any written license agreement from RightNow Technologies, the furnishing of this document does not give a license to these patents, trademarks, copyrights, or other intellectual property. Š 2010 RightNow Technologies. All rights reserved.

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Best Practices in community moderation