Moderation and Me

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Curt Sunshine
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Moderation and Me

Post by Curt Sunshine » 15 Nov 2014, 09:18

This is a more personal post than I usually write, but I felt like it was important for me to write it. Part of the reason is administrative, but part of it also is personal. Please forgive a more narcissistic post than is normal from me.

I was asked to help here shortly after the site began, specifically because I was seen as someone who understood the issues but who had been able to carve out a place of balance - and because I tended to take a fairly moderate position on things, recognizing the need for changes but not demanding unrealistic changes and also loving those who needed to make the changes. Part of that is personality, but a big part is that I have walked the road less traveled nearly my entire life. I've been charting my own course since I was seven, at least - when I first realized I was an oddity within my Mormon community (and outside of it, as well).

I came here from Mormon Matters, back when it was a wide-ranging, free-flowing discussion group that is radically different than it is now. I have never liked heavy-handed moderation, but I have always seen the need for some moderation. I have watched multiple sites spiral away from their original missions and become cesspools of criticism and vitriol, and this site was founded with the belief that we could avoid that end result NOT by moderating heavily but by providing a place to complain but focus on constructive solutions and talking about how to STAYLDS. I watched Mormon Matters implode. It wasn't moderation exclusively that ultimately caused the implosion, but there were internal fights among the admins over how to moderate, with some (including me) advocating moderation of direct, personal attacks that were derailing every discussion and others (particularly one person) advocating no moderation whatsoever. The no moderation whatsoever people won that battle, and the site continued to spiral until it collapsed and had to be restructured completely.

Over time, I was the only admin / moderator who was able to spend significant, regular time here - enough time to end up becoming the de facto public voice of moderation in practical terms. We talked about lots of things behind the scenes, but I was the one who generally acted as the official voice of those decisions. At times, due to personal and life issues, that has been more true than at other times. That's not a complaint or criticism in ANY way; life gets in the way of things for all of us, and mine happened to get in the way less than others. The good result is that others could contribute without any negative effects of having to moderate actively; the bad result is that some people came to believe that I "ran the show" or that this was my site. That simply is not the case and never has been.

To be totally honest, I have considered leaving this site a few times over the last five years - for various reasons. It takes a lot of time, and I have family and other things that don't get the time I spend here. It also can be incredibly draining, emotionally - especially when we get a flood of new participants and we have to rehash everything we have discussed, multiple times, over the course of the last five years. It's hard going through a faith crisis / transition personally; it also is hard going through the faith crisis of others. When it is a personal faith crisis, and when you find you aren't alone and that others have survived and even been strengthened by it, there can be a new light at the end of the tunnel; when you are working with a never-ending and always-replenishing group of "strugglers" . . . There is no light at the end of the tunnel (meaning it will never end as part of your own life), even as you find great joy in that light appearing for others. That can be exhausting at times, emotionally - and that exhaustion can cause mistakes occasionally in how you respond to some things. It is during the times when I have made mistakes in how I respond that I seriously have considered leaving. I don't want to become the type of moderator I dislike - one who exercises unrighteous dominion and scares people away from honest discussion that can lead to finding solutions and peace. I have stayed simply because I love this community and the people who participate here AND because I believe passionately in our mission. Egotistically, I have to admit that I also have been concerned about this site spiraling away from its mission, like I have seen other sites do, if I walk away.

One of the main reasons I have thought about leaving is that it is really hard sometimes to know that I am seen as a moderator primarily and as a real person only secondarily. I get it, intellectually; I accept it, intellectually; it is difficult, emotionally. If anyone here thinks they have to watch what they say too much, please put yourself in my shoes. I am naturally a balanced person, but, here, I have to weigh everything I say - every comment I make - every reaction I express or (more often) don't express. If I am overly lenient, threads can spiral downward and get completely derailed; if I am overly strict in how I moderate, people clam up - and the entire purpose of this site is crushed. If I react personally to something (as a participant, not as a moderator), the real me gets lost in my role as a moderator - and what I say is seen as what the site allows. I have known that for a long time, and it has weighed heavily on me. I have wondered if I can continue to be BOTH a participant AND the primary public voice of moderation - and I don't want to ever become a hindrance the mission here.

The difficult times occur when new people start participating and one or more are not a good fit - when they simply can't understand our mission and support it. That occurs on both sides of the orthodoxy line: one person wants to stir up anger and contention and lead a revolt, while one person wants to defend the traditional orthodoxy against any and all perceived attacks. When that happens, moderation must increase - and the normal amount and regularity of moderation gets lost in the upswing of moderation during those times.

Recently, we have had to ban two commenters: one in each of the categories I just described. It is natural in those times to wonder if you are next - to worry about saying the wrong thing and getting moderated. Generally speaking, that won't happen, since people who weren't moderated in the past aren't going to be moderated in the future - but there is a slight uptick in focus during times like that, and the rules need to be mentioned a little more.

In that sort of environment of increased moderation, the line between me as a moderator and me as a participant blurs even further. If I react to anything as a real person, it automatically is seen as an administrative move by an admin - when it actually was me as a person reacting. When someone who almost never reacts emotionally does so, it can be jarring - and it can seem so out of character that it is hard to read it as anything other than an administrative action rather than a personal response. When I make the mixing roles in the same comment (reacting personally as a participant but adding an administrative phrase in the comment), it only adds to the difficulty. Again, as the primary voice of moderation, I have to separate my moderating comments from my personal comments very carefully and diligently - and when I fail to do so and end up mixing them, even just a little, the result can be terribly different than I intend. (I am fixing that part of a recent comment as soon as I finish this post.)

With the nature of our mission, we walk a very fine line here, and I walk an even finer line in trying to be both a participant and a moderator. What I'm asking in this post is that everyone try to allow me to be both a participant and a moderator - and, when I mess up that dual role, to call me on it. Just, please, do it as gently and charitably as possible. I try to do that when I have to tell other regular participants that they have crossed a line. I fail regularly in how I do that, but I do try.

I am not looking for sympathy or validation by writing this post. I mean that. I simply feel it is important to ask everyone to realize that I am one of "us" as a person and not someone who wants to keep everyone in line. I am committed to supporting our mission and not allowing this site to end up deteriorating and imploding like others I have seen, but I do NOT believe in heavy-handed moderation. That would defeat our purpose here just as quickly as having no moderation at all.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by hawkgrrrl » 15 Nov 2014, 10:07

Moderating is a thankless job, but I have to say, nobody does it better here Ray. You've done a great job keeping out the zealots and the vitriol. A better job than I could have done, I'm sure.

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by mackay11 » 15 Nov 2014, 10:44

Hi, Ray... And the other mods. Keep up the good work. This is possibly the only forum/group on the bloggernacle that maintains a good tone (A Thoughtful Faith on Facebook is perhaps the only one that comes close).

I got "modded" the other day by Heber. It was completely justified as I'd stepped out of line.

Do you not have the option of switching to a generic/shared "Admin" account?

Maybe you've discussed it and discounted it in the past. I worry that it's too easy to start seeing you as a bit of a "judge dredd" character. It means that when you comment as yourself (as with your recent reaction to my misrepresentation) we're sometimes too quick to read it in the voice of Ray the mod.

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by LookingHard » 15 Nov 2014, 10:44

Thanks for your time and effort.

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by SilentDawning » 15 Nov 2014, 10:48

I would like to +1 Hawkgrrl's comments.

I have one suggestion Ray -- to prevent the blurring of your role as participant and role as moderator, why not prefact each comment with something that indicates which role you are in? Currently I notice you and Heber preface moderator comments as [Admin Note:..]

Why not come up with something that describes what role you are taking when speaking as a participant?

I know what you mean by this role confusion. Prior to essentially landing here on STayLDS, I was on a site where there was a moderator who confused both roles and it caused all kinds of problems. Clarifying that you are speaking as a participant, not a moderator, might help people interpret what you say.

Also, consider placing something about moderation roles and annotations in the rules for the site so people know about it.

Just a suggestion. As I read the post above, I thought for sure you were telling us you were leaving, stepping down, or something else that would deprive us of your comments. I'm glad (if I read your post properly) that you aren't there yet, and I hope we can be supportive of you in ways you need.

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A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by SunbeltRed » 15 Nov 2014, 12:44


Thank you for sharing. It appears that this has been weighing on your mind and I appreciate you bringing it to the group.

I want to say thank you as well, this site has been a God send and I certainly appreciate and am grateful for the time you put into it. If there is any way I or others can help ease the burden in some fashion please let us know (I don't want to speak for anyone else, but I am making some assumptions here that others would be willing to help).

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by West » 15 Nov 2014, 15:06

Ray, thank you for continuing to stick around so diligently. The amount of moderation from you and the other admins that goes on in this forum definitely has the right effect that you are intending; I personally feel very comfortable in this forum and that it is the godsend I was looking for in my time of crisis, and I know others feel the same. Thank you for keeping this forum the safe haven it is intended to be.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by 1gentlespirit » 15 Nov 2014, 15:35

Ray, thank you for the time you put into this site, you and all the admins. I enjoy reading your comments and appreciate that I have been able to find people who think and feel like I do. While it has only been a short time since I have found this site, it has been immensely helpful. It's like therapy for me and I feel strengthened and comforted by all of you. Keep up the good work!
“And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.” J. R. R. Tolkien

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by Gerald » 16 Nov 2014, 08:43


I feel you have done an exceptional job moderating and I appreciate you posting your experiences with it. I know that this is subjective but I can often "sense" when someone is getting out of line due to the consistent way that you moderate. Not everyone agrees with your philosophy (nor would it be possible to get 100% agreement) of moderation but I think it works just fine. And some people will inevitably be banned. But, heck, getting banned isn't going to end anybody's world. It probably means that this particular discussion board is not for them.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

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Re: Moderation and Me

Post by Shades of Grey » 16 Nov 2014, 09:59

As a participant who has been lurking since early 2010, by nature of my employment (lots and lots of down time) I've had considerable more time to read many more threads here than the average member I assume. Ray and administrative team, I know your not looking for kudos... but you deserve huge ones. The consistency here in moderating the site mission is unmatched anywhere else on the web. Also, I have had the pleasure of meeting Ray in person and I can tell you first hand he carries a level of compassion in his heart for all spectrums of belief, beyond what I could hope to develop in myself over a lifetime. My hope is none of us take this for granted (especially in light of how many sites have fallen far from intended mission) and can even assist in keeping discussions level-headed when we are having good days ourselves. I love this site family, and would be devistated if we lost our way. Quite frankly it is the only site I feel comfortable recommending to others precisely because of the even handedness in dialogue for struggling members as well as more traditional members who come here to attempt empathy for individuals in faith crisis. Keep up the great work!!
Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. ...You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

“You have to carry the fire."I don't know how to."Yes, you do."Is the fire real? The fire? "Yes it is."Where is it? I don't know where it is." Yes you do. It's inside you. It always was there. I can see it.”― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

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