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CZ:Moderator Policy

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The Role and Selection of Moderators

Moderators, what. Moderators are members of the Citizendium community. While they can be authors, collaborating on articles, like most of the members of the Citizendium, they have, in addition, the extra job of maintaining our site and enforcing our rules.

Moderator responsibilities and tools. In order for the Moderator Group to enforce our rules, they need to have access to special tools that other members do not. First, they can ban users from our site, for a time period proportionate to the damage the user has caused. Second, they can delete pages, which do not belong on the site for various reasons. For example, Moderators can delete pages that have “problem” material on them or pages that have been vandalized. Further, not only can they delete pages, but they can also “rollback” them, as well, restoring the page to an earlier version, before the damage was done. All these actions require special tools to perform them.

Qualifications of Moderators. One of the first matters to consider is the qualifications, if any, of a Moderator. Although we might ideally specify such qualities as maturity, honesty, wisdom, and understanding, these qualities are not easy to quantify. In addition, in these early days of the Citizendium, most of us barely know each other. In place of such qualifications, we must choose some that can be validated. Therefore, it has been decided that Moderators must, of course, have all of the qualifications of Citizendium members, and, in addition, have attained the age of 25 years old and be a college graduate. It is possible that we will decide to consider certain life experiences as equivalent to a college education, but, initially, these will be the qualifications.

Selection of Moderators. Since many of the Citizendium’s members will be both 25 years old and college graduates, we need additional means to designate which of these members will be Moderators. The proposed selection system involves the following steps. To become a Moderator, a member must first be nominated for this position either by him/herself or by another member. Further, two other members must second this nomination. Finally, the nominated person must receive no more than one detractor. Such a simple system is appropriate for selection at the beginning. As members get to know each other, this system can be elaborated, say, to include responses by the nominated members to negative comments, which would be presented anonymously by a committee of the Moderator Group. And, perhaps, this committee of the Moderator Group will make the final choice, privately.

No more Moderators than necessary. It is important that we do not have an "over-regulated" wiki, because that would damage the robustness of the collaborative process. Therefore, we will select as many Moderators as are needed to keep the project running smoothly, but no more. The Chief Moderator will make the determination of the proper number of Moderators.

(Before we discuss the particular procedures and policies for Moderators, one must bring up a problem that has arisen to a great degree in other open, collaborative projects. And, we solicit suggestions on how to prevent this problem from developing in the Citizendium. The problem, put simply, is how to prevent the Moderator Group from becoming an in-group or “clique” of power-hungry members? Some ideas are:

  1. Set a term for Moderators, say 1 or 2 years, and require that they be re-elected if they want to continue as Moderators.
  2. Have an appeal process, in which, banned parties can appeal Moderators’ decisions. This is part of the system already. Perhaps make this stronger, so that if a Moderator loses three appeals he is put on probation. If he loses one more appeal, he is no longer a Moderator.
  3. Any suggestions? Discuss on Citizendium-L or the forums.

Policies and Procedures for Moderators

For more informal, Moderator-oriented instructions, see Moderator Group Home.

[N.B. Again, all Policies and Procedures are to be considered provisional and subject to change.]

Banning users for using pseudonyms that are not anyone's real name. Users who use user names that are not even names are to be banned immediately. This is the case of user names like “Starfinder” and “Laptop.” Likewise, users who are found to be using pseudonyms as user names are to be banned and instructed to go and apply for a pseudonym.

Improper names in the preferences nickname box. Users who have placed pseudonyms within the "nicknames" box in their preferences are to be warned, instructed that they may apply for a pseudonym, and then banned if they fail to fix the problem. "Jon Fields" would be an example of acceptable usage of the nickname box for someone named Jonathan Walter Fields.

Pseudonym workgroup. The Moderators will establish a workgroup and procedures for creating pseudonyms. Further, their use will only be permitted for good reasons, such as the user is a political dissident, or the user wishes to articulate views that might place him/her and his/her family in physical danger.

Banning users for vandalism, bad faith edits, and copyright violations. Any insertion of obscenities, bad faith edits, or copyright violations into articles will be considered vandalism. For example, adding obscene text or images into an article or arbitrarily deleting part of an article are considered as vandalism. Similarly, adding material that represents a copyright violation will be deemed a bad faith edit. Any Moderator who notices vandalism or a bad faith edit in an article will swiftly remove it and ban the user who is responsible for an appropriate period of time.

Deleting articles. In any case that an editor considers an article to be of poor quality and not worth fixing, he/she may request that a Moderator delete the article. It is expected that no other editor in the field will object. However, if there should be a disagreement among editors over the deletion of an article, an editorial workgroup will try to reach agreement. Then, if an editorial workgroup decides to delete an article, it will call upon the Moderator Group to enforce this decision.

There are also large classes of articles that may be deleted by Moderators acting on their own recognizance. See CZ:Article Deletion Policy for elaboration.

Giving editors article approval permissions. If a new editor wants permission to approve article, he/she needs to have this permission reviewed by the Moderator Group. If the Moderator Group has questions over whether to issue this permission, it refers the issue to an editorial workgroup.

Actions a Moderator may take

The purpose for any Moderator intervention should be to restore civility to a talk page and provide an environment where a neutral article can progress toward Approved status. Any one or combination of these tools may be used to perform this function. The rationale for the use of each tool must be documented on the appropriate talk page.

  • Permanently block one or more users
  • Temporarily block one or more users
  • Issue warnings
  • Lock a talk page
  • Lock an article
  • Move the article from mainspace

Moving an article from mainspace

Normally, an article is constructed in mainspace where it is available to the public for viewing at any time. Citizens are understandably working to present their content to the public, after all, that is why they write. Occasionally, Citizens disagree on the content that is in public view. If conflict begins, you may determine that it is necessary to move the page to a temporary location where it is no longer in mainspace. This will remove the pressure that Citizens feel to replace unwanted text in the article and, hopefully, allow them to discuss ideas more calmly on the talk page. The goal of movement of a page should never be to stop work on an controversial article. Once professional collaboration resumes, the article should be returned to the same mainspace title unless an appropriate editorial content decision has been made to rename the article.

Options for where to locate the page are:

  • A subspace of the user's namespace.
This should be the original author's namespace. Other authors may copy any version of the article to a subspace of their own namespace.
  • The article talk space.
Significant collaboration is still occurring and the article is relatively small.
  • A subspace of the article talk space.

Significant collaboration is still occurring and the article is too large to effectively work on the talk page.

  • A subspace of the article mainspace.
Used if removing from mainspace stops all collaboration, but returning causes a return to conflict. This suggests that the controversy concerns whether this article should exist at all, which is an editorial decision. In this case, if a Moderator permanently removes the article, they are essentially making an editorial decision. Returning the article to a subspace of mainspace allows the article to remain in public view while editors work through content decisions.

Moderator moves are for behavior issues and are independent of editorial content decisions. Each of these procedures should be appropriately documented on the article talk page stating the reason for the action and providing the appropriate links to the new location(s).

How to do a "rapid response" ban

The following are guidelines addressed to Moderators for Moderator Group Blocking Procedures

While adjudication process should be used for complex, difficult cases, the majority of our bans are done using the above "rapid response" rules.

Interaction on talk pages prior to warnings and bans. Frequently, Moderators will issue informal instructions that do not amount to warnings or even reprimands (note, we do not have any formal category of "reprimand")--clarifications of rules, for example. It is a good idea to call everyone's attention to the relevant rules or etiquette guides, etc. But if you do so, try to do so in a generalized way, not directed at any one person. It is important not to make people feel defensive on the wiki, because that will only escalate the situation. Also, if you do make any instructions, make it absolutely clear in your own mind that you are not, in fact, issuing a warning.

How to issue warnings. Warnings are best conveyed by e-mail, not on the wiki. The reason for this is that public criticism tends to provoke difficult users into debates on the wiki itself, which can be very disruptive. (Indeed, that's why we have a rule against criticism and complaints about other users on the wiki.) When issuing warnings, it is very important to be professional and businesslike, and not to "get personal." Describe the offending behavior objectively, and do not use belittling, contemptuous, or other such negative language. Note that the use of the {{nocomplaints}} template obviously clues a person in that his language is inappropriate, but it does not by itself constitute a warning. Indeed, a person can write something that we delete without thereby committing a bannable offense.

Components of a warning. In a warning e-mail, be sure to:

  1. explicitly state that this is a warning, and that further violation may lead to a permanent ban without further warnings;
  2. cite the rule(s) violated; and
  3. link to at least one instance (preferably several, if there are several) of a "diff" page in page histories that illustrates the offense. (To find the "diff" page, go to the page where the offense took place > history > select both the version just before the offense, and the version containing the offense > press the "Compare selected versions or set status" button.)

When is it necessary to consult the Moderator list before a ban? Generally, when in doubt, consult. Do not ban someone "in the heat of the moment," i.e., if you feel angry. Such feelings are an indicator that you need to consult cooler heads first, or simply let someone else do the ban, if necessary. This said, bear in mind that as a Moderator you are fully permitted to make "rapid response" bans when they are clearly warranted. If someone is making adolescent insults right and left, ban him.

How long should bans last? The software gives you the option of banning someone for a few hours, a day, a week, etc. Always choose "infinite." This does not mean that a person cannot ever return to the Citizendium; rather, we simply do not have any particular date at which the person's account will again come available. That is because anyone who is banned can rejoin the project only after a successful appeal or an application for reinstatement. Note that a ban can specify a certain amount of time after which a person can apply for reinstatement; but reinstatement is not automatic.

The ban procedure. If you have decided to ban someone, here's the procedure.

  1. If the ban seems quite pressing (abuse is severe and ongoing), block the user first. Otherwise, draft the letter first.
  2. Collect evidence for the ban letter.
  3. Draft the ban letter.
  4. Copy the person's user page and user talk page (the wiki code), and paste it below the signature on the ban letter.
  5. Go to the person's user page and press "Block user" (in the "toolbox" area, lower left). Choose expiry "infinite" and state the reason briefly, just a few words. Don't bother to check the boxes.
  6. Request a forum moderator to ban the person's forums account.
  7. Immediately after this, send the ban letter (by e-mail of course).
  8. Forward a copy of the ban letter to the Moderator list and to Moderators@citizendium.org. File the latter copy in "Formal cases".
  9. If the user has made no contributions, or if all contributions have been removed, the user pages can be deleted. If contributions exist, do not delete these pages. Instead, surround the author categories at the bottom of the user page (such as [[CZ:Authors]]) with <!-- and --> to render the invisible in workgroup and user lists.

Components of a ban letter. Moderators, you can find examples of letters explaining bans filed under "Formal cases", and you can use those letters as templates if you like. But here are the components we should include in these letters:

  • State that you have blocked the account.
  • State the grounds in two parts. First, describe the specific offense(s)--the more detail the better, particularly for potentially controversial cases. Second, state the rules violated by the offense(s).
  • State the grounds for applying the rule. For example, "These rules have been duly announced and are available to view on the wiki." But if the case has occasioned the new application of a general rule (and the case is egregious enough to warrant such ex post facto treatment), then this will require more explanation.
  • If the person was previously warned, say so.
  • Inform the person of his or her rights: (1) the right to have material about this case published on the wiki; (2) the right to appeal (to another Moderator); and (3) the right to apply for reinstatement (after some period yet to be established). (We might, of course, be adding to this list.)
  • Sign the letter "The Citizendium Moderator Group". You may include either your name or your code--this is up to you.
  • Include the wiki code for the person's user page and user talk page beneath your signature.

Checks on Moderators

Avoid the mere perception of a conflict of interest. Moderators writing or commenting on the substance of the article may not issue warnings or make bans based on behavior on the article's talk page, even if a Moderator is not actually involved in a dispute. It is necessary to find an uninvolved Moderator to issue warnings or do bans. The reason for this is, of course, to avoid the appearance that the Moderator is using his or her authority to advance his or her own editorial position. Any such appearance would have a profoundly negative impact on the esteem in which the Moderator Group is held, so we Moderators must follow this rule strictly.

Moderators should never rule in their area of expertise or in cases in which they have been personally involved. In such a case, the Moderator must, without exception, recuse him or herself. This is to maintain a clear "separation of powers" between editorial and Moderator Group roles. Moderators are also forbidden from banning users with whom they have been collaborating, i.e., in cases in which they are personally involved. In such a case, a Moderator must call an uninvolved Moderator. Moderators must strictly avoid even the appearance of using their Moderator authority to gain advantage in content disputes. As well, Moderators should avoid contributing to articles when two-thirds of Moderators acting as editors or authors are already involved. This is to safeguard that a sufficient number of Moderators will be available to act as Moderators in said articles.

Right of appeal. Any user may appeal a ban by a Moderator. Such appeals will be heard by a special group of Moderators. The appeal process may be public or private; this decision is made by the banned user. Further, if the user loses three appeals of Moderators’ decisions (and is banned temporarily and returns), he loses his right to appeal thereafter. Similarly, if a Moderator’s decisions are successfully appealed three times, he is put on probation. Any further loss of an appeal by such a Moderator will result in the dismissal of the user as a Moderator.

Instructions. The tools Moderators will use for these procedures are the same as for Wikipedia. Please see Wikipedia’s pages on Administrators:

  1. Administrators. This page is an explanation of Role of Administrators
  2. Admin's how-to guide. This page is an explanation of administrator tools and how to use them
  3. Admin's reading list. This page is an explanation of the policies of Wikipedia that administrators enforce. This may be helpful, but Moderators must bear in mind that the Citizendium will have different polices.

Account renaming


Citizendium Moderator Group
Professionalism | Moderator Blocking Procedures | Article Deletion Policy
Application Review Procedure | Moderator Policy | Help for Moderators | Other
Home
Getting Started Organization Communication Technical Help Initiatives
Policies Editor Guidance Content Guidance Article Lists Governance
Welcome Page