This article summarizes Vanilla’s moderation functionality.
Community-driven using Reactions
Online communities each have different social norms, whether prescribed by the community sponsor or that have evolved organically. Allowing the community to self-moderate reduces the workload on moderators and involves the community in deciding what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
Self-moderation works using Vanilla’s Reactions. Among the 15 available Reactions, the Abuse and SPAM Reactions are used by members to indicate that a comment is violating the community’s standard of acceptable content. If the Abuse, or SPAM reaction is clicked by 5 or more members, the comment is sent to the moderation or SPAM queue and the comment is buried (i.e. it is collapsed and greyed out.) If the comment receives 10 Abuse or SPAM flags it will be completely removed pending moderator approval. The thresholds that put a comment into the SPAM or Moderation queue can be adjusted by Vanilla customer support.
When a moderator flags a comment, it is given 5 flags and immediately gets buried and sent to the moderation queue. Of course, moderators can delete or edit comments inline without needing to flag them or send them to a moderation queue.
A comment will also be buried if it receives 5 negative Reactions other than Abuse and SPAM. Negative Reactions include Troll, Dislike, Off topic, etc.
Negative Reactions received will subtract points from a member’s reputation score. The reputation score is earned for receiving badges and positive reactions. A higher reputation gives the member a higher position on the leaderboard and can give them a higher Rank if that feature is enabled.
To avoid abuse of the Reaction system, Reactions are public by default. Reactions can be made private in the Reactions Advanced Settings in the Dashboard.
Granting more abilities using Ranks
Moderation is as much about positive reinforcement as it is about flagging abuse. The Ranks feature displays the earned Rank next to the member’s username and can be setup to give more abilities to members with higher ranks. For example, a higher rank might be required to create a poll or save a signature that gets appended to each comment.
Another form of positive reinforcement is awarding badges to users for positive contribution. Moderators can manually award system or uploaded custom badges. Custom badges are highly desirable because they can’t be earned automatically.
When it is necessary for a moderator to call out a member for violating the community guidelines, the warning system is a good way to makes things more objective and transparent, especially in large communities with several moderators that might not be familiar with each member’s past history. The warning system works like the demerit point system on your driver’s license. If enough points are earned, the member will be jailed (temporarily suspended) or completely banned. Warning points expire after a set amount of time and can be cleared by mods at any time.
If necessary, members can be completely banned from your community. Members can be banned based on their username, IP address, or email address. Wildcards can be used to broaden the ban criteria but a persistent member will find a way back. Using Ranks with limited abilities for newbies is a good way of frustrating banned members that try to register after having been kicked out of the community. When banning a user, you can optionally delete all of the user’s existing posts.
Sinking a discusion
By default, discussions are ordered by date of last comment. Sometimes moderators want to make a discussion ‘go away’ but don’t want to offend by deleting it or closing it to more comments. Sinking the discussion will make it sink down the page as others discussions are updated and created, even if that discussion thread gets new comments.
Trolls are those that get a kick out of bothering others. Often banning a troll just feeds their desire for attention and they come back to the community under a different username. Vanilla’s Troll Management plugin makes the Troll and his content invisible to everyone but himself. Feeling ignored, the Troll gets bored and goes away.
In general pre-moderating every comment made in the community is not a good idea but it can make sense for certain kinds of communities. Pre-moderation is tied to Roles turned on by adding the permission Approval = Required. Pre moderation can be turned off for a user by changing his/her Role or by ‘whitelisting’ the user by marking the user as verified on the user detail on the profile page or by editing the user.
Vanilla has several SPAM management features that deserve a post of their own. These include:
- SPAM prevention plugins that automatically detect SPAM.
- The SPAM Reaction that allows community-driven SPAM detection.
- Restrictions that can be placed on new members that prevent flooding the forum with SPAM and preventing editing a post after a few minutes (Spammers will post a comment that looks legitimate and come back days later once the thread is off the front page and edit their posts to contain SPAM links).
- As a deterrent, nofollow on URLs so that search engine crawlers don’t index content linked from the forum.