"Biggest flame war of all time:
July 3, 2001 2:40 PM   Subscribe

"Biggest flame war of all time: Danny Boy - sentimental Irish favorite, or stupid song decried by true Celts everywhere?" A link to a discussion in another forum about how one prevents the banal from driving out the profound in online public-participation forums. (Their conclusion: ruthless and efficient moderation.)
posted by Steven Den Beste (4 comments total)
While it's been my experience that most public-participation forums degenerate in a couple of years, overwhelmed by trivial posts and flame wars, Peter Neumann has managed the amazing feat of keeping "Risks Digest" interesting and fresh for nearly 15 years. I got a few posts into it in the 1980's, for instance, back when I worked at BBN. His solution to that was simple: all posts have to be approved by him. It works, if you're willing to put in the work. But it's quite a job.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:40 PM on July 3, 2001

It works, but only because RISKS only comes out once every few days. Most popular public participation forums operate in real time, and a majority of those could only operate in real time. For example, Metafilter as we know it would die within hours if such a system were implemented here.
posted by aaron at 3:46 PM on July 3, 2001

One of my personal favorite mailing lists survives by being strictly underground. (I only discovered it by querying a Majordomo for all the lists it handled.) In my experience, the only real way to keep an online community from eventually descending into a Morass of Suck without instituting moderator tyranny is to keep as low a profile as possible. Of course, that raises the issue of how to keep the community vital...
posted by darukaru at 5:52 PM on July 3, 2001

I suppose that someone with a lot of time on their hands could figure out the various axes that determine the lifespan/vitality/quality of an online community. I've already thought of a few myself:

strong/weak moderation (strong moderation is 'everything must go through a moderator to be posted, weak is 'moderator deletes posts after the fact')
human/automatic moderation
easy to find/hard to find
open to all/registration/sponsorship by members
technical skills required/any moron can use it

Each combination of characteristics would produce a different kind of community.

For instance, MeFi would be: weak human (with elements of automatic) moderation, moderately easy to find, registration required, and any moron can use it.
posted by darukaru at 7:02 PM on July 3, 2001

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