linguoboy wrote:I think it depends what you're trying to accomplish.
Is your primary goal (a) to modify the behaviour; (b) to shield other users from potentially offensive content; (c) to show responsiveness to member complaints; (d) to demonstrate consistency and firmness of enforcement; (e) something else entirely?
What would your suggested action be for each of the goals you mention?
In this particular case the process has always been initiated by other users (some of the posts were even written in a language none of us speaks). If people are reporting these posts, I assume that's because they're uncomfortable with their content and want some action to be taken, but I have no idea of knowing exactly what they expect from us (and different people might have different motivations). Do they simply want the posts to be removed? Do they want us to ban the user? Do they want us to contact them privately and tell them not to write that kind of thing again? Do they want a public warning?
I would assume the chief thing they want is not to have to see posts like that again and don't have strong feelings about the means you use (or expect you to use a particular approach and don't see it as their place to counsel another or don't think such counsel would be heeded).
If the goal is (a) behaviour modification, you need to learn something about the poster's motivations. If they genuinely didn't understand that their statements would cause offence, then just explaining this to them privately might be enough. If you've tried that already, then it's possible that they either lack the intelligence to avoid such statements or the willpower or both. Then your job becomes harder. You have to decide whether prescribed penalty would help encourage them to try harder or not. And, if not, what would--if anything.
If it's (b) shielding users from offensive content, then the simplest solution is to delete the posts and permban the user. This is also the harshest solution.
If it's (c) show responsiveness, then whatever you do should be done promptly and publicly and followed by a request for feedback from the users in questions and probably all users generally. (Think about what a corporation would do in response to complaints about inappropriate language in their ads, for instance.) Otherwise I imagine the result would look most similar to (b).
If it's (d), then the answer is simple: apply the policy as written without trying to take these other factors into consideration.
The difficulty is that no one of these factors may be primary or that they may be combined with strong secondary motivations. If you are too responsive to complaints, you risk a situation where users abuse this by reporting people for trivial reasons just to see them punished. If you're too lenient with a problematic user, you risk upsetting other users and driving away those who don't like their content. But if you're too harsh, you risk driving them away along with other users who provide content and bring traffic to the site.
Luís wrote:And let me just add that although for the most part people seem to agree that the moderation has been too harsh in the past, we've also had several cases over the years where people contacted us to complain that we were being too lenient (e.g. I reported this post that offended me and you did nothing)
How to reconcile different member expectations?
I wish I could give you a magic formula. In the groups I've moderated, this ultimately came down to asking what kind of contributions and interactions we wanted to encourage and which members were providing these. In a few extreme cases, we ended up permbanning members who provided good content because they simply couldn't play nice with others. Other times, we let problematic personalities drive away others because we didn't want to appear that we were being too harsh or arbitrary in our enforcement.
I'm not sure if this helped at all. If you want me to get into more detail about some of the specific cases I mention, we can do that via e-mail.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons