On the Role of the Moderator - Printable Version

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On the Role of the Moderator - bring4th_admin - 10-16-2015

On The Role of the Moderator
An essay by Austin Bridges

A Distillation
Defining the role of the moderator has been, in essence, a years-long process for the Bring4th moderator team and even a longer process for me on my journey in moderating internet communities. My personal history of moderating online forums is rather extensive. At the peak of my history, I was the sole administrator for a forum with hundreds of active users and a moderator team in the dozens. Other experiences did not carry as much responsibility, but gave me a wide variety of experience through the broad spectrum of topics and purposes of the forums I found myself moderating.
It was not until joining the Bring4th mod team that I really started to reflect on the position I was in. Not only was it the first experience I had in moderating after finding the Law of One, a material which gives us great tools to gain insight into our mental and emotional processes and offers an intricate ethical framework for how we relate to others, it was a forum which was dedicated to this material and its study. Whereas previously I was able to take authoritative action in communities without many second-thoughts or hesitations, I suddenly became acutely aware of how each of my actions affected individuals and the community as a whole. Needless to say, it was (and is) a great source of juicy catalyst in my life.
The concept I hold in my head for the role of a moderator is not one that I have come to on my own. The moderator team on Bring4th collaborates a lot. I have stated multiple times before, there could be an encyclopedia published with the amount of discussion that has gone into the appropriate way to moderate Bring4th in accordance with the principles upon which this forum was founded. Through this essay, I am merely a distiller of the thoughts, actions, and emotions shared by fellow Bring4th moderators, albeit subjective and personally biased distiller. Due credit must be given to Gary Bean, the community’s primary architect; Steve, L/L’s webmaster responsible for building Bring4th; and other friends who have given their volunteer efforts completely to moderating, including Garry (Plenum), Aaron, and Monica. (Though I was not on the moderator team with Monica, I looked on at her dedication to the forums in the role of moderator with great awe, and learned much from watching her navigate this tricky task.)
A Challenging Task
To consider the role of the moderator, it is difficult to not first see the challenges that come with this role. Moderating Bring4th is a challenging task for various reasons, one of the greatest being the great variance in perception and interpretation of the ideals upon which this forum stands. Things like free will, love, compassion, respect, spiritual evolution, harmony, free expression, trust, support: these are all vague ideas that I think we all resonate with and that attract members to this community. However, when a group of seekers come together with the highest and best intentions to uphold these concepts, it becomes clear that each individual may be resonating with and moving towards the same ideals, but each individual’s implementation and manifestation of these ideals may be considerably different.
Herein lays one of the greatest challenges of this role. It becomes increasingly difficult to perform in this role through various social situations in ways that a) honor the principles of the Law of One, b) uphold the guidelines, c) serve the greater community, and d) make everyone satisfied with such a variance of perceptions in how the mod team handles things. In other words, we can’t please everyone despite a great desire to do so.
To simplify this for the sake of discussion, we can see the varying viewpoints as falling on a sort of spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is an idea that a community built on the principle of respecting free will should not have anyone acting in such a role as the moderator, a role which holds a certain ability to curtail the exercise of other-selves’ free will. On the other end of the spectrum is an idea that there should be swift and strict moderation in any case where it seems any individual member is influencing the community in any way which may be incongruent with this principle and others. There are naturally many gradations between these two poles.
The actual dynamics are obviously much more complex and intricate than a two-sided spectrum. This complexity is the stage upon which the moderators operate. The various demands that each component in that intricate mix place upon the role is a source of great catalyst, and has precipitated massive discussion in many places on and off this forum, and internally by the moderators.
To any who seek to understand the moderators’ role in this community, I can, on behalf of the mod team, assure you of one thing: the creators and moderators of this forum have an overwhelming and abundant desire to fulfill a certain vision that Don, Carla, Jim and L/L Research have for a community; that is, to provide a positive space for wanderers and seekers to come together and share in love, and discuss this philosophy that is so dear to all of our hearts.
That strength of desire to serve the community in the highest and best way, and to create for the community a supportive environment that facilitates seekers connecting with each other for shared study and seeking, is also manifested in the amount of effort we sink into nearly every issue that comes to our attention as moderators. And naturally, when we receive any feedback which indicates that we have failed at this effort of love, it can generate some emotional catalyst. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing; catalyst, seen through the lens of spiritual evolution and utilized properly, is a positive thing. And we gain much from it, including a great sense of honor at being able to serve in this way.
In the role as moderators of such a community, however, the placing of the feet is a careful act as the ground beneath our feet is an always evolving, changing, dynamic dance. The culture shifts and changes along with what people desire or expect out of the community. We often feel like we’re aiming at a moving target while, at the same time, keeping ourselves pointed towards the stable and consistent ideals around which the community gathers.
Tending the Garden
And it is upon this basis that I begin to form a picture of the role of the moderator. The mod team understands the need for there to be a firm respect for the relationships and dynamics formed by the individuals within the community, while at the same time ensuring that the environment facilitates their path as seekers of truth and love. This balance can be elusive and any analogy will fall terribly short in conveying the complete picture, but we have considered a few different analogies in our own deliberations on our role in various situations.
One analogy which has come up and seemed to be fitting was comparing the role of a moderator that of an umpire. An umpire does not interfere with the game until there is a deviation from the established rules or guidelines. The umpire goes to great lengths not to affect the ability of the players to play the game. These aspects in particular seem fitting for how we wish to allow the community to operate, but a closer examination of the umpire analogy shows that it falls somewhat short.
An umpire is handed a list of rules to enforce. Each situation an umpire may is codified. A ball is either in bounds or out of bounds. A player is either safe or out. The ball is foul or it isn’t, etc. The Bring4th moderators play a larger role than the umpire because we are determining the rules of the game, not working with predetermined rules. An umpire’s rulebook is not open to interpretation. We decide the merit of each rule within each situation. And how do we decide what the rules are, and how they should be enforced? A member may clearly violate the guidelines and it is clear that the ball has been kicked out of bounds. Then our task is as simple as that of an umpire. But not all situations are that simple.
As this forum is both formed and moderated by L/L Research, we have to determine the whole point of the game. What sort of community do we want? Do we want the community to be any particular thing, or simply a community for the sake of it? What goals should be establish for the community? Is it enough to simply write some rules and then allow the game to be played however the players will play it? What if the game begins to be played in a way we, as the creators of the game, did not intend? Umpires would not decide whether the game is being played as was intended. They say a rule is broken or not, and apply the codified judgment. Experience in moderating Bring4th has certainly revealed that simply enforcing rules will not create any type of desired environment. The culture of the posters plays a larger role than the rules enforced by moderators.
So the moderators ask ourselves if we want to simply be umpires and allow the culture of the forum to go in whatever direction naturally arises, or do we want to play the active role of trying to create a forum with a purpose? If we want Brign4th to be a certain type of community for a certain type of person with a certain type of purpose, it necessarily requires some cultivation of a culture which promotes these goals. We will have to weed out those things which act against these goals and support and feed those things which act towards these goals.
In this sense, the analogy of a gardener may be more apt. The moderators, through any action we take on the forums, hope to cultivate an environment in the community similar to how a gardener hopes to cultivate a balanced ecosystem in their garden.
The gardener cannot force the garden to grow in any certain way. The gardener may till the soil, plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and do their best to guess how the ecosystem will develop, but nature is dynamic and, through self-determination, will find its own way. There will always be unexpected challenges that in and of themselves help to form the ecosystem—in fact, they are an inevitable part.
And much like cultivating a garden, attempting to exact too much control over the ecosystem results in a sort of stale, artificial feeling product. For sake of a fleshed out and colorful analogy, it is the difference between food grown in monoculture with use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers versus food grown organically and in partnership with the ecosystem.
Our best approach is to help ensure some of the basic environmental conditions and inputs, but to otherwise get out of the way.
Garden chores for the moderator include a wide variety of tasks; from detecting and deleting spam; to ensuring threads are placed in their proper category; to ensuring distinct discussions have their own threads; to responding to interpersonal dilemmas and fulfilling the needs of requests placed upon us; to ensuring that members are acting respectfully and not against the greater interest of the community. This last task is the source of much interpersonal catalyst, which is another one of the Bring4th moderators’ greatest challenges.
Interpersonal Management
It is folly to think that this type of catalyst can (or should) be avoided in 3rd density. It is completely natural that any group of people gathering together for a common purpose will experience some difficulty in the meshing of personalities together around that purpose. Through this forum we wish to offer a place of study, community, and support, but recognize that all of who seek these things are still operating from veiled personalities with infinitely unique distortions. It is the nature (and perhaps purpose) of these distortions that they will creation friction with each other, and so any number of people seeking together will continually be confronted by this friction.
As moderators, we realize that this type of confrontation is just as useful for growth as the sharing of knowledge and ideas. But to allow this type of interaction to become the primary focus of the community would be detracting from the ultimate purpose of what we wish to offer through Bring4th. In other words, it would not cultivate the type of crop we wish to grow in our garden. So the task of the moderator is then to find a balance which allows the greater purpose to shine while still allowing the inevitable interpersonal catalyst to serve its purpose. What is the purpose of interpersonal conflict? Growth, learning, self-discovery, deepening awareness, opening the heart, practicing acceptance and forgiveness, etc. These are the ends toward which this community is pointed.
This purpose cannot be served without the shared goal of eventual harmony and reconciliation. Not everyone will have these goals, and not every discussion will maintain those goals. Thus the moderator attempts to always keep discussion oriented towards these goals, which sometimes requires direct intervention. We approach each situation attempting to recognize its unique nature and context. Whether to implement a harder or softer touch is always the ultimate question, and we don’t always succeed at choosing the best option, but every effort is made in attempt. We cannot please everyone, but at the end of the day, we can hopefully cultivate a community which does please most people who are drawn to it.
Honor and Love
These challenges and analogies described in so many words are a meager attempt at expressing the nature of this role. There are many aspects that simply evade any words capable of description. If there is a point to drive home about how we operate within this role, it is that at the end of the day, we are always fueled by our desire to maintain the vision for Bring4th. To see a weary wanderer comforted, to see a seeker reach a new level of understanding, to understand ourselves more deeply, to gain insight into a metaphysical concept, to hear stories of how the Law of One and Bring4th have helped seekers in their lives, to see a healthy debate unfold and various perspectives being shared in a positive space, to witness just how passionate people can be in their spiritual seeking—the responsibility of this role becomes ever lightened by the sense of honor and fulfillment found in these things. This opportunity to serve in this role truly is a great honor, and we do so with great love.