Swarm Moderation Theory

Posted on 09/01/2011 by


It’s a work in progress, so expect to see new versions of the Theory in days to come. I hope that I will not remain the sole author of this concept.


The manner in which this board has evolved toward self-moderation is very interesting, in my opinion. It isn’t the result of one or two moderators, but instead the entire cast and crew of interested participants in our discussion.

Hence, swarm moderation: the participants change, the conversation evolves, but the system overall self-moderates. Traditional moderation, because it relies upon one or two people, is a choke-point: information is slowed vastly by needing to be approved by people who might not always be online, on the ball, or balanced.

With swarm moderation, anyone constructively interested in the discussion becomes a moderator. By posting on threads which interest them, they bump up certain quality threads and push down in the queue junk or irrelevant threads. The quality of the conversation overall stays high, but yet it is dynamic and evolving.

For the WikiLeaks discussion board, quality means those threads which are topical to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Pfc Bradley Manning, and similarly related subjects. Additionally, a quality thread has conversation on it which is 1) civil, and 2) generally pertinent to the thread topic; the thread title itself is generally topical, civil, and respectful, even in disagreement with WikiLeaks, et cetera. Some creep in this is to be expected, but for the most part, swarm moderation will bump up those threads which are quality, by this definition.

Swarm moderation is resilient against trolling, thread-jacking, spamming, flame-threads, and disinformation in general. Because the moderation crew is operating in a very loose manner, their attention will be spread across much of the queue. This means that multiple perspectives on topics will be applied to almost every thread. Those threads which are found to be of higher quality will have higher durability on the top of the queue. Those threads which aren’t quality will fall down the queue.

Additionally, swarm moderation ensures the best balance between freedom of speech and order. No set agenda can ever be pushed, because the moderation crew is dynamically changing. No comments are deleted, and no threads are suppressed because of personal opinions of fixed moderators.

The purpose of this particular thread (and possible successors) is to continually spread the ethic of civil discourse, to the point where it becomes reflexive to all constructive participants. New-comers will need to acculturate, but all moderators, being versed in this ethic, will be able to help this process efficiently in the context of threads. The overall high quality of threads and civil discourse will also tend to help new-comers adjust spontaneously to this e-culture. (for lack of a better term.)

The eventual aim of full adoption of swarm moderation is to not need thread topics like “Danger: [person] is troll” or “Do Not Feed The Trolls” (and perhaps even the Sandbox) on the top of the queue. This is because the pushing down of troll-threads, and the identification of trolls themselves, will happen dynamically, without the need for constant bump-age of troll warning threads. With sufficient numbers of individuals constructively participating in conversation, the board will become a civil and dynamic information dissemination platform.

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