*** Contacting the moderators (please read) ***

Wed 4 Aug, 2004 05:46 pm
If you have questions for the Moderators or complaints/questions about moderation issues this announcement explains how you can get answers. It is a part of our upcoming effort to make our job clearer to members and to organize the mechanisms of contact so that we can reduce our workload while retaining accessibility.

For example, by improving the documentation in the Help Desk knowledge base we can reduce redundant queries, and by insisting that we be contacted through the Help Desk we can employ it to its full potential (as before a ticket is sent to us, the software will display some possible answers from the knowledge base).

The Help Desk is now the focus of our communication with members. The reporting feature uses it and it is the foundation of our documentation, technical support and all other communication.

Please note that our response time can vary from a few minutes to up to a week or more. The turnaround time guarantee for answering questions is directly affected by human resources, and we can't commit to a guaranteed response time. We do not have a support team that is available 24/7 -- the volunteers involved have many demands on their time. The turnaround time is also affected by the complexity of the query.

Even a difference between promising answers in 24 hours and promising answers within 48 hours represents a significant difference in workload. For these reasons we do not have a guaranteed response time. We ask for your understanding and patience as we make our best effort.[/b]

Please read the rest of this announcement, as answering the questions takes us more time and resources than almost any other task we have and these guidelines help us in this "best effort" policy. It also explains why we avoid discussing the complaints on the boards, and contains information on how to contact us through the ticketing system we have set up to handle communications.

We ask the members of Able2Know to understand the complexities that we are faced with and adhere to the following structure; our ability to perform our tasks and maintain this website depends on it.

    The Able2Know Moderation Team is made up of volunteers, who have put a great deal of time and effort into formulating the policies and mechanisms that keep this site going. Our job is to enforce the Terms of Service consistently and keep the site running as smoothly as possible. Usually, this enforcement is straightforward. For example, if someone posts spam, the spam is promptly removed by the Moderator who sees it first. However, occasionally we are faced with a more complicated issue. When that happens, we carefully examine the issue as a team and come to a mutually satisfactory solution so that the decision is not colored by an individual's mood, politics, relationships or anything else. With even more complicated issues we approach it with a quorum. This process is thorough and may involve information from Personal Messages (PMs) that are sent to us, posts that have been pulled (and that you subsequently may not see), emails, or other material provided to the Moderation Team with the expectation of privacy and strictest confidentiality. Due to the fact that the information is not always accessible to any curious member, the decision can seem arbitrary. Sometimes this perception is inevitable, but we have invested time, money and effort into a Help Desk (knowledge base and ticketing system) to try to make ourselves more accessible to the members while still taking our resource limitations into consideration. This structure is essential for us to maintain accessibility and the ability to scale (grow as the workload grows). So we again introduce our [URL=http://help.able2know.com/]Help Desk.[/URL] There is a link to it on the bottom of most every page. The Help Desk is a combination of trouble shooters (that help members with technical problems), a knowledge base (that will serve as documentation for technical answers as well as policy), and a robust support desk that allows us a technological foundation to handle varying (and increasing) messages and scale our human resources around the communication medium. The way it works is simple. If you have a question or complaint about Able2Know.com you can ask us there. Before the question is sent to us your ticket will be matched against already documented answers, thereby reducing our workload by eliminating redundant queries. If the question is not already answered there we will try to answer it within our "best effort" level of support and if it merits it the answer will be added to the knowledge base. This announcement is a explanation of some of our mechanisms (with the knowledge base we plan to document as much of the explanations as possible to both increase transparency and reduce redundant queries and subsequently our work load), an explanation of some of our policies and actions (the knowledgebase will be updated to further clarify the host of questions we are faced with), and guidelines that need to be followed in asking about Able2Know. [b]Here are some examples of Moderator actions: [/b] [list] - [b]Locking[/b]. This is usually done to allow the participants some time to cool off and/ or to give the Moderation Team time to discuss the best way to handle the issue. This action is usually reversed after some time. It is unfortunate that a locked topic causes frustration for people who wish to use it, but it is nearly always temporary and is also frequently used to avoid more drastic measures and more permanent responses. For example, if an argument is heating up, locking it may prevent it escalating to the point that the involved parties do something that merits removal of posts, the thread or their membership. If a topic has been locked for more than 24 hours we may have forgotten to unlock it, and you can contact us through the help desk. If a new topic is started for the purpose of circumventing the lock on the original topic and continuing the discussion, the new topic will be pulled. - [b]Editing[/b]. Occasionally a link or other unacceptable material is edited out of a post. In these cases, a note usually appears in the following format: [b]Edit (Moderator): Link removed[/b] The Moderation Team will also move threads to more appropriate categories. In that case, the note would read: [b]Edit (Moderator): Moved from __ to __[/b]. This is usually done to remove an offending item (almost always spam) and preserve the other content. For example, if a member signs up and provides a helpful post but happens to add a promotion to his or her own site (sometimes webmasters do this as a matter of course in all their communications, like a signature) only the offending item is removed. Moderators are given strict instructions on what editing is permissible, and this is usually avoided. Over 99% of the editing is simple link removal or topic move notifications. More controversial editing (say, removing an insult) is avoided and the Moderators have to follow [i]strict [/i]guidelines on what is a permissible situation for an edit. - [b]Pulling[/b]. Occasionally individual responses or entire threads are pulled due to inappropriate content or for evaluation by the Moderation Team. Often this involves the pulling of spam. Every member of Able2Know has received notice that spam is not tolerated under any circumstances; new members are told not to spam in both the account activation email and in the welcome PM and this is also in the Terms of Service. Pulling a thread is sometimes temporary, as it is a reversible action. This means that sometimes a thread will be removed so that a decision can be reached before actions that are not reversible (removing posts within the thread, etc.) are considered. If a member reposts a pulled item it will usually result in a suspension, as some people will repost endlessly and getting into an open-ended game of repost-and-pull is not something the Moderating Team has the resources for. Asking why something was removed publicly is also usually removed. For example, if an insult was removed, answering a question on why it was removed may require repetition of an insult that was removed for a reason. For this and a host of other reasons the venue for this inquiry is the Help Desk found in the footer of each page. - [b]Suspending[/b]. Occasionally an individual's access to the forum is suspended due to violation of the Terms of Service. Members are rarely contacted before being suspended, as the suspension itself serves as a contact and displays a message to the member to enter contact directly with the Moderators; when contact occurs, it is usually in the context of a steady stream of violations rather than a single egregious violation. If a member has received a final warning from the Moderating Team, and again violates the Terms of Service, that member should not expect further communication; the member will simply be suspended. [i]Having a link or post pulled or edited should in and of itself be considered a warning.[/i] When a member has been suspended and attempts to access A2K, a message appears with an email address encouraging the member to contact the Moderation Team with any questions. Suspensions sometimes occur specifically to instigate this communication. Again, our time is limited, and we have found that it is much more efficient to simply respond to any questions a member may have than to make a contact before every disciplinary action.

To ensure privacy, only involved members will be privy to information concerning disciplinary actions before, during or after that action has been taken. Other members may be curious but we generally avoid any disclosure to protect the privacy of the involved parties.

This often means that we are placed in a difficult position, in which justifying an action by the Moderating Team would require disclosure of information that may be negative about the involved party, something we are loath to do.

The involved parties usually know why, and if not they can ask it of us. They may present the events differently to others who will subsequently find it unfair. But for us to set the record straight we are placed in the awkward position of needing to either be viewed as unfair or to bad-mouth someone.

The reasons for Moderating Team actions are usually self-evident. However, we are happy to respond to questions if the member involved is confused by the action taken. If you have questions or wish to comment on any Moderating Team actions, please direct your correspondence to the Help Desk and open up a new ticket. However, threads opened for the purpose of commenting on a Moderating Team action will be pulled as they are usually attempts to draw the Moderators into an open-ended debate.

We have documented our policy in several places, most notably the Terms of Service. Please check there before opening up a Help Desk ticket to ask about a moderation issue.

Similar to how laws are made and enforced, you cannot expect individualized notices every time we make a decision or implement a policy. We ask that people respect that we are volunteers and do not have the time to address every single individual concern.

Similarly our technical support and moderation support policies are governed by a "best effort" level of support. This means we do not guarantee complete coverage and may need to leave things unanswered as support is resource-intensive and if we were to commit to guaranteeing a response to each contact we would be biting off more than we can chew.[/list]

Click here to contact us.

Closing summary:
  • Please use the help desk to ask about or complain about moderation. Do not use the forum help board as this is for technical support. Please do not use other forums here as that is usually removed to prevent an attempt to draw the moderating team into an argument when our policies dictate that we can often not disclose things publicly.
  • Please note that sending PMs to Moderators is not the way to ask questions, as some of us have unmanageable inboxes. Questions sent this way will be ignored or the member will be directed to the Help Desk.
  • Please note that our support level is determined by a "best effort" policy and not a "every question/complaint is guaranteed an answer" policy.
  • Please note that our response time is a "best effort" and not a specific guarantee, as we do not have a 24-7 staff and the response time is provided as is (which usually means much faster than many commercial support teams that do have 24-7 staff).

Thank you!
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Craven de Kere
Wed 4 Aug, 2004 08:29 pm
We'll need to be writing a lot of documentation, so if you have questions send them to the help desk and it'll help us fill our the knowledge base.
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Thu 5 Aug, 2004 06:57 am
Exactly - we can't know what your main issues and questions are, unless you tell us. Thanks!
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