[Air-l] Impact of Moderation

Quentin (Gad) Jones qgjones at acm.org
Thu Mar 7 13:14:54 PST 2002

Steve Jones wrote:
> In any event, my strong feeling has always been that the best lists
> are self-organizing and self-sustaining. 

I recently published research in a conference paper on Usenet discourse
dynamics (Jones et. al. (2002) "An Empirical Exploration of Mass
Interaction System Dynamics: Individual Information Overload and Usenet
Discourse." In: Proceedings of the 35th Annual Hawaii International
Conference on System Sciences, IEEE, Big Island, Hawaii.) and just sent
off a paper today to a journal that examined and compared Usenet and
Listserv discourse dynamics. I looked at over 1000 discussion spaces and
3.5 million messages.

Moderation appears to impact negatively on the chances of messages
getting a reply, on discourse being sustained, and on the average word
length of messages (moderated discussions appear to have on average
longer messages).  Obviously there are a variety of reasons for this but
I think the evidence speaks against moderation unless 1) a moderator is
prepared to spend a significant amount of time boot strapping discourse
or 2) the discourse is so politically sensitive that it is required.  


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