Marriage Advocates' Moderator Manual

In accordance with Marriage Advocates' Policy, this Manual is posted for reading by Members of the Forum and guests. If you have any questions, please ask any Board of Director's Member(s) in a Private Message or in a post to the Moderator Manual Question Thread. BoD Member names are in purple.


Thank you for volunteering your time to help keep our forums organized and productive. The role of a Moderator is vital and can be both positive and negative. A review of the Moderator Guidelines thread will be useful to provide background for how this manual was constructed.

Keep up with posts to the Notification Board, with particular emphasis on the contents of AntigoneRisen's thread covering the subjects of: Data, Intellectual Property, and Internet Privacy.

If you have not read our Welcome Statements of late, please do read them again as information. In addition, the Forum 'Peer Counseling,' contains useful information.

It is necessary that you be fully aware of our Terms of Service.

Simply put, the general philosophy of this site is to moderate "Surgically," which means less is more.

What follows are guidelines by category. If you have any questions, please post your question in the Moderator Guidelines thread if you are a member, or in the Monthly Moderator Thread if you are a Moderator or Administrator.

Background for Marriage Advocates' Terms of Service:

The Marriage Advocates' Terms of Service is to be enforced by Moderators and Administrators for the protection of the purpose and policy of this site and its Members. Such enforcement shall take precedence over all other directives in this Moderator Manual and shall be the minimum required to accomplish said protection.

In any case where there is a perceived conflict between the Moderator Manual and the Terms of Service, it is appropriate to flag the enforcement or proposed enforcement activity in the Moderator's forum for consultation with or consensus by advisory board, administrators, global moderators and moderators. The resolution of any such conflict will be posted in the Moderator's forum.

Background for Board Conduct:

It is not in the best interest of anyone to start or contribute to flaming/bashing threads or posts. The only result of those kinds of threads is a general negativity in the forums. We have a Thunderdome for times when the discussion can get heated. See the Background for thread removal.

Keep firmly in mind that this board is not a place to denigrate anyone, for any reason. It is proper to point out and discuss the facts, the evidence and how to handle situations, even specific ones with exceptions.

That said, this board is not, and never will be, a place to engage in name calling, personal attacks or accusations of a personal nature.

No individual should be made to feel inferior or less deserving of respect than anyone else at anytime for any reason.

Please read the section of the TOS that covers conduct under the rules section as written in plain English. The conduct of Members is subject to moderation. Specifically, "I disagree, here is why," is acceptable, while "That was a stupid statement," is not, as an example of an appropriate place to moderate.

For moderators, within your own forums it is expected that you will always take the high road. If you have a problem with a Member, PM or e-mail them. Inside or outside of your own forums, you are expected to keep the best interests of the Members/forums in mind.

Your words carry great weight, use them wisely.

Background for Confidentiality/Privacy:

Please note that it is completely unacceptable to use or disclose anything that you have found out in the forums or through being a moderator for or against any member at any time or place; on or off this site or in real life. This includes information that may be obtained though IP address, email headers or other means.

By accepting the function and position of Advisory Board Member, Administrator, Global Moderator or Moderator, you agree to this prohibition as further defined in Marriage Advocates Terms of Service.

You are responsible for maintaining privacy. If someone posts something that reveals or might reveal their real identity, and does not comment that they approve of what they said, it is almost always appropriate to temporarily edit that part of the post and send a PM to the poster asking if they approve of what they have revealed.

Posting the contents of a private message (PM) on the open forum, without the express permission of the poster, is a violation of privacy and our Terms of Service. Such action will be subject to moderation, deletion and penalties.

Real names, addresses and/or phone numbers are not acceptable for posting by third parties. Nor are those items acceptable for posting by the person themselves, with one exception; any professional therapist may do as they please if they have been vetted as a professional therapist except to overtly solicit business.

Email addresses are acceptable in signatures. This does not include advertisements such as: Joe.Smith at BuyMyCars dot com. See background in the prohibition of advertising.

Confidentiality on the Moderator Board: It is important that moderators have a place to discuss matters frankly without worrying about confidentiality. We expect you to keep all discussions in the Moderator forums and PMs confidential.

Background for Forum Duties:

More than one Moderator is normally assigned to each forum and board. Work it out amongst you the who and when and what for covering the responsibilities detailed in this manual for your assigned forums and board(s). Global Moderators have a general assignment for all forums and boards except those of an Administrative nature.

The main thing is to care enough about your forums to make them a priority. This will manifest differently per person. If you feel that maintaining your forums becomes a burden or that you simply do not have enough time, please notify a Global Moderator or Administrator so you can be replaced.

Maintaining your forums will mean reading all posts and following all links on a regular basis to make sure that there are no activities and/or problems that require attention. If you need to take a break from your forums, please ensure that someone else will keep an eye on them during your absence. More than one person is normally assigned to a group of forums to insure complete coverage as much of the time as possible. If someone else is needed to help out, post a request in the appropriate location.

Maintaining your forums will mean responding to "Notify" requests for observation or actions. Take such action as you deem necessary, PM the person notifying you with a copy to your fellow Moderators and post what you did or didn't do in the appropriate location.

Background for Merging/Moving Threads or Portions Thereof:

Moving or merging a thread will almost always be done because the originator of the thread requests it. If you agree, move or merge the thread. If you do not agree or are uncertain, ask for opinions from other Moderators or Administrators in the appropriate location.

If you think a thread might be better located somewhere else or merged because of content, contact the originator of the the thread via PM and discuss with them. Post comment in the appropriate location for validation or discussion.

Moving or merging a thread into Thunderdome will be done by someone who is assigned that task. If a thread in your forum gets ugly, either of two steps may be taken:

Lock the thread and leave this message: This thread is temporarily locked pending review for removal to the Thunderdome. Post to the appropriate location with a link to the thread and a brief description of your reasoning.

In certain cases, portions of a thread may be moved to the Thunderdome; the contentious parts. Global Moderators and Administrators have the authority to perform this function. Post your concerns in the appropriate location for review and action.

Background for Editing Posts:

There will be a fair number of occasions when you will need to surgically edit a post. Whenever you do, please insert an edit note at the very end in normal fashion, just as if you had edited one of your own posts. For example, if a member posted that someone was a jerk, edit that portion of the post and fill in the edit box with a note: "No Personal Attacks."

Obvious duplicate posts are subject to editing. Just delete one of them. Attempts to circumvent the auto-censor are to be edited. Not all vulgar words are in the auto-censor, use your judgment and edit accordingly.

Edit surgically, less is more. Please make every effort to retain the intent of the post, with the exception of personal attacks. If it gets ugly, apply the standard for movement to Thunderdome.

Keep in mind that the edit post function, including edit, move and merge functions, are logged for time, date and person.

Background for Language and Attacks:

No violent, prejudicial language or personal attacks are tolerated in the forum. If you see any of these inappropriate posts, surgically edit the post immediately. Remove the offending portion and insert a edit note explaining your action.

If one or more posters continue to get ugly, apply the standards set out in the guidelines for moving a thread or portion of a thread to Thunderdome. This includes mass attacks and piling on.

Background for Advertisements:

No advertisement of any form is tolerated in any forum.

Actual links to other sites are encouraged for the purpose of sharing information that is relevant to an ongoing discussion. An obvious advertisement would be something like: "Here is a great place to buy a television" followed by the link.

If someone actually asks where to buy a TV, for example, that information should be handled by PM for anyone responding. Remove the link and leave an edit note. The actual question and response might be an attempt to circumvent the prohibition on advertising.

There are exceptions to this prohibition on a case by case basis.

Background for Polls:

We currently allow polls in most forums. Polls are subject to the same guidelines as any other post. Polls may only be conducted as the first post in a new thread.

Background for Closing/Locking Threads:

If the originator of the thread requests such action, do it unless you have a strong opinion to the contrary. If someone else asks, contact the originator if possible. In all other cases, seek consensus in the appropriate location. Someone else may have a good suggestion, or may validate what you propose to do or what the originator wants done.

Background for Stick Unstick:

Sticky posts are done by committee. Post a proposed Sticky reference in the appropriate location. Please do not take matters into your own hands.

Background for Warnings:

If you believe a thread or person is about to get out of control or violate board policy, it is appropriate to issue a warning such as, "This conversation might be appropriate for the Thunderdome. Is that where you folks want to take it?" If it continues, see the background for moving a thread or portions of a thread.

Background for Member Suspension and Bans:

Either one is an action by consensus of the Advisory Board. Post your concerns to the Moderator board in a new thread.

Background for Multiple Accounts:

Multiple member accounts are not allowed; repeat, not allowed! Report your suspicions to the Moderator Board in a new thread. This does not mean two accounts in a household; separate accounts by each spouse or other family member is, of course, allowed.

Background for Thunderdome Moderation:

1. Standard rules against personal attacks apply.
2. Thinly veiled personal attacks are prohibited exactly as they are in other Forums.
3. Meta discussions and debates are allowed.
4. Controversial subjects are allowed.
6. Discussion of public figures and other sites are allowed.
7. Arguments in Thunderdome are to be left in Thunderdome and not carried over to the other Forums.
8. The judgment of those moderating Thunderdome prevails.

Threads which are moved to Thunderdome for security reasons will be moderated under the rules for all other Forums, not Thunderdome rules.

Background for Blogging Central Rules


(NC) No comments: After the title of a blog will indicate that the blogger would like to journal without having their story interrupted.

(NA) No advice: Means the blogger will accept comments, but not advice.

If there is no designation beside the title of a blog, comments and advice are welcome.

A blogger may begin accepting comments or advice and decide to change their status later on. If that happens, the status will be inserted into the title, and from that moment on, the directives of the blog originator with be followed.

If people ignore the wishes of the blogger, he/she will notify the mods, and those posts will be deleted and moved to storage in the TD.

Background for Investigation of Private Messages:

Administrative reading of PMs will require just cause, consensus, and authorization from three board members or admins. Just cause is defined as: directly related to the safety or privacy of a member(s) or the security of MA itself. Any such access will be logged by the admins performing the task and noted in the moderator forum's current monthly memo thread.

Background for Penalty Box and Associated Moderator Warnings.

Our litigious society is proof enough that it is difficult to codify rules and penalties for every instance where the creative minds of people work to make up their own rules.

While we have our TOS and Moderator Manual, it is impossible for the nuances of every perceived possible violation of our Policies and procedures to be detailed.

Our board policy is as indicated in the TOS and this Moderators Manual. Our primary focus for Penalty Box enforcement is a failure to comply with the Terms of Service and Moderator Rules of Marriage Advocates and its Mission Statement.

The PB is not intended to stifle debate nor censure ideas and comment, it is intended as a mechanism to insure that Marriage Advocates remains free from personal attacks against members of an overt or covert nature, or that denigrates Marriage Advocates and our Mission Statement and for such other rule violations as may be noted by staff.

The Penalty Box is the assignment of members to a status that allows members to read all forums at the same level as a guest, but does not allow posting or private messaging.

Two flags will be used for grading posts that point to the Penalty Box.

The Yellow Flag indicates a violation that if not self edited, may lead to a Red Flag and ultimately, the Penalty Box.

The Red Flag indicates that a violation has occurred that may mean the Penalty Box for the poster and possibly others involved as well.

Our basic method will be: If it walks like a duck, quacks and looks like a rule violation, it is subject to being flagged at the discretion of the moderators, administrators and advisory board.

Yellow Flag: Any one moderator, administrator and/or advisory member may apply a yellow flag to a post.

Red Flag: Any one administrator and/or advisory board member may apply a red flag to a post.

The history of posts by a Member is part of the decision process when applying a flag, or accessing a penalty

Flags and Penalties:

Yellow flag: Nothing if the violation is resolved. Otherwise, the post will be edited and consideration will be given by staff for possible Red Flag enforcement.

Any Moderator or Administrator may throw the Yellow Flag.

Red Flag: Automatic trip to the Penalty Box for a minimum of 24 hours or more at the sole discretion of staff.

At the sole discretion of two or more Administrators, which includes members of the Advisory Board, an additional penalty of 30 days suspension of Private Messaging may be accessed.

Enforcement of our rules necessarily means that judgment is required in all cases. Any administrator and/or advisory board member may apply a temporary PB penalty. Any two of one administrator or advisory board member plus one moderator, administrator or advisory board member will formally impose the penalty period.

The one rule that will be enforced immediately and without appeal is that the decisions of moderators will not be challenged in public debate. This rule is designed to both protect the member from public embarrassment when the rules are explained, and to protect moderators from attack.

And appeal of PB will be by any three advisory board members, whose ruling shall be without additional appeal.

Once the time expires on any PB enforcement, the Member is free to post. Should a Member choose to continue their rule violation, additional time in the PB will be assessed per the schedule above.

Depending on the perceived level of rule violation, a Member may be assessed a penalty up to and including level three on the spot.

At the time a PB is assessed, an email will be sent to the email address of record with MA explaining the penalty, the reasons why it was applied and the appeals process.

Background for requesting Moderation or Appeal.

Any member may request moderation. The primary and recommended method is by using the notification button that is part of each post and the result is a formal process within the moderator group.

Notifications are read by not only the moderators who monitor specific forums, they are read by Administrators and Advisory Board Members as well.

In the body of the notification, state the following.

1. The post number. This post number is at the top right hand side of every post.
2. The reason(s) for your moderate request.
3. Your online name.

Moderation may or may not be performed as a result of a notification. If moderation is not performed, an answer will be provided via PM.

Appeal Process:

In any case where moderation is performed, with or without the notification process, any member has the right to appeal the moderation. This action is performed in the same way as a request for moderation, through the notify button that is a part of every post. That said, the notify button that is part of any given post may only be exercised (used) once.

1. Attempt to use the notify button in the modified post.
2. If that does not work, send an email to admin@Marriage

Include your online name, post number and the reason for your appeal.

Requests for moderation and appeals will be discussed and such action as is deemed within the guidelines of Marriage Advocates Terms of Service and the Moderator Manual will be taken. Further information may be solicited from those requesting moderation or appealing moderation. There is no appeal process for decisions made by the Advisory Board if it should reach that level for resolution.

Background for General Philosophy of Moderation:

Don't go looking for something to do, let it find you. Read all of the posts in your assigned forum and follow the links to insure the protection of privacy and adherence to our Terms of Service and this Moderator Manual.

If there is something that needs doing, it will usually be obvious if you understand the Moderator Manual and the philosophy of the board, which is "Less is more."

* Protection of privacy and confidentiality is a priority.

* Edit posts as surgically as possible. Remove a word is better than a whole post or even a whole sentence.

* Merge, move, and lock threads per the guidelines.

* Whatever you do, it is useful for you to maintain a log under your name thread in the Moderator forum.

General admonition repeated:

Your words as a Advisory Board, Administrator, Global Moderator or Moderator may carry great weight.

Select your words wisely.

Again, thank you for volunteering your time to keep Marriage Advocates on track and the best it can be. If you wish a hard copy of this manual, send the request to Larry in a PM and specify the format you prefer, such as .odt .doc .rtf or the name of the word processor you use.]

This Manual was developed by Advisory Board Members, Administrators, Global Moderators, Moderators and regular Members following guidelines that are in part common to most forums and recommended by appropriate sites which specialize in the administrative affairs of forums.

This Manual has been approved by the Advisory Board of Marriage Advocates as conforming to the Policies of Marriage Advocates and its Terms of Service.

End of Moderator Manual.

Revised 05/19/2011 10:58AM
Revised 12/31/2010 11:10PM
Revised 12/05/2010 06:18PM
Revised 11/22/2010 06:45AM
Revised 11/09/2010 12:09AM
Posted: 10/17/2010 05:08PM
Revised 10/19/2010 08:30PM
Revised 10/20/2010 02:34PM
Revised 10/24/2010 12:24PM
Originally Posted to Welcome Board: 10/25/2010