Hi. To what extent should you tolerate criticism and constructive debate amongst members of your community concerning the spirit, conduct, rules and moderation of the forum? I imagine it is a difficult issue to manage. From the forum owner's perspective, buidling an online community may form part of a business plan, and thus to the owner, the forum needs to be managed to meet certain business objectives.

However, to a community member, the forum represents a place where they may feel they too have invested some time toward contributing to the creation of a community to which they contribute but also from which they are able to extract usefull information, advice, opinions, etc.

So what level of community discussion, debate, should be allowed that is essentially criticism of the forum and how it is being run? I notice that Sitepointforums has a specific forum for member feedback on how the forums are run. Recently I have seen that forum get quite heated, howeve, I personally feel that the little bit of discomfort and discord such heated moments have created do not outweigh the benefits of allowing healthy participation. I feel even stronger about this when genuine issues of ethical behaviour come into play.

Yesterday (Sydney time), I posted a thread to www.webhostingtalk.com When I look back on it may not have been the most tactfully worded or eloquent post LOL. However, to put it in context, there has been a general tightening of policy enforcement over there of late. This enforcement was seen as a little arbirary and unevenly handed by some people. Feathers have been ruffled, and members spat the dummy (and now it seems so have I). However, what is more alarming is that whole threads have been deleted from the general chit-chat forum that were critical of the way the forum policy was being implimented. These threads were not just locked with an explaination of the reasons posted by the mods, but completely censored, cut, gone, they never existed Iron curtain style moderation.

So I guess I am raising two questions for you community developers to ponder over.

1) Should you tolerate any community discussion/debate about the guidlines, rules, vibe, ethics, moderation policy of the forums amongst your members.

2) If not, how does this impact on the credibility of your forums if members are effectively censored and gagged?

3) How do you deal with a thread that does discuss criticise the forums direction and/or its moderation policies and their enforcement? Should you,

- Lock the thread if you feel it is damaging to community harmony?
- Post an explaination when you lock the thread?
- Delete the thread?
- Politely PM or email the thread starter or offending poster and explain why their post/thread was locked, deleted, edited?

If you just delete a thread or post and don't inform the original poster, how do you think they are going to feel and react to being gagged.

For a laugh here is a link to a transcript of the post that got me gagged at webhostingtalk. http://www.dasilva.f2s.com/wht.txt Obviously, I can't give you a link to the thread because it has been deleted. The last time I checked the thread there had been one constructive reply that disagreed with my harsh view. I've never been censored before LOL, although, I have been a little loose with my words from time to time when I've gotten a little cranky