The big news of the spring wasn’t college admissions, but COVID-19. It’s almost the only thing people have been talking about for the last month or so. That’s true on College Confidential just as on every other online platform. Discussion of the pandemic has been common around the forums, but the Parents Forum has seen some of the most active threads:
- Coronavirus in the US 12486 replies
- Coronavirus: What are You doing ( if anything) to prepare/ What are you personally observing? 6463 replies
- Coronavirus and US Campus issues 1008 replies
- School in the fall & Coronavirus 1151 replies
Note that these numbers don’t include replies that were deleted for various reasons.
As someone relatively new to College Confidential and a parent trying to help a junior through the college admission process, I find these threads overwhelming. I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of people like doschicos to provide relevant information. And also overwhelmed with the length and complexity of these threads. I’ve found them hard to read and even harder to analyze for the purposes of moderation.
Interestingly, I’ve heard two different takes on the moderation of replies in these threads:
- The rules of the site are being broken and moderators are letting too much get through.
- Moderators are overly strict and biased.
It tends to be a good sign when criticism comes from opposite directions when it comes to moderation. I’d be worried if we only heard one type of complaint. Overall, I’d say the moderators are doing a good job, well, being moderate.
But I think these massive threads are making moderation more difficult than it should be. In a small thread, a moderator can read through the interactions between users and figure out what happened without having to have participated in the thread. But when the thread reaches hundreds or thousands of replies, that’s not possible. Moderators who have been involved with the thread from the beginning might be able to keep track. And yet, we ask moderators not to moderate threads they are active in. This is a classic Catch-22. If a mod is active, there’s an appearance of bias. If they are not active, they can’t make fair decisions without investing many hours reading.
I’m learning that the site is difficult the navigate. Not to avoid responsibility (because it is my job to make sure the site is usable), but the previous managers of the site really messed up the interface. I understand people are reliant on the bookmark feature to find discussions they are interested in. (And the feature is, apparently, unreliable. Hrmmmm…) So I can see why putting off-topic discussions of COVID-19 into one thread would help.
As an aside, we are working on making the site easier to navigate. We’re adding a forum index which will help new users navigate the topics. Personally I’ve missed this feature so much I created my own version so I could find things. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a start.
At any rate, I’d like to ask for your help in a few ways:
Take a moment before posting a reply to consider whether this is the best place to say what you are about to say. It’s pretty easy for the conversation to verge into divisive subjects, such as politics, when we are all stressed out. To be blunt: nobody changes their mind about politics and least of all because of something they read on the internet. It’s just going to frustrate you and waste your time.
Consider summarizing news articles rather than quoting them. I know people want to share content with other parents, but it’s better to link to the source. Especially for news outlets we rely on in these difficult times, let’s not deny them advertising and subscription revenue. (And if you don’t trust the source, don’t post about it!
Please be patient with our moderators. There’s a good chance they are just as stressed out as you are by the pandemic and having to adjust to staying home. In addition, they have the stress of caring for the health of this community. Especially in private conversations (which are intrinsically more intimate) take a few minutes to consider what it would be like to receive the message you are sending before you hit the post button.
Finally, I’d like to hear your input on how to manage off-topic COVID-19 discussions. I have several solutions in mind, but I’d like to hear from you all before we decide. How can we continue having these threads without over-burdening our moderators?