I am aware that my high-visibility position in the community means that I am under higher scrutiny, and that I should act with more responsibility than the regular users. But the question is not about that.

It is about cases where I just want to express an opinion, and others take it to mean that it is sealed in stone. I sometimes purposefully abstain from using the tools at my disposal, choosing to just post the opinion the way a regular user could do, in the hope that it will lead to discussion and give others the chance to disagree. But users seem to think that this is a final ruling, not just an invitation to express their own opinion.

Other times, I can make a post in a situation which requires no moderation (such as writing a Stack Exchange answer), and get lots of positive feedback; then I go back and see that I have made substantial mistakes (I was either not concentrating when I wrote the answer, or a lot of time has passed and I have learned more on the topic in the meantime). But nobody called me out on it, they showed only positive reactions.

I wish to participate in my community in ways beyond enforcing policies. Is this possible? For example, if I see a discussion (not needing moderation) and all sides have failed to notice something which I think is a relevant point, should I bring it up so they don't make a decision based on incomplete information, or should I keep out of the discussion because they are likely to equate my new suggestion with official site policy? How can I balance being a contributing member at times, equal among equals, but keep the authority to resolve conflicts when it's needed?

  • @ChrisF I'm just curious why you made that edit? I'm not challenging your grammatical judgement here, but on a site that gets 0.0 questions/day and barely any other activity, why is it that out of all possible questions and all possible grammatical improvements, you chose that one? Even in this thread alone there's other grammatical aspects that could be improved in the question and the answers. Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 0:01

3 Answers 3


To some degree this is unavoidable - unless you post really clearly invalid or wrong stuff regularly (in which case everyone will know you to be unreliable and you'll lose community respect and you shouldn't be a moderator) - however it can be mitigated to some degree.

How much it happens partially depends on the community and how prominent being a moderator is shown. There are a few ways to reduce it.

  • Per Post Clarity: As much as it sucks if you want to be sure just say something like "this is my opinion as a user not a moderator and is not a decision or binding and is open to dicussion". That will be clear if a bit ugly.
  • Obfuscation: With most forum softwares you (or more likely an admin) can adjust how your avatar/signature/name looks to not look like a mod to everyone. This will reduce new user herd following mod = right mentality. Depending on the size of the community, number of moderators, your moderation level etc. this may or may not have any effect on existing members awareness of your moderator status.
  • Community Clarity: If you have clear guidelines about moderator actions you can sometimes for (user that read them anyways) make it clear that your posts are as a user unless you are clearly making a ruling etc.

There is no real way around it. You are wearing a uniform, your opinions now represent the community, and it doesn't matter how much the site says that the moderators' opinions don't reflect the site and whatnot.

The only one real way I found to mitigate the problem was to create another account, without moderator powers, and share your thoughts from there.

  • 3
    Wouldn't that backfire if people found out you were using a sock-puppet account? You could get accused of engaging in fraudulent activity. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:05
  • 1
    I don't like this because it is basically lying and could cause problems if you weren't careful and signed stuff wrong etc. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:12
  • If you would feel embarrassed / guilty if your secret account was revealed to the community, then that probably hints that you shouldn't create one in the first place.
    – JonW
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 13:32

You may wish to try swap your high standing status into an alternative position. For example, in vBulletin forums, for usergroups there is a primary usergroup that is visible to all members and then alternative usergroups which, while not displayed, still provide access to their relevant permissions.

It would not affect your current members' opinions, but any newcomers would be unaware for the most part. Failing this, you may just wish to reiterate at the end, something like "Please note though that this is just my opinion and isn't official in any way".

Alternatively, you could create a new standard account and proceed to contribute through that, but in the long run you must be the mature and responsible entity that a moderator/administrator is, because you are now effectively the voice of the community.

  • It actually might affect current members - it just depends on a bunch of factors like size and acivity of community and that moderator. For example, on SO it easily could because most users don't recognize all moderators by name I'm sure. Whereas on Software Recommendations there is only 3 moderators all of whom are pretty active so most users should recognize them by name as well as picture and not as much by the bluediamond. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:36
  • Well, the OP remarked on how he is constantly realised as the be-all-end-all after contributing a post, so it sounds like the members would know him by the username anyway, even if the OP changed his usergroup visibility.
    – Talisman
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:39
  • I agree most likely that is the case in this precise case Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:50

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