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Since users tend to put mods on a pedestal, I've been thinking of ways to combat that.

Would it be appropriate to create a new, standard account, with no link to my main account, for use in gently guiding users and the community at large? What are the pros and cons of this approach?

  • I had no idea what to tag this, suggestions greatly appreciated! – Undo Jul 30 '14 at 13:29
  • You mean secretly, right? That is, you're going to express opinions that you want to be seen as from "just a user"? – Monica Cellio Jul 30 '14 at 14:44
  • Not necessarily secretly, @Monica - this is more of a question that someone at a conference posed and I'm curious about. The idea is that you can be open about being a moderator, but that some (new) users respond better without having someone with a pointy diamond/colored name telling them something. – Undo Jul 30 '14 at 14:46
  • It would have to be secretly. What would be the point of a second account if everyone knew it belonged to the first? – Captain America Jul 30 '14 at 15:37
  • @MattS. New users wouldn't know, or at least they would have to look it up. Established users would be able to figure it out anyway, so you might as well tell them. – Undo Jul 30 '14 at 15:38
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This specific action, while well intentioned, is a bad idea. Moderators have authority. Authority without trust breeds resentment, and pretending you're someone else in this way will feel dishonest to users.

I can think of a lot of places where a moderator might reasonably decide to use a sock (on networks/sites that permit it:

  • To see how the site looks or features work without mod-like powers
  • To test theories that "normal" users get a different response level to questions or posts than site 'elite'
  • etc.

But in this case, you're essentially describing doing little more than combining two actions that most communities wouldn't welcome: "astroturfing" and "sockpuppeting".

Imagine if you learned the CEO of your company hired an actor to act like a normal employee and go around trying to boost morale, and learn what people are frustrated about, entirely in the hope of improving things. How would people react upon learning that Bob in accounting was a plant, albeit one advancing truly good intentions?

Here's one example of truly well-intentioned use of someone hiding their identity with the goal of doing good work (charity, in this case) that led to extremely negative community reactions.

  • 1
    I like this answer and the example makes it really clear for most people. – Nathan C Jul 30 '14 at 13:52
3

The idea of a disassociated account is great in theory because the users won't see your moderator tag and automatically assume your word is law or however the users think of the moderators.

However, in practice I can see this as being difficult because having multiple personalities, especially in text, is very difficult to do. Keen users will catch on to your writing style unless you're really good at hiding it. and your cover will be blown.

Instead, as mentioned in the linked question you just have to learn to deal with it. Eventually, the users will get used to having a moderator in their midst and you'll be treated more as part of the community rather than someone who can drop the ban hammer.

I believe in some forum software there's a way of "hiding" your moderator rank behind the default members one (making members primary, moderators secondary) but again, it's easy to tell you're a mod.

So, pros: helps protect against the "pedestal" effect by users. Allows you to contribute your ideas or thoughts without it seeming though you're speaking on behalf of the community's staff or site.

Cons: You can be easily caught and outed as a moderator, making your efforts fruitless.

3

This seems underhanded. You are a moderator and you have an opinion. State your opinion and interact with the community as a user.

On the one hand, you can use your approach to steer the conversation/decision in the direction you want. This also makes it look like the community made the decision, not the powers that be.

On the other hand, if/when your sock puppet is discovered you have to explain to the community what it was being used for. Users will dig into the history of the puppet and see that it has been used to advocate your positions.

The difficultly in keeping the two accounts separate will be high. If you slip with an "I" instead of "they" or use similar phrasing or have other writing quirks, it'll become obvious that the author behind both accounts is the same person - especially in small to medium communities.

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