Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Crowdsourcing moderation

I work as a moderator of user generated content and when I first spotted this link: http://www.contentmoderator.com/ in my twitterfeed, I had a short moment of panic. Was this automated moderating software? Would I be replaced by a robot? I shouldn't have worried, because the link was tweeted by @Crowdsourcing_ so it's all still all about people. Contentmoderator works via ScalableWorkforce, which in turn is a platform enhancing Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The service Contentmoderator provides to companies, brands, or anyone hosting content online, is that their content will be moderated against their own choice of guidelines by trusted moderators. The system seems to be that the
same content is looked at by several different people and then the moderation action that all or most of them agree on, is taken. Moderators who are often 'right', will eventually rank up and become more trusted as experts.

This appears to be an excellent system. As a business, you would have a flexible on-demand workforce and pay only for work done. As a moderator, you could use your time productively by moderating one interaction after another from multiple clients, rather than wait for the content on a single site.

Sounds great? As a professional moderator, I spotted the downsides to this system as well. Being a crowdsourced worker means no job security or financial security, which are still strong motivators to keep doing one's job. The workflow may vary and there are no guarantees the moderators will still be available when they're needed. If I were a business, I'd also be worried about quality and legal aspects. With crowdsourcing through websites and platforms, using freelance workers doing one-off interactions, exactly who is liable when things go wrong? Even with quality control checks and redundancies, working on a one-off basis means each interaction is seen in isolation. To the community, it may well appear that the moderator reactions are unreliable and unpredictable. There's a lot to be said for familiarity with the target community. As a mod, I apply guidelines with a different flair depending on the community mood. I also get to know certain loyal posters or persistent trolls and learn how to react appropriately. When in doubt, I can turn to other mods or my managers, who are equally familiar with the community and the client's wishes, even the ones that can't be accurately captured in written guidelines.

Using crowdsourcing for moderation has some definite upsides, but risks losing the expertise and personal touch of effective social media management.


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