Laurel Papworth has written a great post on how to moderate a forum. Don't be distracted by the Warcraft overtones, there's some very serious advice here for keeping discussions on track in your organisation's forum or community. Some examples include:
1. ETIQUETTE STATEMENT
needs a whole lot of behavioural statements (play nicely) but the most important ones are:
The Moderators word is final, do not discuss bans or penalties on the forum. If you have a question regarding a penalty, please email the head honcho (usually called the Admin, so they know it's serious)
If you have an issue with another member, please contact a moderator. Do NOT attempt to resolve issues in the public spaces, keep them to Private Messaging or notify a moderator.
DO NOT publish private emails and direct messages. Do NOT publish the private information of another member (home address, telephone number).
6. LOCKED THREADS
First, post on the thread in question before it gets out of hand. You'll learn quickly what the trigger points for your community are. I usually post something like "Some advice - can everyone relook at the Etiquette statement (link to it) before posting on this discussion?" Then they know that you know that they know that they are heading for trouble.
When locking threads, explain why in the last post. "I am locking this thread because in spite of warnings the discussion has not remained civil. Do not reopen this discussion on a new thread. If you have an issue with this, please private message me" Leave it to fall away into the long tail. If you remove threads to the Evidence Locker while the debate is still hot, they will simply reopen the discussion starting with "I don't know what happened to the other discussion, but here it is again..."
In extreme cases - where the majority of the community is up in arms, not just a few trolls (troublemakers) - advise them that the discussion can continue for 48 hours but after that the thread is locked. They will get fed up and members will say "isn't the 48 hours up yet?"
In my experience, decent moderation is of the utmost importance for a busy online community. People behave in ways they wouldn't offline (person to person) and that can be good (open, less shy), and bad (offensive, overbearing etc.). Although the latter is less common in a business environment than it might be on the Web, put a group together to share war stories from business-based forums and it won't be long before you hear of a particularly painful employee (or several).
Just as with live facilitation in a workshop, whether in an online forum, a blog, a webinar or a Second Life meeting hall, it's easy for the topics to veer off track, for comments to be misinterpreted and for disagreements to blow up. If this happens too many times then people quickly lose the motivation to participate and once that's gone, your forum and hard work usually goes with it.
[Also see a previous Melcrum Social Media Newsletter on this topic]