The accusation of bias is a common occurrence in the life of a moderator. As human beings, we are a product of our life experiences and our biology. Several psychological studies over the past twenty years have asserted that all individuals unconsciously harbor bias, though only a fraction demonstrate it in overtly destructive and abusive ways. Admitting that a decision is potentially biased is a useful starting point for making a fair decision. Analyzing the source of a like or dislike is a useful habit for anyone who finds themselves in a position of authority. Likewise, maintaining an emotional separation from the work at hand is also useful, though difficult to achieve.
The benefit of being unfamiliar with the community before I started at HubPages has allowed me to maintain emotional distance from arguments between hubbers. Despite this, I find myself continually challenged by the ‘spirited’ discussions that occur in contentious threads. As is the case with any other individual, I have many years of life experiences that influence the way I think about situations. When I feel unduly invested in a moderation decision, I review the forum rules and Terms of Service to reassess the flag or request. Sometimes, I walk away from the decision and come back to it with a fresh perspective. If this does not help, I ask for a second opinion before proceeding. No matter what feature or tool we build, hubbers will always be the best feature on HubPages. Community members deserve a fair review of their posts, work, and images before a decision is made.
Rather than ask whether a moderator is unbiased, a much better question is whether a moderator is good at making judgments that are consistent. HubPages has very detailed rules on what is and what is not acceptable, leaving judgement in charge of only a limited set of decisions for a well-informed moderator. Community manager Maddie Ruud has written thorough and detailed hubs that outline our policies on substandard and spam violations that also serve as a resource to moderators. Having clear guidelines does not mean that moderators are automatons, but rather all decisions are based on a framework of thought-out, well-established rules. Based on my experience moderating for social networking sites, clear and consistent rules are the defining factors in the effectiveness of website moderation. Without expectations clearly stated to users and standardized rules for moderators, inconsistencies in moderation decisions foster animosity while the quality of user generated content plummets.
Is it possible to be unbiased? One would have to sacrifice all of one’s learned preferences, traumas, and joys in order to do so. There would be no gray area in any decision, and no judgment would require quiet introspection. Who would want that?