suggestions on forum moderation

As I have been on this forum for a while, and throughout the past year and a half that I have been here, there has been quite a lot of chat about moderation of this forum.

I have been thinking that maybe a thread about this topic, to summarise the issues raised, and to provide suggestions to NAS on forum moderation might be beneficial to both NAS as well as the user community. To other users, please feel free to add any other issues that I might have missed. And to , I hope you could spare the time to read through what the majority of the users think from their comments and try to improve the community through their feedback. I think we all share the same goal when talking about this - to make the NAS forum better.

Issues regarding spam, copybots, and inappropriate usage

I think the issue has been raised very well here in this thread:, and also, and , and 

While it is difficult to stop spam completely, but for copybots, couldn't a similarity matching code be employed before a new post is made to prevent this? I have written similarity comparison codes in Matlab, so I think there should be some equivalent for browser languages. 

I don't have too much to add about spam and copybots, as my degree isn't in computer science, I don't have a lot of ideas on how to solve this problem. 

It would be great if others have suggestions about how to deal with spam and copybots to add to this. 

So now I'll focus more on the moderation issue, as it was what prompted me to start this thread.

Moderation on this forum

In this thread: 

NAS Moderator said:

You also mentioned that we do not respond frequently on the site. We used to moderate more actively a couple of years ago but we received feedback from users who mentioned that the moderators were too active in responding to posts. Therefore, we now only intervene if no one from the community had responded to a post . This decision was taken with the aim of keeping power and ownership with the community members, within the forum.

This is actually the main comment that prompted me to start this thread.

I do realise what  said about them is true, that they were more active in moderating and replying several years ago, but then they somehow became less involved. I sometimes use the search function to search for answers to some of the questions I have, or when I'm trying to find information to reply to someone else's question, to see if similar issues have been raised before. And when I look at some threads that are at least a few years old, moderators seem much more active. 

Back in the past...

For example (over 5 years ago), in the first person who responded seemed to be not very understanding, but the moderator replied:

Anil A - Mod said:

I'd suggest holding off on any assumptions or associations just yet. 

Welcome to the community Bear123, I hope you find it helpful. 

which I think was very good, as the moderator's reply promoted more acceptance on this forum, welcomed the newcomer, and facilitated more people later on to be involved in the discussion.

Another example (over 6 years ago) is
Where someone asked a question on the forum

Longman said:

Could we have more information from NAS about David Cameron's Disability Confident initiative launched in July, and how NAS is getting involved?

And the moderator replied that he has passed on the original comment to their policy team who've responded, and then he posted the policy teams reply. It's a very long reply, so I won't paste the whole thing. But in the past, moderators were responsive to questions.

And, a third example (post over 6 years ago),, -  this post had surprise surprise! TWO moderators actively involved in the discussion. It was just some minor confusion about what NT meant, but the moderators joined the chat, which seemed really good, and it facilitated the discussion a lot. The way they interacted, it seemed like they were very friendly with people on the forum. And it's nice to have moderators join in and discuss something as simple as what NT is.

Alex R - mod said:

I think Anil probably meant that NT is used to refer to people not on the spectrum (and not having other neurological differences).

Alex R - mod


Call for more active moderation...

I really liked the way that in the past the moderators seemed more active, and were very much like one of us, seemingly enjoying the forum and being part of the community. I liked how they facilitated the conversations, clarified things, and provided information. I kind of always assumed that the disappearance of moderation was mainly due to new moderators being more lazy, or because there were fewer moderators than before, or maybe NAS started to care less about this forum than it did when it first started. I'm quite surprised that NAS moderator said it was because they "received feedback from users who mentioned that the moderators were too active in responding to posts". I suppose it's possible that different people have different feelings about moderation, and some people might prefer a more self-sustained community, or an autistic-led community (I guess since many moderators are NT), but myself, and many others would like more moderator involvement than there is now, or at least reply to posts that we think need urgent attention to. 

The feedback of wanting more moderation have appeared multiple times in these recent posts:

(btw, I would suggest that NAS take a look at as it's a thread about what people think is an ideal autism forum)

I think the suggestions given in are good. Since  raised the issue of some people not wanting the moderators to be too active in replying... and then there are many of us who do, then can we have a choice? The three suggestions were: 1. @mods alert to all mods, 2. visible list of active mods, and 3. a suicide risk button. Suggestion 1 would help mark spam and abusive threads. Suggestion 2 would give people the option to say that they want moderators to join in on the conversation and want a reply. Suggestion 3 would alert moderators of people who need immediate help. 

Fairness: I think this is something I'm a bit annoyed about with the Mods. They mostly only reply to parents asking questions about their children. But they hardly respond to adults asking similar questions... why the different treatment? Could the moderators be more fair, and apply the same rules to everybody? 

It seems ironic that moderators login and reply to parents asking questions (often google-able questions, like where can I find a diagnosis clinic nearby), but ignore posts about moderation concerns, spam/abuse/bullying on the forum, or posts with suicidal concerns. 

 did mention that they do respond, but in private email as it is a personal thing:

NAS Moderator said:

When we are alerted to a post that references to a user feeling suicidal, we would contact the user directly via email to raise our concerns in regards to what they have posted on the forum, and offer them information and advise. If we believe that a user is at immediate risk, we would then go ahead and make a referral to their local authority. As an organisation, we do have a duty of care, and please be assured that we to act appropriately when we are alerted to anyone feeling suicidal. Due to the sensitive nature, we prefer to contact users directly, which means that it is not visible on the community of what we have done.

I do agree that suicide is a very sensitive subject and it's best to deal with it in a professional manner. It makes sense to email the person directly about advice and alert their local authority than discussing personal issues here. But could the moderators give some hint that it has been dealt with? As lots of people are caring and are worried when it appears nothing is done. And also, more importantly, get help to the person faster when more avenues of reply are available (e.g., if the person feeling suicidal is online on the forum but didn't have his email open at the time...)

For example, could the moderators post a response to posts that mentions suicide, like the ones here?
They have provided comments like,

Kerri-Mod said:

I’m sorry you are going through such a tough time, it’s good that you’ve let us know what’s happening/how you feel. Many people have similar thoughts when coping with so much and we hope you’re okay.

and information like

The NHS 111 service:
The Samaritans also provide confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day on 116 123, or by email on

MIND have information pages on coping with self-harm and suicidal feelings based on the experiences of people who’ve been through it that you may find helpful.
If you are very close to doing something to hurt yourself - call 999 or go to your nearest A&E department. There should be someone there to support you and make sure you get ongoing support.

and then contact the user about more personal issues in private email?

I'm not an expert on suicide, so I'm not sure what the best way to respond is. But I am very confused by why the moderators seem a bit inconsistent when replying? They sometimes to comment and provide advice directly on the forum, but other times, it seems by email only? Why not do both? If it's too personal, a general advice comment first on the forum, then email would be acceptable, I think. It would be more consistent, with some other posts where moderators have replied, and it will possibly get the information to the user faster.

Concluding remarks
This is probably the longest post on there I have made so far. And I think a lot of the issues have been mentioned by previous users as well. Since I observed quite a few "call for moderators" posts and posts about spam/copybots recently, I decided to make one as well. This one gathers information from various posts, and how things were dealt with in those posts, compared to the ones that people have raised concerns/complaints about. I'm not trying to target or attack the  (and the issues I have raised is about NAS forum moderators in general and not just one moderator), and I know a lot of you are volunteers (so I'm grateful that you are trying to help the autistic community), but I'm hoping that by expressing our feedback, and attempting to summarise the feedback (call for more moderation), we can improve the forum together.