I am a member
of two writers’ groups on Facebook. One was founded as a fallout when Litopia disintegrated, and lots of people
still wanted to hang out. It’s still in working order, despite having virtually
no rules; one reason might be that it’s strictly by invitation, and you’re not
very likely to start major fights with someone you actually know.

The other
one had a Litopia moment the other day. A thread got heated, invectives started to get thrown about, and the
moderators took the thread down. Moments later, there was another thread up
complaining about the removal of the first one. It quickly descended into
complaints about arbitrariness, despotism, and general violations of free speech.

This would
happen every three weeks at Litopia.

After a few
years of this, the moderators at Litopia – of which I was one – simply gave up.
It’s not easy to stay positive, cheerful and impartial when people complain
endlessly, which they will, simply because any group of more than three people
will have different opinions about things. And that is, in brief, why the whole
thing fell apart: there were not enough people left to run it.

With this
experience, I have some advice for everyone who is a member of any form of
online writers’ group. Or any online group at all, really.

* The
Moderators are as human as you. They’ve got headaches and toothaches and bad
days, too, like you.

And sometimes they make mistakes. Cut them some slack. When you’re out
shopping, would you actually yell at a supermarket attendant who made a
mistake? (If you would, you’re simply an unpleasant person and there is
probably not a whole lot I can do for you.)

* They do
this for free, and you will get what you pay for. If it is a free service, you have
the right to expect nothing.
It is actually they who pay – by doing this instead of something they
would rather be doing.

Moderating the forum is not the most important thing in their lives. They have
children, mortgages, jobs, cars that need repair and roofs that need mending, a
grandmother who just fell ill and a dog that needs walking. Some days you won’t
even register.

* Most
importantly: What happens on the
Internet, stays on the Internet. FOREVER.
You’re a writer now, hence a
professional; your name is your brand. And guess what? Your future business
associates will google you. Your behaviour on the Web will come back to you. If
you come across as a difficult person, someone who will happily lash out at
people and dish out personal insults adorned with four-letter words at the mere
whiff of a slight, you are henceforth labelled “Difficult to Work With” and you
can expect form rejections. It might not be the worst possible reputation to
have, but it’s definitely in the top three. (Unless you’re Harlan Ellison.)

This is why
you should never complain when a
moderator deletes your post. You should thank

They might
have saved your book contract.