Many online volunteers moderate (approve all posts) or facilitate (keep the discussion flowing) online discussion groups, either via email or via a chat/real-time platform. We recommend these resources for those taking on the role of discussion group host:
The Moderator's Home Page
Resources for Moderators and Facilitators of Online Discussion
A growing set of resources, mostly scholarly, for moderators of online discussions, including chats, listservs and newsgroups. This is an extensive bibliography of netiquette guides, sample editorial policies, using online discussion groups in classrooms, tips for moderating, and information on teaching online.
Internet Discussion Groups For Volunteers
Developed by the Virtual Volunteering Project. Discusses different roles volunteers can take on as part of an email-based discussion group or list, how to keep discussions active, and how to find existing lists for volunteers.
Using Real-Time Communications With Volunteers
Developed by the Virtual Volunteering Project. A growing number of organizations are using real-time communications -- usually called "chats" -- to hold online meetings with volunteers, or to allow volunteers to interact with staff, clients, or each other. This resource reviews different roles volunteers can take on as part of a chat, how to keep discussions active, and examples of chats at various agencies.
Facilitator Training Manual
By the Stop AIDS Project, this is an excellent example of a detailed, comprehensive guidebook for a volunteer facilitator. This guide is specific to a person faciliating a particular demographic in a face-to-face setting, but much of its recommendations are applicable to facilitating any group, on or offline. Provides suggestions for guiding facilitation, beginning a meeting, active listening, "Summing Up and Moving On," dealing with differences, and challenging participants, and much more!
Facilitating an Online Discussion
General considerations to help promote a group discussion, options for initiating an online discussion, what to watch for when moderating a discussion, and resources to help moderators work with people on education projects online. These resources are designed for online course instructors, but are applicable to any online discussion group. Part of an online curriculum produced by the Annenberg/CPB Projects, focused on using telecommunications and media to improve teaching and learning.
The Self-Help Sourcebook Online
Sponsored by Mental Health Net. If you are interested in starting or participating in an online or offline self-help group, this resource offers ideas for starting both online and offline groups, how to arrange online support group meetings on commercial networks, how to encourage participation in online support groups, a searchable database of hundreds of national and demonstrational model self-help support groups, and opportunities to link with others to develop needed new national or international groups.
WELL Community Guidelines
an excellent example of rules for online communities and moderators. Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL) began in 1985, starting with a dialog between the writers and readers of the Whole Earth Review. The WELL is now a "cluster of electronic villages on the Internet." There are more than 260 Conferences open to WELL members, covering subject categories such as "Parenting," "The Future," or "Pop Culture." WELL members have founded advocacy organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and their experiences have been used to explore online culture and community (such as in Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community.
Online Culture: Communicating Via E-mail
Learning to communicate in text-only can be a challenge for some people. Sometimes, you have to interpret people's communication and assist them to be clear and effective online. The Virtual Volunteering Project has compiled advice to help you think about the different ways people, particularly volunteers, interpret information via email. Includes links to MANY other resources regarding online culture and online communities.
Facilitator Tip of the Week
Learn the three reasons people disagree, the four crucial elements of your opening, five ways to avoid lulls while writing, four consensus building strategies, the secrets of a great starting question, etc. By Leadership Strategies - The Facilitation Company, and their web site features other facilitation tips as well.
Online Community Resources
A large, comprehensive set of resources on building and sustaining online communities. Also has an excellent list of online discussion groups relating to online culture and online facilitation. Highly recommended.
International Association of Facilitators
The IAF purpose is "to promote, support and advance the art and practice of ethical facilitation." It is a membership organization that helps members increase facilitation expertise, learn state of the art facilitation techniques, raise team skills, and share methodologies. IAF sponsors Group Facilitation (Grp-Facl), an e-mail based moderated discussion group on the practice and theory of group facilitation. Participants are practicing group facilitators who work in diverse fields such as: meeting facilitation; conflict resolution; large group interventions; organization development; Total Quality Management; electronic meeting systems; strategic planning; team building; project management; and community planning. Subscription details are on the IAF web site.
Computer Aided Facilitation Tips
An excellent list of tips for both those who will faciliate an online discussion group and the agency who will sponsor such. By Facilitate.com, a for-profit company and producer online conferencing tools.