An important observation is once the culture is established, the community will introduce its own form of moderation. Whether or not written policies are in place members progress to a general code of conduct and demand that all participants comply with the established norms. Its obvious to all involved when those embedded values are violated because the users take rapid action to remedy the transgression. New and old members alike are taught the consequences of misuse by both the immediacy and volume of response from other users. Behavior that flagrantly trespasses on the community norms will bring the day-to-day exchange to a screeching halt as members seek to restore stasis. A discussion that jumps from a few posts to several hundred posts in a short period of time is a good indication that something is amiss with the forum.
Top down moderation or direction is generally ineffective because no one solution is universally applicable to all populations. What is tolerated in one area may not be acceptable in others. For example a board based on the newest technology may not welcome off topic posts as easily as a board geared toward more general content. Staff intervention even with the best intentions, can be seen as intrusive which causes other forms of disruption such as accusations of favoritism. This insight forms the basis of self administered reporting which is one of the most successful tools implemented in any forum. The anonymous nature of third party disengaged moderators signals impartiality because each reported violation is taken at face value by individuals outside of the complex social arrangements. Members often complain that the reporting tools are used to create problems for other members or that the posts are vetted improperly, but in reality these types of complaints are indicative of other issues such as cliques or power struggles.
Member reports also alert moderators to developing problems so that the integrity of the forums can be maintained. Relying on the common sense of the members to manage the content and traits of their own forum has the added benefit of relieving personnel obligations in communities where growth out paces the effective use of dedicated staff.