I want to throw in a couple of things here, before trying to answer the question.
Is the mailing list server, or is it not, the physical property of the Looneys?
If so, would it not seem that they would like to keep physical control of the hardware for any official forum?
And, if that is also so, how hard is it to install, patch, bring up to speed, and get ready the forum software that would be needed for what everyone is asking for? Which fits their current hardware configuration? Also, how much storrage space would be needed for all of the files, images, posts and other miscelaneous and sundry?
Now, as to the question, all volunteer moderators WILL have their own agenda. Plain and simple, we all want what we want and most of us aren’t afraid to let others know what we want. Most likely, these people would be moderating the forums in which their agenda best fits, such as Fluxx or Icehouse or Game Development. Honestly, the base need for moderators is to help control the forum, preventing flame wars, kicking out spammers and those who degrade the comunity as a whole as well as helping new users and „stickying“ recursive subjects so that they are not repeated over and over and over and... However, they should be able to justify disciplinary actions because of a violation of some base rules set down by the forum administrators i.e. no swearing, no racisism, no personal attacks, etc...
Honestly, the biggest point of getting volunteers is to get the ones with the agenda which you want for the forum or that particular topic anyway. If a moderator is attempting to push an agenda which seems to go against the forum (such as pushing people to play monopoly instead of Icehouse or Fluxx) then they should be relieved and the logs, which should be kept, can show their indescretions after the administrators are made aware of them by other members of the community.
As to how much control they can have over a forum, they can have as much or as little as they want, however, as they support the lists for the community, I believe that they want to be required to have as little control over them as possible. In other words, they want the community to self regulate and keep control of themselves instead of having to step in and force moderation on a mailing list.
Okay, I am fairly new here, and pretty much just read and don't say much because I am not near as wise, or clever, as most of the people I have seen on this list. I have been watching the whole forum debate with a curious interest, but no real opinion. I will go where I need to for news & stuff. But suddenly this question puts many things in perspective.
How much control/influence can Looney Labs have over a forum as opposed to several lists? And how much work is it?
Yes you can use volunteer moderators, but I have seen how poorly that can work out if you get moderators who are enthusiastic but have an agenda. (Totally thinking about a well loved game from my past which was re-released, (to much personal joy) but keeping informed was distastefull due to forum "moderators")
The point is, as convenient & functional as a forum might be, how much will it change the influence and (when occasionally necessary) control the Looney Labs have over their official image? Especially considering how small and lightly staffed they are. I understand that volunteer labor is possible, but how do you ensure volunteers don't have an agenda they are pushing without making volunteering so torturous it isn't worthwhile?