Moderation is a tricky business. Why?
Well, firstly because doing it well requires excellent judgment and social intuition.
Second, being a moderator seems to be wildly appealing to people who lack either of those traits.
Disagree? Pick a bad forum anywhere on the internet and somewhere along the line you’re likely to find moderators who are either apathetic, incompetent, bullies or all of the above.
Compared to the relatively small number of moderators in any given community, the influence that they have is quite substantial. That's why it's important to choose wisely; your moderators will act as key influencers for your community in the long-term, and will set the standards for the types of behaviours that are acceptable within the community.
With such an important task, and with your community on the line, who do you choose to keep the trolls at bay and encourage positive behaviour? Who will be your moderators?
Moderator Personality Types
It's no secret that moderating has its ups and downs.
On the upside, moderators have the ability to help shape the community that they care about. They're put in a position where they feel valued and can contribute to making the community they love a better place for everyone.
On the downside, moderating is frequently a thankless task. It's also not uncommon for moderators to be verbally attacked or insulted by community trolls - sufficed to say, this can quickly turn a fun hobby into an unpaid customer service position.
Given the highs and lows of the life of a moderator, it's clear that not every has the personality type suited for this type of role.
Those Who Desire Power vs. Those Who Want To Help
For many, the upside of being a moderator is the ability to exert power within the community. This is absolutely not what you want (obviously!) You need to be able to separate those who want power from those who genuinely care about the community and want to make it a better place.
But how do you differentiate between the two? How do you make sure you make the right decisions and don't get fooled by a charade?
Simply ask those interested in this role, "what's in it for you?" Or better yet, don't wait for people to express interest - you should seek them out.
In fact, some of the best moderators are often the ones that need to be persuaded to take the job; sometimes it's the ones that openly express their desire to be a moderator that are the ones you should watch out for.
Before we dive into how to determine who'd make a good moderator, let's take a quick look at some possible red flags when making your selection.
Watch Out For Red Flags!
So, it goes without saying that you should look for active members of the community to fill this role since a touch-and-go moderator is at best ineffective and at worst, makes users frustrated. There is, however, a fine line here.
If you have a few outlier users who post far more than other users, it might be best to avoid putting these folks in moderator positions. Users who are spending all day on your forums might not get out of the house much - it's fair to say that they might not have the kinds of skills required of a moderator.
Another red flag to watch out for is metamodding (also known as backseat modding). It can be tempting to look at a user who is showing a keen knowledge of the rules and a willingness to contribute and think they’d make a great mod. While these types of users shouldn't be avoided all together, you should be careful that this keenness doesn't become the kind of overzealousness that makes a bad moderator.
Checklist: Finding the Perfect Moderator
So, after all the warnings are dealt with, what should you look for in a moderator? Obviously this will vary depending on the specific needs of your community, but here’s a checklist of good questions to ask yourself when looking at candidates:
- Are they active members of the community? If they are, great, check this one off. If they're too active... well, look the other way or proceed with caution, my friend!
- Have they shown that they understand the rules and appropriate behaviour on a personal level? While reformed trolls can make good mods, it’s a riskier undertaking.
- Are they already bringing value to the forums? Do they make people laugh, help people out and make people feel welcome?
- Have they demonstrated a separation from the various cliques and feuds that inevitably erupt in any community?
- Do you think they’ll work well as part of your existing team? While debate in the mod forum is healthy, personality clashes can cause unfortunate gridlocks and prevent you from getting anything done.
Hopefully a few of these pointers will help you recruit the right sort of people to help you grow and nurture your community.