When I was young, I was one of those good kids. When a teacher walked by I would say, “Hello Ms. so-and-so” and if our class was asked for volunteers, I would be among the first to thrust my hand excitedly into the air. My parents taught me to respect other adults and to respect authority, and I did.
But, there was this one noon-hour-supervisor I didn’t respect (one among many other really fantastic ones). I think she hated all children and became a noon-hour-supervisor so she could prove it. She made rash decisions and seemed to enjoy giving out pink slips. I never got in trouble, except with this supervisor I got two pink slips. Having to get my parents to sign those was terrible as they just couldn’t accept that the school board could employ someone who was as bad as I said she was. With so many fantastic noon-hour-supervisors, I suppose I was pretty fortunate to only experience one that was less than stellar.
She made rash decisions and seemed to enjoy giving out pink slips.
I liken the role of noon-hour-supervisor (hopefully the good ones) to that of an online community moderator. Moderators are there to ensure a community is safe and healthy. They exist to serve a community as someone who has the authority to remove users that are disruptive or hurtful to the larger community. The difference between being a noon-hour-supervisor and being a moderator is that, as a moderator, you don’t get to look into the eyes of the community you’re taking care of. The temptation then is to become like the noon-hour-supervisor who disciplines for the sake of disciplining and seems to enjoy watching the bad apples. Moderators spend hours a day reviewing chat logs and content created by the community. They do this in an effort to find the bad apples while also finding ways to encourage the community (well, the good moderators do that anyways).
I’ve worked with some really incredible moderators who have been able to stay focused on why they do what they do.
I’ve worked with some really incredible moderators who have been able to stay focused on why they do what they do. There are three things that helped them stay that way rather than turning into the crusty sort of person that seems to delight in seeing all of the community as troublesome.
1. Speak often of your ideals
Every day, speak about the ideals of your community with your fellow moderators. Constantly paint the picture to each other of what this community is capable of being and highlight the users that model this and make you believe it can become like that.
2. Use tools that allow you to focus on the good while ensuring safety from the bad
Not all tools are created equal. Moderation tools should just as easily allow you to celebrate the vast majority of good users rather than always focusing on the negative behaviour of the minority.
3. Refuse to celebrate the bad
It’s really easy, and sometimes quite funny, to highlight the users that are being disruptive. For the same reasons the nightly news focuses on the negative, as moderators, it’s easy to get hung up on those users. Discipline yourself and your team to care about what good is done. Eventually, that will become the habit of your moderation and the community will be the better for it.
Originally published on the PRIVO Online Privacy Matters blog