Let’s talk about Moderators, who they are and what skills they need. The task of sorting through threads and posts, reading them, ascertaining which ones are problems, what the problem is, who is creating or contributing to the problems, and of course, what to do about it is what a Moderator deals with. It’s a combination of knowledge of the rules, the intent behind them, their applicability, knowing who the members are and what their post history is, how they interact in general and with certain other specific members, who has what agenda, a multitude of other things.
You need common sense, and good judgment. You have to maintain objectivity. You have to make some difficult decisions, and not be hesitant or anxious about making them. Some of those calls are going to anger people. They may feel picked upon, may feel someone else was the real instigator, that what they said wasn’t that bad, that someone else was worse, and so on.
The fine art of dealing with people in difficult, contentious circumstances is not for everyone. Many people don’t want anything to do with that kind of conflict, of making some resolution of it, occasionally having to be the one who says who stays and who leaves. Plus, a Moderator’s decisions, which sometimes have to be made pretty quickly, can be second-guessed at anyone’s leisure. I think it goes without saying that Moderators have to have a thick skin.
One of my first instructions to a new Moderator is“don’t be afraid to make the call.” Do your best, be informed, and go. If something doesn’t turn out the way we hoped, OK, learn from it for next time. When the next time comes — and it will — make the call.
I in turn learned this from someone to whom I always be grateful, for his guidance, insight, leadership, and most of all for having faith in me: Andy Bush. Andy’s the one that got the Volunteer Moderator program going, who taught me what to do, when, where, and how, the guy that “hired’ me lo these many years ago. I would be totally remiss without a big salute to Andy. <S!>
Our Moderators and Administrators are all unpaid volunteers who are first and foremost simulations addicts, just like you are. They enjoy their hobby, and are willing to help SimHQ and the community it serves. We do our best. We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We’re from different parts of the USA and the world. We have guidelines, we try to be consistent in application of the rules, but again, we are different and what one person sees as a problem another may not.
We talk to each other quite a bit, share experiences, ask what others think about this or that situation. Some things one person sees, another may not have thought of. I know I have had little mental light bulbs go on many, many times. It’s a good group, we get along with each other, show common courtesy and respect each other. We also learn from each other. That’s key. It’s all fine and dandy to have rules and policies and tiny-typed footers, but without good people to interpret the written rules, apply the unwritten philosophy and keep things working smoothly, it’s all for naught.
One of the interesting comments I included at the beginning of this article dealt with consistency, or the perceived lack thereof. Our Moderators are not a production run of like kind and quality robots, just flawed human beings with different ideas, values, tolerance levels, etc. So the idea that we’re going to be 100% consistent is in itself flawed.
Heck, I’m not even consistent with myself all the time. I have my good days and bad. I try to be even-handed, but may not always succeed. I may handle a situation one way only to have it turn out really badly. Hopefully, I learn from my experiences, both good and bad. Sometimes we have the luxury of being able to discuss amongst ourselves how to handle a certain situation, other times it’s just the Moderator in a firestorm and they have to be able to put out the fire.
I talked before about moderating philosophy and how it’s changed over the years. What is it now? The simplest way I know how to say it is that we want people to abide by rules of conduct, especially treating each other with respect, and to stay with SimHQ. We don’t want to kick people out of the “house” who make a mistake, I would much rather they learn what we expect of them and stay. Is that different than this time of year 2004? Yes, but our demographics are much different than it was then. That is not to say that we don’t have problems or that troublemakers get a free pass.