*This is a guest article from community developer Zane Friedman*
One of the most important factors of your site is your staff – your administrators, moderators, and in some cases chat operators. In this article we’ll go over what makes a good moderator or administrator, some specific roles that different moderators and administrators should take, and how your staff should act on the forums in order to attain the best effect from your member population.
Administrators are the chief leadership of your site. They have all the powers of a moderator, but unlike a moderator, their powers are site-wide. They also have the ability to create forums, modify forums, delete forums, edit site settings, create announcements, and other such functions. Because administrators have this stupendous power, the position of administrator should only be given to those members who you feel are most fantastic.
What makes a fantastic member?
Fantastic members usually:
a. Only post when they have something worthwhile to say.
b. Post intelligently.
c. Do not get involved in site conflicts before they are promoted to staff members.
The Cyber Mum/Dad
This is the guy or gal who’s going to spend hours everyday browsing the forums and reading the chat logs, looking out for the member population and hiding your members from the evil of the internet. All in all, this is going to be your administrator who watches out for your member population like a mother watching out for her children.
The Weight Of The Law
This is the down to earth, level headed administrator who sends this message out to your forum: The rules are the rules, and that’s not going to change any time soon. This position is hard to take, especially because administrators should be friendly with your community, and taking moderative action constantly can make as many enemies as it can make friends. This administrator has to find a happy medium.
The Advocate for Troubled Newcomers
This administrator has less to do with moderative action, and more to do with helping actions. He or she should always be on the lookout for the newer members who are having problems with the community at large, or are having little problems with smaller issues.
Obviously having other administrators is perfectly normal – if your site grows, don’t limit yourself to 3. If your site is smaller, try to take a role or two yourself, or have another administrator take more than one role. Having too many staff members is not a good idea.
A good policy to have, taken directly from a forum admin
Most members have only come in contact with my happy, smiley side. I feel like I’m having a great day when I can log on, cruise the forums for new topics and comments of interest, exchange greetings with some friends and maybe check out the exchange or work on some custom content. I’m pleased to be able to say that this description captures my experience here the great majority of the time.
As you know, however, I am also an administrator of the site- one of the folks who the webmaster has charged with keeping things running smoothly, fixing things (to the extent of my ability to do so) when they aren’t working, and in general making interim operational decisions about things when he isn’t around to confer with. Please understand, neither myself or any of the other administrators “run” the site – the webmaster does that. However, when I act or speak as an administrator, I do so for the webmaster under his authority. This, btw, also holds true for our moderators.
Usually, when I have to do something as an administrator here, I am not happy and smiley. This is because generally whatever is going on is taking me away from the things that I came here to do, as described at the start of this comment. My time, just like everyone else’s, is limited. If I can use it doing things I like, well- that’s great. If I have to use it stamping out fires and doing traffic control- hey, that’s not so great. I guess it’s common knowledge here that I’m an attorney. Doesn’t mean anything at SC4D- we have no laws, no police and no courts. Nobody to issue me a license to practice in this jurisdiction. We only have the rules and a staff that the webmaster has charged with the duty of enforcing them.
Moderators are kind of like the administrative representatives of a particular forum. They have the ability to move whole threads to different forums, pin threads, combine threads, delete threads, move individual messages to another thread, edit messages, and delete messages. I don’t have as much to say about this group, and most strategies/suggestions pertaining to moderation have already been posted on the blog by Martin.
One very important part of a moderator is independence. Do not hire moderators who are going to ask you permission to do everything. If you assign a moderator to moderate a forum about sports, that moderator should know that he has an obligation in the forum, and maybe it’d be a good idea to post some specific forum rules, even though the webmaster and none of the administrators have told him to.
Keeping a professional distance
The last part of my article is one of the most important. It has to do with one of the most important qualities of all your staff members – they should keep a professional distance. While topics which are stupid, or whose tone is a bit negative about your community should not be locked in order to let all your members have freedom of speech to a certain degree, they should be ignored by your staff members. Your staff members should post when they have something to say and keep away from the topics which you’d rather not have on your forum, but which do not conflict with your forum rules.
Pick your staff members carefully, and rest assured I wish you a very successful community – both in terms of staffing, and in terms of everything else!