So You want to be an Internet Moderator…

AS OF:8Feb18, 10:18am This file is a WORK IN PROGRESS.
This will continue to be worked on and expanded until the basics are covered.

Moderator, chat-mod, staff, admin, owner, Op, SysOp, Community Manager, etc, etc, etc

There are many positions with many more titles that one can take upon themselves online, through others’ or one’s own services. As I write this, there are many services one can choose to use as part of an online community. Some of those services are forums, IRC, Discordapp Guilds (including text, voice and video communications), Games of all kinds, broadcasting services (such as twitch.tv, mixer, etc), even Facebook groups. Some of those positions, in no particular order are: owner, administrator, operator, moderator, and various forms there of. There may be specialized positions, which moderate only a single aspect of the community, and there may be overarching positions which touch upon most or all aspects and areas of the community. We’ll go over what each position is later in this post.

There’s plenty to write on the philosophy of moderating online communities. From the standpoint of morals, ethics, and values, a lot of conflict and problems will arise. But without these, the community cannot have enforceable rules. The rules will be hollow and seen as unjust by the community – even if the rules are being followed. It is important for anyone who will be moderating a community to understand the reason for the specific rules, as well as the depth and breadth of the restrictions, freedoms and punishments of those rules. This is “staff policy” and is the governing terms for the community’s staff – the document which tells every staff what is expected of them as staff. Every one, from the person who owns the service for which a community will be built upon to the trusted members of the community should know, understand and agree to the rules. This does not mean that the rules must always be obeyed or may not be changed some time in the future. When that time comes – and it most definitely will – Everyone who is in a position of moderation must go through the changes and agree, or be removed. The community as a whole must also be made aware of the rules. Compliance from each member of the community is not mandatory, as their actions and words will clearly show who is able and willing to abide by the changes – and who is not.

Whew! That’s a bit of heavy paragraph there. That’s this entire document in a nutshell. There’s so much more to go over, and I have been considering a training service for those wishing to learn how to moderate chat, games, and communities. This is my foot in the door. We’ll see how it goes!

Before I go much further, I want to list out some terms and their definitions. There is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion regarding various aspects of moderating and enforcing rules. The first and foremost is that UNLESS YOU PUT THE EFFORT, ENERGY and MONEY INTO THE COMMUNITY – YOU CANNOT BE “Owner”! “Owner” is not a title and should never be treated as just another staff position. Founder, Owner, Operator (of various kinds) are the ones who – if push come to shove, are the ones who are legally liable for the community. More on that later. Communities may have “Founding Members” – and this is fine, as long as it is made very clear that these members are not staff, and their word as weight is not definite.

Here is a loose glossary of terms:

  • Founder: the person who created, set up, and started the initial growth of the community. The first owner is always a founder, but founders are not always owners.
  • Owner: the person who is financially, legally and ethically responsible for the community, for which they have created, paid for, or have attained ownership of. The person who has the right to transfer the community to another. The person who’s word is law.
  • Operator: the person who runs the technical aspects of the community. This is the skilled person who the Owner turns to for functional work to be completed. This position may be held by the owner. There can be Operators (Ops) for specific aspects of the community, ideally all Ops will work together as a team under supervision of the owner or lead Op.
  • Administrator: the person who ensures that the community management is successfully run. This person handles administrative duties and works with the Op and owner to ensure the members have the ability to fully utilize the services of the community.
  • Moderator: the person who ensures that the members are properly following the rules and whom properly follow policy when those rules are broken. This position should be held by people who are able to be strict but who are also capable of understanding the human condition. Like Op and Admin, Mods may specialize in specific areas of the community, such as a “chat-mod” moderating only the chat, or “game-mod” moderating game-play.
  • Junior-*: this person is given partial, restricted or even full control over their duties, usually with supervision. These positions are usually reserved for trainees or those who are capable of the task but otherwise do not completely qualify for the position.
  • Mini-*: this person is not a staff and should not be allowed to act as such. Any person who has been identified by the staff or community as being a “mini-mod” or “mini-admin” etc should be corrected as quickly as possible. These people can wreck a community if not controlled or removed.
  • Member: this person is part of the community in a non-staff role. This is the person who is suitable to be in the community, to enjoy and utilize the services and who will help grow the community in number, in dissemination and ideally in financial methods as well.
  • Trusted Member: this person has been part of the community for a considerably duration, but has not chosen to be staff, or in some communities is the first step to becoming staff. These people are the community’s first line of assistance for others, and should be treated with that level of respect.
  • Guest: this person is new, has not made it clear that they are going to continue to be part of the community, or may not have yet made the choice to do such. These people are potential members, but have not made the commitment to the community to be so. Each community will have their own requisites for determining Guest to Member status changes.
  • Chat: Loosely, this can be voice or text, or even Morse code – it is just simple informal live communications between two or more parties. Generally, this is live or near live primarily text communications. In communities where Voice is the primary communication, “chat” may refer to voice, otherwise, “voice chat” is the predominate term in primarily text areas. This is important for defining “chat mod”

There’s more, oh so many more, but these are the primary terms we’ll be worried about here. Most any other title, position, rank, etc for staff members will generally be some reflection of the above. Clearly defining these positions, what ever they are called, will greatly reduce confusion among the staff and the community as a whole. A good way to define these positions and to define the relationship of each position to the rest of the positions is to make an organizational chart.

There are words used to define positions within a staff heir achy – from Owner to Moderator, etc. These words, used as the names of these positions, these “titles” are founded in the ages old definitions of the words for which they are based. Those definitions are as important, if not more so than the loose glossary above. Along with those definitions, there are many words used to describe unwelcome, bad, negative, malicious, etc behaviors in chat and in game-play.

If it has not been made clear yet, a good portion of knowing how to be an internet moderator is knowing the definitions of words – After all, how can one “ban” someone if they do not know what the word “ban” means, or that it is short for “banishment” – more specifically that to ban someone means to restrict that person from certain actions and/or activities.

The learner here should be sure to take the time to look up any word which is unfamiliar, is a word seemingly being used wrong, or even words which one cannot seem to stop thinking about. If reading a section that seems unmemorable, or seems as though it has not been read – there is a misunderstood word which should be looked up in the dictionary and properly defined in the contextual use case. This means if a word is defined but that definition does not seem to fit the rest of the sentence or paragraph, there is another definition that needs to be found. I, the author of this document, use American English and British English, in this order – as such words should be defined Merriam-Webster and Oxford English Dictionary when possible. Most words will not have deviating definitions from American to British English. Throughout this document, I may provide the specific definition for certain words, or a loose definition as the word is being used if the need arises.

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