How-to instructions on being a good moderator
Last changed: 28th February 2022
Words are to be interpreted as in the definitions page.
Being a moderator
Leading by example
As a moderator, one of your tasks is to enforce the rules. This is a difficult task, no question, but you can make it easier for yourself.
To do this, you must follow the rules of the community at all times. When a user sees behavior from a moderator, they will deem it acceptable. So, be sure that your actions are infact in accordance with the rules, and in return you will see many more abiding users.
If you notice another moderator not doing this, you may nicely notify them.
What you need to do exactly may differ depending on the community, but these can generally be categorized into the following groups. Unless specified differently, you should try to fulfill all of them.
One of your tasks is to assist members. You should answer questions, link them to useful resources (many can be found in DRW), and guide their way in the community.
You should enforce the community has given itself. A good set of rules to enforce is available on our rules page. This isn't just limited to chats. A particularly active community may also speak to each other in voice channels. To foster healthy conversation there as well, you should also monitor and moderate those places.
Inevitably, conflicts arise during the daily life in a community. Not only between to users, but sometimes also between a user and a moderator. And even if your community doesn't use the arbitration process, your goal is to resolve and defuse the conflict.
Other staff members might not always know what to do, and neither might you. In those cases, you should provide them with information, or ask them for advice respectively.
Apart from being an example to other members in regards to the rules, you should also consider that, as a moderator, you represent the community. In other communities, you should abide to their respective rules, and in the community you're in, you should stay kind and understanding with users.
Sometimes, you might not know what to do. Some servers provide you with exact guidelines on when to issue which punishment, but I don't believe that those cover every case, or feel justified. Instead, you'll find some general guidelines on what to do.
Evaluating the situation
Of course, your goal is to do the right thing. This is not always easy. In general though:
Some users make it their sole obsession to mess with others. In those cases, don't overreact, don't be rude, don't jump to quick conclusions. Take a step back and, if you can't, let another moderator handle the case.
The other end of the spectrum is when there's some friends and you're hesitant to hand out punishments. And I believe, you're right! Your goal is to keep the community clean. With a friend, this might sometimes already be resolved by talking to them instead of handing out a punishment. But, this does not mean that they are immune. If nothing changes, or with repeat offenses, make sure you hold everyone to the same standard.
At one point, you will have to step in as a moderator in some situations. An effective way to defuse some is to issue a punishment to the involved users.
It's not always straightforward what to do. This choice becomes much easier when you consider the effects of each moderative action:
This is the lightest of the punishments. You publicly scold the user for their behavior. The only use case is when you believe the user acted in good faith, but did not properly read the rules.
When "kicking" a user, you momentarily exclude them from the community, but they will not face long-term consequences. The same goes for short (less than 1 minute) timeouts.
This action is useful when you're trying to stop someone in their tracks. For example, if a user is normally a healthy contributor, but starts acting up, a short timeout might be enough to help them understand that their behavior is not acceptable.
A "timeout", i.e. a temporary exclusion, makes sense when the infraction is more severe, but does not fall under zero tolerance. Here, you should consider the severity, the user's positive activity, and their chances of positively contributing again.
A "ban" (also permanent mutes), or permanent exclusion, is your last resort. If a user does something that falls under zero tolerance (for example, is breaking legal restrictions), you may permanently exclude them from the community. Same goes for repeat offenders, only if you believe that their behavior will not change for the better in the future.
Conflicts between moderators
In general, you should treat everyone with respect. Of course, this also extends to other moderators. If there is a conflict between you and another moderator, you should not seek to disagree, and always try at a constructive outcome.
With some moderators, these cases occur more often than they should. In this case, you should contact the person who assigned the moderator. Sometimes, they are able to reach them better, and worst case they should be the one removing them from their position. The same is true if you believe a moderator is misconducting intentionally.
If another moderator makes a mistake, please privately let them know. Scoldings weaken the staff team's public image and don't feel great.
And if you make a mistake, and someone lets you know, please always assume they just want to help you. Do not lash out at them, and don't take it personally. If you believe that they're not doing it in good spirit, let them know! Usually that helps.
Don't take bad situations too seriously. If you have a bad day, maybe step back from the community for a while. In the end, when everyone has fun, everyone profits.