The Mayhem List: Ten rules for smart forum moderation
Don’t over moderate. Moderators should be invisible and silent unless they are participating in a thread. Beyond that, STFU and leave things alone. You are there not to prevent or to monitor but to solve problems when problems exist. Going into a thread and posting a warning about what may or may not occur in the future is condescending and insulting. No, you are not smarter than me and no you don’t know what I am thinking or what I’m about to write.
When in doubt, err on the side of doing nothing. It is difficult to hear tone in typed text. Give people the benefit of a doubt. It’s better to overlook a questionable personal attack than to falsely accuse someone of making a personal attack. If you missed something, the person making the attack can always report it and it can be dealt with then. If you make the wrong call and accuse someone of being rude or hijacking a thread in error, you will inflame the situation and you will be criticized for your over zealousness.
Being rude is not a violation of the rules. Not everyone needs to sugar coat replies with pastel paintings of unicorns and sprinkle fairly dust. Some people are just to the point. There are more than enough people who will blow smoke up someone’s ass in order to get on their good side.
Participate in the forums. If you’re going to moderate a forum, you need to be an active member of that forum and contribute posts. Lurking is not good enough. Being an active participant lends you respect and credibility among the membership if respect and credibility is deserved. It also gives members a baseline to judge your remarks so you are not misunderstood.
Be accountable. If you move a thread, post in the thread that you are moving it and why. If you lock a thread, state your reasons for locking it clearly, concisely, and in a neutral tone. This is no time to be a smartass.
Be humble. There is great power in an apology if you screw up. If you make a poor decision, own up to it. Correct it and issue an apology. People will respect you more in the end.
Be objective. Do not moderate a thread where you are involved in a contentious debate. There is no reason a moderator should not enter into debate or offer strong opinions. But if the thread does not go your way, alert another moderator to the problem and let someone else deal with it. Locking a thread to shut people up will quickly peg you as an abusive moderator and you will lose all respect.
Serve the membership, not the management. You are there to serve the membership to benefit the community as a whole. Your decision should be based on that mission. You are not there to kowtow to the other moderators or Tyler. There will be times where doing the right thing for the membership means doing something contrary to what Tyler may want. Follow your principals and do the right thing. The worst that can happen is that they fire you from a non paying job for you holding on to your principals.
Chill out and lighten up. People come into the forums to ask a question but they stay for the sense of community. Those who are not interested in the community will ask their question and leave so they don’t play a large part in the community. Good or bad, it is the regular forum members who make or break the community. It has been often stated by moderators that the forum is a very small part of Model Mayhem’s traffic. But in the new web reality known as WEB 2.0, user contributed content is what will make or break Model Mayhem. To think that Model Mayhem can survive and thrive simply as a tool for hosting profiles is simplistic and shortsighted. There are lots of portfolio hosting sites out there, many much better than Model Mayhem.
The forums belong to the membership, not Tyler. Contrary to popular belief, the forums do not belong to Tyler. Sure he created the platform in which it thrived but the forum, as in all internet forums, are created by its membership. Yes, Tyler can shut down the forum if he wishes but so can the membership. Moderators should take the position that they are there to serve the greater good of the membership. Taking the position that Model Mayhem is a private site and management can do whatever they want is a recipe for destroying the forum and drive away membership.