Taking on the title of Mod is to become a crusader. Mods see it all, from scams, vulgarity, unwanted advertisement, or annoying spam to incursions from the shadier side of the web. More adept and engaged than the the Night Watch protecting The Wall, we keep the peace and defend our product’s customers. We are the shield that defends the Realm! –Err, the forums! Or website, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.
Rare footage of an internet troll.
(Side note: Anyone else excited for Game of Thrones to start again?!)
Keeping the web clean takes more than just dedication, though. Below are three essential skills that a moderator needs to learn and maintain to be the best they can be.
1. Know your audience
One of the most important things a Mod needs to understand when starting a new project is the profile (or profile range) of the audience. The first, most important factor in moderation is knowing your target age group. The difference between moderating a social media platform for teens and adults is leagues different than working on a young children’s game.
For children, you need to make sure that no objectionable content is approved or visible. Kids and Parents are looking for a safe environment to play, not a place to pick up nefarious new vocabulary that will get them in trouble at home and school. Additionally, any moderator who is going to work on a kid-focused game project needs to be familiar with COPPA (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). This is a specific set of laws enacted to protect individuals younger than 13 from collection of their personal and private information, as well as make sure that their parents are aware of their online activity.
In contrast, moderating a forum for a video game rated M (17+ years old) by the ESRB means that you can let the adults in there speak in the way an adult might speak off-line. However, that doesn’t mean they can have free rein, and it’s frequently a very fine balancing act to attune your mod sense to the tone the product needs. For instance, we don’t want people personally attacking each other, spamming links to their personal blog (which might even be phishing site!), or discussing anything illegal. But, depending on the client/site (and Terms of Service), adults may be allowed to disagree with each other (even with some harsh language) as long as they don’t take it too far.
2. Know your product
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it is only slightly less important than #1! Firstly, you want to have context for what the community within the realm of the forum/site/game are discussing. If they say they, “used the gizmo to flip the dingbat which really made me have a jabberwock”… you need to know what that specifically means! …Or at least, if it pertains to your product. Worst case scenario: They’re using new slang that you’ve never heard before, and are trying to use secret code to pass the censors. In cases like that, it’s investigation time, and UrbanDictionary.com becomes a Mod’s best friend (although I wouldn’t recommend visiting that site unless you’d like a taste of what a Mod tries to keep off of his or her site).
Work-arounds or secret code can affect hacking situations, bullying, cheating tactics, and other such rule breaking attempts. Aside from the community, become familiar with the essence of the product: if its a game, play it; if its a community, read up on the social origins. Cruise the digital FAQs and any product documents the client provides. Do your best to understand the nature of the site from both the expectations of the community and/or customer base, and from the business and operational side! Also, it’s important to be up-to-date on the Terms of Service (TOS, or TOU), which lays the groundwork of expectations for the operation and management of the service. Community rules are born from these documents, and it becomes a contract between those who use the site, and those who operate the site.
If you really want to go above and beyond, and be on-point with your project, set up Google alerts so you can track any news or issues that may affect the community behavior (or so you can notify the-powers-that-be).
3. Know When to Escalate
Finally, one of the last necessary component to a Mod’s instinct is knowing when something is out of your team’s authority to handle! The items you need to escalate to your manager or the client will vary from product to product. The most common situations usually involve matters of legal concern, harassment, or DDOS attack (unfortunately common these days), or any time a child’s personal safety comes up. These are all situations that will likely require immediate and, potentially, legally required action!
These are just some of the skills Metaverse looks for and expects Mods to have. Keep them in mind if you’re interested in some of the basic core needs and expected instincts of a great Mod! And to those internet villains out there… just remember: the Mods are always watching, and we will find you!
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