Moderating is a real job

April 29th, 2008 by bruno boutot
Dear mathowie, jessamyn, and cortex: how many hours do you commit to keeping MeFi afloat? Is it a huge time commitment, not a big deal, or somewhere in the middle? It seems like a lot to juggle between three people. True? And if so, what takes up most of your time? #

The result is fantastic: a unique look at the work of moderators of one of the best and best managed communities on the Web. You can read the whole thread but I have excerpted here their main answers. I could have edited quotes and organized them by topic, but I think it’s great as is, an opportunity to learn how moderating works on a day to day basis. #

I look at the website during all waking hours. I probably spend half my waking hours doing admin/mod stuff like checking new posts for spamminess, emailing people their forgotten usernames, tending the flag pile, etc. #

A “flag” is the way members alert moderators of any problem or rule breaking. It’s the essential tool of moderation for any community. The “flag pile” or “flag queue” is the list of flags that appears on a moderator’s dashboard. #

I’ve heard Matt and Jess describe the job as great because you only have to work like ten or fifteen minutes out of the hour—but that goes for every waking hour of the day. Which is a pretty solid description. #

Spammer patrol tends to manifest in brief, bright flashes of pain: we spend ten or twenty minutes (give or take, depending on the cleverness of the spammer) digging to establish a connection, and then it’s delete and ban (or, sometimes, if things seem to check out despite pushing some buttons, shrug and keep an eye on). #

Those really long MeTa threads that happen? We read every comment. Around about comment 800 when someone says “Hey mods, what about THIS edge case?” we usually reply. AskMe is usually quick but constant, exactly like cortex said, and a lot of the rest of it is just sort of vigilance, being around to keep an eye on stuff that looks sketchy, investigate a self-linky looking thing and giving the other mods a heads up when stuff looks weird. We also do a lot of prosaic link/post/comment/typo correction and back and forth email/MeMail with users about various topics, to say nothing of just interacting with the site as regular old folk, to the extent that we can do that. People contact me via email, MeMail, chat, facebook, phone (rarely) and regular old f2f. We don’t have any form letters (except when we were doing the backtagging project) everything’s real communication. #

Now is as good a time as any to mention something I’ve been wanting to say for a while. Because I work here, with my odd flexible schedule, and this huge crowd of bright and shiny nerds [and the rest of youse] it also lets me do the other things I do in my life like helping the little libraries of Central Vermont with their tech support issues, teaching email to old people, and travelling around the world teaching librarians why they shouldn’t be afraid of computers. This would literally be impossible if I had a “straight” job and unaffordable otherwise. #


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