So by way of introduction to this article, my (web) name is Randox (Random Paradox for all those people who want to ask me where it comes from), and I joined the Tip.It staff last November as a moderator, but I have also been moderating for Jagex for a number of years now as well. When I set out to write this article, my mission was to cover at least some of the aspects of being a moderator that most people never get a chance to see. My mission is not to make you like us any more than you already do, and certainly not any less, but merely to explain some things, and maybe entertain you a bit while I am at it.
Moderators work in their own legal system
This is a pretty big one for me, and it plays into a fairly large perception flaw that we all exercise multiple times a day, normally without realizing it. When we analyze our own actions, we justify them, and we can do this because we know the complete circumstances surrounding the choices we make, because we are self-aware. When we analyze the decisions of others, we rarely have anything close to the background information we have on ourselves, so our default setting is to assume that everyone does everything they do, because they want to do it.
Something I have found out about how many moderation teams work is their legal system. While it’s obviously not a direct analogue to a real world justice system, the mechanics are pretty similar. Without the boring details, the forum moderators act as council for the defense and prosecution, they deliberate like a jury, and ultimately someone has to be a judge. You also have your appeals court, and your supreme court/lawmakers. Now, we certainly have more leniencies then a real justice system could have, but we also have to be fair, or we become wholly ineffective at our jobs, and would actually create problems.
One of the most frustrating situations when being a moderator is when someone does something stupid; breaking the rules in a really silly way, and then that darn fairness comes in. A terrific example is troll victims, where the skilled trolls will provoke people into breaking the rules while staying in bounds themselves. You know the troll is the cause of your problems even though they haven’t broken any rules, but their victim has, and you can only give the victims so much slack before you have to step in. It’s the sort of thing police dramas have all the time where they know who the guilty party is, but they need to find a way to bring them down fairly and with minimal collateral damage, and sadly, it’s not a Hollywood invention. Real police forces, just like online moderator teams, also have to deal with this kind of issue.
Ultimately what I am talking about is doing things you wish you didn’t have to do. I’ve seen countless cases around the internet where the moderator is angry at the people not because they broke the rules, but because they did something silly and pointless, and now the moderator is being forced to deal with it, when they know the person they are warning/muting/banning doesn’t really deserve it. They just needed to take a 5 minute breather and everything would have been fine.
Moderators have fun too
Have you ever thought you had gotten to know someone, perhaps someone you work with, or only know from school, and then you finally get a chance to see them out of the office, at a party, or even one on one? People act differently around different groups of people, and moderators are not an exception. Now, we are always encouraged to continue interacting with the community in the way we always have, and many moderators manage to pull this off fairly nicely. It’s actually pretty critical if you don’t want a team that is widely despised and distrusted. Your moderators need to be part of the community they moderate, they can’t just stand on a pedestal and look down on people. Moderators must continue to be part of the community they work in to be effective.
But the understanding you get when you see how they interact with each other is always a learning experience, because you get to see not only the drama, but the bonding that can only happen out of the public eye. I’ve always wished I could showcase this kind of behind the scenes moderator behaviour, but alas, it only works if people aren’t watching. Take my word for it though; it’s generally pretty amusing to watch, and a lot of fun to participate in.
Once you become a moderator, you’re no longer representing just yourself, but your team, and the entity that you moderate on behalf of. When you see me on the Tip.It forums, I am representing the administration. When I am with the administration, I represent the interests of the users because that’s who I am working for. I hope that our working for the users is obvious, because what we do would be pretty pointless without the rest of you. You are the community. The interest of the site, as in its continued existence, is a natural extension of that, since for the community to survive, we need to have a place to be a community.
People notice it more on the RuneScape site though, where people mistakenly believe that all the moderators are Jagex fan boys. If there are actually any of those, they aren’t posting in the mod forums about it, you can trust me on that. That’s not to say that the moderators are anti Jagex either, but when you’ve weeded out all the people who react before looking at the big picture, what your left with is a large bunch of people who agree or disagree for generally well-reasoned points. You also get the shifting representation, since obviously there isn’t much point to representing Jagex to their face. That’d be pretty dull. So on the mod forums, the mods represent whatever they feel are the communities' best interests, just like our moderators and administrators do here.
The killer though is that it’s hard to believe, and impossible to really understand, until you get to see it first-hand. But my hope is that I have been able to shed some light on the aspects of moderating that people rarely get to see, or fully appreciate. If people have questions that I missed, I am certainly open to writing about this again in the future.