Choosing your moderators

Posted by battye in Moderating with the tags , on July 22nd, 2008

Your forum is growing quite nicely and your user base is building, but there comes a point where you need a helping hand. This is where moderators step in. Moderators are members of the community with more privileges than a normal registered user, but without the ultimate control that an administrator possess. Moderators can undertake important forum tasks, such as locking, deleting or moving topics, issuing warnings or even issuing bans. They enforce the rules of the forum, and are essentially on the front line. Moderating can be thankless job, but despite this, most people relish the opportunity and the extra responsibility.

A user that regularly visits and contributes to the forum is typically a prime candidate for a moderator role. Other members of the community already know them, they understand what is acceptable and what is not, and a sustained rate of activity actually proves to you, the administrator, that they aren’t fly-by-nighters – in other words, they are reliable and will stick by you.

Generally, they are very knowledgeable about the subject matter of the forum. For example, you would expect the person to provide a certain degree of insight and well thought out messages rather than countless one line posts; “I agree!”, “Well said!”, and so on don’t cut it. Once they are elevated to the position of moderator, they will be an authority on the matter, so you want them to lead by example. Their new rank or username colour – or whatever is associated with the new position – will set them apart from the rest, and the readers of the forum will subconsciously take extra notice of what a moderator (or administrator) has to say.

Personality is a very important factor when selecting a moderator. This person will be representative of your forum administration, and it would reflect badly upon you and the forum overall if the person has a tendency to behave erratically or degrade other posters. Put simply, if the person regularly breaks the rules of your forum they wouldn’t be well suited to moderating. You want people of even temperament, as when push comes to shove, they could be the judge during a forum dispute and it is their duty to act impartially and responsibly.

Generally, post count should not play a part. If the user you want to promote has been active over a long period, then this will probably be reflected in their post count. Be aware though, that promoting a user with a low post count will draw more attention to the selection than promoting a user with a high post count. While both may be equally deserving, the user with a higher post count may feel hardly done by because it would appear that they have contributed more to the forum.

There are other factors you may need to consider, such as command of the language or how much time you will want the user to commit to moderating, but these are very much dependent on the style of your forum and tend not to be an issue.

In summary, the key points to consider when selecting a moderator:

  • Does the user contribute regularly?
  • Has the user demonstrated a good degree of activity consistently over a period of time?
  • Does the user have a good personality?
  • Will they be suited to a leadership position, can they make decisions on-the-spot?

Most forum administrations discuss the possibility of a new moderator privately, whether that be with all of the administrators and moderators, or only among the moderators. If possible, it is a good idea to get input from your fellow top brass to explore all options, including ones you may not have seen yourself.

Some forums implement a probation period for moderators, where their position will be reviewed at a later time. If you or your team are uncertain about the promotion of a certain member, then it could be a worthwhile exercise to use a probation period.

Above all though, trust your instincts. It is your forum, and you know it better than anyone else. In most cases, the decision you make will be the correct one.

12 Responses to “Choosing your moderators”

Posted by Eric Martindale on July 22nd, 2008 at 3:21 am:

…quite nicely and your user base is building…

Fixed! No really, great post. Thanks for sharing this! Choosing your moderators is a pivotal point in your community’s road to success – bad decisions can set you back for years to come, while good decisions can set you above and beyond the bar and keep your members coming back for more.

Posted by jtryptophan on July 22nd, 2008 at 11:23 pm:

A very nice commentary on choosing moderators. I would add, look for those users who are already performing in a ‘moderator’ role on their own. Those members that have been reporting posts and sending you “heads up” messages will make a smooth transition to moderating. Also, if they are not familiar with the moderating controls, send them the link to the Documentation section here…a very good tool as well. One question do you have a Moderator to User ratio that you follow?

Posted by David Mackey on July 24th, 2008 at 12:20 am:

Good post. Thanks.

Posted by battye on July 24th, 2008 at 9:59 am:

“One question do you have a Moderator to User ratio that you follow?”

I don’t myself, although as you would expect, the more users you have the more moderators you need. Generally, you will know when you need to add a new moderator because either a current moderator has left (and you need to replace them) or your forum is growing and your existing moderating group is finding it hard to keep up with the growth.

If you want a ball park figure though, I would probably go with one moderator per 50 active/regular users. When you take timezones and peak periods into account, it should mean that there is a moderator around whenever a few users are online. It depends on the forum type though, obviously the moderating demands for will be much different to that of a site that has a very close community (which you would expect would run rather smoothly).

Hope that helps, jtryptophan!

Posted by Darren on August 1st, 2008 at 1:09 pm:

A very decent read, and interesting to compare we have chosen people in the past. On my website when things were small at the beginning I added a single moderator, basing my decision on most of the above who was around consistently and knew their subject well and who’s posts were a great example. Well written and referenced etc. That person is now an admin and has proven to be a great appointment, infact I now have two admin who run the forum allowing me to be an editor on the publishing part of our site. We created private staff forums early on, we established early on that we wanted to maintain a high level of debate and posting, developed rules to that effect and things have evolved with experience to improve how we do that, we’ve settled on a user probabtion period where we review new member suitability within the first 0-50 posts (admin authorisation stops us getting spammers on board). When forum moderator numbers grew to 4 or 5 I then promoted our two most active moderators to the position of admin, we’ve always talked about new moderator appointments I have often felt that our admin are the best judges because of their personal qualities and the fact they are on the forums more and closer to the action. It would be interesting to hear from other site owners how they have set things up. I think young websites could learn from comparing how other sites have gone about moderating, rules etc etc.

Posted by Darren on August 1st, 2008 at 1:14 pm:

β€œOne question do you have a Moderator to User ratio that you follow?”

We don’t striclty because user activity varies, we have made forum management more efficient by creating the admin authorisation so we need less moderators/per user to remove spam for example.

Posted by Xikkub on August 1st, 2008 at 7:21 pm:

Thanks! I just stared a forum and DID look at some other forums for ideas. This article will definitely help me!

Posted by Red One on August 22nd, 2008 at 12:36 am:

Thanks for this one. Helped me a lot!

Posted by limefan913 on August 24th, 2008 at 5:29 am:

The moderator guide here has been invaluable for me in my training of moderators. I staff that isn’t very familiar with the software or technology, so that guide has helped a lot. I created a sandbox and a bunch of test threads for them and they largely taught themselves.

Posted by Daisy on September 14th, 2008 at 2:24 pm:

Is there another moderator guide here? Can you give me a link please?

When training manager for a very large forum (about Β½ million+ registered members with a staff of around 150+) I created a “training manual” – basically a thread with all the functions/features complete with screen shots. Though originally it was a Wiki and worked excellently in that format, they did an upgrade and decided to not have the Wiki engine any more! πŸ™

But it quickly became the bible for the staff and a training resource for the new mods. It’s still in use so far as I know – about a year ago (hope somebody updates it from time to time! LOL!)

However, I’m always interested in seeing alternative ways of doing things.

Posted by Dread Knight on October 20th, 2008 at 8:49 pm:

I’ve read most of the post on this blog and I really enjoyed the ‘educative’ type ones.

Best regards,
Vali πŸ™‚

P.S.: I’ve subscribed.

Posted by Bruin on February 24th, 2009 at 1:59 pm:


I’m not an adminstrator but am one of 5 moderators chosen by our site’s admin to moderate his forum. Our admin isn’t always there or active. We figure he is just a busy fellow. We have had problems with users who need a time out (ban), even if the ban would be a simple day off from the site to cool off.

4 out of the 5 mods are actively moderating the forum (edit, locking, filing and peace keeping). However, when there is a situation that is serious, all 5 of us conference and discuss things quite thoroughly. Our admin did a very good job in choosing us (1 volunteered and she is a different story altogether – she is not the inactive moderator) as we have different personalities and come from different parts of the U.S., yet are quite even tempered and just plain like and respect one another. We have even established a quorum of 4 when deciding to act on very severe or sensitive subject. Well, we need to ban someone. Our admin has not replied to any of our PM’s or private e-mail’s asking him to help us. We all have unanswered PM’s from back in the summer. Needless to say, the problems have escalated and all we can do is to delete, delete, delete – which does not solve the problem. As mods, we do not have the ban function activated on our moderator control panel. Thus, our admin is the only person who can do this.

My question/comment is: Is there a way for us to issue a user ban and/or an IP ban without the admin? Please advise.

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