A peek behind the curtains at Offbeat Bride Tribe moderation

Guestpost by Little Red Lupine on Sep 30th

Southpaw Red Curtain © by cristinabe, used under Creative Commons license.

So much of what happens with online community management and moderation happens behind the scenes, just like with any customer service (don't be fooled, it is definitely customer service). It's part of the nature of the job and part of what keeps communities running smoothly. Honestly, nobody needs to see all the dirty laundry. The point is for members to see a wonderful community where they can happily frolic, post, and share their lives. A moderator's job is to make sure that for the average member, everything is rainbows, unicorns, robots, and probably a Tardis for good measure if it can be arranged.

Unfortunately it isn't all sunshine and lollipops for moderators when something requires action. Hard calls have to be made and members only see a portion of what goes into a decision which can sometimes make them think moderators don't care or are just control freaks. That means sad pandas and potentially some anger and frustration. Here's an illustration of what I mean (no moderators were harmed in the writing of this scenario).

What a Member sees:

  1. Post goes up after much deliberation and editing.
  2. Email from a moderator appears. Begin heart palpitations.
  3. Quick read of the email reveals her post was moderated. Cue some frustration, confusion or hurt feelings.
  4. Member sends a frustrated email to the moderator, trying to find out what's up.
  5. Moderator responds with an apology, clarifies the situation, and offers further help or communication.
  6. All is good.

What a Moderator Does:

  1. Scrolls through posts, scanning for anything that would trigger anxiety or discomfort in members or anything that violates the Code of Conduct.
  2. Spots something and reads it through carefully, just to make sure she did actually see a problem.
  3. Deliberation ensues. Maybe it's okay? Maybe she could just leave it alone. Anxiety levels rise.
  4. Email is sent to the other mods, asking for another perspective and just to check to make sure she's clear on the existing policy.
  5. Replies come back and yes, she is going to have to do something about the post. Drat!
  6. More deliberation ensues. Is it safe to do a quick edit and notify the member or does it have to come down for the member to do a bigger edit?
  7. Anxiety skyrockets as the mod realizes this could go badly and she hates conflict and doesn't want to upset anyone and omg the HUMANITY!
  8. The temptation to just leave it alone returns but the memory of emails from members flagging posts that made them unhappy floats to the surface. The "why wasn't something done about it?" emails are not fun.
  9. The moderator carefully copies the original post into a message to the member.
  10. The moderator then adds the appropriate template as a starting point and if she doesn't move fast, someone's going to comment on it or flag it and she can't remove the post until she's notified the member.
  11. She's hyperventilating but she manages to adjust the template to fit the particular issue and tries to personalize it a bit.
  12. She makes sure the original post is still pasted in and the text box hasn't eaten it.
  13. One more check to ensure she copied any comments.
  14. A deep breath, and she sends the email. Will the member respond? Will it be bad?
  15. Email received. The member isn't happy. The moderator whimpers, fortifies herself, and then prepares to write a response.
  16. She redrafts the response a couple times.
  17. She sends it and bites her nails, waiting to see if this is going to fix the problem or make it explode.
  18. All is well. Sigh of relief.

It may seem ridiculous, but seriously, we moderators go through this all the time — especially on Offbeat Bride Tribe. It's our safe spot too and we really don't want to upset anyone, offend anyone or cause any unpleasant waves unless we absolutely have to. At the same time, we know that sometimes we have to do the tough and unpleasant stuff for the good of the community.

This all takes time. The more personal your moderation, the more time it takes. We try to strike a balance between totally personal (and very time consuming) and streamlined (and quick) but we've learned that the members of the Tribe very much want us to err on the side of personal. We can't just use canned responses for everything because our members have proven that they need more than that and appreciate it when we take the extra minutes to personalize things and recognize what's going on. It would be great time-wise if we could just have an auto process we follow all the time right down to canned emails we just copy and paste but it's the human and personal side of things that makes the Tribe a beloved part of the Empire and has ladies volunteering to take on the task of moderation.

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About Little Red Lupine

Kirsten Hansen (aka Little Red Lupine) is a Canadian academic who currently works in an office. She is also the Community Manager for the Offbeat Bride Tribe.