June 20, 2012

Everything in Moderation

It's literally no secret I have a large amount of affection for our moderator team. Why shouldn't I? They're the people from our sites that I interact with the most frequently. I think between camping out in the main moderator-only chatroom and appointments that I make, I've met probably half the total moderator staff. There's going to be sites whose mods I never meet, simply because of timezones or schedules or whatever. Some moderators don't like how insane the main mod room can get -- 50+ voices all talking at once is overwhelming for a chat veteran like me, let alone people who aren't accustomed to or in favor of chat software.

It's funny, because I care pretty deeply about what the moderator staff thinks of me. I know it's because I spend a huge amount of time around and with these people. Carrying the big stick is nice and all, but I want to be respected/loved more than feared. I like to believe that the team, as a whole, actually listens to me. I know some of the more, uh, difficult moderators respond to me reasonably well.

I wonder if it's, in part, because I am good about keeping up with the conversation (usually) and usually get things taken care of reasonably quickly. Not that my colleagues don't, but I've got a certain amount of candor that I feel is unique to me. I'm also more the iron hand in the velvet glove, to use a metaphor I always liked. I've got a soft touch and I'm usually pretty friendly and exuberant, but I'm also responsible and responsive. I try to be really good about following up on things and checking in personally.

(Hmm. This is sounding like an indictment of the other community managers. It's not really meant to be; I'm more reflecting on what I feel I do well, independent of my colleagues' strengths.)

More than that, though, I honestly don't mind a lot of the work that goes with being in the trenches. I like shooting the breeze with them, chattering about reddit or the latest MSO drama, or speculating on the election. I don't mind herding the cats when the time comes. I'm happy to handhold or guide or hug or comfort or problem-solve or brainstorm or command or talk-down a mod in any situation.

I honestly enjoy it, because each time feels like I'm helping someone, or making a difference. Sometimes people just want to be heard. Since I work for the company, even if I have trouble escalating something, I provide an outlet where people can feel like their input matters. Certainly, I care. If I'm talking a mod through something, they have 100% of my attention. I close the other tabs, I turn off the music, I walk away from the everything else. A mod who's having an emotional break deserves my full attention, so they get it.

That said, being loyal to mod team as my primary has its downsides. I love my company, so I don't like to hear the bitching about our failings. Beyond the fact that we're pretty aware of them ourselves, a lot of the time we make decisions with a long-term plan in place, and it's pretty beyond the scope of the mods to know what our 1000-yard outlook is. Not to say that mods are little worker drones who shouldn't ask questions. But when we say, "Just trust us," I'd like to believe we've earned enough personal currency to be taken at our word.

I swear, we have good reasons!

It's hard having to be between two very different perspectives. I don't like hearing disdain for mods from employees, either; moderation is a tough job, and there's so much more to it than what's in the mod agreement. I've modded communities online before; it's a big, consuming job even when it shouldn't be. I don't think people who don't understand the work should rag on it -- but that applies both ways. Mods shouldn't hate on the work that some of our people do. Frankly, they're doing it because no one else would/could, and they go out of their way to do it right.

Still, at the end of the day, I really do enjoy getting to work with the mods. They're incredibly talented, interesting people whom I find myself learning from every day. I appreciate their patience with me when I don't understand something, and in turn I try to pay them back by respecting them and the work they do.

Hey since I'm hitting my one-year, maybe it's time for that all-blue party at Rchern's house, after all. :P

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