I'm having a private Minecraft server that I just started a few days ago. I'm needing to see what a good moderator to member ratio should be. If there are too little moderators and too many members, the mods can't handle their jobs for long due to overwhelming stuff collected. Too many moderators would mean the members wouldn't really have a vote on anything. The moderators might as well become the bullies. So what would be a sufficient moderator to member ratio for a medium-sized community?
The short answer is: It depends.
The longer answer is that it depends on several factors of your community.
There is not a golden moderator to user ratio that can be applied to all communities. The number of moderators you need depends on things like this short list of examples:
- What are the users' responsibilities?
- Do users gain (or lose) responsibilities over time?
- What, exactly, is a moderator's responsibility?
- Are all moderators equal or is their a hierarchy of responsibilities?
- Do moderation duties go across communities platforms (ie. is a game moderator also a discussion forum moderator)?
Can your players be promoted (or demoted) based on some aspect of trust within the game environment? If they can, then users can gradually gain more responsibility and police themselves. Think of this as the in game version of Stack Exchange. As you, as the administrator, trust your users more (because they have proved they are trust worthy), you can pass off some moderation abilities to them. This frees you from needing tons of "full" moderators. On the other hand, if this type of system is not implemented, then you need a way for your users to contact someone in power. Games attract trolls. How you deal with said trolls depends on your community policies. If it is anything goes, then you need fewer moderators. If you don't allow trolls, then you need more moderators that can at least jump in for a few minutes to solve the problem.
That brings up the next point: What is expected of your moderation team? If you expect a moderator to be on the server 24/7, then you obviously need more (and a more global team). If, instead, you allow users to post troll reports somehow and you can undo damage caused by trolls, then fewer moderators are required because they can rollback changes at any point. Another point that needs to be considered is moderator hierarchy. If you grant your moderators more power as they gain more experience, then then even your lowest level moderators need to be able to handle basic tasks - kick/mute/ban/etc - while your higher level ones can handle things like rollbacks or user promotions.
If your moderators are expected to police both a game server and community forums, you need to ensure you don't overwhelm a small team. Both platforms have different challenges in moderation, but both can be managed via a team for a medium community.
A short personal anecdote:
I manage a group 15 of game servers (various games) and a community forum. I have approximately 400 gamers at any one time and an active forum. It's not huge, but it's not tiny either. For all of this, I have 13 moderators. The majority of their time is spent moderating the game servers (and playing the games). The forums allow users to flag/report inappropriate posts (ie spam). When a moderator logs in they can accept or reject these reports. Unless a huge conflict occurs on the forums, they don't need to manage much else on that side. In a few of our servers, that are more troll prone, we grant our more trusted users that ability to start votes that will deal with a problem user (kick/temp ban for an hour). They can't perform these actions on their own, a majority of the server has to agree with the action. These votes are not active when a moderator is in the server. This gives us a nice buffer for when a moderator isn't in the server (and can't jump in for a few minutes). It also is a nice incentive to give our trusted users. Hooray for happy/engaged players!
If your moderators are becoming bullies, deal with it. Quickly and ruthlessly. If it's a minor infraction and the first time, give them a stern warning that repeat incidents will result in removal of their moderation status. If the behavior continues, follow through on that. Nothing will kill a fun game faster than a moderator giving them self god mode and destroying the other team. The same goes for a group of moderators using their permissions to grant themselves diamond armor and weapons and flying while forcing everyone else to use wood weapons. Minecraft has various permissions plugins that allow you to be very explicit with who can do what. Don't grant your moderators more permissions than they need to effectively do their job. If they don't have access to something, they can't abuse it.
This does not mean, however, that you should trust every report of moderation abuse from your players. I trust my moderators much more than I trust some random person that has played for an hour on my server. Build that trust with your moderators.
I think that Stack Exchange's algorithm for determining the right size of the mod team is a good and effective one:
Start with three. That's the minimum sized group in which, if one makes a mistake or gets worked up into a bad mental place, the other two can use the authority inherent in multiple perspectives to talk him/her out of it.
Wait a while, and see how things go. Is the mod team feeling overwhelmed? Is the community getting out-of-control? If not, keep waiting and watching.
If so, add one or more additional mods, then return to waiting and watching mode.
Make moves slowly, allowing people to get up to speed, and the community to find its new equilibrium. Don't forget that even outside of business, having someone bad on the team is worse than not having enough members, and firing someone is more work and trauma than hiring someone. So, hire very carefully.