On Stack Exchange sites and others, moderation privileges are managed by a reputation score which is essentially a way of capturing subject authority as well as capturing how well that member engages with the community. Reputation represents a sum of community engagement and subject matter authority.

I'm working on a community site that identifies subject matter authority separately to community engagement. Users who are more qualified/authoritative on a subject have higher privileges and are able to edit and approve answers whereas less authoritative users have fewer privileges.

Take a travel community for an example. If the site has articles on places, people who have visited that place have more authority than someone who hasn't and so they have corresponding moderation privileges. People who are local to that place have the highest authority so have the highest level of privileges.

It's clear to me that expert users are not necessarily good moderators; they may be more capable of editing for accuracy but they have no advantage in editing for quality, appropriateness, user conduct and other aspects of general site moderation. Non-expert users may be effective moderators as much as a expert user may be. How can I incorporate moderation privileges as distinct from expert user privileges? Have I tied subject matter authority too closely to privileges used for moderation? If so, what privileges should I give to those with subject matter authority?

3 Answers 3


Expert users shouldn't really have more power than regular users, they can help others by commenting on their posts and answering questions. Giving them more power, in my opinion, would get rid of the need for a moderator. Moderators on the other hand should be given powers to remove posts, edit posts, and lock threads. They need to be able to handle the community, and keep it on track. Usually I leave banning and the ability to sticky threads for Admins. I hope this answers your question! The only way I could see giving experienced users powers would be if there wasn't enough staff to handle the community.

  • 4
    What about sites on the Stack Exchange network? Experts have more reputation and more privileges as a result. Those help to take many moderation type burdens off of the small diamond-mod team for each site and spreads it across many more people.
    – Andy
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:27
  • I would give them editing powers, but it really depends on how they handle power, and how active they are in the community.
    – Noodles
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:56
  • Do you not think that extended permissions for expert users might help the team? They could remove spam, flooding, etc. So they would support the staff by doing all the "easy" tasks.
    – Zerotime
    Jun 25, 2015 at 20:30

tl;dr: Listen and work with your community to figure out the organizational structure.

Every online community is going to be different, so modeling your site's community based on others, such as StackExchange, is a good starting point. Ultimately, you need to learn and fine tune your community based on its unique qualities.

A possible way to go about this is to start a moderator/expert beta program with the most engaged members of the community. Be clear though, that you are testing things out based on their feedback and how the community is responding, so things are subject to change. Then iterate based on your findings.


There are three kinds of fundamental processes for which privileges are important: content curation, user moderation, and infrastructure maintenance. Who should have privileges in each of those areas is different.

Content curation. To the extent possible, this can be delegated to users who have demonstrated the appropriate knowledge, and an understand of community guidelines and expectations. Moderators are needed only for exceptions or arbitration.

People have different abilities and subject matter knowledge. Some people are better writers than others. That can be managed with a built-in review process, and general guidelines on the nature of what should and should not be done as curation.

On SE, the platform has chosen to reserve certain content curation, like comment thread cleanup, to moderators, perhaps because of the potential for it to create a need for user moderation (and comments are defined as not content).

User moderation. This takes very different skills and abilities, and is a process outside of the core purpose of the community. Dealing with user issues can be destructive when done between members. Much of the user moderation requirements is dealing with behavior contrary to the site's guidelines, or user needs that are outside of normal participation.

It may require access to user's personal information, and resolution is often best accomplished out of view of the community at large. This pretty much requires that it be done by moderators. The moderators should be appointed or elected based their demonstrated ability to deal effectively with people and their having the trust and respect of the community.

Infrastructure maintenance. Certain site maintenance functions can be technically complicated, and can create a real mess if done incorrectly. These should be performed only by a small group of people with the expertise and accountability. It could be delegated to a few power users or administrators, but is typically reserved to moderators, as they already have a high level of accountability, and are normally close to the action.

For example, on SE, tasks like synonomizing tags is limited to moderators, and blacklisting tags requires a community manager or other administrator.

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