In high-traffic sites, moderator fatigue can become a problem. That is to say, after reviewing and dealing with dozens or even hundreds of issues a day, the amount of care and attention given to each issue and each user can drop dramatically.

This has negative consequences beyond a less pleasant response for those moderated: it can create anti-mod sentiment and antipathy amongst all users, compounded by an ‘I deal with all this stuff so you should be thankful’ attitude amongst the moderators.

How can this state of affairs be combated?

5 Answers 5

  • Improve the leverage of moderators. Specifically, instead of firefighting issues one-by-one, roll the 80% of issues into FAQs, articles, guidelines. Have heuristics in-place, which answers why these are so. Link to the long & detailed description of the issue, instead of detailing all the issue on the post.

  • For the most common issues, collect the few most relevant heuristics, and put it straight at the top of eg. new topic page, such that users can be informed before they create a problem at all

  • Delegate. One of SO's major strengths are being explicit about the powerlevel of the users; if you have sufficiently trustful karma, or other point system, you might delegate mod power directly to the users, and have them resolve issues within themselves. Alternatively..

  • Recruit more. You might want to measure what the current load on each moderator at any given point is; and start recruiting early before this exceeds critical levels.

  • - Stay on top of the moderator queue. A large stack can be very demoralizing, especially if the flags come in faster than you can handle them. Jul 29, 2014 at 22:28
  • +1 for delegate. The more the community can do, the better.
    – Seth
    Aug 1, 2014 at 3:49

A moderator should know his/her own limits, and stop there, if they don't then they should be told and reminded. Being a moderator is basically being a trash cleaner, you can sweep all day because it is your job, but you still have to sit to rest, drink tea or something.

There are good reasons why there should be more then one moderator, as the work is divided between them with the understanding that each are human beings and have lives and limits, if this is a big issue then either the moderator should be told out right and reminded, and if he continues perhaps then he/she should be removed for lack of responsibility.

Bad moderation can be/is harmful to sites.


This can be combated the same way it is in the work place. Take a break. Ensure that your moderation team is large enough that one or two can take a short break and recharge.

As moderators of an internet community, it is likely that this is a hobby/side project. As such, it should not be something that you have to "deal with" constantly.

That said, not all moderation tasks have to be done by a human. You may be able to automate some tasks. If you can pull the "boring" parts out of moderation and have an automated way to handle it, that also prevents burn out. By reducing the simple, mind numbing parts of moderating, you keep your people engaged. They aren't just clicking a button to deal with the problem. They are actually resolving an issue.


You can either deal with this preventatively or after the fact.

  1. Preventative: some preventative measures should always be in place. Depending on your community size/activity and moderator pool/availability some further preventative measures may be more cost than worth. The basic options that any forum type software should have:

    • User Accounts: Unless you have very low standards, or very small size anonymous users are going to be a serious drain. In pretty much all situations requiring user accounts is a definite must
    • Automated Spam blocking - i.e. Mollom (Drupal) or similar. Should definitely be enabled.
    • Invitation only: unless you have major problems or want it to be actually private this actually from my experience causes more moderator fatigue. Use hesitantly
    • Clear Guidelines for both moderator actions and acceptable user behaviour. If there isn't clear guidelines it leads to problems which can sometimes be avoided. This won't help with purposefully obfuscatory users but it will help with new users usually.
  2. Active: If you have no problems with basic preventative then you probably don't need to do these.

    • Get more moderators. Obviously this will reduce existing moderator workload if the new moderators have a clear guidelines of what to do.
    • Talk to your existing moderators and tell any taht can't cope productively to dial back. this of course can be challenging but can sometime be necessary.

You could have a look at automated plugins for issues like spam, and whilst not a silver bullet, they can drastically reduce some of the worse issues so the moderators have more time to focus on other topics.

You should also remind moderators that it is less about the privilege and more about responsibility, as constructively and positively as possible. I've also found that light hearted training information can lighten the mood for moderators and also inform them at the same time - provided they actually read what you've listed.

Alternatively, and it may seem a bit obvious, if the provision is there you could always try enlist the help of more members as moderators (even as junior/trainees).

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