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I am part of an online non-Stack Exchange community. For the past two years, it has been ruled as a "benevolent dictatorship" by the founder with nearly all issues handled personally by her, with moderator powers rarely handed out to even her most trusted community members. In the past few months, she has expressed strong interest in significantly expanding the number of moderators, primarily because of her dwindling availability to actually be online when trouble is brewing.

Her solution to this has been a new, complex system of ranks for community members. To earn each rank, one must generally 1) have a certain continuous period of active participation (with defined minimum activity thresholds) without being cited for misconduct and 2) complete defined community-building projects, such as hosting events or bringing in new recruits. Certain serious offenses that do not warrant an immediate ban can result in being demoted a level.

Level 1 is the base "full member" level, and requires passing a written (true/false and multiple choice) test on community rules plus minimum participation at Level 0 ("Guest"). Levels 2-4 come with increasingly fancy flair but no real additional powers or responsibilities, while Level 5 is full moderator with demotehammer and access to the secret mod lair where everyone gets to wear fancy robes and act like they are really powerful people.

To be clear, moderatorship is automatic upon completing the requirements for Level 5. Earning the level does not make you eligible to run for moderator, it literally makes you a moderator by the very nature of the rank.

I congratulate the founder for recognizing the need for additional moderators, but I question whether rewarding members who demonstrate excellence in memorizing rulebooks and hosting activities are going to be the best to judge whether a new member is a troll or just needs a little guidance. To that end, what are benefits and downsides of linking moderatorship with community achievement?

Discussion:

To be clear, I am not questioning the founder's moderator skills. I have found her judgment to be consistently wise and fair when deciding what behavior to allow, how to provide gentle guidance to users caught in misconduct, or when someone should be outright banned. What I question is her process for designating new moderators.

The founder's rank system is interesting and potentially useful in encouraging increased community participation and buy-in. I'm not questioning that. What I'm questioning is its utility in choosing moderators.

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  • 1
    Just for some context is the community using discourse?
    – Ethan
    Nov 20, 2022 at 13:26
  • @Ethan it is not. Nov 20, 2022 at 13:44
  • she has a test to become a member of the community?!
    – warren
    Mar 8, 2023 at 17:38

1 Answer 1

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I would agree with her idea of giving mod powers right away after certain requirements have been completely met. However, to really understand what's going on here, I'm going to make a table of what the requirements for each "level" are and what happens at each level (as you have described):

Level Requirements Responsibilities Notes
0 Be a part of the server Same as a full member except for anything not given until Level 1 This is perfectly okay if you're a new member to a server since obviously, there are going to have to be some restrictions placed to make sure that everything is in order.
1 At least min. participation at Level 0, pass written T/F & multiple choice test Anything not given at Level 0 for the "full member" abilities I'm also going to have to agree with this logic, since obviously if you're a new member, you shouldn't have access to a bunch of stuff, but you should still have some freedom.
2 At least min. participation requirements at Level 1 and don't get cited for misconduct Increasingly fancy flair I'm sorry, and I'm going to say this for Levels 3 and 4 too, but sadly, I feel like just increasingly fancy flair but not that many new responsibilities is just going to make people quit before they get to Level 5, which is really the only reason anyone would stay on the server. I'm sorry, but it had to be said.
3 At least min. participation requirements at Level 2 and don't get cited for misconduct Increasingly fancy flair I'm sorry, and I'm going to say this for Level 4 too, but sadly, I feel like just increasingly fancy flair but not that many new responsibilities is just going to make people quit before they get to Level 5, which is really the only reason anyone would stay on the server. I'm sorry, but it had to be said.
4 At least min. participation requirements at Level 3 and don't get cited for misconduct Increasingly fancy flair I'm sorry, and I'm going to say this one last time, but sadly, I feel like just increasingly fancy flair but not that many new responsibilities is just going to make people quit before they get to Level 5, which is really the only reason anyone would stay on the server. I'm sorry, but it had to be said.
5 At least min. participation requirements at Level 4 and don't get cited for misconduct Mod rank, demotehammer, access to secret mod lair At Level 5? If this server is still around almost 11 months later after you asked this question, then congrats to the mods and your server owner for keeping the server alive still!

If this server is still around by the time I post this answer, then congratulations, because that's probably more dedication put into a server in just 11 months than most people are willing to put into something in probably half a lifetime. And, as you said:

To be clear, moderatorship is automatic upon completing the requirements for Level 5. Earning the rank does not make you eligible to run for moderator, it literally makes you a moderator by the very nature of the rank.

I congratulate the founder for recognizing the need for additional moderators, but I question whether rewarding members who demonstrate excellence in memorizing rulebooks and hosting activities are going to be best to judge whether a new member is a troll or just needs a little guidance.

I'll admit: As I was typing up the beginning paragraph, I was thinking "Oh yeah, this is kind of like getting into a government position in Ancient China"[1], but nope, most members (and I doubt I could stress this this enough, but most definitely the newcomers, and especially people who are in Levels 2-4) are going to rebel, and after a while, the server's just going to disappear. (if it hasn't already, since it's been almost 11 months since this question was posted)

My final answer

While she seems to have the right idea, (this did work similarly in Ancient China, especially after Confucius' time) this is just implemented horribly wrong. Even if she does now allow Levels 2-4 to have more responsibilities, there's no way to fix how unbelievably broken Level 5's responsibilities are, because even if she fixed them now, there would still probably be (a lot of) people leaving the server.


Notes

[1]Of course because in Ancient China, you weren't elected into a government position, it was just based on how well you could recite the teachings of Confucius.

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