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Which traits of character should one focus on, when hiring a new moderator on active, themed (as opposed to general, like "news") sites with strong community full of "heated" attitudes - frequent arguments, blunt language, little regard to politeness, often quite rude scorn for incompetence?

What will make a "good moderator" in such an environment?

5

Such a community is probably the hardest to find moderators for. You need moderators who are willing to go toe to toe with users that are going to get in their face, but that have the restraint to avoid inflaming the situation while carefully measuring the appropriate amount of pressure to apply to maintain respect and control. They also need to have the skill of being able to evaluate if their position really is what the community needs and be able to change their position without it appearing that they were backing down from being pushed.

These aren't characteristics that frequently go together, so it can be pretty hard to find someone who has them all. The one thing that works in your favor is that such a community does tend to attract people with that personality type though, you just need to know what to look for.

Look for someone who is level headed and, while willing to go forcefully toe to toe in a heated debate (without becoming condescending), is also graceful in adjusting their position as they go. In general, it will seem like their debates tend to have better results and while you won't be able to put your finger on when their position changed, it will be clear that over the course of the conversation it did move (though not necessarily all the way to the other person's view). Conveniently, such users will also typically already command the respect of the community, even amongst those who frequently disagree with them.

If a user tends to be completely stationary in their opinions, they are too stubborn to deal well with moderating such a community. If they tend to waver too fast, they are unlikely to be able to stand up to the pressure they will be under as a moderator (though in some cases, they get more of a backbone when they become a moderator, but this can sometimes go too far to the other extreme too.)

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Observe the community and find a user, who:

  1. Has a lot of time on their hands, and participates actively;
  2. Is emotionally stable, slow to anger;
  3. Is knowledgeable about the subject, or at least passionate enough to recognize knowledgeable users;
  4. Is respected, and respectful of opinions of others.

These are the four most important factors. Initiative, ability to stay cool, modicum of clue about the subject of the site, and at the very least not being widely disliked.

At one point I was to leave a site, and choose my replacement.

  • I outright dismissed these, who didn't visit daily. The moderator is no good if they are not present.
  • I dismissed one who was an expert, very active, but tended to get into rather violent arguments.
  • I dismissed a calm expert, who could only sacrifice one or two hours of their time a day.
  • I dismissed a girl, who was fairly knowledgeable, mostly level-headed, frequented the forum a lot, but she was rather arrogantly dismissive of "standard methods" while promoting her own "subculture" of the forum domain - which earned her quite a bit of scorn from a large group of "traditionalists".
  • I choose a girl, who - due to being handicapped - was forced to focus only on theoretical side of her passion, spending many hours a day on the forum. She was self-learned and with zero practical experience - only a lot of theory, but she was passionate about the subject, and she was very level-minded; I never saw her getting aggravated.

Word has it, she was an excellent choice, and for a couple of years the forum really thrived. Then she had to leave it for some reason, and the admin gave the offer to the hot-blooded expert. Things weren't so good since then.

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