New moderators for new sites can at times be overeager and over-moderate, and spend more time than they should on their site(s), neglecting other priorities (or vice versa, too focused on life to really focus on being a moderator).

Moderators of very popular site can be swapped flags, questions, concerns, (etc.) from user and content on their sites, but also have to deal with other responsibilities in work (project deadline, job search) and life (new child, relationships, moving)?

How does one strike a balance between, work, life, and moderation?

How much time, on average, should a moderator devote to their site (especially one that is new)? What contributing factors should one take into consideration? Any notable moderators or examples?


5 Answers 5


We could write half a book on how to strike a balance between work and life... in fact I think I've seen quite a few on just that topic. So really I'm going to ignore the work life balance and only focus on the moderation/other stuff balance.

First thing you have to do is decide the moderating priority/commitment:

  • When you started moderating did you commit to a set amount minimum? If yes then do that for a bit and see how it works. If that interferes with your life too much reconsider what other things you are doing or your commitment to moderating that site.
  • If No: If there are other moderators for the venue ask them how much moderating it usually takes and try out that amount of time and then figure out if that is working same as above.
  • If there isn't anyone from the site you can ask (new new new): First how much free time do you have - or how much time do you "waste" everyday? (by waste: I mean read trash on the internet, fall down twitter or facebook holes etc.) and decide to use 1/2 of that free time or cut that wastage time in half and moderate for that amount of time everyday for a week. Now review: is there a lot of junk you didn't handle in a timely manner? No: doing good see if you can reduce it slightly. Yes: set more time aside to that and see how it works with your life. If you can't do enough moderation for the site without impinging onto your life consider getting more moderators involved.

As to how much time for a site that is a massively difficult thing to estimate; something like StackOverflow has a 17 moderators with a minimum time commitment and then the high rep users and also the Community Team - that's a lot of hours and obviously one person couldn't deal with that even if that was their full time job. On the other end of the scale I manage a few sites and have moderated a few as well; one for example was the NifTools forum, where there was basically no low quality posts or spam - probably one a month compared to a few dozen good posts a week. Moderating took one 5 minute glance/day.

So it really depends on

  1. activity level
  2. degree of ease to post - harder to poster/register will usually require much less moderating (like invitation only forums often require basically no moderating because it is a small group of like minded individuals)
  3. ease of posting for bots - get spam blocking installed ASAP!
  4. community type
  5. community rules: the tighter the rules the more moderation may be required; but with tighter rules only people that will follow are likely to stay around so it may actually be less moderating required.

Despite that variability; for site health it is probably best if you can glance at it at least morning and evening most days. Also nice if you have a flag system and can set that to alert you via sms or email so you can deal with flags quickly without checking every 5 minutes.


How much time, on average, should a moderator devote to their site (especially one that is new)?

This depends entirely on you, your personality, the focus of your site, how quickly your community is growing and how often "moderation" needs to be done.

What contributing factors should one take into consideration?

Moderation factors include aspects you mentioned - flags being raised, meta type questions that need to be answered, content curation duties. But they also include intangibles such as what the community's expectations for response times, are there others that share moderation duties with you, real life responsibilities, and your disposition to doing something now versus later.

Moderation time boils down to work/life balance. This is especially true if moderation is volunteer work and not part of your livelihood (eg. a job or new business venture). If you are volunteering to moderator a community, I don't see a reason to ignore your life. Set community expectation that flags may not be monitored and handled 24 hours a day. If you are moderating for a job or business venture, it's harder to take a break, but some balance is still required. Are you being paid to monitor the community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? If not, why are you?

Setting community expectations about how quickly you handle flags can be done very simply. If you handle things immediately, they will expect immediate responses. If you let less serious things dangle while you gather information, compose a response, go for a walk, talk to your significant other, your community should respect that. They have lives outside of your community, you should as well.

If immediate responses are the expectation, it is time to consider more moderators (or automation). More eyes to deal with the problem, more quickly, will help restore your balance. You'll be able to spend less time doing the moderation dance because you'll have a team (or system) that can help you.

The passion of building a new site and community around it is important to maintain. However, this passion can be redirected from "moderation" to community building. Engage your active community members and see if you can come up with ways to expand.

Another aspect to consider the size of your community. If you have a small community, you need to ask if you are moderating the right things if your time is being consumed by their flags/questions/actions.


This is closely related to how many moderators should a site have. If a site requires enough of your time moderating that you are not able to take care of the rest of your life, then it means that either a) some moderators are not pulling their weight, b) there are not enough moderators for the community or c) the tools for moderating are not sufficiently well developed.

Ideally, a community should have moderation checking in regularly whenever the community is generally active, but it doesn't have to be the same person all the time. Additionally, while someone should be checking in, the majority of moderation is actually a silent job. It involves watching for trouble and only interfering when needed.

Moderation may take extra effort when trying to grow a community before it is capable of sustaining itself, but in a healthy community, not much actual direct action should be necessary, particularly if community moderation is used. The key is to deal with issues that arise quickly and stay on top of making sure long term problems don't develop.


Moderation is not something that should be done with a frequency. Instead, it should be a continuous process. As time permits, moderators should simply try to hang around and keep an eye out for things that require attention. Additionally, reports from users should be handled swiftly, and the number of moderators should always be high enough so that no reports stay shelved for extended times.

It's very important for moderators to understand that active moderation does not mean frequent moderation actions. This is a mistake that many new moderators make: they feel that if they are very quick to the punch, and take action anytime there might be an issue, they'll be doing a good job. Instead, they need to understand that the decision to take no action is also a moderator action. When you the feeling that a moderator is doing way more than they should be doing, it might be a good idea to make them aware of this.

Now, on the time spent: there is no ideal amount of time to spend per day, but you should definitely make sure that moderators spend enough time online in order to have high visibility to the users. Especially in the first stages (both for new websites and new moderators on established websites), those first few months are where a moderator gains trust from the userbase, so this is the most critical time. After that, there should be a minimum online time of around 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week, to keep that visibility going. If a moderator is no longer able to spend that amount of time online, it's probably a good idea for them to resign from their position.


Monitoring the site should be frequent. If you can drop in every two hours, to scan new posts, seeking signs of trouble, it's very good. Three visits a day is reasonable, two - acceptable.

Note this doesn't convert to moderator actions. These should be taken only when needed. But two hours is enough for a small disagreement to escalate into a full-scale flame war, and in eight hours you may have a disgruntled DDOS'er at your hands, attacking the site in revenge. That's why frequent visits are important - don't leave the forum unattended for too long.

OTOH these visits don't need to be long. With a good "digest of last posts" feature you can catch up with the state from your last visit within a minute or three, and in great most cases moderator action is either not required or can be deferred, say, for a longer evening visit.

So, summarily - during times of calm, 30 minutes a day is a plenty, though distributed over multiple short visits. In case there's a flame war to extinguish, or some kind of attack, invasion or major conflict, you may need to spend some more time resolving the problems.

That was the moderator duty, the minimum. Then there's contributing to the community: writing helpful guides, organizing competitions, handling feature requests, wiping obsolete content scheduled for deletion, helping struggling users resolve their long-term problems etc. It's up to you how much time you spend on that. Allocate time as you see fit - this is a kind of leisure time, and you may skip, delay, extend, shorten, reschedule that as you like.

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