One of the most difficult aspects of being a Discord server moderator can be finding new people to help you moderate your community. You need to find individuals that match in personality, mindset, knowledge, availability, and most importantly, trust. While much of this differs between servers and teams, I hope to cover the most important parts as well as giving you an idea of what the common questions are and what to watch out for.
Do You Need More Moderators?
The first thing to ask yourself or your moderator team before bringing in another team member is whether you actually need additional help. For example, a server that provides technical support or assists members in a more personal fashion may require more moderators than a community server for a mobile game even if the number of members is the same. An additional and important factor to consider is moderator burnout.
Placing too many responsibilities on too few moderators can quickly cause members of the team to lose interest and feel like they do not have enough time to commit to moderation. In some cases, it can actually be beneficial to have too many mods rather than too few, but it is important to remember there is no perfect number of moderators to have on your server.
The most important thing to keep in mind when recruiting moderators is the purpose moderators have in your server and the extent to which those duties are (or aren’t) currently being fulfilled. For instance:
- Are there time periods in your server where moderators are unavailable to answer questions or resolve incidents?
- Are user reports of bad behavior going unactioned for too long?
- Is it unfeasible to implement additional automoderator measures to reduce the number of incidents?
You may also have specific duties that you require of your moderators beyond typical server moderation. Be sure to analyze these as well and determine if there is any shortfall between what your mod team needs to do and what it is currently able to do.
An example of what this situation might look like is if your moderators might also be the ones handling technical support requests, or contributing to another site. If you need people for a specific task it might make sense to create a separate role for those people.
If you decide that you do need to select new mods an important part of recruiting new mods is having a well-defined selection process. Here are a few things that you should consider when establishing this process:
- How are candidates selected? Either recruitment or mod applications
- How do you vet people that might not be a good fit?
- How is the current moderation team involved in this decision?
- What permissions you want to give out to newer staff?
Selection is a highly subjective topic; some servers accept new members via a vote, some have rules where the decision has to be unanimous, and others are more open. In all cases, it’s important to consider that the person is someone you and your team would be comfortable working with.
There are 3 main ways a candidate might be brought to the mod team for acceptance that can be mixed and matched, but it’s usually recommended to only have 1 official method:
- The most common method in smaller servers is the owner selecting new mods. This works in the earlier stages, but as the server grows in number of staff it may discourage healthy discussion about that person that may be relevant (like behavior in other communities that might show who that person really is or things that might hurt the reputation of the mod team as a whole).
- The second most common is having an application form. While this is effective in obtaining the information that you are looking for, it might attract people that just want to be a moderator for the power or status. It will also change their behavior in the main chat as they know they have eyes on them, which might make it harder for the mod team to evaluate how truthful the responses to the form were.
- The main advantage of this is that it would let you modify the form to find a person for a specific purpose and might include an optional follow-up interview. Be careful about “application floods” and have methods to filter low-quality applications out (like captchas, questions about your server where if you get it wrong it gets automatically rejected, random questions to prevent bots, or small tests like type your timezone in a specific format). You can also provide a basic test of competence, if they can’t manage the simple elements of the form, they won't manage as mod.
- Finally, you can have the members of your current moderation team recommend users as candidates. As the user is not aware that they are being assessed for staff, it means that their behavior in chat is unchanged from their typical behavior. With time and observation, this allows you to find the answers to the questions that would have been on your form along with extra red or green flags. It also allows you to find people that would never apply for staff in a form due to reluctance or lack of confidence, but that would be a great fit for your moderation team.
- The drawbacks to this process is that it tends to introduce more work in the vetting process, as it’s not as linear as an application form. Additionally, it might result in a more limited scope of candidates.
An important consideration when selecting moderators is determining if the candidate is able to do their job effectively. A lot of server owners pick their own friends to mod their servers, which might result in personality clashes, unproductive discussions about rules, or inactive mods that can’t meaningfully contribute to discussions.
A good question to ask yourself is: “Do I trust this person?” For example, you might not want to suggest anyone that has not been actively helping for at least a year. During that year you can come to know the person, and it can help you determine if they are more interested in the good of the community as a whole and not just a role. You are looking for experience and willingness to improve the community.
External research can also be beneficial, such as a quick Google search that could show other communities this person might be involved with or asking for their experience on the application form. If you find them in moderation roles in other communities, perhaps it may be worth speaking to the leadership of other communities the user is involved in to get their opinion on that potential moderator’s work ethic and general attitude.
Ascertaining someone’s motive for becoming a moderator is another thing to consider. Think about why they want to be involved in your community in this way, what is motivating them. Some points to think about include:
- Are they just trying to get more status?
- Do they have new ideas or contacts, but don’t necessarily need to be part of the staff team?
- Do they have a history of problems with specific users that might bias their decision making? Is that a deal breaker or do they seem capable of deferring those connections to other moderators who are uninvolved?
Be mindful that asking the user for their motives directly or giving any hints about potential promotions might change their behavior. Instead focus on looking for clues on how they interact with the rest of the community in order to determine their reasons.
That being said, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding to vet a potential mod. While vetting users in this manner may be a better fit for larger communities, it's maybe less applicable to smaller, more intimate servers. It's worth noting this is an example and that the vetting process differs depending upon the size of the server and the servers' needs, but regardless of server size candidates should show a dedicated and long-term invested interest and desire to help in the community.
After you’ve made your selections and you (and your mod team!) are comfortable with having them join the team, it’s time to consider how to onboard them.
One of the most important parts of bringing new people is the onboarding process. A well thought out process can make people effective faster, with minimal misunderstandings and mistakes from the onset. Utilizing the techniques and implementing the tips in 302: Developing Moderator Guidelines can help you create a guideline for your moderation team that makes onboarding easier for all parties involved.
The efforts put into the early stages of moderator management pay off in multitudes down the line. Having a deliberate and carefully thought out process for selecting your mods ensures that your moderation team grows in a stable and effective way with your server. The foundation of any good community is a well moderated community, and the foundation for a well moderated community lies in having great moderators.