Nearly all active message forums need moderation, as unmoderated forums can quickly degenerate into obscenity, slander and even illegal activity. Being a forum moderator offers a good learning experience and a taste of authority, but it feels a lot different from participating as a regular member. As a moderator, you have to go where you are needed and spend time handling flagged posts. We also want would like moderators to help build a community at the forum by participating in it.
Most websites that offer message forums also have terms of service that describe what constitutes unacceptable behaviour on the forums. Unacceptable behaviour might include posts that provide links to illegal downloads or pornography, posts containing bigotry, posts that personally attack other forum participants and posts that disrupt the existing conversation. Posts that violate the terms of service need to be deleted, and that job usually falls to the “moderators,” special users who have authority to edit or delete other people’s posts. They patrol the forum on a daily basis, looking for unacceptable posts and responding to “flagged posts” that other forum members call to their attention. Effective moderators need to know the terms of service well and must be able to put aside their personal views to enforce the rules impartially, favouring no one. Good forum moderation demonstrates responsibility, consistency, discipline, judgment and diplomacy — all marketable traits.
To become a volunteer moderator with Care Leavers Connect, first you have to join the community there as a regular member. Administrators overwhelmingly prefer to appoint moderators from the existing community membership — people who have a long posting history and a solid reputation. Selecting a community member makes the new moderator more of a known quantity and less likely to disappear without warning — a common risk in Internet relationships.
The process of building a solid reputation involves much more than just making posts. You have to demonstrate two kinds of value. First, you have to enrich the community culture. Your posts must lift up the discussion by being thoughtful, respectful and demonstrative of your knowledge and good character. These kinds of posts encourage other people to participate in a richer conversation. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an edgy style or an irreverent attitude, and indeed many forums thrive on being outspoken and even aggressive. But it does mean you have to bring style, substance and honour to your participation.
Second, you have to demonstrate that you deserve to hold the power of a moderator to modify or delete other users’ posts. To be a good moderator, it isn’t enough to be a valued member of the community. You also have to be able to act in accordance with the website’s interests, show good judgment and trustworthiness and commit to the responsibility of moderation — an endless, sometimes thankless task.