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Among the many traits that I value in a moderator, one of the most important is a strong attention to detail.

Details matter. A lot. Details are the difference between a post that violates your guidelines and one that doesn’t. Details are what ensures consistency in the application of those guidelines and in the handling of questionable content.

As administrator, I like to think of myself as moderation quality assurance. My staff removes the content that they feel is in violation of our guidelines, in line with our system of training, previous actions and our staff guidelines and manuals.

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Exploring Marshy End of Cheney Pond
Creative Commons License photo credit: andyarthur

If you run an online community, some people will refer to you as Hitler. Or some derivative. It’s a part of the job and is often a sign that you are doing your job well.

But, you know, not everyone thinks that you’re Hitler, some people do appreciate what you are trying to do. Some people appreciate that you make them aware of the guidelines and what they can and cannot do, some people appreciate the effort that you put in, when it comes to moderation, because they’ve been at communities that didn’t.

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photo credit: Justin Sternberg

I have grown to become very careful about my usage of the word “friend,” when I am talking about other people. A lot of people have really diluted this term to the point where, for some, it means “person that I once had a pleasant conversation with” or “someone I paid to do something for me” or “person who helped me that time.”

Though I do slip up once in a while, when I call someone my friend, believe me when I say that. There are differing levels of friendship and I have friends who I am closer to than others and who I trust with more than others, but if I call someone my friend, I’ve established some form of a meaningful relationship with them, in public and/or in private.

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Sometimes I feel like forums don’t get the respect they deserve, in the grand scheme of social media. Sometimes people want to put forums in a box, separate them from the social media “movement,” as if they are separate or as if they aren’t just as important to the whole thing as Facebook or Twitter or the buzz platform du jour.

This is disregarding that, in large part, social media is forums, or threaded text-based conversation. Forums are everywhere – it doesn’t have to be called a forum to be one or to have similar functionality.

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PS3 line #4
Creative Commons License photo credit: dalvenjah

I am one of the co-hosts on the SitePoint Podcast and we’re preparing to host a live show at WordCamp Raleigh, a WordPress-focused conference that will run from May 21-22. I will be speaking at the event, as well, leading a session titled “Comment Moderation 201.” So, if you’re in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, please give it a look as I’d love to meet you.

Back on topic, I was looking for a guest or two to invite to our live show, outside of conference speakers and attendees. Basically, I was looking for some forward thinking individuals that have made a name for themselves thanks to their business and/or social media acumen. I noticed that Epic Games, the company behind the popular Gears of War series and Unreal game engine, was based in Cary, not too far from Raleigh. So, I was thinking, maybe someone from the company would be a good fit.

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Stop. Just apologize. When you come to my community and you post something that references your company, website or client in any way, even if it is related to the thread you are posting on in some way, it is not appropriate. And that’s on you. It’s your fault for assuming too much, for not reading the guidelines and for not asking first.

When a member of my staff, or me, contact you to let you know that the post is advertising, there is nothing for you to justify. Whatever reason you had in your mind, about why your post was OK, it was wrong, and for you to try to play the victim on that, is not a good situation.

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There is always a lot of heavy, meaningful stuff going on in the world. Death, destruction and tragedy and what can be done to help.

Your community might be about something on this level – dealing with illness or struggle in some way, for example. But, chances are, your community isn’t really as important as these concerns in the grand scheme of things. I know mine aren’t: phpBB, Photoshop, community management and the martial arts.

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My good friend Stephan Segraves turned me on to a “story” about the United States Department of the Interior offering a salary of up to $115,000 to “run a Facebook page.” A Google search will give you a taste of what is being said.

Chris Moody of the Daily Caller appears to have been been the kicking off point for most of the subsequent articles and coverage of this story. His article, “Uncle Sam shelling out big bucks for government jobs, GOP says time to cut,” includes the following excerpts:

The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs needs someone to run the Facebook page for the Dept. of the Interior and they’ll pay up to $115,000 a year. …

Republican policymakers looking for more ways to slash government spending think Uncle Sam is being mighty too loose when it comes to how he doles out the cash to his employees, and if the GOP has its way, the $115,000 taxpayer-funded Twitter gurus at the Dept. of the Interior could become a thing of the past. …

The parties are currently negotiating exactly what will be left in the final bill when it reaches the president’s desk, but in this era of budget cuts, it could become increasingly difficult for federal agencies to justify six-figure salaries for Facebook posts.

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It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how kind you are, how much common sense that you have, as a manager (community manager or otherwise), if the people that you have on the front line are ignorant, poorly trained and unable to communicate clearly and respectfully.

If these people mess up a relationship with a fan, client or customer, the damage will have been done and, by the time that person reaches you and your level of authority (if they reach it at all), they will already be angered or disappointed.

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