Coord 239: Moderating a sanctioned email list

Example Monthly reminder Email

Example Warning Email

How to obtain the position

Like any position that is not an A- prefixed one, a list mod is culled from a varied array of sources.  Some are found by doing all-calls and having individuals interested in a position submit resumes, references, and previous experience.  Others are hired from a pool that might not even know that the soon-to-be boss is interested in torturing them!  But with all the ways to let people know you’re interested, the job only begins when the hat is passed on and the new list mod is hired. If you would like tips on making a resume, please check Officer Education Documnet 101: How to Write a Cam Resume.

How to start, or I’ve just been hired, HELP!

Any list mod should know what format her/his list is using.  There are three primary ones in the MES: MES-based mail lists, Google-Groups, or Yahoo Groups.  The latter two tend to be more used by a specific domain, a local group such as Puerto-Rico Mekhet, or sometimes a national list for an Essex Dynastic House of the First Estate.  Both Yahoo and Google have their demons, and those can be easily dispelled by the Help Section for each website.  The MES Email Servers can easily appear daunting to a beginning list mod, but they are less complicated than they seem at first.  There are a few more in-depth tweaks that can be coded into a list, but for the average list mod, there’s little need for using these unless asked by a supervisor or up the chain.

In each list there exists three main sections.

  • Membership Section:  All members of the list are arranged in alphabetical order and details out each member’s mail choices and information on each member (typically name and number they used for creating the membership process stored by the interface when he/she signed up for the  list).
  • Archives: These allow a viewer to access the previous posts by thread, author, or date.  Each month is kept separate from the next.  These run back to the beginning of the lists’ creation or to the date the current location of the servers when the MES itself was created.
  • Pending applications: The last section for the average list mod is the pending applications of possible list members.  There’s Approve, Deny, and also a secondary area for approving moderated messages for the list.  Either of these sections’ “pending” can be denied, denied with explanation, or approved. Typically the MES is based on an honor system, but it is not a bad idea to clarify that a pending member is an MES-member in good standing (not expired), a member of the Clan/Covenant/OOC-position required to be on the list, or if a name is recognized as one on a small list to be checked with for supervisors’ approval.  There is not a long list of the latter. They tend to be the more overly enthusiastic among the MES.

There are other areas on the list that can be manipulated, including General List Information–a blurb about the list, directions to be coded into the List-programming, and areas about the header and footer for the list–the latter has the email address and url for interface, but can have other information as well.  Previously for the EC Region, a banter list allowed for non-MES communication and the link to that was included on the EC Regional OOC list’s footer for ease.  Other lists have had Wiki urls, list instructions or similar things for a list mod to keep track of easily. All these listed above change very slowly and typically are untouched by list mods during their term.  When coding needs to be changed, a list mod can ask the National or Global Tech Presence for assistance. They’re often the persons behind the coding of the lists!

What I need to remember

A list mod can feel overwhelmed.  This is normal; if you’re not overwhelmed at least once a month, then you have a quiet list.  The larger the quantity of members, the more emails it tends to get.  When the mod can only check his/her email inbox once in awhile rather than immediately, the postings can add up. For some topics, the daily quantity can reach hundreds of posts.  The heart-sinking, the “how can they post so much!?” and the “arrgghhh” are all possibilities.  The best way to approach this is start at the beginning and wade your way through. Not every topic is one a mod will like, but it becomes a skill to be able to read through these emails quickly to make sure no one is disrespecting another poster, and to make sure the topic isn’t one that can be taboo (triggers, piracy such as Pirate Bay and licensure of official White Wolf materials, calling a BoD member names, etc.).  A mod will get a feel for what is good and what can be controversial usually within a month or two.  If a mod becomes uncertain, ask a supervisor.  The supervisor usually can help judge.

A list mod has to give a monthly accounting.  The format changes dependant on the supervisor, but it has three things: quantity of list members, quantity of posts, and the amount and description of problems that had arisen in that month.  The numbers need to be in the supervisor’s hands typically on the first of the next month–the supervisor has to give his supervisor a report as well, and the quicker a mod turns in his/her monthly report, the fast the supervisor can assemble his/hers.

What if the worst happens?

Not everything is ever easy, and list moderating is one of those that have ups and downs.  Typically a larger list such as General OOC/Camarilla-General or US OOC has more violations than a small covenant, clan, path, order, etc type list.  Each violation requires two actions–one, the offending member is emailed with the supervisor, any co-list mods, and list mod reporting list cc’ed as well.  With the last part, when an offender has a previously reported situation, typically the supervisor or other list mods can give feedback to the current mod.  When multiple violations occur the severity increases.  A member is considered to have learned from the previous situation and as such, the current one is aggregated.  Instead of a warning, a person could be  moderated–muted–for a week (Moderated is a status under the memberships url of a list, and is a checkbox that makes the member muted).  A member under moderation has each post examined for nuance and approved or non-approved with proper explanation in the denial interface.  One of the two higher punishments are a month either moderated or permanent removal and banning of the member.  Both typically also include an email notification to the offending member’s *C side local staff for the DC/CC to determine additional charges.

How to make the world go quiet–moderation and how to handle it

The art of moderation is a tightrope act, and sometimes a topic can get so inflammatory that several posters are “yelling” at each other in text form.  When a list gets to the point that each post just heaps fuel on the flame, a list moderator has the two options of “thread kill” or “moderating the entire list”.  Killing a thread typically gets a second thread about “Why did you kill that thread?” so be prepared for it.  People tend to be upset that they are being censored.  Even worse is when each and every post need the list moderator’s approval during the list moderation.  It *is* more work for a mod, but it does make a tremendous point.  This can last anywhere between a 24-hour period and a week at most.  The longer moderations are less used, and that means they are for drastic multiple member violations.  The smaller moderations can be used when a list mod has to be away from the list emails for a few hours and the mod doesn’t trust the members to not dig at each other deeper.  There is an option on the General interface that allows moderation of a list.

Once a list’s posts seem to move on to other topics the moderation can be removed. For rules and guidance on Cool Down periods, check Chapter 4 of the membership handbook.

A job well done

Each month after the report is filed, the supervisor then submits his/her report; in that is a recommendation for Prestige for the list mods.  Reporting is a key for obtaining prestige–without the report the information on what has occurred for the month doesn’t provide the needed basis, the supervisor cannot award the Prestige properly and tends to understate his recommendations.  The Prestige can take several months to be awarded from the *C side chain so don’t be discouraged.

The aftermath, or Whew! It’s over

Handing over the list to a replacing list mod can be a bittersweet experience.  As well as passwords for the moderator/administrative interface, an outgoing mod needs to ensure the new mod knows the previous discipling that has occurred so she can be prepared for any situations that occur during the next mod’s modding of the list.  Once you become a plain member again, you can have a respect for list mods everywhere and can work to keep their loads small–from trimming a signature, to being careful on your tone to keep things calm. The last thing an exitting mod should do is update his resume to include the moderating stint–it is MES experience and can go on the plus side for future positions.

List moderating isn’t always easy, but it can be a fun challenge if a mod keeps the right attitude.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn what you can.