Last time on the Modcast Podcast, we discussed how to get involved in moderation. This week, we're taking a look at moderation with (and without) teams. Our guests this episode are Panley and Cupid joined by, of course, our lovely hosts Sean and Kairi.

Episode Guests

We're joined by Panley, a moderator and community manager for many content creators across both Discord and Twitch. Her moderation journey started with the Yogscast, who she still remains with, and she also happens to be the Director of this podcast alongside an avid programmer with a focus on auto-moderation.

We are also joined by Cupid, or Tyler, who mainly moderates for Gay Geeks and has been with them for the past two years. Additionally, he moderates a bunch of other Discord servers, both large and small, and assists in graphic design.

Topics

Personal History Of Moderating

As with our last episode, we first want to know about our guests history in moderation, focusing on the type of communities and mod team structures.

Cupid started off with telling us about his 8 years of small Twitch moderation, bringing a focus to his 2 year history at Gay Geeks (with about 15k+ members) as well as little friend servers he moderators or administrates. For these 15 thousand members, Gay Geeks has about 15 active mods to ensure everyone's behaving, as well as having community guides. Elaborating on this, community guides are a step before mods to get a feel of what the server is like before becoming moderators. They get to do similar stuff as mods, such as welcoming people and such but they don't get to ban people, similar to trial mod positions. On his smaller Twitch channels, they are typically under a thousand followers so Cupid's the only one moderating.

Panley's moderation start was with the Yogscast, specifically InTheLittleWood (working alongside about 20-25 mods), which she comments was quite a big start to moderation. Her teams for this reason are mostly big, but recently she's been with smaller teams, such as the Modcast team as well as her personal streaming team. Back to the Yogscast, Panley has started off with moderation but has branched out now to focus on administrative duties rather than moderation, such as spearheading moderation teams for Yogscast members. This leads to her generally working with large moderation teams, making sure everyone knows how and why they do things as the mods for different members can come from wildly different places. Across all these members, she works with an amazing 200-250 mods taking into account Twitch, Discord, Reddit, and the forums.

Solo Moderation

Moving on from the history of our guest's moderation, we discuss solo moderation. Most moderators start off this way, such as Cupid, but not all, as we saw with Panley. As a single moderator, you have no one to disagree with, and can rule however you want without communication problems, right? But as Kairi brings up, it's not all sunshine and flowers as there's the potential for loneliness or a rough time moderating.

Panley started us off, as she's mentioned history of moderating her own streams by herself, telling us that moderating by yourself is easy for a long time. However, when your chat starts to no longer just be regulars and there's people you don't know or recognize, this is where Panley suggests you should get another mod. The signs she saw where she felt she should get another mod are when she would not recognize people in her chat alongside issues popping up in chat, which are especially hard to deal with as the streamer, because you're busy, well, streaming.

Sean brought up an interesting question, asking about the energy split between creating the content as a streamer and interacting with chat (to an extent further than streamers typically do). In response, Panley discussed how moderation goes hand in hand with growth as a streamer. As chat and moderation gets bigger, and you need tools like text-to-speech to interact with chat, this is where you should start looking at getting moderators.

If you can't keep up with every single message in chat to interact [with], then you can't stay up to date with moderation.

This, of course. changes based on what you're streaming. Streaming fast-paced games would need extra moderators sooner than someone streaming more chill or community-based streams. Panley mentioned that this also extends to Discord, as community-based Discord servers would result in you having your eye on them more, which means a smaller mod team is needed, compared to a server where you are less associated with the community, such as brand servers.

Cupid agreed, again bringing up that the moderation of chat can change depending on the game you're playing, due to different levels of focus needed for games. In these cases, he would get a friend in a call with him or in the chat to help him out. Other times, such as streaming single-player Minecraft, you can just pause your game and deal with chat. With growth typically comes variety of games, which means a bigger staff team would be needed to help. In most cases of playing fast-paced games, he'd be playing with a friend and ask them to check chat out if they die first. Another point Cupid brought up was having the LGBTQ+ tag on his streams draws in more trolls, but his chat knows he (or his mod) will get to it when they can.

Bridging away from solo moderation, Sean posed a question to the guests asking about a time where they've acted on something that the streamer thought should not have been acted upon, or vice versa. Panley shared an example she experienced of a problematic user being problematic elsewhere resulting in their removal in another stream (hopefully you can wrap your head around that), leading to them asking the streamer "what's up?". In most cases, it is simply down to lack of communication and not a fundamental disagreement. Building off of this, Cupid shared his own example of a time where he had deleted a toxic message... from the streamers best friends. Situations like these are tough to deal with, as moderation should never include favouritism, which led Cupid to resign from the streamers moderation team. Kairi agreed with the resignation, with Sean bringing up how while you act a certain way around friends in private, you can't always act the same way in public spaces, such as stream chat.

Along the same lines, Panley shared her own experience where she allowed jokes from her friends in her Discord server, as she was in a unique situation where her server had transformed from a personal server to a server focused around her streaming career. In retrospect, it would have been better not to allow these due to it causing more issues in the long run.

I think it's kind of good, to identify in yourself, that you should not ignore transgressions just because of the person who made them. That absolutely did cause some problems later on, once my server became a public place.

Elaborating upon Panley's points, Sean discussed how moderation sets a standard for the community you want. Communities on the more edgy side must think through the external perception of them "and what the overall state of the community will be, versus a community that's more friendly and wholesome".

Cupid shared some insight of his experience with smaller servers. Typically, these are friend servers where you're brought upon as a moderator or admin. These friends then invite their friends, who invite their friends. Moderation becomes a headache in this situation, as when you tell someone off, they might be friends with another member of the moderator team who attempts to justify it, which should not be condoned. What's the point of being staff if you can't uphold the rules?

In order to stop these sort of things, Cupid is just direct. Allowing members to walk over you will just allow little things to snowball and reach a point where other members too will not listen to you as they'll think "Why should we listen to you if they're allowed to roam free?". Nip it in the bud, and they probably won't do it again. Sharing this sentiment, Sean gave a great analogy to help everyone understand.

If the community knows the moderators are there, and that the moderators care, there's just a very different set of behaviours, right, because the community is like, this garden is maintained, you can't weed wherever you want.

Bigger Team Moderating

While most people will generally not find themselves in a place like this, it's important to talk about the differences in moderating alone, or with a few other people, versus teams with tens of moderators, due to communication issues and other changes that come with larger moderation teams.

A couple of questions were given to our guests from the get go: was there a moment of realization where they thought "Holy cow, this is a huge mod team", do you have that same sense of community as you do with smaller mod teams, and how do you make sure you're aligned on communication on topic such as policies and principles?

Gay Geeks remains the biggest server Cupid moderators, with a team of only 15 moderators, which has a very big sense of community. While he hasn't experienced this, he has seen bigger servers with 20+ mods who essentially flock together against users which causes quite a scare, especially for first time users. Just like we discussed in another episode regarding a "wall of swords" in Twitch chat, Cupid agrees that it can be daunting to have the right side of your screen filled with 20 moderators. Moreover, when he does experience multiple mods attempting to take on one case, a staff would hop into mod chat and poke another saying "Hey, that was my case" or asking to take over or so. Kairi shared another easy way to tell if a mod has that case which is to check out the typing indicators, although this can sometimes lead to both mods stopping at the same time.

Both our hosts and second guest Panley agreed that you must make sure you have communication, regardless of the size, but especially with bigger mod teams. A mod team of 15 is sort of large, Panley commented, but is needed to cover timezones, as well as when you're on a server of minorities which has a higher risk of raids and other negative aspects.  As Sean commented, big servers with no purpose generally require less mods as there is no reason for anyone to specifically target that server.

On a related topic, Panley brought up one of the craziest moderation she's seen, on a flat Earth Discord server. Due to the topic of the server, they had both a gating system before gating systems were popular, and some of the robust moderation she's seen on Discord because of constantly being a target for trolls.

It was amazing. It's crazy, you'd go into a VC to verify that you're actually a person and that you're not going to cause a problem, so they actually had mods sitting in all of these VCs vetting new users as they were coming in. You'd also be given access to different channels, based on what you said in those VCs- what your beliefs were.

This brought up an interesting comment from Sean. Spending time on on-boarding can reduce your needs for moderation, as you'll make sure everyone who joins will contribute, and isn't just here to cause a ruckus. This was also correlated from the observations on Discord's side. As Panley put it, you filter your coffee before you drink it- but you don't filter it too much, or then you're just drinking water.

With Yogscast having over a hundred moderators across the network, Panley gave us some insight on just how differently it is compared to smaller teams such as in Gay Geeks. Panley did share the sentiment that it was less personal, and has more of a workplace tone to it. Each mod run their own communities in their own teams, but if there's something bad enough, or they need help with something, they would go to this small central place for the Yogscast network moderators to gather in. Organization and policies are not too tough, as mostly everyone agrees on what's considered "bad". It is, however, not completely workplace like as Panley did mention that it is "kind of close-knit", for better or for worse, as bigger issues such as streamer harassment can have overlap. Everyone that she moderates with enjoys what they're doing, which comes together to make moderation an enjoyable experience for the Yogscast. It's all communication when it gets to a large scale.

Conflict Within A Team

While this topic was touched upon earlier, our hosts decided to revisit it with further questions such as what happens when you disagree with other moderators and how resolving conflict works, especially within bigger teams.

In Yogscast, each mod team mods for their own creator. When conflict arises, it is dealt with in these mod teams.  Panley rarely comes in, notably when conflict arises within her mod team or conflict unrelated to any specific mod teams, such as interpersonal conflicts. There are very little conflicts she's experienced most of which are interpersonal, "mods are generally civil to each other". This wording interested Sean, prompting him to ask when they aren't quite civil to each other. Panley responded that humans are humans. Disagreements regarding something they're passionate about is "going to be a point of contention".

What I will say here is just because your perspective isn't wrong, it doesn't mean the other person's [perspective] is wrong, either. I think that there are a lot of debates that one person would say "I'm right, they're wrong" [but] perhaps you're both right.

This advice works for not just moderation but life conflicts in general. The most important thing is to ensure all perspectives are heard, and disagreements are constructive. Upon prompting from Kairi, Panley brought up that if a conflict involves her, she will only keep talking if she feels it is constructive to keep talking. If it is only going to cause problems, you need to get third party help as it is important to get disagreements sorted with.

On Cupid's side, he sees his moderation team as a family, and thus find it generally easy to just talk to someone else and work it out, or, if talking to them didn't work, escalate it to an admin. In the worst case scenario, sometimes there is a fundamental disagreement of ideals and you might have to step down. In worse than worse case scenario, sometimes discussing in a voice chat can get quite heated due to tone being more easily recognizable in voice chats. Voice chats also have no proof, thus if someone gets really heated, you can't nip it in the bud as previously discussed. Texting also gives you a chance to read what you type and think about it before you send it.

Mod Team Hiring

Our final topic here, which was slightly touched on in our first episode, is mod team hiring, firing, and integration.

On Cupid's side, the moderation applications are always open, so they always have a pool of members to possibly promote when in need of new moderators. Once they fill out the form, existing moderators would go through their message history to ensure they would be a good fit for the community. (Un?)fortunately, this can sometimes lead to a great applicant having a terrible history, which leads to the benefit you not having hired them, and the downside of finding out a previously outstanding applicant is actually subpar. While this only rules them out in the current time, there hasn't yet been an occurrence where an applicant improved and was then accepted, sadly. On the brighter side, Gay Geeks has never run into an issue where members would leave (or be kicked) due to the some step in the application process. This does, however, sometimes occur in smaller servers in Cupid's experience.

For Panley's personal server, potential moderators start off with a 40 question "test", with 4 long, open ended questions. The majority of the questions are multiple choices with four choices ranging from best, to okay, to bad and bad. For each answer, the applicant gets points. These points are not, however, set in stone. Panley does go back sometimes and review answers thinking "Hmm, perhaps this should give a point instead of giving none". There is also, at the end, an opportunity for the applicant to give feedback, for cases where they answered most similarly to what they would do but they still had a different opinion on what should be done that wasn't present. After they're accepted, they go through a trial period of a month to see how they would actually do in the "job", to ensure they won't crack under pressure and so.

As Sean points out next, there is a difference in answering hypotheticals on a form and actually experiencing someone spitting out hate speech and having to deal with them. Of course, as Panley raises, almost everyone acts differently under pressure.

Staying calm under pressure is a skill, it's not something that people are born with, in a lot of cases, y'know. People have fight or flight, and neither of those are good responses when you're a moderator, so you have to kind of teach yourself to overcome those things.

As a means of ensuring trial moderators don't crack under pressure, Panley gets existing moderators to come in on alternative accounts and break rules to see the trial moderators response. Acting differently under pressure is just human nature, you just need to get used to situations, or as Sean suggested, and Kairi denied, replacing moderators with robots.

These exercises, for better or for worse, are not required on Gay Geeks. As an LGBTQ+ community, they get every type of troll- voice chat, sleepers, sneaking through their gates, and more. The community over there is also quite tight-knit and proactive, so if someone slips through the cracks, their members feel confident enough to poke a mod.

...And Firing

Unfortunately, things don't always work out. Moderators are sometimes too inactive, or need to be removed for other reasons such as moderators just being not a good fit with your server. Removing moderators can be hard, so we're getting some insight from our guests on the best way to do this.

Again, Cupid's advice here is to be quite upfront with them. If their productivity is declining, check up with them, make sure they're okay. If they don't like doing it, and are just a moderator for the role or power, they're not the moderator you want. On a related note, Panley brought up that sometimes moderators ebb off as they are unable to keep up their commitments for reasons such as going to college or university and thus don't have enough time to moderate. In these cases, Panley shows them the door... but lets them know that the door is still open, for whenever they're got time to come back. Sean shared a linked anecdote here about his declining activity on a subreddit with millions of members due to starting a new job.

It really did get to a point where I was like, well, it is best for the, right, because otherwise it's a little bit weird, that we have people who aren't upholding their end of the bargain, right, that are not pulling their weight, and that feels worse for everyone else, so I ended up stepping down slash being forced to step down, not sure what the difference was.

In regards to situations where the moderator is active, but other things show up such as members feeling uncomfortable with them modding, Cupid brought up that first of all you want proof, to take to the admin and allow them to see if the moderator is a good fit. Panley has had experience with this in her personal server, where there were moderators who were perfectly fine but were also in another splinter server from her personal server where they would backbite on other members, which is not what is wanted in a moderator, who is meant to represent a community. In really bad cases, it would be required to mention everyone and make a public announcement regarding the removal of a moderator due to their prominence in the community. However, if you're in bigger communities, or brand communities, public announcements should not be used as it can grow out of hand if many people are told of the situation and proceed to get involved.

Q&A

As always, if you've got a question suggestion for guests, or a topic suggestion, hop over to our Discord and send it our way in #quest-q-n-a, or #topical!

Two questions from Aymen#1723 and Maze#8139 were already touched upon in the previous topic, and thus will not be gone over again. These questions were related to dealing with active mods, and mods who are a bad fit.

webtax#9393: What should you do when mods give their friends more legroom than others. I've had multiple cases when a mod's friend posts NSFW (in a strictly no NSFW server), and they get away with just a warn. We usually insta-ban for NSFW. Is it bad for a mod to have bias?

Yes. Sean and Kairi both immediately stated this, with Panley elaborating on this. While every moderator will have bias as a member of the community, the problem stems when moderators act upon their bias, both to act less extreme and more extreme. Moderators are there to uphold their rules and not their personal preferences.

Imagine if you let police officers do whatever they want, without telling them you have to be objective. The world would not be a very safe place, police officers would not uphold the law, they would uphold their opinions.

Cupid absolutely agreed, excitedly sharing that bias is absolutely a bad thing. Members being looked down on by moderators and other members will just not allow them to have a good time in the server, and that's just not fair, as Cupid put it. Spreading your negative thoughts upon a member will allow it to snowball and just get bigger and bigger. Never show your negativity to the world. If you have a personal bias against someone, you should get another moderator. It will be much more fair to the user, which is another reason a team is preferred versus moderating as a single moderator.

binchlord#0998: What's the best way to approach people that you just don't really like? They're not bad moderators, but you just don't really vibe with them, and you or the server admins/owners want to build better team cohesion.

Panley right away brings up that a mod team needs to be a sub-culture, each mod needs to get along. Any disagreements need to be taken aside and addressed, preferably with a mediator, to get down to the root of what the issue is and why it is an issue. However, with this said, if a member truly does not interact or get along with the rest of the team properly, they might just have to be removed. If you find yourself in this case, you need to either think personally why it is happening or go up vertically and get objective advice from an administrator.

Going back to the culture of family within a mod team, Sean wanted to get thoughts on Cupid about what to do with a moderator who excels at moderating but does not have interest in interacting with other moderators.  Going back to the work analogies, we have this quote from Cupid.

"You don't have to be best friends with another mod, you're in a way co-workers, acquaintances ... If a mod doesn't want to hang out with you [another mod], that's okay, as long as they're interacting with a community as a whole, they don't have to one-on-one with a mod, or go to an event a mod is hosting."

Back to Panley, as long as your moderator team and community are on the same page, "you're probably going to have a perfectly moderated community, within reason".

Outro

We hope this episode helped you out, whether you're starting fresh as a moderator, or are looking to improve how you work within a team. We'd like to thank our guests Panley and Cupid, and as always, our hosts, Sean and Kairi.

You can find us over at Twitter and Discord to submit a question or interact with the team and other listeners and moderator, and you can listen to the full episode on Spotify, Anchor, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Twitch, or Pocket Casts.

Credits

Sean Li, Host (@seansli)
Kairi, Host (@kairixio)
Panley, Director (@panley01)
Mary Helene Hall, Producer (@maryhelenehall)
Brandon, Audio Editor (@_MetalChain)
Angel, Producer (@AngelRosePetals)
Joe Banks, Engineering lead (@JoeBanksDev)
Dan Humphreys, Social lead (@dan_pixelflow)
Delite, Social media manager (@MaybeDelited)
Drew, Social media manager (@SoTotallyDrew1)
Ahmed, Content writer (@DropheartYT)