Mods as volunteers and/or employees
I'm mulling over the idea of an industry forum that would help to make people aware of a product. Reading through these threads and experience on other forums I'm aware of the need of good moderators.
So if this is a money making forum then do you pay your moderators as employees? Do you wait for certain didicated individuals to pop up on the forum and invite them to be mods? Can I expect people to just volunteer their time? Do you just give incentives like t-shirts and expect them to continue out of loyalty? I'm particularly interested on how WW gets and keeps such great moderators?
Timotheos, if your forum is going to push a certain product, then the moderators are part of your marketing department. You should pay them, just as you would any other employees.
Guess I knew the answer to that ;-) But as a start up what are we talking about here? Supposedly the moderators have day jobs. The mod stint would then be some extra income but what's a fair estimation of their time and/or worth?
|I'm particularly interested on how WW gets and keeps such great moderators? |
On behalf of the mods as a group, thanks, Timotheos. It's probably the six-figure salaries that do it. Ha, ha... nice try! ;)
Motivating mods is an interesting topic. Volunteer mods are the best, and not only because of cost. If a volunteer is committed to doing a good job, he or she will check in whenever possible, even at odd hours. An employee is more likely to treat moderating as an hourly job. If your board is providing a free service, volunteer mods will emerge. If it is perceived as being profit oriented, they may be reluctant to help without compensation.
A few ways to incent mods, moving along the volunteer to paid spectrum:
1) Self-fulfillment (helping others), recognition (as an expert), praise, prestige, etc.
2) Swag (shirts, gift items, etc.)
3) Benefits (access to discounted or free products or services from the site)
4) Stipend (periodic check, not related to time worked, to say "thanks")
5) Pay (hourly, weekly, etc.)
I would like to be a mod here when I grow up (in WW's eyes that is).
Can't wait to get my 1000 or so posts so I can apply. From the way things are going, it's gonna be a while!
It sucks that the posts in the supporters forum don't count. I wasted a couple hundred posts in there. I don't even go in there anymore to post because I want credit. Seems like WW's SUPPORTERS should get should get their posts counted too!
<I edited this to get away from talking about mod incenvives>
There are mods on WebmasterWorld with less the 1000 posts - until they made me a mod it was based on knowledge etc. I just proved that throwing $20 Bretts way works wonders: ;)
To get back on topic though, moderators should be chosen (IMHO) on their knowledge, experience and (I think) most importantly on their "demeanour" on a forum. Is the person generally friendly, do they help post in threads even if the topic may be quite straightforward for them etc?
As for incentives, for me I wanted to help out an give something back to WebmasterWorld. I figured that I got so much from here it would only be fair to give a little back. It's good for the CV and great for networking.
I'm a big big fan of the community spirit that still exists on online "eCities" like WebmasterWorld and the free exchange of knowledge and experience.
I actually haven't given my moderators anything for being moderators besides my partners who I start the site with. Why? Because they volinteered, I have however given them xmas gifts and such like that. If the site gets t-shirts I send them shirts and other goodies.
However one of my moderators has learned a lot and plans on doing a book. :) Rewards in itself?
Thanks for the comments guys.
SEOMike, I take it you haven't read the Moderator's Guide [webmasterworld.com]. It says you only need 300 posts but it looks like the manual could use an update.
I know it is tough - but we really don't want to get into a discussion about specific policy or moderation qualifications with regard to WebmasterWorld.
One thing you will find is what works on site X will not work on site Y.
Be sure to confirm your moderators knowledge if applicable. Sometimes you just need an editor, but others you need a real SME (subject matter expert). You wouldn't wany someone giving out advice that isn't right! That's one of the things that makes WW so great!
[edited by: rogerd at 2:53 pm (utc) on May 17, 2004]
[edit reason] Removed WebmasterWorld-specific comments per forum charter [/edit]
Good distinction, Mike. I lean toward mods with people skills and the time available to do a good job rather than those with high levels of topical knowledge. (Of course, if you can get everything in one person, all the better!)
I think a mod has to be enthusiastic about the community.
On our forum site (which is vastly different topic-wise than WebmasterWorld), our mods actively recruit new members interested in the topic for the board. The mods truly love the site as much as the topic, and it makes for a great experience.
The mods are the same way here. Having an active interest in seeing the community grow is a necessary qualification for a moderator, IMHO.
I think part of the original question hasn't been answered yet (or at least I'd like some more advice on it). How do you go about recruiting mods in the first place?
When the forum is just starting out, it's hard to judge character and skills on just a few posts. What are your experiences with recruiting mods in the early times of your forums?
I'm sure, after a while, if you have a popular forum you will have people that volunteer for the positions. There will probably be even more volunteers than positions in most cases. However, in that first month or year or so, it will probably be harder to ask someone to volunteer their time for a forum that may only have a few posts a day. What are your experiences during this time? Did you advertise on your site that you were looking for moderators? If it's too early for subscriptions and "big forum" perks, what incentives have you offered mods?
1000 posts, eh? Hmmm - only 4 to go ;)
One established and fairly active forum I know of has never had outside moderators. I believe that all the moderation up to this point has been done by one or two people (maybe 3) for the forums entire history. This is an active and pretty well known forum in it's field.
They are now attempting to recruit what might otherwise be called mods, and are offering to share some of the advertizing revenue as an incentive.
It'll be interesting to see how that works out.
I tend to think in another direction here. A moderator is by (perhaps unwritten....) definition a person TRUSTED to deal with (sometimes) a LOT of dreck, to maintain a certain decorum, to implement "carrots" for obstinate "donkeys". Sometimes a mod MUST be so knowledgeable about the forum-specifics that had heesh had the time and the interest, heesh would have done the forum to begin with. Sometimes, heesh just needs to be the "mom"....
There are varying scenarios as regards moderating a forum. It depends in main on what the forum is set to (hopefully) provide; to what broad or narrow spectrum of humanity the forum will appeal; to which particular ego-stroke the forum is expected to minister.
In fine, one reduces the mod situation to levels of interest combined with expertise. A mod can make or break a forum, even an established one. I have experience with both faces, the light and the dark. The first gives a fist-pumping "YES!", the other causes tears.
Choosing a mod for your forum is sometimes like choosing a life-partner. If you get it wrong, it will NEVER EVER BE RIGHT, no matter WHAT you do, no matter how many agonies you go through. When you get it right, the goddess smiles on your head, and sunshine (or rain, if you're like me a rain-folk) follows all your days....
[Perspective here from "small" forums, not a large effort such as WebmasterWorld, btw!]
Edit for typos: *sigh*
Chadmg, to respond to your question about recruiting mods, I think a combination of volunteers/invitees is typical. Whether the person suggests himself/herself or I send an unsolicited invitation, I look for a fairly extensive history of stable and friendly posting. Detailed topical knowledge is nice, but patience and people skills are more important. A mod with a short fuse won't succeed. If you find a long term poster who seems good at welcoming newbies and calming down volatile threads, you've got a potential mod.
Posting volume CAN be important, not because of verbosity but because it indicates a commitment of time to your forum. A member who can only check in a few times a week won't make a good mod regardless of their other characteristics.
I think incentives are just that - little pluses recognizing the contributions that mods make. If you start edging toward monetary compensation, you could be starting down a road of unrecoverable expense. Few forums are so profitable as to be able to justify mods who are fully compensated for the value of their time. From what I've seen, the only forums that support properly compensated mods are forums that serve another business purpose (support forums, corporate-sponsored forums, etc.) and run at a net loss.
|If you start edging toward monetary compensation, you could be starting down a road of unrecoverable expense. Few forums are so profitable as to be able to justify mods who are fully compensated for the value of their time. |
I wonder about this.
Some revenue sharing is one thing, it may be just a small amount, a token really. It doesn't take a lot to encourage people to do what they would gladly do for free.
What's the difference between a few perks like t-shirts, caps, or dinner for two at a nice cafe once a month and a cash payment based on revenue sharing that could buy the same things?
I suppose the difference could be simply chalked up to perspective. But maybe not. Maybe the real difference is that the former gives a sense of greater appreciation coming from the forum owner to the mod. maybe the latter engenders more of a sense of "earned" compensation on the part of the mod.
That is the biggest problem I see offhand for revenue sharing, it can be seen as moving the relationship into the employee/employer type situation.
Maybe the trick here is to carefully define the relationship before it is established.
"Fully compensated" is really another matter, and clearly moves the situation into employee/employer relationship. That's a completely different story.
How to make a forum finacially successful might be a good topic for another thread.
Actually, sharing ad revenue will create an employee (or contractor) relationship. In the U.S., this will have to be reported to the IRS, appropriate taxes deducted, etc. if it is an employee relationship. Payments over $600 in a calendar year must be reported to the IRS even if the relationship is that of a contractor rather than an employee.
The contractor mode is definitely easier for the company to cope with, and if the mod is working mostly unsupervised, setting his own hours, etc., the relationship will probably stand the employee vs. contractor test. One plus is that by being paid as a contractor the mod can probably deduct expenses related to that activity (internet connection, a portion of hardware/software, etc.)
I still do think that financial incentives can be a slippery slope.
One incentive idea that just occurred to me - if the site had a budget, paying for the mod's internet connection would probably be completely kosher from a tax standpoint, and, as reimbusement of a direct expense, wouldn't generate any tax consequences for the mod or any employee/contractor paperwork for the site. (I'm not a tax accountant, though.)
Since my site is budgetless, my incentives for my mods are the occasional Amazon g/c or some little trinket that they would appreciate...when I have the money to afford it. I also have one level below mods, the main regulars and they get access to a private forum for discussing things amongst themselves. It helps them bond and it gives them something a little bit above what the regular user gets. Plus, it's all I can afford right now. :)
Your situation is far more common, AAnnAArchy, than those where mods can be paid.
This situation isn't dissimilar to volunteer management issues faced by non-profit groups, i.e., how do you manage, recognize and reward people who work without pay. Of course, the more it looks like a site is making money, the more restive volunteers might get. Hence, overcommercialization is not a good idea, while recognizing the community benefits from mod work is a good thing.
These things can be balanced - I've seen six-figure hospital executives lavishing praise on unpaid volunteers who staff the gift shop, etc. Although one might expect resentment, such conflict was avoided by emphasizing the overall mission of the organization and the role in this mission played by each member.
I like incentives that tie into the community, e.g., a site logo polo shirt vs. an unrelated gift. Certainly not all incentives have to be that way, of course.