Answers: Sally, how and when did you get
started as a moderator?
Sally: My first
moderating job was in 1999. I was looking for something to do
while trying to get a business as an Internet Researcher started
and I answered an
ad. After an online interview I was hired and then given
training to become a professional moderator for both boards and
first of several
assignments was with
the Martha Stewart Living site where I moderated the "Gardening" chat, and I also moderated the "Home" chat quite a bit. I started with the idea that
this was something I could do "in the meantime" and found that I
loved moderating enough to make it my primary focus and
Please share with us one of your most memorable
experiences as a moderator.
When I was working on
the Martha Stewart site it wasn't unusual for members to become familiar and
comfortable with each other - similar to an extended
family. One day in the Gardening chat room one of my members came
into the room really down. His pet cat had
died. This member was the only person in my chat room at the time so we just talked. Since I have several
cats myself, I understood
the depth of his loss by realizing what it would mean to
me. This sort of broke the ice with him and I always
looked forward to seeing him during my shifts.
What are some of the challenges that you have
faced as a moderator?
moderators face "unruly" rooms at one time or another where everyone
wants to talk at once and if a member doesn't get the
floor they tend to
get upset. You have
to learn to relax and then "untangle" the discussion by asking both
direct and indirect
questions to give each member a chance to discuss what
they want to.
it's as simple as saying: "Jane, why don't you ask your question
first and then we'll give Mary a chance to speak." Other
times, if the discussion is more of a "flame" or argument you can
ask questions or make statements to gently guide the chat in a
I think the
biggest challenge I ever faced, and thankfully not very often, was when someone in
a room just wouldn't settle down and did their best to cause
trouble. This could have
been anything from
an off-topic subject they kept trying to
bring up, insulting other members, or using profanity, to give a few examples.
It is always
hard to decide when it is time to remove someone from a room and
block their access. It is not just a matter of kicking
them out - they should be warned (privately) and if the situation
blocked. No one likes that part of the job.
challenge is when the room is slow and you feel like you're trying
to pull teeth to get a topic started. I found that if you
asked pointed questions on how someone would do something or what
their favorite flower was, how they'd redecorate a room,
etc., it often helped.
The job of a
moderator is to make people a part of the community and help them to
enjoy their experience safely in the chat room or on a message board. On the
lighter side, I found it
a "personal" challenge to be in a lively chat room and uh-oh,
you've drank too much tea! LOL That is a challenge of
still another kind! Luckily no one can see your face when
you're online! ;)
Based upon your own interests, what would be
your ideal moderation assignment?
Sally: Since I have
a wide range of interests that's a tough question! When I
think back, the assignments I
enjoyed most were moderating
when the topics allowed for a wide range of discussion within
the general topic. Such as gardening, we talked about methods in
many different types of climate and soil and what to do during different times of the
year...along with the different plants and needs. I loved
learning from the members and also searching and finding information
for their questions.
lively discussion and love to learn new things so I would enjoy
being in rooms where I had enough knowledge not to feel or sound
like a fool and could
still learn from the members of my
community. Today, I
think I would enjoy being in a community that was discussing current
events, books, women's issues, or new technology.
However, my ideal
assignment would be in a community that was
well-structured with listed rules of conduct and a supervisor or manager that could be reached easily
for questions or problems. The community manager sets the tone
for the moderators just as the moderator sets the tone for the
discussion, both boards and chat, so I think it's important to have
an experienced and approachable supervisor.
If you had some words of advice to give other
moderators, what would they be?
Sally: For me, the training was important in that
it gave me the knowledge and confidence to do my job. It was
also a resource for me if I had questions. So, if you have the opportunity -go through training and always
be willing to get
additional training. Several of my jobs have required training
site's particular community and software and I was very
glad to participate and learn
that your environment around the computer be a pleasant one and
conducive to your concentration. Personally, I
have found soft music and lighting to be helpful.
In the past, during quiet times in chat I would
read or do some surfing in connection
with the topic I was
moderating, setting the controls to warn me if someone entered the room. And although many people joke
about being able to wear pajamas to work I never did. I found
that I felt more professional and at ease by wearing casual street
clothes to do my work.
relax and enjoy yourself! It is so important
and if you're enjoying your job it is going to come across to the