Eliza, who also goes by ekuc (pronounced "e cook"), mainly moderates and does community management for ClassyKatie, alongside being an Esports mod for DreamHack, Faceit, and The International. She also does charity and speedrun modding for organizations such as GamesDoneQuick, ESA, and PlayerVsCancer, and enjoys learning and setting up chatbots for people, as well as helping new streamers get started. She's started with small stream moderation, since 2013.
DJScias, who goes by DJ, has been a lead moderator for the Discord Moderator Program on both Reddit and Discord, starting in 2017. He's also worked on different gaming servers such as Valorant, Borderlands, and Square Enix servers. As a lead mod of the DMP, he's lead, mentored, and helped grow the program as a whole.
Personal History Of Moderating
Our first topic is how our guests got started in moderating, and what helped them get started.
DJ started in 2010 with World Of Warcraft communities, moderating (and going on to lead) groups of a hundred to a few thousand people. After that, he moved on to Arma 3, which had a bit of an older audience. In 2016 he joined Discord Testers, and helped out with little things such as bugs, until the then-owner told him they needed EU mods, and asked if he'd like to moderate. From there, he joined Hypesquad, the DMP program, the Reddit community, and made his way to lead!
Eliza started on Twtich, moderating for a friend of hers who she met through Twitch, branching out to other intertwined communities. She then met ClassyKatie, which opened a lot of opportunities for Eliza in moderation, as she now had the experience to prove her moderation skills. She used this experience on her application for Project 168, which gave her even more experience, allowing her to apply to more moderating positions as she discovered her love for moderation- for keeping communities safe and wholesome for everyone.
For her smaller positions such as her first, there wasn't an application but rather moderator positions were given to people who the streamer knew would guide the community to what the mod wants it to be.
Kairi noticed that for both DJ and Eliza, they started small and worked their way up, just like you'd do with real jobs.
"It's like, oh, I'm just involved in this community and I'm really invested, and I care a lot about it, and suddenly you're in this position of power, and now you're like 'I can really shape what this community is like', and that's a really awesome feeling, I think."
While this is the most typical way for moderators to "progress", Eliza shared that in some of the communities, she's seen that some new moderators would have big communities as their first moderation job, as while experience is important, some people show that they really care for a server the way she did.
In close link to our last topic, the discussion shifted to the qualities that the guests look for in new moderators.
DJ's immediate thoughts were people who showed initiative "before it even matters".
"People that you can see naturally trying to diffuse situations, or, someone joins the server, they don't immediately know what to do, they're just like, 'Hey, how you doing? Can I help you?'"
He also noted that people who created an atmosphere of "I'm better than you because I've been here longer than you" were those who he did not like as much when it came to picking moderators.
Eliza mentioned that one of the qualities she looked for was someone being open-minded. As a moderator, the community isn't always going to fit your ideals and you need to be able to be open-minded enough to understand other viewpoints without arguing, and be able to fit with the, for example, streamer's ideals of his community.
Further discussing the topic, Sean raised some good points on the toughness of picking moderators as a server grows and as chat goes faster than before.
"The bigger the server is, or the faster the chat scrolls, I think a little bit of time, it's harder to pick specific people, y'know. Picking a good person within a group of 50 people is relatively doable, picking out 10 good people in a group of 50,000 people is much harder"
DJ agreed, moving on to discuss how much harder it is to find individuals when your servers grows, and talking about the importance of applications, and how well you can sell yourself. Unfortunately, he brought up that this can be good or bad as some good moderators could be bad writers. For reasons such as this, he did mention that scouting at any size isn't a bad option, but that at a certain point you can't know everyone anymore.
Eliza shared her two cents that moderator applications can serve as a method to gauge interest in who wants to moderate. Once you know who wants to moderate, you can then observe the potential moderators in chat and choose from there. Sean brought up the potential of referral only moderation applications, but Eliza thought that wasn't the best idea for different reasons, such as the people nominated might not want to be moderators.
How to keep a bias-free, level head
Kairi opened this topic up with something many of us have heard before, "I could never be a mod, I'd just want to ban anyone", which is a good lead into the following discussion about what advice is good for new mods on keeping a level head, and how to deal with mods too timid to take action without asking first.
Eliza's advice for those who struggled to keep a level head was to take a break, talk it out with other moderators.
"I really think stepping away, and just taking a breather is probably the best way to get your mind back in the game of where it should be, because you really can't be rude or too mean to people in a community because you represent the title, company- whatever you're representing, you are a figurehead for them."
For new mods, she understood that they will, of course, be a bit timid at first but to help that she tries to emphasise that they can ask whatever question they like, no question is a stupid question.
Upon inquiry from Sean on how you recognize you're in too deep, Eliza said that if you think at all that you're about to say something you'll regret, you're already too far in and need to take a step back.
DJ completely agreed with this, saying that second opinions are your "strongest trump card" as a moderator. It's impossible to know everything from the start. This advice could go for both those struggling to keep a level head and those too timid to act. Different mods have different points of view, thus it's great to get advice from others if you're unsure, as it can make you a better mod to get help from someone else rather than messing up on their own.
It was brought up by Sean that sometimes if a new moderator has a bad first interaction, it can make a bad first impression with the community, clouding their view of the new mod. Eliza, while lucky enough to not experience this, shared that most of her experiences of seeing moderation issues happened later on in the moderators time moderating, with Kairi chiming in that it could be a case of the moderator getting too comfortable. DJ, on the other hand, had advice that he wants to figure out what happened and how big the damage is, to try and figure it out between two parties and fix it. DJ thought that telling the community "Sorry community, we have a newbie here" is not always the best option.
"You also need to reassure the mod, because if they did nothing wrong, then you need to tell them they didn't- if they did then maybe have a chat with them, ask them if they understand what they did and why what they did was wrong, and if they do understand, you can see it as a lesson learned ... but if you notice that there's no fixing this, then perhaps it's necessary to see if it was a bad choice in the end, or maybe a little bit more training- it really depends on case by case."
Going back to Eliza's answer of moderators typically only becoming problematic after being comfortable with the position, Sean added his thoughts that moderation is a hobby but it can suck you in, which can result in moderation burnout and feeling too frustrated when things go wrong.
In an almost seamless transition from the last topic to this, Sean asked the guests how they dealt with moderators who have been good until something changed and they stopped representing themselves, or the entire community, well anymore.
As unfortunate as it is, Eliza shared that sometimes, when a person just snaps all of a sudden into almost a different person, they had to terminate their moderator status as they couldn't be trusted anymore. To try and avoid this, Eliza learnt that it's a great idea to establish friendship with the mod team. Interacting not only as moderators but as friends helps lessen possible burnout.
"If you are good friends, like, close friends with the rest of the mod team, you're going to see yourself being drawn back there. There's not going to be something necessarily to burn out from, because, they're your friends."
Sean liked Eliza's tidbit a lot, adding on that some teams don't have this sense of friendship making it feel more like a job, rather than actually enjoying what you're doing. On the other hand, Kairi brought up how that can make it hard to take a break, as you'd feel guilty not being around. In response, Eliza talked about how moderators being close friends really helps those who need to take breaks, as it's like a family, people won't judge you and might even want to help.
DJ provided some insight on how it looks from the other moderator's point of view.
"For DMP, I'd say we care ... We try to make sure, or try to push people not to go too far; balancing your health and workload."
Overworking yourself, or even just having a bad nights sleep, can mess up your moderation as it changes your mood. If you're moderating and think that your current moderation isn't a good representation of who you, or your community, are, you should take a break.
On Reddit, DJ DMs his team members every few months making sure everything is fine within them and the team, not in a pushy or personal way, but in a reassuring way to make sure they feel good being in the team and are proud of what they're doing. He feels that if your "boss", for lack of a better term, wants to listen to you, it helps with those too scared to take a break.
Kairi shared some good advice that it's important to remember that you are a volunteer, although even paid positions shouldn't be stressful enough to affect your mental health as it affects your ability to perform in your position, paid or not. In regards to moderators who drop off, having communication across different platforms helps that, even if they don't want to mod anymore, people don't disappear as they're still engaged in other ways.
Differences In Platforms
Our final main topic is the differences in moderating across platforms. Platforms such as Reddit, and Twitch, and Discord have wildly different moderation, due to the big differences between the platforms.
Eliza answered first, quick to note how most Twitch streamers would have a discord too, be it only for moderators or for the general community too. She also brought up how each platform has its own tools for moderation, mostly third party, which all vary across platforms. Between Twitch and Discord, it's very common for people to report people misbehaving in Twitch in Discord, as the whisper features of Twitch are rather lacking.
The overlap isn't only with reporting but also the general community, which lead to Sean asking if bans overlap too. Eliza responded that generally, yes, bans crossed over unless it was something such as self-promotion, and they only did that in one of the two platforms. Outlining her reasons behind this, she told us that most the communities she mods are laid back, thus if someone is banned from the Twitch chat, there's a good reason for it, and they get banned from the Discord server too.
Moving to another platform, DJ gave us insight on the Reddit-Discord side of things, mainly talking about recruitment. The recruitment process can be similar, typically both through a Google Form. DJ also mentioned that while they ask for experience, he likes to recruit new moderators too for the "fresh blood", or otherwise rough diamonds.
Advice For New Moderators
In close relation with the end of the last topic discussing wanting new mods, the discussion shifted to what advice our guests would've liked as new mods, or what advice they'd give to new moderators.
Without hesitation, Eliza gave the advice to just be yourself.
"Probably, just be yourself. You were moderated because you are who you are, don't try and, like, change yourself too much, because you were moderated, just keep continuing to be you ... Don't sacrifice yourself to be a moderator."
DJ shared similar thoughts, while adding that if you're not sure, you can start off by just looking around and observing, and not being afraid to ask questions. He also added that it's okay to not be a natural, and it doesn't hurt to take a small break if starting moderation is overwhelming.
Sean pointed out that "communication is key" was advice that was repeated multiple times throughout this episode, going to show just how important communication is. Moreover, he mentioned that moderation is like a journey.
"I think it [moderation] is very much a journey, right, and that no one starts on day one with a sword or with mod powers, and is like, ah yes, I know everything and I will make great decisions until the rest of time."
If you'd like to submit a question to be potentially answered in the next episode, we've got a channel over at our Discord where you can do just that!
Adi#1234: "If you have moderation experience on one platform and are moving towards another, what skills do you think are the most transferable and which skills do you think are most valuable to have in different platforms?"
Eliza shared her advice that pretty much all moderation skills are transferable to all platforms. Most moderation skills are life skills: open communication, being able to keep a level head, learning to adapt and problem solve. DJ wholeheartedly agreed, listing some more moderation skills that are transferable: being active and open with the community, being flexible, and emphasising the ability to keep a level head. While there are some specifics, which Sean likes to call "hard skills", such as configuring bots, "soft skills" such as the ones listed are transferable to all platforms. Kairi added on one of the biggest differences is knowing the platforms and rules, which is much easier to pick up on than the "soft skills".
binchlord#0998: How large of a role do you think talking to other moderators has in learning how to moderate? How can you go about finding mentors, or moderation hubs, that can provide advice and information that may otherwise be hard to learn on your own?
Before our guests answered, Sean added on a related question, asking the guests how much learning they think should come from other people, versus on static resources (moderation guides, intros, etc.).
While Eliza said that other mods are a great resource, she believed that the resources should have the heaviest weight, as everyone else is lead by their own values and every community has different values. In regards to moderation hubs, Eliza didn't quite remember how she found Moderation Station, the moderation hub she's in, but shared that she found it invaluable as a resource for both networking and improving moderation. DJ gave a different point of view, responding to the mentor portion of the question. If you have a good mentor, they try to pass off their best qualities and advice which can "make a good push between having a good moderator, and one of those shining stars". Although he agreed that documents are also valuable resources, he shared that documents cannot cover every situation and people who rely solely on those can have a hard time in situations not covered by the documents.
Lost#1035: What would be the best way/system which engages in training and/or helping new moderators to understand the basic core of how xyz community is to be moderated, and how would that be approached?
Sean again added on a bit to the question, asking our guests how they would structure a training program, in a perfect world where they had all the documentation possible.
In most scenarios, Eliza thought that experience for new moderators is mostly gained by actually moderating. For this reason, even with the resources, she said she wasn't sure if she'd implement a program at all as "It's definitely important to learn how to moderate on your own". DJ agreed, adding on that good docs are good to learn from (while also asking questions, both from the new moderator's side and established moderator side), but that hands-on is, of course, really important alongside documentations. Thus, he likes to pair newer mods with older mods so that the newer mods gained experience that you can't gain just by reading. "One cannot exist without the other", according to DJ. They need to understand, via the docs, and get experience, via the moderating. A good analogy shared by Sean is that moderating is like swimming. You can read all you want, but until you jump in the water, you can't swim. When you do get in the water, you slowly learn with the help of another (such as an experienced mod) until you can swim on your own.
A lot of great discussion was had in this episode thanks to both our guests Eliza and DJ, and our hosts Sean and Kairi. Many topics were covered, and the one piece of advice repeated the most is communication is key.
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.
Sean Li, Host (@seansli)
Kairi, Host (@kairixio)
Panley, Director (@panley01)
Mary Helene Hall, Producer (@maryhelenehall)
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)