The following is a sort of template that you can use as a starting point for your own moderator manual. It’s based on the moderator manual that Jenn Creighton and I created for Women of React! Each section represents a corresponding section I suggest you include in your manual.
This is one small, specific part of my thoughts on moderating online events. Feel free to take and use whatever bits make sense for you and your community!
Code of conduct
Provide a link to the code of conduct. Give your moderators the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions for changes to that code of conduct. You may find that you’ve missed something!
Reporting a CoC violation
Outline the process of reporting a code of conduct violation. If you have a standalone form, link to it. If community members need to email a particular address, note it here and include a list of who has access to that inbox. If your mods can’t see reports directly, whoever can will need to be proactive about passing those reports along.
Describe what exactly your moderators can do!
Outline whatever special permissions you’ve given them and how to use those permissions. This should include the ability to delete messages written by other people, mute community members (preventing them from posting), and ban community members from the platform.
If you’ve set up custom commands for a Discord server or similar platform, list them here. Explain what they’re for and how to use them. If they take arguments, outline whatever additional information your mods will need to provide.
Ordinarily, community members shouldn’t be able to affect anyone else’s messages. However, moderators need to be able to remove any harmful content posted to the community platform.
Often paired with deleting posts, muting allows your moderators to stop a person from posting, either for a set amount of time or indefinitely. Muting someone can give you more time to determine whether further action is necessary.
Muting can also serve as a kind of cooldown, especially if the muted person knows why they’ve been muted. Different communities have different standards for communication and what you think is common sense may not be so for everyone. If the post in question hasn’t caused serious harm, muting can give the person a chance to correct their behavior.
When someone has caused harm in your community, you may need to consider banning them indefinitely. This should mean they are unable to sign into your platform with the same account/email address but won’t stop someone who’s truly determined from creating an alias and rejoining anyway.
You may choose to ban someone who has committed multiple smaller offenses. (Keeping notes on mod actions taken with individual members can help here.) You may also decide that certain actions warrant an immediate ban. Whatever you decide, stick to those guidelines. You can always change your processes but such changes shouldn’t be made in the moment, when emotions are high.
You may occasionally make mistakes here and that’s okay. The safety of your community should come first. If you’re open to it, include a method for appealing a ban in your code of conduct.
Community member actions
Again, if you’ve created any custom commands or functionality that applies to all community members, list them out here.
The “Bat Signal”
Ordinarily, you won’t need your whole mod team available every second. It’s good for people to be able to relax and take their minds off of their mod duties for a while. Whether moderating for a one-day event or a long-standing community, each mod should have the confidence to step away from their screen.
When there is a problem (mass harassment, spamming, security breach, etc.), you’ll need to get all (or, more likely, several) hands on deck quickly. A “Bat Signal” is a mechanism for doing so and some version of it should be available to all community members. This might be the ability to tag all mods in a conversation. It could be a mass text from your lead mod. Whatever you choose, make sure you document when and how to use it!
Blocking & privacy settings
What can individuals do to protect themselves? If your community platform allows members to block one another (it should), explain how or link to that platform’s documentation. Your mods should be equipped to relay this information to any community member who needs it.
What are your guiding principles? Do you ban first and ask questions later? Are you able to mediate discussions between community members who disagree? Are your mods and staff members held to different standards than the average person? Use this section to set the tone with your moderators as you head into the next section…
This is where you lay it all out! To the best of your ability, describe the appropriate response to any issue that might arise. This should include:
- how to respond to a CoC violation report
- what to do when someone raises the “Bat Signal”
- how to weigh the severity of a community member’s misconduct
- a chain of possible consequences based on the severity and frequency of a member’s misconduct
- how to respond to spam
You’ve thought through most of the big things your moderation team will have to do and be. Go, you! Now that you have your moderation policies and processes outlined, it’s time to train your mods on them!