Skip to comments.Who Are The Moderators & What Can they Do? - Thread 3
Posted on 09/08/2001 4:56:20 PM PDT by Admin Moderator
That is a question many have asked - and it deserves some straight answers, removing rumor and setting the record straight about moderators, what they do, and why. This is not the expose some might hope the title promises, but it will tell you much you did not know, and much you need to know.
Up front, Ill tell you that I am merely the first moderator to serve. Above that I am the least of the moderators in many ways, as all others serve FreeRepublic in stellar ways I could not hope to match. I serve as their trainer and support leader. Here, I am but the spokesperson and author of information I hope you will find interesting and of benefit to all who post on FreeRepublic.
A look at the history of moderators on FR, and the purposes for having them is a good place to start.
Moderators have been working on FR for about a year now, but until recently few knew they existed because they kept a fairly low profile and never directly communicated with their fellow FReepers with respect to duties. Their primary purpose was to keep the Sidebars free of lesser posts, leaving the best relevant news and editorial content possible in the limited space, but they also served in other important ways.
The job changed significantly when Jim Robinson was invited to come to the National Federation of Republican Assemblies convention in Texas to receive the Ronald Regan Freedom Award. He would be gone for two weeks, longer than any absence from maintaining the site ever before.
During the trip Jims son, John Robinson, and all moderators filled in for Jim in some way. This included a few posts as Sidebar Moderator or Admin Moderator on some threads, and FReepmail contacts with various users of the system. Frequent use of on-thread posting is limited for obvious reasons.
Prior to this people talked about the posting police, but in general moderators and their activities were not common knowledge to many. But with this new visibility, in short order moderators became the subject de jure , and rumors began to fly.
FreeRepublic currently enjoys an average of about 1800 new users per month. Many of these are prior disruptors who wish to harm the reputation of FR, or demean the users of it. It is not uncommon to see several of them per day - clogging up threads with posts designed to cause trouble, and posting foul messages of all kinds. Some merely have an axe to grind, some are vulgar and rude - but the worst come looking to make personal trouble for as many as possible.
Jim Robinsons typical 16 hour day protected FReepers from the influence of such disruptors prior to his trip, so if moderators were to fill in - they needed new abilities. John Robinson wrote the software, then he and a scant few moderators manned a 24 hour day, 7 days a week effort during the trip. We quickly learned what Jim faced on a daily basis - quite an education!
Meanwhile a problem with Jims laptop prevented him from logging in to FreeRepublic until he got to Texas, where he told fellow FReepers he suffered from serious withdrawal pains. He was mostly kept from freeping until he returned home - about which he commented recently, ...in the past whenever I took two or three days off to go to D.C. or wherever, I'd come home and it would usually take two or three days to get caught up. That was not so bad. But if you want to keep your sanity, NEVER take 14 days off. I've got unanswered email stacked to the rafters and it keeps pouring in! :)
The Division of Tasking:
Since the number of moderators was (and will remain) quite small, and there was need to divide functional duties, the team was split into two levels - roughly along lines of experience. John named the levels Junior and Senior. That division was known only, and not explained until now, on the forum as Sidebar Moderator and Admin Moderator respectively.
Senior moderators needed to be able to do almost anything Jim could do. Junior moderators continue old tasks, yet support Seniors in new ones as well - and both needed to learn to use software still under development that continues today. Though a few mistakes were made, few noticed any major degradation due to frequent disruptor activities.
As a result, we were successful in relieving Jim of the load he carried, and permitted him to enjoy a relatively worry free and much deserved vacation, the longest he has experienced in a too many years. In addition, we hope to continue to afford him the ability to spend more leisure time with family, friends and fellow FReepers - an ability most of us enjoy, but that his unswerving dedication has denied.
Who Are We and How Many:
At the beginning, it was decided that total anonymity would be absolutely mandatory for several reasons. The obvious being that no one wanted to have their reputation on the forum compromised in any way by being known to be assisting Jim Robinson in maintenance duties.
Additional reasons for total anonymity include the desire to avoid any hint of public special relationship or status above any other user of the forum - and any activity of moderators publicly hinting of their participation would mean the end of it. All moderators are tasked with the duty to maintain their anonymity, and all must hold in strictest confidence any knowledge derived from their participation. None, for obvious reasons, have deviated from these practices. However for special circumstances my identity has been revealed to less than a handful who hold that information in confidence.
In fact, anonymity is so closely guarded that most do not even know who the other moderators are, and will not learn that information in the process of doing their assigned tasks. There are only three people who know who all are, Jim Robinson, John Robinson and myself. There is one deviation from that - Senior moderators work so closely together they have to know each other.
There are less than 10 moderators all told, split roughly in half by task and duty. Location of them across all US time zones aids in round-the-clock coverage. All of us work at the behest and oversight of Jim Robinson, and all work under a set of guidelines and practices. Each is trusted to use their judgement on close calls, and all of us are fallible human beings that make a few mistakes on occasion. Some of those mistakes are easily corrected without much ado - others have obviously become public in attempts at correction. However being public in what we do will continue to be minimal.
What we do:
As you know, there is often a need to pull posted threads that endanger FreeRepublic legally. Then there are the rather obvious and purposed planting of posts that can be used by major media to spoil the reputation and public perception of what FR is all about There are also many posted articles (that are not articles) that are inappropriate and violate the posting guidelines of our host. There are many replies or posted comments made on threads that are inappropriate and need removal, saving otherwise constructive threads from disruption.
Incidentally - there are a few bad-apples who have abused the abuse button. These are those who goad or bait people, until they get a response in kind - and then hit the abuse button to dispense with their foes and look angelic in the process. That scam worked for a while - but were wise it now.Some users flout the rules of the house, manners and the rules of civility needed to maintain order - forcing appropriate action to curtail their activities. Moderators have the ability to deal appropriately - and if we err, Jim or John can remedy error as needed. Obviously, they can over-rule any of our decisions, and have fittingly done so.
Records have to be kept, abusers need to be contacted and encouraged to alter wayward ways, and advised of the consequences for failure to do so. People with various problems ask for help - and get it. Many accidently make multiple posts, and ask that one or more be removed. Some ask that we edit their posts - but we cant do that, and have little time for it if we could. Others have made posts in anger, and soon after repented of what they said and asked for deletion.
In short, the daily hurly-burly activities here keep us pretty busy. We cool flame wars, and fight personal attacks. We provide services to benefit not only the goals and purposes set by our host, but to hundreds of individuals who frequent these pages.
The Real Heros:
The bottom line is that moderators arent the real heros who do the lions share of maintaining order on FreeRepublic. That honor rightfully rests with those who diligently keep their eyes pealed for the problems that beset us all - and hit the abuse button to alert us to those problems when they see them. Sure, we get plenty of abuse complaints that are misplaced or are lame, requiring no action whatever.
But, all are given rather quick attention (sometimes too quick,) as many of you have seen or experienced. It should be rare that youll see any major abuse continue very long. But that speed is the result of efforts of many who treasure what this place has to offer, and are quick to point to the out-of-place and the unacceptable. They are the unsung heros here, not I nor those who process their complaints.
Weve noted who the best of the best are, and appreciate their exemplary efforts without which our job would be nothing at all - compared to the contribution these people make to the betterment of what makes this the best place on the Internet of its kind. To them all FReepers owe our greatest praise, and our greatest appreciation.
We are still learning, John is still programming and we are still shaping what we do to better meet the needs of our host and all who trust this place to remain the best there is. Our goals are to be as permissive as possible and never partial or arbitrary. We are here to do what we can for our host, and for those who care deeply about this place. Our new abilities will continue, and new programming and practices will refine them. And we believe your input is a critical part of that effort.
Needless to say, I think we have a future. It is fitting that we communicate with you, and that you do with us, and our superiors. When you need to do that you can hit the abuse button on any thread and weigh in - your comments are seen, and often responded to via FRmail - perhaps sometimes not as quickly as you might desire. Dont be surprised if we are a bit tardy at times. As I said, I dont want a lot of us, nor do I think you do. If things are hot, FRmail drops to the bottom of the priority list.
Bottom line - you will determine our future by your support or lack of it. Jim is not deaf nor inattentive to your comments and complaints. He is probably the most forgiving man I have ever met, but as you well know, he does not hesitate to act if needed.
Thats the end of the expose about moderators to this point, I hope you found it useful and worthy of your time.
I think I've discovered who you are, but I aint telling :-)
Are you guys powerful enough to do automatic second thread creation when a thread reachs 150 replies or so? That would probably save some band depth or whatever it is. parsy.
Plus, are you guys powerful enough that when I do a really funny vanity post like the one I did the other day on Noah's Ark being found on Magazine Mtn., could you make some of the freepers here read it?
And I'm sure that someone's mentioned this, but it's "heroes", not "heros" :)
...just in case I'm dead wrong. (I usually am) :^)
This would expedite many of our best discussions.;^)
Count on it.
Thanks again for the information and for answering our questions.
Cause they like to Lord it over us.
This is my attempt to make friends with them. Do you think I'm succeeding?
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