Monday, June 11, 2007

What is the Job of a Board Moderator?

The internet has brought so much change into our lives. It has also provided numerous jobs that no one would ever dream possible. One of those positions is as a moderator for message boards on major magazine sites.

While on one of several sites that I enjoy being a member of, I wondered: How does this work? It's good to have someone "in charge" and to go to when there is a problem to dispel or a question to answer, but how can they know what's going on 24/7? With that in mind, I asked one savvy Message Board Moderator named Laura if she would share the details of her job. After receiving permission from the publishers (the Meredith Corporation) of Better Homes and Gardens and Lady's Home Journal Laura was gracious enough to explain all that her job entails.

To begin we need to know-what exactly is a Message Board Moderator?

LAURA: a Message Board Moderator is sort of like a party host-I am there to answer questions, stimulate conversation, guide folks to different neat things on the website, remind everyone to remain civil and treat each other kindly.

How did you get to be a host? Did you need a special background or training?

LAURA: I volunteered as a CL (Community Leader, which is another name for Board Host) for AOL for seven years before coming to work for Prior to becoming a CL, I was a member of message boards and a CL asked if I would be interested in becoming a host. I was on a rough debate board, and I suppose she liked my mediation skills!

You're a moderator for more than one board and magazine, how exactly do you keep track of what's going on?

LAURA: It's tricky! I depend on folks emailing me if there are issues that I do not see-I check the boards many times a day and after all these years, you normally have a gut feeling about when and where firestorms might develop, so you can keep a closer eye on those boards. I like to keep a presence so folks know to post a topic with my name in the title if they need my attention for a particular issue. I used to be able to read every post-now, due to the amount of boards I cover, that is impossibility, but I do my best to scan as many threads as possible.

It would be great if you could tell us what a typical day in the life of a Board Host entails!

LAURA: Before or after my children wake up?! As soon as I come downstairs, I pour myself my cup of coffee and clear the boards-which means, review all of my boards and see what might have transpired overnight. I then read some threads on each board to get a feeling of what topics the community is talking about and what they might be interested in discussing. After my children are off to school, I go to the websites and spend time going through them to find interesting things to post on the boards. After several years, I am still finding new and neat things to share with the communities! I do this throughout the day, answering emails, looking for solutions to problems that posters have, reading threads. At the end of the day, before I go to bed around 10, I check the boards one more time, so I can head off any issues, if needed, before the overnight hours.

All jobs have the highs and lows- what do you enjoy most about being a Host and yes, I am going to ask-what do you wish you could just dismiss with?

LAURA: I love helping people. I love when someone has an issue and I am able to find the solution on the site for them. A part I wish I could dismiss? Awwww, well, on the debate boards, folks always think that I am biases against them, because I don't remove dissenting opinions. Debate boards are different-they are set up for folks to disagree and debate-that is the nature of the beast. I suppose the greatest compliment I get is that both sides of the arguments always feel I am biased against them-I must be doing a great job of not showing my true feelings!

Speaking of disagreeable things that happen on the boards, I've heard that at times, some people have gotten so out of hand that they've been asked to leave.

LAURA: That is called banning and I am not an advocate of it. I prefer to try and help folks learn to get along in the community. There are times that I am unable to do so, even with my best intentions and for the greater good of the community, I need to ban someone.

One of the other plusses of hosting is that Laura gets to work from home and has since 1998. Because the job is always changing and evolving there's little chance of getting bored! She easily sees herself continuing in her role for another five years.

You've said one of the nicest parts of your job is being able to help people-what is the most interesting situation you've had?

LAURA: I don't know if I would say this is the most interesting, but one of the most touching things I ever encountered is when a beloved member of one of my communities died and we had an online memorial thread for her. I still have that thread saved and I'm getting teary, remembering it. She was a very special woman. The power of the online communities is very strong. It truly is its own society.

Online magazine communities truly are as much a part of our lives as our grandmother's sewing/quilting bees, our mom's kaffeeklatches or our "girl's night out", the difference is that it gives everyone a chance to expand their social horizons to span worldwide. And thanks to wonderful, caring Board Hosts such as Laura, we never feel how vast those miles are.

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