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The Importance of Testing Moderators


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This is another old guide of mine that I've spruced up a bit.


Moderators are an important aspect to any company, that includes pet site games! They're the face of your business, the ones dealing directly with your userbase and customers. They're the ones keeping everything safe and organized for your players. They uphold the rules and regulations of the game, dish out any necessary punishments, and help keep you sane. They keep the site's community strong and held together, leaving you with focusing on building the site to be even bigger and better.

Unfortunately, most pet site games from my experience tend to hire, well, not the greatest of people for the job. It can often lead to drama, misunderstandings, accidents, and other negativity. That can shed a bad light on, not only your game, but your role as the leader/business owner.

So, what can we do about it? We can stop the mess before it happens. But how? Oh, it's so easy, yet so many owners take it for granted.

Test them. Test every single person who wants to be a moderator.

But, most of you do that already, right? Wrong. I've never seen a site pose more than a few basic and extremely generalized questions about "what would you do if a user did this?" or "how would you handle that?". Such generic questions with such a WIDE (very wide, if you ask me) range of answers and possibilities, how can you possibly judge the person on how they would be as a moderator?

"So, what? We add more questions? That's what you're saying?"

Not entirely. Adding more questions that are equally as general and basic does not help the problem. Give them SPECIFIC situations and details. Give them a multitude of scenarios and options. Make them THINK! while they are typing their answer. (Emphasis on "think" as some of these tests are so simplistic that all you really have to say as a response is "I'd ask them to stop and give them a warning blah blah generic basic answer blah.") This means NO multiple choice answers. Don't even give them any hints.

"So detailed questions with specific scenarios, got it. If that's it, you're wasting my time."

Ah, this is where you are wrong. See, you should not stop at just moderation questions, but go beyond that to the personal side. What are their ethics? What would they do in real life situations of some real life scenario? How do they feel about something? What is their opinion on something? If you want people to work for you, shouldn't you know a thing or two about who they are and what they believe/how they think? These people will be in control of a vast amount of your site. Don't you want to see if they can be trusted to do their job right?

"Okay okay, specific questions, ask them about their ethics, this seems like a bit much, right?"

100% wrong. This is not enough! They should also have read the entirety of your privacy policy, terms of service, rules, help pages, and/or anything else relevant to their jobs. But more than just read it, UNDERSTAND it! I cannot stress this enough. Sure someone could easily enforce a rule, but if they don't understand it, how can they do it right? If you ask them any question about any rule (or otherwise), they should take no time at all to answer it and be detailed about it. Moderators (and staff in general) who do not understand their own site's rules should NOT be a moderator (or staff in general).

"Well they're gonna be mods, of course they know the rules and stuff. That was stupid to include."

This is the part I hate the most. Because someone is a mod/staff, users and other staff assume that they know (and understand) the rules. (And often blindly follow.) In some cases, this may be true, but in the majority of cases I've seen, this is completely false. Never assume something about your staff members. If you don't know, then ASK them.


Now for my next point - friendship. This is the main killer of sites. The owner/other staff members is best friends with all their staffies. And of course, as friends, they could NEVER do any wrong, right? Well, sadly no. Friends can be real butts sometimes. Not only that, but they have the capacity to be wrong and also make mistakes. So what happens if your friend isn't up for the job? Well, you either keep them on your staff and cross your fingers that they improve, or you do something about it. 

Let's start with option one - firing. It's not scary and you should not be afraid of it. In fact, this is one of the main powers that separates the owner from the rest of the staff. You can toss people left and right like no tomorrow. I know you may care about your friendship and that firing them is sure to upset them, they're just going to have to deal. Do remember, that friends can still be friends even if they are not all together on the same staff team. Ya'll can be perfectly happy with a staff/user relationship. It's for the betterment of your site and can possibly open your friends eyes to what they were doing. (This could also save the friendship too, as there would be less of a strain between you.)

Option two - meeting. This one is probably recommended to do before option one, but I felt like listing it second. (Just because I can.) It is entirely fair for a staff member (yes, any staff member, ya'll are a team) to call for a group meeting for any reason. That reason could possibly be the behavior of any (this can include you, as the owner) staff member. In that meeting, I highly suggest honesty for things to get done faster. Of course doing it in a gentle manner could help keep peoples moods in check. Once ya'll assess the problem, it's time you move onto the "thinking of a solution" step. Let all the staff members (including the one causing the issues) come up with possible ideas. And keep all of them, even if you do not end up using them. After you pick whatever one you see fit, execute it. If, over time, it ends up not working, try another one of the ideas. Keep at it until things just seem like they won't work out. (In that case, I refer you to "option one".)


So, for my next point - hiring moderators offsite. Lots of you do this, no? Well, it's not exactly a bad thing, but I do have to make a suggestion. Before you even think about testing them for the job, make them play the site. I say at least a week to a month, but obviously the longer the better. Even if they read and understand the rules, if they don't understand the site and it's community, it's just as pointless to hire them. Be wary of hiring moderators before you actually need them. If you're site is still in development, they have nothing to moderate. The only thing I can think of to use them while in development would be for them working with developing the rules, TOS, etc. (Though you would ideally have a lawyer help you with those.) If you want people to join and help give ideas, then ask for that. I'm not saying that moderators can't help with ideas, but if you're hiring them to moderate then that should be their only job. Moderating is hard work and they don't need extra jobs or distractions from that.

"Okay, so I've tested them. The results seem fine. I'm gonna hire them."

STOP! Before you do anything, just stop. First of all, send their application to every other staff member, moderator or not. This person will be joining the family. If not everyone can agree on letting them in, then you're going to have issues later on. If a staff member has personal issues with the applicant, then that's a major problem. The staff need to work as a team or else the whole site falls apart. If everyone but that one staff member (or a few) have issues with the applicant, then ask all of them about their feelings on working with each other. If it's not possible, then it's not possible, and you're going to have to make some sacrifices one way or another. Secondly, if you have any questions about their answers or just further questions to test them on, it is completely in your right to do so, and if they really want the job, they'll answer. Don't stop testing/asking questions until the entire staff team is completely satisfied. No matter how minor the question is - ask it! It could make all the difference later on.

I hope you're starting to get it. Now, you should know why this is all important, but if not, I shall say it in a few simple words: a site is only as good as it's weakest staff member. (Yes, I turned a few words around from an old famous quote.) I don't care if your site is full of godly rainbow artwork with crazy original features that just blow your brains apart and writing that just makes you cry your eyes out because it's so beautiful. If your staff aren't up to par, it's soiled and people are going to leave.

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You make some very good points in this guide. The applications I've seen tend to only have a couple questions that practically everyone will answer the same. How can you judge that?

Relationships between staff members and communication within a team are definitely important. Glad you touched on that aspect as well.

Hiring mods that act poorly or don't understand the site reflects badly on the owner and the game, too. The hiring process for mods should be taken more seriously for those that want a successful game. 

Thanks for taking the time to write this. 


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