Help me focus on the good while dealing with the bad
March 21, 2011 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Moderators/Community managers: How do you focus on the good, when your job is to deal with the bad?

The community I manage is awesome. The majority of our users are helpful, generous, non-jerks. It's a shared-interest community within a website where reputation is really important, and most people are aware and mindful of that.

Our rule book has about 10 topics; I'd say at least half of them are different ways of saying "don't be a jerk." Naturally, many regulars will have bad days/weeks and act up, but these are sensible people who will take warnings/punishment seriously, and are good about cleaning up their act.

Then there are the e-sociopaths. They go from kind-of-jerks to mean bastards. They bully other users. Their preferred method of communication is snark. They defy my authority.

When users started to email Customer Care instead of posting on the forum, for fear of the meanies, I decided that had to change. Six months ago I started being a lot less permissive and more serious about enforcing rules and disciplinary action. I was successful in weeding out some of the jerks (the worst ones, in fact), but many remain. They are smart (dare I say cunning?) and have since learned not to cross the line, so they -almost- break the rules, -almost- go too far, and do a great job in baiting others. Lately they rarely give me enough to mute them, because instead they take it outside -- they use blogs and twitter to trash other users and me.

But it's my job not to let that get to me, and in general I am pretty good at it. My users however, are not as thick-skinned, and the truth is, whether I let it get to me or not, it's my job to deal with it. And that's exhausting.

And now to the reason I posted this. You know the people I mentioned up there on the 1st paragraph? I forget to remember how good they make me feel. Yes, I make time to hang out with them and participate. I often do, everyday, actually. They like me, I like them.

It's not that I forget they exist. I DO remember to engage with them. It's just that I forget to focus on the good they bring to the community, because the jerks demand more of me.

Maybe it does get to me, after all. So, how can I learn to love the good again, more than I hate the bad, when they are both part of my day?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Man, it's rough. A couple things that re-energize me:

- In-person meetups. With few exceptions, even the worst assholes are at least civil and often really nice in person, and the non-assholes are pure delight.

- Meetups with other CMs. Venting to people who really do know exactly what it's like is one of the main ways I've stayed sane. (In my industry, this means we set up a CM meetup at industry events, drink a fair bit, and end up heaped three deep on the nearest couch. I think the latter two parts aren't actually required, but they sure are fun.)

- Manage your stress in general. Get sleep, get exercise, etc - I have a firm rule that I'm on-call 24/7 except when I'm in the gym. Just knowing that no one can find me for an hour is a blessing. Be careful not to fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms - I joke a lot about how much CMs drink, but it's a real danger.

Please feel free to memail me if you want some specifics. If you aren't in a position where you have colleagues to bitch to, I can definitely point you at some (and be one if you want.) I can also give you some ways to pitch company-sponsored meetups to your overlords. Hang in there!
posted by restless_nomad at 1:12 PM on March 21, 2011

One way to do it would be to find ways to reward or recognize great posts and posters. Make a poster of the week title or a best posts of the month roundup or something similar. That forces you to be on the lookout for the good stuff. You don't want to make it too serious or desirable or you'll create unhealthy competition for it. But having something like this will make finding and noticing the excellence of your community part of your job.

On Metafilter, I suspect the podcast and the sidebar fill a lot of that need.

In my weekly (er, theoretically weekly) status email to the rest of my team, I include three or four threads that I really liked that week, because they were helpful, interesting, funny, etc. Often much of everything else I talk about is negative, so it's a nice break for me to go back over the threads for the week and think about which ones were really great.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2011

Have you watched Mathowie's SXSW11 talk, perchance? It addresses this point and many others.
posted by mykescipark at 1:22 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The story you posted is similar enough to my own that my husband actually asked if this was my thread. So, even if nothing else I say really helps, you should know that you're not alone, and other people have the same headaches with managing communities.

For me, what I've found works best is to just vent with my coworkers. Being able to mutually complain about the people who are causing the problems really helps take the edge off the stress. I also compartmentalize like crazy when I go home. When I'm not at work, I don't check the forums, and I don't even think about them. It all stays at the office, and I don't let myself start thinking about what I'll have to deal with the next day.
posted by Katrel at 4:50 PM on March 21, 2011

I share with my boss and a friend the gems of the day. There's a certain detachment from the part of the job that requires I moderate things and mete out punishments and the part where people write insightful topics and all around help each other out.

Keeping a good sense of humor is really key. Laugh. A lot.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:21 PM on March 21, 2011

Nth'ing sharing the gems with co-workers and keeping a sense of humor about it all.

Do you have a private board where the awesome people who have earned that privilege gather? Make a point to hang out there regularly and soak in the goodness before wading back into the muck.
posted by JaneL at 10:08 PM on March 21, 2011

In many ways I could have written the OP, especially with the last few weeks and trying to get consensus on our site on why abuse shouldn't be allowed.

My suggestion is to start celebrating and rewarding the good in the hope that people will respond to that and seek the reward of contributing positively rather than destroying what other people are building.

How involved are your community? There's nothing wrong with sharing your problems with them (without naming anyone) and asking for their help or advice in what you should do or how an issue should be dealt with. It will promote a sense of investment/ownership and buy in from the community and they'll help you weed out the badness.

I don't know if your community has a commercial aspect but if it does maybe try to get small prizes or concessions for your members as rewards. It might be something small, but people like to be acknowledged for contributing. I'd also (like jacquilynne above) recommend something like a blog or some other way of showcasing member's work - it will incentivise more positive work and get people talking.

It's not easy - it never is. I don't mean to sound all "Accentuate the positive" on you but it actually genuinely does help. It definitely helps for your community to see the actions you take on their behalf and in asking for their support in doing so.

Feel free to get in touch if you like. I work on an Irish site with over 420,000 members and over 20,000 posts a day so I see all sorts on a daily basis :)
posted by darragh at 3:11 AM on March 22, 2011

One other thing that's worked, on a purely better-for-customers level, is designating certain forums (a "Newbie" forum, or a "Questions" forum) and using basically AskMe moderation rules - either your reply is constructive and positive or it goes, period. On one forum I moderated, this gave new people a safe spot to ask questions, a place for the perpetually-helpful to exercise their skills, and it kept the admittedly repetitive and uninteresting questions out of the places the regulars hung out. Worked out well for everyone.

(That doesn't specifically address your burnout issue, but hopefully it'll be useful in your example.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:00 AM on March 22, 2011

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