Thursday, February 01, 2007

Too many moderators?

Number of forums: 901. Number of members: Upward of 120,000. Number of moderators: 123.

Hang on, 123. Why does that number come into play as far as management is concerned? The common justification is that there are enough forums on the board to warrant a staff that large, yet counterexamples seem to be everywhere. For one, we have PKMN.NET, which makes do with seven administrators, three active super moderators (Bre and Continue don't count) and really one active page moderator; things move smoothly since there are more people who are prepared to intervene in conflicts on the forums (whilst the others work on main-site projects), including a few who act in times when the big boys are out to lunch; the only weakness is that all active staff members (except one) reside in the British Isles. Then we have the Pokémon Community, which, I've come to observe, probably has a larger staff than it really needs (I'm pretty sure some other moderator could whisk my post away, especially given what's happened with a bungled rule in OVP and the stalking issue); we have more than twenty page mods and we end up having the higher staff doing the bulk of the work. In all honesty, I personally believe the site could run quite fine if a couple more higher staff members were added, a couple of page mods who do their job enough stay at post, and all the rest cleared out in a mass lay-off.

And now the subject is SuperCheats. It's got 123 moderators among 120,000 members or more and 901 forums. What seems to be the problem?

I remember having a disagreement with a new, haughty member over the subject, but in a way he had a grain of truth in him. I'm not sure as to what the genesis for the mod application idea was when Rich decided to implement it (I only remember being told in advance of a democratic system), but after it was implemented, the vast diversity of the forums seemed to require it. Many of the 901 forums aren't venues everyone on the forum can access and relate to — and I don't mean small differences such as between the Pokémon TCG and Game Boy games, but individual games from all different franchises altogether. One person who has enough knowledge in games of one franchise, say, Grand Theft Auto, that he can help others progress through the games and mediate discussion thereof is bound to have as little enthusiasm in Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts as he has much in Grand Theft Auto, so he probably would not be an excellent candidate for a position to moderate a large swath of video game boards (although he could stand a chance as a super moderator, but that's a different story). The natural response to such a deficit would be to hire someone with enough interest in the Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy games.

If the concept seems to work, why isn't it? The problem isn't in the diversity of the games, but rather in the number of people assigned to one specific game forum. And mind you, forums are not set necessarily by franchise, but by individual product. That means you have a forum for Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas with a different moderator or two for each. Add the different forums for different platforms (I don't know whether this issue has yet been covered) and you have an ideal maximum of 18 posts between the three instalments and the two platforms (PlayStation 2 and Xbox), with a maximum of three mods for each instalment. Occasionally you'll have more than one of these posts held by the same person, but often the ones holding the posts are vastly unique.

I'll be blunt here: There are simply too many moderators, and they're causing too many problems for the site. And it's not necessarily the application system, but the number of people Rich wishes to have working for him. These days, unfortunately, we have plenty of skirmishes over who's going to get the last toss-up for a general board position (each of which usually has five spots); the most recent one was for Team and Clan Boards, which I'll admit has a few management issues. The facts are clear, as in the aforementioned sites: A better choice would be a set of well-rounded staff members who know enough about franchises and can easily go through a set of forums labelled under one franchise such as Grand Theft Auto. Failing that, we could probably use a couple more super mods who come around more often; we're down to three already.

Here's the type of overhaul I'd recommend, in short: Reduce the number of normal moderators on the forums and increase the amount of moderators who can easily work in more than one forum by adjusting to the expectations therein. PKMN.NET has it right.

1 comment:

Joeno said...

I am most certainly an active staff member, but do not reside in Great Britain.

Other than that, this is pretty much what I've been saying all along.