does not compute: what it takes

Does Not Compute is a column I write semi-regularly about thoughts and discoveries I make about Newsvine as Online Community Moderator, specifically ones that also speak to the way we relate on the Internet. When I reference specific threads in the column, it will not be intended as a callout to the users participating, but just because I find that thread indicative of what I'm addressing.

A while ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of journalists about Newsvine. Wait, maybe 'pleasure' isn't the right word. The nerve-wracking privilege. What was a more relaxed pleasure was having lunch with them after I spoke, talking the state of the industry and thinking more about how Newsvine fits into it.

At one point, Brian Chin, who's still working at the Seattle P-I, unlike many, suggested that I write a piece about my job and what it takes to do it. I think the idea behind it was that this type of job - community moderation - will only multiply as internet communities grow in number and attempt to improve. While I can't imagine my experience would match someone's at a different website, I think there are some constants that are interesting to explore. And since I've been working on a Newsvine Moderator Handbook for future generations of mods [mentioned in passing in the last Vinecast ] I can crystallize a few necessities.

Every day's a work day. I think there's been three or four 24-hour stretches where I didn't log into Newsvine so far. I've regretted each of them. The community won't stop, you can't either. Likewise, be ready to work until things are done. Otherwise, you can't feel comfortable flipping the...

Off switch. There might be a fire going on. Or someone making death threats, or someone with a Wikisposure page running rampant or...you get the idea. But you have to let them those thoughts go, at least when you're not at your keyboard. Watch the game, call your friends, get some sleep. But clear an hour to check the site first. The off switch is crucial. There will be work waiting when you flip back 'on' - don't spend the whole time you're off-clock fretting.

Prioritize. It sounds painfully basic, but I'm sure that this extends beyond Newsvine and even though it's a life skill, it's really crucial here. Getting rid of spammers? Important to stay on top of every day. Reporting people talking about killing the President? Get there immediately. It's one of the things you have to feel out - I think getting new users out of the Greenhouse is really important to the site, so it's the first and last thing I do each day.

Read some good news. I might have the best opinion of our userbase in the office. It's easy to get down when folks are just emailing you racial slurs, but there hasn't been a day or shift that I've worked without finding something good to read to end it. Usually, I see something in my tracker and clip it to my column to read for later. Thankfully, it's very easy here. Love y'all. Moderating some other sites might be more difficult.

Be a member. Wearing one hat is uncomfortable and gives you that weird ring around your head. I suppose it depends on the site, but participating in discussion helps you understand site dynamics that much better, leads to you reading good news, and lets users know you're not a robot, making them that much more likely to help by self-policing. [Hopefully.]

Those are five to grow on - if you know anyone who's becoming a site moderator somewhere, tell them to get at me.