As a follow up to my blog post here, I wanted to answer some good questions that were asked about it.

  1. How to recruit moderators/administrators.
  2. How to drive activity, and integrate more users.
  3. How to avoid banning an individual and dealing with "ultimate trolls" (thanks for the phrase HondaATC!)
  4. How to make yourself scalable as your forum/s grow.

  1. How to recruit moderators/administrators.
    First, what qualities are you seeking in a moderator? I personally seek out (in this order) honesty, integrity, great communication skills, and the ability to stay calm - but responsive - in stressful situations. I also really like to have a diverse team of moderators, young-older, different nationalities, male & female, apprentice mechanics to retired CEO's.
    To recruit these people, I will typically review their posting activity, things I look for is:
    • A desire to be helpful to their fellow forum users in a selfless manner (i.e. not seeking out a change in status, or attention)
    • An instance (or preferably, instances) of the user taking on a leadership role for the good of the forum - even if it may be unpopular - be it carefully steering a thread back on topic, or politely suggesting to a user that is violating the guidelines that they might want to tone it down.
    • An instance of them apologizing, or acknowledging that they have learnt something. Forums are a place where everyone can learn something, if a user isn't willing to take the time on occasions to acknowledge that, I don't think they will see the value of being a moderator

    One thing I usually do to select these individuals is do an annual "research group". I will create a special forum with 10-20 preset topics where they can discuss everything from the nature of the current forum guidelines, to what forums our site currently has (are we missing anything), performance reviews of the moderators etc. With the moderators assistance I will select 20 individuals who are users, ranging from the users that are perhaps the most vocal in their condemnation of your management of the site (but still reasonable), to those users that are the most helpful to other users. I find this is a great opportunity to perhaps get those individuals that would like to share their opinions on your site, and allow them an outlet to do it.
  2. How to drive activity, and integrate more users.
    Invest them in the community. Empower them to take on roles, even if they aren't moderators, and reward them for it (it may just be a cool funky title). Some such roles you can have them take up:
    • Regional coordinators - have them organizing local gtg's (if they occur on your board - and they should!), and in charge of recruiting local members
    • Technical Contributors - the individuals that are helpful and provide the most knowledge - acknowledge it by giving them a special title.
    • Other Roles - utilize your members to manage your facebook fan page (if you have one - and you should), your twitter feed, get them to select the best photo of the week in your albums etc.

    Run competitions for things like "who got the most membership referrals in March", who posted the thread that got the most views last year. Prizes don't have to be real, it can just be a special user title, a usergroup with more PM's etc.
    Encourage engaging activity, don't be concerned if someone is starting a "chat" thread in an area that isn't for it, just get people posting!

  3. How to avoid banning an individual and dealing with "ultimate trolls" (thanks for the phrase HondaATC!)
    Kill them with kindness. If an individual falls under the category of "being a troll", they are there to incite a reaction. Don't acknowledge them with one! A few strategies that can work with "ultimate trolls":
    Reason with them - no matter how irrational/irate/incensed the individual might act, always respond in a calm, cool and collected manner, and educate them with facts
    Humor them - Trolls (in my experience) have a sense of humor. Have fun with them, and if you are feeling cheeky, at them too

    As to how to avoid banning an individual - always be up front with your expectations of users. Ensure they are aware what is tolerated, and what isn't. Educate (without being patronizing) as to what they have done thats wrong, inform them as to how best to participate in the future (perhaps even citing examples on how to participate), be curt, courteous but firm.
    Your ability to deal with "difficult" individuals with ease is often directly proportional on how much respect you can command within the community. If you are well liked and respected amongst your users, it makes it much easier to address concerns with such individuals.

  4. How to make yourself scalable as your forum/s grow.
    Get the right people in there to help you, support and nurture them, and empower them to handle issues.