Training Lesson 2

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This training module has been superseded. Please click here for the current moderator orientation guide

BASIC GUIDELINES FOR MODERATING

Without responsible moderators, a list quickly gets filled with spam and inappropriate posts. Memberships soon falls and the list becomes a ghost town. With your help, your local list will thrive, and everyone will benefit. Your help is invaluable.

Every Freecycle.org group is expected to operate in the same/similar fashion. There are over 5,200 Freecycle.org groups in more than 110 countries, with over 9,000,000 members and we all follow the same basic rules. Each community has the option to localize group rules, as long as they follow the required group guidelines.

Become familiar with the Moderator Manual. Bookmark it and refer to it often.

Moderator ID and Email Address

  1. You cannot use a signature/tagline which contains any advertising or promotes any business or organization you are involved with.
  2. We request you use only a maximum of two email addresses for the local group per moderator. One must be a personal email and used on leadership groups and the other may be one with the group name or shared with other mods to maintain contact with members.
  3. You are a "public" figure with your local Freecycle.org group. Please choose your email address and username with that in mind. You do not have to include moderator, or any other connotation that you are a moderator, but you should be sure your information is family-friendly and not related to any business or organization, like goCards@sss.com, orIlovesex@xxx.com. These are personal and may be how you identify yourself to friends and family, but you must be aware that not everyone feels that way, or supports that team, and may be offended.
  4. We ask you please not include any site links in your address, or photos and names of your children, or any other personal information. Not only does it appear unprofessional, but you may begin having problems like harassment, spam, etc. We don't hide our identities, but we don't broadcast them either.
  5. Being a Moderator is being part of a team. Moderators with years of experience and moderators with five minutes of experience are all part of our Freecycle.org team. We are our own support group.

Moderated vs. Unmoderated Members

There are two basic types of members, "Moderated" and "Not moderated." "Moderated" means all messages go to Pending and have to be approved. "Not moderated" means member messages go directly to the board with the exception of messages triggered by Hotwords.

While how to moderate new members is a moderator's decision, the default setting for new members is unmoderated. If you choose moderated, you must take them off moderation after they post correctly or after a short time on the list even with no posts. This means you will no longer be reviewing their messages, and that whatever they post will go directly to the board. Hotwords will still catch inappropriate posts after this point. You will be manually changing membership status for new members who have learned how to post correctly.

When should members be taken off of moderation? As soon as possible. Many moderators take them off moderation after one good post. Some mods make it two good posts, others make it a month. Members who have not posted within a couple of months should be taken off moderation to keep your group's moderated percentage from steadily increasing.

Your own account should be set to "Moderated". The purpose is so we can stop a message from going accidentally to the group when it was meant for one member. It is very embarrassing when this happens.

What is not allowed on Freecycle.org

In addition to items mentioned in the Guidelines and Disclaimer:

  1. Adult-oriented posts
  2. Advertising
  3. Bickering, ranting, snippiness
  4. Foul language or vulgar ID’s
  5. Pet Breeding posts
  6. Classified ads
  7. Garage sale ads
  8. Moderating several groups or moderating a group other than where the mod lives.
  9. Keeping the whole group (or majority of the group) on moderation.
  10. Themed Freecycle.org groups, such as just children’s clothing.
  11. Restricting wanteds to a specific day or time, or making a separate database for them.
  12. Keeping a public database of no shows or problem members. You may keep these, but they must be for the mods' eyes only.
  13. SPAM. Spam is any post that endorses a commercial product or is being blanketed across The Freecycle Network. This includes posts with links to websites where you are supposed to get a free iPod or some other highly desirable item (that is not likely to be free), and sites like World of Products and Network of Savings. SPAM is dealt with harshly... if we can't identify the poster as a local member (in other words, if someone has just joined and then tries to SPAM the group), we delete the post as SPAM and remove them as a member. When it's a regular or known member, sometimes they don't realize its SPAM, and we warn them -- usually this takes care of it. To find out how to report a Spammer, click here.

Items to be decided on a local basis

  • Pets. Pets can be very controversial. If you decide that your group should allow pet posts, please refer to the Pet Moderator Handbook.
  • Coupons, tickets, frequent flyer miles, game pieces, postage. These items can clutter the board and don't really help accomplish our goal of keeping items out of the landfill.
  • Cribs and infant car seats. Because of safety and liability concerns, some moderators (especially in the U.S.) prefer not to allow posts for these items. Other moderators allow these items after editing the post to include a statement advising members to check the latest consumer safety data before using these products. After all, a drop-side crib may be too dangerous to use for an infant, but it could be cleverly repurposed into something useful.
  • Strange, scary or weird posts. You can always ask for more information before allowing or rejecting these posts. When in doubt, feel empowered to not allow a post that may appear to follow all the rules but sounds a bit off / inappropriate for children, etc. Better safe than sorry.

Please note: If you are working on a group where the Lead Mod is a freecycle.org email address, you will be able to make decisions for group policy after the Lead Mod has left. Groups with Freecycle.org moderators are run with simple guidelines of only Free, Legal, and Appropriate for all Ages. If you have been referred by a local mod to join an existing team, it would be wise to check with that local mod team to see what policies have been set.

Do's and Don'ts

The Moderator Manual includes a full list of Freecycle.org Do's and Don'ts.

Required Files

All Freecycle.org groups are required to maintain two group files. Please see the links below for more information on these files.

  1. Guidelines and Disclaimer
  2. Farewell

In addition to the required files, most groups create files to send to members in certain circumstances, for example when a post has to be rejected or deleted. This helps keep the communications with members consistent and also saves time for the Moderator. See the Moderator Manual for sample files that you can modify and use for your group. For instructions on how to create files for your group, click here.

Many groups have "Required Group Guidelines" and "Disclaimer" as separate files. It's not as convenient as the combined "Guidelines and Disclaimer" file, but it's perfectly acceptable to maintain these as separate files as long as both files are sent to all new members.

Contacting the Mod Team

There is a link on your group home page that members can use to contact the mod team. However, you may need to send out something that you want members to reply to, for example a request for volunteers. In that case you will need to ask members to reply at https://my.freecycle.org/home/groups/GROUPNAME/contact_mods, replacing GROUPNAME with the name of your group

As an important anti-spam safeguard, never publish your Moderator email address. We do not ever put the moderator address on information that goes out to the groups because we don't want spammers to get a hold of it.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF A FREECYCLE.ORG MODERATOR

What is our job as moderators? As moderators, our job is to enforce the required group guidelines and follow the Do's and Don'ts. Keep things free, legal and appropriate for all ages; spam free, no off topic chatter, no porn -- it is up to us to gently help keep the group moving in the right direction.

Sometimes as a moderator you need to put yourself on time out, step away and answer the problem tomorrow after a fresh perspective or a good night's sleep. Never let them see you sweat! Never reply to a member when angry or frustrated. It requires a commitment and a lot of patience to take care of problem members or problem posts.

Moderation Basics

You'll be doing three basic things as a moderator on a daily basis:

  1. Approving moderated postings. We find that in most cases, a light touch is best. The quicker we can get the postings through to the board, the more items are kept out of the landfill. So if you don't "have" to reject the posting, please don't. If it can be edited to comply with the rules, please do.
  2. Reading the unmoderated posts to check for compliance. For posts that come through from members who are not moderated, if we find they don't follow the rules, we immediately remove the post, explain the rule to the poster, and ask him or her to re-post. Sometimes we place them back on moderation... until they seem to "get it." Some folks will never be taken off moderation. We like to allow the group as much freedom as possible -- it gets messages through quickly and keeps our work down.
  3. Taking members off moderation if they are posting correctly or within a few weeks of joining.

The basics of the job include:

  • Maintaining a positive, friendly, non-threatening relationship with other mods and the members.
  • Taking care of pending members and pending messages. Inquiries should be handled within 48 hours. You can see pending messages or pending memberships on the Info and Options page.
  • Being aware of the privilege of being a Freecycle.org moderator and taking great care not to take advantage of it. NEVER reply to an offer before it is released to the list.
  • Responding to members’ emails. As a "customer relations representative" for Freecycle.org, responses should always be calm and clear and never angry. It is best to use a standard written reply to most frequently asked question.
  • Maintaining confidentiality of any information distributed via the list.
  • Developing and maintaining knowledge of Freecycle.org rules and guidelines.
  • Monitoring posted messages for Spam, For Sale or Wanted to Buy items, chit chat, illegal items, and anything else NOT allowed on Freecycle.org.
  • Being familiar with the Mod Manual and referring to it regularly.
  • Joining moderator discussion groups once you're promoted to Lead Moderator.

Responsibilities of All Moderators

Do NOT be an ogre. Always be nice, helpful, never demeaning. Be a caretaker of the list, not a boss. Do NOT let your position go to your head.

  1. Fulfill your commitment to Freecycle.org by covering the group the hours you agree to. You do not have to be online the whole time, just check on your group on a regular basis. If you will be unable to moderate the group as agreed, please contact the Lead Mods and other moderators so that the site is covered in your absence. If you are a sole moderator, please contact your GOA to request temporary Mentor Mod team coverage.
  2. Make sure that the required guidelines of The Freecycle Network are followed by your group as well as any local rules your group has in place.
  3. If your local group approves memberships, follow the guidelines in place for this purpose.
  4. Never, ever respond to a post before it hits the lists for all members to see.

Responsibilities of the Lead Moderator

  1. It is your job to see the job of moderating your group is always covered. This doesn't mean it has to be moderated 24 hours a day, but you or another moderator should check in on it at least once or every few hours during the day depending on the size. Some groups take shifts, others take days, and in some groups all mods just check in whenever they can during the day to see if anything is pending. That decision is up to you.
  2. To hire and train new mods as needed. If you don't feel you can train them yourself, you can request help from the Mentor Mods team. Some moderators choose to remain the only mod for their group, but this is not a good thing. If you have a serious illness or a death in the family, then you need someone already trained to be there and ready.
  3. Take care of your group's Files, update as needed, and add new ones when needed.
  4. To make final important decisions pertaining to group-related issues, in consultation with your co-moderators.
  5. Regular maintenance tasks are usually done by the Lead mod or delegated to another moderator, including:

For those with the desire to do more there will be opportunities for getting involved in other groups tasks, such as:

  • Developing publicity materials and promoting the group, and
  • Enhancing and maintaining the information under the Group Info tab, including the Group Description, publicly accessible Files, and Links.

GENERAL TIPS ON MODERATING YOUR FREECYCLE.ORG GROUP

  1. Know how to moderate your members and how to do "whole group moderation" for emergencies. This is used if members that are unmoderated start flaming each other. Do not permit comments or conversation on your board, this will lead to more chat.
  2. Answer each first email politely and clearly, but don't get into long email exchanges. The more exchanges, the more heated it seems to get. Also, cc a copy of an email to any member to the local moderator team.See #6.
  3. Do not ban members lightly. Having said that there are times it is appropriate. Spammers should be banned immediately. Any member who is heavily abusive to you should be removed. As volunteers we do not have to take abuse.
  4. Enforce all your rules consistently and fairly. But don't be dictators. Uneven enforcement will prolong your problem.
  5. Try to write notes in a style you wish to see from members. Use complete sentences, minding spelling and punctuation. Treat members kindly and with respect. It is good to use "please" and "thank you" a lot. Never call people names and try not to jump to conclusions about their intentions. This is all pretty obvious but it adds up in the long run to respect.
  6. Good communication and teamwork is very important. It makes running a group go much more smoothly. It is a good practice to cc or copy/paste everything you send to a member either to the Lead Moderator or a small mods group just for your local group so the other moderators can see what has been done. Keeping each other in the loop is very beneficial.
  7. As a moderator you are expected to follow all rules. You are the role model for every member. Moderators are expected not to post “needy" or "desperate" posts. Moderators are not allowed to become No-shows. Your dedication and willingness to moderate the group is very important. You must be counted on. Professionalism and teamwork is very important to a moderator's position.
  8. NEVER reply to an offer before it is released to the group. This would be reason to be dismissed as a moderator.
  9. Full moderation of a group is not allowed. After a member has posted correctly, use the drop down menu to remove them from moderation. If you have a group that is highly moderated, you may remedy the situation by clicking on the "Unmoderate Entire Group" Button and remodderating a few problem members. Your GOA may require you to unmoderate the entire group this way if s/he comes across a group with high levels.
  10. We do not allow anyone or any company or group to advertise on Freecycle.org. It is okay to announce a new neighbor Freecycle.org group, but the way to handle this would be to write the LM of that group and ask them to announce it.

Day 2 Assignment

Answer the following questions and turn them in to your trainer:

  1. Are Garage Sale ads allowed on Freecycle.org?
  2. Are posts wanting to breed animals allowed?
  3. Is advertising allowed?
  4. Name at least 3 things not allowed on Freecycle.
  5. Name 2 things you can make a decision on locally.
  6. Please tell me the link for members to use to contact your home group moderators.


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