Online community hosts, also known as forum moderators, monitor and enforce
rules of online communities, such as message boards. Online communities have
many different topics and attract members of all ages. For example, gamers,
the stock market and budget-conscious shoppers all have their own online communities.
People find a community that interests them, and then "hang out" online.
They have discussions with other people all around the world who share their
interests. It is important for online community hosts to have a solid base
of knowledge about the topic of the forum.
The rules and membership of each community vary. In general, online community
hosts want to make sure that their site is a safe, friendly place for members
Online community hosts make sure that members behave in a considerate and
honest manner, and that the posts stick to the topic. They also want to make
sure that there is no spam or other abuse of the forums.
Many forums are open to the public and anyone can join. The members don't
always get along or agree on the topics they are discussing. This can lead
to "flame wars." Flaming is when a member directly insults another. Flame
wars are when the insults are exchanged.
Online community hosts must decide what action to take in these situations.
They can warn the members and remind them of the rules. They can "mute" the
member by disabling their ability to post to the site for a set period of
time. In serious cases, they can ban the member from the site.
Another important function of their job is to help members who are having
difficulty with the site. They answer questions and offer assistance. For
sites about products, such as games, they report any bugs or problems to the
game developers as suggestions for improvement.
Online community hosts often break into the field by starting as members
of a forum that interests them. Many positions are voluntary, but some online
community hosts are paid for their work. They are employed by different websites
and usually work from home. Their schedules are very flexible.
"The average workday as a forum moderator is generally decided on how
large the forum is and how many other moderators there are," says Karl Nyen.
He is the lead global forum moderator for Markee Dragon, a gaming forum with
about 80,000 members. He is a volunteer and spends about three hours per day
on the forum.
Josh Millard is a salaried moderator and administrator for Metafilter Network
LLC. "I'm 'on the clock' pretty much all day long, checking in on the site
regularly and watching my e-mail inbox, but on average I only end up devoting
10 to 15 minutes out of a given hour to the site. Some days are quiet and
require less than that. Some days are very busy all day long," he says.
Online community hosts spend a lot of time in front of the computer. They
should be able to type quickly and accurately.
Nick Bouton designed and developed a collaborative, creative fiction writing
community, which he hosts and moderates. He says a job requirement is being
able to think on your feet and deal with controversy quickly and tactfully.
"I also wouldn't suggest doing this if you have a heart condition or anything
where stress would physically affect you," says Bouton.