Posted by Kim on July 8, 2020, 9:00amMany members have questions about the RPR mods, such as how they work, what their rights as members are, and how to join the team themselves. Many members are also understandably timid about asking these questions. So today, let's look at how RPR mods work and the most common questions people ask me about them!
With power comes responsibility. Responsibility means accountability. RPR mods have no expectation of privacy when it comes to the actions they take as moderators -- Every official use of a power and modly communication is logged and reviewed by other team members and Kim.The RPR mod team also works very actively as a team. It's rare that any single case is handled by only one mod, despite each case generally only having one "point of contact" -- we use a Discord server and an RPR group to have at least one other mod double check our work the majority of the time something gets sent out. If an issue is major enough, we may bring the entire team in to discuss the way to get the best outcome for everyone involved.
Over time, I've also constructed a possibly absurdly detailed "decision tree" tool for mods. It's a group page with dozens and dozens of different moderation scenarios described with collapse tag titles. Click one of those titles, and it opens up to reveal yet more variations on the problem described. Keep drilling down and eventually, there's recommended steps for exactly what to do. This was made for a few reasons 1) to try and standardize moderation responses, and make ban lengths or other responses more uniform despite possible differences in moderator styles 2) to help reduce the burden on mods having to re-draft the same sorts of messages dozens of times a week. Some issues are just common enough that it doesn't make sense to re-invent the wheel for them every time! But, no matter how deep I make my collapse tag decision trees, there's simply no way to cover all possible scenarios, mitigating circumstances, etc., so while we use this decision tree as a starting place, there's still a lot of intra-team discussion that occurs.
In general, I have tried to foster a strong culture of avoiding working on cases in which an individual mod might have bias, both positive and negative, and staying highly accountable to each other in the RPR’s mod team. And our mods consistently do me proud. It is an honor to work with such devoted folk!
Another element of mod culture that I really enjoy is the team culture of self-care that has become so strong over the years. When mods get frustrated, tired, experience IRL upsets, have a falling out with a friend, they usually put themselves into "vacation mode" and hand off any cases they were handling to another team member without needing encouragement to do so from the rest of the team. In the long term, we don't want our mod team getting overwhelmed and burning out so they have to eventually quit, and in the short term, we know no one wants a mod who may be feeling crabby handling their case!
Now, let’s turn to some of the questions people often wonder about with RPR mods.
Can mods see the owners of anonymous characters?Short answer: only under very specific circumstances, and not without the entire mod team and myself knowing immediately that they looked it up.
Long answer complete with historical context: Up until the introduction of 2.0, there was NO method that a mod could look up the owner of an anonymous character. The only person who could do this was me (Kim.) Even when it became clear that for some cases, it would be much easier to handle them if they did have this power, I wanted to protect mods from even the accusation that they could use their mod powers to unmask an anonymous character. So I kept this power and made the mods go through me every time.
For the past seven months or so, there has been a method that mods can use to see the player of an anonymous character, but it comes with safeguards so that I can still say with confidence that it was not the use of a mod power that wrongfully revealed the player of an anonymous character. To use this feature, mods must first fill out a form in the mod center explaining why they need this information. The fact that they did this and the reasons they gave for doing so are permanently logged, and the reason submitted is immediately open to review by all other members of the mod team and myself. At the time of this writing, this power has been used by mods... *checks* once.
If a member is found to consistently break rules on anonymous characters, I can mark them as having lost the privilege of anonymity from mods. This still doesn't show the mods every character they play! Rather, it lets mods see if there are records of previous cases related to anonymous characters belonging to them. Which is to say: if an anon character was not involved in any kind of rule breaking, harassment or other concern, they still remain hidden from mods even if a user has had their privileges of anonymity from mods revoked.
Can mods read inbox conversations?Many people are curious about this!
Per our TOS, any message sent through the RPR can be reviewed to make sure it is not rule or law breaking. How this actually plays out in practice is that if someone uses the "request a mod" button on a conversation message, then mods become able to see that message and some of the messages before and after the reported one for context. Mods can't just go poking around inboxes on a whim.
I (Kim) am able to scan sent PMs for keywords if we've received some kind of really serious rule or law breaking complaint about a person. I avoid using this power unless we're concerned about a safety issue.
We much prefer "request a mod" reports of misconduct in inbox conversations over getting screenshots of them, because the on-site records can't be faked the same way a screenshot can be altered.
Can you block a moderator?This surprises many people, but you can block an RPR mod. RPR mods are asked not to moderate people they have blocked, or who have blocked them, to avoid actual or perceived bias. That said -- if you try to block ALL the mods, or a major chunk of the mod team, you're going to get overridden. This is not a way to avoid all accountability.
Will that mod know that I've blocked them?
Possibly! Just like any other block, mods don't get an immediate alert when they've been blocked. However, mods can look up who someone has blocked and the reasons given for those blocks. This is almost exclusively used when working on a reported harassment case. It's pretty common for a mod who has been blocked to have their first discovery of that fact be when they can't respond to a Looking For RP ad, etc. You know, the same way most people discover they have been blocked by someone!
Since the introduction of 2.0, if a mod tries to use a mod tool (like, moving a topic from one forum to another) on someone who has blocked them, they will see a notice that that person doesn't want to have contact with them and they should request another mod to take over the case instead.
Matching mods to membersIf you've been contacted by a mod about a rule being broken and you're concerned you've gotten off on the wrong foot, you don't need to use the block tool! You are well within your rights to say something along the lines of "I would be more comfortable if this was transferred to a different mod."
Again, this is not something you can do to every single mod to avoid accountability! But we're more than happy to transfer an issue to another team member (once per case). If someone expresses discomfort or distrust of a particular mod, even if they don't specifically request it in so many words, many mods will initiate the transfer to a different team member themselves.
As much as is possible, we want interactions with moderators to be positive. Although it's never fun to hear you've potentially screwed up, hurt someone's feelings, or even made a mistake as minor and consequence-free as posting a topic in the wrong forum, hearing about it from someone you feel you can trust and work with is vastly more productive than an unpleasant confrontation!Conversely, if it's not so much that you have a conflict with a mod, but rather, that you feel MORE comfortable with a particular kind of mod, let us know -- we'll put a note in your file and do our best to honor it if there is a mod matching that description on duty ("I feel most comfortable with women" or "I prefer a mod who is very familiar with the concerns of trans folx" are the two most common requests of this kind that I see, just as an example!)
How does someone become a mod?Every few years, we issue a call for new moderators. Interested members fill out an application that includes a number of essay questions about how you'd handle a range of difficult situations.
Applications have their name and as many other identifying bits of information as possible removed from them before they are scored. There isn't one right answer to these questions, so scoring is based primarily on an applicant's approach to reasoning through a situation, their attitude toward the role of a moderator, their tolerance for disagreement, etc.
Only the top 5-10 scoring applications will ever have their names re-attached to them, so a dive into the applicant's on-site record can be done. A couple of minor broken rules over the years isn't disqualifying, but a person's attitude about being corrected can be!
So there you have it. I hope this brief look at how modding works on the RPR has answered some of your secret, burning questions, and maybe laid to rest some fears you may have had!