Fort Mod Team
All of Fort mods are abuse survivors, using the site for our personal survivor issues while also volunteering the time/effort to keep things running smoothly. The job of a moderator is to maintain the site as a safe and sane environment where everyone can talk freely and openly about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with abuse and recovery from it. Anything that stands in the way of this basic purpose is something that we need to fix: enforce existing guidelines, brainstorm new ones, suggest software adjustments, etc. We are lucky to have a strong and healthy community at Fort, and for the most part things are running smoothly, emergencies and bans are extremely rare. However, there are always things we could do to make Fort an even better place, if you have time/desire to contribute: by posting a thought-provoking thread on a topic that hasn't been raised for a while, spring-cleaning a forum folder, or coming up with a better way to phrase an FAQ item that keeps confusing everyone.
On many sites mods are automatically seen as an authority on mental health issues - we believe it's deeply unethical in an anonymous environment where one's credentials cannot be verified. None of us are acting as trauma counselors or conflict mediators (regardless of professional qualifications, if any), and anything we say about abuse/aftermath is our personal opinion only, worth as much as the next person's. We try to keep our opinions separate from our modding duties, to avoid misunderstandings, and refer those in crisis to our "help" tab, which includes plenty of resources, including instant chats with trained volunteers.
We have no obligation nor right to interfere as mods with anything other than ensuring that the site is functional and usable for everyone. For example, if someone keeps bothering you and it's making it hard for you to use Fort - let us know, we'll get them to cut it. However, we will not make judgments on who was right and who was wrong and punish the guilty party for their transgression - we aren't police. From our standpoint, both of you are survivors in need of support, and need to resolve your interpersonal problem somehow or put each other on ignore for a while. Our focus isn't on who started the fight, but rather - who won't drop it when asked to.
We recognize this is a mental health site, and abuse often causes impairments in social skills, communication, boundaries, and anger management. Everyone on site, no matter how disruptive they are, has been abused, is hurting, and is reaching out for support and human connection. Our goal is not to clear the community of those we don't like (because our personal likes and dislikes are irrelevant) - it's to say "no" when needed and enforce it, to protect Fort community, preferably in such a way that would still allow the person to stay and receive the support they are seeking.
Being a Fort moderator takes awareness, patience, creativity, and very good boundaries. It also sometimes takes courage, to raise a controversial issue or confront a bully, because if we don't have the guts to say "no" - we can't expect it of other community members.
Thinking of volunteering?
What does the job involve practically, what would be expected of you.
- Routine presence on site: there isn't a lot of work on most days, but someone has to be around in case of emergencies, to process newbie posts and keys requests, answer tech questions, keep an eye on forums to make sure all is kosher, show up in chat once in a while, put out fires, etc.
- Managing a forum section: cleaning up clutter, promoting relevant content, facilitating discussions, bumping up good threads, moving offtopic posts where they belong, etc. It's creative work done when you feel like it, not a daily thing, but you need to do it once in a while, so that your folders look busy, organized, on topic, and interesting to browse.
- 10hrs a week worth of active chatting: facilitating constructive discussions, enforcing guidelines if necessary, redirecting convos to appropriate rooms, etc. What most of us do is just hop in chat, resize it to the side of the screen, and multitask with forums work.
- Hosting 1 scheduled chat a week, 1hr long. Surely if you're thinking of moderating you've been to our weekly chats and know how it works lol, but here's the idea anyway. It's not a public speaking event, presentation, session, or anything of the sort. It's facilitating a discussion: posting some relevant topic that would be interesting to many members, and making sure the convo stays on track: curbing offtopic, asking questions, redirecting pointless venting, etc.
- Team work. A lot of bad things happen on sites where mods aren't communicating and each of them does what they feel like. Allows for bullying, harassment, very blurry boundaries, and pulling in opposite directions. Fort mods work together, keeping each other in the loop, asking for input, chipping in on decisions, etc. Makes for a much safer environment, and protects you too.
- 6 months commitment. It's very OK to quit modding whenever you want to for any reason or no reason at all, no hard feelings, and you're welcome to stay on Fort as a member after that, most of our mods do just that. However, it confuses the community when mods come and go, and mods have access to private data (like everyone's email addresses) - so if you're not planning to stick around for long, you might want to consider helping out in other ways.
While we are deeply grateful for every application, pure desire to help isn't enough to make a good moderator, so only folks who fit the following criteria are considered for the position.
- Awareness of the community life, above all. There's a big interesting discussion on forums, someone is in crisis and posts disturbing material lately, there was a fight in chat last night, a newbee looks funky, a forum folder is getting cluttered with irrelevant threads - you need to know these things. Not all of them require action right away, but you do need to be aware. That teen who keeps stirring drama all over forums - check their latest posts once in a while, anything needs attention there? There's 200 new posts every day, you cant read all of them, but you need to know what to look for and look for it.
- Interesting, insightful, thought-provoking input. Many members post rants and respond with hugs, "i feel bad - sorry to hear that" type of exchange. This is supportive, but boring. Nobody will stay in such a community for long. You can make one elaborate post a day, or you can post twenty one-liners, but you need to be visible in the community, engaging others in a constructive discussion.
- Emotional stability. We are all survivors, it's fine to struggle and be open about it, moderator deserves as much support as any other member. But you need to be lucid enough to perform your duties. Someone asks you how to post a youtube video and you respond, "it doesn't matter, life is wasted anyway, who cares about youtube?" - and we have a problem. It's fine to take a break for a day or two if you cant go on, but you cant disappear for a week without a notice either.
- Knowledge and respect for site guidelines. 14yo joined forums, newbie preaches Islam in chat, someone posted about beating up their 5yo son - you need to know whether these things are allowed at Fort or not, and address them if needed. Moderators represent the site, and their actions must be based on guidelines, not personal opinion. If there's a discrepancy - discuss it with the rest of mods/admins, we will either edit the guidelines or explain the reasons behind them to you.
- Knowledge of site contents and FAQ. I'm in crisis, where are our hotlines? Do we have any articles on SI? Can guests read Guidelines? Do we have a forum folder to post recipes? I lost my password, what do I do? How can I get access to RA folder? How do I change my avatar? How do I get into weeky chats? Where can I see my friends list? Can I block someone from talking to me? - moderator needs to know answers to all of these questions and have the patience to answer them - over and over and over.
- Communication skills. Moderators job is all about communication. You need to be firm with your boundaries while remaining friendly, warm, and liked by the community. Being scared of confrontations, or, on the contrary, enjoying them - is not a characteristic of a good moderator. You need to be able to phrase precisely what you want to say, and how you want to say it, so that your words would resolve the issue at hand, not escalate it. Sometimes a joke made en passe does the job better than a two-page PM. By the same token, you don't have to sound like a university professor, but you need to be clear enough for everyone to understand you. Littles speak, heavy foreign accent, inability to break your speech into sentences/paragraphs, etc - impair communication. Everyone is entitled to free self-expression, but moderator needs to be easily understood, by everyone.
- Basic computer knowledge. Moderators use more buttons than the rest of Fort members. You need to be capable of learning and using all the available controls on forums, in chat, and in moderator control panel. If you've been on board for a month and still can't figure out how to move a thread to a more appropriate folder - something isn't working out.
- Age over 18yo. This is due to legal requirements: moderators have access to all areas of the site, naturally, and we have 18+ areas; besides, spam sometimes contains porn as well. It would be illegal for us to expose a minor to adult materials, thus all moderators need to be over 18.
- Finally, we need to know you long enough to build trust. You probably are a great person with high moral standards. But we need to know this. Moderators have access to more info than the rest of forters, we need to be sure you won't abuse this access if given a chance. Simple example: you'll have access to everyone's email addresses, but you cannot use them for anything other than modding. Someone you were friends with suddenly disappeared, hasn't logged in in a month after posting about suicidal urges, you're worried about them. So you log into mod control panel, get their email address, and email them 'i hope you're doing ok, miss you'. End of your career at Fort Refuge: you might be friends, but they never gave you their email, you cant use it. We need to trust you won't start deleting posts you don't like, banning folks who are getting on your nerves, etc, no matter how upset you are. This level of trust takes time to develop, so don't feel rejected if we put your application on hold. We'll certainly get back to you once we know you better.
~ Andrew Vachss
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