Staff: Creating a Moderator Manual


Tazmanian Veteran
Jan 1, 2004
Kathy submitted a new Article:

Staff: Creating a Moderator Manual

Creating a Moderator Manual

Staff Management:

Troubleshooting issues before the fact:

In the world of online communities, what is happening behind the scenes can be the making or breaking of the website you taken time, energy and dollars to build.

You create a community. You grow it. The visitors register and become participating members of your online community.

When you discover you can’t handle the community all alone (short of caffeine IVs and no sleep) you find moderators to help. The moderators are doing their jobs, moving threads, greeting newcomers and enhancing your community with their online presence. You pat yourself on the back because things are going well.

And then all at once you might find two mods arguing behind the scenes over something frivolous. You might find one moderator un-doing the job of others. You might find moderators discussing members in embarrassing, unprofessional ways behind the scenes. What you do not allow and try to avoid in your public forums is happening in your private mod forum. You might even find moderators that don’t retire or officially leave but are gone for weeks or months at a time without explanation and when they do return, they post only in the private mod forum.

At this point you might be wondering how to handle them. Each situation may seem small, but with moderators representing you and your website, you may realize that these kinds of issues could have (and should have) been handled before they even got started.

You may even wonder what kind of expectations you can place on volunteer helpers in your cyber community. If you took the time and money to create your website, you should treat it as a professional environment, expecting continued success. Staff guidelines are a must to build on the success you have established.

Create a Moderator Manual!

Before you can create a moderator manual, create a website mission statement. Spend enough time on this, over a few days or even weeks, to hone down your reason for being online. Keep it simple. Keep is short and within a sentence or two. Your website mission statement is foundational. It helps you to see your website work from a profesional vantage place. It sets the tone for your community, both members and staff.

Creating a moderator manual with four key components will save you some hard decisions later. With expectations communicated fully, you as the administrator...
Read more about this article here...
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Tazmanian Veteran
Jan 1, 2004
Ogden2k sent this example of a mod manual to me. I think it belongs here:
Here's a great Mod guide, I found it and modified it a bit. I am in the
process of "upgrading" it for vB3:

Moderators Guide

Thank you very much for volunteering your time in helping us to keep our
forums tidy. The task of a moderator is very important in keeping the
community together and helping it remain attractive to newcomers. Here are
some simple guidelines. If you have any questions at all, please feel free
to contact the webmaster(s).

Within your own forum, we expect that you will always take the high road.
Do not belittle members, do not air dirty laundry in public, etc. If you
have a problem with a member, PM them or e-mail them.

Outside of your own forum, we expect you to keep the best interests of the
members/forums in mind. It is not in the best interest of anybody to start
or contribute to flaming/bashing threads. The only result of these threads
are hurt feelings and general negativity in the forums. It is not
necessary nor useful to participate. However, you may choose to act as you
will. Generally speaking, I will not sanction you for acting immaturely
outside of your forum. However, we will certainly take note of these
actions. Please note that it is completely unacceptable to use anything
that you have found out in this forum or through being a mod against a member.

It is important that mods have a place to discuss matters frankly without
worrying about confidentiality. We expect you to keep all discussions in
this forum confidential. If you will not stick to this, please notify me
so that I can remove your Mod access. If we discover that you have
breached confidentiality, we will remove you as mod.

Forum Duties
The main thing is to care enough about your forum to make it a priority.
This will manifest differently per person. If you feel that maintaining
and nurturing your forum has become a burden or that you simply do not
have enough time, please notify me and I will remove you as moderator.

Maintaining your forum will necessarily mean regularly visiting to make
sure that there is no spam, multiple topics, problems to take care of. If
you need to take a break from the forums, please ensure that someone else
will keep an eye on them during your absense.

Nurturing your forum is harder to blanketedly define, but probably more
important. It is important that you access what your forum needs and then
do it. Please lean on other mods here for support when needed.

Moving Threads
If there are any threads that need to be "deleted", move then to the
recycle bin, use the "Move thread". The only time you would use "Move
thread and leave redirect in previous forum" is when someone posts a
question/thread in the wrong section.

Editing Posts
There are a lot of occasions when you will need to edit a post. Whenever
you do, please insert an edit note at the very end. For example, if a
member attached an advertisement of his or her website in a post, you
would want to edit that part out and put a note at the end like "(YOUR
NAME edit note: No advertisement allowed)".

No violent, discriminatory langauge or personal attacks are tolerated in
the forum. If you see any inappropriate posts, edit the post immediately.
Remove the offending portion or entire post body and insert a edit note
explaining your action. If an excessive amount of profanity is used in a
post, remove it.

Thread Title Punctuation
Subject must not contain excessive ammounts of punctuation (namely
exlaimation marks or question marks). Should you see a thread with
excessive punctuation in the subject, edit it by choosing "Edit Thread" at
the lower corner of the thread page. Capitalize the first letter in the
first word also.

No advertisement of any form is tolerated in any forum. Website links in
the signature are fine as long as it doesn't have too many links in it.
Use your judegment. Actual links to other sites are discouraged. Binary
Dreams is not a free service to help stores and individuals make money.

The following are considered spam:
* Very short posts that do not add value to the current discussion.
For example, a post with only the words "yeah me too!" are spam.
* Double posts. If you posted something and realized you made a
mistake, use the edit/delete option. If you make another post adjacent to
your previous post, the new post will be considered as spam.
* Off topic posts will be either removed or moved to the appropriate
place, depending on moderator.
* Posts that obviously serve no purpose other than uping one's post
counts. This is up to the moderators to decide.
* Posts like "XXX, I have a question for you" are considered spam.
They should be done via private messaging.
* Starting a new thread when a similar thread has already been started.
* Restating one's vote in a poll thread with no explanation.
* Any other posts that we deem inappropriate for other readers.
* Responses to spam posts should be considered as spam and be
removed. However, spam warnings should not be given in such cases except in severe cases.
* Restating someone else's opinion, or reanswering a question that
has already been answered. Some members up their post count by
reanswering a question in exactly the same way. "Yeah, what he said."
* Posts that contain large amounts of smileys and/or spaces to make
it look like they contain useful information often don't. Be aware of
those tactics to quickly up post count.

Give out official spam warnings to repeat offenders. Give a bit of leeway
to new posters (you can tell by their join date).

When you found a thread that is not relevant to a forum, immediately move
it to the appropriate forum. Sometimes you should leave a "trail" and
sometimes you shouldn't. I usually leave it if there isn't more than 2 trails.. Try not to leave too many.

We currently allow polls in most forums. Remove polls if they are idotic
and irrelevant. ex. John Doe made a poll titled "Who's da man?" and put
his name in the options. Polls like "What's the juiciest kind of
carrot???" are not productive and should be deleted.

We can remove polls from threads using the admin control panel. PM me if
you need this done. You can also split all the other posts into a new
thread and delete the original thread.

Sexual Content
Sexual content is not permitted except in the most general context.
Anything which could be hurtful to someone else (within reason) is course
for a warning to be given. This includes sexually explicit avatars, sexist
jokes, use of violent sexual language, unwanted sexual advances, and
anything else that could be hurtful and offensive. This site is rated for
all ages.

Closing Threads
When you can foresee that a thread is going downhill, you should close the
thread. A prime example will be flame wars or totally off topic
discussion. However, do not close threads just because the initial
question/concern was answered. It is because although the first question
is answered, the thread starter might have another question related to the
original one. Bottom line is, don't close a thread if a normal
conversation is going on smoothly (unless it wanders away too far from the
original topic).

*Whenever you close a thread, make a post to briefly explain the reason
behind it. Moderators can post to closed threads - just click on the
"Closed" button.

Stick / Unstick
Don't stick or unstick anything unless you have the webmaster's approval.

All global announcements should be made in the Announcements forum by
approved moderators. All forum specific announcements can be made by
making a new announcement in the Mod CP. Please discuss this in our Staff
section before you do this.

Forum Specific Rules
Please follow the assigned rules.

Warnings Tracking
Please log all official warnings in the Member Moderation subforum. One
thread should be created for each member who has received a warning. You
can easily sort the warning threads by clicking on "Thread" in the column
headings. Make a new post on the member's moderation forum for each formal warning issued.

A formal / official warning can be done in public by editing the offending
post and replace the offending section or the entire post with the warning
message, or it can be done via private message. If it is done via private
message, you could copy and paste the message along with your warning
thread. Each warning, edit needs to be in a separate thread.

Suspensions and Bannings
Either James or myself will deal with this. Please talk to us if you think
someone deserves a ban.

Multiple Accounts
Not allowed. End of story.

Note from me
I don't really like setting out "rules" and "sanctions". You are all
adults or soon to be one and volunteers, and we are not out to herd you
around. If there is a problem, however, I don't particularly want to hear
excuses, either. You are all capable of doing a good job, and if
circumstances arise that make it impossible, I expect you to seek help or
step down. I don't expect perfection, either (that would be highly
hypocritical, hehe), but if you care about your forum then do a good job.

If you have any questions, please let us know in a separate thread in the
general staff forum.


Jan 17, 2004
This is really good stuff, I have read it and even learned from it. I will have my mind go through it step by step and think about what applies to our site and not and how I can use it and gradually make a nice little (not too overwhelming) manual/introduction for staff members in our staff only forum.

Thank you very much for making the time and sharing these resources.


Tazmanian Veteran
Jan 1, 2004
That's why it here. :yup: Personalize it as it fits your needs. :D


Jan 27, 2004
Well, I have my Moderators Manual in place. I've contacted my only moderator who hasn't visited the board in 6 weeks. I'm guessing I'll have zero moderators by the end of the day :nono:


Jan 14, 2004
The info in this thread is amazing...:D I've got a Manual set up on my car site, and luckily it was right before I started a Mod Crew so there was nothing to change. My other site, however, is not going to be easy because after our current re-vamp there are going to be a lot of changes in the way we do things. But the way I look at it, change is good and if the Mods can't see the attempt to get organized as good for the site, then I'll be looking for new Mods...:(


Jan 7, 2004
The Moderators Manual is a MUST.

I handle a Spanish community forum, and in my country there's a saying that says: "No one is Prophet on his own land" and at the begining we have problems not with ours users, ours Moderators and "Collaborators" arguing about their responsibilities.

I arrange a formal meeting, and then I make them read the Terms of Use (TOU, something very important).

The redaction of a manual in native language (this case Spanish) was the next step, so they can understand every function of the vBulletin, also with the full translated style.

My last steps were create some threads in the Moderators' Forum, a different one than the Admin Forum, were they can post the absences and the date of return, the actions (moved, stuck, closed threads, etc.).

Also make your Moderators feel that their help is appreciated for the site and the users, don't confuse they are all, or you cannot work with out them, etc.

Later I'll post some guidelines that may help to have a vision of a Moderators Manual.

See Ya


Mar 20, 2004
I found that this was a very helpful posting. Thank you for taking the time to create it. As my fourm is growing and that I am in the middle of a site-wide "refresh", the idea of adding someone as a moderator is something I have been giving more thought lately as I find it increasingly harder to monitor the whole forum and this was a really good read.



Mar 18, 2004
Just found this thread. Excellent work Kathy and Ogden, thank you very much.

Prior to this, I've used the advice and guidelines in Sitepoint's Community section as a basis for helping new mods. The Manual here brings it all nicely together.

Neutral Singh

SPN Administrator
Aug 22, 2004
Thanks Kathy & Ogden2k !!

and Thanks TAZ... truely a wonderful resource for admins... Whatever i put in a serach box produces some amazning information... Best of Luck !!


Jul 7, 2005
Mine is similar, but not as formal...

PS, ignore the code, they are bullets.

What Makes a Good Moderator?

A good moderator stimulates the forum, and helps to attract new members. It is important that the moderator be open to new posters. Not just with a willingness to greet the new people but to really make them feel welcomed. There is nothing more discouraging to a new poster than to feel they are being ignored.

It is also important that the moderator be interesting and insightful. The moderator has an opinion on almost everything, has an imagination the size of the Grand Canyon, is an expert on the topic in question, and is willing to listen, argue or smile. You can fuss at him and he can take it. He's able to leave yesterdays disagreements in the past. He tries to be nice but he's a got a heck of a sarcastic wit.

I haven't agreed with everything a moderator has done (I complained to him about moving a post of mine around; he listened and said he thought the decision was fair) but I've always felt like he acts with sincerity, genuineness, and intelligence.

The Role of a Moderator dealing with members…
Once in a while a bulletin board system draws the attention of unscrupulous individuals hoping to exploit the concentration of a large number people for their own profit. Usually these individuals post messages about various get-rich-quick or multi-level-marketing (Pyramid) schemes. Often they will post the same or similar messages multiple times on one board ("spamming the board") and/or post messages on several boards at once ("cross-posting"). Sometimes these individuals will be sneakier, especially if they realize that their IP Addresses are being logged and can be used to ban them from access to the board. In such cases, one might see an individual posting innocent messages frequently, but his signature includes a questionable statement; an individual might post messages whose entire content is a request that readers visit his scam's site; or an individual might post seemingly benign messages that tend to promote or recommend a little too strongly or too often one particular website, company, or service. There are other ways these individuals will attempt to get their self-serving messages across. A good Moderator must be on the lookout for such posts and individuals.

Occasionally tempers flare and attacks ("flaming") occur. They can be directed against an individual member, the Moderator, or The Forum as a whole. Attacks can be a few angry posts (minor), spamming the board (moderate), or spamming Message Centers and e-mail addresses (severe). In addition to watching out for get-rich-quick, mlm, and similar attacks, Moderators must be wary of, and quick to put out, temper fires. Most people will use a bulletin board responsibly. It is only the occasional jackass who tends to ruin it for everyone. And it's the job of the Board Moderators and Board Staff to identify, isolate, and expunge posts and/or individuals that do threaten the membership general. If either type of posts do appear the Moderator has several tools at his disposal, depending on the severity and frequency of the problem.

The most important tool a Moderator has is his own judgment. Use it. Often members invite others to visit their websites. This is perfectly acceptable. If the majority of the person's posts, however, are advertisements for his website, then that is not acceptable. Sometimes an otherwise good member of the community will post something questionable. User your best judgment. Consider the content of all the member's posts, then decide what course of action you wish to take: Edit the message yourself, request the member edit his post, remove the message entirely, request a text filter, or request the member be banned. Use your judgment. When in doubt, ask for advice from another Moderator or the Board Staff. If you feel the need after speaking with these people, ask The Administrator, who will take final responsibility on any matter.

While we still hope very much to never have call to use it, The Forum has, since its creation, been equipped to bar individuals from access. The system can automatically prevent access by any person based on his IP Address, which is the unique number that identifies each person's computer at the point it connects to the Internet, or by a group of IP Addresses (all addresses originating from an entire domain or ISP), and by several other methods we will not discuss in the interest of security. Banning is permanent.

The Board Staff consider the termination of a member's account and the ban of that member to be a very serious action, and it will only be taken in the most extreme cases and when all other options have been exhausted. Before banning a member the Board Staff will thoroughly examine all evidence, interview all relevant parties, consider all circumstances, and attempt any and all possible lesser actions, which may include temporary suspension of account and access or double secret probation.

The following individuals are not considered members, and will swiftly be banned:
Those whose presence on, and "membership" to, The Forum is clearly intended solely to facilitate engagement in:
 People that ONLY slam other people, or companies. Constructive criticism is good. And an honest opinion is wonderful, but liable is not.
 Promotion of off topic information, such as: mlm's, advertisements, adult-oriented material, lists of websites or email addresses, mailing lists, clubs, opt-in lists, etc.
 Posting of multiple messages whose content does not significantly vary ("spamming" or "bombing the board");
 Sending through Private Messaging multiple messages whose content does not significantly vary ("spamming" or "mail bombing");
 Posting of copyright-protected MP3 or other files whose copyrights are not owned by the author of the post(s), or any illegal files including, but not limited to ‘WAREZ’.

If a Board Moderator feels that an individual should be banned, such as in the case of an individual or group that engages in one of the activities listed above, take the following steps:
1. Cease all communication with the offending party; the Board Administrator will take it from here.
2. Do not delete all the posts/U2U's/e-mails from the offending individual as the Administrator will need to examine them, and will need to retain them if the action taken is ever challenged.
3. Inform all other relevant parties, except the offending party, to also retain their copies (in the case of U2U or email offenses), and that they should not communicate with the author until the matter has been resolved.
4. Send via U2U to username "Kovacic" or via email to the Administrator's email address the following,
 The board(s) and topic titles on which the offending post(s) appears;
 if the offense is not related to public posts, such as U2U or e-mail spamming, send representative samples;
 an approximate count of the appearances/instances of the offending post/message;
 the member's username and real name;
 the handles (usernames) of all members, Moderators, and Board Staffers who are aware of or have been victims of the offense; and
 an explanation of why you believe banning the member is warranted.

Though the entire Board Staff may be involved in the decision, the Administrator will bear final responsibility for the decision to ban or not ban the member. Any appeals and protests should be filed with the Administrator. Any involved parties wishing to comment or make recommendation on the matter prior to a decision being rendered should contact the Administrator.


Nov 11, 2007
Really good stuff Kathy. I have these moderator resources in bits and pieces. After reading this note, I am going to pull all of that together into one "Moderator Manual". Thanks.