The Five Discord Moderator Academy Articles Every Community Manager Should Read

Discord is the premier communication platform in the web3 and NFT project space. The platform itself has undertaken a detailed, robust set of articles covering everything from Basic Channel Setup to understanding and managing expectations in Parasocial Relationships. We read all 42 articles and picked the five Discord Moderator Academy posts that every community manager should read.

John Wallin
Sep 23, 2022
 minutes to read
The Five Discord Moderator Academy Articles Every Community Manager Should Read
September 23, 2022

The Discord Moderator Academy is a series of 42 articles published by Discord which aim to provide you with a full education on the best practices, key tools and management techniques which will make your job easier and your communities experiences better. Every article has some value for Community Managers regardless of the stage of your personal journey, but the five we're highlighting today provide the best bang for your buck, especially with time tight and projects moving fast! 

Web3 and NFT projects are about two things: building and community. And building community. Is that technically three things? The foundation of a well-built community is communication between project leads, community managers and moderators, and community members. Integral to that communication structure is Discord. The platform provides a wealth of tools which can be implemented to facilitate outstanding community engagement, providing dedicated community managers the opportunity to work smarter.

If you're reading this article you're likely in anywhere from a couple to a couple hundred Discords, and have experienced what a great (and truly awful) Discord can be. We hope this article provides you with a quick and easy overview that takes your Discord to the next level, while also taking some work off of your plate. The Academy is divided into five levels: 100-Level Basics; 200-Level Setup and Function; 300-Level Advanced Community Management; 400-Level Moderation Seminars; and, 500-Level a 'masters' course on Parasocial Relationships.

Your read time may vary, but we found each of these articles could be reviewed and digested in 5-7 minutes, meaning the full five listed below can be read by many in just 30 minutes or less.

  1. 203: Developing Server Rules

A lot of the 100-level courses are dedicated to the mechanics of creating your server, understanding Discord's channels, reporting inappropriate content to Discord and other day-one questions. Those are important for anyone setting up a server, but before you ever open the doors and let your first member in, you should take the time to develop server rules.

Key Lesson: Once you determine the general principles under which your server will operate, you will need to determine how much detail you want to provide in your rules and how to enforce them.

While the general etiquette section is must-read, the discussion of server-specific considerations are key to constructing rules which provide your community the safety and structure to focus on enjoying the experience. For some servers the devil is in the details and taking the time to expressly limit certain discussion topics to dedicated channels can be an effective tool for ensuring civility. Determining which content falls where on your spectrum is important as is creating a clear process by which you will review conduct, take disciplinary action (timeout, ban, etc.) for rule violations, and what (if any) appeals process members have.

Many of your server rules will be in alignment with Discord's general terms of use, but thinking strategically about what type of community you're building and what rules will help your community get the very best out of your Discord is an important first step to a healthy community.

  1. 205: Utilizing Role Colors

Servers are fun! Colors are fun! Using role colors in a well-thought out way can increase engagement, personal identity, micro community growth and so much more. That's fun too. Role Color can also serve a very important identification and verification gate role. Create too many too soon and no one knows who anyone is; never venture into using colors and you're missing out on a simple tool that offers significant upside on establishing teams, rules and structure.

Key Lesson: Ideally, you want a level or server currency system to be something that is a fun background mechanic in the server, but not people's main reason for participating. These issues are not unique to colored roles, but anything that makes these systems more prominent and visible in chat will draw more attention to them.

It's not just moderators, Team or project leads that can use role colors. Supporting holders, diamond hands, game winners, raid leaders, alpha chasers and community managers with defined, unique colors is a fun reward. Active servers often have roles that come and go - maybe you're hosting a month-long photoshop contest and all participants get a Certified Artist color role.

There is also a valuable section on accessibility issues and ensuring that when you are selecting role colors you are mindful of color selection which can be utilized by the most members of your community.

  3. 314: Training and Onboarding New Moderators

Community Managers are often tasked with more than just 'managing' the community. Social media posts, answering tickets, hosting events, moderating Town Halls and resolving appeals all while maintaining regular hours in Discord leave CM without much time in the day to enjoy being part of the community. A number of CMs are drawn from the community, early adopters that showed a passion for the project and had an ability which fit the needs at the time. For many of us, moving into a CM role means taking on responsibility without training; being elevated to a position within the organization structure without having our role clearly defined. This Academy article helps address training, mentoring and developing new moderators who can help ensure a positive experience for everyone in the community, including the managers!

Key Lesson: Effective management promotes a feeling of professionalism and simplifies the process of training new moderators by a lot. Important aspects that should always be covered when creating a training program are time management, deciding on which staff are involved in training and why, effective communication, detailed content, and flexibility.

At the outset, working together as a team to create a document outlining the basic responsibilities for new team members, what your responsibilities will be in providing that training and support, and how they can provide feedback on the training they have received (or would like to receive) will provide a framework for new moderators. This should also include how the existing team identifies potential new moderators, how they're evaluated and what steps will result in a moderator losing their role (a lot of that is covered in 210: Moderator Recruitment).

The article as specifically addresses safety, threats and intimidation: An important aspect of onboarding moderators therefore is to make them aware of how to react in such situations. They need to be able to create an environment in which it is comfortable for them to work in and not be afraid to ask for help if they feel threatened by users or, in extreme cases, other staff members. Staff members supporting each other and being able to communicate in such moments is crucial for an effectively working team. Take care of your team, and yourself, starting with making sure you have the right number of people to handle all of the work.

  1. 301: Implementing Verification Gates

Many of the best practices for a Discord may feel like they're too big, or too far off for smaller, newer Discord servers. The reality is that following best practices early will pay outsized dividends for you and your fellow community managers down the line. A good process for implementing verification gates can ensure that your Discord growth is genuine, sustained and affords the existing community a degree of protection. It's much harder to resolve a bot problem after it's been identified, so follow this simple guide to pick the right verification gate for you, right now.

Key Lesson: There is no one right way to set up a verification gate. Ultimately, you will need to use your judgment as a community manager to make a determination on what verification gate to use and continuously evaluate its performance for weaknesses as well as assess opportunities for improvement.

In this article, verification gates as individualized and time-intensive as one-on-one interviews, all the way to the simplest reaction-based gate are discussed. Discord has created two different charts here which will help you identify if your current process is the right fit for your community. Adding and removing verified roles, parsing reaction vs. DM vs. channel-based verification are all different options and many communities also elect to have private channels within their servers which are subject to additional verification. The Academy's 301 course is flexible in it's presentation and your implementation:  remember your verification gates may need to be changed or updated to reflect where your community is in its lifecycle.

  1. 441: Community Governance Structures

The most advanced of the topics that every community manager must read is at the nexus of community engagement and community growth. Community governance structures may be a 400-level course in the Discord Moderator Academy, but odds are very good that you have already been involved in a discussion or implementation of a governance structure even if your team didn't specifically call it by name.

Community structures often fall into either a vertical or a horizontal hierarchy. The vertical hierarchy is a top-down management system with the Discord owner(s), admin(s) and manager(s) sitting at the top. Most communities choose a vertical approach in which they use these different roles in support of each other, assigning them specific tasks which may overlap.

We are big fans of empowering members in your community to participate in as many avenues as possible, and this articles provides insight on using social media, the ModMail bot and creating of public channels for #feedback or #suggestion. Your community may have significant involvement from large numbers community members, or may be run very narrowly by a small group of dedicated community managers. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, you should solicit and review feedback of both positive and negative nature from users. Each community will have a different structure, but regardless of what your hierarchy looks like the important thing is being able to identify it and use that structure to the benefit of the team and community as a whole.

Key Lesson: To provide the best atmosphere for both the community and your moderators your moderation team needs to be structured appropriately.  Without a suitable governance structure to your moderation team there can be confusion between staff, inconsistencies, overlaps, and gaps that make themselves apparent once the system is put under any strain.

This article discusses voting, decision making and earning consensus as well as using rankings and compromise to support a positive experience for all members. As we noted in Implementing Verification Gates, there's no wrong way to eat a Reece's. There is also not a single correct structure that applies for communities. In fact, just like your Discord may need to implement different verification gates at different points in your roadmap, it may also be necessary to change governance models over time, which makes this article one to bookmark for future review.

Find the full Discord Moderator Academy - complete with a final exam! - at Discord.

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