An Interview with a Reddit Moderator

I publish essays about the creator economy and product management every two weeks. Join thousands of other readers by subscribing below:

Dear subscribers,

Reddit has 100,000+ moderators who work tirelessly to keep their communities safe:

Coming from the creator economy, the needs of moderators are fascinating to me. Creators get to interact with fans (love), grow an audience (fame), and make a living (money). In contrast, moderators often get abusive messages from users and don't make any money at all.

So what makes moderators want to put in the work?

To find the answer, I interviewed Dora, the lead moderator for RPAN. RPAN is Reddit's live streaming feature that's moderated completely by Dora and her team. This team has 100+ volunteer moderators from 4 different continents monitoring RPAN streams 24/7.

Mind-blowing right? Let's dive in.

A day in the life of a moderator

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I've been a Redditor for seven years, and I'm the Head Moderator of RPAN. When I'm not managing the RPAN mod team, I run a digital marketing agency in Australia.

How did you become a Reddit moderator?

I was a "lurker" on Reddit who read posts and gave the occasional upvote. When Reddit introduced RPAN in 2019, I decided to try it out by broadcasting my corgi. It wasn't long before I fell in love with the experience and the community.

A few months later, a Reddit employee reached out and asked if I'd be interested in moderating rpan. Although I've never moderated anything before (much less a 150,000+ member subreddit), I thought I'd give it a try.

Can you walk me through a day in your life as a moderator?

Since I own my business, I can be flexible on my schedule. Here's how my day goes:

  • 9 am - 2 pm: I mostly focus on my business. I work on a monthly retainer for my clients, so it's easy for me to work when I can.

  • 2 pm - 6 pm: I do active moderation because this is usually when my team in the US and Europe are asleep. 

  • 6:30 pm: I have dinner, then do some light moderation and check in with the team while I'm relaxing at night.

I also run a Discord server with my mod team and try to stream some part of my day.

Moderator needs

That sounds like a lot of work! What motivates you to do all this for free?

I get asked this question a lot. Many people wonder, why would you put so much time and effort into a volunteer role that often opens you up to abuse from online users? 

The fact is that I love RPAN. I love interacting with the streamers and the commenters. I love that RPAN has given people the ability to open a window into a portion of their lives, celebrate the beauty of the mundane, and forge genuine connections in a time when people feel disconnected. All of these things are incredibly precious to me, and if I can help keep people safe and give them a better experience, then I'm proud to do so.

I know that this is true of my fellow moderators. When we onboard new moderators, we look at how well they fit into the team's culture. People in it for the authority don't last long, as we want moderators who are genuinely excited about helping others and creating a welcoming environment.

I write about creators who care about "love, fame, and money." What needs to moderators have?

Well, moderators are volunteers, so we're not doing it for the money, but a little acknowledgment can go a long way. 

Moderation can often be a thankless job - users accuse us of restricting their "freedom of speech" when we apply our subreddit rules, and many of us get harassed daily. Yet, we keep doing what we're doing because we know how important it is to keep the community safe.

So when it comes to moderator needs, I'd say that two things are important. The first is adequate tools to do our job properly - moderation is hard enough without technical hurdles. The second is the occasional thank you. It means so much when the users recognize how hard we are working and acknowledge our efforts. 

Growing a moderation team

So going back to your journey - you were the first volunteer moderator for rpan. How big is the moderation team now?

We now have a team of ~100 volunteer moderators from four continents who moderate 15 rpan subreddits:

  • We have moderator coverage in every time zone. Our mods come from countries like England, American, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, and Germany. 

  • Our team is also multilingual, speaking English, French, Italian, Spanish, Austro-Bavarian, Japanese, Dutch, Hindi, and Galician.

It's mind-blowing to me that there are 100 volunteer moderators monitoring streams 24/7. How did you grow this team?

I have a few guiding principles in growing my mod team:

  • Diversity: I look for moderators of all ages, genders, and nationalities. 

  • Community-focus: I look for people who are passionate about the rpan community, even if they lack previous moderation experience. 

We also have a robust process for sourcing and onboarding new mods:

  1. Users can apply to be a moderator from any rpan subreddit. Once a user applies, we go through a rigorous process to check their user account, ban history, and general interactions with RPAN. 

  2. Users who pass step 1 need to fill out a quiz with more detailed questions about their approach to moderation. 

  3. Users who pass step 2 then get a link to join our Discord Server as a trial moderator. 

  4. Trial moderators need to read through our moderation guide, attend a training call, and complete a knowledge test before they can start moderating. During their 3-week trial period, they'll get support from the entire mod team and are encouraged to ask questions and learn as much as they can. 

  5. If we find that trial moderators have shown good judgment in their moderation actions and are a good cultural fit for the team, we'll promote them to become full moderators.

That's incredible! How do you stay in touch with your fellow moderators?

One of our main focuses is transparency around mental health.

I'm open about my struggles, and I encourage the team to do the same. We also encourage every moderator to go on regular breaks if they need it. To make sure everyone feels heard, we conduct regular Culture and Climate surveys, and I run a quarterly All-Hands call where we discuss the findings of these surveys and what changes we'll be implementing. 

But we also have a lot of fun! We have bi-weekly game nights and run our own internal Snack Exchange, Secret Santa swap, and Compliment Box (where mods can give anonymous compliments to each other). 

I want to stress that even though I'm the Head Moderator of RPAN, none of this is possible without the support of my team. They do so much because they love the community, and I am so grateful to have their trust, respect, and companionship on this crazy journey.

Dora and team have essentially built an international non-profit organization to support the rpan feature. They do all this because they love their community and get energy from users that appreciate their work.

Moderators are the unsung heroes of communities and deserve the spotlight.