Community Helpers are a team of people recruited from the FreeBSD community whose primary goal is to encourage the highest-quality and best user and community experience possible.
A Community Helper is less of a moderation role and more about community management and support. The role overlaps into multiple FreeBSD community spaces, such as our Discord presence and FreeBSD IRC Channels. The goal of our helper team is to facilitate productive and positive community space, and facilitate between and support members of our community.
- Community Helpers
- Goals & Guidelines
- De-escalate heated situations
- Progressive resolution to a problem
- Avoid policing external behaviour
- Remember to take breaks to avoid burn-out
- Appeals processes and accountability
Goals & Guidelines
Community Helpers seek to...
- Discharge their duties as unobtrusively and transparently as possible
- Exercise the principles of least priviledge in the fulfillment of their duties
Ensure the fulfillment of our FreeBSD Discord Community Guidelines
- Encourage positive engagement between members of the community, and collaboration between teams throughout the FreeBSD ecosystem
Pursue compliance with the BSDLabs Communication Team Guidelines
- Maintain consistent presence within the FreeBSD community
Provide crucial Community Management: What's Involved?
Facilitate positive communication and collaboration by being a catalyst (LiberaChat)
- Coordinate integration across the greater FreeBSD/FOSS ecosystem
- Assist in maintenance of the communication infrastructure of the FreeBSD ecosystem
Community Helpers are selected...
- From the pool of consistent and active community members
- Based upon existing behavior consistent with the goals listed in the first section above
- Who act with the objectives and needs of the community in mind in their daily conduct
- Via a multi-week silent selection and vetting process by the Helper Team and Administrators prior to receiving an on-boarding offer
- As a formalization of demonstrated pre-existing personal ownership and buy-in to the health and efficacy of the FreeBSD community and communications teams
If you have been approached for a Community Helper position, congratulations, and good luck with your on-boarding and training process! If you seek to draw the interest of the Helper team in integrating your contributions to our community ecosystem, the above resources should provide you with the means to best do so. We appreciate the contributions and participation of all of our members and seek to provide the best possible experience, unique to the disposition of our community and the constraints of our medium.
When it comes to operating as a Community Helper, there are a few key skills that we highly encourage you to develop. These skills will help you outside of FreeBSD related communities. They're life skills.
These guides were heavily inspired by those offered over at Libra.Chat. They've been "ported" here so that they can evolved overtime, developed more inline with our needs and requirements, and to help preserve their excellence just in case Libra.Chat closes down.
- De-escalating heated situations
- Avoid policing external behaviour
- Taking breaks to avoid burn-out
- Appeals and accountability
De-escalate heated situations
You may encounter a few heated situations in your time as a Community Helper. When two or more people gather to discuss any topic things can sometimes go down the wrong path. This is especially true in technology related communities. These are the kinds of communities that attract very strong opinions - opinions that are freely given. This can lead to situations where two people disagree about something so strongly, that intervention is required. That's where you come in.
What we're about to discuss are a set of skills for handling those kinds of situations (and more.)
Assume good faith
When you initiate conversations, try to assume that the other person is doing what they're doing in good faith. People don’t tend to wake up one day and decide to yell obscenities the community. They aren’t trying to cause harm. Even someone who has a track record of acting in bad faith could actually be trying to turn things around.
People grow and change, especially if they're supported and encouraged to do so by you, dear Community Helper. With that in mind, try to approach each conversation with all persons as an opportunity for them to improve and grow. Or put another: be open minded to the idea that they're trying to express themselves in better ways.
Avoid public confrontation
Sometimes you can avoid escalating a situation by talking to an angry person in private, rather than publicly in the community, which they could find humiliating. They may still act like you're intruding into a personal space without their consent. Consider asking to talk to them either in the community directly first or, as your first private message:
<You> Hi, can I talk to you about <problem> here in private rather than where others can see?
Discord gives people the option of completely disabling direct messaging from unknown persons. Even friend requests may be blocked. If that's the case, you may need to first engage in a conversation (in public) around being able to DM the person so that you can conduct your business.
In the event you cannot take the conversation private, then the uncomfortable task must be done in public with as light a touch as possible.
Listen and ask questions
Asking someone why they are doing something will encourage them to reflect on their behaviour. Once they are paying attention to their actions, they will often self-moderate. Most people do not want to be viewed as "the bad apple." This can be seen from the perspective of "assuming good faith" - most people actually want to be viewed as useful, constructive members of society.
You may disarm their defensiveness by asking for their input, instead of immediately admonishing them or levelling accusations. This centres the conversation on them and their thoughts, instead of on yourself. It's important to give people the opportunity to learn by their own reasoning, as it will lead to a stronger impact and their growth as members of the community (as society as a whole.)
Try to appear understanding of their concern rather than dismissive, even if you disagree. Your goal is to calm them down, and being oppositional will not achieve this.
When requesting someone change their behaviour, instead of ordering them to do or not do something, you can also ask them if they think they can. They will probably be more receptive and perhaps offer ways you can help them achieve it.
Try to remain calm
People learn by example and often respond in kind. Thus, if you demonstrate calmness when initiating a conversation, the conversation is more likely to proceed that way. Likewise, being respectful and professional when dealing with an upset person will do a lot of work towards forming a treaty with them.
More often than not, "being calm" can be achieved by simply listening. The offending community member might simply be having a bad day and need to vent.
Compromising, conceding, and resolutions with no winner
Humility is essential when in leadership positions. Sometimes, you will need to compromise or concede. Digging in when you make a mistake will not improve our community and could lead to distrust. You can always amend a lenient decision or concession in the future if there is actually a need to do so.
The goal here is to bring calm and order to the situation, not to be right. People will often reflect on their behaviour long after a situation has dissolved. That reflection is what hopefully brings them to better understand your perspective, which shouldn't always be, "They were right and I was wrong", but instead more like, "I could have handled that better." This goes both ways, of course.
Progressive resolution to a problem
This system is designed to prioritize mediation and give users many chances to improve their behavior before limiting their interaction with other members. Ideally, self-governing and a brief talk (possibly in private) about the implications of someone's negative behaviour will be enough to resolve the situation. When it's not enough, we have the following system:
A "timeout" means the user cannot type, speak, use video, or interact with the community. They're in a temporary "read-only" mode.
- Talk (again)
Timeout for 30 minutes after a repeated incident and the above failed compromise
- Timeout for one day if behavior continues within 12 hours of the first timeout expiring
- Timeout for one week if behavior continues within 24 hours of the second timeout expiring
And finally the last step in the event continuous timeouts do not help to resolve their behaviour: permanant read-only mode via the @readonly Discord role. This role allows the offender to continue to read content being posted by other members of the community, but they can never contribute whilst the role stays in place.
After read-only mode has been established, the user will have "write" acccess to one specific channel: #appeals under the "Helpers" category. This channel has "Slow Mode" enabled, which throttles how often someone can post anything to the channel. The channel also does not allow GIFs, embedded images, videos, or more to be automatically rendered. Slow mode is set to one hour.
A secondary, lighter approach
It's also possible that someone within the community is leveraging some feature of Discord to act in an obnoxious manner. In this case, you can talk to the member and ask them to stop, but if the problem persists, permissions can be removed form the member that include things like:
- Not being able to post GIFs
- Not being able to embed images
- Not being able to add reactions to people's messages
And so on. It's possible after talks break down or don't resolve the situation, that a lighter approach is to simply remove the user's privileges to do the "thing" that's causing the problem.
Avoid policing external behaviour
People are often part of multiple communities. They often behave differently in each space, as various communities have their own cultures and rules, some of which are more permissive than others. Confronting and punishing someone for behaviour that is happening somewhere else often escalates something small into a bigger issue affecting more people.
If you see someone behaviouring in a manner that's not befitting of our community, consider this: pre-emptive banning or communication is rarely a good idea. It can make people in the community feel like they're being spied on, which makes both your community and other spaces feel less friendly.
Instead, consider that the observed behaviour is taking place in another community and not ours, and people are allowed to move freely between as many communities as they wish. Whilst that behaviour is not taking place in our community it is, essentially, none of our business - that's the brutal truth around such a situation.
Remember to take breaks to avoid burn-out
Being a Community Helper isn't a job. It's not a legal obligation. You're giving up your time to assist us grow and maintain a solid community, not destroy your mental health by burning-out constantly or at all.
Take breaks. Let us know you're going "away from keyword" for a day or two - or even a week or two - to take some time for your self. Look after yourself and your family, and make sure you're putting the truly important things first.
Reach out to us if you need to talk about how you can better manage time, your contributions, or even off load any challenges or tasks you've taken on to another Community Helper.
Appeals processes and accountability
We are in the process of writing out guidelines and processes for dealing with such situations. Keep an eye out for those.
Removing people should not only be an absolute last resort, but it should also not be a permanent thing. People make mistakes and have bad days. One mistake or bad day shouldn't be the end of their participation in the community. Also, permanently excluding users from the community can lead to them seeking a way of evading the ban, becoming even more problematic.
Right now, we may be required to allow offenders to reach out to us in private to appeal situations, but other ideas are welcome.