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Mods are volunteers?

It just dawned on me that the fact that the mods are volunteers is questionable. This is a for-profit company and presumably, CNET makes a reasonable profit or they would eventually pull the plug. Is this volunteer mod thing a hold-over from the Jim Leff days? It really seems inappropriate to me to have people working for free for a for-profit company.

It also makes me wonder what kind of people take it upon themselves to police others for free. Is that perhaps behind some of the mod problems that some - including me - have experienced?

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  1. It's standard on many for-profit sites for moderators to be volunteers. Ask anyone who was a sysop on CompuServe or AOL.

    Pretty sure it's true on sites like Talking Points Memo, too (for instance).

    6 Replies
    1. re: Elisa515

      Seems inappropriate to me. It must be a fair amount of time and why should they be uncompensated for this time? Heck, we are now talking about having to compensate interns - people who traditionally have little or no skills and who are receiving training in exchange for their time. So why would we have unpaid moderators?

      And yes, I am repeating myself, but what does it say about someone who would chose this is as a hobby?

        1. re: Servorg

          I still see Pat's s/n around these boards. That was a fun interview to listen to.

          1. re: HillJ

            She pretty much puts that "evil power hungry moderator" thing to rest...

            1. re: Servorg

              And brings a ton of cred and class to the table.

        2. re: Just Visiting

          I don't think we can presume to know what doing this unpaid labor says about a person - there are many people who do this on many sites (not just moderating but also generating content), and their motives are likely all over the place. I tend to agree with you though, that the internet (with all of this free labor) can bring profits for companies based on some unpaid labor. At the same time, one could argue that what CNET is doing is not delivering content but rather creating and running a site for people to 'play' in, and to play in ways they wouldn't be able to if CNET did not do this. Much like, for example, a health club does not make money off of people working out, but rather off of people's desire to have a place to work out. I don't fully agree with this, because a health club could not use my workout at a later time for its own ends, while these sites do, I believe, own the content and could conceivably use it for other ends at some other point. Though I'm not sure if that's quite correct....

      1. Just from my posts alone, Jacq, should be compensated in the high 6 figures. .

        5 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          Actually, I was under the impression that everyone listed on the CHOW Staff link, including the two Community Mgrs for CH, located at the bottom of this page (red banner tab: About/Contact CHOW) are all compensated employees.

          And, that Mods who volunteer their time to moderate CH, are not identified by name on this site anywhere unless they have chosen to use the red diamond next to their s/n.

          1. re: HillJ

            "And, that Mods who volunteer their time to moderate CH, are not identified by name on this site anywhere unless they have chosen to use the red diamond next to their s/n."

            Not entirely true, (although she does have a red lobster next to her s/n name).

            http://www.chow.com/profile/10087

            1. re: Servorg

              I know Pat H is the exception via the interview (didn't we talk about this earlier) with sharing her experience. Didn't Pat mention she was retiring as a Mod during the interview? But, as members we are told there are many people volunteering their time. So Pat is one in a million (in many ways) but not the point I was making.

            2. re: HillJ

              Just a small correction -- the volunteer moderators don't use the red diamond. It's optional for paid admins, it's not available to volunteer moderators.

          2. I imagine there are all sorts of reasons why people decide to be time givers. They believe in the mission, they can afford to, they will learn new skills, they have the right skills, they like to volunteer, they like to be part of a team of volunteers, they don't SEE it the way you're describing it.

            Volunteer-not compensated for time is neither exclusive to for profit or non profit. In government, there are certain rules against it. However, I can't imagine that anyone is volunteering against their will on a food site.

            1. "And yes, I am repeating myself, but what does it say about someone who would chose this is as a hobby?"

              Let me fetch you a ladder just in case you want to get off that high horse of yours.

              Do you seriously have the gall to make this statement about people who volunteer their time for our mutual enjoyment?

              26 Replies
              1. re: jrvedivici

                I suspect at least some of the mods get more enjoyment out of it than "we" do.

                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Beat me, whip me, break out the leather baby!

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    I have absolutely no personal knowledge of the Chow mods, so if what I'm about to say isn't the case or is completely wrong I apologize in advance. What I'm about to say came from another web site, group, blog that I belonged to a few years ago.

                    It was brought to my attention on that other site that many of the mods were either retired individuals or individuals who were "homebound" for one reason or another, including cases of various handicaps, and volunteering their time as a mod, was more or less their "job". Learning this at the time suddenly opened my eyes and made a lot of sense to me as to how or why someone could take as much time out of their schedule to do such "thankless" work.

                    Again I have NO idea if this is true for any of the Mod's on Chow, however it did make me see the entire thing from an angle I had never considered before. No matter if it's a web site, a church or a youth organization if someone is giving their time for my benefit or enjoyment I will always bow in gratitude for their time and participation.

                    Think and say whatever you want to about me, but not people who are just trying to help us have a good time.

                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      "...people who are just trying to help us have a good time."

                      They're failing, as far as I'm concerned. I'm delighted their efforts please you, however.

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        "They're failing, as far as I'm concerned."

                        If you are that unhappy might I suggest you just leave? I'll gladly hold the door open for you, no need you continue to suffer for their failures.

                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          I'm not "unhappy", far from it...not sure why you constantly beat that drum. I just happen to think its silly to treat adults (well, those of us that ARE adults) as children.

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            I'm sorry I made the assumption you were unhappy, when you brought up the contrast of them failing you, but being delighted their efforts pleased me, I took that as a contrast of our overall opinions of our time here. I would be lying if I haven't noticed a trend of you generally taking opposite positions to mine, so I guess I took that prejudice to this as well. My bad, if I'm wrong I have no problem with admitting it.

                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              Well, cdawg, many do act like children. Although i get peeved for having my posts removed from time to time, i like this a lot better than those boards where the posters get into personal cat fights with each other, stray waaay off-topic, etc.

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                It seems that some adults never outgrew their childhood and still act like children. Hence the need for moderators.

                                1. re: Bigjim68

                                  That's a huge slight to mature young people :)
                                  Adults take responsibility for their adult choices no matter how childish at the time.

                                  1. re: Bigjim68

                                    The problem is that the moderation is arbitrary and unevenly applied. Childish drivel is left up, while adult conversion gets deleted.

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      Some of the best FOOD recommendations I have ever received have come from what you affectionately call "childish drivel".

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Most of your wee hours of the morning "curing cancer" (your words) drivel is removed by breakfast. Maybe the answer lies in what hour you use the romper room.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          By definition, you can't possibly be correct. But if it makes you feel better about your posts, and your "friends" posts, then please believe it.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            See, I think there are ways to be humorous and/or entertaining while still adding value. There are some here who are very good at that. But to post time and time and time again just to banter just becomes tedious IMO. I see there's a new post, click on it and it's just more banter.

                                2. re: jrvedivici

                                  Most of our mods are employed professionals -- over the years we've had doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists, etc. But we have also had homemakers, retired people and people who were between jobs. The thing they have in common is that they're Chowhounds, not who they are when they aren't being Chowhounds.

                                  They make time for Chowhound in the same way that every member of the site makes time for Chowhound. After being invited to join the Team, they split their time on the site between sharing their food experiences and helping keep the site friendly, honest and helpful, but they're still Chowhounds first and foremost.

                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                    Thank you for addressing my comments, although you don't owe me any explanations.

                                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                                      Question, if I may? Do you have any guidelines beyond those that are posted? I ask because I had a post removed because it was "medical advice." It wasn't. And it was very much in line with the dozens of similar posts on the issue of food sensitivities and allergies I've seen posted on an almost daily basis (like the thread yesterday on bacteria on meat and what is safe or not for pregnant women to eat). It seemed rather arbitrary to me, and no, arbitrariness is not fun. Prolixity, yes, but not arbitrariness.

                                      I did actually check the guidelines. There is this:

                                      Reports of Food Poisoning, Insects, and Other Health Code Violations
                                      Posts alleging food poisoning and other restaurant health-code violations (like finding bugs or other foreign objects in your food) are not permitted. An online discussion forum is not the place to report urgent and serious public health concerns. If you notice something, please tell the authorities.

                                      But nothing else and this doesn't pertain to the kind of post that I'm talking about.

                                      So if you are using additional guidelines, why not post them so you don't have to (a) constantly remove non-conforming posts and (b) appear to be arbitrary when in fact you are not?

                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                        We try to keep the guidelines pretty high level, though there is more detail on some items in the faq: http://www.chow.com/faq Medical advice isn't one of the areas we touch on in the FAQ, but it possibly should be.

                                        Medical advice is an area I admit is not our strongest. We don't see a lot of the instances where it might be an issue until well after it's entrenched in the conversation. And when we are reviewing a potential medical situation, we find that the line between food advice and medical advice can be difficult to draw.

                                        Generally, if someone is saying "this is my medical situation and what I've been told not to eat, what should I eat instead?" that's clearly okay for us. If someone is saying "these are my symptoms, what might be causing them?" or "based on your symptoms, you might have this condition" that's pretty clearly medical. In between that, things get harder to call.

                                        1. re: Jacquilynne

                                          I'm glad to see this written about. I've flagged things over the years that I think clearly cross the line. It actually frightens me to think that people take medical advice from anonymous sources. And in a perfect Chow-world, food safety questions would be banned entirely :)

                                          1. re: Jacquilynne

                                            "Generally, if someone is saying "this is my medical situation and what I've been told not to eat, what should I eat instead?" that's clearly okay for us."

                                            That is "clearly okay", if, for example, a person who is allergic to milk asks for ways to avoid dairy products. It's clearly different if someone who has been diagnosed with hyperkalemia asks for ways to avoid white beans and potatoes because they remember the doctor mentioning 'em as being too starchy.

                                            Similarly, "Mommy" advice that is not clearly anecdotal is problematic. "My son's first solid food was lobster and he just graduated from Harvard last year" is "clearly okay". Nevertheless, "You should feed your child lobster as soon as he can chew because it'll make him smart", is not.

                                          2. re: Just Visiting

                                            I do see the inconsistencies you are getting at.

                                            For example, there's this thread which shows a lot of ideas that are "Medical Advice": http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/924431 Worse, it has gobs of nonsense "Mommy Advice"* that may be even more threatening to the notions that underlie the guidelines. Reason should always preempt rule, after all.

                                            * It can come from Daddy's too, I know. I just like the phrase better than "Parental Advice". That just seems too MPAA - "This movie contains drugs use and a naked ass."

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              I think that particular thread is pretty benign with most people just giving food recs. I've seen some that make me squirm with fear and flag those immediately. I don't check back though to see what's happened. I did my part and the mods can do theirs.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                I'll agree with you co. I must have been bored because I went through that thread earlier this morning and found it to be pretty "non medical" expert like. One poster recommended going to the Mayo Clinic online site (not exactly crazy advice) and one person went on a pretty long post about the health benefits of grass fed beef and real butter. Pretty benign indeed.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  That was I who linked to the Mayo Clinic :) I think especially as it relates to children there is so much anecdotal "info" out there and people take it to be gospel and run with it. Same can and does happen here. I've been surprised that CH allows as much of it to stand as they do. I don't know what the legal liability is such situations.

                                  2. One of the interesting things about the volunteers is that they don't reach out to us and volunteer to be moderators. Instead, we contact them and ask them if they'd be willing to help out.

                                    We choose members of the site who are passionate about participating in the discussion and sharing their food experiences, who are friendly and helpful when they post, who demonstrate that they understand the site guidelines and who've demonstrated a good eye for spotting shilling. We look at people who Flag problems, and do it well -- most of the things they Flag are genuine issues, they offer thoughtful comments along with their flags, they don't try to use Flags as weapons in their own arguments, etc. We also look at their participation on Site Talk and elsewhere on the site to see that they support a discussion that's friendly and honest.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                                      It's like membership at Augusta National...if you ask to join, you're out!

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        When you are entrusted with the power of virtual life and death you don't get to wear the red moderator's cape and leap over tall posts in a single bound unless you are worthy, Grasshopper!

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          I'd never belong to a club that would have me as a member!

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            How do you think thousands of your and Sam's and my posts are out there floating like space debris?

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              Phut!

                                              Speak for yourself.

                                              Mine are "space ornaments".

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Actually, I'll agree that our most clever stuff hits the cutting room floor.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  It is a travesty, isn't it, V?

                                                  When I perish soon, I hope you will remember me fondly and carry on our diatribes ...

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      I don't believe I am worthy yet of being a "disciple" of Sam.

                                                      I fear that, in some circles here, mentioning my name in the same reply box as "Sam F." would be akin to Chowhound blasphemy.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        I concur. With humility and arched backs, we must carry the torch onward.

                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                          I am proud to post in the shadow of such greatness.

                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                            jr, too bad you didn't have the pleasure of overlapping with Sam. He was cooler than Luke.

                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                              Please do tell me who and where is Sam the man?

                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                  We lost Sam three years ago, age 61. He was a world class agricultural research scientist, PHD, worked for CGIAR from Cali, Colombia, traveled the world and ate everything along the way. Japanese ancestry, grew up in N. Cal.
                                                                  Amazing life's experiences, knowledge, wit, and loved Flor de Cana rum. Genius.
                                                                  We were hermanos. Most of my treasure of e-mails with Sam are in Spanish. We used to get deleted here for posting in spanish because we forgot after a few rums that CH is English.

                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    Wow.....thanks for the link Servog, you can certainly tell by the number of people who commented that he was a truly special person.

                                                                    I don't feel you need to have met, let alone known a person personally to show them or their memory respect, so with that said RIP Sam, your affects are still being felt. God Bless.

                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                        You should know, jr, that in many ways I am the "anti-Sam".

                                                                        With Sam gone, there is an imbalance in the universe.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          Which imposes a considerabe incongruence on the cosmic teeter-totter.

                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                            "Which imposes a considerabe incongruence on the cosmic tater-totter."

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              I need to cogitate this one with Ron White, with real scotch. Yes, his scotch is the real deal...the tater salad man!

                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                        The collaboration between you and Ipsy, is sheer genius.

                                                        1. re: Beach Chick

                                                          Yeah. True brilliance. After a fifth.

                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                            You should see the stuff that gets zapped.

                                                            V and I actually discovered the cure for cancer on a thread about how to peel hard boiled eggs but the Mods got to it.

                                                            (Actually, truth be told I discovered the cure, V was just in the room at the time but I give him credit nonetheless cuz his parents never fed him tater tots growing up. Mercy credit.)

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I thought you all discovered the cure for bacon? I gotta stop with these rasher and rasher theories...

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  I figured it was a kosher idea...

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                But they encouraged me to swallow olive pits as a toddler because I was an unplanned child. Child Protective Services was alarmed to find peach pits in my diaper.
                                                                I've taken linguafood's advice. I'm lawyered up and I plead the fifth.

                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                  These days I thought you mostly pleaded for another fifth...

                                                  1. I was a moderator for awhile on another "for profit" site. It was totally volunteer, and I did it because I thought it was interesting and I liked knowing how things worked on the back end. There were no "required hours" or anything like that... it was more of just a "do what you can when you're around" sort of thing.

                                                    But in the end I stopped because I would get too annoyed with the kind of stuff people would report as a problem, and I was getting in disagreements with other more... um... strict ...moderators about how to handle certain problems. In the end I realized I was too laid back to be a moderator and un-volunteered.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                      Did the P-t-B reach out and ask you if you wanted to mod (like Chowhound does per Jacq above) based on what they saw of your posting history and temperament, or did you simply "volunteer" and they said okay?

                                                    2. Why would food lovers voluntarily pool their knowledge and guidance for fellow diners within a for-profit site? Makes sense to me....that's exactly what we're all doing here this very second, no?

                                                      Some food lovers also voluntarily help direct traffic while others do this sharing. Same impulse, same incentive, and ensures the result is as helpful for us all as possible. Woo.

                                                      If human beings refuse to share and help and build amid corporate environments, then we are all completely sunk in today's world.

                                                      Meanwhile, thank heaven CBS keeps the lights on so we can continue to build this thing sixteen (!!!) years on. I tried to run it via my heart, soul, and adrenal gland, and that damned near killed me.