The traditional moderator role focuses on the problems of a community. People might post bad things, conflicts might erupt etc..
Moderation doesn't have to be a reactive process focusing on what can go wrong in a community, it can be a more encompassing role which both removes the barriers to participation and motivates people to interact.
We need a broader moderator role which includes:
- Resolving conflicts/removing bad content. Resolving conflicts and removing bad content is important, but it's only one element of a bigger moderation role.
- Structuring the community. The moderator can help structure discussions to allow members to see what's new or popular at any given time. They can steer the direction of the community by focusing upon specific discussions.
- Dissipating and concentrating activity. A moderator can monitor the level of interactions and dissipate activity if it becomes too much or concentrate activity if it's too low. This can be achieved by creating sub-groups for friends or topics, or by removing elements which are underused.
- Stimulating discussions. The moderator can stimulate discussions directly in to the community. They can ask members what they think about important topics.
- Soliciting responses to discussions. The moderator can also take steps to respond or find people to respond to every discussion in the community.
- Adapting guidelines. Adapt and update the welcome document and guidelines to suit the evolving needs and actions of the community.
This is a role which wont simply maintain the community, but further develop it. This broader moderation role can be measured by the quantity and quality of activity happening within the community. This is the role most communities, big and small, desperately need.