(This is a repost of something I originally wrote for the Fediverse. original)

Running a new Fediverse instance is pretty wild, right? You own a social media site! You own it! You can invite your friends away from poorly-run corporate sites and try to give them an experience that's warmer, that's more fun, that isn't clogged with ads. It can be a pretty excellent feeling – and I know! I ran an instance for five years, and I loved so much about it.

There were parts I didn't love. Let's – [shakes head] let's talk about them for a second, because they're coming. There's always something out there, ready to pop a tire on the shiny new car you and your friends are packed inside, and I – we – want you to know how to fix a flat. We all benefit when you're aware of these things and know how to handle them.

Oh, I'm probably gonna swear. Fortify y'self. 🤷

  • You need to think about your instance rules/terms/code of conduct. The rules need to be clear, and they need to be explicit, and they need to be linked somewhere on (almost) every page.

The days of "don't be a dick" have come and gone. The assholes out here now have learned how to argue, and wheedle, and pick, without being obvious aggressors. They know that if they can portray themselves as confused, maybe a little hurt, they can dive through the smallest of loopholes at least once. It takes more time and energy, but you need to build that wall with brick, not chain link, because these mugs are coming with wire cutters.

Yeah. That's an extremely tall order, but this is the Fediverse: by design, we're all in this together. Check out some of the older instances like wandering.shop or mastodon.art, anywhere you feel like the cool kids hang out, and go to their /about/more page. They have that shit locked. down., rule after rule. Take a little time, actually read the things that experience taught them are important to say. Or I can do you one better: start with Annalee Flower Horne's Sample Slack Code of Conduct. It's a detailed, thoughtful, living document, from an author that expressly doesn't mind your lifting it in whole or in part. (…with attribution. Give Mx. Flower Horne their flowers.) Give it a massage where needed so it makes sense on your Not A Slack, Actually server & slap it right down.

Cool. Rules are set; even if you don't remember every one of them all the time, you've made sure your /about/more page is easy to find when you need a refresher. Now,

  • Learn, in detail, how reports work so you can check them regularly.

The new car you and your friends are packed inside has a lot of knobs and buttons, and their function is not always obvious. You need to know how to report a problem. You need to know where that report goes. You need to know how to explain the process to your users so you can encourage them to do it, and you need to check that shit so all the folks you encouraged to speak up will feel there's a point to doing so.

My suggestion? Learn by doing. Ask one of your users to report one of your posts; ask them if you can report one of their posts – with the express, stated intent of learning how reports work. Direct message a moderator or admin on another instance; ask if they mind your filing a clearly marked test report on something from one of their users. (Take "no" for an answer & ask someone else. 🤷) Familiarize yourself with the process. Take screenshots. Do whatever you need to do to keep it clear in your head.

  • Commit a little time to moderating on a regular, frequent schedule.

If your buddies think you're an unobservant driver, they won't ride with you again. You've got your rules; you know how to use the tools; now, it's important to use them. Some days, it'll be a 30-second check-in; others, it might be a half-hour of figuring out what response is going to be appropriate and consistent. In either case, it's what you signed on for when you got behind the wheel and told other people you could drive them around safely.

Find any little trick you need to make it happen regularly. Bookmark your moderation page(s) in your browser so you don't have to click or tap your way through each time. Pick a time of day when you know you're usually in a good mood. (Some of this shit will get under your skin, and your passengers get just as nervous when you're always honking and yelling at other drivers as they do when you just sit there & let things happen.) It's going to be stressful eventually; come to the task aware and ready to manage that stress.

  • Check the #fediblock tag regularly.

CaribenxMarciaX@scholar.social and gingerrroot@kitty.town are smart people who did us all a favor by starting that tag rolling. It's there so responsible people can help each other out. When you see a #fediblock post come through your timeline, throw a bookmark on it so you can give it a look during your scheduled moderation time. Search it; pin it to its own column in the Advanced Web View if it helps.

Pay attention to some of the folks that use it regularly, and to how they use it; it'll help you know when you need to do a little sleuthing or when you can be reasonably confident that some bad shit went down. Use it yourself! It's one of the ways we work together to keep trash off the roads.

Fuckin' Christ. I've been writing this all morning, and I'm sorry if you spent all this time reading to find out I didn't say a damn thing you didn't already know. I'm gonna end on this:

We older folks here on Fedi really are happy you're here and excited about the place. We know this is a lot, and we recognize it's a high standard. Hell, it's a higher standard than most corporate-run spaces seem to set.

That's what makes it exciting: the fact that, as imperfect as our attempts are, they're genuine efforts to Do Better, Together.