Greetings, loyal reader! When last we left Bruce and Mary they had just submitted their resumes to a message board moderation service provider and they are anxiously awaiting a response from Maurice, the rep who is in charge of hiring. They are hoping that these possible jobs may be the tickets to making good their escape to Mexico
Our First Company Party (Mary is in red)
After hearing from our buddy Chuck about these cool sounding jobs, working from our computers, poolside, we updated our resumes and submitted them immediately. We were pleased to hear that Chuck had put in a good word for us. When we had asked what these jobs were all about, he explained that their biggest account was a large Canadian online news provider (in fact it’s the only account he works) and that all the comments generated by this website are pre-moderated prior to publication. I was aware of these types of message boards only because I would see them when I’d check my newspaper, the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, online. I was so happy when the Strib finally installed a button to hide comments, because I found it really annoying to see these posts, which mostly just attacked other stupid posts, when all I wanted to do was read the news. But anyhow, for news junkies such as us, it sounded like the ideal job.
Maurice emailed us to arrange a conference call via our landline for the next evening. We gladly confirmed and the next evening he called at exactly the appointed time. Maurice is a really nice guy and we had done our homework, researching this company as much as we could and our buddy Chuck’s info was also very useful. At the end of our ½ hour conversation Maurice said, “We’ll have Brad contact you about training next week.” Mary and I looked at each other blankly. “Maurice, does this mean we have the jobs?” He said, “Well, ah, yes I think it is safe to say you have the jobs, I will let you know for sure tomorrow.” Mary and I silently mouthed to each other, “Yes!!” Maurice went on to explain that we can work as few or as many hours as we want and that they will respect the fact we have family visiting in March, in the upcoming scheduling.
The following Wednesday Brad emailed us downloads for the online meeting tool called GoToMeeting and Mozilla’s Firefox browser which is the platform they use for their moderation services. We are also instructed to sign up for GoogleTalk, the tool for interoffice memo-ing. The first GoToMeeting was scheduled for the following evening.
It’s Thursday evening and we log in a little early to meet and greet Brad. Brad is a pretty cool young guy, early 20s and he is very charming. When the other 4 newbies log in, the training commences. This is the first of 6 training sessions and the shortest one, about 45 minutes with the longest about 2 hrs. We are happy to hear right off the bat that we are paid for these training sessions.
The first thing we are trained on is moderation guidelines in regards to: hate speech, racism, libel/slander, personal attacks, obscenity/vulgarity, and above all, we are instructed, please avoid personal bias in making decisions to post or delete a comment. Nicole struggles with this constantly, “This guy says W was the greatest president of all time, should I delete that?” “No, Nicole” Brad says. “That’s not banned by any of the moderation guidelines, except maybe vulgarity. Just kidding! The commenter might not be too smart but that is his opinion. Free speech is very important to our client.”
An interesting thing we learned about libel/slander in Canada and in most of the world is that there is no standard of malice, as there is in the US, for successful prosecution. In other words, in the US to successfully prosecute a libel/slander case the prosecution must somehow establish that the defendant not only libeled but that it was done maliciously; they have to mind-read. Consequently very few libel/slander suits are won. What all this means is we have to be much more diligent than if this were a US news-site. BTW: The US is highly criticized in the international legal community for the malice standard. Another thing we learned is that it is illegal to operate a hate speech website in Canada. It is quite common for perpetrators to move to the US where it is not illegal. Go USA!
We were fortunate in that the last two training sessions were live. In the midst of our training our friend Chuck had been promoted to account manager and we were invited to his beach house, with our laptops, to train in his home office. Chuck is the consummate multitasker; he was on GoToMeeting with the other, remote location newbies, working his own shift and training us live. It was intense in the second session when he had us log in and actually moderate. The intensity ratcheted up a couple more notches when we were made aware for the first time, and really it only makes sense, that there is a minimum standard for volume. They cut you slack when you’re new, but they do want you up to speed quickly. And that speed is a minimum of 120 comments processed per hour. This volume standard is required, along with a raft of reporting protocols.
The last week of February the March schedule came out and we could definitely tell we were the new guys by the simple fact that we had a bunch of Saturday and Sunday 4-8pm and 8-midnight shifts. We whined to Maurice, the guy who hired us and also does the scheduling, that our happy hour starts at 5 and our bedtime is 9. He did help us arrange some shift swaps with a known night-owl staffer but, for the first weekend we are SOL.
It’s Saturday and I’m working my very first shift and I realize that I have only one other co-worker and it is fellow newbie Nicole! And I find that as the evening progresses, posters are getting more and more smashed. Pretty soon the comments turn into a drunken on-line brawl. And it gets worse. Mary logs in at 8 as I am logging off and doing my reports and we discover that she is the only moderator on duty. We were told that the traffic is much lower on the weekends but we never dreamed that Mary would be working her first shift all alone! Mary shrieks. But she does well even as the drunken, online commenting brawl keeps escalating. But soon she does fall behind and I get permission from Brad, who seems to be available on GoogleTalk around the clock, to log in and help out. Finally it’s midnight and our turn to hit the bottle. We find that our first shifts were nerve-wracking as hell, but exhilarating. And it is a little embarrassing to admit, even to ourselves, that we did not mind the sense of power we felt as we thought to ourselves, “I just deleted your post, how do you like that, you racist drunk?!”
I think we’re going to like these jobs.
Thanks for visiting gentle reader. Say, Bruce has finally figured out how to access his traffic statistics and it seems there is a bit of a following to this blog. If some of you are Bruce’s old friends and pals, he encourages you to say “Hola!” in the comments section. And of course comments from any and all are always appreciated. Hasta pronto!