I've noticed that unlike many other communities, Sitepoint does not have moderators for the individual forums, but rather uses community-wide Advisors and Mentors to provide leadership. I am unsure of the exact responsibilities of Adivisors and Mentors here and I'm wondering what the difference is between Advisor and Mentor. I do volunteer as a moderator at another webmaster-related community so I am directly familiar with that way of doing things. What are the pros and cons of each method? (Advisors/Mentors vs. Moderators). Is one way better than the other? What do you think?
Advisors are basically moderators who have access to perform moderator duties in every forum rather than a specific one. They have power to do everything normal mods can do, ie move threads, close threads and so on.
Mentors have been described by Wayne as 'the eyes and ears of the community' - we don't have permission to perform moderator duties but we have a special forum where we discuss issues pertaining to the forums with the advisors (and admins).
I think that while the Advisors/Mentors idea has it's benefits, it isn't the best way for most communities. SitePoint is slightly unusual in that there is such a high number of members capabpe (and prepared) of being community leaders. At any time there should be between 40-60 Mentors and Advisors put togethor. On my forums I still support the idea of per-forum moderators (as is traditional), and the other forums I moderate at do the same.
Might I add, that at SitePoint the Advisors and Mentors are grouped into teams. Each team is in charge of a certain category (except for "More Channels"). The teams are "responsible" for their area of the forums, but they are not discouraged from helping out in the other areas as well.
The use of teams helped to give the staff, especially the Mentors, clearer goals, which in my opinion helps to motivate us. It is nicer, in my opinion, to be allocated a section of the forum to work on rather than having the whole forum.
The method of moderation will grow out of the community and how it is used.
You will find that larger communities have staff or Super Moderators that can act in all sections of the community. This is what our Advisors do. They can act in all of our different forums so that if something is seen outside our guidelines it can be acted on immediately. They don't have to contact someone else to get things handled. This works here and it lightens the load on the individual moderators.
The Mentor program is two fold.
First they are a second point of contact between the membership and the Advisors and Myself. They are able to bring things to our attention that we may miss so that they can be acted on quickly and satisfactory. This isn't just violations of our guidelines but they help us find posts that haven't been answered, they welcome new members, they suggest ideas to help build the community. They are also responsible for looking for new Mentors as needed.
Secondly, the Mentor program is an internship for our Advisor program. This gives me a chance to look at them in a leadership role and gives them an idea of the behind the scenes workings of the community.
Now there isn't one strategy that will work with all communities. We are even constantly changing ours as well. However the larger and more active the community is, the harder it will be for individual moderators to remain on top of things.
I think the Advisor system whereby advisors can 'do anything anywhere' is the best option really. For example, on another community that I moderate at, which is a similar size to this one (150k posts, 7k members, 25k threads) moderators are assigned specific forums which means I have often had to contact another moderator (or someone higher up in the tree who has access to all forums) to resolve an issue.
The model used here has it's disadvantages but I think overall it is the best solution.
On my community we used a system similar to Sitepoint Forums (Its my muse, I cant help it ).
We have Super Mods! and Jr. Mods!
All of them have moderator capabilities and they can all moderate on all forums, but we have specific Jr. Mods on specific forums so they can manage it. As Wayne said, we pick our Super Mods! from among our Jr. Mods and then fill the spot up with a new Jr. Mod.
Since my forum is also help-oriented (its a game afterall), our moderators are usually the more knowledgable people and help people greatly, which is why they are kind of Advisors.
I don't think that limiting certain mods to certain forum's work, as James said, then you have to contact someone to fix a problem or delete a post that does not go along the guidelines, which sometimes can cause severe problem.
My Mods (all of them) are also the eyes and ears as James put it, and they help me as the Administrator find out more problems than anyone else, and they also help point people to me or to another admin who can help them more than myself.