We’d like to introduce our ‘under the spotlight feature’ – a place where we showcase past and present students’ moderation experiences. In the following first-hand account Gregory Beattie, a bilingual UGC moderator, talks to us about his journey as a moderator and shares his thoughts and impressions of the work he performs and the reactions of others around him.
This may sound weird to some but three days before sending in my CV and covering letter to become a moderator I had no idea this kind of job even existed.
It’s strange and amusing how some things just sort of slot into place: I had just been laid off one week earlier from my previous full-time job due to the stagnant economic situation in Italy and, freshly out of sommelier school and now fully qualified, I was planning on moving to a foreign capital in search of better things. Then a family friend told me about a moderation company that was recruiting for a large project, suggesting I apply, as I might be an ideal candidate. They were looking for someone who spoke fluent English and Italian, had a good eye for detail and amongst other things was good on computers. I didn’t know anything about moderation so I did some quick online research but couldn’t find much at all. The little I did find, though, looked interesting so I sent in my application and a few days later I was called for an online interview, after which, to my amazement, was offered a full time job!
Although I’m British, I was brought up and have been living in Italy for 25 years so I was pretty nervous about working for an English company. I knew I wouldn’t have many problems on the technical side because I’ve always loved messing around on computers but I was initially worried about the decisions I’d be making and what the consequences would be if I made a mistake. I soon realised how much responsibility was involved but I was struck from the very beginning by how helpful everyone in the company was and how easy it was to obtain any sort of assistance. The support I received made a huge difference to how confident I felt about starting each new shift.
Another thing that struck me when I first started was how much there was to do. I found myself launched into what seemed at first an endless whirlpool of things to do, programs to install, countless emails to read, people to talk to, scheduled internal training sessions and let’s not even start talking about the first shift… Luckily I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and was so enthusiastic about everything that things really did speed by and it even turned out to be fun!
One thing I’ve found to be crucial in my understanding of the job has been Moderation Gateway’s online moderation foundation training. The company suggested it to help improve my moderation skills. It was a real eye-opener because it clarified how many important aspects are involved in checking UGC (User-Generated Content). This online course covers every possible type of content you’ll come across and includes matters of legality, freedom of speech, brand protection and child safety, as well as giving essential information about all the national and international agencies that have been set up specially to ensure online safety. I think it’s a brilliant starting point because it gives moderators a good grasp on things, covering all the basics and more.
Most people’s first response when I mention moderation is: “Oh, so you work on online forums” – well, yes and no: social media management encompasses a wide variety of online work. It may be a forum, but more often it’s an online community, which could be a game for teenagers or younger children, a fashion brand for ladies, dealing with customer care issues via Facebook or searching for offensive comments on YouTube videos. I sometimes get the feeling when talking to people that they don’t consider this to be a proper job and that one has it easy working at home in front of a computer, but it’s certainly not as easy as it may seem. It really depends on so many aspects – what project or projects you work on and also how much you may work.
Another question I’ve been asked is: “But is there really need for this kind of work?” Absolutely yes. My generation was one of the first to be exposed to the Internet. I was 15 when we got our first painfully slow Internet connection so I know what most youngsters get up to online as I’ve done most of it myself, but today children are exposed to all this much sooner. Most of them are online by the age of 10 and just about all of my friends’ children are playing with their parents’ smartphones even before they can speak.
Online bullying is a big problem and it happens all the time. It can be just a simple insult or mean word, but in the worst cases it can be organised and relentless, sometimes with devastating results. I am pretty sure that most of us have had our fair share of petty bullying when we were little; I took up karate partly because of it and now I am an instructor and teach children how to avoid it so it’s great to be able to effectively do something about it online as well. I believe this is one of the reasons the company took me on, as it’s now obvious to me how much importance they place on protecting children on the internet. It’s really interesting to see how thorough they are about setting up safeguards to ensure that nothing unpleasant happens to these youngsters. This is why every moderator has to have a criminal background check or DBS (UK Disclosure and Barring Service) check.
I must say when I first started out I never thought I’d have liked doing this so much. My previous positions have been very dynamic and I’ve always viewed people with 9-5 office jobs as having a pretty boring and uneventful life. But working freelance from home is not quite the same thing: the job offers many little quirks that aren’t easy to come by elsewhere. I have worked on many projects and most are a real pleasure and give a sense of gratification and satisfaction, which is a great bonus. For me it also has a lot of other positive aspects. I am bilingual in English and Italian and really enjoy working with both languages. My hours are completely flexible (although with some notice of course), which means I can keep up my active lifestyle of rock climbing, karate training and teaching and I can even work as a sommelier. Last winter I was going skiing twice a week and always had to go alone because my friends were stuck at work during the day. But the most appealing side for me is that you can do this anywhere in the world – all you need is a portable computer and a reliable Internet connection (I really must take advantage of this sooner or later!).
I’m still building up experience in this line of work, but I’d say a good moderator has to be disciplined, able to make quick decisions and work effectively under pressure, and needs to have a LOT of common sense. As in any other work, things will get stressful and problems will arise, but what’s great about working for this organisation is that our “virtual office” means that everyone is in touch with one another and it’s so easy to find someone – a colleague or a supervisor – and ask them for help or advice, or even just have a chat about the job. There is definitely a common sense of purpose amongst us moderators – I am sure we all agree that what we do is essential in keeping the internet safer and healthier for its users. I’ve always thought you can form strong bonds over the Internet and this has been further confirmation for me: there may be great distances between us but I believe that working in an online environment brings us closer together than in any office, and it feels very reassuring to know you’re not alone out there!
Gregory Beattie has been working as a bilingual moderator for a year. He is British and has lived in Italy for 25 years. Gregory manages to combine his moderation work with being a fully qualified sommelier as well as a karate teacher.
Could you contribute? We are always interested in hearing from any of our students who have an interesting story to tell. If you would like to share your experience with us, please email theteam@moderationgateway.