An Admin's Tools of the Trade

Written by Weedmonkey on December 09, 2010

As an administrator, you are one of the most visible people in the Magic-League community. A typical day involves having to deal with user issues, handling responsibilities in your aspect of the site, and communicating with other staff to ensure that the entire machine that is Magic-League is purring like a kitten.

The reason I have decided to write this article because I suffer from a serious case of writer's block, and I need to solve it! Since the feedback I have received by and large on articles is the best where I talk about myself and the site's operations (no, I'm not being egotistical - see Ask Weedmonkey), I believe an article regarding practicalities would best serve the interests of Magic-League (and for any judges that want to get promoted *hint* *hint*).

The Toolbox

Every so often, one or more members of the community bring up with staff an issue that needs to be addressed. It may be a ruling for a game, an issue that has had an adverse impact on the community, or a suggestion to improve that same community. As a community leader, it is important to be able to have a broad set of skills available in order to best respond to the community.

I have now been an administrator for twelve months. In that time, I have been exposed to a far broader range of issues than I have realised. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep Magic-League moving forward and being better than it was yesterday, and being responsible for contributing to that is both greatly rewarding and challenging.

For my position as Coverage Director, a significant part of my work involves liaising with the community in order to get the input necessary to fulfill my position. This includes networking with people to produce designs for me, recruiting people to work on coverage and communicating with staff on coverage plans.

So, what skills does someone in a leadership role need?

#1: Clear communication

This skill is absolutely instrumental in being able to fulfill a leadership role. When someone approaches you with an issue or a topic to discuss, you want to be able to communicate clearly not only your response, but also any reasoning/philosophies/rules behind that.

For example - a topic that comes up every now and again is, "Why doesn't Magic-League have a role for people who just want to run tournaments?" This issue is one that has effectively been argued to death for a long time. However, it doesn't benefit the community at all if my response were to be, "We've already argued this to death - it's just something we won't do" (and for those interested, this is one mistake I have made in the past and endeavoured to fix). A better response would be:

1) It requires one person to run the tournament. This person would be in a pseudo-judge role and effectively take on the responsibilities of a judge. This gives that person all the responsibility without any of the accountability.

2) Judges at an absolute minimum are responsible for any issues that arise in their own tournaments. Having people who only run tournaments means that there is the potential for nobody to be around to handle tournament issues.

3) Players can become confused about who is in a leadership position.

4) If there are any technical issues in a tournament, they need to be handled by at least a level 2 judge. This can create an unnecessary additional workload for those judges if there are people only running tournaments without the skills to handle tournament issues.

Yes, this is an actual response I had made after my initial screw-up. Which leads me to my next point...

#2: Learning from your mistakes

I have brought up numerous times in the past about my time as a judge being significantly less than some other lower-level judges. This can impact on my ability to fulfill my role as an administrator as I can sometimes miss finer points on an issue or a discussion that I may not have had I more experience in a judging role. Even with more experienced judges, being able to learn from your mistakes is important in being able to improve as both a judge and as a community leader.

One example of this is in the ongoing development of a new website (which people would be aware of from Azania's article). Part of the development process has included me communicating to Azania my plans for integrating coverage into the new site.

The mistake I had made with communicating is that I didn't make myself clear enough - there were a lot of things that lacked definition, and because of that  Azania was unsure about how to work coverage into the new site. The solution? I needed to make my plans and ideas more concrete. Making them more concrete meant that Azania had more information to go on when coding things into the new site, and thus will result in a better quality finished product.

#3: Initiative

Being proactive in contributing to the community is something that we always want to see in our judges, as well as the community at large. Recently, Flippi promoted EngrishSkill, KeySam, Ggerg and Hardtrack to moderator status on our forums to reflect the effort and dedication they have made to improving an element of Magic-League. This was a great sight to see!

As an admin, you are accountable for the community. As Coverage Director, I am accountable and responsible for the successes and failures of coverage on Magic-League. As I mentioned in my article 'One Year On', I had taken a great step forward as well as learned a number of lessons in the rise and fall of the coverage site. The coverage site was an example where I took initiative - I took the following steps in developing the coverage site:

* Identified a need/area of the community that needed improvement.

* Planned and developed a solution.

* Created and implemented the solution.

Taking initiative is one quality that is always looked for in high-level judges, as it demonstrates their maturity, leadership and dedication towards Magic-League as a whole.

What I would love to see more from the community is people taking initiative in trying to make an improvement. Not sure of what the right direction is with your idea? Ask one of the staff - we're more than happy to guide you!

#4: Approachability and Conduct

Being approachable as a staff member is crucial to ensuring a positive community. As an administrator, you are often the final port of call - if all other options are exhausted, members of the community will come to you in what can be a final attempt in getting their point across. If you are seen as aggressive, dismissive or condescending, players may not feel that they can have their voice heard regarding issues important to them, and through that they may lose faith in the leaders of the community they have chosen to become a part of.

One thing I feel I achieve well as an administrator is being able to listen to players' issues and point them in the right direction. On any given day, I can have numerous people contact me with an issue or a point they would like to raise, and if I can I'll listen to those issues and help to point them to a solution. Sometimes, it's not always possible for me to catch every single person that approaches me - there are times where I am focusing on something else and don't see that someone has tried to approach me regarding an issue. However, I do endeavour where I am available to help the community if they need assistance.

Additionally, as an administrator you are a role model for the entire community. This means that as a staff member I have to hold myself to a higher standard of conduct than the community is held to. Although at times there have been things that I have said that people disagree with, I always ensure that I communicate with the community with respect and with patience. I am only human - there are parts of my personality that people may not like (such as my sense of humour). However - I do my best to minimise the negative impact that may have on members of the community.

#5: Assertion

One of the qualities necessary for a staff member to excel in their position as a community leader is being able to assert themselves when necessary - a quality that I feel isn't as obvious as some others.

When you are in a role that requires you to communicate with the community, there will be times where you and the other person won't see eye to eye on an issue, even after explaining it. In situations such as these, I have seen people become belligerent, abusive, childish and outright disrespectful for other members of the community. In situations such as this, it is important to be assertive and handle an issue before it gets out of hand. For issues that may involve multiple community members, it can save them from a negative impact because of one community member.

Another important benefit assertion brings is where you need to collaborate with other members of the community to achieve a goal. As a staff member, there have been times where debate has been held on an issue, and everyone has fought for their point of view. To carry passion into a debate is a positive thing, as it helps to contribute to the best possible product or outcome.

The Epilogue

I am hoping that people can take away the skills I have explored here and be able to apply them both in and outside Magic-League. For judges looking to take the next step, I hope that some of the skills here can give them guidiance on how to improve on their existing abilities. While this list isn't exhaustive, the skills I've tlaked about here I feel are some of the most important.

- Roo

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by Truth- on 2010-12-09 03:13 CET

I really liked this article. I think it has helped me realize I need to work on some areas to help get me promoted

by Stork on 2010-12-09 14:28 CET

I will not make childish trolling comments lest I wish to find myself banned.

by worlockk on 2010-12-29 21:04 CET

really nice article

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