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Community Roles

This page documents different roles within a community. These are applicable to online communities, including this wiki and various forums. Concepts from MeatballWiki



A GodKing is the owner of the community, that is so powerful they can be considered as God. This is usually the person that owns the server or hosting space, and is usually the community's founder. They have powers of total manipulation and have the final say on everything. In an online community, the GodKing is responsible for setting the rules and usually the atmosphere. However, they may delegate many responsibilities (such as moderation, content creation) to other people, which is necessary in a larger community.

This role is considered normal, as it is only fair for a person to have the final say on what goes on on their server. GodKings should be Benevolent Dictators (see below), and act purely in the community's interest, when the community needs them to. However, obvious complications can arise, mainly then the GodKing bends their own rules to benefit themselves or their friends.

The only way to prevent these complications is by fully delegating responsibility to other people. The GodKing would thus only act when absolutely necessary, acting as a trustee. If the GodKing is not doing a good job, many of the community may leave (if possible) and instead go to another, which is why it is in the GodKing's interest to be a Benevolent Dictator.

Benevolent Dictator


In a community which needs to have a single person in power, they should be benevolent. This means they act in the interest of the community rather than themselves, and they exist to make things better. This role sounds simple, but can be a complex balancing act. All dictators want to appear to be benevolent, but many have ulterior motives for self-preservation or other self-interests outweighing the community's interest.

The best way to ensure benevolence is where the dictator cannot benefit from his actions. This can occur where the dictator is an outsider (like a charity trustee, or school governor) rather than a member of the community. The other situation is where the Benevolent Dictator has the same morals as the entire community (such as the creation of free software). community (if possible).

As Martin Luther King Jr said: without love, benevolence becomes egotism

Superior King


This is one scenario when a GodKing isn't Benevolent. Here, the ruler is great, wise, all-knowing etc; and the community are worthless scum beneath him. No free speech is allowed, so criticism is unheard of, so mistakes accumulate and disaster is inevitable... no matter how wise the PhilosopherKing thinks he is.

This could be very subtle, and essentially consists of a dictator that considers himself better than everyone else (often without realising it). The dictator ignores other people's opinion in favour of his own, potentially ignoring the will of the entire community. Examples of this include dismissing criticism, ignoring suggestions, and overlooking public opinion.

This cannot be easily avoided with one person in power, but if there is a team (or other people near the top), they may be able to persuade the dictator to

Role Model

Just a role model, or a leader?

A Role Model is a good contributor, who follows the rules and sets a positive example. This is very evident on wikis and forums.

However, a good Role Model is not necessarilly a good leader. For example, David Beckham may be a good footballer, but that doesn't necessarilly mean he can manage a football club, including all the finances, staffing, health & safety etc.

Quite often communities are started by one person (the founder), who is the Founder. That Founder may be a good contributor, and a perfect Role Model for other members in the community, but that doesn't mean is is a good leader or manager.

For example, just because I started this wiki (and wrote a lot of pages 2 years ago) does not mean I can deal with all the issues that arise out of this now-large community. The roles of a contributor and leader are very different, and they should remain so. This is also why the heaviest contributors aren't automatically promoted to becoming staff, since different qualities are required.

To avoid this, a community either needs a leader that CAN manage it well (usually a Benevolent Dictator), or the owner/founder (GodKing) needs to appoint someone else to manage the community: a First Servant.

First Servant

Who has the power?

The First Servant of a community is someone who acts on behalf of the community's will, rather than their on their own opinion, essentially acting as an employee. They are often not members of the community, but simply work to benefit it. Others are memebrs of the community, and have to cast aside their own wants in favour of the community as a whole.

This role is in contrast to any of the leader roles, as they do not have decision-making power themselves. Good examples of this include senior moderators or junior administrators, who have the power and responsibility to manage the community, but do not make up the rules themselves.

A Prime Minister is also similar to this, as they cannot simply make rules up, but they are responsible for enforcing them. In the UK, the Queen (as Head of State) has the authority to make rules up and make decisions, and delegates authority to the Prime Minister as the Executive (the part of government that executes orders).

Vested Contributor

Abu Ghraib. Should they be allowed to get away with it?

The Vested Contributor is someone who believes they are entitled to a degree of indulgence or bending of the rules because of the duration and extent of their past contributions. In some cases, this view may be shared and promoted by other community members. Put simply, they can get away with anything because they are either better or more important than other community members. This may be reinforced by a community status, such as post count or rank, and may be fully endorsed by the leaders of the community.

The indulgence of vested contributors undermines Fair Process and the community spirit. It is demoralizing to those who have made less widely recognized contributions, and to recent arrivals. An inside club or "cabal" can arise where there are a number of vested contributors who mutually reinforce, creating an aristocracy with a lot of undeserved influence.

There is a grey area here surrounding staff. Most staff have additional powers to help them manage or moderate the community, or they are trusted with normal powers that other members cannot be given (such as deletion, bypassing flood restrictions). However, should staff be permitted to bend or break basic rules, such as swearing, abusiveness.

It becomes evident that a Vested Contributor has gone too far when they bend the rules to the detriment of the community. However, this situation will often only end when a Vested Contributor upsets the leaders of the community.