Formally promoted staff members, technically the same as before – is this a good idea?

By | August 14, 2015

I've been part of a gaming community since its very beginning, and I've seen many decisions in these years. The most recent decision is quite confusing to me because it seems irrational to me.

Before the decision, the staff members were subdivided in supporters, moderators, and administrators. The sequence is obvious: supporters have the least technical power whereas administrators have the most. Moderators are in between. In the last years, the admins were mostly absence due to stress and other stuff and mainly managed the technical site of the community: keep the servers and the forum running, take care of urgent technical matters, etc. In game, however, moderators took the lead and took care of most matters: problems between users, small technical problems, organizing small events, etc.

You can say that moderators were the people where your problem went to first, and if it couldn't be solved, it would be redirected to the admins (which basically happened in one of ten requests). The most recent discussion changed the system crucially: the rank moderator has been removed and all moderators have been promoted to administrators.

It actually seems like a good decision because the now promoted moderators are in game and help out even more so the workload on the "real" administrators become less. However, after some time, users suspected that the promoted moderators have been just promoted on a formal level, not on a technical level since some technical request just couldn't be solved by the promoted ones.

Today, the staff announced that it is true. The promoted moderators have the same technical level as before, just their formal level has been increased. Their argument for their decision is that most new users request an admin for basically every inconvenience and just skip the moderators. On the other side, the project is relatively large (8000 monthly active users, 7000 are regular users, project is steadily growing) and it takes some time that the information is spread.

Right now, the users of the project are confused, some even demand to return to the old system. They complain that it's not clear anymore who can do what, and they don't know anymore who is best suited for their problem. I understand the complaint of these users. Who do you turn to if everyone is basically the same, but actually is not?

(Currently, there are 28 team members: 15 are supporters, 13 are admins, and 2 of them are the "real" ones.)

I'm quite confused. Is it a good idea to make it look like everyone can handle your problem, although there are technical differences between the staff members who seem to be the same?