Over the years, I've joined probably close to a few hundred different technical sites and mailing lists where the focus is on a mutual help system between peers for problems we're stuck on. These lists/sites include network engineering, open source Operating Systems, infrastructure hardware configuration and programming.
Each of these sites (I'll use the term 'sites' to refer to both mail lists and websites from here on out) have their own culture, etiquette and rules. Some even go as far as to have a formal Charter that describes what is permitted and how the site works. Others have an informal Charter that is created and modified on-the-fly by the members who have been there the longest and who have the most respect.
I've always been the type of person who when they join a new site to seek out a Charter, read the FAQ of how the site works, what is expected of me and what I should expect from others. I then 'lurk' the site for at least a few days to get an idea of how others interact with each other before I consider posting.
PerlMonks(PM) is a site I joined in mid 2009, and is one of my favourite places to live online. I always have a Firefox tab open to PM on all the computers I work on. Although I had been coding Perl since ~2k3 as a side-effect of my then network engineering/systems administration job, I found everything I needed through search. It got to a point where I felt I could begin to help others because my knowledge had started gaining steam. PerlMonks is a site dedicated to helping both newcomers to the Perl programming language, as well as providing aid to those of us who are a fair amount more experienced.
The site is home to many of the most experienced, fluent and elite Perl programmers in the world. Learn the ropes and you'll get along great. You may even get a dose of criticism that shatters your ego, which of course is good from time-to-time :)
Respect gained is respect earned, and I feel I've done a reasonable job on PM. PM has a 'leveling' system, by which you get 'points' (votes) for each quality post you provide. At certain point levels, you get privileges to perform certain site administration functions due to your dedication to the site. As I approached level 9 (Friar), I knew I'd be open to start using the Consideration system. With this, at about 200 points before I reached that level, I used the same level of diligence I do when I first sign up, and I researched what was expected of me with this new authority. Here's some of the information I read during that journey.
First I read about the Voting and Experience system itself. How it works, how to vote, the amount of experience needed to level up etc. Although I had a good understanding of this already, I wanted to ensure I knew the details correctly.
I then moved on to a brief write about The Role of XP in PerlMonks, and on to the What is moderation? and straight to How do I moderate?. So, I'd actually have full right to either Approve a new post, or put it right on the PerlMonks front page where non-members entering the site would see it.
By this time I had enough knowledge to learn more specifics. I then went and looked up exactly what a Friar is, isn't and most importantly what they can actually do. I knew about moderation already, but there's something new... Consideration. This is where level 9 and up can 'consider' posts to be either edited or deleted. We can't do this directly... we 'consider' a post for the above changes, write a 'this is what and why' blurb, and then fellow monks vote whether the consideration is valid or idiotic. I saw immediately a lot of responsibility with this power. Naturally, I knew it would take me time to follow along to see what others were considering and why before I dared try it, and still felt there was more to learn.
Consideration and moderation happens through the Approval Nodelet which is only available to level 9 (Friar) and above. Through that page I found exactly the information I was after in the first place, which was How do I use the power of consideration wisely?. Due to my experience on other sites and the standard etiquette I follow as a general rule, I assumed most of that information anyways, but it was nice to see it documented.
In closing, I've since become a Friar and am a fair bit past that now. I believe I've approved a few posts, voted on a few considerations, but have yet to consider. I'm still hanging back following the flow from the more experienced members. So, if you've been on PerlMonks and enjoy it, inevitably you'll become Friar, and you too will find yourself with these responsibilities and powers. The links above provides a minimal amount of reading you should do before you get to that point, and as always, when you perform an action, think about how you would feel if someone did it to you if the roles were reversed.
Update: An hour after I wrote this post, I considered my first node :)