Todd A. Jacobs
As a Moderator
I have been a moderator on PMSE for several years, and have taken an active role in keeping "broken windows" to a minimum on this site. During that time, I've worked hard to give the community a larger voice by keeping my binding votes in reserve, allowing more of our growing community to actively moderate the site whenever feasible while still acting quickly to handle spam or abusive posts.
As a Community Member
In addition to moderating PMSE, I consider myself an active member of the community. I work hard at keeping tags relevant, improving posts where I can, and generally keeping the focus on quality questions that invite canonical answers whenever possible.
- How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
We have (and have had) such users. In general, I've found that treating comments as ephemeral, removing problem comments, and very occasionally providing constructive criticism and opportunities for improvement in comments and meta posts has been a very successful strategy in keeping our community relatively non-argumentative compared to many other SE sites.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
That's happened very rarely on this site. When it has, there are really three options:
Re-open or undelete the post, with a public comment as to why I thought it was a good idea to take that specific action.
Bring it up on meta, if it's a situation where community involvement is useful rather than than potentially perceived as muck-raking.
Discussing it in chat with the other moderators, if it's something that could potentially be contentious.
I can't think of a single instance in the past several years where there's been any real contention within the moderator ranks, but those are the things that a moderator can and should do when needed.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
On most SE sites, they handle the exceptions that the community can't handle on its own. Here, that's mostly adding to close votes or handling flags because we don't have enough higher-rep members who have (or use) their privileges before the flags/votes age out.
Fixing tags, updating close reasons, and (occasionally) migrating questions is moderator work that comes up from time to time, too. This is a relatively small part of the job on PMSE, though.
I think good moderators also offer guidance on how to salvage questions, identify "broken windows," and other things that good community member can also do. I just think that moderators have more responsibility to do so actively, and to be as fair and even-handed in the process as humanly possible.
- A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?
While I'm sure that there are things I might have said differently, or chosen not to say at all, overall I'm pretty confident that the vast majority of things I've said and done with a diamond attached to my name have been fair and well-intentioned.
Being a moderator is a balancing act: act too soon or too strongly, and it doesn't give the community a chance to be a community. On the other hand, timidity or an unwillingness to act when the situation calls for it isn't supportive of the community. It can be a fine line; it requires a duty of care for the site, the community, and the people within it that needs to be kept in mind at all times.
- How would you handle a question that has 2 votes for closure (in our community we need 5 votes for closure, unlike some other communities who have decided to reduce this to 3)knowing that a moderator vote (for closure or deletion) is binding?
Pragmatically, this happens rather a lot on our particular site. I evaluate each question on its own merits, and then act accordingly. If a question is "on the bubble," I prefer to wait for some of the community members (especially our more seasoned members) to vote before I make a binding decision. On the other hand, some questions are so clearly off-topic or outside the norms of our community that immediate action is called for, and I'm not afraid to decisively take that action.
Regardless of the outcome of this election, I think reviewing our flag/vote minimums is certainly worth looking at. PMSE has often required a more active role from moderators in that regard because of the lower volume of active users who actively handle closable or flaggable questions, so it may be time to lower the limits to remove some of the work from the moderators and give the community a stronger voice.
That said, the role of moderator is always to review, consider, and then act appropriately. Sometimes that means closing questions, or deleting comments, or moderating answers before the community has gathered enough votes. At other times, it means re-opening questions that have been improved, salvaged, or were closed for the wrong reasons. Each case is different, and the moderator's job is to look for those exceptional circumstances and then take appropriate action.
I'd like to see the community have a bigger voice in these decisions, but I'd also like to see us maintain a culture of fair and even-handed activism from the community's moderators. That may not be appropriate for all sites, but it has served PMSE well since its beta, and continues to do so now that we've graduated.