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- What timezone are you in and when will you be most active? The moderators we have now cover quite a broad range of times throughout the day, but there are a handful of times when there are no moderators around (Friday evening, PST, for example).
I live in Germany ( CET / Central European Time / UTC+1 ).
Usually I can be active during the whole day on weekends as well as the evenings of working days. Within the next couple of months I'll have even more time though.
- As the site gains more and more moderators, it will become increasingly important for the existing moderators to think and act alike so that we the laymen can can know what to expect, regardless of which moderator is acting. Describe your relationship with the present moderators and why you would expect them (and not just us) to trust you as a moderator as well.
So far my relationship to the present moderators has been very positive, I often get to talk with some of them as I'm actively using the chat. I already help them by notifying them of issues on the site which I can't handle on my own yet (e.g. strange user behaviours) either directly in chat or using the official way of raising a moderator flag where possible.
They can trust me because my principles of moderation are transparency and openness. This means that I would like to perform all moderating actions as publicly as possible without hurting anyone's privacy. There should always be a dialogue between the moderators on tricky issues which could generate more than one single opinion and I am going to behave with this in mind. I of course may make mistakes as well as we all do, but I think I am able to accept constructive criticism and learn from them.
- How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable questions/answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags in comments and chat?
First of all, I would see myself as a rather friendly type of moderator who always tries to see the positive aspects in everybody (may sound naive, but that's how I would like to approach all users, at least until they prove the opposite).
We also can agree that the focus of Stack Exchange is to produce good content, i.e. mainly questions and answers of high quality. Comments and the chat are second and third level posts which contribute less value to the site.
That said, it would be really counterproductive to ban somebody or take other drastic actions if the user only makes inappropriate comments or remarks in chat. Instead I would first reply directly on the offensive comments/messages and ask the user politely to calm down, informing them that such language is not appreciated on the site. Deleting the offensive posts is obligatory.
After this first soft approach, I would go on monitoring the actions of this user directly and of course by observing the flag queue. If they behave now, everything is fine. Else we continue with phase two:
I would send the user a private moderator message. There I lay out how we all appreciate their great contributions to questions and answers, but that they need to calm down a bit and try to handle criticism (which probably caused the bad reactions in comments - just taking this as assumption here) not as personal attack but as help to further improve their contributions. If we're talking about chat messages, adding that all of those messages are recorded and publicly visible forever and asking whether they want to represent themselves like that seems good to me too. Finally it's necessary to explain that the community does not want such inappropriate content on the site and that if they don't stop, we would be forced to suspend their accounts for some time to protect the interests of the community as very last action. This should never have to happen though.
Of course the outlined procedure is just a general plan, the detailed actions I would take have to be adapted to every single case and it would be also useful to ask other moderators for their opinion if it looks like a tricky case.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
In this case I would definitely approach them and politely ask them to explain their thoughts to me. If their reasons are conclusive, I am happy to have learned from them.
However, even moderators sometimes can make mistakes, I have seen it a few times already (on other sites as well) that a moderator was partly unsure about a close vote and casted it, not thinking about that their vote immediately closes the question instead of increasing the counter like a normal user vote does. This can happen and in such a situation we would have to discuss which action would be more appropriate.
If no consensus can be found, in a first step I would consult the other moderators and see if we can get a clear majority on the topic. In case this can not happen because there is no real ground on a specific topic yet, it's time to formulate a Meta post to ask the community how they want cases like this to be handled.
- The existing moderator team doesn't always agree in private (the joke is if you ask 10 people the same question, you'll get 15 answers). What will you do if the majority of moderators are opposed to your point of view?
As I partly mentioned above, if there's a clear majority in the moderator group for one opinion and they managed to explain their reasons in a conclusive way, I am okay with this as I could at least learn something.
On the other hand, if it's a rather weak majority or their arguments are not really good, I would propose to take this discussion to a broader audience by filing a Meta post and letting the community decide (or at least gather more opinions which could improve our discussion).
- What do you think about setting up something like the Stack Overflow Close Vote Reviewers chat room (SOCVR)? Aside from a recent surge in first posts, our close vote review queue has always been rather large. Every year or so, we see posts to clean it up: 1 2 3. This has been suggested before, and IIRC, there is such a room, but inactive (and lacking publicity). While having a room by itself is not the issue, the queue size is. It's been agreed repeatedly over the years that it's a problem and something needs to be done about it. Thoughts?
At first sight I appreciated the idea of having a separate room dedicated to community moderation tasks like closing, flagging, editing and deleting posts.
I knew of the SOCVR before, but have never really looked at it because I have not been that active on Stack Overflow. Now I just looked into it and read through their quite impressive set of rules. Actually the whole thing looks more like a machinery to me than an open room.
Coming back to Ask Ubuntu: Our site is much smaller than Stack Overflow and so are our review queues. I know it had about 1000 items in the last weeks, but currently it dropped to less than 300 which is an acceptable size in my opinion.
However, let's expect it will grow again. What would an "AUCVR" improve? Actually I don't think there would be much of a difference. Those who review and chat are already coming together in the Ask Ubuntu General Room and if there are posts that need closing or deleting votes, people can and do post there. Pushing these activities off to a separated room will probably reduce the traffic, because I think there are more people who do occasional reviews and cast a vote when pointed to something in the General Room than we could get to frequently join a close voting room.
The SOCVR makes sense on Stack Overflow because not only their site but also their chat rooms have a much greater volume. They do not have one general room but many rooms for each sub-community, e.g. a Java room, a Python room, etc. On Ask Ubuntu we do not have such groups, if somebody wants to chat, there's basically one place for everything.
So instead of adding (or reviving) a separate room for close voting, I think it's far more effective to encourage people to review by using the existent structures. However, it could be very motivating to schedule reviewing events, maybe once a week. We could encourage people to join the Ask Ubuntu General Room and review the largest queue together. We would have to provide guidance and support and help if people are not sure how to handle a specific post.
Additionally it might be a motivation to add a badge for using all available review tasks on a day, similar to those for using all available votes on a day or reaching 200 reputation points on a day. There could be bronze badges for when this happens once in a queue, Silver badges for e.g. 50 days and gold badges for e.g. 250 days.
- How would you deal with a feud between two users? Consider a case where two users have it in for each other and tend to downvote and/or negatively comment on each other's posts.
The procedure here would be similar to the one I described below point 3.
As a first step I would leave a regular comment below their negative comments and ask them politely to reconcile their differences. I would tell them that comments are there to discuss the respective post only and invite them to chat to finish their discussion aside of the main site and in a watched and protected environment. If their dispute is really strong, a private chat room with only them and moderators might be more appropriate than the main chat. Again, deleting the offensive posts is obligatory.
If they accept the invitation, I would ask each of them for the cause of the dispute and their view. The aim is to find a compromise and end the argument an a way which is acceptable for both of them.
In case they do not react on the invitation or ignore what has been discussed there and continue offending each other, a private moderator message is my next action. This time I warn each of them that continuing their rude behaviour will lead to temporary suspension of their accounts, together with another invitation to a private chat room.
Should even this not take effect, our only remaining option is said temporary suspension.
- How do you deal with established users who have gained reputation, badges and privileges by illicit means? This might seem silly but it has real world applications. Things like this, where >1k rep users do something really quite wrong, happen a couple of times a year. Dealing with it smoothly is important to the continued success of the site. Example scenario.
Similarly to question number 3, I think that keeping the site's quality on a high level is the most important thing that we have to ensure. So even if some users multiplied their own reputation through bad behaviour, their contributions must have been valuable, as it would be nearly impossible to cheat reputation with low quality posts. Therefore I am sure that bans or deleting their accounts would not help anybody.
Instead, it is important to thoroughly investigate this issue.
First, we have to identify all sockpuppet accounts of the involved users (if existing) to merge them into the main ones, which should invalidate votes between them.
Second, we must find a way to invalidate serial voting patterns between the involved users. In my opinion, simply dropping all votes ever cast between a set of users is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead the moderator group should come together with some members of the Stack Exchange staff and think about a rule about what counts as serial, targeted votes and what not. Once these limitations are defined, it's our duty as moderators to enforce this and invalidate the votes that match these criteria. Ideally after this has been done, there should still be votes remaining that do not look suspicious.
Before performing those actions, it would be preferable to privately contact the involved users and confront them with that we found out how they cheated the system and that we're going to revert this. We should give them a chance to explain their actions and admit that they did something wrong. If they regret their actions and promise not to do it again, we can let them participate (at least as spectators) in the discussion about the actions to be done. That way our process becomes transparent and will be seen as justified action by the affected people instead of a simple punishment. It helps them to accept the reversal actions as necessary and will keep their trust in the site and the moderators.
After everything has been carried out, it's time to inform the public through a meta post that some bad things have been going on and how we fixed them. Naming the involved people is not necessary here, at least if their malicious behaviour has been minor and not directly affecting the entire community.
I think this way is the best to keep the users as valuable contributors on the site while restoring justice and equal chances for the community and keeping both trust and respect from the involved users as well as the community.
- How would you encourage users to improve their answer quality? For instance, someone who consistently copies another user's comments into an answer, more or less verbatim, without verifying that the information they're supplying is correct.
As a first step, deleting obviously copied answers that are not correct or duplicates of existing answers as well as leaving a polite comment mentioning that they should try to come up with their own content and verify their resources.
If somebody is converting a valuable comment that answers the question into an answer, ideally giving the appropriate credits, that would be okay though.
Once I notice that a user is posting low-quality content over and over again, sending them a private moderator message which explains that we appreciate their will to contribute to the site and describes how they have to improve their posts to meet our quality standards, showing them links to the respective sections of our help center.
If I remember correctly, a high number of low-quality posts (downvoted, closed, deleted, ...) should lead to an automatic temporary posting ban by the system anyway. My private message would also include a warning about that.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Moderators should be the glue between the community and the site. It's their job to act as representatives of Stack Exchange towards users and to represent their site and its community towards the SE staff. They must mediate between those two parties if there are concerns from either side and find good solutions.
They should also not act as if they were commanding the site, instead they have to assist the community to moderate itself. Most moderation tasks on Stack Exchange are delegated to the community based on privilege levels and it's the task of those experienced users of the community to handle most standard situations like closing questions.
This does not mean that moderators should not help with these reviews, but they also must keep in mind to be very careful as a single moderator close or delete vote has a higher weight and immediately performs the action. Their main task is instead to handle exceptional situations that can not be done by regular users, mainly handling moderator flags and providing guidance in unclear situations concerning the site.