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What's it like being a moderator on Graphic Design Stack Exchange? Whats the day to day around here, what are the perks, the drawbacks, etc?

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Someone in chat wasn't even sure what it is mods do around here so here's some insight.

Here were the first day tips I received from a StackExchange employee which does a decent job:

Tip 1: When you vote to close or delete, your “vote” is binding (i.e. it happens immediately). So your “vote” is no longer part of the democratic process. You’ve got the “super vote!” As a general rule, I try not to apply moderator function to activities that are being addressed by the community. If a post looks like a duplicate, you might give the community the chance to take care of it. If the community won’t (or can’t) act, do your thing. You have a bit more leeway early on because few people have the reputation to close. And certainly take immediate action on blatant problems (obvious spam, illegal activities, language, etc).

Tip 2: Flagging: Users flag things for all sorts of crazy reasons. You will act on a pretty small percentage of them. Users will flag saying “this is a dupe” and “this is subjective” and, my favorite, “this is spam.” Users call anything they don’t like “spam,” trying to get rid of posts through you as a super-vote-by-proxy. Remember, there is a community voting on this stuff. You don’t have to act on everything when the community can decide for themselves.

In general, I’ll delete the flag when I act on it (or the community acts on it [closed]). If I don’t act on the flag, I will leave it there for reference. When the list starts getting long, I will start deleting old flags after some time has passed.

Tip 3: Leave breadcrumbs: Ideally, the community should police itself. But sometimes you have to act and you should try to take the opportunity to let members know what you did. Leave a comment saying things like “It’s better if we don’t split the answers up between multiple threads so I am closing this as a duplicate.” New users will see these signposts and learn to use the system that much quicker.

Then you'll be asked to read The Theory of Moderation on StackOverflow which concludes with:

A lot of the moderation work is extremely mundane, almost janitorial. It’s deleting obvious spam, closing blatantly off-topic questions, and culling some of the worst rated posts in various dimensions.

The ideal moderator does as little as possible. But those little actions may be powerful and highly concentrated. Judiciously limiting your use of moderator powers to selectively prune and guide the community — now that’s the true art of moderation.


Specifically on Graphic Design StackExchange

We don't have too many issues. We really don't. Some months we won't send a single mod message. There are spurts where sometimes a few have to go out in a short time frame but on average we really don't do much. And most of those mod messages are to new members that likely left a string of bad questions or spam questions or strange comments or something and we never hear from them again.

Mostly on the day to day we're just regular users like you except with permission to a private chat. And can instantly close questions if we're fairly confident its off-topic. Or on a very rare case though I did one yesterday migrate it to another part of stackexchange.

Beyond that its really just looking at flags once in a while. The most common is " Low Quality Answer" and most of those are auto-flagged by Community (our neighborhood AI). We glance at it and decide if the AI did well or did badly.

At the time of speaking there's two flags to be resolved:

A long term member flagged something as Not An Answer, and Community flagged something Low answer quality score.

The Not An Answer I converted to comment, and seeing the question and 3 close votes on it also finished off closing the question.

The Low Quality Answer was a thank you for one of the other answers. I just deleted it leaving a comment that the best way to say thanks is to upvote.

That's pretty much what moderators do. Its extremely rare that we mod message or suspend anyone. When it does happen its not without careful consideration and hope the person doesn't take it too personally.

So if you'd like to help us resolve flags and close questions from time to time consider nominating yourself for the position.


Final Notes

For me personally I like being a mod most of the time. Its a struggle. I would be lying if I said I hadn't considered stepping down. But I believe in this place and believe that my stepping down would be giving in to those things that I dislike.

As for my favorite part of being a mod? Not caring about rep! Sure it was cool when I was a top 5 user at one point. But to me its even more cool being able to throw my rep to promote good questions and/or good users. I've given away nearly 10,000 points of rep and will continue to do so. Perk of being a mod!

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    So what you're saying is: being a moderator is all about doing less on gd.se?! ;-) ... Well, untill when it counts. – Paul Sep 3 '19 at 13:36
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“Duties”

First of all, these are duties for the moderators as a team. An individual moderator can always decline a specific task. Also, a moderator can always take a break when they see fit.

I would group the main moderator activities into three categories:

Flag handling

This can be all sorts of things from rudeness over migration requests to too many comments on a post. You can find some statistics on flag handling here, but it doesn’t tell you what kind of flags we get.

Most importantly, the amount of time consumed by different flags varies wildly. For example, a clear case of a question posted as an answer with an existing constructive comment can be handled in five seconds. However, a too-many-comments flag usually requires you to read the question, answer, and all the comments and then make a decision which should be left where they are, completely deleted, or moved to a chatroom.

The most prominent kind of flag are low-quality answers, but these can also be handled by the community. Apart from that, there is quite a variety in our flags. Note that blatant spam does not consume much moderator energy nowadays, as most of it is quickly nuked thanks to Charcoal.

Investigating and addressing problematic behaviour

This can be users who are frequently rude, commit vote fraud, perform consistently bad reviews, post subtle spam, vandalise their own posts, etc. Moderators have the tools to investigate this and react accordingly, which usually involves at least a moderator message and often a suspension.

Such cases are more time-consuming than the average flag, but they happen less often. In 2018, we sent 21 mod messages, and this probably counts multiple messages, when there was some back and forth between the user and the moderators.

The challenge here is to gather the relevant information (with tools), read and assess it, decide how to react, and finally to communicate the result to the user in a constructive manner. Note that moderator messages are anonymous, so you usually do not have to worry about users taking revenge on you.

Governance

Moderators can change some parts of the site’s interface and mechanics such as certain parts of the help centre, close reasons, tag synonyms, etc. In most cases, these are initiated by a community consensus. Moderators also act as an interface between the community and Stack Exchange (the company).

In my opinion, moderators also need to incite discussions on meta and propose community rules if there is a pressing need. Sometimes, only moderators can notice such problems since they have access to more information and see the community from a different angle. Sometimes, it’s because nobody else from the community does it – which is sadly very often the case on Graphic Design.

These activities can consume some time, but if they do, they are fortunately not very urgent.

Pros, cons, and others

  • You can close and reopen, delete and undelete, migrate and lock posts almost freely – but of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
  • You can fix things regular users cannot fix.
  • You can guide the community.
  • You get to see under the hood of SE.
  • You are exposed to the nasty side of things: rudeness, stubbornness, spam, utter stupidity, vote fraud, etc. You get insulted for no good reason more often.
  • You can learn a lot about online communities, human behaviour, etc.
  • You are part of a team. You can easily consult other moderators for a second opinion or technical help, not only moderators of this site, but from the entire Stack Exchange network.
  • You can fix typos in your own comments and chat messages without a time limit.
  • You cannot be one vote of many anymore. Any review decision, close or delete vote, comment or red flag you cast is binding. (You can cast regular NAA and VLQ flags though.)

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