- 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?
Having seen instances of this in the past, I’ve noticed that the large number of flags are typically due to a single underlying issue: perhaps an overly aggressive tone, a misunderstanding of our community rules, a general disrespect towards other members, etc. In that case, I would leave a comment on a popular/visible answer of that user with a suggestion for how to improve moving forward. Hopefully this would help address the issue, even if it took a few tries to finally stick. But if it were to continue, depending on the severity and frequency of the problem, the moderator team would need to discuss amongst themselves how to move forward.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
My first course of action would be to consult our community rules to look for clarification. At that point, I would discuss with the other moderator to see where and how our interpretations of the rules differ.
If we still can’t agree, I think there are at least two approaches to this: one is by letting the community decide with our “vote to re-open” system, and the other is by opening a discussion on meta. If two moderators have different interpretations of a given rule, then that means it’s unclear, needs to be addressed, and needs to be clarified in the help section!
(By the way, I think this election is interesting because we have two veteran moderators in Dom and Doktor Mayhem. I think the winner of this election will have a nice opportunity to learn from these two guys, both of whom moderate multiple sites.)
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
One of the things I really like about the Stack Exchange environment is the inherently democratic impulse. The community is already largely responsible for closing and re-opening questions as needed.
As such, in addition to the day-to-day tasks of addressing flags, etc., I think moderators are mostly needed for the obvious and/or extreme cases that come up, like a clearly off-topic question or an obviously problematic user. But I think moderators should be the “model citizens” of the site, working to increase activity and leading by example. I address this more in Question 9.
- 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?
I have no problems with this. As a professor in a subject that many students find notoriously tricky, I like to think I’m able to discuss and share information in a respectful, encouraging way, even when the OP/student is almost comically off base.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
The most obvious change would be one of immediate action; instead of flagging material and awaiting results, a moderator can handle issues immediately.
But that increased visibility addressed in the last question also means that a moderator could be something of an advocate for positive change through their actions. I’m a big believer in leading by example, and I think a moderator’s visibility would only help that.
Lastly, I think some of the time I currently spend answering questions would be taken up by moderator duties. As such, I can certainly imagine that becoming a moderator would decrease the slope of my reputation gain. But this doesn’t bother me at all.
- A new user posts several answers with the same link that may or may not be their content. On some questions it seems appropriate, on others it seems out of place. One of the posts has been flagged as spam. How do you approach handling this flag and the new user in general?
Often new users treat our site like they would other sites, where vaguely tangential ideas can be contributed to the discussion. But our site is different: we’re seeking specific answers to specific questions. My hope is that we could solve this issue by contacting this new user, clarifying how our site operates (and how it’s different from other places online), and emphasizing that answers should be directly related to the question at hand.
This question could also be interpreted as a situation where a user only posts a link. This is a problem that could lead to "link rot," and that's something that would be addressed in the "how our site operates" discussion.
But if there’s an issue of plagiarism, that’s a serious violation that needs to be handled immediately, typically by contacting that user and requesting they cite their sources.
- A user seems frustrated at their question being closed, claiming that there's nothing in https://music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic to indicate that their question is off-topic, and that there are other comparable questions that have been allowed to remain open. What actions would you take to help the user and for the benefit of the site as a whole?
Sometimes this is a problem of scope; a question with a more universal application often stays open, while a question limited to four measures of a single song risks being closed. Explaining that universality (or lack thereof) to a user could solve this issue.
In other instances, I think the best approach is to open up a meta discussion to see if the community thinks we should adjust our rules for what we consider on topic.
It’s also possible that the similar open questions are from a time when those questions were on topic; as an example of this, see our top-voted question of all time, Why do minor keys sound “sad”?, which was only closed last year. It’s possible these open questions should be retroactively closed and we just hadn’t gotten to them yet.
- A question has several answers that are based on the same facts and are saying virtually the same things except worded differently. A user (new or experienced) flags all of the answers except the chronologically first one (or) leaves comments in all of them stating "this answer could’ve been suggested as an edit to the first answer". How would you approach handling such a situation?
This is a little tough to answer in the abstract, because I can think of situations where I would respond differently.
On one hand, I think music theory is a subject where different types of explanations are valuable. In my own teaching, I try to explain the same concept multiple ways with different words, examples, and metaphors; it’s pretty common for a student not to understand something the first time, but then when it’s explained in a different way, they suddenly understand it. And I think this is especially true for our community, where we have responders answering based in a Classical sense, others in a Rock sense, and still others in a Jazz sense. In a case like this, I would support keeping the various answers if they approach their answers from a different standpoint.
On the other hand, if there’s a thread where I feel that all of the answers are in some way equivalent, there are a few courses of action. One could be to protect the question to prevent even further answers re-enforcing what is already present. But I would also look at how the community has responded to these answers: if every answer has multiple upvotes, I would really hesitate to get rid of any, because clearly users have found them helpful and meaningful.
Of course, if this is a chronic (and unwarranted) problem with a particular user incorrectly flagging material, I would handle this in a third way: by contacting the user directly and addressing the problem head on.
- As a supplement to "What do moderators do?", where do you see yourself on the "hands-off"/"hands-on" continuum? Stay in the background except for significant problems? Maintain enough presence to maintain the status quo? Actively operate as the exemplar for a vision of the site? Something else?
Ultimately, I think the moderators only step in for obvious and/or extreme problems like an immediate closure of a question or an overly problematic user. In this sense, I think moderators at Stack Exchange are inherently “hands off” more than “hands on.”
But as I mentioned in a prior question, I do think the increased visibility that comes with being a moderator adds the responsibility of leading by example and trying to increase positive activity on the site. One way I’ve tried doing this in the past is by awarding more bounties to particularly impressive answers. (Although I admit I took this idea from Dom after I was the benefactor of one of his bounties.)