What activities on the site suggest that you would be a good moderator?
There are three main activities I try to engage in as a regular user of the site that I think translate well to being a good moderator:
- When possible, I try add comments that might encourage a question/answer to be more fleshed out. I think one of the first goals of moderation should be to render a question/answer suitable to the site before approaching the idea of removing it.
- I try to make room for the idea that there are alternate opinions, different field-specific norms, etc. I think balancing "Academia is not homogenous" with the population of the site and the desire for general questions is one of the inherent challenges of Academia.SE
- I make time to go through the review queues when visiting the site. Though I confess the new GUI indicator for this threw me for a loop for awhile.
How have you used the moderation tools available to you at your current reputation level?
I've earned a number of "moderation-esq" badges, and use the review tools to try contribute to the overall moderation workload as much as possible. Additionally, I try to use the flagging system fairly actively so the moderation team doesn't necessarily need to be combing through everything, and have what I'd like to think is a decent "Helpful" rate of 86%.
Beyond that, as mentioned in the answer above, I do my best to try and help users - especially new users - craft an answer that's suitable to the site, even if it takes a few iterations.
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?
I think the first order of business with a user like that is to try to engage with them to figure out where those flags are coming from. Is there a particularly hot button issue that provokes those reactions, or is it a more widespread problem?
That might help craft a solution - either the user just knowing this about themselves, perhaps engaging in a little self-moderation, etc.
Past that, I think one needs to figure out if this is merely creating more work for the moderators, or actively driving down the environment of the site. It's possible that heated discussions might not result in hurt feelings, users leaving the site, or otherwise productive comment chains being dragged down. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that, even if they are valuable contributors to the site, that their "style" is sufficiently detrimental to Academia.Se that some sort of more formal sanction needs to be considered.
How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
I think there's a difference between "I wouldn't have done that" and "This is a hill I'm willing to die on" in terms of disagreeing with another mod. Generally, I've found the moderation team on Academia.SE to be excellent, so if anything for most disagreements I might try to gauge why they thought it should be closed/deleted/etc. to understand their reasoning, learn from their experience, etc.
For things where there's a genuine disagreement and I think the closing/deleting was a mistake rather than merely something I wouldn't have done, I think engaging with the other mod to understand why, and then helping the user of the question change things to address their issues is how I would approach it. But when it comes down to it, I think that a moderator - who is by definition a very committed member of the site - deciding something should be closed is a pretty reliable proxy for there being at least a reasonable argument that it should be.
As a moderator, I find that comments are a tricky thing to deal with. Under what circumstances will you delete comments?
I think the most important considerations for comments is that SE answers are supposed to be useful beyond solving the OP's original problem. I think comments that address things that have sense been resolved by edits, etc. are prime candidates to be cleaned up, because their context is now missing.
I also think rude and abusive comments fall under the category of not adding much - I think they're more likely to drag a conversation down than they are to improve the content of a question or answer. I'll admit, looking at what I've flagged vs. what's been accepted in that camp that I might have a wider definition than some of our current moderators.
On the other hand, I don't think moderately long comment chains, as long as their being productive, need to be removed.
A user posts something you consider off-topic/not-an-answer/offensive
and you close/delete/migrate the post. The user takes the issue to
Meta and the question as well as answers supporting and opposing your
decision get a lot of upvotes. How do you decide what to do next?
Try to take the answers opposing my decision to heart, reflect on them, and improve my moderation in the future.
For things that are genuinely split, I tend to err on the side of pruning over not pruning, especially for the latter category. A lot of votes on either side (for Meta definitions of a lot of votes) suggests that while this needs to be reflected on more, there's no inherent call to change my original decision.
On the other hand, if one of the opposing answers genuinely makes me rethink my logic (this has happened to me more than once), I'm perfectly happy to do what I can to reverse the decision, and avoid it coming up again.
What question or answer of yours on meta best exemplifies your
philosophy on moderation? Why do you feel this is the best example?
This is, for the record, a very good question.
I'm particularly proud of this question: Time to Expressly Ban "I want to do X, Here's My Life Story..." questions? which did start us down the road to a custom close reason.
I think this is my best example because I found myself at least growing somewhat impatient with the volume of "Lets talk about my specific edge case" questions that weren't answerable without being on the admissions committee of University X, and editor at Journal Y, etc.
Declaring those unanswerable and genuinely out of scope was, I think, a good thing. I also don't think it had the downstream consequences of closing some otherwise worthwhile question that people were worried about.
We still get some of these questions, usually answerable with a comment "Have you asked your advisor?", but I think it helped the signal-to-noise ratio of the site.
What is your field of study in academics?
I'm a computational epidemiologist. I make virtual people sick for a living.
Importantly, this also means I have a fair amount of exposure to both computational science and biomedical science. I think having diversity of fields in both users and moderators is useful because there are often answers on this site that are very field specific (see: anything involving LaTeX or arXiv).
Having a broad range of voices is, in my mind, a good thing.
In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Moderators gonna moderate.
There are, naturally, the administrative aspects of moderation. The "Super-Close", being able to migrate questions, etc. - but as noted, users above a certain reputation have many of those same tools. I think there's also an aspect of moderation that comes in the form of trying to be a guiding/calming influence on improving questions and answers, modeling behavior, etc. And in that aspect, I think the difference between a moderator and a user is one of obligation - it's non-optional for a mod.
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 post under a pseudonym, that pseudonym is pretty weak, and I try not to say anything I wouldn't be comfortable saying with my name attached to it. The same is true of the moderator diamond.
Somewhat related to this, from IIRC the CrossValidated election questions awhile ago, is the idea that a diamond might make one's behavior change. While I expect that, if elected, the volume of my moderating-type tasks will increase, I already treat things like voting to close a question as if they're the final say.