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As an alternative to the other FAQ format being fleshed out here on Meta Stack Exchange, I'd like to propose something far more terse that covers the bare essential mechanics of being a moderator.

Feel free to add more questions, but keep them short: this isn't the place to get into complex moderation issues, but for an executive summary of what it is to be a moderator.

To add a new section, create a new answer and link to it in the index below.


See also:

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Crash the course; Quality over Quantity; Arm the monkeys quickly – phwd Jan 14 '12 at 22:54
This appears to be missing all the information you need to know as a 1k user, a 3k user and one that has finally reached 5k. – random Jan 15 '12 at 2:13

10 Answers 10

General moderation and flag handling

When should I act unilaterally?

In most situations, you don't want to act without regular users prompting you to action, like via a flag. However, you've been given the ability to act unilaterally to deal with serious issues that need immediate attention. Don't be afraid to act when you see something wrong.

I see community moderation going awry. Can I step in?

Yes! Moderators are exception handlers: if the community is doing something outside the norm, step in and resolve it. For example, if the community is voting to migrate a question to a site where it's off-topic, close the question as "off-topic"; if a new user is being berated in comments, step in and cool the air; and so on.

A user flagged something, but I don't agree with the flag. What can I do?

If the user flagged it in good faith, you can see the problem identified in the flag, but you don't think anything should be done, dismiss the flag as "helpful."

If the user is flagging in bad faith (e.g. revenge flagging) or you believe the flag is incorrect, dismiss the flag as "declined" and select a reason why.

Note: most flags are done in good faith. When in doubt, dismiss the flag as "helpful".

There's a flag or a meta-discussion post that I don't know how to handle. Help!

You're never alone when handling moderation issues. If you need help dealing with something, you have several options:

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Contacting users

Further reading: How do I contact a user privately, as a moderator?

When should I privately contact a user in my moderator capacity?

When there's a serious site-related issue with the user that can't be handled in public (up to and including suspension). Routine moderation problems should be handled in public by leaving a comment, super-pinging a user in chat, or creating a meta-discussion question to discuss the issue.

How do I send a moderator message to a user?

Go to the user's profile, click the "mod" link in the profile toolbar, and select "contact this user privately (includes suspension)".

Are moderator messages the only way to contact a user privately for a moderation issue?

No! You can also use a private chat room. Be sure only to give access to yourself, your fellow moderators, the user in question, and—if needed—members of the Stack Exchange community team.

What is super-pinging? How do I use it?

As a moderator, you can send a message to anyone on the network in chat with the use of a super-ping. This message will appear in the user's inbox, even if they've never been to chat.

To use it, begin by typing @@ in a chat room; you'll get a dialog that'll let you search for the user. Alternatively, if you already know the user's ID, you can type @@<ID>@<sitename> to super ping them.

A user's ID can be found by navigating to their profile, looking at the profile's URL, and noting the number that appears after /users/.

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Migrations and cross-site communication

How can I contact the moderators on another site?

All moderators have access to the Teachers' Lounge, where you can discuss mod-to-mod issues. This is a private room specifically for this purpose and should be considered confidential (i.e. no migrating out or linking to messages inside the room).

When in the Teachers' Lounge, you can use <sitename> mods: <message>, where <sitename> is the site's short name (e.g. programmers), to send a message to all moderators on the site you want to contact. Note that the bot does not recognize edits, so if you put the wrong site or use the wrong syntax, you'll have to start a new message to fix it.

There's an off-topic question on my site. When should I migrate it?

The golden rule of migrations is don't migrate crap. When in doubt, just close the question as "off-topic" and leave it alone. If the question is definitely a great fit for a site, consider contacting the moderators on the destination site to see if they agree.

To migrate

On the question: Close -> Off-Topic -> This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network -> Start typing the name

I made a mistake in migrating a question! Can I undo it?

Closing the migrated question on the target site automatically rejects the migration, unless it is closed as a duplicate. This will automatically unlock the question on the source site and clear the migration history.

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Moderating comments

How should I handle comments?

Comments are—for the most part—intended to be ephemeral bits of information used to improve the quality of the post they're found on. If they aren't contributing to that, they generally don't belong.

If you see an ongoing discussion or argument in the comments of a post, consider stepping in and asking the parties involved to roll the fruits of the discussion into the post and take the rest of the conversation to chat. Once resolved, consider cleaning up the comment chain.

If you see personal attacks being thrown in comments, or other unacceptable behavior, delete the comments on sight and consider taking additional action, like warning the parties involved.

Can I migrate comments to chat, or another place?

Yes: from the post's 'mod' menu, select 'move comments to chat'. Bear in mind that this can only be done once - if the discussion continues in comments after you've moved it to chat, your only options are to delete the comments, edit them, or comment yourself. Also remember, users who are part of a back-and-forth chain of comments are given the option to migrate the conversation to chat themselves.

Should all comments be deleted when cleaning up a large comment chain?

While comments in general are not supposed to be permanent artifacts, consider leaving comments that link to related resources or clarify a small, tangential point in the post. On questions, also consider leaving comments prompting the asker for information that have not been addressed yet.

Can I undo a comment deletion?

Comments can now be undeleted.

...After deletion, the standard "deleted content" styles will show the just-deleted comment, along with the "undelete" link.

Also, the "X deleted comments" right side-bar quick link will now load deleted comments inline, allowing for undeletion (in certain cases)

Can I see what comments have been deleted?

To see all the deleted comments on a post, click the mod link, then select show deleted comments. To see them with the undelete link, click the "X deleted comments" box and the deleted comments will appear inline on the post

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A bad tag's sprung up. Can I destroy and/or blacklist it?

No: moderators don't have the ability to outright destroy tags. For that, you need to create consensus on your meta-discussion site that the tag must not exist and contact Stack Exchange to perform the destruction and/or blacklist.

Even for tags that have no questions in them?

Empty tags will automatically be destroyed within 24 hours.

What's the difference between merging a tag and creating a synonym?

When you merge one tag into another, the system automatically removes the old tag and replaces it with the new tag. However, new questions can still use the old tag.

When you make one tag a synonym of another, the system does nothing with existing questions, but ensures all new questions are tagged with the new tag.

When merging one tag into another, you have the option of doing both actions at the same time.

Should I always create synonyms when merging tags?

If a tag has been used incorrectly, but has a separate meaning from the tag you're merging it into, do not create a synonym. Instead, just merge and let the old tag get destroyed after 24 hours.

If the tag keeps coming back and being used incorrectly even after the merge, then consider forming consensus on your meta-discussion site that they mean the same thing and should be synonyms of each other.

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Merging questions

When should I merge questions, as opposed to just closing as a duplicate?

When a question gets asked twice and the answers on both are worth preserving - for example if a question is cross posted between your site and the other and then the question from the other site is migrated in.

How do I merge?

First of all, one of the questions must be closed as a duplicate of the other. Pick one, close it. Then go to mod, merge and select the target question. Click merge. The answers from the post will be moved to the other and the question will be auto-locked, with the notice changed from "closed" to "merged".

I am not sure if I should vote to close or merge?

Merging should be much more unusual - it's in the mod menu. The answers must make sense on the target question - hence closing as exact duplicate first. If in doubt, ask.

What else do I need to be aware of?

It may be worth explaining in a comment why you merged - you might also like to comment on posts where users have answered both questions so they can review their answers in light of the merge and possibly combine them.

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Moderating chat

There's a colored number on my avatar that isn't a reply notification. What is it?

That's to let you know there's a flag raised somewhere in the chat network. Click on it to get a summary of what the flag is.

I'm getting flags from chat rooms not tied to my main site. Is this normal?

Yes: as a moderator on one site, you are a moderator—for most intents and purposes—across the chat network.

How should I handle flags for rooms I'm not familiar with?

If the content of a flag raised shocks the conscience or is blatantly obscene, handle it as you would your own site's chat rooms. Otherwise, ignore it and let a more experienced or involved moderator handle it instead.

How do I migrate messages to another room?

From the "room" menu, choose move/delete messages:

Screenshot of the option

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Vote abuse

What is a serial downvote?

Serial downvotes are where you start to see all of your questions/answers being downvoted - 10, 20 or 30 downvotes. The odd −2 here and there is not serial downvoting.

A user has complained about being serially downvoted. What can I do?

Like any normal user, votes are anonymous to you and you have no power to alter votes.

If a user has been serially downvoted, there is a vote-correction script which examines these patterns and reverses them if it finds such abuse. Users should wait for this to restore their reputation initially. This should resolve most cases of downvote abuse.

If a user contacts you with concerns that they're being targeted, ask them to wait 24 hours for the script to run. If they've still got concerns after that, hop into the Teachers' Lounge and ask a community team member to investigate.

What is sockpuppetry?

Sockpuppetry is the creation of multiple accounts for the purpose of deception. This can include for targeting votes or for circumventing suspensions.

Are multiple accounts allowed?

Yes. Provided they are not used to abuse the system, e.g. as sockpuppets.

What action should I take?

Ask any community team member to invalidate the votes between the users and suspend for intentional vote fraud. Users that were clearly created only to upvote another user can also be just deleted, instead of invalidating the votes. Make sure to use the sockpuppet deletion reason.

Can I reverse this?

At the time of writing this is experimental and not currently available to moderators. As the tools say, be careful.

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Privileges and abilities

I'm a moderator on a main site. Where else am I a moderator?

In addition to your main site, you're also a moderator on your meta-discussion site and in chat.

Does my reputation affect what I have access to?

No: as a moderator, you gain access to every user privilege, regardless of your reputation, in addition to several moderator-only functions and abilities.

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Site scopes and Help Centers

Our site gets a lot of low quality or ostensibly off-topic questions. How can I fix this?

If your site is having issues with its scope—whether it's from confused users or otherwise—propose clarifying or amending your site's Help Center by creating a question on your meta-discussion site to allow for feedback. Once you have consensus, you can modify your Help Center to note the new changes.

How do I modify my site's Help Center?

Navigate to your site's Help Center "What topics can I ask about here?" page, and look for the "edit" link at the bottom of the page.

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