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One of the themes in election town hall chats involve the impact that past, present, and future behavior of moderator nominees will have on the nominee, as well as the community. Consider the following question from the 2012 Stack Overflow Town Hall Chat, asked by Michael Mrozek:

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?

Your past, present, and future behavior will all be seen in a different light, since your username, and the diamond, are attached to all of your questions, answers, comments, close votes, reopen votes, deletes, and undeletes. I've experienced first-hand how my actions have been interpreted much differently than on sites where I'm a regular user.

But many moderators also contribute regularly on other Stack Exchange sites where they are not moderators, where they do not carry a diamond by their names. The question is, if a moderator visits another site, how are his or her actions perceived by that community? If that moderator makes a statement in a comment on that site, does his or her words carry extra weight and have more of an effect on that community, whether it be positive or negative? Is this something that moderators should be mindful of when participating on other Stack Exchange sites, or should a moderator just act like a normal, everyday user on a site he or she does not moderate?

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There are even weirder cases with global moderators. For example Marc Gravell posting on Christianity.SE with a diamond attached to his nick. –  CodesInChaos Jul 31 '12 at 16:02
@code Marc is a SE employee. All SE employees - except Chaos members - have diamonds and diamond powers on all sites. –  Yannis Jul 31 '12 at 18:27
@YannisRizos Most employees, not just CHAOS, don't have diamonds everywhere. Developers usually have them, but the community team is the only team guaranteed a universal diamond. (Mwahahahaha.) –  Anna Lear Jul 31 '12 at 19:31
FWIW, I have occasionally observed myself being treated differently because of the diamond. I interact with SO as a regular user, and occasionally get the impression that one or more participants on the question perceive my technical observations as being somehow more authoritative because I'm a moderator. An unwarranted perception, I assure you. Occasionally, moderators are asked in a flag to weigh in on technical issues; we always refuse. I don't have a diamond on other sites like Programmers, so it doesn't really seem to matter there. –  Robert Harvey Jul 31 '12 at 20:22
Whoops... didn't mean to submit that earlier comment. I blame this quasi-bug. –  Pops Jul 31 '12 at 20:56
@RobertHarvey - Even without the ♦, I tend to listen more closely to things visiting mods say, not on technical issues, but on site governance and Stack Exchange issues that I'm still unsure of. It's as if that person's experience is validated by the fact that he/she works closely with the SE community team. When wielded effectively, I feel a visiting mod can have lots of influence on another site's direction based on, let's say, a few great meta comments. For instance, other mods helped the ♦ mods on The Workplace get a head start early on, and I feel like it's had a positive impact. –  jmort253 Aug 1 '12 at 3:47

3 Answers 3

I'd guess that the vast majority of users will never notice that a specific user is a moderator on another site. There are over 200 moderators on SE, without the diamond most users won't be able to identify them. Moderators don't have diamonds on other sites, and most users likely don't know many moderators at all. Between closely related sites the chance is much higher that users know the moderators of their sister sites.

As long as you don't explicitly mention it, most users will probably never know that you're a moderator on another site. I don't think moderators need to act any different on sites where they don't have a diamond than normal users.

There is one exception, and that is that other moderators are likely to know that you are a moderator somewhere. That might give your opinion more weight with them, especially if you're a moderator for a longer time and of a related site.

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Beta Moderators on Small Sites:

As a moderator on a small, unknown beta site, I've observed that my actions on sites like Stack Overflow are interpreted by other users no differently than they would be if I weren't a moderator on a beta site, like I'm a friend, or peer, who is merely trying to help them through a problem, or to help them use the site better. With such a large community, a majority of the users don't know I'm a moderator on another site, nor does it seem to matter. In essence, I am a regular user.

With that said, I personally do try to watch my words, be nice to the newbies, and make an attempt to approach every problem objectively.

Elected Moderators on Larger Sites:

However, I've observed that the story may very well be different with elected moderators or moderators from larger, more popular launched sites. Their presence is promoted more by Stack Exchange through nominations and elections, and the communities are larger. Therefore, if you're a moderator on Stack Overflow, for example, people know who you are, even if those users rarely visit Stack Overflow. As a moderator on a larger site, your actions and words may potentially, and unwittingly, have a bigger impact on the other communities you participate on.

As an elected moderator visiting another site, you don't have a diamond by your name nor do your close votes immediately reach the threshold. You can, and should, participate as a regular user. However, when it comes to participating in the moderation or governance of that site as a regular community member, your words and actions may very well influence others, just because of who you are on Stack Overflow, Super User, or another launched or large site.

In other words, you don't have the moderator powers or responsibilities, nor is the diamond visible, but I get the impression that users may very well see that diamond anyway. Thus, as moderators, our actions should still serve as a good example to others, even when we're away from home.

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One of the things the FAQ on every site says is the following:

At the high end of this reputation spectrum there is little difference between users with high reputation and ♦ moderators. That is very much intentional. We don’t run [site name]. The community does.

That is, diamond moderators are regular users. Diamond moderators are given their position because they have been identified by the community as exemplars of an ideal user: someone who can be trusted to act in a way that is both admired and respected by other SE users.

And, while every site tends to think of itself as unique, that level of trust means pretty much the same thing on every SE site because the moderation and privilege structure on all SE sites work the same way.

So when a diamond moderator does something on any SE site, the fact that one community has said, "this person can be trusted to act as a diamond moderator" means something. If that person says, "X is true", people will tend to trust that person, given their credentials.

Moreover, people derive how SE works or the values SE has from how diamond moderators from any site act and from what they say. If X moderator believes Y, and that moderator is trusted and respected enough by at least one SE community to get the position, people can and will infer Y is also believed by the SE community at large.

As a corollary to the above, if you're attempting to run for a diamond moderator on one site, what you've done on other sites absolutely matters: if you're awesome on site X, or a real jerk on site Y, people will recognize that and vote accordingly.

This is all to say that a diamond moderator isn't something you can just "be" part time as a user on SE, where you act one way as a moderator on one site and a completely different way on another, or act one way on a site and make a promise to act a different way when you become a moderator. When you nominate yourself to become a diamond moderator, or accept a moderator pro temp position, you're not making claims about future success: you're making the the tacit claim that you've been doing all the things people want diamond moderators to do in the first place as a regular user, because that's just who you are and that's what you believe in.

So while being a diamond moderator instructs people's perceptions of you network-wide, and diamond moderators should keep it in mind when they act as "regular" users on SE sites where they do not have a diamond, it shouldn't really matter in practice unless someone's in it, or attempting to get into it, for the wrong reasons.

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This is a pretty good post. It doesn't really answer the question, though. –  Pops Jul 31 '12 at 20:16
@PopularDemand Really? Pretty sure I directly answered all four questions. 1) Does having a diamond by your name on one site affect a different community's perception of you? Yes. 2) If a moderator visits another site, how are their actions perceived? As exemplars of correct actions vetted and trusted by the community. 3) If a moderator makes a statement on another site, do those words carry more weight? Yes. 4) Should moderators be mindful of this? Yes, but it doesn't matter because they were elected for how they handled things as a regular user anyway. –  user149432 Jul 31 '12 at 20:29
To my reading, the question you answered was "in theory, how should mods act and be perceived?" while the question the OP asked was "how do the assorted SE communities perceive 'outside mods' in practice?" –  Pops Jul 31 '12 at 20:35
@PopularDemand That was not my intent: I'm not talking about theory, but practice: clarified the wording. –  user149432 Jul 31 '12 at 20:38

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