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On RPG.SE, we've seen a negative pattern emerge. The moderators are also avid members of the site (part of the reason we became mods was having the highest reps). RPG.SE, like many of the newer SEs, has more of a subjective component than Stack Overflow and other "does the code work" SEs, so we have a lot of opinions and use Good Subjective, Bad Subjective rules to govern that, and it works quite well.

However, this leads to confusion among the community as to when we are speaking "as mods" or simply as members of the community with our own strong opinions on a question. This leads to people seeing "abuse, because that mod is taking a side in that debate on that site topic!" People then start seeing every mod activity through the lens of that mod's personal proclivities; both seeing "participant level" statements as the mod taking "official" sides among answering camps and seeing mod activities as being driven by their opinions on the topical debate instead of impartial moderation.

You can't eliminate all of that, and we try to coach the community that we all know how to keep that separate, we confer with other mods when we think there's a conflict of interest, and that they can always complain to the other mods if they think someone's doing wrong, but that in general we are and plan to be opinionated members of the site ourselves and not retreat into some kind of ivory tower mod-hood.

But I was on Parenting.SE recently and saw a mod put a mod comment on in all bold, which was clever and it made me think - should we have a distinct "mod voice" to make this distinction clear, whether it's using bold or some new "mod color" functionality? This is a common feature with forum moderators.

Do we think this would help? I'm torn - most of the stick we get is from the same 3-4 users who chronically think the mods are out to get them and I doubt any procedural or technical change would fix that, but it could reduce confusion among the mid-field of casual and especially new users.

  • You could just use two accounts; one that you use for posting and one that you use for moderating. – Servy Apr 23 '14 at 14:05
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    @Servy this could get confusing. Account management, avoiding accidental double voting, connecting the accounts in the eyes of public (or avoiding non-mod activity from mod account, which leads to a 1-rep mod account)... – John Dvorak Apr 23 '14 at 14:10
  • And so thou hast spoken with a booming voice "This answers the question, so it is perfectly valid as an answer. There is no deleting it", then added in whisper "yet it still sucks. How could anyone think this?". – John Dvorak Apr 23 '14 at 14:14
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    "Though this point of view surely indicates both a high degree of moral turpitude and an unusually low level of cognition for an adult human, I shall defend to the death your right to say it. Or until you get a bunch of downvotes and delete flags, whichever." – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Apr 23 '14 at 14:18
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    Is it too much to expect for mods to be mindful of what they say, however opinionated they may be? If a person accepts that diamond, I believe that they should handle everything that comes with it, and that includes, being the voice for a community, always. If something is going on that deserves a discussion/debate, then that should be on meta and not main; where the mod should explain their decision/opinion, and be open to it being voted on and questioned. – asheeshr Apr 23 '14 at 14:27
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    @AsheeshR when I say "debate" I don't mean a mod activity that deserves debate, I mean the usual topical debates on the site. So if I'm a Parenting.SE mod and I add a comment to an answer saying "I totally believe in spanking, it's a solid practice and never hurt me," is that a user speaking or a mod speaking - it colors the perceptions of the other participants. But I'm not interested at all in people questioning/voting on my personal opinion on a topic (except inasmuch as the SE voting system already inherently allows). – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Apr 23 '14 at 14:31
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    One of the mods on Codegolf.se keeps saying: "speaking as a user, not as a mod...". Somehow I feel this should suffice. – John Dvorak Apr 23 '14 at 14:34
  • @JanDvorak but as some of the most prolific users of the site, we'd have to say that dozens of times a day. We make a lot fewer mod statements than participant statements. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Apr 23 '14 at 14:36
  • @mxyzplk it colors the perceptions of the other participants Do you have examples that can support this? I understand what you are saying now, but this post doesnt clearly explain that (or it may be that I am misinterpreting it). – asheeshr Apr 23 '14 at 14:42
  • Tried to clarify in the question further. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Apr 23 '14 at 14:46
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In most situations it is pretty clear in my experience whether a moderator is acting as a moderator or a regular user. If I comment on the factual content of a post, I'm clearly acting as a regular user. If I comment on the behaviour of users or on the rules of the site, I'm clearly acting as a moderator.

Even if I had the ability to mark if I'm acting as a moderator or not, it wouldn't actually change that much. Once I comment on a matter of moderation I'm de facto acting as a moderator even if I would chose to use the non-mod voice. I can chose not to use my moderator powers in certain situations and let the community handle it. But it would be somewhat misleading if I claimed that a comment of mine on the topic of moderation is only from myself as a regular user.

As an example, if I would warn a user in my non-mod voice that a certain behaviour might not be constructive, I'll certainly still take that into account if I have to act as a mod later on that situation. Every time I comment on something that is relevant to moderation, it is automatically in my position as moderator and not as a regular user.

I also think that making it clear that a moderator is always a moderator when they're on the site is a good mindset. The binding votes mean that I think a bit longer about my decisions compared to when I wasn't a moderator. I might also not post the snarky comment that I am tempted to post if it might just escalate the situation. Of course those are things regular users should consider as well, but the diamond besides the name makes it clear that you should lead by example.

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