When a moderator election is announced, this is what appears on the election page to explain what the role of moderators is:
On Stack Exchange, we believe the core moderators should come from the community, and be elected by the community itself through popular vote. We hold regular elections to determine who these community moderators will be.
Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.
Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:
- patient and fair
- leads by example
- shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
- open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions
That's a very high-level overview, and while it does give some guidance as to who would make a good moderator, it provides no concrete information regarding what being a moderator actually means. It doesn't convey to potential candidates what they would face if elected. It's ok for the voting phase, but it is not good guidance in the nomination phase.
There's also a link to the blog post “A Theory of Moderation”. That's better: it does cover some moderation tasks. But it has several defects:
- It's partly obsolete. (For example, “communicate directly with users via email” is now on the “don't do” list — any communication moderators have with users is done through the site.)
- It explains the what do some extent, but it's silent on the how much.
- It is perforce generic, but moderation can be a very different job on different sites. This is to some extent (but not only) related to the how much.
Credits to glucas for pointing this out.
How can we better describe what moderators do? More specifically, how can we integrate something in the election process that gives potential candidates a better idea of what the job entails on that site?