What disruptions are difficult to handle in chat currently?
As a moderator, not much. If something's disrupting chat, and it won't stop if I ask it to, I can suspend it. (There's one exception - keep reading.) So perhaps this question should be what disruptions are difficult to handle for regular users/room owners?
As far as I can see, the the point where a moderator gets called in is (broadly) one of two situations:
- offensive/abusive ('regular') flags that a mod just happens to handle
- moderator custom flags cast by users or owners when things are spiralling beyond their control
Those, then, are the situations that have regular users or owners tied up in knots, and those are the situations we should focus on. In particular, some questions to think about:
- Why are there so many more invalid offensive flags in chat than on main sites? Is more guidance about when to flag required?
- What can be done to reduce the number of times a room owner has to call in a moderator because they feel powerless to control the room?
I'm a big fan of letting rooms moderate themselves as far as possible - it's better for the room than having a possibly 'foreign' moderator turn up and be stricter on the situation than is totally necessary. But for self-moderation to happen, users and owners need to feel that they can control the conversation, and if necessary, room owners need to feel that their powers support them.
In an ideal world, we'd also have it so that room owners feel that they will be supported by the moderators, if they have to call one in. From what I can tell now, for a room owner, calling in a moderator is a bit of an unknown quantity - I'd like to see how we can make sure that if a room owner is doing the right thing, they know they'll be supported by the mods.
[The one thing that I find hard to deal with, as a moderator, is foreign-language flags or chatrooms. Without knowing the language, I just can't moderate - it's either Google Translate, or wait for a mod who does know the language. Neither of those are brilliant options, but this situation isn't terrible left as-is.]
How do Room Owners make sure rooms stays within the community limits?
This is the crux of it. If room owners can be encouraged to moderate effectively, then we have an ideal situation where moderators only need to be called in very rarely.
Perhaps controversially, I'd like to point to Mos Eisley as an awesome example of room self-moderation. This is the room that, late last year, was frozen for a week by the community team because the attitudes in it were toxic and it was almost un-moderatable without being an 'insider'.
Shortly after that incident, impromptu elections for room owners were held on meta, two new (non-mod) room owners were installed, and we've almost not heard a peep from there since. I think the key elements here were:
- RO's came from the chat regular community
- The chat community trusted the RO's (they were elected, after a fashion)
- The RO's actively moderate conversation
The moderation the owners do isn't capital-M Moderation - it's more like catching potential issues early, steering away from potentially dangerous topics, and gently guiding chatters on the right path.
How can chat be used effectively for a specific goal/purpose on the main site, while minimizing friction?
Let's be clear: chat has become something it was never intended to be. It was intended, as far as I can tell, as a venue for less structured site discussions, with some socialising alongside.
What it's become is more like socialising, with occasional site discussion.
That's not a bad thing, but it's important to recognise that we can't moderate it for what it was intended to be; we have to moderate it as it is. It's a problem child, but in the same sort of way that dumping your child on the street if you don't like it is considered bad, we can't just give it up as a lost cause.
I think the major cause of friction in chat is differing opinions and differing styles of moderation. Another answer here makes a good point about what's offensive?; that's a big friction point sometimes. However, I honestly think the best way to bring friction down in chat would be to standardise moderation strategies as far as possible.
This difference in moderation style is, I think, partially why moderation gets a lot of resistance in chat. This is Stack Exchange, we're all used to even, consistent moderation - but in chat, that changes. It's perhaps not totally the fault of the 'great unwashed', but also potentially quite a bit the fault of the moderators as a collective (not individually, I'm sure we all do our best to moderate as an individual).
I recognise that doing that isn't totally possible, but we can do better than what we have right now, which is each moderator moderates how they think is best. We should tell moderators what's best (or at least give some good guidance - more than is currently available) to avoid massive conflicts of style.
I hate to blast my own horn, but a number of moderators have noted that I seem to be good at chat moderation - I get on well with users, while keeping my ability to moderate efficiently. Now while standardising policy on what I, alone do is a terrible idea, the same is true of a number of moderators (a few names spring to mind). If we used the expertise of the moderators who are widely recognised as being good at chat moderation to create a set of strong guidelines on how to handle various things that crop up, then I think we'd go a long way to standardising moderation style and reducing friction.
That was a fair ole' essay. Now to find a way to compress it for chat...