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Official moderator and user guidance here says (excerpts):

The ideal moderator does as little as possible, but those little actions may be powerful, visible, and highly concentrated.

If you have questions about the reasoning behind a moderator's actions, bring them up for discussion on meta.

We generally expect that moderators:

  • are patient and fair
  • lead by example
  • show respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • are open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

I've been feeling troubled by a moderator who seems to be the opposite.

How so? Why? A pattern of behavior. As I see it: The mod claimed an answer that cited sources hadn't cited any, then ignored questions I posed while claiming I had made accusations I had not made, and continued to attack and even delete my answer, and then continue to wildly critique every aspect my answer afresh even though it has many citations now. Answers from others who disagree could be attacked in the same way, but two wrongs don't make a right, and it's telling that the mod's critiques I've seen are consistently aligned with a particular political leaning. Mod then even claims that source reputation doesn't matter in order to find a way to critique a strong argument. I'm trying to see the mod's conduct as constructive criticism, but it's leaving me feeling very unwelcome. I don't feel safe even questioning the mod's behavior directly, given how threatened I felt by their repeated hostility and wild accusations made against me for merely raising a concern and unwillingness to respond to questions. If you're a moderator who finds the mod's behavior concerning and would like to take action if they can be substantiated but would like specifics, please contact me privately.

I recall seeing the mod edit other users' questions in ways that consistently favor the same political ideology, though I haven't gone looking or kept records.

I feel like the mod's every interaction with me is a combination of a smear and a direct attack, or one or the other.

I'm trying to see the mod's comments in a positive light. I feel that they are, rather than doing as little as possible, waving a big stick frequently. I think frequent stick waving is inappropriate in general, and that the individual waves indicate bad judgement call after bad judgement call. Maybe the mod doesn't realize they're waving a big stick around. But it sure feels intentional, even calculated.

Wondering about whether to start a private chat with the moderator or comment publicly and if the latter, whether to identify them/point to the publicly viewable (and deleted) evidence. I have a hunch it would lead to more hostility, but want to be optimistic. Or I could email Stack Exchange. I'd rather reinterpret their actions myself and/or have the mod do better than try to have 'em removed or trouble Joel & co. I'm seeing confusing information about what's appropriate. As I recall, this questioner (not me) did "bring them up for discussion on meta", yet the question has been deleted, so I'm confused as to what's appropriate to post here.

I can't find a standard PM (private message) facility, and chat.se doesn't seem to allow me to make a chat private either. Only public and gallery (which is public) are options. (Seeking to follow the general advice to praise publicly and criticize privately...) Where's the functionality on-site for private discussion?

So to recap and expand my question: How best to question / resolve a mod's questionable actions? That is, which ways are acceptable? unacceptable? (Be sure to cite your authority, even if you're a mod!) Which do you think are best? not so good? Why (most important!) ?

Please don't search or ask for specifics outside a private conversation.

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    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/28867/… – Oded Feb 3 '17 at 23:26
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    Also related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/151606/… – Matthew Elvey Feb 3 '17 at 23:42
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    "The ideal moderator does as little as possible" is an often cited but contested view - see meta.stackexchange.com/a/276323/215590 - I far prefer moderators who care about their sites and act over those that do as little as possible. If in their zeal they make mistakes then a per-site meta seems to be the logical place to discuss it. – PolyGeo Feb 3 '17 at 23:53
  • I agree with what @Shog9 says there, PolyGeo, and I don't think a mod dominating the interaction with a user (including being the dominant commenter on a Q&A) indicates good moderation. That's what I'm talking about. – Matthew Elvey Feb 4 '17 at 1:16
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Bringing it up on Meta is certainly an acceptable way to go about it, however this particular Meta is for issues relating to all sites as a whole. If you have an issue that's specific to a site, which is certainly the case for moderator actions on a specific site, then the question plainly doesn't belong on the network Meta. If you're suspended on the site, you can't participate on that site's Meta - and if you've already used up your moderator message response, then the only available action is the contact link.

If for whatever reason you're not comfortable discussing the issue on the site's Meta, there are two other options:

  • Find a way to have a conversation with the moderator in private. Regular users cannot create private chat rooms, but moderators can limit chat room audiences to only you and other moderators. Moderators are not under any obligation to do so, and may not be interested in doing so if they don't believe the conversation will go anywhere. This is only an option, not a guarantee.
  • Use the contact link in the footer. Yes, that goes to staff, but your fear of getting a moderator into trouble shouldn't be a deterrent from contacting us. We don't just want to know if something inappropriate is happening, we need to know. Especially in cases where accusations hold true, having the Community Team formally talk to the moderator can help a lot. Just keep in mind that your silence only reinforces behavior and ultimately causes it to continue happening to others.

Above all, you've already completed the most important part of this process: remaining calm. Explaining how you feel and what you're seeing that you feel is inappropriate in a calm manner usually makes it much easier to figure out what is going on. If you've ever done customer support, people tend to leave out information and skip over important events when they get angry because they want to quickly get their point across and/or only want others to see their point and nothing else. Unconstructive conversations rarely do anyone any good, but constructive conversations frequently have amazing results.

  • Re paragraph 1: OK. That should be made clear on that page, IMO. Not suspended. Haven't used up flags. Don't know how many moderators the site has. So this question, which isn't specific to a mod or site is OK as is? Or must I delete part of it? I guess the one that was deleted was more about a specific mod's actions. I think I'll look at the mod's behavior towards others a bit more and decide between bullet 1 and 2. Very helpful advice, thanks. And thanks for the kudos. Know what you mean about customer support! Great to mention here for all to read. – Matthew Elvey Feb 3 '17 at 23:41
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First breathe. Perspective is a great thing, and moderators are typically long time users of the site. As a mod, there's moments where I'm terribly unhappy with a user, but I can't let that affect my judgement. The wording you use make it sound personal and that's rarely a good thing.

Those experiences doesn't give them a pass when something is terribly wrong, but there's a reasonable chance there's a body of previous precedent backing up their decision. Without more precise information its hard.

As a mod, in many cases, I rely on the flag queue as the first sign I may need to intervene. This means. indirectly that at least two experienced users have seen the post.

I don't have the details on what exactly it is, or even what site. Having moderated two sites on the network - moderation styles can differ.

For matters of policy, site meta is a good place. As a mod I use it lots to set policy, often in response to user questions. Make sure your question is precise (You can reference your old posts!), constructive and clear. Remember you're selling the idea to the community, not trying to just convince a mod.

Ranting on meta about a mod rarely works. Its probably a consequence of the folk doing ranting not being as reasonable as you are being here, and mods typically being popular. (Happened to me twice with people complaining on here. Apparently the posts were closed quick. I didn't even know till someone told me ;p)

If the mod's commented on possible improvement, and made suggestions, flagging works, though wording is important. I'd love to have people ask me "How can I improve this post so it can be reopened" than people simply complaining it is, or worse, acting out.

If all else fails, yeah, the contact us link. I've not had that happen to me as a mod as far as I know. There's a few specific things here that suggest its a good thing. Its the lowest friction method - there's specific very serious accusations being made, some of which seem to be an abuse of power, and it would be nice to get a neutral pair of eyes or three looking at it from the perspective of an interested but mostly neutral party.

  • -1. A few things that add up, but in particular, the random italics are really difficult to read. – Nij Feb 4 '17 at 7:19
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    Not really random, tho I suppose somewhat abused for emphasis. I guess I can drop them, I'm fine with trading off style for substance. – Journeyman Geek Feb 4 '17 at 7:28
  • Geek, I found your emphasis placed on particular words to be clarifying (and thus useful and appropriate) but clearly opinions differ. Can you be specific with respect to your comment, "The wording you use make it sound personal and that's rarely a good thing." - Are you saying I've worded something in my OP in a way that would be inflammatory to the problematic mod? If so, ideally, please quote something and provide better wording. Or are you saying it sounds like the mod's action(s) seem personal? – Matthew Elvey Sep 30 '18 at 19:18
  • Well stuff like "it's telling that the mod's critiques I've seen are consistently aligned with a particular political leaning" and "I feel like the mod's every interaction with me is a combination of a smear and a direct attack, or one or the other." I'd guess. Since its been over a year since I wrote the answer, I don't actually remember what I was thinking at the time – Journeyman Geek Sep 30 '18 at 19:26

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