N.B.: I write this post with fear and trembling: I write because I believe it is necessary that someone do so.
We believe deeply in community moderation. That’s why we appoint Pro Tempore Moderators and, ideally, democratically elected community moderators for every site in our network. But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!
(From A theory of moderation)
Because Stack Exchange adheres to community moderation, every user, whether or not (s)he has a diamond beside his/her name has the opportunity to gain privileges that allow him/her to moderate whatever site (s)he is on. The goal is that the moderators simply be something like police who step in when immediate action is necessary or in places where the available privileges for high-ranking users simply don't allow the necessary action.
Unfortunately... that's not always how it happens.
Sadly, I've seen a few cases recently (which I will not make direct reference to), in which a moderator has bordered on acting as an elected legislative official, rather than an elected judicial official. My goal is not to call out any particular moderator(s), it is simply to establish a guideline and a reminder.
Moderators are policemen. Our job is to enforce the law, not to define it. If a change in the law is necessary, the community must have their voice - even if it is a moderator who proposes the change. In some cases, it will be up to community managers to implement a change...
..but it's not up to the moderators!
Friends, we are not legislators. If the community complains about the way we are handling flags, our job is not to redefine what the flags are supposed to do; our job is (I believe) to follow a few guidelines:
Take a serious look at what they're saying. Chew on it for a few days if necessary, but don't treat the community lightly.
Discuss with fellow moderators. The strength of the moderator team lies in its unity. If your fellow moderators are not in agreement with you, you have two choices:
- Step down. (I do not say that tritely; I mean it. You may simply not be able to stand with the moderator team: in which case respectfully step down.)
- Change your way of acting. Obviously, this is the more ideal of the two options.
If the fellow moderators are in agreement with your way of handling things, you have a few things you should do:
- Gauge the necessity of action. Is this just one user complaining? Perhaps it's someone who doesn't understand the system very well.
- Discuss it in the site's main chat. I realise this works better on some sites than others, but at some point when a large percentage of the community's moderators are available, take the time to discuss it in chat. If necessary, organize a chat event.
- If you still cannot come to a consensus between the moderators and the community, try discussing it with other moderators from other sites. Perhaps your behaviours are actually not in conformity with SE moderation.
- As a team, write up a meta post, quoting from official SE documents to show how your theory of moderation lines up with the way that SE is supposed to work.
Always adhere to the Be Nice Policy!