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An election is being scheduled on one of the sites that I participate on, and one of the moderators took some time to write a description of what being a moderator is like from their perspective. I thought it was a good way to get people thinking about becoming a mod, and that it might be useful to get more perspectives and specific questions from the community.

You might be tempted to close this as a duplicate of Let's give a better idea of what moderators do but hear me out. I think waiting until there is actually an election isn't a great idea. I think the current mod team composing a message for potential candidates when an election is scheduled is a great idea that never got implemented. However, making them start completely from scratch every time is not a good idea. They should have something to start from and just highlight how their site at this time is a bit different from it. I think it would also be helpful if the information was structured as questions and answers instead of as a free form essay.

We have documentation to help newly elected moderators, and we have a good description of the job in general. We don't have anything (as far as I know) describing what it's like to be a mod from a moderator's perspective.

Because it's not really feasible to have a moderator "take your community to work" day, I think an "ask me anything" type Q&A with existing elected mods from across the network would be the next best thing.

I'm imagining these types of questions

  • How much time does being a mod take?
  • What is the best and worst thing about being a mod?
  • What happens if you make a mistake when using a moderator power?
  • How does being a mod change how you participate on the site?

but I think collecting questions from the community like we do for candidates would be ideal.

What do you think? Would demystifying some of the day-to-day work of a moderator help attract more candidates or be pointless? How should we decide on what questions to ask? How should they get answered and by whom? Is there a better way to give communities more insight into the job?

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    I imagine some of these questions (especially the first) are highly site-dependent. I know being a mod on Stack Overflow is a major time commitment, but I'd imagine on many smaller sites that's less the case.
    – Erik A
    Feb 17 at 15:54
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    If you want to know about a day in the life of a moderator, it would make sense to ask questions to moderators. You could do this in a meta post or as a chat event. However, I think many of the questions you state are in part already answered by the questionnaire's that are collected with each election. Is your goal to create a collection of anecdotes from current moderators?
    – Mast
    Feb 17 at 17:24
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    @Mast I think the goal is to set an expectation level regarding what it means to be a moderator on site X. Something current/former mods can create, to help users decide if it is something they are willing and able to fit in their timeschedule.
    – Luuklag
    Feb 17 at 20:20
  • @Luuklag That's going to vary a lot between sites. Would you want an expectation level per site? Per group of sites? Because SE-wide it's going to have at least 4 different levels.
    – Mast
    Feb 17 at 20:29
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    @Mast, yeah that is the concern Tinkeringbell voices in her answer below. But that said I think there is still value in having such a "document". It can serve as inspiration at the very least, and might need different answers to the questions for different sites. But that is something the mods of the site in question should decide, and they can use certain answers from the list, and rewrite some other answers, add a few questions, and skip a few questions that don't apply. But in general having such a list gives people a starting point in composing such piece of information for potential candi
    – Luuklag
    Feb 17 at 20:34
  • Related: The Skills of Great mods. Feb 17 at 21:36
  • @ColleenV the edit you rolled back does raise an interesting question: is there really any difference between "moderator" and "diamond moderator"? Sounds like potential discussion, maybe I'll start one soon, but what do you think? Feb 23 at 15:43
  • @ShadowWizardHatesOmicron I rolled it back because I don't ever call mods "diamond moderators". Which moderators I'm referring to (elected moderators) is clear upon reading the question. I was not talking about all moderators that have a diamond, which would also include staff and appointed moderators.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 23 at 15:53
  • @ColleenV fair, but still, I do believe "diamond moderator" is a very common term in Stack Exchange. I don't object your rollback, just raising something that I was thinking about. :-) Feb 23 at 15:59
  • @ShadowWizardHatesOmicron Yes, it's common (it's in the description of the moderators tag) but it conflicts with my intent. Most Metazins understand "moderator" to mean diamond mods, not community members engaged in moderation tasks, unless the context implies otherwise. We generally refer to non-diamond mods as "reviewers", "editors" etc. I think.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 23 at 16:03

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Would demystifying some of the day-to-day work of a moderator help attract more candidates or be pointless?

There's really no way to make an accurate guess at an answer to this question for me. I don't think I ever thought of the moderator day-to-day as mysterious, even before I became one myself. Moderators on the sites I frequented at that time were pretty active in chat, meta and my flags got handled, which was enough information for me.

That doesn't mean there won't be any users that will have questions on what it means to be a moderator. Especially on sites where the moderators or their actions aren't as visible, there may well be a need for more information on their day-to-day.

How should we decide on what questions to ask? How should they get answered and by whom?

This is pretty difficult as day-to-day moderating differs a lot depending on the site you'll be moderating. If there's little activity, your day-to-day will be lot different from the day-to-day on a busy site. On a more objective site, the day-to-day will differ from that of a subjective site.

This is the point where I start to think that having one big post isn't going to work, and this should really be something on an individual site's meta. There, they can be answered by the moderators of that site, the ones that have the most insight on what the day-to-day moderating of a specific site looks like.

If you're going to want to generalize this to fit one post on meta.SE, that's where you end up with the answers that are already out there, like the links you already shared in your post, or platitudes like "it's all voluntary" and "human exception handlers".

Is there a better way to give communities more insight into the job?

Like I said above, I think the best way to give community-specific insights to what moderating a specific community is like, is probably going to have to belong on the meta of that site.

It can be as simple as posting a comment or answer to the meta post announcing an election.

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