- How do you perform your job as a moderator? Specifically, on what moderation tasks do you spend your time (ideally also provide a breakdown of time by task)?
I usually check out Chemistry.SE at least twice a day (morning and evening), and also occasionally throughout the day whenever I happen to have spare time and a laptop connected to the internet. Moderation from a smartphone or a public/work computer are both a no-go: the first hinders productivity and the second is just not secure. Sometimes I keep a background tab with notifications enabled if something pops up on CSE. I also collect RSS feeds for the new questions, so that I could quickly see possibly poorly written questions by their titles. Good indication of quality, BTW.
Editing takes the most of time (3 min to hours). I don't edit everything, but if I see a potentially good question hidden under a buch of photocopied pages and handwritten formulas, I'd probably roll up my sleeves and spend an hour converting this into text and nice graphics.
Mod inbox informs about newest Meta posts and messages from CMs. This is usually mandatory stuff that requires reaction in terms of reading and understanding a few paragraphs of text (5 min) or writing a thoughtful response (20 to 30 min).
Review queues are fast, 3 to 5 min at best. Unless, well, heavy editing is required. Also, mods votes are binding, meaning the vote takes effect immediately, so I skip many reviews where I'm not 100% sure.
Chats are less of an interest for me, but occasionally I log into the most important ones and check things out spending 3 to 5 min.
- What is the ideal job of a moderator? How does this align with the editorial philosophy of the site? (e.g. should the site strive to have a minimal set of questions, should it strive to engage mostly advanced chemists or amateurs, etc?) Feel free to refer back to site guidelines on meta on what the site ideally wants to be like or to accomplish.
Assuming you mean a job IRL, I'd say really anything chemistry-related either in academia or industry. You should be able to immediately realize when you see BS, plagiarism or trolling. Without knowing chemistry, you would be prone to mistakes and slow decision-making as you will have to google everything up.
Assuming you mean the on-site job, I'd go with assuring users spend their time productively and nothing hinders scientific communication. The highest reward is be called draconian pedant because you swiftly close HW questions and standardize notations, symbols and language:)
I think the SE sites are self-regulating in many aspects, and mods can barely correct the flow of questions by closing or editing out the worst ones, and this is a good thing as it makes the system robust and less centralized. I do, however, believe in quality over quantity, so again, editing is my tool. If you check out the all-time editors list, you'll notice that active mods are the users with the largest editorial portfolio, and usually these are complete edits, not marginal ones changing a preposition and a tag.
As for the audience, IRL I saw senior "professionals" occupying high-ranking posts that cannot write a formula for potash as well as gifted twelve-years-olds having better understanding of chemistry than I do. I think we neither need to drop the bar in favor of newcomers nor close for the specialists in the field. Keep it self-regulating. Any seemingly trivial question can be correctly asked by a student in a way that a specialist would never refuse to answer it, keeping both parties entertained. If a student cannot properly communicate, and the specialist thinks their time is too valuable to give proper complete answers, then they won't be the long-term participants anyway because their posts violate SE rules and guidelines.
- Are there moderation tasks that are in your personal opinion more fun/interesting/challenging/time consuming/etc than others? Which ones are more, which are less?
Mods are the point men, sort of a quick response team. Some call us plumbers, but it doesn't change the fact that we have to take care of the site, react quickly in the non-standard situations and help users do the same, so that thousands of users don't waste their time trying to comprehend a clickbait title of decipher poorly formatted text. The community is only built when people are returning to the site, and nobody would return to an incomprehensible non-systematic mess.
Promptly cleaning up things we help the community to grow and give a sense that we are actually caring here. Lack of logics, clutter and unnecessary complications are very annoying, and are often interpreted as means to complicate information acquisition. Considering today's amount of data and short attention span, having standardized and uniform database of high-quality questions is paramount.
I believe all moderator tasks are important, and the real question is what you enjoy the most or see the value in. Again, for me it's clarity and aesthetics in written communication, so editing is not a burden for, rather a hobby. But I'm pretty bad at interpersonal communication. I'm aware of that, and I'd rather ask other mods to have a look at the case when delicacy matters. Pick your poison and stick with it, I'd say. This is one of the few areas where you have a real personal choice.