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This probably has an answer somewhere but it'd be nice to see elaboration and updated statements on what being a moderator entails, in light of the coming election.

These related questions go out in particular to all current and former moderators:

  1. 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)?

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think there's any part of the moderator job that is fun or interesting, to be honest. The most satisfying bits to me have always been creating and editing content, and I don't need to be a mod to do that. The main "benefit" that I derive from it is having more influence to shape the site in a way I want it to be. Although I haven't really been using that all that much recently...... $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    Apr 3 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ Put another way, one shouldn't really want to be a mod because of the extra fun decisions that you get to make or fancy buttons to click on. There isn't really such a thing, and the novelty of moderator tools / privileges wears off pretty quickly. I think one should want to be a mod if they care about the overall direction the site goes in, and want to have a greater say in it. This requires trust from the community, of course, which is where the election process comes into play. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    Apr 3 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @orthocresol your comments make me want to ask more questions but I also have limited time so I will limit myself to: how far do you feel you are from making the site what you want it to be? What stands in your way (time,...?)? Perhaps questions for another day. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Apr 3 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ There should actually be a chatroom for the upcoming election. Every election has one, but I don't know why the SE staff haven't made one for this one yet. I went ahead and made it anyway (you can access it, and the previous ones, from chemistry.stackexchange.com/election/4) Feel free to ping current mods or prospective candidates with questions, etc. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    Apr 3 at 13:56
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There were days where I was as active as Andselisk, and spent a lot of time on this site. Unfortunately these times are over, so I would like to add another example response.

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 check in usually about every other day for a few hours to read questions and answers. While I'm at it I try to focus on flags that were raised by users (and moderators) and try to close these.
I'll post a few comments, close a few questions, remove old comments, just things that fly by my cursor. All in all that is just regular user stuff (depending on reputation levels) just that my actions take effect immediately. Usually that doesn't change anything, if it does matter though, in few cases, I just stay away from these then, maybe let a different moderator handle it.

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.

That's a bit harder to unpack.

Ideally a moderator has nothing to do beyond the stuff that ordinary, long-time users would do. Some of the issues just need to be handled quicker, need a different channel, or need insight a user doesn't have.

Anything regarding editing has nothing to do with these moderatorial duties and is my own personal choice to pursue. I have spoken out about things about editorial issues before I became a moderator. I recognise, that things I write here have more of an official touch now though. I always try to be as open minded as possible, but sometimes some of the discussions will not end, so then making a decision is required. In that way, yes, we are steering the community, but we try to do it as inclusive as possible.

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?

I guess all tasks are interesting in their own rights.

Almost all the moderating a 10 k reputation user can do are fun to do. They shape the site, make it more beautiful, make it more functional, preserve knowledge.
While I had the time, "spring cleaning" was a lot of fun: What are you doing in the spring cleaning chat room? Having the extra powers were handy and necessary to get anything done there.

Most of the times though, when you need to use the "Moderator Super Powers®", it usually isn't for fun reasons. Handling flags can be time consuming. When something drops through the community moderator level, it needs special handling. Sometimes it is as easy as deleting a comment, sometimes it needs an private message. In any case, you have to make a decision, not always an easy one. Unfortunately these are the more important task, as no-one else can do them.

And well, there will always be the occasional notion that moderators are somehow dictators … (I am not going to look for examples links; the most recent one had something to do with moving comments to chat.)

Almost all user interactions are nice and fun. However, you should be aware that those few that are not, hurt plenty, even up to the point to overshadow the good ones.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's nice to see another point of view to complement the other answers, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Apr 4 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ It's a bit like spiderman, I guess, with power comes responsibility ;) $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Apr 4 at 11:34
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  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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    $\begingroup$ With "What is the ideal job of a moderator?" I meant tasks performed on the site. Thanks for a very very thorough answer, this will probably of great value to anyone considering becoming a mod. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Apr 3 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ It also helps visitors understand how you see your job and how you perform it. Thanks again. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Apr 3 at 13:24

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