1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
User(s) who are generating arguments in comments generally need either education or a reminder about how the system is supposed to work. I would explain nicely what the purpose of the comment system is and note how the current issue got off into non constructive territory, then clean up all the stuff that's not in line with the purpose of comments.
Secondarily, if a particular post is setting off argumentative comments, I would also review the question and answer scoping. Often times argumentative comments are an indication that a question wasn't as constructively framed as it could have been or an answer is out of scope for the question.
2. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
I would first catch the mod in chat (public if all other factors are chill) and talk about it. I would ask for their reasoning and if I didn't agree, then explain why I saw things differently. If they came around to my way of thinking, I'd let them reverse their own actions as appropriate. If not and I didn't think the sky would fall because they made a different a call, I'd walk away and give it a rest.
If for some reason I thought it was really important to disagree, I'd raise an issue specific post on meta and ask the community to weigh in.
3. When you see a question or answer with major issues, e.g. argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?
This depends on the nature of the major issue, but for the specific examples cited...
For an argumentative or poorly written answer, I would check to see if the answer even addresses the actual question and is in scope. If not I would explain why it isn't and remove. If it is at least topically a match for the question but presents its content in an argumentative way (or just poorly) the first tool I'd reach for would be a downvote + comment explaining why I think there is an issue and what could be done to correct it. If I have time (with an extra effort made to find time if the user is new) I would then hit edit and try to demonstrate a way to resolve the issue.
For questions that are poorly written but otherwise valid, again the edit tool would be first on the list, usually with some comments encouraging the user to put in some effort of their own.
As for questions that are argumentative, I am less likely to reach for the edit and more likely to start with putting them on hold. These sort of questions also tend to have other issues such as poor scoping that might require clarifications which I would request in comments along with some hints about how to set a more constructive tone. If I'm feeling really ambitious I might eventually help edit these as well, but they usually require at least some degree of cooperation from the OP.
4. Bearing in mind that this site is about Christianity, but not a Christian site, how do you intend to remain as objective and non-biased as possible when evaluating the contributions of users?
I will evaluate contributions based on their quality using our guidelines not based their doctrinal content: questions on whether they show any prior research or effort and whether the scope is something that can reasonable be answered in a constructive way, answers on whether they answer the question from the requested viewpoint and do so with appropriate references and explanation.
If I haven't been vocal enough on this issue already, of what use are more words?
5. One of the hardest issues we've dealt with over the past two years is how to deal with the following two related issues:
- Minority Christian groups that are regarded as heretical by mainstream groups.
Individuals who claim to be the only person who believes the way they do and insist on being able to post their opinions wherever they please on this site.
Our scope has mandated that we include anyone (or group) who self identify as Christian.
How will you as a moderator assist in making minority groups feel welcome?
- How will you handle individuals who do not have an identifiable group or doctrine?
Re minority groups: You're right, this is hard.
I don't say the following to pass the blame but to identify the problem that moderators can help with. Unfortunately the majority of minorities bring trouble on their own heads. Too often they come in the door on the defensive and their early answers are attempts to prove themselves right (often on questions for which their views are completely out of scope) and their early questions are truth questions used as a platform to try to make a point about their pet doctrine.
So what's the answer? First I would try to get them off the defensive. I would help edit their questions to make scope them in a way that will be non-contentious and informative, putting their own doctrines in a positive rather than negative light. Unfortunately answers are usually not salvageable, but while we may have to delete them we can also point them in a direction where their answers are called for. If no question exists relevant to their minority, it might be time to ask one and comment on their post specifically asking them to address the new question from their POV.
Re unidentifiable groups: This is a straw man problem conflated with the issue of personal opinion.
The vast majority of new users—and hence the most common scenario we face—is that all POV's actually are identifiable, but lack of expertise on the part of participants means they often don't know how to identify their own views. They may be able to articulate an "I believe" statement but they have no idea where that statement fits in in the broad (and well documented) spectrum of theological and historical positions.
The primary thing we need to do is educate these folks on how the site works. They need to learn when their answers are called for by a question and (harder) how to scope their own questions in a way that they actually learn something without setting the stage for WWIII.
This is one area I think all the effort we sink into the site can actually serve a constructive purpose. In learning to play by the rules here, people must also learn to understand where their own faith fits in relation to other pieces of the larger puzzle.
In the rare case of a true independent crank who insists on being recognized in spite of being unrecognizable I would explain they need to go find some web developer out of which to make their first convert to their new religion, then put their heads together on a web page so their new group can earn at least some virtual legitimacy. I support the bar @wax eagle proposed a year or so ago that the minimum bar for claiming to exist as a group is at least one off-site reference. Of course not all posts require references, but if you are challenged and cannot come up with even one -- well this site isn't the place to soap box your novel sect.
6. What, if any, role do you think moderators can/should have in developing replacement moderators and developing a strong community that reduces the need for moderator action?
Good moderator candidates A) exhibit good character traits over time in their role as users before being elected and B) grok the local site culture including understanding how to work within the agreed guidelines and also influence the community when appropriate. The former is something we are not in a position to make a radical difference in except perhaps by example. The latter we can certainly take full circle. When people come along that are willing to learn, we can show them the ropes one at a time.
I can think of at least half a dozen people who started out with really backwards ideas (as far as B went), but have since gotten in the swing of things and I would fully endorse their serving as moderators now. To some extent the character (A) traits were something they brought with them, I wouldn't say this site is a sufficient training ground to forge the necessary character.
7. As a moderator on Christiantiy.SE, which how would you prioritize the following, realizing that they are not mutually exclusive, but at times certain points can be, depending on the situation:
- Demonstrating a Christian attitude and Christian behavior
- Guiding new users into understanding the site guidelines
- Addressing unacceptable behavior
- Enforcing site guidelines, even the ones you disagree with.
- Ensuring all answers come from a Christian perspective
Addressing heretical or grossly incorrect answers
For a concrete example: in the event of a conflict between these items, which "wins"? Say we have a new user that is repeatedly posting questions that fail to meet basic site rules, and ignores the community's attempts to explain the rules.
The Christian behavior: Kindness, gentleness, desire to see this person get saved?
- Enforcing the guidelines and suspending/censoring the user?
- Ensuring that the answers are from a Christian perspective, and deleting the ones that are not?
Honestly I don't see these items as being in any sort of fundamental conflict.
For me, my identity of a follower of Christ comes first and everything else should reflect that. Of course I fail this ideal regularly and constantly, but that doesn't mean it's actually a conflict of interest. If my goal is to do everything I do to the glory of God, any role I play to the best of my ability and wisdom is going to reflect that.
Enforcing site guidelines (even the ones I disagree with) is just part of the basic tenants of being a moderator. We're not elected to set policy so much as enable to community to do so and have it enforced.
Ensuring answers come from a Christian perspective is just basic janitorial stuff. Even answers that come from a Christian perspective may be placed on questions that have specific scopes that don't call for alternative views. This is just basic site guideline enforcement.
Addressing grossly incorrect answers is not a moderator duty at all. For this we have the same 1 downvote and comment privileges to note the mistake as everybody else. As for heresy: this site is founded on the idea that all Christianity's various and sundry heresies are welcome. In turn. This is a gathering of heretics.
As for guiding new users and addressing unacceptable behavior, these are all kind of lumped in together with the other points. We can try nicely to explain and teach the guidelines. If people come on board with this over time great, however if they insist on doing things the community had judged unacceptable then we have to exert a little pressure.
I do not see enforcing site guidelines as being in conflict with a desire for people to be saved. Using this venue for the aspects that it does best and leaving other venues to cover the other aspects is, I think, the best and most loving service we can offer people. Of course we can be as kind as possible in explaining this, but I'm also ok with a little tough love where necessary. Gentleness doesn't mean capitulation to whatever anybody wants to do here.
8. What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do to address them? (If applicable: what have you already done about them?)
As the percentage of our traffic stemming from random Google queries has gone up, so has the percentage of our user based that is novice rather than expert in our subject matter. I think the tendency to let the bar down to keep everybody happy will be the hardest challenge we face going forward.
To counter this I have (and will make renewed efforts to) clearly communicate both our local guidelines and general SE principles to those coming in. This might require a review of our current guidelines, esp the way we are communicating the "truth question" issue. I think we might need a better way to explain that problem to new users than we have been, but that we need to be firm and consistent in enforcing it.
With the added user volume, it will also be hard to attract minorities. I actively try to recruit people I run across that actually hold minority views and pay special attention to making sure questions directed at them are constructive and given every chance to succeed.
Along with my first point, getting and retaining the interest of real experts is harder than I imagined. Those who really know their stuff are generally turned off by the shear volume of regurgitated content here. Whenever possible I would find ways to highlight and reward exemplary answers and help shape the guidelines in way that are most adventitious to retaining real experts.
9. Why do you want to be a moderator? It is time consuming, frustrating, and not very rewarding. What is your motivation to take this thankless job?
My time invested here here is half hobby, half community service, half an obsession, half ... wait that's already too many halves.
10. How would you handle a non-minor disagreement (not something that can be ignored as "personal preference," "could go either way," etc) with the action or inaction of another moderator?
Most of this is covered in #3 already, but as far as disagreeing with actions I would try talking to them first but if the disagreement was ongoing I would take it to the community on meta. Moderator powers aren't for riding rough shod over community consensus.
As far as inaction goes, as much as we need active moderators I think other than a gentle nudge in chat or another venue there isn't anything I should do to force a moderator to act. If the site is suffering because the active mods aren't keeping up with what needs to be done I would suggest to the SE team that we elect another mod or two to keep up with the workload.