Here are some pointers for the use of tools that become available at several of the most important reputation levels: 15–125, 3k, 10k, and 15k.
It doesn't take much reputation to have a big impact on this site! At these low levels of reputation, you get the ability to:
- Flag posts (15)
- Vote up (15)
- Vote down (125)
- Flags are for posts and comments that don't strengthen the site. Plenty of official guidance is available on what to flag and what not to flag, so I won't rehash that. But here are some other tips:
- Don't be stingy!. The moderators need flags in order to keep the site tidy, since they don't see everything. And many flags can be handled by the community without involving the moderators.
- Declined flags aren't the end of the world – if a moderator declines your flag, it doesn't mean you are a bad flagger or that your efforts aren't appreciated. Some posts and comments are simply difficult to judge.
- Closed questions usually don't get much clean-up attention, because they are never "bumped" to the front page by new answers. But such questions still get traffic from search engines, meaning that many new users see our mess as their first exposure to the site. So feel free to review closed questions; they can yield lots of flags.
- Vote, vote, vote! Voting is a crucial feedback mechanism on Stack Exchange sites. It separates the good from the bad, the helpful from the unhelpful. Some tips:
- Don't vote indiscriminately. I know you want your shiny gold electorate badge, but that's no excuse for not giving thought to your votes.
- Vote for quality, not based on your personal convictions. It's fine to spend more time reading and voting on content in catholicism than protestantism (or vice versa). But don't vote up an incorrect, unreadable, illogical, or otherwise unhelpful post just because you agree with it! Similarly, don't downvote an accurate, logical, well-written post just because you disagree with its conclusion.
- Downvoting bad answers costs you 1 point of reputation, but if it truly deserves it, downvote anyway! Those downvotes send valuable information to the post author and other readers. And if the post is later deleted (which happens frequently), you get that reputation back.
- If you want to constructively comment when you downvote, that's great, but it's not required. If you don't think a comment will help, don't be guilted into it.
- The big gray up and down arrows next to every (unlocked) post are your friends! Use them!
- Every post has a flag link – use it if the post needs moderation.
- Use tags to find interesting questions and answers to vote on.
closed:yes in the search bar to find closed questions that might need cleanup.
With 3,000 reputation, you have access to one of the most powerful tools in the community moderation arsenal – you can vote to close and reopen questions.
- If you haven't already, be sure to read the meta posts associated with each of the "off-topic" close reasons. By the time you have this much reputation, you should have a good feel for the types of questions that consistently get closed, but it's worthwhile to learn why they are closed. Be able to explain to new users why their question doesn't work well on this site, not just that it's "not allowed."
- If in doubt about a particular question type, consider checking if it has been discussed on meta. Many controversial question types have been addressed there (overviews, verse identification, unscoped exegesis, etc.).
- Do not debate whether a question should be closed or opened in the comments, especially on a new user's question. It's okay to state the rationale for your vote, particularly if you include tips on how to improve the question, but use chat or meta for discussion.
- You now have "close" or "reopen" links on any unlocked question on the site.
- You now have full access to the review queues, including Close Votes and Reopen Votes. Anytime a non-moderator casts a close or reopen vote, the question will soon appear in the appropriate queue, giving you and others a chance to weigh in.
- Remember that a number of advanced search options relate to closed questions. You can search for
closed:yes duplicate:no intags:mine to find closed questions in your favorite tags. Or,
closed:no locked:no answers:5 to find open questions with five or more answers.
The next game-changing set of privileges come at 10k reputation. Here's what you can do, in approximate order of amazingness:
- View deleted posts
- Vote to delete (and undelete) questions
- See full history of reviews in the review queue
- View the "moderator tools" screens
- Inline tag editing
- As always, read the privilege page. In this case there's a lot of new functionality.
- Use your increased access to information to help the site, not disrupt it. Be willing to give the benefit of the doubt when you disagree with someone's action (such as voting to leave open, or voting to delete) that you couldn't see before.
- Use your delete and undelete votes wisely. When you vote to delete a question, you are voting to delete all its answers as well. Consider whether that Q&A is (1) providing valuable information to people who stumble upon it and (2) if it's giving new users the right impression about the nature of this site. Remember that you also have the option of flagging a mod to ask for a merge or historical lock.
- Inline tag editing makes it just a bit easier to do a tag-only edit – it does not prevent your edit from bumping the question to the top of the front page.
- There's no review queue for delete votes, but there is a SEDE query that lists questions that already have a vote or two.
- The history tab of each review queue, like that of the close vote queue, now lists everyone's reviews, not just your own.
- I've used this to do research on people's close votes for the purposes of meta discussions, like this one.
- Remember that this is just the review history, so you wouldn't see if someone had second thoughts and later retracted his close vote, for example. Don't heedlessly accuse others of bad judgment; give the benefit of the doubt.
- The "moderator tools" provide lots of information, though much of it isn't all that useful (to me, at least). But here are my favorites:
- "New tags" – some newly created tags aren't helpful. Consider replacing them with established tags, or simply editing them out, before they are applied to many questions.
- "New answers to old questions" – find the diamonds in the rough that can be easy to miss. And if you want, post those diamonds in the new answers to old questions chat room.
- "Close" and "Delete" tabs – see the big picture of recent votes, closures, reopenings, deletions, and undeletions.
This level gives just one new privilege, but it's a useful one. Protect questions to prevent answers from being added by newest users, those most likely to not understand the goals of the site.
- Don't protect questions indiscriminately. Everyone is new once, and it's not hard to clean up low-quality answers.
- Do unprotect questions that don't need protection. A question worth unprotecting may have one or more of these characteristics:
- It simply isn't that controversial or popular
- It doesn't have any deleted or low-quality answers
- It has a few deleted/low-quality answers, but they were all created around the same time or by the same user
- The list of protected questions allows you to review all the protected questions on the site. You can also sort by when it was protected, or who protected it.
- Questions recently protected are also listed on the 10k moderator tools page, on the "stats" tab.