- Any active user will have noticed we have had some flame wars in the past months. Users upset each other (whether on purpose or not) and fall back to plain insults. How would you deal with this? In particular, how fast would you want to resort to measures like banning? Would you differentiate between the initiator, if there is one, and the other party?
My impression was that there used to be one person that deliberately provoked others, and other persons that got triggered and took the bait. As the patterns showed, those arguments escalated quickly and spread all over the board. Therefore, I would interfere rather early with comments if the behaviour showed for the first time. If this does not work, and it uses not to, I would give them both a cooldown time, differentiating between provoker and provoked in that the former has to be given more time.
The reason behind this is that I do think that both sides are problematic: A person deliberately causing turmoil all the time cannot be tolerated, but persons letting themselves getting triggered all the time have their share in the turmoil caused and if they do not change this pattern, it will be a recurring one.
What I think is crucial here, is that there should be discussions and transparency between moderators and in meta (i.e. to the community) at every stage of the process and there is an obligation for the moderators to take a stance in cases like these.
- As a moderator, part of the job will entail drawing the 'line in the sand' between acceptable questions/answers/comments and unacceptable. I think most people would be able to point to and agree on the centre of each category, but the moderator's job will depend, not on identifying the centre, but on distinguishing the borderline cases. Can you describe, or better still provide an example, of a question/answer/comment that you would consider just about OK for this site and then one which you think just about over the line.
This is a hard one, although understandable. Generally speaking, personal offense (which includes belittling of others) is a red rag for me.
I think this is imbued with sarcasm and almost personally offending. But still, it almost is.
While this comment is mostly sassy and sarcastic, it becomes ad hominem twice, going beyond what can be accepted.
- How would you act in a situation where you have the feeling that the question is definitely within the scope, but you cannot imagine it to be answerable within the format and this may be caused by you not being knowledgeable enough in this particular field/author/work?
My understanding is that as philosophy is a field so wide that good questions may be unanswerable for everyone but a few experts. It is not the job of a moderator to judge whether a question is answerable or not in general (except obvious cases of opinionated questions, personal philosophy, and very unspecific broad ones). This is the communities' task. A moderator should be moderate and moderate (pun intended), i.e. he should try to 'translate' and help all sides coming together as much as possible.
This means keeping an open mind and reading every question as charitable as possible.
- 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?
I think this is partly addressed in the first and second question. You can, to some extent, delete the problematic comments, asking to refrain from this behaviour. But you cannot bother doing this all the time, especially as soon as this leads to ever more rants in meta, which it tends to do. Therefore, I would follow the lines drawn in the first two answers, because there cannot be exceptions and privileges. This would not be fair to other users.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
First step: personal contact and discussion. If it cannot be settled there, open discussion on meta. Just like every argument between decent people should be handled.
- What is your stance towards putting on hold, especially considering people who are new to this site? This question tries to address the problem of newbies being scared away by a fast "close". They may not know about it being just "on parole", as it were, and think they are outright rejected. Additionally, the answer should include consideration of the time/circumstances under which one would wait before adding the mandatory vote by a moderator.
As written earlier, I think this is an underestimated problem by now. If it is the vote of a moderator putting a question of a newbie on hold, he is perceived as a representative of the community in the first place. That means that it is perceived as exclusion, as an expression of a closed community, and as narrow-mindedness. Therefore, a helping and guiding appearance should be what one should aim for as a moderator. It should be about trying to translate and finding a compromise that is suitable for Philosophy.SE. This may be hard and annoying at times, especially when a user posts a lot of questions in quick succession, but this is what a moderator has to endure imho.
- How do you define philosophy for the purposes of this SE?
I will quote myself from my answer here:
Basically, every sentence can have philosophical aspects as there may be aspects of physics, chemistry, and who knows what else. This does not make it philosophy, physics, and chemistry.
Otherwise, we would end up with the comment of @mobileink (the first part) from here:
You forgot that great philosopher Donald Duck. Not to mention others like Stalin, Mao, all of the Kardashians, my dear old dad, Charlie Chaplin, Kim Jung Un, Idi Amin, etc. etc.
The point is that philosophy only is what focuses on what is specifically philosophical. Therefore, not every reflection on a certain topic is philosophy, however philosophical some thoughts may be.
That's how it works with sources that are considered to be philosophy as well as with questions and answers in this SE. Everything that is not specifically needed to understand the philosophical content of the question or the answer is superficial and not philosophy. Every source that is not concentrating on the specifically philosophical content that you want to have sourced is not a source in philosophy. Or you do have to point it out, no matter how hard a time it will be.
Otherwise, we could simply link (or copy) the script of The Matrix Trilogy and say "Go get it" as an answer to every question.
This means that of course, the main sources questions and answers should be built upon are sources considered academic philosophy, since this is what academic philosophy is all about. But this is not exclusive. If a user is able to highlight the philosophical content and omit the irrelevant parts, basically every publicly accessible source should be considered as valid. This is what some of the more fun to read books in e.g. philosophy of time do. And it spices up the dry matter of philosophy considerably.
As an aside, as it is often addressed here: The same thing applies to Asian and Arabic (or whatever) sources. I myself am looking forward to researching on what they have to say on the specific human for my thesis.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
They solve problems the community cannot solve anymore because all ways have already been tried (deleting comments and answers violating rules, settling arguments, in case banning - see above), work through flags, and if not already happened, discuss problems and means to solve them openly with other moderators and in meta in order to be sure that all this is done in the way the community wants, not according to their own conceit. As a moderator, their main place will, therefore, be the review area and meta. And their main task is to reconcile the "invisible hand" (as the ideal of frictionless-ness self-government and non-intervention) with decisive, transparent intervention where it is necessary.
Apart from that, they should try to serve as a joint, as a mediator, and translator. This means they have to isolate themselves from their personal opinions and feelings and differentiate clearly and openly, internally and externally, between the user they are and the role of a moderator they hold. It is to serve the community and the framework at the same time, which, at times, may also be an impossible task.
- A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers, and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?
My actions and stances have been coherent over time, although there has been a growth of understanding regarding the rules and needs of Philosophy.SE. Hence, I do not think there is anything problematic about past actions. What I do think is that there is a higher responsibility I have to bear for future actions, so that every word and step should be considered consciously.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
First, "simply reaching 10k or 20k rep" is not that easy a task at all on this site. Apart from that, I think it is crucial to have moderators professionally trained in the area, at least if they are open-minded. They can build bridges with their background in academic philosophy other users may not, reconciling the common-sense understanding of philosophy and the needs of an SE that is most clearly, though not exclusively, typified by academic philosophy and its methods and sources. The diamond just makes it easier to act as a representative of this crucial undertaking, even though it is just as important that users like e.g. @virmaior and @Not_here continue to do this as well.
In general, although almost all of the goals and lines drawn in the answers to other questions can be served when being a high rep user just as well, the diamond will improve the ability and responsibility to do so ever so slightly, because the actions will be perceived as authoritative, although they should not be performed in an according mindset, but in respect to the responsibility to, and needs of, the community.