I will answer as both a (current) moderator and a user of this site.
- How would you delimitate "philosophy" as the subject matter of this site? Is every more or less "deep" thought philosophy or are qualifications in content and/or style necessary in order to make this site work as intended? If so, what would you deem essential?
I put quite a lot of brain into this question recently and I think I got to a point where I can try to give an actual answer to the question. If it seems to be nonsensical, go ahead discussing it with me in the Symposium. I am grateful for any input.
Philosophy, as I take it, is the inquiry of material relations (causal, explanatory, semantical, structural) between objects of experience (i.e. phenomenal, conceptual, and physical objects) and their (material) conditions of possibility, i.e. transcendental (in the Kantian sense) relations. Modern philosophy has become aware of the fact that the formulation and understanding of these relations are culturally and historically contingent, whereas whether the relations themselves are beyond that (i.e. materially identical across history and cultures) is still subject of discussion. Logic, as being about formal relations, is but one method useful for analysing and expressing these relations and in this sense "part of" philosophy.
That being said, to me a modern understanding of the subject matter of philosophy seems to be about answering the questions of "why" and "how" instead of being about facts. Sciences are about factual relations (whatever that may be). Even if the mode of expression, i.e. "this is so-and-so because that is so-and-so", may be formally identical, the methodological and semantical implications of "because" are different between philosophy and sciences. It is also different from formal sciences like logic and mathematics which is about formal relations between conceptual objects.
Now, as the question is about "this site", there obviously are qualifications necessary. Real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions.. This is both for content and in style a qualification that probably has more impact regarding Philosophy.SE than it may have on other network sites. Most great philosophical questions take books for a reasonably exhaustive answer. Even moreso, on
most all great philosophical questions there already are literally hundreds of books written. So how can anyone expect to have a philosophical question properly answered if there are no qualifications made in the question (e.g. the view of a particular tradition or author). Please keep in mind: Properly answered in the context of any SE site means that it is not just about what a random John Doe on the internet thinks to be correct, but what verifiably IS correct, i.e. all questions and answers should aspire to go beyond personal feelings, inclinations, etc. and concentrate on the content and subject matter as what any StackExchange subsite wants is to be a Q&A-style knowledge database, not a forum and certainly not a blog.
Another aspect is about what backgrounds and sources are "allowed". I see no reason to exclude questions that emerge from or are built on literature, film, or basically any (non-academic) media. The qualification would be that both answers and questions would have to point out the specific aspects and content that is not about the book or figure or film, but about philosophy specifically. Otherwise, it would simply be a question/answer about that book/film/whatever, not about philosophy, and hence a better fit for another SE site.
- What problems do you see with the principle mechanisms of a Q&A format like StackExchange aspiring to create a database of knowledge when it comes to philosophy? How would you take them into consideration when moderating?
The most obvious tension regarding philosophy is that the most interesting questions are not answerable within a reasonable length and the best and most helpful answers for a particular (group of) user(s) often are too subjective/particular to be a good fit here. That is simply a matter of fact.
Alas, it is irrelevant whether I like an answer and see a deep truth and considerable knowledge reflected within it if it comes completely without references and reads like the made-up musings of a random person. In fact, my experience in professional philosophy is that exactly when it comes to the referencing and formulation of musings/intuitions, most contemplations of this type collapse like a house of cards and turn out to be indefensible. Same with questions: There are many very good thoughts/intuitions that may be ingenious, but they are simply not specific and well-formed enough to constitute a confined, answerable question.
Obviously, these circumstances demand that the community of users with the according moderation rights, and especially the moderators, effectively have to work in a way that strips the main site of some very deep and good philosophical thought simply because it cannot be pressed into the format. Philosophy is a living subject where thought is formed in intersubjective interaction, one that is at its best when discussed in an open discourse. This is not what SE with its Q&A format is about. I often tried to express the awareness of this problematic tension in comments and invited to discuss the thoughts with supervisors (if in the context of a university) or in chat. But to be honest, chat as a written medium is a pitiful substitute for direct, personal discussion.
- How will you go about navigating the fine line between acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to posts reflecting fringe or politically incorrect positions? Please be concrete: what actual steps would you take, if any?
Everything that is offensive towards (groups of) individuals is not to be tolerated. The only exception I can think of if it is about a recitation of historical positions immanent to the subject matter at hand (not misused as a tool to offend) and even then, it should be pointed out as such, i.e. made explicit that it is the historical view of the author. For everything else, there is no excuse to be accepted, an immediate flagging or (as a moderator) deletion is the only option.
Regarding fringe: I think it to be crucial to show and point out an awareness of the fact that it is fringe. Yes, these opinions may have their place both in questions asking, e.g., for clarification, and some exhaustive answers. But an answer reciting fringe as if it was the only position in the world is nothing but a bad answer and should be handled as such: low quality.
- 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?
No user is above the rules of this site. If there is behaviour not suitable, it should be handled as such, i.e. with flagging and, if chats about the problem are not met with a change of behaviour, suspension. I deem it crucial to have a chat with these users about what is problematic about their behaviour. But there are limits of what can be tolerated in a community.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
I think this is not even just about mods. I started a meta thread before I got elected as a moderator because I felt that many users, not only mods, prematurely voted to close. We are a community, it is allowed, if not welcomed, to dispute practices, may it be in comments or - more appropriately - on Meta. And both a personal ping in chat and discussions on meta serve a crucial aspect of StackExchange: public discourse. In the case of fellow mods, a ping in a private chat would be my first step, though, as I deem it important not to undermine the shaky authority mods already have on a site as plural and political as Philosophy.SE.
- How often do you visit the site, and what do you do when you do visit - reviewing, answering questions, asking questions, commenting? Which of these do you think you can contribute the most at?
On a daily basis. I also have the app and get pings forwarded to my mobile. Since becoming a moderator, most of the time is spent on reading, commenting, handling flags, and discussion on Meta. I wish there was more time to do things in chat, especially solving moderation issues, but I barely have the time on my hands to do so. Also, a solid answer takes about two hours of my time, more than I can afford atm.
Regarding contribution, I think chat, organising community events on meta, and especially answering are the most important. It is a bit sad that this does not reflect in my actual activity profile for the time being.
- Consider seeing a question that is too vague, too general or too subjective to answer. Would you flag to close the question immediately, or would you try to help the user revise the question? If you would help the user, how would you go about doing that? Would you edit yourself, would you give advice to the user, etc. Would you act differently if it were a new user/contributer? Please elaborate.
For (relatively) new users, I tend to comment accordingly first and help towards an understanding of what is expected and what the question is lacking in particular. If there is a positive reaction in comments (which does not happen all too often), I do not shy from engaging with the user in chat to offer further help. If asking bad questions without showing the will to learn is a recurring behaviour, I sometimes close with or even without a short comment on a case by case basis. Generally, since moderator votes are binding, I stopped voting to close if there not already have been other community members doing so.
- What do you think is the use of the chat rooms (or, what is your use of the chat), in relation to our Q&A format and our community? Do yoh use it just to "move discussions to chat" rather than long conversations in comments, or do you see it as a well to expand our way of communication further than Q&A style? Do you visit the chat frequently? Extra - do you think the community's use of the chat rooms could be utilized better than today? Elaborate.
As should be obvious from the above points, I think the chat function is under-utilised. Not only because coming into contact and the discussion of interesting philosophical questions is what can only be done there, but also because a more personal and casual interaction between users, i.e. the feeling of there being a real "community", is practically non-existent on this site. That is a pity! This actually is one reason why I welcomed and will expand on the idea of this very thread. If there are new contributions in chat since my last visit, I always take a look, even if I cannot answer/react at this moment.
- Suppose a comment is flagged as "unfriendly or unkind". How would you handle something like that as distinct from a flag for "harassment, bigotry, or abuse"?
Well, there sometimes are persons feeling offended by content others do not do so. Generally, I tell the person in question that the content has been flagged as unfriendly or unkind and ask of them to edit it accordingly, only deleting if there is no (positive) reaction whatsoever. As of the more severe flag, these contents are rigorously deleted instantly (if judged as correct).
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Helping to build a community, building awareness of the rules, handling flags, participating actively and exemplary as users. On StackExchange, moderators should really be "firsts among equals", i.e. they are not that special and should not feel that way. In fact, all they have is a bit more responsibility regarding the not-so-nice aspects of what happens on the site and regarding building and sustaining a community. I admit that the latter is a thing we on Philosophy.SE perform poorly in so far.
Apart from that, moderators should not serve their own agenda, but the community, i.e. even if not consistent with their own views and opinions, they have to respect not only the official rules, but also the community's opinion as expressed in meta-votes.