- 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?
Talk with them privately, either by a mod message or by opening a private chatroom. Valuable contributors are important to the site, but not more important than having a civil environment. I'd try my hardest to get through to the person and make them understand why their behaviour was problematic, and would only reach for heavier tools such as account suspensions either (1) if something needed more immediate/urgent action or (2) if I was convinced that the person wasn't going to listen to reason.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
Discuss it with them, either in private or in public. I feel that most discussions between mods can be public - respectful disagreements are healthy, and scope issues are worth discussing publicly so that anyone can weigh in on whether a question should be closed or not. The main exception is for issues involving potentially private information, e.g. "this post was deleted because the OP is a sockpuppet of a suspended user", which shouldn't be mentioned publicly.
- This site and community have often struggled with balancing the desire for content quality and the desire to be welcoming. What are your thoughts on this issue? Does being too strict on quality make us cold, unforgiving, and unapproachable? Does being too lax make us unattractive to scholars and enthusiasts? How should a balance be struck?
We do need to encourage quality standards, by commenting and voting, but we should try to do it in an empathetic way. When commenting on a poor answer, instead of e.g. "please edit your answer to add sources" I prefer something along the lines of "please edit your answer to add sources, because this site tries to provide verifiable information, and without sources it's hard for readers to know whether this is correct or just a random internet user's opinion". People are more likely to edit their answers according to expected standards if they can understand why those standards are expected.
Perhaps we should also do more promotion of our meta resources like How can I write good interpretation or meaning answers? and What are some good (legal) resources for finding the text of books? which can help people to get better at writing answers in general. But I always customise comments rather than just pointing to general resources: I don't like canned template comments, because they feel less personal and there's usually something post-specific that can be said.
- From the early days of this site, there's been a very strong impetus toward adding references to answers to support claims made. While there are many obvious instances where this is desirable, there are also many cases - especially around the interpretation of close readings - where very valuable answers can be provided without citations. Another circumstance where referencing isn't always appropriate involves explaining language use, especially localisms. How do we propose balancing the value added by referencing some answers with the offputting nature of prodding users to reference everything, when it isn't always appropriate to do so?
What I always say, whether explaining to new users why they should edit their answer or explaining to overzealous delete-voters why an answer is fine, is that an answer should be backed up by something, whether that's references or just good solid arguments. For many Literature answers, there are no references to academic publications on a particular story or poem. Good answers can still be written, drawing on an answerer's own insights into the text, but they're still not unsupported opinions - they're just supported in a different way, by argumentation rather than authoritative sources.
This question raises another interesting issue, though: some answers contain neither sources nor logical reasoning, but are based on personal experience or knowledge. Here's a recent example of a good experience-based answer, where it's clear that the answerer knows what they're talking about. On the other hand, I've never known what to do with the answers on this question, which both claim to be experience-based but come to opposite conclusions.
What makes an experience-based answer good? That's a question we can try to solve, perhaps by examining posts such as those above, perhaps also by checking other SE sites that deal with a lot of experience-based answers. I don't have an answer now, but I'd be happy to make a meta post and get the community talking about this issue.
- It's been raised in the past that the Stack Exchange format of having a "correct" answer isn't the best fit for a subject which, even at the serious academic level, can be strongly opinion-based. Furthermore, there's a tendency to reward quick answers and to discourage multiple answers neither of which fit well with the research and argument-building needed to create a good literature answer. How can moderator input help us make the best use of this format to support generating quality content in our community?
Like the previous two questions above, this is not related to diamond moderator powers, but a community issue where mods may be able to help by taking a leadership role.
I think we need to keep reminding people that, unfortunate though it is, rep doesn't necessarily reflect expertise and post score doesn't necessarily reflect effort. It's easy to feel discouraged when you put a lot of effort into an answer and get almost no reward for it. I also like to promote particularly good answers from newer users, either in chat (to get more eyeballs and upvotes) or with bounties, but these efforts can only go so far.
The HNQ lottery rewards quick answers, but with updates to the HNQ algorithm, "quick" now means "within 8 hours" which can be a reasonable time to answer even a question that requires research or lengthy arguments. One possibility could be for some active question askers to inform potential answerers before posting (e.g. in chat) about the question they're planning to ask - then a good answer could be prepared and also posted quickly after the question. But this tactic might be seen as abusive, so it would need to be considered very carefully before use.
- As a moderator, your votes become binding. Actions you used to take like flagging, reviewing, closing, and deleting will take effect immediately without any input from any other users or moderators. How will you adapt the way you currently flag and vote to deal with this change?
No need to adapt, I'm already a moderator :-)
To give a more meaningful answer: I do still review some Close/Reopen Votes and Low Quality Posts, but only in clear-cut cases. If I feel there's a grey area and good arguments could be made either way for a post's validity, I prefer to step back and let the community decide.
Importantly, this also goes for flags: if someone flags a post as VLQ/NAA, my approach as a mod is usually to either let the flag sit for a while or mark it as helpful, either of which will allow it to stay in the review queue for non-mods to vote on. I'll only decline a VLQ/NAA flag if it's clearly invalid.
- What, if any, previous moderator (or similar) experience do you have from a different Stack Exchange site, a different website, and/or the real world (e.g. arbitration)?
Moderator on Science Fiction & Fantasy SE since 2016 and here on Literature since 2020.
- Will you participate in the chat room, or at least be pingable for casual discussion of moderation matters? (I consider it important that at least some mods be reachable via chat.)
Yes. I've always been active in Literature chat, so much so that the system automatically made me a room owner back in 2017.
- If an otherwise perfectly fine question starts attracting too much low-quality attention, such as no-effort/unexplained answers, chatty comments, or similar, what actions would you take or not take to address this? This specifically can often be attributed to Hot Network Question visitors - would you consider mod-removing a question from the HNQ list?
I usually haven't seen much need to take such actions, here on Literature. If a question gets too many low-quality answers from low-rep or HNQ visitors, it can be protected, but that's not a diamond mod power. If it gets too many chatty comments, they can be flagged by ordinary users and deleted by diamond mods; in the worst case, there's also a "comment-only lock" (a mod tool which disables comments on a post while allowing all other interactions such as votes and edits), but I think I've never needed to use this.
I've also never needed to mod-remove a question from the HNQ list. I wouldn't consider doing so for questions that are simply attracting a lot of low-quality answers or chatty comments, as the other tools mentioned above are sufficient for combatting those issues. I'd only do so if there was something clearly harmful about the question being on HNQ (can't think of any example scenarios just now).
- Sometimes users will be unhappy about moderator actions and respond in a persistent and/or insistent manner, or not respond in as timely a manner as you might wish. Will you be able to avoid taking this personally and keeping responses cool and professional and do you have strategies to prevent such issues depleting your personal mental and emotional reserves?
I think I've always been able to remain outwardly calm and professional as a mod even when dealing with particularly annoying users (who will, of course, remain unnamed ;-) ). My "strategy", such as it is, is simply to step away for a bit if I start to feel affected too much, and come back when I'm sure I have a clear head. Online communication usually is, or can be, asynchronous.
Over on main meta, I've awarded a bunch of bounties to answers here, and my choice of answers to reward probably says something about my strategy for "being nice even when you don't want to". This answer was my favourite of all.