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Now that moderator elections are upcoming, it would be nice to know: just what do moderators do?

How much time per day does it take? What are you expected to do each day?

I know that moderators move comment threads to Chat. I understand that they have "moderator super powers". But I honestly don't have a good picture of their other tasks.

I'd prefer to hear from current moderators. Things may or may not be different these days.

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    I'd like to add some follow up questions if I could, based on the answers placing a lot of focus on flags (which is super helpful because I've often wondered how they worked.) Besided flags being part your workload, what about just seeing things during the normal course of browsing the site? Does much of your "work" come from noticing things that way? Also, the answers mention flags (and moderation) on answers, comments, and questions. Do moderators have an official role (and tools) within chat? Is The Water Cooler moderated differently than the other chats related to the site? – dwizum Feb 14 at 16:03
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Just what do moderators do?

We handle flags.

The main distinction between a regular high-rep user and a moderator is that all posts and comments on the site that are flagged go to us. We have a special flag menu that you can consider an extension of the review queue concept. Flagged posts show up there, grouped by question and with several available actions to process flags from that screen or to jump to the post or context (like a comment thread) for a flag. Every flag you submit will eventually reach a moderator who looks at the post or comment you flagged.

We see the flag reason, we see the question, answer or comment that was flagged and we see the author of both the flag and the post. We will then take action based on the nature of the flag. If we disagree with the flag we decline it. If we don't we usually take some action on the post but can also do nothing beyond marking the flag as helpful. That's typically reserved for good-faith flags that don't require a particular action. Note that there are also automatic flags when posts hit a certain number of answers or comments.

The usual actions we take, broadly in descending order of frequency, are:

  • deleting obsolete comments
  • deleting inappropriate comments
  • moving comments to chat
  • protecting questions (preventing answers from new users)
  • removing questions from the Hot Network Questions
  • converting answers to comments
  • deleting answers
  • deleting questions
  • contacting users
  • suspending users
  • deleting/destroying users
  • adding post notices

Most but not all of these are sparked by flags. Some of the most time-consuming activities happen outside the flags and relate to handling problematic users. Usually that means communicating with users privately (through site tools) to address observed patterns of behaviour. This private communication includes potentially suspending users for a certain amount of time.

Another activity which I will not describe in detail for obvious reasons concerns detecting and dealing with abusive users, i.e. trolls. This will typically involve coordinating with fellow moderators before deciding on a particular action. We have a private chat room for that purpose.

Beyond that, we also engage the Community Team in rare cases. Typically that's on behalf of users. About once a year it's to arrange an election. :)

As mentioned by MisterPositive in his excellent answer, we also typically keep an eye on the Workplace chatroom. Long gone are the days when we were able to read the entire chat but I like to keep an eye on it as it helps to get an idea of community sentiment. There was a time where the chatroom required some occasional moderation as well but I get the impression the room has stabilised and now champions the same standard of professionalism we strive for on the main site.

Since it has come up before and some numbers were already posted in meta and chat over the years, I'll share some ball-park statistics on our combined activities. Currently the moderation team will on average and per month:

  • handle 250 flags
  • delete 1500 comments (vast majority done in batch)
  • delete 30 posts
  • contact a handful of users privately

Please note that these numbers are indicative only.


How much time per day does it take?

This varies from moderator to moderator. Apart from Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange sites do not enforce a particular level of activity. Anyone who opts to run is expected to be reasonably active on the site but there are no real rules or set expectations. I would say that at a minimum, you'd be expected to spend about 5 minutes on the site handling flags a few days a week. Workload varies based on site activity and other moderator activity. After the last election the new moderators basically handled just about every flag between the two of them before the rest of us got to them, leaving only our Australian moderator some work due to the timezone.

Just for reference: we've had moderators on the site who were no longer really considered active (I would be one of them) but their diamond was not revoked over it. It did spark new elections but speaking personally there is real value in having experienced moderators around to chime in on the chatroom on important topics even if they don't handle much of the day-to-day.


Additional resources:

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    Hopefully this provides some more insight into what we do. Please note that this was written in a bit of a hurry and is rather unpolished. I may clean it up later if I have anything else to add but I'd encourage the community and especially prospective candidates to comment here or on the main question with any other questions. – Lilienthal Feb 13 at 21:54
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    Thanks! Much appreciated. – Joe Strazzere Feb 13 at 23:46
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    another summary that looks worth referring: What's it like being a Workplace Moderator? – gnat Feb 14 at 8:22
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    Very well done sir!! – Neo Feb 14 at 12:38
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    @gnat Thanks for adding that, combined all linked posts into this answer for good measure. – Lilienthal Feb 17 at 20:18
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To add to Lilienthal's superb answer:

My time commitment in moderating the site is about 10 minutes, twice per day on average. As Lil pointed out, you can participate as much or as little as you can. Or to put it another way, you can be as active as you like. As a side note, I very rarely check in on the weekends, as due to the nature of our site, there is little to be done.

In addition to the tasks outlined in Lil's answer, if my real world job allows, I do check into the water cooler chat room. Personally, I like to engage our users. As a moderator, you'll be of an elevated status, for lack of better words. I like our members to feel as though we are approachable. Again, this part is as time permits and is not mandatory.

I also had a concern about spending too much time on SE this year, so as a sanity check, I don't have a bunch of accounts on sites I don't use any longer. This helps me stay focused as to why I am here. YMMV on this point.

You will need, from time to time IMO, to check in to the private cross-network moderator chat from time to time if you want to keep a pulse on event at the SE level versus TWP level, but that time commitment for me is minimal. At TWP level, there is also a Moderator only chat room where we discuss items when needed.

To me, this gig is more about the people on our site trusting your judgement, and that you will know when and how to react when the exceptions come up. This will be a learning experience for a new moderator.

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    Thanks! Much appreciated. – Joe Strazzere Feb 14 at 13:41
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    And to confirm from my side, I fully agree with the main requirement for the gig being both sound and trusted judgement. Checking in on chat is indeed one aspect that I forgot to mention. The community and the chat room have grown large enough that reading back the transcript is no longer an option but we'll check in at random to get a feel for the site temperature. :) – Lilienthal Feb 14 at 17:07
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    I'll only add that I personally consider checking things out across the network to be optional in the long-term, whether in main meta or the moderator chatroom / Teams site. I don't really do so much these days and it doesn't really affect my activities on the site. I mention long term because they are vital tools for any new moderator to use to learn the ropes. I must also say that going the extra mile in contributing cross-site can be a rewarding experience on it's own and can be a good commitment on part of prospective candidates. – Lilienthal Feb 14 at 17:12

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