Right, so many questions! Here goes:
- This site attracts many questions from new users, a number of whom may not be native speakers of English, especially for visa-related questions. Many such questions are closed due to missing details, poorly-written questions, questions that belong on Expatriates, and other issues. Many of these users seemingly never come back. How do you believe the community, and specifically the moderators, should address these questions? To what extent do you believe questions should be "salvaged" vs closed? How can, or should, we better welcome and assist these new users, even when their initial questions may not meet the guidelines?
One of the methods which has been pretty good that I've observed is where GayotFow tends to try and help in the comments straight away, clarifying what they mean. If it's visa related, ask for documentation, extra notes and the like. I think this helps get the info ASAP, and editing the questions to improve spelling/grammar definitely helps too, as it makes the question more appealing to others to answer, even if you can't.
I do, however, believe in giving just a few hours of lee-way before putting on hold - otherwise we risk a) the wrong answers going on a question or b) a user getting crowd-downvoted for a 'bad' question that could be salvaged with a bit of work. It's ON HOLD, not closed, and we've seen many questions successfully reopened after some work from the OP and the community together. I believe a lot of it has to do with the wording. Quality is important too - if we don't put sub-par/unanswerable questions on hold, we degrade the overall quality of the site we all love.
- In the past there have been instances where questions have been asked which did not seem to arise from a real travel need, but which were of a hypothetical nature and sometimes about very unlikely subjects. (For instance 'Can I carry X on a plane', X being an very unusual item). This has caused some discussion and some unanimity among the community, as some saw the questions more as a means of attracting attention than a genuine need of a traveller. What is your stance on this and how would you react as a moderator should such a situation come up again?
It's on a case by case basis. I've seen comments that a question like 'how can I take a gun on a plane' or ...'a parachute' are ridiculous, but then my family took a gun on a plane back in 1993 (oh the process!), and I've seen travelling skydivers ask about the parachute, so I've come to realise more and more that sometimes even the ridiculous might have a real basis. It'd be nice to clarify that the OP provide the case for why they're doing this, but we've also had some push-back on asking why someone is doing something, so again, case by case. It's also important to keep the comments on these on topic and limited, we've had some ... inflammatory responses on some of the seemingly outlandish ones.
- 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?
When I was originally a mod on the site, we had a user (who is still a current valued member) who was like this. Inflammatory at times, but such a wealth of well written knowledge, you didn't want to lose them.
For this user, and some others, I actually used to keep an eye on their activity on their profile so that I could nip dangerous activity in the bud, remove dangerous comments, and message them in the chat if possible too. The main user here settled, and I think one of the most amazing lessons you get if you spend time on here is seeing so many different world views, and that your view may not make sense in another culture, context or country. It helps soften arguments. Certainly, if they continue to offend, a short cool down or private message can help too.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
That's another reason I like the Travel Chat - since the beginning it's been open, transparent and clear. We've had good heated discussions about individual questions, including between mods, and I feel an open community discussion is healthy. An advantage of several mods is that you can usually get a 'majority' and as long as we all respect the majority, moderation can be successful. All current mods on here have been amazing and supportive of users, helping to improve questions and discuss them when need be in the chat as well.
- You see a question / answer that you personally consider naive, stupid, lying, missing info, etc. How do you handle this as a moderator? How do you respond to the user?
First step is to comment. This is not just for the user, but for the others who come along. Wrong answers should be downvoted, that's what the downvote is for. For questions, I also do like the downvote unless it's a brand new user - we should be editing their questions, and asking for clarifications, helping them to use our site and join our community. The question can be put on hold temporarily until it's been cleared up.
- Two users are fighting, leaving snipey comments on questions/answers, in chat, etc. How would you deal with this?
Remind them of the rules. This happened quite often in the first couple of years, and usually it's repeat offenders. A quick word or clear up of the offensive comments can help, and to post a link to the chat, asking them to take discussions there. Once there, we've at least got them off the question/answer, and can be handled more openly. If it gets more offensive/intensive, a warning and then a cooldown can be issued, people get the message, even if miffed about it at first, they usually realise when they're wrong. Usually.
- Every so often the Travel Chat Room devolves a bit into mini fights between users, or worse, a group hate of a user on the site who has no knowledge of the chat. How would you engage and prevent the chat from scaring off new people, causing problems and starting disagreements?
Remind people we were all new once. If it's about a spammer, fine, but if it's a new user asking bad questions, or a user asking inflammatory/controversial questions, remind them to discuss the question, NOT the user. If it's between people in chat, then as in Q6 above, removing offensive content before it escalates, but only if actually offensive, not just prompting - we don't want to be censors, or opponents of free speech. Warnings and cooldowns work too.
- There's been quite a few first questions by newcomers that get closed or down voted very fast, because they're too vague or too broad (not considering the blatantly off-topic and attention grabbing). How as a moderator will you choose to retain new users while making sure we keep quality questions yet remain a welcoming community?
I've said many times in the past in meta and in the chat - PLEASE don't downvote new users. We can edit their questions to have correct grammar, spelling, improve to make on topic, comment to explain why and what they could add to improve it, and welcome them to the community. Putting on hold after a few hours if they've not returned is acceptable to me, as many don't return and we need to manage quality, but always add a comment explaining that they can edit as per the [help] and ask for the Question to be reopened.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Herd cats :) Ideally, not much at all. The best moderator doesn't get noticed, because the community is humming along nicely. However, when there's problems, flags, spammers, that's when they can jump in and smooth over the situation, not drop a bomb, but just tidy up the problem to produce the least impact.
- 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?
Pressure and responsibility, but also more power to help make a difference. I'm a power user in a couple of tags and having that extra power to close vote always makes me think twice. I think that's the real benefit of having moderators - they're users with power, who will weigh decisions carefully, rather than blundering in with a ban stick. Moderators are more valuable than most users of the website will ever realise, with very little reward, it's mods that care about the community that make the difference.