I'm Emrakul, here to answer questions from the confines of a cell on a very, very cold moon!
- On multiple occasions, there have been calls to make the dynamics of PuzzlingSE deviate a bit from those of StackExchange in general. For example, suggestions to increase question upvote to 10 rep to reward questions with superb effort, option to award bounties to questions etc. How do you feel about such special rules for PuzzlingSE and what effort would you make to support/discourage these changes?
I think some of these changes are well warranted! I'm not sure we'll end up getting them, but I'm a fan of "if you don't ask, you don't get." Documenting clearly what it is we want is the key to, potentially, maybe, hopefully, in the future, actually getting it.
That being said, changes to the reputation and bounty system are real finnicky. Every change comes with a slew of unintended consequences, no matter how small, and I'd like to see more careful consideration of the downsides of some of the proposed changes before going forward with them. I don't think they necessarily outweigh the benefits we'd derive from changes like +10 reputation for questions, but I do think we need to be prepared for the inevitable impact any change to the rep system will incur.
- As a moderator, your close, reopen, delete, and undelete votes will become binding. How will this affect the way you currently vote, especially with close/reopen votes? In general, will your moderation style be more lasseiz-faire or proactive? How so?
Mine are already binding! And I use them sparingly.
When moderating, I have a learned proclivity to step back and let the community handle things. Part of this stemmed from a period in the site's history when there wasn't much community participation in moderation - I'd decided it would be a good idea to step back, and let people decide on their own what to keep and what to close. It's a site made and formed by the community - and I don't want to draw away from that.
That being said, occasionally, it's obvious that something just slipped through the cracks, and I have no problem taking care of that. However, barring exceptional circumstances, I strongly avoid pushing new opinions using binding votes, and more strongly try not to take over closing questions on Puzzling.
- What is your personal opinion the "purpose" of PuzzlingSE should be? Yes, there is no overall consensus on this question, yet. This makes it even more important to know what would-be-moderators think.
This is a little odd, but I'm okay leaving the answer here ambiguous. Puzzling is an evolving site. We still are, and though we're settling out, it's always going to be true.
The purpose that it looks like we've chosen, if I can try to summarize, is: Puzzling Stack Exchange is a site for the study of the creation and solving of puzzles. Some prefer to make puzzles. Some prefer to solve them. Some prefer theory. Some are just here for fun. And I think we're in a good place with that.
- How much time per week (minimum) do you think that you can invest on moderation over the long term and continuously, and what would you do if you realize that life made it impossible to fulfill this commitment?
I have all the time in the world...
Reasonably speaking, I could pull a couple hours of dedicated time on any given day, if needed. I don't, usually, because it's almost never needed, though. I'm usually idly watching the site most of the day, and probably spend 15 minutes on average Doing Mod Things.
- As is witnessed in every human interaction, and has been seen in the past on this site, no one gets along with everyone. As a moderator, how would you remain neutral towards a user/users who you find yourself disliking?
We've all got our biases, likes, and dislikes. The best approach I've found comes not from fighting your own biases, but rather acknowledging them, and letting someone more neutral handle the situation - or talking with another mod about what you should do.
This is one of the key reasons there are multiple moderators - so that whenever there's a conflict of interest, due to personal bias, personal involvement, or any other reason - there's always someone else to ask. Second opinions are the salvation of a torn moderator.
- A user posts a strangely-written challenge. Some people flag, post comments doubting the OP's intention, downvote or vote to close it because it seems to be unclear, off-topic, overly-broad or something like that. After some debate in comments and/or chat, the OP insists that it is a very clever puzzle and that it is perfectly valid, possibly even triggering a close-reopen war. How do you react to that sort of puzzles? Would your reaction change if, say, the user is experienced or a newbie? Or if the puzzle was brilliant in spite of criticisms, or if it was mediocre in spite of high praise?
The role of a moderator in this situation is not to judge the merits of a question. When an issue grows contentious and debatable, the impulse is strong to step in and cast your vote - but moderator votes are binding, and unless the case is very clear cut, casting a binding vote is not a great idea. Even just speaking about these divisive questions is tenuous, solely because of the inclination to take mod word as law.
Sometimes, rarely, stepping in becomes necessary. If there's a close-reopen war, I'd lock the post, and redirect people to Puzzling Meta to have a (civil) discussion of topicality. If it's a discussion between a few people that's growing contentious, I'd probably redirect them to chat and, if necessary, remind them to be respectful.
But maintaining neutrality is key, because if someone steps across a line, staying as neutral as possible is important. If I feel the need to say anything at all, I try to find a historical case similar to what's happening, and suggest it as a reference point to start from. And again, this is why there are multiple mods - if I no longer feel I can be neutral, I'd pass it off to someone else.
- What do you consider your role as a moderator to be? Passive/reactive? Proactive? Editorial? Something else?
Passive/reactive, by far. There's always more to moderate. I can find something "actionable" anywhere and everywhere. But for the little things in particular, unless someone flags, or unless something's obviously problematic, it's often better to simply let it go.
I'm proactive about certain things - I'll check in on reviews occasionally, poke around the mod tools for red flags, edit a post here and there - but by and large, if it's not flagged or pinged, unless it's glaring, I'll let it go. If you all want something done, you all will let us know.
The exception is meta. I love meta. I breathe meta. Don't take away my meta.
- How would you handle a situation in which a user is upset at a moderator action that you have taken? For example, if someone posted on meta "This mod deleted my question/answer/comment and is abusing their power," how would you react?
Well, if it's not obvious to me that I did make an error, the first thing to do is ask another moderator. Any time someone thinks I've screwed up, and I'm not sure I have, I need another pair of eyes.
If we talk, and find that I actually did screw it up, then I'd revert and apologize for the error on Meta. If we talk and find that we're fairly confident I did the Right Thing, then I'd either write up something and have them review it for tone and accuracy, or just let them handle it. Sometimes it's easier to have an independent mod look at something and give their thoughts.
- 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?
We've had a couple of these cases in the past, and I regret not handling them faster, to be honest. Good answers don't excuse rude and abrasive behavior - we're all here on the basis of good faith.
We're a community based around enjoyment and academic entertainment, at heart. When someone starts to broadly hamper or dampen others' enjoyment of the site, I don't have many qualms stepping in and asking them to stop. I haven't seen this in a very long time, though.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
Usually, I'd let it go. Most of these cases have been borderline cases, where I can understand why they'd close it, even if I ultimately wouldn't have myself. Maybe there's something I'm not seeing, or maybe I'd be making an error in reopening the question. If it really bothered me, or if I really couldn't tell, I'd ask them.
Either way, though, if closing or deleting was a mistake, chances are good a user will mention it. If nobody does, then maybe it wasn't a problem, after all.