I'm Josie Stewart, though most of you know me better as called2voyage. I've been a Stack Exchange moderator since October 2013, and a moderator here on Space Exploration since December 2013. I followed the site from Area 51 and was asked to join the mod team when one of the initial appointed mods chose to step down.
I'm currently employed as a software project manager in the aerospace industry, where I've been working for the past decade. Many of you have probably seen my comments on the main site or meta at some point, but I've also been heavily involved in handling flags over the past few years.
Community moderation is a passion of mine, and I've been doing it for various online communities since 2005. Stack Exchange is where I'm currently most active.
I am interested in continuing in my role as moderator. If we got a very active mod team I could even turn my focus to areas of development: like finally building that tag tracking bot I discussed months ago. I would bring continuity to the mod team, and I'd be able to offer my experience with the site to new mods if needed.
- 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?
If a user shows that they are interested in good faith participation, I usually start by dropping into the comments to ask for them to step away from the discussion for a moment so there is time for any heightened feelings to dissipate. If the user is antagonistic towards this request, I may opt for immediate suspension. Most of the time people will honor this request.
If this becomes a pattern, I will send the user a private message discussing the issue. Usually (given that this is good-faith participation), I will avoid suspension in this initial contact. However, if a user shows no signs of improvement, I will escalate to suspension.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
Generally, I avoid reverting other mods' decisions. If I feel strongly enough about the issue, I will bring it up in the mod chatroom. Most of the time this is just to get on the same page about how we handle a certain category of issues, but in rare cases this may result in switching to a different course of action. I've never been in a situation where we couldn't come to an agreement on things as a mod team, but if this occurred I would reach out to a CM for mediation.
- Moderation can be a demanding task. At times it may be emotionally impacting as well as require time management. Work-life balance applies to volunteer work too. What is your plan to maintain work-life balance as a moderator? Do you have established rhythms for dealing with burnout? What course of action would you take if you needed to take some time away from moderation?
I've had to learn this through trial and error. There was a time, early in my career, where I had a lot of traumatic personal stuff going on, and in my burnout I went low-to-no contact on Stack Exchange and one of the other communities I moderate. I regretted letting it get to the point where I left people hanging with no clue what was going on, and I did get back in touch with everyone afterward and make up for it.
Now I'm really careful not to overextend myself, and I communicate in advance with mod teams if I need to be away for an extended amount of time, or if I need to reduce my effort. If something is in the queue that I don't have the energy to handle, and I think it is a pressing issue, I will ping another mod to look into it.
In my personal life, I've gotten better about setting boundaries and making space for activities that recharge me, to mitigate the effects of burnout. My latest free-time activity is collecting used LEGO sets and parts. Until recently, I hadn't purchased any LEGO for myself since I was a kid, and it is has been really fun and energizing to get back into this hobby.
- Online resource communities often have pressure points--areas that can put strain on the community or make the site difficult to navigate for casual users. What areas do you think are key pressure points in this site, and why? What would you do as a mod to help mitigate those?
I think the key pressure point at Space Exploration, like for many STEM-sites, is balancing between the needs of the amateurs and the professionals. Professionals often hold a lot of the expertise needed to answer the hard questions, but they also (rightly) don't want to feel like they are wasting their time. Amateurs often expect a level of accessibility that can be difficult to provide on volunteer time. When you add personality conflicts, varying cultural norms, and language barriers into the mix, this can get messy fast.
One of the most important tools to address this is patience and avoiding assumptions. Mods can encourage this by participating in the discussion and modeling this. Ask questions: "did you mean...?" instead of "you said...."
There are some minor pressure points, like tag maintenance, that I've already gone into detail about on meta. While I don't think any of them alone are worth expounding on here, there is a common thread--technical aspects of the site that can be maintained by users but are going neglected. I think the best thing mods can do for issues like this is raise awareness: explain how it impacts things and promote community discussion about how to address it.
- Why do you want to be a moderator for space stackexchange?
I've been passionate about space since childhood, and moderation is something I'm good at. I believe I can make a difference in a community I care about, by volunteering my time as a mod here.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Moderators are largely facilitators. Their presence should be mostly to help guide the community to self-moderation. In internet communities, this necessarily comes with some technical abilities that are restricted to the moderator role, so moderators are also responsible for exercising those abilities as needed. Finally, on Stack Exchange specifically, moderators are liaisons between the community and SE staff. We are engaged in ongoing dialogue with SE about needs and expectations.
- 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?
I always try to represent myself honestly as a member of the community who happens to be a moderator and make clear when something is my opinion versus a moderator action. I don't ask anyone to overlook my actions because I am a moderator, and I always make sure people know I fully support them reaching out to other mods or to SE if they are uncomfortable with something I have done. Because of this, I can comfortably accept the lens through which I am seen due to the diamond next to my name. Is it at times stressful? Yes, but I do what I can to minimize that.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
I can answer this one from experience. I have been able to do a lot of tag maintenance that I wouldn't be able to do merely as a high rep user. I also hope that I have made a positive difference in how I've handled private messages/suspensions in cases that those were necessary. I've been able to migrate a number of posts between sites (which is not currently a feature available to regular users). Finally, I've been able to clean up a lot of comment discussions and resolve some post edit disputes.