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I am one of several moderators on my site. Sometimes another moderator handles an issue in a way I disagree with strongly -- deleted something, closed a question I thought should stay open, etc. For the sake of this question, assume that these actions are publicly visible (I'm not talking about, say, private actions with users).

Since the action was public, maybe I should raise my objection publicly, the same way any user would or could. On the other hand, perhaps maintaining a unified appearance among all the mods is important. On the third hand, maybe mods shouldn't be deciding privately things that could be discussed in public with broader input. And I've exceeded my hand limit, but there are probably yet other factors.

So, how should I decide where and how to question or challenge another moderator's action?

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  • possible duplicate of How should we deal with moderators who are making bad calls?
    – Jamal
    Jul 29, 2014 at 19:42
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    @Jamal: Not really, it's implied here that the two moderators have the same status, while in the other question, it's from a point of admin to moderator. Jul 29, 2014 at 19:43
  • Hmm, didn't see that one. But that one seems to be more about "how do we, collectively, deal with this problem mod", while I'm asking "how do two mods, both behaving well but disagreeing, resolve those differences". That feels different to me. Jul 29, 2014 at 19:43
  • Ah, I see. I'll keep it here to see how this review task is handled.
    – Jamal
    Jul 29, 2014 at 19:45
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    @Jamal I think the questions are related, but not duplicates.
    – Seth
    Jul 29, 2014 at 20:02

3 Answers 3

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From your description, it looks like you don't have enough rules or standards. You need to make a solid ground where you and other mods agree on what is the lowest level in each case.

Where I mod, and make judgements in comments, I flag for other mods on the site to initiate a discussion whether to move further or stop at a comment. Never ever close or delete some posts on arbitrarily reasons.

Communicate, compromise and get your read on "theory of moderation" where less is more.

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I like to follow the "third is scared" rule. Ask a random third moderator, and whatever he says is sacred.

Of course, that doesn't come before communication and conflict resolution. Get together in some private chat room, hangouts, wrestling arena or whatever medium you pick, and punch talk it out.

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    So just to connect the dots, you suggest a private discussion rather than a public one? (Well, I guess the wrestling match could go either way. :-) ) Jul 29, 2014 at 19:54
  • @MonicaCellio: Yes. Moderation details should remain as private as possible for as long as possible. A moderator is still a highly valued member of the community, and he at least deserves the benefit of not being publicly told off immediately. Jul 29, 2014 at 19:57
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I think the OP's issue can be dealt with from the following two points of view:

Mechanism Consideration

It seems that your community lacks a well-defined mechanism for handling disagreement among moderators. Usually, people hesitate to act in a community when relevant well-defined mechanisms are missing. Unfortunately, ignoring the fact that moderators are humans like other ordinary members, there is a commonplace misassumption that moderators are exceptionally mature enough to resolve their disagreements by themselves so that no mechanism is required. With this misassumption, moderators have to support one another's decisions/actions in public, unseasoned moderators have to follow experienced moderators' courses of action, and even experienced moderators are unwilling to express their disagreement to one another. Directing the community on the basis of that misassumption might well gradually diminish the community's trust in the moderation team.

It should not be difficult to set up such a mechanism for handling moderator disagreement situations. For instance, ultimate decisions can be determined by some voting process; eligible voters can be all community members, the community administrators, a certain panel of qualified members, or any other groups of members specified by the community guidelines. When such a mechanism becomes available, it is recommended to try it out with some mock disagreement situations so that the moderators feel comfortable with expressing their own opinions freely.

Culture Consideration

Do you know what the real source of your issue is? It is neither personal nor moderation-related. It actually stems from the fact of worrying about disagreement expression within a community, which will be explained further below. Please bear my blunt language in the following sentence: By asking

So, how should I decide where and how to question or challenge another moderator's action?

you are actually trying to (implicitly) evade/get around that fact.

Now, let us ponder that fact. As you pointed out, any community member should have the right of expressing his/her (differing) own opinions, and so communities usually have policies theoretically encouraging their members to express their own opinions freely. But, actually this is not the case. It should be noted that violation of the freedom of speech is not limited to unjustified disciplinary actions but can include improper actions from ordinary members, such as calling users having opposing/different opinions troll, cranks, etc.

However, we cannot force people to respect the freedom of speech because open-mindedness is a trait and individuals cannot be forced to possess a certain trait.

Consequently, within the community disagreement expression tends to become something odd and somewhat repellent due to its risky nature. In particular, you as a moderator would likely (unconsciously) refrain from expressing your opposing opinions because of such a heavy atmosphere of doing that.

Realizing the root of the issue, we can now seek a proper solution for it. There could be two approaches. The more straightforward and effortless is to employ the community mechanism, explained in the first section, to express your opposing opinions. (If there is not such a mechanism, your community needs to create it as soon as possible.) However, you should not expect positive/constructive reactions from either other moderators or ordinary members; for example, the moderator whose decision(s) was(were) questioned by you might pursue opportunities to somehow retaliate in similar situations, or some ordinary members' trust in the moderation team might be diminished.

The other approach is far more radical, so needs much effort and time. It suggests that, instead of focusing on individual controversial moderation actions, you try to improve the toxic culture of the community, for instance, by using your moderation privileges to endorse any member expressing any opinions, emphasizing to the community the vital role of disagreement for thriving communities, explaining to the community normality and usefulness of disagreement among moderators, etc. This would be a point of departure for your community getting rid of that toxic culture and then maturing enough to understand the genuine intention of your disagreement expression and understand that "a unified appearance among all the moderators" is not essential/important for excellent moderation of the community. Although this transformation seems virtually impossible, even little advance could be highly beneficial to your community. Lastly, let me encapsulate the main point of this approach in one sentence: You, as a moderator, should not expect to freely express your opinions if any community member does not feel free expressing his/her opinions.

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