Andrew T's answers to your questions
This is a tough one but to stimulate your thinking to what you can do as a moderator to improve the situation. Our site has about 180 users with reputation in the bracket of 2k to 10k and this number doesn't seem to have changed significantly, at least in the three years I have been a member of this community. I like to think of this section of the community as the White Blood Cells (immunity cells keeping the site clean and healthy by editing questions and answers, casting close & reopen votes, approving tag wiki edits, reviewing and deleting questions) while the moderators are like lungs, liver and kidneys taking care of eliminating more toxic stuff.
But, there are a couple of issues around this: Low strength of this section of community is perhaps endemic to the site as discussed several years ago You need the bourgeois blues. Low activity levels of this section as discussed recently, though focusing only on review aspects (How can we spend some effort on improving our over all activity?). A clear indicator of the low involvement is the fact that one rarely sees even a blatantly off-topic question being closed by 5 votes; invariably you find the mod hammer as the deciding vote. As a moderator, how would you address these two issues (if possible) to keep the site more vibrant and active, while freeing your time for more important stuff that only moderators can do?
elderarthis has thoroughly explained the underlying issues in which I fully agree, but as a mod, don't really have a ready solution. This is something that needs community participation to work on, but there is not enough community participation, which is already a vicious circle. Without the community, moderators are as powerless because they don't really have better tools to fix this situation.
As for some ideas... I observed some sites have "weekly topic challenges" (detail on Meta SE: How do weekly topic challenges work?). The community can propose a topic idea that covers a widely-used/popular app or a hot topic based on recent news. With current community participation, we can extend from weekly to monthly. Hopefully, this can attract more participation and make the site more active.
In addition to that, I think some sites have a "bounty week", in which a meta post is opened to nominate posts that are extraordinary and deserve the bounty. Hopefully, this can help to bridge the reputation gap that is needed for the community to moderate more effectively and also encourage users to contribute more quality posts at the same time.
One thing that I also want to focus on is the large number of "troubleshoot my device plz" questions. They take time to be triaged (is it unclear? is it a duplicate?) and it also affects the impression of this site on future potential answerers, that this site is just "another boring troubleshooting forum" (personally, that's one factor I reduced my activity since back then).
The reason I bring that issue specifically is because of "moderation fatigue". Not only moderators, but regular users are also exposed to this. When they are too often reviewing bad posts, they might get tired and give up the review queue (could be worse because they don't have a binding vote and feel powerless, which is the reason I stated in my nomination).
Unlike diamond mods, moderation by regular users is certainly a voluntary action. If we can reduce the source of moderation fatigue, hopefully it will increase the community's enthusiasm in reviewing once more. However, this might need multiple iterations which is better to be discussed on another meta post in the future (e.g. rescoping? specific close-reason banner? guideline in meta?).
In my humble opinion, a site with only 10 regular active reviewers is already enough to maintain the site. In the end, moderators can only facilitate the feature, they need the community to work together in improving this situation.
- 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?
Knowledge is extremely valuable, but after all, we are all human beings and have some ego.
Recently, there's a change in "Be Nice" policy to a more extensive "Code of Conduct" which applies to everyone, and also I believe is a good guideline for moderators to follow.
However, considering the current situation, we desperately need users who are knowledgeable and can self-moderate, and a large number of arguments/flags will just worsen the situation. I believe the best approach is to guide and make them understand what are the acceptable practices without a need to be aggressive/confrontational, so they can lead others by example too.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
First, try to know their reasoning privately and politely, and then try to work on the solution constructively. If no consensus is reached, ask for other mods' input to prevent conflict of interest. At this point, I really hope the issue can be resolved without requiring the community input, but if the consensus is still not yet reached, then...
Next, just like regular users, open a meta discussion on child-meta to discuss the issue only (no need to call out if it's by a mod, etc.). There's a possibility that input from the community may give a different and better insight than just of the moderators. Take their input into consideration to make a better decision. **Different opinions can't be avoided, but **
In the end, I believe in open, transparent, and civil discourse for the better of the community. The reason I'm okay with letting the community input is that most of the moderation actions are already public (anyone can access the
/revision of a post). It can look more suspicious to the community when there are contradicting actions done by different mods without any discussion at all.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Borrowing the terms from the 9th question of 2014 Stack Overflow election, moderators are considered as "janitors" and "exception handlers". They are janitors, in which they have more powerful tools to clean-up the site, but they are also exception handlers when there are disputes between the members.
The balance between being a janitor or an exception handler might be different on this site while it lacks active reviewers, but ideally in a situation where reviewers are plenty, they should mainly be an exception handler.
They are also the "leaders", not the "bosses" (further reading: The Difference Between a Boss and a Leader). They lead the community by example and care for the overall result, not only thinking about their own goals.
- 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 have no problem with that.
While I did have a period where I was brash in commenting for moderation (moderation fatigue is real when you're so obsessed with it), the past is the past, and I always strive to become a better person (I learned so much, changed, and improved my approach on moderation while participating on Anime.SE). If else, the diamond will always remind me to become more humble.
As for perceiving by other users, I personally don't see my "diamond indicator" (if elected) as a special status, because in the end, mods are also parts of the bigger community. With or without the diamond, everyone (including me, nonetheless) should strive to build a conducive community.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
One of the biggest impacts is comment moderation, something that even high-rep users cannot do until now (and one of the popular but controversial feature requests on Meta Stack Exchange). I have to admit, I'm in the "no unnecessary comments" group because I love to see clean posts, and will possibly clean-up comment thread if it has served its purpose. (I have raised many useful flags on Anime.SE to clean-up comment threads)
Second is... the binding vote. While this should not be the answer, the current dire situation that has been stated on the question (1) makes this feature more effective, though I really hope we can improve the situation if possible ("treat the cause, not the symptom").
However, all of these won't be effective without the support of underlying community. (There were some SE beta sites that got closed because they were not moderated for a long time. While Android.SE is already graduated and won't be closed, we certainly don't want to be that site)