I’d like to elaborate on this, because it might come in handy for anybody who wants to run a community in the future.
I think of situations that need moderator attention as being in one of three categories.
The first is routine. This includes things like deleting obvious spam, splitting threads and moving posts that got off-topic. These are all easy enough, unless you get lots of them at once.
The second is personal touches. Somebody posts an unflagged spoiler, something NSFW, or just inflammatory. We’ll hide the post, and message the user, explaining why it was hidden, and what they could do to improve it. The key here is assuming that there’s no malicious intent, and the person simply made a mistake, they may be used to communities with a very different tone, or English might not be their first language - I’ve said things myself that were accidentally insulting, because I didn’t realise it had those connotations in English.
There’s also a myriad of less clear-cut things that go in here, like things that are only offensive to people from certain backgrounds that just aren’t widely known outside of those communities (“trap”), or things that have different connotations in different parts of the world (various expletives in Australia, for an easy one).
Now, the trouble here is that this approach requires empathy and making a genuine attempt to understand the person you’re talking to, and why this situation arose in the first place. It’s emotional labour, and empathy is very much a finite resource. By the (n)th time you explain the same thing to different people, it’s easy to get irritated. Keeping things fair and consistent here also requires a bunch of back-office coordination, and the emotional labour that goes into that.
Some communities are much colder about this - strict rules, strikes or warnings, little attempt to understand the people involved. This is less emotionally draining, but tends to result in communities that are much less personal, and selects for people who already fit a mould, rather than attempting to bridge our differences. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and it’s not binary - you can have a bit of both, and it all depends on what kind of community you want to create.
The third is conflicts. No matter how like-minded your community, they will happen, and you will need to deal with them.
This means mediating, deescalating, and attempting to understand where both parties are coming from. If somebody is clearly acting in bad faith, it’s easy enough to just tell them off. But most of the time, you’ll find that there is no right or wrong, only two different viewpoints.
This is where things gets really fuzzy, and emotionally demanding. Every conflict is different, and if the two (or more) sides can’t be reconciled, there isn’t a right answer. Pick a side, and no matter which one, people will be upset about why you chose that particular one. A big enough fight will also come down to the leader(s), whose ultimate responsibility it becomes to settle it.
When people think of moderation, they tend to think only of the first kind - routine moderation. But the bulk of your moderators’ time and emotional resources will likely be spent on the second or third. Those are the ones that need capable moderators, good back-office communication, and enough timezone diversity that there’s always somebody at hand to deal with whatever comes up.
Basically, wherever you all go after this, please be nice to your moderators. Most of their work isn’t visible, but they work hard behind the scenes, and the best ones are noticed most when they leave.