Let me start by giving just a little bit of background. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was a moderator myself. My job as moderator was a bit different from moderators here though -- as moderator I was absolute dictator. I was free to make essentially any rules I wanted.
I suspect that total freedom led to a bit of soul searching about the role a moderator should take. Since I was free to do anything I wanted, I needed to think about what I really should do, rather than just operating within a given set of guidelines and dealing with whatever arose day to day. In any case, regardless of the reason, I did think about it quite a bit.
Giving credit where due, I should probably also add that I took a fair amount of inspiration from at least a couple of former moderators there. The first was Bob Stout. Before I met Bob, I think I sort of implicitly believed a view that I think is shared by many: that most programmers are basically sort of idiot savants -- good at coding, but not much else. Bob made it clear that almost the opposite was true: the best programmers are good at a lot of other things as well. The other former moderator I found inspirational was Thad Smith, who made two things clear. First that at least among programmers, showing an exceptional level of competence at writing code led to such respect that it simply eliminated most arguments on any other subjects. Second, that providing positive direction was much more important, and accomplished far more, than any amount of problem fixing you could possibly do (unfortunately, it wasn't until long after I'd stepped down as moderator that I realized the latter to nearly the degree I should have).
Anyway, I decided that leading by example was absolutely crucial, including enforcing the rules on myself much more strictly than I did on anybody else. If there was behavior that might be allowed part of the time, but might be considered even marginally questionable under some circumstances, then as moderator I would not/could not/should not engage in that kind of behavior under any circumstances at any time. With anybody else, minor infractions of the rules were best tolerated until/unless they really caused a problem -- but for myself, there could never be any question that I followed them absolutely, and never ever took advantage of my position to "get away" with anything that I couldn't/wouldn't have done if I wasn't the moderator.
Second, I thought a bit about who I should think of as a role model. I considered the possibility of a policeman, but rejected it. I've known a fair number of real-life policemen, and based on that have concluded that police work leads almost inevitably to a high degree of cynicism and in many cases also to people acting like petty tyrants.
I eventually decided that the Dalai Lama was a much better role model. Rather than giving anything that might even be mistaken for an order, I needed to remember that I was acting in a purely advisory role to people who were entirely free to depart the environs and ignore my very existence if they found me or what I had to say particularly objectionable. I needed to convince people that following my advice would lead to better lives for everybody involved, not just order them to do what I thought was right. To accomplish that, however, I needed to spend most of the time listening to them about what they wanted rather than assuming that the rules I'd made were (even close to) the final word on what should or shouldn't be. Ultimately, most of what I did was listen, summarize the highest ideals out of what I heard, and reflect those back as the ideals toward which we as a group should aspire.
Somewhat paradoxically, one other point I found particularly valuable was learned while I was in the military, where it was considered something close to the 11th commandment: Praise in public, punish in private. In other words, if I had anything to say that could possibly be perceived as negative about anybody, I needed to do that as privately as I possibly could. At the same time, when I had positive things to say (which I tried to make as often as possible) that should be done in public -- preferably as loudly and publicly as possible.
Finally, although I certainly tried to maintain maximum quality from a technical viewpoint, I concluded that the social aspects outweighed the technical aspects. People simply having some fun should be accepted as long as it didn't actively detract from the technical content. For a fair number of people it quickly became a game to discuss the most outlandish topic possible and still figure out a way to show that it was still really related to programming (interestingly, in many cases the more outlandish they initially appeared, the deeper the lesson they taught in the end).
Lest I be misunderstood, I don't intend to say that Chris is wrong and I'm right, nor that I was or would be a better moderator than him. At the same time I was more or less accused of simply saying "this sucks" without providing anything positive. While I don't think that characterization is entirely accurate, I'd rather make an attempt at a clearly positive contribution than something that's obviously been perceived as negative. Given the difference in circumstances, I'm not sure that my experience applies very well, but perhaps one or two little bits and pieces may (with suitable interpretation and modification) accomplish something useful -- and if not, maybe somebody at least found it mildly entertaining so maybe it still wasn't a complete waste of bits.