Squabbles are best sorted out by the community, and more often than not, we'll just jump in with a "we're here" post so that people know we're not ignoring it. We'd rather have the community work it out for themselves as the community has the capacity to do so without us. Keep in mind that we're part of the community ourselves, only we have a few extra buttons on our screen.
As far as old/new accounts go, we're notified of duplicate accounts—and we evaluate them. If a banned person returns after an extended period and shows signs that they're now willing to play nice, then why not? This is a grey area—one that's worked for some people, but not for others. We really don't want to see people banned and will do what we can to avoid it, but sometimes it's inevitable. But the banning process isn't done on a whim—discussions need to take place about it first. If someone was banned for valid reasons and they set up a new account the next day, we're probably not going to be too tolerant. If they come back months later and just hang around the sidelines, then perhaps that person is trying to adjust. We never know, but there's more grey than black and white involved.
I agree that it's all about fun—but it's also about rigorous discussion as well. It's a forum for uber-nerds on the subject of fragrance, and many of the members enjoy lighter, more surface chat about the topic, and some prefer more in-depth analytical approaches. Both worlds need to exist together. But also, one persons' idea of fun simply might not map onto that of another. Offensive jokes are probably going to be fine for some, but not for all. And it's that "not for all" that we have to be aware of and realize that on the one hand, we don't want to control speech, but on the other, we want the site to be inclusive to as many as possible. Fun is #1, but respect and sensitivity to difference is also built into that. The "too PC" accusation gets bandied about at times in this respect, but that's often just a smokescreen to excuse abhorrent behavior and play the victim while attacking others. Again, all a big grey area.
And just to further reiterate and generally clarify some prior points made, what the mods do and the perceived actions of the mods are often quite distant. There have been countless times where we've been accused of over-moderating in various ways (some of which are indeed valid)—yet the bigger picture, or the history of the person we're moderating isn't available to the community. This can make us appear totalitarian—a concern that we're extraordinarily cognizant of. For example, there was one poster last year who would rile people up in the forums to start fights, while behind the scenes, they were PMing violent threats to individual members (and their families) and sending disgusting graphic images around. This one particular person ended up with no fewer than 15 separate profiles. Although I did notify members anytime I suspected this user had returned and they were engaging with him, I would do this covertly because, frankly, the user was profoundly stupid and would give themselves away every single time through a series of patterns. Therefore, not going public with the details (which I would have been fine with) allowed us to catch him much faster before he started up with the abuse again. So, when a mod action causes you to scratch your heads, keep in mind that you might not have the full picture and PM us about it before just going ahead and posting your opinion about said action as that can (and has) put us into really awkward spots.
Another thing is that the mods aren't arbiters of morality. Half the time, when I see something questionable, it doesn't necessarily bother me personally (unless there's little doubt of the harm it's causing). But what happens is that, more often than not, it's the community that instigates moderation—not the mods. 80% of the problems we deal with are brought to our attention by the community itself—which is essentially moderation done by you guys. Then what we'll do is assess the problem, see how it conforms to the code of conduct, bounce it around backstage if necessary, and then act. Just because we crack down on something, that doesn't necessarily reflect our own preferences. A little dark humor or foul language isn't a big deal to us, but we do want to keep in mind that we have a diversity of people using the site, and want to make it as respectful for all as we can. It's a fine line, and one that needs constant calibration.
We get a lot of abuse thrown at us; and I mean A LOT. But we knew this going into it, and what we do is totally voluntary. Pretty much everyone on the team advocates for transparency, and we try to provide it where we can. It's a fluid process with a lot of variables, and therefore mistakes or miscalculations are made. There are times when our own annoyance with a scenario might peek through, but that's something that each individual mod gets to address and work on his or herself. The bottom line is that we rely on the community as much as the community relies on us to keep the place tidy (after all, we're really more custodial than disciplinary). So please feel free to PM us whenever you see fit.