Moderators are volunteers who donate time to keep the forum tidy and maintained according to the guidelines, for the benefit of the community, which includes us too! There are no requirement for specific ‘hours of attendance’ or diligence in monitoring every post in the forum (see the TOS later) - instead we rely on flagging or messages from people to request attention where it may be needed. Of course, the moderators also read the forum too and so may notice things for themselves, but we are all very lucky that the forum’s community already sets a generally positive tone and moderator interaction is not generally a round-the-clock exercise. Out of courtesy, moderators may inform the team if they are taking a break for holiday or whatever from time to time.
In terms of decision making the team operate as you would hope any effective small team would. Uncontroversial and straight forward decisions (e.g. dealing with unsolicited advertising) can be made with a certain amount of individual autonomy to illicit faster responses and perhaps ‘nip things in the bud’ with canned responses when necessary, utilising trust within the team and prior experience. More complex decisions benefit from discussion and may take longer to be made and discussion may be concluded by a vote if necessary.
As for the direction of the forum, I’m not sure there is a mission statement, goal or any other specific target other than to help maintain a very useful resource for people, businesses and organisations within the postcode. Clearly some things can and have been improved, and as members of the community who read and interact with the forum quite a lot, moderators will tend to hold thoughts and feelings about aspects that are working well, or not. However, the #site-feedback category is open to everyone, in addition to flagging and PMs - if there’s a problem, please let us know!
Finally liability. Your question states “what happens online in a forum can have implications in real life”. This is generally a fact for anyone using any online forum or mailing list service, not just the moderators or users of this forum. The general guidance here is to be agreeable and civil, but the Terms of Service are also clear that contributors are responsible for their own content and posts, and that the se23.life does not review all, or endorse all, posted content.
So this is all somewhat general, and while there is a lot of guidance about moderation (e.g. pages from Discourse themselves) there are no hard or fast one-size-fits rules for dealing with disagreements or bad behaviours. And if indeed we could make an axiomatic definition of moderation, I’m sure the Internet giants would have already figured it out and the whole Internet would be a clean and safe place without problems. In reality, we instead we need humans to moderate humans, and having a small team of volunteers with shared values is how the .life forums, like many forums, manage that.
This is a kind offer, and noted for the future should the need ever arise.