34

While there doesn't seem to be a specific policy about how active a moderator needs to be, the key principles are that they need to have

"active, consistent participation" (https://stackoverflow.blog/2010/07/27/moderator-pro-tempore/)

and

"leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action" (https://stackoverflow.blog/2009/05/18/a-theory-of-moderation/)

So far as I can discover, three of the site's moderators seem to have gone silent. Thaddeus doesn't even log in any more and hasn't been seen for months (although I see him posting daily on Quora) and Kevin + AncientSwordRage are mostly invisble.

In the last month between them they posted just one comment, no questions, no answers, no edits.

Activity in the last 120 days =

If they aren't interested in actively participating in the site as users, wouldn't it be better if they stepped aside as moderators too?

  • 20
    In general I don't understand why moderator elections aren't a recurring thing, if you're going to have them at all. They don't have to be frequent but why wait for someone to step down? (but that's a question for general meta) – Z. Cochrane Apr 27 '18 at 16:31
  • 10
    Also, my opinion would be, they don't have to step aside per se, we would just need additional moderators. However, the active moderators will argue they are handling the duties just fine. – Attack Helicopter Apr 27 '18 at 16:46
  • 12
    The number of mods with the role is based on the number of mods required to do the job. Ignoring what the mods may/may not be doing, are the active mods covering the workload sufficiently? If so, then I don't see any need to elect new ones. – phantom42 Apr 27 '18 at 21:56
  • 18
    @phantom42 - But we may as well remove the ones who aren't doing anything. Thaddeus doesn't even list stackexchange in the list of sites he's active on in his Twitter bio. I think it's clear that he's moved on from the site. – ibid Apr 27 '18 at 23:36
  • 5
    @ibid I don’t know that a persons twitter bio should be the measure of anything, but I’d generally agree that non-active users shouldn’t continue on as mods. But that doesn’t convince me that we need more mods necessarily. – phantom42 Apr 28 '18 at 0:44
  • 12
    Could you explain what benefit you see from them stepping down or, conversely, what harm in their remaining mods? I don't understand what you would like to change. Do you just want to remove them? Why? Do you want new mods? Again, why? And anyway, that doesn't have anything to do with whether the existing ones step down. – terdon Apr 28 '18 at 19:01
  • 7
    Also, neither of your quotes is relevant. The first is taken (out of context) from a post about moderators pro tempore, and is about how they are chosen. This has absolutely nothing to do with elected mods or what is expected of them. The second is discussing elected mods, yes, but it is suggesting they leave comments "on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action", so again, the number of general comments the mods have left is irrelevant. So no, these are not "the key principles". – terdon Apr 28 '18 at 22:26
  • 12
    @adamant, if that were the case, the mod team would already have asked for elections. There's no need for a 'chat' on meta. This post seems to be designed to strip up some drama and nothing else. Note how the OP posted with an obvious sock account and never came back. – terdon Apr 29 '18 at 11:22
  • 14
    @terdon - I think that if five active moderators were the right number for our needs before, then two or three can't be enough. – Adamant Apr 29 '18 at 18:52
  • 14
    Moderator powers are a privilege, and it appears these three no longer deserve said privilege. On principle, I am uncomfortable with mods who have clearly abandoned their duty having the power to suddenly return and perform harm. There is no reason for anyone who is not demonstrating positive mod behavior to have mod powers. If they return and want to continue serving as a mod, they can explain why they deserve to regain the privilege. – Rogue Jedi Apr 29 '18 at 21:18
  • 9
    @terdon The fact that this question was asked by a throwaway account does not invalidate it. It is an important issue to discuss, and had I noticed it beforehand, I would have posted a similar question. – Rogue Jedi Apr 29 '18 at 21:20
  • 19
    @terdon - The motivations of the poster might be negative or sneaky, certainly. But I don’t think that means that their idea is a bad one. As far as the moderators wanting to leave or not, I think an extremely loosely engaged moderator might not care about staying on, but might not want to bother with formally resigning. – Adamant Apr 29 '18 at 21:21
  • 6
    Looking at the site analytics, I don’t seem to see a huge decline in traffic. While our chat has undoubtedly become far less busy, regular users are a small source of questions. If five active moderators were the right number two years ago, my feeling is that five active moderators would be the right number now. – Adamant Apr 29 '18 at 21:25
  • 14
    @Mithrandir - Thaddeus pops up every now and then and causes harm. Not serious harm, but sure things against existing site policies which then spawn meta posts and require the two active mods to clean up after him. In the two years I've been on this site my only experience with Thaddeus was seeing those occasional meta posts about him closing/unclosing questions incorrectly and posting private user information in chat. – ibid Apr 30 '18 at 2:11
  • 11
    There are plenty of users that have and do and will contribute high quality content without ever using the high-rep tools, let alone having moderator powers. This is a terrible reason, and perhaps more clearly an irrelevant one, when asking whether a given user should have moderator powers. @Adamant – Nij Apr 30 '18 at 6:55
40

Moderators are elected to moderate the community, not to actively post.

It's not uncommon for a moderator's Q&A activity to go down and taper off entirely. As long as the moderators are monitoring the site and handling situations that pop up appropriately, they are doing the job they were elected to do.

The moderation team has the situation well in hand.

You've all heard it before and may be tired of hearing it, but that doesn't make it any less true or relevant: a lot of what mods do is not easily visible to the community. Everyone can see edits. Everyone can see when a mod closes a post—though that is and should be fairly rare; except in the most obvious cases that's left for the community to decide. 10ks can see when a mod deletes a post if they happen across it, unless it was spam-nuked—there's no way for non-mods to see whether a mod or the community did that. Non-mods can't tell who deleted comments or who saw, acted on, and/or dismissed flags.

And to address concerns about handling time, we're at an average of well under two hours, and that includes sitting on borderline NAA/VLQ flags waiting for them to go through the queue to see the community's reaction. That's well under the all-time average and compares pretty favorably to other sites.

Some data to support this

In light of the concerns raised by the community that not all the moderators are active enough to handle the workload, we asked the CMs to provide us with some data to compare ourselves against other sites on the network and track our own performance over time. We've been instructed not to publish details, but we can provide some basic statistics.

Among all ~170 sites on the SE network:

  • We are ranked #23 for lowest average flag handling time, and that time is less than 2 hours.
  • We are ranked #77 for lowest median flag handling time, and that time is less than 30 minutes.

We also obtained data regarding our median flag handling time from month to month over several years. That time has been stable since early 2016 (the last moderator election) and is the lowest it has been in the history of the site. The median flag handing time was slightly higher in 2015 (after the penultimate moderator election) but comparable.

Moderators are removed by SE staff in consultation with the other moderators, not by a vote on meta.

And it has nothing to do with posting or comment frequency.

In short

We're reluctant to remove a moderator without clear and compelling evidence that doing so would be more beneficial to their community than their presence as a moderator, and we understand and respect that people have lives.

The community team takes into account the community's view and complaints, of course, but "they're not posting enough answers" is unlikely to be taken seriously.

Removing a diamond for inactivity takes a long period of time. What I've heard is about six months without visiting and a year without taking mod action, and the community team will try to contact and discuss the situation with the mod in question.

In conclusion

  • At least two mods are more active than you are suggesting.
  • The moderation team is in no way overworked.
  • Not posting enough is not going to get a moderator removed.

If the community's biggest complaint about the moderation team is that they're not posting enough, that's way better than most sites.

  • 18
    My biggest complaint is more of a lack of visible activity than anything. That’s not inherently a bad thing but when the only visible actions come from two mods with you and one other being sort of present and one away completely absent that raises some concerns. To me it would settle my mind to have some statistics about how much activity the mods are doing and if possible on a personal basis. It’s all well and good flags being handled quickly but if only 2 of the 5 are handling them then that raises some concerns to me. – TheLethalCarrot Apr 30 '18 at 21:30
  • 2
    Not sure we want to release a breakdown of handling stats, but rest assured, Null and Rand aren't handling all the flags, nor any more than they want to. – Kevin Apr 30 '18 at 21:53
  • 6
    Anyway, it's good to see how the flag handling time compares to other sites, but I would also like to know whether it has increased since moderator activity dropped (the last two years, probably). – Adamant Apr 30 '18 at 22:03
  • 9
    Appreciate the answer, but I'm not sure this covers the particulars of the question's concern with leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action. I don't doubt the work being done, but I think the big ask here from the community is for increased transparency and visibility. We don't need to see every little thing being done, but some evidence of activity would benefit community relations and act as guidance for anyone that sees the comments re:our policies. – user31178 Apr 30 '18 at 23:22
  • 3
    According to this article, linked to in the most recent elections page, mods have the responsibility to "stay in communication with [their] fellow moderators." It is not the responsibility of the active mods to make their inactive associates do their jobs. The article also states that "There is a process in place for a team to remove moderators who are unable or unwilling to cooperate." Have all our mods been fulfilling their duties by keeping in contact with each other? – Rogue Jedi Apr 30 '18 at 23:25
  • 6
    @RogueJedi We have not had a problem reaching any mod when necessary. – Kevin May 1 '18 at 0:08
  • 3
    As a mod elsewhere this is invariably true. I used to post answers on Super User almost daily. I do it a lot less. Accusations of inactivity there would however be amusing – Journeyman Geek May 1 '18 at 0:11
  • 12
    Moderators are elected You're right, and elected so by the community. It seems that the community (myself included) are concerned that there's a lack of participation from the mods; some, or perhaps only one. – Möoz May 1 '18 at 0:16
  • 11
    "they're not posting enough answers" is certainly not the only concern of the community, nor should we be treated as children that don't understand how moderation works to think that that's all a moderator should do. It is merely an indication of their participation on this site. How do you moderate a site of which you seem to have no involvement in? (And by 'you' I mean the general 'you'). – Möoz May 1 '18 at 0:18
  • 4
    @Kevin The issue isn't you being able to contact them, it's them keeping in consistent touch with you, which seems to not be happening with one or more of the mods. – Rogue Jedi May 1 '18 at 0:22
  • 12
    Good answer, although keeping a mod around for up to a year of no moderation activity seems preposterous to me. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 1 '18 at 15:11
  • 8
    @JohnP Mods are elected to moderate. In my opinion if they aren't doing that, that is causing harm albeit in an indirect way. – TheLethalCarrot May 1 '18 at 15:26
  • 11
    @JohnP: Yeah I read that I just think it's preposterous. Either you're a mod or you're not. Don't let people who aren't modding keep mod powers. An account with mod powers is a security risk that we put up with because the controlling user is using it for moderating. An account with mod powers that isn't being used for moderating should have those powers taken away. Isn't that obvious? o.O – Lightness Races in Orbit May 1 '18 at 15:47
  • 4
    @Lightness That's true, but there's got to be a cutoff and whatever the choice is, it's going to be kinda arbitrary. Every day I don't use my moderation powers for at least ten straight hours. Sometimes it's a few days because I have stuff to tend to. Sometimes someone's away for a few weeks because of family emergency, moving house, etc. None of those warrant diamond removal & there's 2+ other diamonds to run backup. An account doing nothing is also doing little harm, so 6-12 months works well enough as a cutoff. The diamond team can still call for elections if more hands are needed. – doppelgreener May 1 '18 at 22:58
  • 4
    @doppelgreener What if it's a mod who has expressed their disinterest in the community and not been seen since? – Möoz May 2 '18 at 0:40
18

Yes; Moderators who know that they aren't active should effectively step or be asked to step down

The way I see it is simple, if you're not actively doing what you were placed there and voted in by the community for, then you either don't want to do it, or there's nothing for you to do there. Either way, there's no reason you should be there.

I understand this may be hardline and frankly personal, but I'm not sure how we'll get to do this in a non-personal way. Please bear with me.

Now to me, this isn't necessarily about numbers, as clearly we don't have direct access to what "behind-the-scenes" work is being done, rather it is about how we as a community feel about what's going on. And I can tell, both from my on-site and off-site interactions with this community's users, there's a clear perception that the number of moderator positions filled, to active number of moderators is disproportionate.

Look, the stuff gets done; their queues are managed (eventually), the policies are upheld (sometimes unilaterally) and discussions are had (with some level of participation); but this all comes at a price that I believe is not conducive to the community's health and success.

It boils down to this, either:

  • the one or two moderators are doing a fine job, and we really only need that number; or
  • the one or two moderators are doing a disproportionate amount of the work, therefore space needs to be made for active moderators to alleviate the load.

Again, I'm sorry if this sounds personally unfair and blunt and I hope you can see that I'm interested only in the benefit to the community.

  • 3
    The review queues aren't "managed (eventually)," they are cleared out almost instantly by regular users, as they're designed to. Moderators aren't supposed to be clearing the queues and even if they were, there's no need for them to do so. – Ward Apr 30 '18 at 7:32
  • 12
    @Ward I didn't mean review queues, rather the mods' queues. Flags, etc. – Möoz Apr 30 '18 at 7:48
  • 1
    Downvoting, somewhat reluctantly, because I think we should let the moderators figure out their own work balance regardless of any "perception" the community may have. I would upvote if you cited specific evidence that there is actually a problem to be solved here (e.g. "Flags are taking an unreasonable amount of time to process" or "Moderator X is doing more harm than good as seen in controversy Y") -- except I don't think that such evidence exists in the first place. – Kevin May 7 '18 at 1:01
  • 1
    @Kevin Thanks for your candour. I'd ask, how do we put in place a system of checks and balances, or would we give the mods the benefit of the doubt, and therefore, free reign? – Möoz May 7 '18 at 2:40
  • @Möoz: If a moderator is behaving badly ("not participating" doesn't count), open a meta question about it. That is the system we have now. There is no demonstrable need to scrap it and replace it with something more elaborate. – Kevin May 7 '18 at 6:26
  • @Kevin not saying theyre behaving badly at all. What I'm saying is that their non-participation and involvement is in fact a problem. We're all well aware of the policies dealing with misbehaviour; they apply to all of us; I'm talking about this niche problem that there doesn't seem to be much due process for. – Möoz May 7 '18 at 9:33
  • 2
    @Möoz: I guess I just don't understand why this is a problem. Your answer doesn't really touch on that. It just vaguely waves at the community and says "people feel bad about this." That is not a good enough reason to forcibly remove someone's diamond, and you're not proposing any obvious alternative, so your answer is not actionable. – Kevin May 7 '18 at 17:01
16

Some moderators should be involved in this discussion.

Right now, there are a lot of unknowns:

  1. Whether Rand al'Thor and Null are overworked.
  2. Whether the other moderators are actually inactive, or just not visibly active. We know that mod!Kevin is at least working the mod queues.
  3. Whether any of the active moderators have attempted to reach any of the inactive moderators via email, and the results of such communication.
  4. The stated intentions, if any, of the inactive moderators when they left (which may have been expressed in the Teacher's Lounge or some other non-public forum). These probably don't exist, of course, but confirmation of that fact would be Nice To Have.
  5. The degree to which the active moderators are comfortable with the (possibly involuntary) removal of the inactive moderators' diamonds.

Because it is impossible to answer this question without at least some of the above information, this answer respectfully requests the input of one or more moderators.

  • 4
    Sorry for taking so long to respond to this. We didn't want to start leaving comments before we'd had a chance to discuss it in mod chat and think over our response properly. – Rand al'Thor Apr 30 '18 at 23:02
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor: Thank you (collectively) for taking the time to put together a thoughtful and detailed response instead of rushing something out. – Kevin Apr 30 '18 at 23:05
  • As @Randal'Thor mentioned, we wanted to discuss this among ourselves in mod chat before responding; the delay was partly due to me -- I was actually out of town all last week and just got back yesterday. (Incidentally, when I logged in and saw the flag queue for the first time in a week...it was empty.) – Null May 1 '18 at 3:29
  • 10
    As for your points/questions: 1. No, I don't feel like I'm overworked. 2. The mod dashboard is telling me that all the mods except one have been "seen" within the last 12 hours. That doesn't mean they took any mod actions, but they would have seen any flags in the queue. 3. We can ping each other in chat, and we can usually reach each other within a few days (often in less time, unless of course someone is on vacation or something). – Null May 1 '18 at 3:48
  • 7
    4. There is a system in which we can mark ourselves as absent for the benefit of the other mods, and we sometimes post a message in mod chat explaining that we'll be away for a certain amount of time. However, no mods are currently marked absent nor has anyone stated any intention to stop moderating. – Null May 1 '18 at 3:48
  • 7
    5. As explained by Kevin ♦, moderators are only removed by SE staff if they are doing something wrong (e.g. violating the moderator agreement) or if they've been inactive for a very long time (on the order of 6 months). Otherwise there is little harm in having a relatively inactive mod around as backup in case one of the more active mods is away, a lot of flags are raised at the same time, to give advice, etc... – Null May 1 '18 at 3:48
  • 3
    The number of moderators for a site is determined by how many are enough, so it's not like a relatively inactive moderator is taking up a spot that could be filled by a more active user. – Null May 1 '18 at 3:49
  • 5
    @Null - Thaddeus doesn't seem to have logged in for about two months, and I can distinctly remember meta posts about him breaking site policies. (e.g. pasting peoples private mod flags into SE chat for everyone to see.) – ibid May 1 '18 at 4:19
  • 2
    @ibid Mmm, are you talking about this incident? Thaddeus made a mistake in exposing the username of a flagger and he apologized for it. We all make mistakes from time to time, and that one was not particularly egregious (the user in question commented that he was "undisturbed" and appreciated the apology). – Null May 1 '18 at 4:26
  • 3
    Also, that was almost 2 years ago, when he was, presumably, more active, so the concern - that an inactive moderator will do bad stuff - doesn't seem to be based on actual incidents. – Ward May 1 '18 at 4:30
  • 9
    @Null - His wording there comes across as having made the mistake due to an unfamiliarity with SE moderation policy. This isn't the only meta I've seen raised about his actions, and when combined with his near total absence from the site, I'm led to believe he's confusing SFF with the communities that he actually cares about and participates in. It seems logical to assume a linkage between site participation and awareness of site policy. – ibid May 1 '18 at 4:33
  • 4
    @ibid: I think this is beginning to stray from the original topic of this question. If you object to Thaddeus's behavior or competence in particular, I would ordinarily suggest opening a new question. However, I cannot in good faith actually recommend that course of action. Based on what we've heard from multiple mods already, it seems to me that such a line of inquiry would generate far more heat than light. Regardless, I'd appreciate it if you either end this discussion or move it to somewhere which does not ping my inbox for every reply. Thank you. – Kevin May 1 '18 at 6:57
  • 5
    @Kevin - On the contrary I think this is perfectly relevant to the OP. The issue raised was about inactive moderation and the other two are only moderately inactive. I guess the OP only included them to add substance to the post, which gave the moderators the opportunity to strawman their way out. ("How could you think we have inactive mods? Two of three you listed were even able to be pinged to discuss this within a few days of your complaint.") Thaddeus is the only example of a truly inactive mod here, and he perfectly exemplifies why leaving inactive users with mod powers can cause harm. – ibid May 1 '18 at 7:09
  • 1
    @ibid: If I've understood you correctly, I find that conspiracy theory (between OP and the mods) rather hard to believe. But it does not matter. This is not the purpose of comments and I'm not going to debate it with you further. – Kevin May 1 '18 at 7:19
  • 3
    @Kevin - I guess you misunderstood me then. Have a great day. – ibid May 1 '18 at 7:21
-5

No:

I don't think there's currently any reason to discuss the number and activity of moderators, and I don't see any reason for the inactive moderators to step aside.

I've seen some SE sites where they've developed the culture that inactive moderators get removed (can't recall which sites), but in general, moderators are elected for life, or until they step down, or until they cause a serious enough problem to be removed. New moderators are generally added when it becomes apparent that the current crew can't keep up with the workload.

Here, I don't see any signs of problematic moderators or that there are flags left pending for too long or anything like that, so I don't see any need for more or different moderators.

As mentioned in the comments, your two quotes are taken out of context and can't really be considered the key principles that moderators need to follow. The first quote is specifically about how moderators pro tempore are chosen when a site is new and the second is specifically about mods leaving comments on posts where they've taken action or might take action.

Neither quote illustrates a "key principle" of moderator action.

And since the OP hasn't responded to any of the comments or added any more support for their idea, it really seems like this isn't a serious suggestion in any case.

  • 19
    What is the benefit of allowing inactive moderators to retain their powers? – Rogue Jedi Apr 30 '18 at 2:20
  • 10
    As for your last paragraph it looks clear to me that the "OP" is more a throwaway profile of a more active user so their main account doesn't actually get any backlash. As such it makes sense that they haven't been back to make this a "serious suggestion". – TheLethalCarrot Apr 30 '18 at 8:20
  • 4
    The attitude that their main account might have to deal with "backlash" is a problem in itself with regards to their general attitude towards to moderation of this site, though. If they have genuine concerns (and from what I see the question and its wording calmly and objectively utter some valid concerns), they shouldn't fear "retribution". This at least suggests some additional "baggage" in their relationship to the moderators. – TARS Apr 30 '18 at 12:05
  • 6
    @TARS I'd say any backlash is likely in the event we do have a new election and they run people may question why they were so concerned in the first place. Not saying that is the case here but I can certainly see some people bringing it up and I have indeed thought about making a similar meta to this before but in the end thought not too. – TheLethalCarrot Apr 30 '18 at 12:38
  • 3
    @RogueJedi - I would ask, what is the detriment of allowing an inactive moderator to retain "their powers"? How many times has a moderator anywhere across the network gone Turbo and started wrecking things? I can see where if work is piling up and items are not being handled that a mod might need to be forcibly replaced, but that is not the case here. – JohnP May 1 '18 at 1:43
  • 5
    @JohnP As outlined above, at least one moderator has repeatedly caused problems by coming in every once in a while and not following current policies. Additionally, the possibility of misuse, however unlikely, is a strong enough justification to remove powers from mods who aren't using them for the benefit of the site. – Rogue Jedi May 1 '18 at 1:49
  • @RogueJedi (Relatively) inactive moderators are useful to have around as backup. For example, if one of the more active mods goes away on vacation (as was the case last week), the other mods can increase their activity. The other mods can also step up their activity if a lot of flags are raised at the same time. We also tend to give each other advice when dealing with situations, writing mod messages, etc. -- none of that is visible to non-mods but it's helpful for all the mods. – Null May 1 '18 at 16:10
  • 2
    @Null The point remains that if the majority of mods are so far behind the scenes that the public has no idea they're even on the site, that's a big issue. – Rogue Jedi May 1 '18 at 17:02
  • 2
    @RogueJedi While I understand your desire to see public action in order to have confidence that all the moderators are doing their jobs and doing them well, some aspects of moderation are inherently and necessarily private (e.g. suspensions). Even the aspects that aren't necessarily private don't need to be broadcast for all the community to see -- do you want to see deleted gibberish, spam, obsolete comments, etc.? What matters is that the moderation team is sufficiently large and active to handle flags in a timely manner. Do you not think that is the case? – Null May 1 '18 at 17:11
  • 3
    @Null The problem with constantly saying "it's always in the background" and never doing anything viisble is that people will obviously stop believing that at some point. – TheLethalCarrot May 1 '18 at 17:25
  • 2
    @TheLethalCarrot What kind of visible action are you looking for? And do you have a concern that flags are not being handled quickly enough? – Null May 1 '18 at 17:32
  • 2
    @Null no concern but then I generally flag and forget and check a while later. As for what visible action I’m not sure exactly what is best but something is better than nothing. I know the main point of this meta has gone through my head a few times because there’s nothing visible. – TheLethalCarrot May 1 '18 at 18:09
  • This conversation has been moved to chat for further discussion. – Null May 1 '18 at 20:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .