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Recent events on the network have led to 3 of our moderators to suspend their activity. We don't need to get into the whys of that here, use main meta for that or look for their posts on main meta. However, that has left only 2 mods, both of which have been seen over the past few days. But looking into my flag history I have not had a moderator only flag handled since the UTC morning of 3rd October and I currently have 40 pending flags.

According to the help page on flagging, flags will age away from 2-14 days. If I'm reading it correctly this means I have quite a few flags that are in danger of needing to be re-flagged or lost.

As we do still have 2 moderators that don't appear to have suspended activity I was expecting flags to take longer to handle but not to go unhandled to the point of ageing away.

If anything I'd like to have some assurance that the mod team is still handling flags and working behind the scenes, it's just I can't see it because my flags aren't the ones being handled.

So in short: what is the status of our moderator team currently? Have our two remaining moderators suspended activity as well or are there just too many flags to keep up with?

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    I don't believe our "on strike" moderators have posted a Meta about their decision not to act until...err... something, so it may be news to people that there's a problem at all, other than thinking that our moderators are a bit slack – Valorum Oct 10 at 11:58
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    @Valorum They posted their reasons on main meta but nothing on SFF meta. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 at 11:59
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Update as of October 31: I am resuming activity as a moderator

A month ago I announced on main meta that I was suspending my activity as a moderator in response to Stack Exchange summarily removing a moderator for alleged violations of the Code of Conduct. As I and others have pointed out, the allegations made by SE against this moderator are not supported by the facts (most of which are only accessible by other moderators); as a result, it has not been clear exactly what the Code of Conduct (either the recently revised version or its predecessor) actually required moderators and users to do in order to avoid violating it. In the face of such ambiguity I decided to remain inactive until SE provided better guidance as to what the Code of Conduct is intended to require.

A few weeks ago SE attempted to post a list of answers to FAQs regarding the new Code of Conduct but the initial list was such a disaster that SE had to post a new set of FAQs. The new FAQ answers are an improvement but are still woefully vague. Moreover, it is apparent that SE is incapable of providing any better guidance as indicated by comments from SE employees to the effect that they are "learning, too" and that they "may not have all the answers immediately". I have therefore come to the conclusion that there is no point in waiting any longer for SE to provide better guidance to moderators on how to enforce the new Code of Conduct, otherwise I will be forced to wait indefinitely.

Although SE's actions these past few weeks are reprehensible, I do not wish to hurt this site by leaving it with an understaffed moderation team as a way to try to punish SE. I genuinely enjoy assisting the community in caring for the site; I work for this site and its community, not for SE. Therefore I am resuming activity as a moderator, effective immediately.

As for the new Code of Conduct and FAQs, if I encounter a flag related to pronouns I will use my best judgment -- as I always do -- to handle it properly. Due to the lack of clear guidance from SE I will only handle the most obvious such flags myself, and I will forward all other such flags to the CMs so they can figure out the correct answer. If that's not good enough for SE then so be it.


Original response:

I can't be too specific but the two remaining active moderators are each handling a limited number of flags. Still, the flag queue is the largest I've ever seen it (on both main and meta) and the average flag handling time has spiked to over 24 hours for the past week (by comparison, the average is typically around 2 hours).

Flags for moderator attention never age away, though other types of flags age away as explained by an SE employee here.

I can't speak for Rand and Kevin but I, for one, am waiting to see the final text of the new Code of Conduct (which is due out today) and explanations on how moderators are supposed to enforce the new requirements. I will decide what I will do next once this information is available. (Several drafts of the modified Code of Conduct text have been posted in the Teacher's Lounge and the moderators' Team but the drafts are too different from each other to tell what the final text might be.)


Update as of October 15:

The new CoC is out as well as two sets of FAQs regarding the changes (one for all users which is available on main meta, and another tailored to moderators in the moderators' Team). However, there are still important questions about the new CoC (such as how to determine whether a pronoun is requested in good or bad faith) which remain unanswered or are vaguely/inadequately answered. Additionally, we've been told in the Teacher's Lounge that SE is planning to modify the FAQ on main meta. Therefore I must unfortunately continue to wait for SE to provide answers.

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    Ah forgot the new CoC was due out today, thanks for the update. And didn't realise some flags didn't age away, I must have misinterpreted the help page or it's a bit unclear in this regard. Thanks again. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 at 14:01
  • @TheLethalCarrot I think all the flags that age away are flags that the community can ultimately handle by themselves (it just takes multiple regular users vs. one moderator). Flags for moderator attention never age away, and those are usually the most important anyway. – Null Oct 10 at 14:05
  • I think comment flags can also age away, and those are essentially mod-only. Edit: I found this main meta, but not sure if that's specifically about post flags or all flags. – Rand al'Thor Oct 10 at 14:13
  • @Randal'Thor Yes, I just found that page, too. – Null Oct 10 at 14:20
  • Yeah comment flags are sort of a grey area for information if they age away or not. I can't really work it out myself. Hopefully they don't though. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 at 14:23
  • FWIW is the average time of over 24 hours per flag for all flags or moderator handled ones? If the latter then the moderator handled flag handling times is probably averaging a lot more than that. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 at 14:32
  • @TheLethalCarrot I'm not sure. The UI simply says "x flags, average handling time Y". – Null Oct 10 at 14:39
  • Okay, a bit unfortunate but thanks for the update again. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 at 14:45
15

I'm back.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote up my thoughts on staying vs quitting, for all conflicted users including myself. Now, having thought through all the issues involved and discussed with my fellow mods, I've decided to resume moderating. Here's a few of the important thoughts which led me to this conclusion.

  • I'm NOT a representative (or even necessarily supportive) of SE / SO Inc. Something I've often wondered is whether the mod job is meant to be representing the company to the community or representing the community to the company. For me at least, it's much more the latter. I'm not one of those "network users" who was always destined to become a mod somewhere, running in elections even if it's not their most active site. I moderate a site whose subject matter appeals to me, and I like to help keep that site clean. That's basically it. I don't need to like or support the company that hosts the site, and I never did anyway.

  • I don't feel that I need to do this for the community's sake. Some mods cite caring about their sites and communities as a reason to continue. I do care about the site, but I don't feel pressure or moral obligation from that angle. I'm aware that, if I stepped down, others would step up: SFF is busy and thriving with many active users, and it wouldn't die with the loss of one or more diamond mods. There are various users whom I like and have a lot of mutual respect with, but nobody I care about would lose respect for me if I didn't have a diamond any more. Quite simply, I enjoy the work I'm doing; the fact that it helps an internet company and a lot of other people is by-the-by.

  • I intend to follow my conscience until it gets me fired. The moderator job involves a lot of judgement calls, cases where there's no very clear rule or consensus to follow and an individual mod or mod team needs to decide what to do. I'm going to continue doing what I believe is right, although I know that this is never going to please everyone - many mod decisions upset someone, and many upset users complain to SE staff. I don't wish to take actions that I can't justify even to myself, because then I won't be able to justify them to anyone else either. I know that at least one CM takes the same view of moderation - "as a voter or moderator, you are first and foremost accountable to your own conscience" - but I'm open to the possibility that one day acting according to my conscience may be in conflict with SE requirements. That day has already come for some moderators. It hasn't come yet for me, but I intend to continue following my conscience even if one day it gets me fired.

  • I'm aware of my expendability. Let's be brutally objective: every individual user, every individual moderator, perhaps even every whole site except SO, is expendable as far as the company is concerned. I don't flatter myself that, if deciding whether or not to demod me, they'd hesitate on the grounds that I'm an active moderator on a largish site. I don't consider it guaranteed that I'll be able to continue moderating as long as I like. I'm picking up the tools again with the knowledge that they might be unexpectedly taken away at any time.

  • I've checked my own advice. Going through my own post point by point: I'm keeping the site clean because I enjoy it; I've taken care to keep my SE and RL personas separate; I don't intend to talk about my socio-political views on SE; I never felt loyalty or trust for the company; and I hope that this post represents an objective decision.


Finally, I apologise for not posting here before (I should have informed this community before posting on main meta), and for allowing flags to fester for so long. Handling times have really suffered this month, but I look forward to clearing up a lot of the crap that's been waiting too long in the queue.

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    Well, what matters is that you know we're all expendable. If ever there was a lesson consistently hammered into our heads. – Carpe CM Nov 4 at 13:55

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