Null - What a great answer on what it's like to moderate at SFF! I somehow missed it when you originally wrote it - so even though it's been a while, I have a couple comments.

I've shared before that I was a moderator for a very large Harry Potter forum-based website for five years, and I only bring it up again because I do feel it gives me credibility and demonstrates I have the experience to make a valid observation about moderating. Been there, done that.

In addition to what you wrote, Null, I want to point out that when you're a moderator, it's super important to recognize when your heart is no longer in the game, and resign.

In my case, I carried out my moderator duties with happy diligence for five years - but then one day I sat down at my computer to start reviewing forum posts, as I did every day, and I found I just didn't want to do it. I was done. So I nervously tendered my resignation, scared that I would be leaving the site in the lurch (which was silly because there were a ton of other mods) and that everyone would be angry with me for leaving. But that's not what happened. Instead, I received an outpouring of gratitude from my fellow mods and the site owner, and thanks for the time I had given the site over five years. So, yeah, it's okay to have limits.

As a moderator, you don't want to find that in order to get all your duties done, you're suddenly spending ten hours a day on the site without a break. You will burn out fast. It's important for moderators to carve out time where they can just be regular users, and ask and answer questions, or review posts, comment, or even perhaps chat. And if you find that moderating turns out to be something that just isn't for you, step down quickly. Put the site's needs ahead of your own - always.

I bring this up because, well, it's true - some of the SFF mods do little to no moderation, yet they won't resign. I have never understood why Stack Exchange doesn't consistently remove inactive moderators, and I don't want to hear about moderators who are mostly inactive but allegedly take on a little "behind-the-scenes action" - that is totally unbelievable. I don't want to hear that a mod who isn't performing their duties is "on strike" over a situation that has long been resolved, or a mod who will only handle the occasional flag because he/she "isn't a people person", etc. If you're a moderator, you need to maintain a visible presence on the site that you manage. Period. The site users should know you and be able to approach you if you're a mod.

I realize this may be considered by some as a foray into opinion, but it's an essential point because inactive moderators who refuse to resign prevent the site from having a full, functioning moderation team. This affects all our users. Four functional moderators are going to get a lot more work done than two active moderators and two moderators who have ghosted the site. One of our inactive mod's last activity was in October 2019. Another mod was last active in April with one action, but prior to that had no action for nine months. Another puts in around an hour or two a week of moderating, which is insufficient for a site as big as SFF. So, yes, inactive mods, please, please resign!

JNat explains the policy for removing inactive moderators on Meta SE.

I moved my comments on Mos Eisley here.

PS - Null and Rand al'Thor - you guys are great mods! Thank you.

  • 12
    Moderator Kevin - Last site action was in August 2019
    – Valorum
    May 5, 2020 at 17:47
  • 12
    Moderator Thaddeus - Last site action was in October 2019
    – Valorum
    May 5, 2020 at 17:48
  • 11
    Moderator AncientSwordRage - Average of one site action per month in 2020, 1.8 actions per month in 2019.
    – Valorum
    May 5, 2020 at 17:50
  • 12
    @Valorum - Thank you for clarifying the stats. I want to be clear that this post is about moderator activity and is not personal about any of the mods in question, all of whom I like and respect as users. My goal is not to insult anyone. :) May 5, 2020 at 17:59
  • 12
    Indeed. The fact that Thaddeus (for example) is extremely active elsewhere is a fair indication that their "heart is no longer in the game"
    – Valorum
    May 5, 2020 at 18:02
  • 13
    I don't object to you raising this issue, but the phrase "total BS" is very offputting. Most moderator tasks (deleting comments, messaging/suspending users, deleting/closing posts, other kinds of bans - basically everything mods do that ordinary users can't) isn't public or at least doesn't show up in the public activity logs that Valorum linked. To be told that this fact about SE moderation is "total BS" is disheartening. Could you find a nicer way to express what you want to say there?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    May 6, 2020 at 19:12
  • 2
    @Randal'Thor - I have removed "total BS" from the post. Is it more acceptable now? :) May 6, 2020 at 19:21
  • 7
    Interestingly, I had never heard of the mods Valorum mentioned until now ... and I check this site somewhat often even if I'm not that active May 8, 2020 at 15:44
  • 5
    @AzorAhai - I think that hits the nail on the head. When moderately active users have never interacted with a moderator in years, it undermines the concept of moderators being 'of the community'
    – Valorum
    May 9, 2020 at 7:28
  • 3
    After reading through a couple of times, I realise that the second "you" is not intended towards Null, but moderators in general in "In addition to what you wrote, Null, I want to point out that when you're a moderator..." Can I suggest rephrasing to "In addition to what Null wrote, I want to point out that when one is a moderator ...."?
    – muru
    May 11, 2020 at 7:39

3 Answers 3


First and foremost, thank you for sharing your thoughts on what is like to be a moderator even if it was not here. I remember in my early days on the site what a pleasure I had reading your answers (that is also when I learned what "irregular voting patterns" were) and interacting with you in chat (and still do). You clearly walk the talk in how you approach the site and your activity on it.

Regardless of whether or not this is a "problem", we have been asking for a change.

This is not the first time or second time (maybe not even the third time) that this issue has come up "recently". As much as it pains me to say, I think we will be met with some of the responses that you call out as "BS". I hope I am wrong.

Even with all the turmoil that happened across the network and the promises of making things better with the users, I believe the company is still interested in maintaining the status quo. What this means for us on SFF is that the company is not going to make a change unless either 1) all (except maybe a lone survivor) of the moderators leave or become inactive and/or 2) the current moderator team asks for help. Somehow if we as user group believe a change is needed we need to find some other avenue to change the company's mind. I am not entirely sure what that is.

Judging by the past responses from the active moderators, it seems they are fine with handling the work load they are given. However, now our most active moderator has taken on a second moderation role on the network I. While I know they are awesome at what they do and I am certainly not speaking for them; I still worry about having to split their time and the ripple effect it may have.

So these are my questions to the site moderators and community managers:

  1. Why is it that users who are clearly no longer vested in the site allowed to hold the highest position of trust and privileges?
  2. Why are users who barely (if at all) interact with those they are moderating?
  3. What example is this setting for the future success of moderation of the site?
  4. Why are the moderators we are making claims against not defending their own inaction (except Kevin that one time)?

I do not need direct answers (although feel free if you wish), but at least maybe you can let us know you hear us.

This site has several active users who jump at chance to to help the community grow and flourish and be the next wave of "human exception handlers".

In the event we don't need new moderators (i.e. the site can operate just fine with only two active moderators), that is fine too, but the ones who have given up on the site should be removed. If you quit your job in the real world, you don't get to keep the keys to the office!

  • 17
    Hi. Yes, I've recently taken a second moderator diamond. That won't affect how much time I spend at Literature vs SFF (I was already one of the most active Literature users anyway). FWIW, the total number of flags on Literature in the past 365 days is less than the total number on SFF in the last 30 days, and there are 3 mods on Literature, so the mod workload there is barely a blip compared with that on SFF.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 21:58

I've decided to resume active moderation, effective immediately, under a revised attitude respecting the community's relationship with Stack Exchange, Inc. We're a community acting mostly independently of SE, and as far as I'm concerned, SE is now just another profit-driven corporation that happens to host our content, not so different from Facebook or Reddit.

  • 9
    And while I'm sure that many will be interested to hear that you've resumed moderation duties (I'm assuming most SFF users were unaware that you weren't actively moderating the site), OP was wanting more visible site activity, not more "behind the scenes" action. Is that something you'll be doing or is it just more of the same old same old, invisible moderation?
    – Valorum
    May 10, 2020 at 7:32
  • 6
    I’ve not downvoted this but I am very tempted to as it doesn’t really address the OP’s concerns.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    May 10, 2020 at 8:51
  • 8
    I'd have thought you'd be pleased to know that the moderator team is back to its former strength. But it seems there's no pleasing some people.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    May 10, 2020 at 9:24
  • 8
    @Randal'Thor I’m happy he’s back, hence not downvoting, however, as mentioned this isn’t really addressing the concerns of the post. This situation has been going on for years before the strike was even a thought on anyone’s minds.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    May 10, 2020 at 9:37
  • 9
    @Randal'Thor - Your response (and Kevin's) are tone deaf to the question being asked. The issue being raised isn't a lack of moderation activity, but a near-total lack of engagement with the site itself through comments, editing, response to Meta questions, etc etc
    – Valorum
    May 10, 2020 at 11:01
  • 3
    @Randal'Thor That Kevin has announced he's "returning" shows that the OP's concerns were valid.
    – Möoz
    May 10, 2020 at 23:24
  • 6
    Welcome back Kevin! May 10, 2020 at 23:53
  • 1
    No disrespect but it's a rant in disguise. "I don't want to hear that a mod who isn't performing their duties is "on strike" over a situation that has long been resolved" - neither do I, but that's besides the point of just elect more mods. Except everyone I'd vote for is here and already had a diamond. Seriously, all you guys are still here? - Be disillusioned, 'Keep calm, carry on, or gtfo.' +1.
    – Mazura
    May 18, 2020 at 3:28

Slytherincess' and Skooba's, especially the questions he puts forth, posts are excellent and make some good points. I just want to add onto those by giving some information from A Theory of Moderation and even some updated thoughts from Catija.

A Theory of Moderation is a blog post written by Jeff Atwood on the basic principles of being a moderator on the Stack Exchange network. Whilst this has been reinterpreted and adapted slightly over the years the fundamentals of it holds true to this day.

I'd like to quote the following important section:

So in summary, if you are a community moderator on a Stack Exchange site, here’s what to expect:

  1. As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.

  2. Your goal is to guide the community with gentle — but firm — intervention. Respect your fellow community members at all times; demonstrate fairness and impartiality in your actions.

  3. Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning. This is important so that community members can learn the norms of the community and the moderation policies.

  4. Keep the site reasonably on topic by closing, migrating, or removing blatantly off-topic questions.

  5. Regularly check for flagged posts, and decide if further action is warranted.

  6. In the case of serious disputes, communicate directly with users via email to help mediate and resolve those disputes.

Relevant to this discussion are points 2, 3 and 4:

Whilst a moderator can guide a community in the background, and does with their handling of flags, this can also be done more in the foreground and this brings us to the following points. A moderator can help guide and keep the site inline with policies by doing the more public user moderator actions such as closing posts. Our community does do a good job of this already but there are times when close votes can be on for the best part of a day and are extremely clear which way they fall (leave open, close). It is times like these I think that moderators could step in and vote one way or the other.

This leads into the most important point from the above relative to this discussion: point 3. Some mods are apparently extremely active with handling flags in the background yet only have 2 or 3 public actions in a year. If one was trying to leave comments to explain actions I would expect there to be more than that. The importance of leaving comments in these cases is explained above and I personally think it would be very important to leave more comments when taking actions.

In fact when I last brought this up Shog's answer flips it around back on me and tells me that when I do user moderation actions (editing, closing, etc.) I could do better by leaving more comments. This only reinforces the fact that more comments explaining actions is good and that mods should really try and abide by this to.

At the very least I think that commenting on actions is a good way to help guide and teach the community and also let us know that you are still around and kicking.

We believe deeply in community moderation. That’s why we appoint Pro Tempore Moderators and, ideally, democratically elected community moderators for every site in our network. But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!

I agree with the above moderators should ideally do as little moderation activity above. However, for what they do, do, they can leave comments as per above and be a little more present.

I think it's also worth noting that moderators are site users first and foremost. It's odd for a moderator, in my opinion, to be a site user yet have no public actions for years on end. But this is more of a side point.

I think it's also worth of mentioning Catija's recent post on announcing the Moderator Council. Whilst the introduction section of the post describes what some moderators around the network do, it leads with this information in moving towards what they think moderators could become. Of the points made most require visible actions in shaping and building their community. I know moderators aren't required to do this but the CM's vision of moderators is important to my final point.

Moderators are community leaders whether they like it or not. People see the diamond, they see the position of authority and they look to them for advice and to lead. This is even true in A Theory of Moderation in points 1 and 2, even if it isn't to the same affect here.

Moderators do lead their communities, they shape them, build them and even, in some cases, promote them. I think our moderators could do some more visible actions in these categories for the health of the site and to help us grow.

Now I'm aware this is controversial to some, and doesn't need to be done. In fact I don't even want to have them do this straight away or at all. It's not about forcing anyone to do anything. This, again, is just a side point and an example of something mods could do if they wanted with positive impacts and visible actions. The main point of this post is the top section about just asking for more visible actions: mainly explanatory comments.

  • 7
    I'm at a loss as to why these individuals would want to remain moderators when they're clearly disinterested in being members of the community they serve
    – Valorum
    May 12, 2020 at 12:00
  • 1
    @Valorum Unlimited Power of course
    – Edlothiad
    May 16, 2020 at 16:41

You must log in to answer this question.

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