56

Over the past few months, I have become increasingly aware that my role as Moderator is conflicting with my and others enjoyment of the site; attracting controversy and acting as a lighting-rod for some less pleasant elements, both from within the site and from the wider SE community.

After speaking with the powers-that-be, I have been offered a stark choice; jump ship or get pushed. Since disputing the situation serves no other purpose than to damage the site I love (and ironically court even more controversy) I'm choosing to bow to inevitable and to hand over my Moderatorship with immediate effect.

I hope you'll understand my decision and will offer the existing site mods your support as they pick up the slack from my absence from the team. Those 200+ members who voted for me, I hope will forgive me for not living up to their fullest expectations.

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    I'll be making a slightly longer (and more thoughtful) statement later on but feel free to message me in Mos Eisley if you want any more info. – Valorum Oct 2 '15 at 6:10
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    Uh, wow........... – ThePopMachine Oct 2 '15 at 6:29
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    @ThePopMachine - Wow indeed. – Valorum Oct 2 '15 at 7:32
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    I'm upvoting this not because I agree with the decision, but just so that it gets visibility. Poor Richard! – Rand al'Thor Oct 2 '15 at 8:59
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    I don't think you've been disruptive to the community, but I hope that, in the aftermath of this, you'll be a bit more at peace not having to fight people. – FuzzyBoots Oct 2 '15 at 17:04
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    This makes me very sad. – Wad Cheber Oct 2 '15 at 20:46
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    ACK NO! I really hope my moon landings title question wasn't part of this. I fear it was. Is getting rid of an experienced, tactful and skillful mod who takes criticism well, really the best avenue to take? Won't whoever replaces you have to retread your steps in learning all the hard-won experience, re-making the mistakes you've learned from? My upvote here is to show support for you, not approval of the situation. – Dewi Morgan Oct 3 '15 at 4:14
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    We will remember you as a great fallen moderator in our hearts. You were a excellent mod, and I see no reason for anyone to dare ask you to step down. I demand that Jon Skeet hack SE and give him the position back! Uhhh, ignore that last part ;) – Anthony Pham Oct 7 '15 at 1:26
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    This is disappointing to hear, but if it is going to work out better for you overall then its a good move for you, and that's what I care about. As online communities mature they tend to change character for the worse, despite being largely composed of smart, interesting and genuinely well intended people. Its just the nature of the beast: angst aggregates, faith dissipates. I sincerely hope that you stick around as a user. You've set me straight with some insightful criticism before that has made me not just a better answerer, but a more thoughtful writer also. Powerful. Thank you. – zxq9 Oct 11 '15 at 14:31
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    I just read this. Obviously from what he posted he was asked to step down. I've had many run ins with Richard, probably as many as anybody else. I never reported them I just dealt with it and decided to get along with him. He was helpful in several situations and I know he did A LOT of mod work on here that others were not doing. – JMFB Oct 28 '15 at 2:41
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    -cont'd- With all of that being said, my biggest problem is that he was elected, and unless he did something egregious (racist, bigoted, direct violation of the rules, or multiple minor violations of the rules while ignoring warnings), he should only be removed by the community not by the powers that be, that's crazy. It makes me not want to vote for anything around here.Whatever power hungry crap people accused Richard of, it's the same exact thing in terms of how he was removed (forced to resign). – JMFB Oct 28 '15 at 2:41
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    @andresf. I'm honestly debating whether I can be bothered continuing with this site. – Valorum Nov 22 '15 at 14:33
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    @AndresF. - True, but it's been made abundantly clear (by my receiving one ban immediately followed by another) that I'm not really welcome here. Ana and Shog will no doubt concoct another reason to ban me after this latest one runs out and I'm not sure I have the emotional energy to care any more. At the end of the day, it's just a website. – Valorum Nov 23 '15 at 15:30
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    @AndresF. - I just feel drained/tired. I was more than happy to wear a 7 day ban but extending it to 90 days was just spiteful. – Valorum Nov 23 '15 at 16:17

10 Answers 10

44

This will be downvoted, but let me be the first to say this is the right decision.
(I have nothing to do with any recent activity which may have led to this.)

As @Richard has said

I have become increasingly aware that my role as Moderator is conflicting with my and others enjoyment of the site; attracting controversy and acting as a lighting-rod...

This is precisely right. Everyone uniformly appreciates and recognizes that @Richard is a great contributor and part of the lifeblood of this site.

But it's been my opinion for a while based on observations that @Richard never really recognized that a moderator needs to appear impartial. It reminds me of the anti-corruption training I must repeat at work every year, even the appearance of impropriety is a problem. Therein comes the lightning-rod.

@Richard can and should have opinions. Sometimes you agree with them, sometimes you don't. Serving as a moderator can be in conflict with that. It takes a certain mindset to put impartiality ahead of everything else. This is not @Richard's focus.

@Richard and the site will be better served by the removal of this conflict, so he can make his contributions and argue his points without the appearance of impropriety.


Edit:
@Ana♢ posted this answer to this question: Why was a moderator on our Stack asked to step down? which I think essentially echoes my thoughts.

What was the problem that needed to be solved?

As explained in A Theory of Moderation, we expect moderators to be ambassadors who are held to a higher standard of behavior. They should be exemplary of the community at its best.

As much as he is an excellent contributor, and a beloved community member, Richard has not always been able to embody this sort of behavior when faced with trying circumstances, both in chat, as well as on the main site. This is not a reflection on Richard as a person, or a user, but it does present a problem for him as a moderator. Moderators are trusted to rein in not only their own words and actions, but those of others as well, and in Richard's case, we eventually lost the ability to expect that.

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    "This will be downvoted" << jumps to the top in 20 minutes with no downvotes. :-P – alexwlchan Oct 2 '15 at 15:10
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    @alexwlchan: I'm trying to figure out what it means that no one would express this opinion for nine hours. – ThePopMachine Oct 2 '15 at 15:11
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    I have some ideas, but no time to type them out right now. Remind me later. – alexwlchan Oct 2 '15 at 15:12
  • @ThePopMachine : I have heavily revised my post and quoted you. I hope that's okay. – Praxis Oct 2 '15 at 20:37
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    @Praxis: No problem at all. Apparently we have no problem disagreeing without it being personal, I believe because we both can see how the other could have the opinion they do. I wish this happened more. – ThePopMachine Oct 2 '15 at 21:46
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    I did indeed downvote. I don't disagree that a mod needs to appear impartial, but I definitely disagree that it was the right decision. As far as most of us are concerned, Richard WAS being impartial. Just because a handful of users don't like getting legitimately corrected, they say he's being partial. And that's not the case. – Omegacron Oct 9 '15 at 20:30
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    @alexwlchan, you never answered – ThePopMachine Oct 17 '15 at 2:37
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    +1 I fully agree with this. Justice and impartiality must not only be there; it must also be evident that they are in place. Appearances matter because they shape how others see the place. I thought this was self-evident... – Andres F. Nov 22 '15 at 14:24
32

Thanks, @Richard.

And I mean that.

I've been annoyed with some aspects of your modding, like the announcements in chat every time you swung your "Hammer of the Mods". But I was very pleased with your commitment to this stack and your efforts in maintaining and promoting it.

You say you acted like a lightning-rod. I say that's a very useful function. Yes, moderators should do their work behind the scenes in general, but I found it very useful to have one very visible mod who is always in chat to talk to, complain to, and to blame — with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

So I'm sad to see you step down and I hope that you will remain as active on the site as you have been.

Thanks, @Richard.

19

Although I have disagreed with some of your decisions in your capacity as both a regular user and moderator, I consider you to be one of the most valuable members of the community. I think you did a good job as a moderator overall (primarily because you're so active), and I have great respect for your ability to thoroughly answer so many questions on the site. I am pleased that you plan to continue participating as a regular user.

In light of the controversy surrounding some of your decisions as a moderator, it is probably best for the community that you step down. I commend you for stepping down honorably and without a fight so as to avoid further controversy. Your love for this site is obvious.

Thank you for all your efforts, both as a moderator and as a regular user.

15

What follows is a heavily-revised version of an earlier post. The revisions are intended to address issues brought up in other answers.

Richard as a moderator

First of all, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Richard has been an excellent moderator. Let me explain why:

  • Availability: One thing that cannot be disputed is that Richard has been available — even when the poor man was on holiday recently. Richard has been visible and ready and willing to respond to issues, crises, and dramas of all sizes. In many cases, he has prevented larger issues from occurring.
  • Outcome of Decisions: Do people disagree with his decisions? Of course. If something needs to be moderated, then there are usually two sides to the story, and someone will always feel slighted by the process. Also, moderation on the stack is not a tribunal process. Moderation requires action. I would say that Richard's moderation has solved more problems than it has caused, which means he was acting and often taking the correct action.
  • Impartiality: I see very little favouritism or other such abuses in his moderation history. As one example, let's take comment removal. He snips comment threads when they get too long (or too heated). Some people take issue with this, but (a) comments are described in the overarching SE philosophy as being temporary, (b) I have seen no "patterns" in his comment removal, and (c) I have seen him remove comments that would benefit him if they were to stay. In general, if one is unhappy with a moderation decision, it is easy to start seeing "patterns" of favouritism where there are none.
  • Chat Room Behaviour: It's been noted that he whips out the "mod hammer", etc., when in the chat room. But the chat room is not the site. I would be more concerned if Richard posted the mod hammer in comments below a question or answer. Richard's personality was "available" to the public prior to his election. I'm not sure we should penalize him for being himself in chat.

All in all, I will be sad to see Richard go as a moderator. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to this community in your moderator capacity.

Richard as a user

I feel that some of the issues with Richard as a moderator come from the perception of Richard as a user.

Let's be clear: Richard is more famous on this site for being an extremely high-rep user than for being a mod.

For instance, at one point, an issue was taken with him as a moderator when the real problem was with him as a user. Richard had downvoted a question which (in all honesty) was perfectly legitimate and identified himself as the downvoter, which then caused or further fueled a downvote mini-apocalypse. The OP became agitated at this, and Richard's influence as a moderator came up:

I hope you can accept the criticism that on many occasions I see you downvoting or criticizing myself and others (Ernie most recently comes to mind) in a not-unbiased way which isn't befitting a moderator. In this instance, downvoting should be primarily for ill-formed or off-topic questions, not because YOU think the answer is "yes, it's a coincidence." YOUR leadership influences people.

The OP makes an interesting point, but it's really about Richard the high-rep user, not about Richard the moderator. Richard exerts this perceived influence because of his high rep and visibility, not because he is a moderator.

I contend that Richard has, indeed, been excellent as a moderator, and everyone is allowed to make a few mistakes. I feel, however, that ever since he became a mod, we have been unable to separate Richard the moderator from Richard the user.

One might counter this by saying that he hasn't sufficiently separated these two roles, but I also contend that he has, to the extent that sometimes I feel that I have been dealing with two different users, Richard with his mod cap on and Richard with his "my answer is better than yours and the novelization thinks so too" cap on. ;-)

For the record, Richard the user is a good guy, too, but I think if there are concerns, they are with the asker/answerer not with the moderator.

  • I don't know the extent to which you're joking. But obviously this proposal wouldn't work for him. – ThePopMachine Oct 2 '15 at 18:42
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    @ThePopMachine : It's a "real" proposal in the sense that I actually do believe he should stay a moderator. It's not a "real" proposal in the sense that I don't actually believe that he should step down as an answerer (hence my winky face). I'm just using this opportunity to defend his moderation, which I do believe has been excellent, and at the same time bug him a bit about some of his answering tendencies. – Praxis Oct 2 '15 at 18:49
  • |AFTER THE EDIT| Sure, you can take this position. But see this comment on why I take the position I do (which essentially echoes the excerpt you quoted above, but in more reasonable and less heated terms). (Note the upvoting pattern on the comment and @Tango's follow up.) – ThePopMachine Oct 2 '15 at 21:49
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    I think this makes a good point, of not separating user from moderator. I see that on other stacks. A moderator that is such a highly-active user on the front of things is bound to ruffle more feathers than a moderator that's not so visibly active. Makes me wonder what the "incidents per moderator activities" level is compared to others. Can statistical analysis be used to gain some insight? – user31178 Oct 3 '15 at 17:15
  • @CreationEdge - I think the short version is that he gets more criticism simply because he's more visible. – Omegacron Oct 9 '15 at 20:33
13

This is sad and in my opinion seems like a clearly wrong move on CM's part.

  • On absolute scale, Richard is a pretty good moderator in my (admittedly limited) experience.

    While I have disagreed with a few of his moderation decisions, but not with the overall pattern was overwhelmingly fine.

  • On relative scale, Richard is far from the worst moderator, either on the network at large or even (IMHO) on this specific SFF.SE site.

  • The only 2 major controversies surrounding relations with other users that I'm aware of that involved Richard, he as a moderator wasn't at fault:

    • In one of them (departure of a well respected user), Richard clearly did not act well as a user and (imho!) was in the wrong. BUT, the respected user was forced off the site due to moderator activity of another moderator far more than any moderation action by @Richard, even if R's user action as a user triggered the sequence of events.

    • In another, a user who objected to Richard's moderation was clearly being a troll (and this comes from someone who was pretty much the only person on the site who openly stated that the site community treated said troll unfairly overall) and I haven't observed a single instance of action by Richard as a moderator that was objectionable towards that user.

For context, this comes from someone who has largely been infamously dis-satisfied with moderation on this site.

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    @randal'thor - there's plenty of people on this site who ain't too happy with me (or with Richard). More than enough for 10 DVs :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 3 '15 at 1:42
9

I'd just like to register my thoughts on the matter;

This sucks. Richard was a great moderator in my opinion, and I can't see the site being as good without him as a significant part of it. He was fair, active, and genuinely cared about the site.

I'd also like to say, with utmost sincerity;

Thanks, @Richard.

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    For the record, I will be remaining a "significant part" of the site, just not as a moderator. I do plan to remain an active member here and probably the site's most active member. – Valorum Oct 2 '15 at 8:28
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    @Richard Just try not to get in SO much trouble that they suspend you! :-) – Rand al'Thor Oct 2 '15 at 9:12
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    @Richard That's great news! – Mr. Bultitude Oct 4 '15 at 2:52
6

Richard,
I don't always agree with your opinions, but I greatly respect the breadth of your SFF knowledge. I hope you stay with us.
Joe L.

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    I ain't going anywhere. – Valorum Oct 5 '15 at 19:14
5

RICHARD SUCKS, said almost nobody ever on this site. We like you, Richard. And we're sorry to see you dropped as a moderator.

Heck, I voted for you, so now I feel doubly robbed.

On related note, I think it's a very bad sign for the future of the community when one or two disgruntled users can (essentially) determine policy for the site.

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    Speaking as a moderator on a site where the users were VERY unhappy with the entire mod team during the initial launch, disgruntled users can't force a mod to step down or be asked to resign. I would suspect that there is blame to be spread on both sides, and there were things unrelated to being a moderator that contributed. – JohnP Oct 2 '15 at 17:20
  • LOL why did this get so many downvotes? I guess maybe it seems like an extended comment? And honestly, whether or not a handful of users can get someone "fired" is really up to the head guys at SE, not the community where it happens. – Omegacron Oct 9 '15 at 20:34
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    @Omegacron I imagine some folks saw "RICHARD SUCKS" as the first two words of your post and stopped reading, downvoted, and did whatever the internet version of "storming off" is. I was shocked for about a half second there myself when my I noticed those two words in caps in my peripheral vision -- amazing how fast the eye catches that part. – zxq9 Oct 12 '15 at 16:56
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    @zxq9 - you're probably right, and that could also be the problem people have with Richard. They see something they don't like and then don't bother to find out why it's there. – Omegacron Oct 12 '15 at 17:40
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    @Omegacron, that may be it for some, but I believe many of the downvotes and because of disagreement with your assertion that it was due to a couple disgruntled users. The CMs have even said as much. You shouldn't be so sure you're right that you assume anyone who disagrees with you didn't like your tone or presentation. – ThePopMachine Oct 17 '15 at 2:43
4

I understand why this happened, but I don't necessarily agree with the decision. I consider this a significant loss to the community, but one that we will recover from.

When I joined this site about 6 months ago, Richard was the first mod I interacted with. He was extremely helpful to me, and over the course of the following weeks, I repeatedly dragged him into chat so I could pester him about all kinds of things.

He taught me how to become a useful contributor to the site, and the fact that I accumulated over 14,000 rep in my first four months here is largely a testament to his advice and tutelage. He told me to look for the best answers already on the site, and model my own answers on them. I followed his advice, paying particular attention to answers from Jason Baker, Thaddeus, Phantom42, and of course, Richard himself.

I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for Richard's patience, generosity, and instruction. Aside from helping me become a better user, he also made it more fun to be here. We sometimes disagree with one another, but I can only think of two or three instances in which I disagreed with his actions as a moderator.

I'm sad to see him step down as moderator, but I am delighted that he will stick around as a user. He has been an enormous asset to the community, and he was even more valuable as a mod. The community will suffer a bit from losing him as a mod, but at least we will continue to benefit from his contributions as a user.

-1

I just read this.

I haven't been active lately because of all the bs crap that's been going on around here.

Obviously from what he posted he was asked to step down. I've had many run ins with Richard, probably as many as anybody else. I never reported them I just dealt with it and decided to get along with him.

He was helpful in several situations and I know he did A LOT of mod work on here that others were not doing.

With all of that being said, my biggest problem is that he was elected, and unless he did something egregious (racist, bigoted, direct violation of the rules, or multiple minor violations of the rules while ignoring warnings), he should only be removed by the community not by the powers that be, that's crazy. It makes me not want to vote for anything around here.

And if he did do something that egregious such as racism, or major rule violations, etc. then we as a community should know about it. But as it stands all that happened is an unnamed person or several people filed some undisclosed complaint and an entire communities elected official was removed thereby nullifying their votes.

Whatever power hungry crap people accused Richard of, it's the same exact thing in terms of how he was removed (forced to resign).

  • 4
    How exactly would the community go about removing a moderator? Are you proposing that there be a "vote out" option, or "unelections" periodically? – Beofett Oct 28 '15 at 13:58

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