As we all know by now, Richard is stepping down as a moderator for this Stack.

As Richard notes both in his announcement and in chat, he was asked to step down by a community manager.

After speaking with the powers-that-be, I have been offered a stark choice; jump ship or get pushed.


I received an email from [a CM] this morning headed "I'm asking you to step down as a moderator on Scifi Stack Exchange"


Aside from how we feel about this, I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know why.

  1. What was the problem that needed to be solved?
  2. Why was the solution to ask Richard to step down?

I understand that the specifics can probably not be divulged and I'm certainly not asking who complained, but I am asking if the reasons in general can be explained. If nothing else, as guidance for current and future moderators.

  • 39
    I am also genuinely curious what it actually takes to force a mod out; I'm fairly certain I've seen far far worse cases of blatent mod abuse-of-power than the petty stuff Richard has (often unfairly) been accused of.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 11:59
  • 8
    Whatever else you can say about Richard, his actions as a mod certainly trigger...how to put this delicately... enthusiasm in respondents, on both sides Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 12:51
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    100% fully agree with @MikeEdenfield's statement. I have had my share of disagreements with a few specific decisions by Richard but by and large, he was far far from the worst moderator, both on the whole network and even on just this site. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:33
  • 2
    @JasonBaker - examples? I objected to some of his actions as a user, but rarely as a mod. Granted, I stepped down from site activity some, so may have missed something. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:33
  • 1
    @DVK I should clarify that I meant "actions taken while a mod;" based on the discussion I've seen, it seems like some users occasionally have difficulty separating the two. But I just meant that his actions have tended to be polarizing; the recent Interstellar hullabaloo being a fresh example Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:40
  • @JasonBaker - I admit I missed that one. Ironically, as a result of having been partially ran off the site by a combination of non-Richard moderator actions (including non-site moderators in chat). Would you mind to provide a 30sec summary? Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:49
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    @DVK Someone asked "Were the moon landings faked, in Interstellar", and Richard removed the "in Interstellar" part. The question promptly got onto the HNQ list, and then controversy happened Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:53
  • 1
    @JasonBaker - Oh that!?!?! Sorry, I did know about that, just missed that it's "interstellar" related. I reviewed the original post's edit history and I can see absolutely zero issue with any moderator action by him. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:55
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    @DVK I agree, but as evidenced by the week-long meta discussion people on both the "Richard was right" and "Richard was wrong" sides of the argument got a bit excited; that's what I mean by "polarizing" Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:57
  • @JasonBaker - I see what you mean. But I suspect that there are far more polarizing moderator decisions and meta posts on the site :) Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 14:08
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    @DVK: The distinction between "actions as a mod" and "actions as a users" is a nuance that doesn't matter. You can't ask the masses to perceive the distinction and mods need to be aware of that. Moderators have a responsibility to appear impartial all the time or it detracts from the site and the experience of everyone. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 15:24
  • 16
    While I'm not going to get but so involved with this issue, I do have to agree with the above comment. A moderator has to maintain a certain sense of impartiality and authority. Their actions as a moderator may be different than their actions as a user, but the perception of their actions as a user can color how they're seen as a moderator, so it's important a moderator keep their actions as a user in line with what's expected of the behavior of a moderator.
    – Tango
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 15:27

2 Answers 2


First of all, allow me to be clear - Richard is an active and well-respected member of the community. His contributions and participation as a user are not in question. However, over the course of the last few weeks we have become convinced that he is not as well suited to being a moderator. I will do my best to explain how and why, although out of respect for Richard, I will refrain from going into specifics.

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.

Why was the solution to ask Richard to step down?

Everybody makes errors, but if the same issues keep occurring, then we're responsible for acknowledging and acting on them.

In the past we had communicated with Richard regarding the kind of behavior we were looking to see, with specific examples as well as general guidance. However, when it became apparent that his behavior was not changing, the Community Team and the remaining SciFi moderation team came to a consensus that it was best for Richard not to continue as a mod, but for him to maintain his status as a respected contributor within the community.

What happens now? Doesn't this go against the concept of moderator elections?

This site is built collaboratively by the community and the Stack Exchange system is designed to allow everyone to participate in site moderation. However, the responsibilities of diamond-moderators are unique, and not everyone is well-suited to the role.

The Community Team is here to support moderators and communities. We take great care not to interfere with the day-to-day operations. We aim to take such a dramatic action as asking a moderator to step down rarely if ever, only after ample feedback has been provided, and when other options have been exhausted.

There will be another moderator election in the coming weeks to ensure a full moderator team is here to serve the community going forward.

  • 41
    There is no and can be no process for that, @SQB. You're essentially asking us to publicly air concerns instead of taking them to the one person who can actually address them. No one responds well to that, and cheap drama gets in the way of y'all getting anything done.
    – Shog9
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 20:45
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    I don't necessarily agree with this, but I am glad that you've responded to the questions that the community has and I thank you for that. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 21:06
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    Someone mentioned the election process. Most look at the election process as a popularity contest. Just because you are popular within an SE doesn't mean you'll make a good mod. After pursuing being a mod on one site, I realized it wasn't something I really want to do. You can do almost everything you can do as a "popular" (ie: high rep) user, yet you are not confined or tied down. You have more freedom to act, answer, and behave. Unfortunately I saw this very early on with Richard. Nothing against him personally, it's just he's not mod material. This is a good thing for SciFi in the end. Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 16:53
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    I appreciate the answer, but I can't bring myself to accept it. But thank you for providing an answer.
    – SQB
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 16:27
  • Is there any word on when the election will be held?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 4:31
  • @WadCheber I was under the impression that CM elections were annual. I think the last elections were in October or December, but I am not that active in this site.
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 15:37
  • @DJMethaneMan- I think that was the last election. You're half a year late to that party. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 12:21

I am concerned that "the title controversy" was mentioned here, albeit just in a comment.

This was NOT in ANY WAY the desired outcome, of my post questioning the moon landing title change, Should this be a clickbait site, or should we stand by SE standards of question quality?

At most, I hoped for clarified policies: a learning opportunity, not a blame-and-punishment game. As it is, whoever replaces him will likely have to make the same mistakes, because mistakes are part of learning. All that experience he's gained through his mistakes will be lost.

I really hope my question was not a major part of the decision. If it was... I feel unable to ever question mod actions again, if the reaction against the mod can be so heavy.

If just asking if something should be handled differently in future gets them kicked out, how can I push for improvement?

  • 17
    I really doubt it was a major part of the story. Everyone is just referencing it because it was the most recent most visible thing they saw. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 4:41
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    I hope so. :( What little I've seen of his modding - for example, his responses in that very question - were exemplary. He posted enough to let people know he was watching, but didn't become embroiled in the discussion, nor constrain it in any way. He walked the perfect line there, I felt. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 4:46
  • 5
    Honestly, I feel that your title on that question was really inappropriate and biased. Who in their right mind would pick "clickbait"... but that's not really what the discussion was even about.
    – Catija
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 4:49
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    @Catja - I'd be happy to edit the question if you have a better term for "a title that is explicitly designed to attract clicks through deception, misdirection, and incomplete information, à la Buzzfeed". Far as I know, "Clickbait" is neither inappropriate nor biased, but rather just the correct modern term for this kind of title. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 5:25
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    @DewiMorgan - Like Catija states, this isn't what it was about. The fact he wasn't amending his ways after being asked to is clearly where the issue lies. It's not all about you ;-) Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 0:28
  • @Catija In addition to Dewi's explanation, there is a badge for question views, so there's also some very small incentive to it. Plus more viewers means more of everything else (answers/voting/etc) anyway.
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 20:46

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