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There was some confusion recently in meta discussions about moderators, their selection, user interaction and interventions. So I would like to get a better understanding of what is going to happen in the future. Questions:

  1. When elections are conducted in future, will the winners be surely appointed as moderators? Or is it the discretion of the SE team?

  2. If someone is appointed as a moderator, is s/he going to be a moderator for lifetime? Or is there the possibility that s/he would have to vacate the post after a certain amount of time passes(say, an year or so), and new elections will be held?

  3. To what extent is criticism of the moderators allowed? What actions would trigger a permaban(or rather, a very lengthy ban)?

  4. Is it possible to rehabilitate a user after a permaban? Is there a possibility that the ban would be relaxed later? Or is the banned user allowed to use the site with a new account? Again, what is the policy about multiple accounts for the same user(as long as there is no sock-puppetry)?

  5. What is the preferred style of moderation? More precisely, are the moderators supposed to get actively involved in the site activities monitoring each question closely, or is it going to be a rather minimal role in which most work is delegated to the users and moderators enter the scene only when someone flags for moderator attention, etc?

  6. What is the precise distinction between moderators from the SE team, and moderators appointed from the user pool, other than that the SE team would be providing technical support? What would be possible trigger-points for SE team taking over from the "ordinary" moderators?

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    $\begingroup$ The answer to point 5 seems to be here. The answers to 3 and 4, I am very interested in. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Nov 20 '10 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ Additionally: if a user is elected moderator, does it mean that, say, s/he loses the ability to vote to close non-unilaterraly (as is the case in MO)? Or can s/he pick at what times s/he's wearing the moderator hat? $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Nov 21 '10 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Mariano All their votes are binding; they can't vote individually anymore. Letting mods vote like regular users has been brought up before and (I believe) was considered for a while by the devs, but ended up not happening $\endgroup$ – Michael Mrozek Nov 26 '10 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ That is reason enough for some people (me, for example) not to accept the role of moderators. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Nov 26 '10 at 2:59
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+1: I think this is an excellent question.

Regarding 3., the phrase "criticism of the moderators" makes me somewhat uneasy. On the one hand it sounds very personal -- I can hardly imagine a situation in which it would be productive or appropriate to discuss the moderators as people; rather such remarks should be confined to moderators' activities on this site. On the other hand, "criticism" sounds very negative to me. It could be merited at times, but a better goal is to have a discussion and to express (and try to resolve) differences of opinion.

To take a very simple example, suppose that you see that some comments have been deleted which you feel should not have been. Coming here and saying "You should not have done this, Moderator X!" is criticism of the moderators and doesn't seem likely to lead anywhere good. Better is to address the issue: if what happened was surprising to you and seems out of step with past customs and site rules, say so. If you feel you see room for improvement in the procedures, say so. And so forth.

(As I wrote this answer, part of me thought that I was making such obvious points as to be almost condescending. I had to keep reminding myself that we have had very personal, very negative criticism of the moderators here to an extent which would I would have had a hard time believing if I hadn't seen it myself.)

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    $\begingroup$ yes, exactly, focus on the action, not the individual user. Not "why did moderator Pete do X" but "Why is X necessary, and when should we do it?" $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 22 '10 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ The history has been about cases where X was noticeably un-necessary and performed by a single moderator, so the discussion was actually of the form "can X be reversed", "please reverse the un-necessary X", and "should X ever be done". Although fact-based and relatively impersonal, it was still associable with visible individuals and included some back-and-forth with the moderator in question. The result of all this is that the moderator will (if votes and comments on meta are any indication) probably not be reappointed, but X has not been reversed, either. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 23 '10 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff Atwood: Part of the problem with disagreements between mods and the community is that there are no precise (community) defined rules / policies. Why can't each site have its own rules / policies that are specified by the community? For example policies could be special meta questions that are voted on by the community. This would allow each community to locally tailor default global polices to fit their own norms. It'd probably go a long way towards avoiding such local-global conflicts. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 23 '10 at 5:03
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Common sense answers:

When elections are conducted in future, will the winners be surely appointed as moderators? Or is it the discretion of the SE team?

Yes: Stack Overflow 2010 moderator election results

If someone is appointed as a moderator, is s/he going to be a moderator for lifetime? Or is there the possibility that s/he would have to vacate the post after a certain amount of time passes(say, an year or so), and new elections will be held?

So far, moderators stay in place until they step down.

To what extent is criticism of the moderators allowed? What actions would trigger a permaban(or rather, a very lengthy ban)?

Talking about it in meta should be fine. Littering your answers on the main site with remarks towards the moderators, however, isn't acceptable. It doesn't contribute to the answer, it doesn't help the asker, it's just spam and it should be removed from posts on the main site.

It's not about censorship. It's about the noise to signal ratio.

Is it possible to rehabilitate a user after a permaban? Is there a possibility that the ban would be relaxed later? Or is the banned user allowed to use the site with a new account? Again, what is the policy about multiple accounts for the same user(as long as there is no sock-puppetry)?

Circumventing a ban is obviously against the rules. Example.

That said, users are banned because they disrupt the site. Once they stop disrupting the site, there's no reason to keep them banned.

What is the preferred style of moderation? More precisely, are the moderators supposed to get actively involved in the site activities monitoring each question closely, or is it going to be a rather minimal role in which most work is delegated to the users and moderators enter the scene only when someone flags for moderator attention, etc?

Blog post on this topic.

What is the precise distinction between moderators from the SE team, and moderators appointed from the user pool, other than that the SE team would be providing technical support? What would be possible trigger-points for SE team taking over from the "ordinary" moderators?

None. Why would there be?

The SO team members have the diamond on over 30 sites, so they'll be around only a small portion of the time. However, they receive mod flags just like all other mods and, if they'd happen to stumble on something bad, I don't see what should hold them from acting.

Should they make a wrong decision, you can just ask another moderator to undo it. If all mods weren't on the same level, this wouldn't be possible (admins > moderators).


By the way, these questions should have been asked, separately, on Meta Stack Overflow, as they pertain all sites of the network.

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    $\begingroup$ These questions are specific to this site. There were certain difficulties here recently and my question was an effort to clear up matters. I wouldn't want to post all the history in stackoverflow when I feel it is best to solve the local problem locally. I have no problems if others intend to raise raise the issue in other forums. It's just that I wouldn't be the one doing so. $\endgroup$ – user1119 Nov 21 '10 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ @George, I appreciate the Maths-specific problems this site is experiencing, but the actual questions and answers are important to all SE sites and could receive more audience and attention there. I'm not asking you to cross post, at any rate. $\endgroup$ – badp Nov 21 '10 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ Well, some of relevant history can be glimpsed from the recent meta threads and the flurry of activity here from the SE team. There was a lot of moderator intervention, confrontations and many threads were locked. This was not usual for us and there were some other threads addressing this issue. For instance see the threads meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/1171 and meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/1165 among others. $\endgroup$ – user1119 Nov 21 '10 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ Very important distinction there between the main site and meta. Comments on the main site that aren't mathematical and are negative are very bad and indeed should be grounds for warnings and bannings (whether they're in reference to moderators or someone else). $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Nov 21 '10 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Just pointing out that in the last Stack Overflow election, they did publish the hard numbers. But since none of the new Stack Exchange sites have had full elections yet, there's really no precedent to point to here. $\endgroup$ – mmyers Nov 22 '10 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeff & @mmyers: very good to hear regarding the transparency. :) This should satisfy even the most hardarse questioners of this community. ;) $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Nov 22 '10 at 23:23
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badp writes:

Common sense answers:

When elections are conducted in future, will the winners be surely appointed as moderators? Or is it the discretion of the SE team?

Generally, election results' hard numbers are not published. Example.

So, it turns out that the elections are a closed process and pretty much nothing can be done to verify the legitimacy. I would really have not even thought about this matter if not for the recent events; my first instinct otherwise would have been to trust the SE team. It would still be desirable to ensure fairness. Not that I feel that the elections will be rigged; but it will feel better when things are more open.

In any case if the SE team really want to rig the elections, there would be no point in insisting on publishing the results. They can simply secretly tweak the voting software to be skewed and not a thing can be done about it. So I suppose that I will stop pursuing this matter here out of fatigue. If someone else would like to, then they are most welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ Reposting my comment from badp's answer: Just pointing out that in the last Stack Overflow election, they did publish the hard numbers. But since none of the new Stack Exchange sites have had full elections yet, there's really no precedent to point to here. $\endgroup$ – mmyers Nov 22 '10 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ unfortunately badp gave you an incorrect answer on that part, though overall the answer was good. See @mmeyers very important correction above. Follow the link and download the results yourself.. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 22 '10 at 23:04
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So far there has been no answer to my question number 2, except stating precedents:

2 . If someone is appointed as a moderator, is s/he going to be a moderator for lifetime? Or is there the possibility that s/he would have to vacate the post after a certain amount of time passes(say, an year or so), and new elections will be held?

There were very uneasy relations between some moderators and users in the recent past. This would be horrible if it again happens in the future, and even worse, becomes a perpetual unpleasantness. Therefore I feel that it is best if moderators are required to step down after a certain period, after which they are required to be re-elected if they wish to continue.

Otherwise it may turn out to be an oligarchy, dictatorship, whatever is the term. We should require moderator re-elections for the same reasons that we require re-election of any elected official in democracies.

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, this is actually the first site I've ever participated in where moderators are elected instead of appointed. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Nov 24 '10 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ By way of comparison, on MO most of the current moderators were appointed by the site's founder and administrator. The last two moderators were chosen in an open election (IIRC, it was not made explicit from the outset how many moderators were being elected). Moderators serve indefinitely, until they choose to step down. This system has worked quite well on MO. It's worth thinking about what, if anything, would cause it to work less well here. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 24 '10 at 21:31

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