I think it would be wise before the upcoming moderator election to reflect a bit on the prior moderation history so that we can benefit from our prior experience. Some of the prior problems with moderation stem from the fact that the pro tem mods acted in ways that did not reflect community norms. To avoid this in the future, I think it would be beneficial to explicitly determine what the majority consensus is on moderation policies. So I propose that folks post answers below specifying proposed moderation policies. Please post one policy item per answer so that each item can be voted on independently. Not only will this help us to realize what the majority consensus is, but it will also help us to elect mods that agree with that consensus. In particular, any mod candidate should pledge to abide by whatever norms the community has devised, so as not to repeat the past mistakes. In particular I hope that between us we can recall all the issues of the past so we can put these problems to rest once and for all once the new mod team is in place.

Please propose moderation policy items below. One item per answer. Upvote if you agree with a policy item - downvote if you don't.

This post and the answers are intentionally CW. Please feel free to edit them as need be. The goal is to determine what we desire as a community, with the hope that we can set reasonable policies for the future so to avoid the mistakes of the past. We can make the job much easier for future mods if we can establish clearly defined policies for them to follow that will respect the desires of the majority of the community. Without any input from us they can only guess what we want. Please provide input. A little effort here can go a long way to keeping the forum running smoothly in the future.

Note to pro tem mods: Please help by contributing here. Surely your job was made difficult by the fact that you had no predefined community consensus to work with. Please tell us what needs to be improved. Request community input on those policy points where it was not clear what the community desired.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As a reminder, please keep this in mind when proposing a policy. $\endgroup$ – J. M. isn't a mathematician Nov 26 '10 at 4:21
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Should this be CW-ed? Upvote this comment if yes, flag this if no. $\endgroup$ – kennytm Nov 26 '10 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Kenny: I meant to make it CW. See my latest edit. But it seems I no longer have that option. How to fix? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 26 '10 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ that option has been removed. $\endgroup$ – kennytm Nov 26 '10 at 18:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Kenny: Ah yes, I forgot about that change. Thanks for the link. Please note the edit above requesting that pro tem contribute here. Could you please forward that to the other moderators. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 26 '10 at 20:03

Moderators should let the community moderate the site inasmuch as possible. E.g. they should use their immediate closing powers to close only those posts which are obviously off-topic or problematic, e.g. spam, personal attacks, etc. Anything that could conceivably be of interest to some nontrivial segment of the community should be decided by the community as a whole.

Please edit this as need be, but keep it focused only on one issue so that votes may address each issue independently.


Moderators should agree to respect the diversity of the site and set aside any personal biases towards any fields agreed by the community to be on-topic. For example, this site welcomes questions on both pure and applied math, at all levels. It welcomes questions of all types, from research to recreational to pedagogical, foundational and philosophical. It welcomes questions arising from other sciences as long as they have some mathematical content of interest to the community.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I entirely agree with the content of this message, but I don't see why this should even be mentioned to moderators. The only way moderators can decide against questions is by exercising the close vote (AFAIK)… in which case it's better to say: moderators should use their close vote sparingly, only when it is extremely obvious that there would be a unanimous consensus that the question must be closed, etc. This is already covered by your other answer here. (Or I'm forgetting other moderator powers.) $\endgroup$ – ShreevatsaR Nov 27 '10 at 8:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Moderators have more powers than simply the ability to close questions. The point of the above is that they should not exhibit any bias when exercising those powers. For example if a dispute arose between a pure and an applied mathematician then they need to be careful to put any personal bias aside when moderating such a dispute. This requires a certain strength of character and mod candidates should be made aware that this is required when moderating a forum with very diverse members. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 27 '10 at 16:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @ShreevatsaR: moderators can lock questions and they can also delete questions. The latter makes the question invisible to people with less than 10k reputation (or other moderators), who are also the only people who can vote to undelete it. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Nov 27 '10 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: Thanks, that makes sense. And of course I agree, as I did before. $\endgroup$ – ShreevatsaR Nov 27 '10 at 17:25

I find it somewhat hard to defend this, but I would much prefer it if moderators used their actual, full names as usernames. I think this demonstrates good faith and helps towards transparency.

I don't think this should be a formal requirement in any sense, but I would like this to be on record as a preference.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ this is generally a good idea and we have required community moderators to provide direct contact information in their profile at a minimum. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 30 '10 at 6:34

A proposal: meta should be something of a free-for-all (except for obvious insults, spam, flamewars, etc.): in particular, I'd much prefer it if fewer meta threads were closed and/or locked.

  • $\begingroup$ so.. a free-for-all, except for it's not a free-for-all? Kind of weird language, there. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 30 '10 at 6:37

Moderators should be active members of the community. The activity log of a moderator should not be very sparsely populated. It should show frequent comments, answers, etc. so that the community has faith that the moderator has familiarity with all the necessary information required to be a successful moderator.

I mention this only because a couple of the pro tem moderators do not meet this requirement (one has only a single entry over the past two months).

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ it's strongly recommended that community moderators are active participants in the site, though it is fair for that activity to ebb and flow as life demands $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 30 '10 at 6:36
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The above answer is not a moderation policy but a proposed qualification criterion for moderators. As such it is a subject for a different (and possibly useful) thread, but off-topic here. It also (1) is subsumed in the "reputation > x" eligibility requirement, (2) excludes highly qualified users who know math.SE well but spend more time on MathOverflow (or other relevant activity, such as research), (3) may unnecessarily narrow the pool of moderators or (4) promote artificial participation for the sake of visibility among those who do become moderators, if codified as policy. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 30 '10 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ @T.. I did not intend the discussion to be strictly limited to any particular facet of moderation. I consider on-topic any issue that will help in the process of electing or guiding moderators. It is important to have the community defined policies, requirements, etc collected in one spot so that moderator candidates can quickly peruse them to help them decide whether or not they can moderate in the manner desired by the community, and so that they can refer to them later while actively moderating (consensus may change over time). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 30 '10 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Discussing, on the eve of an election, what attributes should be used as moderator qualifications is simply politics. That is, it would tend to influence election outcomes rather than the more neutral activity of (only) prescribing post-election conduct by the moderators. The latter was the stated purpose and title of this thread. If the moderator-as-active-user proposal is meant to refer exclusively to post-election conduct by moderators and not as a suggested qualification, that distinction should be made clear. Otherwise it belongs in a separate "who should moderate" thread. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 30 '10 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @T.. My goal is simply as stated, namely to determine what the community consensus is on matters related to moderation so that we may use that information in helping to select moderators compatible with community norms. As such I welcome any contributions here that may serve useful in that regard. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 30 '10 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Any voter who cares about the past activity level of moderators can make a fine-grained individual decision by looking at the candidates' activity logs. Using the up-down votes of a dozen users on the meta as "the community consensus" would have a negative value. It doesn't represent the community accurately, and because your proposal is vague about whether the active user requirement is for before or after the election (the first is politics of moderator qualification, the second is policy for moderation), votes for one interpretation can be mistaken for the other. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 30 '10 at 23:28

A proposal: Moderators, once elected, should not have the privilege for ever without any constraints. Tyranny and unpopular or dictatorial policies should have consequences. There should be periodic re-elections. Perhaps, once in six months or once in an year. It should be possible for the community to vote out unpopular moderators and bring fresh people in.

  • 28
    $\begingroup$ could you perhaps dial back your language a bit? In my opinion, "tyranny" should be reserved for things that one cannot escape by pressing Alt-F4. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 26 '10 at 19:49

You must log in to answer this question.

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