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There are high reputation users like T.., Moron and others, who have a good track record and thus can be viable moderator candidates.

It would be nice if the requirement of divulging the real name is relaxed, so that such people can contest in the elections if they so wish.

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    $\begingroup$ At least by now (and since quite some time), there is no requirement "of divulging the real name" whatsoever. There are dozens of moderators that are anonymous over the network. $\endgroup$ – quid May 29 '16 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ @quid The question concerns this site, not "the network". $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jun 4 '16 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque Is there a requirement on this site? $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 4 '16 at 22:55
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To answer Pete's question:

Anonymity would shield moderators from the off-site wrath of the more troubled users with whom it is their special privilege to interact (and some others who are onlookers). Moderators are much more exposed to such problems than regular users and do not have as much choice about their level of exposure.

From my regular-user experience here as well as other Internet (and real-life) experience with relevant populations, I can attest that quite a few of the "problem children" one might encounter through a site like this are highly intelligent, manipulative, sociopathic, narcissistic etc -- usually in an interesting combination. Some have the programming skills to mount denial-of-service attacks on identifiable websites connected to moderators, or the investigative cleverness to track down physical addresses, phone numbers and so on should they wish to operate offline. Many seem to have a large supply of spare time.

If anything I would urge SE, especially as the site grows, to anonymize the moderators after election rather than making them more identifiable. Thus, if "Joe X" is elected as moderator, he can continue to use the site in a non-moderator capacity as Joe X, but all moderator functions such as deletions, closures, contact with users, etc are performed as "Moderator #23" or as "Math.SE Moderator" without individuating Joe at all. On the other hand, moderator actions should be made as visible as possible, with publicly readable logs.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a very important point. $\endgroup$ – BBischof Dec 3 '10 at 4:43
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@George S.: there is no requirement that moderators divulge their real names to the public. For instance, if you look on SO you'll see that one of the moderators is "Bill the Lizard", and after a few minutes of googling I was actually unable to determine his real name. (N.B.: I'm not soliciting that information here. I don't actually want or need to know it. Rather I was investigating how well-hidden it was, and I purposefully didn't try anything at all clever or creative.)

I believe Jeff Atwood has said that moderators need to inform him of their identities.

Having said that, as I said elsewhere, I personally would not endorse a moderator candidate unless they used their real name. In the case of Moron, for instance, knowing his real name would probably be necessary and sufficient for him to receive my endorsement (and vote) as moderator.

What do you see as the advantages of moderator anonymity?

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  • $\begingroup$ I do not see any advantages in moderator anonymity. Except, now that I think of it, there might be some jocular value in "Moron" being a moderator of a math site.$$ $$The point was just that the current nominees all seem to be mainly mathoverflow-ers rather than math.SE-ers. It might be helpful to have fresh people here as moderators, to prevent this site from becoming a pale shadow of mathoverflow. Many people of that type I noticed, such as T.. or Moron, were all anonymous and I didn't want that to be a disqualification. That's all. $\endgroup$ – user1119 Dec 2 '10 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Pete on this issue. After a couple decades of online experience in math forums I have yet to encounter any anonymous user who hasn't taken advantage of that anonymity at one point or another. Better not to give them any chance to succumb to that temptation - esp with mod powers. Generally people behave much more sanely when their real-name is attached to their posts. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 2 '10 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ re: "behave more sanely when real-name is attached to their posts" -- I have seen larger amounts of insanity, some of it on this site, from users whose posting under a real name prevents them from just walking away from whatever conflicts may arise. Instead of an inconsequential disagreement about online material, real-name users are likelier to feel a need to respond (and insist on the last word), especially in cases where their errors are exposed. This is quite common on math sites where it is exacerbated by high intelligence and sizable egos of the active users. Rep system feeds this. $\endgroup$ – T.. Dec 2 '10 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @T.. Generally, I've seen exactly the opposite in my twenty odd-years of experience. As an example: I know someone who had a very bad experience with one person (now one of the highest-rep MO users) who was engaging in personal attacks under the cloak of anonymity. This person did not stop (despite warnings) until his real name was exposed. Such abuse of anonymity is not unusual behavior for internet neophytes. OTOH, nowadays most people realize that employers etc. google real names so they are much more careful when using their real names. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 3 '10 at 4:13

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