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When, for some reason, I want contact a moderator I have several possibilities:

  • I can flag some post.
  • I can bring up the particular issue on meta.
  • I can ping one of the mods by leaving a comment on some of their posts.
  • I can ping one of the mods in chat.
  • I can leave in chat a message (without pinging anybody) asking: "If some of the moderators sees this, could they have a look at the following issue..."

In some situations neither of the above possibilities is optimal.

  • Flags are designed to be used for some specific things. Moreover, some issues might require clarification and exchange of a few messages between user and a moderator. As far as I know, flags are not good for such short discussions.
  • Some issues might be too minor to be brought up in a separate meta post.
  • If I ping one of the moderators it is kind of forcing this particular person to deal with the issue; it would be better to get the issue to attention of any moderator - somebody from the moderator team who has time at the moment could deal with it.
  • If I leave message somewhere without a ping, it is quite probable that it will go unnoticed.

Would it be useful to have a chat room designed specifically for things which require attention of moderators and for questions which only moderators can answer?

If at least some people would consider this useful, it would be good to hear here not only the viewpoint of regular users, but also of members of the moderator team on this idea.

I think this might be good use for the Mathematics Meta room which was recently rediscovered. As it is currently the only room associated to meta (and it is not very probable that other rooms associated to that site will be added), one clear advantage of that room is that it will not be frozen for inactivity even if there are no messages in the room for a longer period.

This might improve communication between users and moderators in some cases. I do not think this would add much workload on moderators - several of them use chat at least occasionally. For example, they might at this room among favorites, so that they easily see whether there are some new messages.

I am not sure whether some of the other SE sites have a chat room designed specifically for communications with a moderator. I was told in chat that there are such rooms, but I somewhat doubt the accuracy of that information. Several sites have rooms associated with metas, maybe some of them is used in this way. One I was able to find is Ask a Super User Moderator.

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    $\begingroup$ Meh. I'm generally not in favor of using the chat. For pretty much anything; and I do my best to avoid using the chat as much as I can. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 15 '15 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, if there is something you feel strongly about I would recommend flagging the most related post you can and writing a custom flag. Only mods can see this, and we'll do what we can. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Jan 16 '15 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ @robjohn Let me just offer two examples which are not private and where I thought it was better to contact mods, but not via flags. There was an issue with a bounty recently discussed on meta. This would be another example. However, I agree that in both these cases it is not clear whether it was necessary to involve mods. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 16 '15 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ In the first one it turned out that everything worked as expected - so in fact even some regular user with knowledge of bounty system could have answered that. But if the user was doing that in good faith that it was indeed a bug, contacting mods seems like reasonable thing to do. In the second one it is also true that it could have been answered by a regular user, not necessarily a mod. (But since this are the only two examples I can think of right now and I wanted to mention some examples, I posted these two cases.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 16 '15 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ Can you give an example of an issue that might require further back-and-forth for clarification? $\endgroup$ – user642796 Jan 16 '15 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Arthur: I have a few examples, where I raised a flag that I disagreed with the reply, or that I had further questions after the reply; but none of those back-and-forth would be suitable for chat anyway. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 16 '15 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer I don't think I can come up with good examples, but I tried to write down at least some examples where having possibility to post a message in chat might be useful. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 16 '15 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ Example of back-and-forth: I had a list of questions (or two, or ...) that I thought might be useful for merging. I raised a flag, but the moderator who handled one of my lists had some feedback regarding my suggestions. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Jan 16 '15 at 20:47
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Perhaps against my better judgement, I've opened up the Math Mods' Office, with description somewhat plagiarised researched from Ask a Super User Moderator:

For informal chat with the site moderators about moderation, spam, troublesome users and other issues you need ♦ input on.

Needless to say, civil discourse will be a requirement for the chatroom to remain open. But I'm hopeful that this can be a constructive place for users and moderators to discuss issues outside of flags and meta.

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    $\begingroup$ Way to bow to social pressure! :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 19 '15 at 12:10
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Often messages to moderators are private in nature, and as such, best handled using flags which only the moderators can see. Furthermore, chatrooms often get populated with less directed conversation; they are for chatting, after all. Flags, meta posts, and, to a lesser degree, the main math chatroom are already watched by moderators. For those mods that sit in the math chatroom, another chatroom will simply add noise. For mods who avoid chatrooms, another chatroom will not get their attention.

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    $\begingroup$ Re: Furthermore, chatrooms often get populated with less directed conversation; they are for chatting, after all. Another way to look on chatrooms is that they are basically the same thing as comments, but not attached to a post. (We have some rooms which are close to this - tagging room, reopening room, praise room, perhaps also rooms moved from comments) If the rules for the room would specify that it is not for chit-chat but only for discussions a messages relevant to the purpose room (and this would be pinned or mentioned in the description), maybe this would not a problem for that room. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 16 '15 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ In the other words, my suggestion is trying to solve the problem that something requiring moderators' attention might get lost among the traffic in the main chat room. It would be easier to spot in separate room with less traffic. But I certainly agree that it also brings some new problems. (Need to follow one more chatroom. Making users aware of that chatroom. And maybe some other problems.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 16 '15 at 9:33
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Presently, I feel fairly hesitant about becoming active in such a chatroom.1

It's one thing if the room becomes productive. In that case it's all roses, as far as I can tell, and it would be a place that I would frequent.

But IM(ns)HO there's also chance of it devolving into a stream of "Y U DEKLIN MY FALG?!?!?" questions, or math.SE's version of In Praise of Moderators (without the occasional sarcasm). I would not find such an atmosphere constructive at all; I am probably not the only moderator of this opinion.

I will note that there is nothing stopping anyone from setting up such a chatroom right now. But there is also no guarantee that any particular moderator would be active there. As far as I can see, the onus would really be on the community to make it work. And we really won't know if it works until we try.

1I'm also a pessimistic person by nature, so this may play into granting larger probabilities to bad outcomes than good.

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    $\begingroup$ Is deklin my falg supposed to be declined my flag? (I had hard time deciphering it.) Although I understand that in theory there is nothing stopping anyone from setting up a room like that, in practice starting such a room if the mods are against it would pretty much defeat its purpose. That's was the main reason I asked. From the answers so far it seems that mod do not consider such a room to be useful/needed (and they have given some arguments supporting this). $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 16 '15 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Martin: Sorry, my imitation of intertubes orthography is probably lacking. I think the main point of my answer is as follows. Such a room could be useful, but it could also be incredibly unconstructive. In the end how users use the room will determine which option is realised, and there is no way of knowing this beforehand. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Jan 16 '15 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with "Such a room could be useful, but it could also be incredibly unconstructive." However, in my opinion, the last paragraph of the post is not the way to go about this (for various reasons). If you want to give this idea a try, I think you (the mods) should set up such a room as a test, stating that it will be operational and read by moderartors as long as it is constructive. You setting it up makes this easier. If somebody set up a room to communicate with moderaotors and it turns out not so good it is harder to intervene. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 16 '15 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @quid, and additionally, "Why did you decline my flag" should be "Y U DELCINE MY FALG???????" $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 16 '15 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: I'm kind of on the fence as to whether a moderator should start up such a room. I guess mods are sort of "owners" of all chatrooms so it shouldn't matter much, but there might be a greater sense of independence if some regular user(s) also act as owners. (Of course, ownership can be given later, etc., etc., etc.) Maybe I just want regular users to feel they have a greater stake in the room, which might not happen if, say, Pedro opens up the room. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Jan 16 '15 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ It would not matter much in a technical sense, that is true. However, if, say, I would set up a room called "To Our Dear Moderators" that would then consist mainly of varied remarks about the moderation that could be considered as critical feedback yet are approaching snarky remarks it is not quite clear what could be done about it. Sure, you could shut it down, but it might be an odd thing to do. By contrast, if you were to set up a "Moderators Office" and it turns out not so great, you can simply say you realize it does not add anything useful and close your "office" again. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 16 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Put differently, I think in this particular case it is better the community does not feel too much ownership, but rather sees it as one channel that the moderatos set up to communicate with them. This is especially true since in this case the room can anyway be a success only if moderators are willing to follow it. In that sense I think there ought to be at least an a priori commitment of some of the mods to follow the room for a while. The situation: "create a room, and if it is interesting we might read it" seems not optimal. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 16 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ You're getting pretty darn close to dragging me from "I feel fairly hesitant about becoming active in such a chatroom" to creating the damnable thing, @quid. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Jan 16 '15 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer Please do not feel pressured into this. I myself have doubts whether it would bring something useful, but I decided to ask anyway to see what other users think. (And I agree with quid that opinion of moderators is very important in this case.) Maybe there are some drawbacks which I am missing, but I still think that using Mathematics Meta chat room would be better than creating a new room, since this room will very probably not freeze. (Just in case you and other mods decide to give it a go.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 17 '15 at 6:48
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In his comment Arthur Fischer asked me to give an example of an issue that might require further back-and-forth for clarification. Let me take this request more generally and try to give here some examples of messages which might be useful in this room.

It is up to you to judge whether some of them are at least to some extent convincing.

I have made the post CW, feel free to add some other possibilities if you have a good idea.


When a user is not sure whether he should flag

When a user is not sure whether to flag some post or not, the best thing might be to ask. For flagging probably the most qualified person to answer this are moderators.


Declined flags

When a user does not know why their flag was declined or think that it was declined incorrectly, they might raise such issue on meta. It might be even useful - some other users will learn something about it. But sometimes chat might be better. (I will not include specific examples here, there seem to be many such posts on meta.)


Loop of duplicates

Occasionally it might happen that there is circularity among duplicates. The recommendation is to flag one of the questions and give some explanation in the flag. However, sometimes longer explanation might help to clarify things. Such thing happened, for example, here. However, in this case the room which we have for reopening, closing and similar issues seems more appropriate place to post this.


Moderators reacting to flags

You can find some examples of discussions about specific flags, like here and here. Although these examples were initiated by a moderator and they were in the main chatroom. So they are not exactly of the same type as the suggested usage in my post.


Examples from SuperUser room

I had a look at similar room at SU. It seems that they most often deal with spammers.

Some examples I shamelessly stolen from this room:

  • A user requesting private chat with a moderator: here
  • Some occurrence of spam which was, in some way, not immediately obvious spam: here
  • Asking about declined flag: here
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  • $\begingroup$ The comments on @ArthurFischer 's answer itself show a back-and-forth communication with a moderator. $\endgroup$ – ghosts_in_the_code Jan 17 '15 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I should also add that probably all of the above situations could be handled without such room. As a last resort, user can also create a custom flag and in the text mention something like: Since this flag requires more detailed explanation and some further discussion might be necessary, I've posted additional details in this chatroom (link), where you can ping me, if needed. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 18 '15 at 15:21

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