# Should inactive users remain as moderators?

First, take it easy guys! There is nothing personal in my question. I've asked this to Alex Gruber directly few months ago, and he told me that his lack of activity on M.SE is due to research and moderation (!!!). Unless he's doing some invisible job (which I doubt because he doesn't visit M.SE very often), I think a honest move form his part would be to quit. Some other people already did this, so won't be a novelty for M.SE, and everyone will thank him for what he did so far.

IMHO a moderator should visit regularly this site (to not say very often or daily, as most of them do), and help others by being active in the answering process. If you check his profile, his last answer has been posted on November 6, 2015, that is, almost a year ago. There are many users who can replace him successfully, but it seems the moderators are here like academicians, once they are elected no one can replace them. This is not normal on such a dynamical site, and I hope my post can make him to think a little about all of these. He is also invited to comment/answer my question.

Edit. After one month and a half since I've asked this infamous question our dear moderator Alex Gruber is still missing.

• I might suggest phrasing the question in a more abstract setting, like "Should inactive users remain as moderators?" so that it's not about an individual person. It would also be more widely relevant, considering that it happened with another moderator earlier this year. – user296602 Aug 26 '16 at 21:00
• A moderator changed their username to something like "inactive... for now" for several months. As far as whether this is a serious issue, I'm not sure. There have been times where my impression is that several moderators are quite inactive (no public posts for several months, on main or meta); but since the site moderation is largely community based, there weren't any significant negative effects. That being said, I don't really like the idea of moderators-for-life-regardless-of-activity. – user296602 Aug 26 '16 at 21:03
• Why do you doubt he is doing an invisible job? Usually one cannot tell who handles a flag, and I for one have no clue who writes how many moderator messages, or investigates suspicious voting patterns. – quid Aug 26 '16 at 21:19
• @quid Well, just a feeling. (In fact, I've noticed for few times that he is missing for long periods from M.SE.) Anyway, I can't see anything to be blamed by questioning a mod about his activity. I hope it's not forbidden. Or is it? – user26857 Aug 26 '16 at 21:27
• FYI: A new feature for moderators is a vacation notice system (see the May 2016 Moderator newsletter) by which a moderator may list themself as inactive to the other mods & SE employees, with optional explanation. Even if Alexander has been completely inactive in terms of moderation, it is entirely possible that the other moderators (not to mention SE staff) are aware of this. Of course, this information would not be visible to us regular users. (That entire section of the Mod Newsletter is probably worth reading.) – the thesaurus saurus Aug 26 '16 at 22:16
• Let me quote one relevant part: Moderation is, and always will be, a volunteer activity. Whether you’re an elected moderator of a graduated site, or a pro tem moderator appointed by hand, it’s always your time to invest into the site at your own discretion. Always feel welcome, whether you’re feeling generally overwhelmed, or maybe you just need a break, to take time off for yourself. We hope that this tool will help you feel more comfortable in taking such absences to recharge, rest, or simply deal with the many other facets in your daily lives. – user99914 Aug 26 '16 at 22:25
• Moderation is important. I definitely agree. But as someone who is usually trying to keep a finger on the pulse of the website, I can't say that I feel that moderation suffers from lack of moderators. If one, or more, of the moderators needs to take their foot off the the gas paddle, let them. Let them take the needed vacation and come back with renewed energies. If the time comes, and we need active moderators, the question shouldn't be whether this or that should step down, but rather should we have more moderators. I don't think we're there yet. – Asaf Karagila Aug 26 '16 at 23:23
• While Alexander hasn't posted an answer since Nov 2015, he did post a(n as yet unanswered) question in June. – user642796 Aug 28 '16 at 12:50
• @arjafi This can count as a great achievement, I suppose. (Btw, posting questions don't help others. That's why I didn't mention this.) – user26857 Aug 28 '16 at 14:27
• @user26857 Asking (good) questions is proving good content to the site, which in turn helps the site. That's why reputation is granted for questions to begin with. Btw, without questions, there would be no answers. – user642796 Aug 28 '16 at 15:02
• I see no answers by you since several months. What's up there? Taking an extended vacation during the summer? :-) More seriously, I think posting answers and mod-involvement are pretty orthogonal. There are users that make plenty posts but seem unengaged and uninformed regarding the site as a community; they post their stuff and that's it. Then, there are users that do not answer much or at all but are highly involved in other ways. An example that would come to mind is @arjafi some time ago, who then was extremely active moderating yet didn't answer much at that time or you right now. – quid Aug 28 '16 at 18:47
• @quid "I see no answers by you since several months." Am I a moderator? (Btw, I've explained in my profile why I've stopped posting answers.) Anyway, I admire your (and others) determination to hide the reality. You could try a career in politics. – user26857 Aug 28 '16 at 20:08
• I have no interest in hiding the reality. It is just that I see no problem with it. The reason why I commented now again is only that the idea "moderators must provided answers too" is really misguided in my opinion. By contrast, the idea that moderators should need to maintain a certainly level of moderation-related activity is something I find worth discussing even though I have a different opinion than yours. – quid Aug 28 '16 at 20:20
• Since you brought up the academic world let me also give an example by analogy: if somebody would complain to me about famous mathematician sometimes decades past retirement 'idling around' on editorial boards I might see their point. Yet if somebody complained about an editor not publishing regularly in their own journal I'd find this misguided. – quid Aug 28 '16 at 20:22
• What exactly do you think is the role of moderators on this site, anyway? – Asaf Karagila Aug 29 '16 at 8:51

tl;dr: To answer the question in the title: yes, within reasonable limits.

Quite frankly there are a lot of reasons that a moderator may not be as active. Some possibilities that haven't been mentioned would be a prolonged illness, serious injury, being shipwrecked on a deserted island. (And, yes, I know of moderators across SE who were inactive for long periods because of such reasons... well, maybe not all of these reasons.)

But often life simply intervenes. I don't think any of us considers being a Mathematics Stack Exchange moderator their most important role in life, and we shouldn't be expected to treat it as such. (As the link provided by vow lacks forte indicates, Stack Exchange acknowledges the voluntary nature of this role.)

Stack Exchange will remove the diamond if a moderator is inactive for a long time without any real explanation/communication. From a Meta Stack Exchange answer by Tim Post:

Or if a moderator is inactive for a long time will that cause dismissal?

Yes, if every effort we make to reach out to them results in crickets chirping, we have a leadership vacuum that we need to fill. This usually takes months to come about, not weeks, not days.

The immediate needs of the site provides important context, however. If the site needs more moderator attention now, we'd clearly indicate that when contacting them, and act in the best interest of the site.

and continuing

We're reluctant to remove a moderator without clear and compelling evidence that doing so would be more beneficial to their community than their presence as a moderator, and we understand and respect that people have lives.

If you feel the site is currently being inadequately moderated, then, as Asaf mentions, perhaps it is time to add more people to the team. Like Asaf, I'm not certain if this is the case, but that could certainly be a discussion for the community. This would be much more constructive than "There is nothing personal here, but \$name isn't doing enough and should feel bad about this."

• I still think that a mod who's doing almost nothing for months should have the good sense to quit. – user26857 Aug 28 '16 at 14:29
• I will just pint out that the words active and inactive can be used in many different meanings. (Not visiting the site at all. Not helping with the moderating tasks. Making no posts on the main site - if I correctly understood the question, the OP is using the word inactive in this meaning.) – Martin Sleziak Aug 28 '16 at 14:52
• @MartinSleziak I think YACP is attempting to use "visited" and "posted answers" as a quick and dirty stand-in for "involvement in the site". Data on other activities (editing, commenting, closing/reopening, deleting/undeleting, review queue work, chatting, flag handling, etc.) are either too time consuming to gather, or simply unavailable to regular users. – user642796 Aug 28 '16 at 15:09
• @arjafi Another possible rough approximation could be participation tab (which is available also on main, not only on meta). But the main reason why I posted my comment was not discussing various way how to measure involvement of users and mods, just to stress that the word (in)active was used in various meanings in this thread. – Martin Sleziak Aug 28 '16 at 15:30

SE has something like a minimal activity requirement for a moderator; it is not very high though.

That said, I do not see any problem with one or more of the moderators not being that active at all times. What is important to me is that there is somebody that gets the job done.

If there should be a lack, new moderators could be added to the team. For this it would not be necessary for one of the present ones to step down. There is no hard limit on the number of moderators.

If there is a need for more moderators is also sometimes checked by SE, based on data and the current moderators opinions. And, if there is a need and SE does not act by themselves, moderators could reach out to SE with the request.

Long story short, in my opinion moderation of the site works well, which is what is important to me. I do not see what would be gained by pressuring somebody into resigning, just because they are not as visibly active as they used to be.

• All you said can be accepted, but missed a little detail: is this fair with the other moderators? (Not mentioning people who elected him. I suppose nobody wants an inactive moderator.) Moreover, maybe the other mods are too polite to tell him some things. Instead, I can tell him that it's not right what he's doing. May I? – user26857 Aug 26 '16 at 21:26
• @user26857 I am not sure how all these hypothetical situations (nobody wants an inactive moderator, and the moderators are too polite) are meaningful. They are adult, if they see the problem they will deal with the problem. As far as I can see, there is no problem with moderation now. – user99914 Aug 26 '16 at 21:32
• @ArcticChar My question is not about moderation. (I think I was pretty clear in this respect.) I'm just questioning the activity of a specific moderator, and I think I have the right to do this. – user26857 Aug 26 '16 at 21:35
• @user26857 I do not see a problem with fairness. I could in theory imagine situations where it could cause friction. But I think that would really be an internal thing to work out. Of course, you are entitled to voice your opinion on the situation. – quid Aug 26 '16 at 21:36
• @quid Then why don't leave him to answer? Do you feel obliged to answer any question on meta? – user26857 Aug 26 '16 at 21:37
• @user26857 I understood your question as a call for general exchange of opinions on the subject, not as a personal inquiry addressed at one person. But I will bow out for now. – quid Aug 26 '16 at 21:41
• Actually, I'm more interested to read his opinion on this matter, rather than to hear a chorus of indignant users telling me to "how dare you?". – user26857 Aug 26 '16 at 21:44
• What I mean is that I see no problem of moderation now, so not necessary to do any change to moderators. On the other hand, you question the (in)activity of a moderator, but not his work on moderation and ask if he should step down. That does not make sense to me. @user26857 – user99914 Aug 26 '16 at 21:47
• @ArcticChar So, you want to say that someone can be a good moderator even if he's not involved into the math life of the site. I strongly disagree with this, and I'm also questioning the activity of Alex Gruber as a moderator because I have good reasons to think that it's as the same level to the mathematical one. (I've mentioned in the question that he has big gaps between two consecutive visits on M.SE.) In fact, you suppose that he has done some hidden job because the moderation is ok, while I suppose that he didn't because visit rarely M.SE. Whose argument is stronger? – user26857 Aug 26 '16 at 21:53
• Yes, I just saw your new edit about his visit to MSE. You hit the point - you should not question his activity as a user but as a moderator. If you have proof/reason to believe that he is not working well as a moderator. Point it out in the post. For example, how often is he visiting the site? @user26857 – user99914 Aug 26 '16 at 22:01
• Well, from your post you say he told you that he is busy moderating but obviously you do not believe. I suppose you have proof that he is lying? @user26857 – user99914 Aug 26 '16 at 22:09
• @T.Bongers it's reset with essentially every visit while logged in. ('essentially' as if one navigates there and leaves right away it might not count, but as soon as you click on whatever I think it should register). – quid Aug 26 '16 at 22:10
• @quid I thought so, thanks. But that does definitely mean that the moderator the OP asked about isn't doing "an invisible job," since the clock hasn't reset since August 3. – user296602 Aug 26 '16 at 22:15
• @user26857, You say "Actually, I'm more interested to read his opinion on this matter, rather than to hear a chorus of indignant users telling me to "how dare you?" Have you tried contacting him privately instead of posting about it in public? That might be a better idea. – Joel Reyes Noche Aug 27 '16 at 13:45
• @user26857, Oops, I just noticed. You said "I've asked this to Alex Gruber directly few months ago, and he told me that his lack of activity on M.SE is due to research and moderation:. There you go! Problem solved. You got "his opinion on this matter." So why post about it in public if you don't want others to contribute to the discussion? – Joel Reyes Noche Aug 27 '16 at 13:47