I am writing this post to discuss a possible small upcoming change in moderator policy. I post this here on Meta (instead in the Mods only discussion room) because

  1. The topic is not sensitive.
  2. There will be some small, but perhaps noticeable, change to how we interact with users.

As such, please try not to flood this question with comments, as the main people this discussion affects are just the moderators. :-)

Previously, I, as well as several other of the moderators, had the implicit understanding that the use of the "contact user" function on Math.SE is reserved for serious breaches of rules, such of those that may lead to suspension when repeated. Hence in many instances we have preferred to privately contact users via e-mail (through the e-mail address provided to Math.SE when you set-up your account) on what we sometimes regard as less serious issues.

Unfortunately, this has the downside of some loss of transparency and also inadvertently leads to the phenomenon of sometimes the moderators not being all on the same page with regards to the issues about or raised by certain users.

Furthermore, independently, we have been notified by StackExchange (through their regular newsletter to moderators, so not specifically in response to what I described above) a clarification of the privacy policies on this forum as well as how and when the "contact user privately" function should be used. This brings us to ...

Proposal to the moderators

In the interest of transparency and documentation,

  1. All moderator-initiated "private" contact with users should be through the SE messaging system.
  2. All moderation related issues concerning individual users should be documented on the "user annotation" system.

(Mods: please feel free to raise any objections / addenda below.)

How this will affect you, as users

  1. You will see more of these "official looking" contacts from moderators, instead of the e-mails. Rest-assured that it is not that you recently crossed the line of decency; but it is a structural change on how we handle moderation issues.

  2. Your accounts may appear to be more frequently annotated (those would only be seen by diamond moderators on Math.SE [including SE employees, but generally excluding moderators on other sites]).

  3. You will still be able to e-mail moderators just as you used to. My e-mail address, for one, will remain publicly available. Just be aware that it is possible at certain point, for documentation purposes, we may propose to you that we move the discussion on to the "contact user privately" system of the StackExchange software, or bring the discussion to a private chat room.

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    $\begingroup$ Also, on the occasions when a user chooses to contact a mod privately, the response may be copied to the Stack Exchange team. This is fairly standard procedure. $\endgroup$ – Aarthi Dec 14 '12 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ I got a private message from a moderator. I asked him a question in return, but he did not reply. What can I do to contact him? I don't know his email address. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 24 '12 at 0:53

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