# MSE and meta.MSE as seen by moderators

There have been a lot of statements by moderators and others about aspects of the site (not necessarily visible to ordinary users) as seen by moderators. This thread is for accumulation of any data or observations that current and former moderators would like to share with the readers of meta. It has happened in bits and pieces in other threads and this question can become a repository.

Please post information and opinions here only if you have been a moderator or developer on SE. If there is important knowledge from experienced moderators on other sites and networks, that might also be relevant to post.

• Close? Why? This may provide useful perspective. – Lord_Farin May 2 '13 at 21:30
• By the way, the intent was not to suddenly invite work by moderators to commence posting because somebody added a thread. Only that if they are going to say things, to gather it in one place for visibility and later reference. – zyx May 2 '13 at 21:40
• @AsafKaragila : if you want to know, I am interested in things like Qiaochu's statistics on question posting rates, or the number of flags, or things that would tell prospective future moderators how hard the job is before they decide if to run in the upcoming election. Also any unexpected or notable information worth archiving for future reference, in one location. – zyx May 2 '13 at 22:31
• I'm not sure if moderators are at liberty to disclose more data that is already available from data.SE. Observations and lessons learned could be of lasting value, of course. I enjoyed reading Mark Mayo's thoughts on moderating and it would be nice to have something similar on Math.SE. But I understand that current moderator may prefer to wait until their ♦ disappears. – 75064 May 2 '13 at 23:53
• If I must: I vote against closing. – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 0:53
• @J.M.: You're a moderator elsewhere. You should probably know that any information which is privy just to the moderators is not going to be divulged here anyway. Good place for statistics? data.SE. Yes moderation is a very hard work, and you get very little recognition, and when something bad happens everyone turns their backs and forget that you do this for free. – Asaf Karagila Mod May 3 '13 at 2:02
• @Asaf, that's precisely why I voted against closing. I think this thread has much potential to become valuable for all of us on this community, if and when the math.SE mods write their answers. – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 2:04
• ...and yes, I've been moderating before, as I told you a long time ago, and not just on another SE site. However, I don't believe I've seen this much stress levied at the mods of a site, which is why I empathize greatly with our fine mods here (and also why, despite much cajoling, I won't even dream of moderating this site). – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 2:06
• @J.M.: I find that hard to believe. I also find it hard to believe that this thread is going to be used for anything else than ammunition in future feuds against the moderators. And this is exactly why I don't want to be a moderator. (Yes, zyx, I am sure that you mean well. The intent of the thread has little to do with the use I foresee for it.) – Asaf Karagila Mod May 3 '13 at 2:07
• @Asaf, how about we let it run for a while, and just vote to close only at the first sign of incivility? It'd be a happy circumstance if you turn out to be wrong about this thread being turned against the mods, no? – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 2:10
• @J.M.: Sure, but then I'd be wrong! Have you seen Dogma? Do you know what Alan Rickman said would happen if Alanis would be proven wrong? ;-) – Asaf Karagila Mod May 3 '13 at 2:18
• @Asaf, I don't understand how it can turn against mods. Numerical data is, what is the word, numerical (and really about SE.com, not mods). Experience like number of complaints or irritating users or previously unpublished quotes from the irritators, or the amount of extra aspirin they have to take every day to do the job, would all increase the sympathy for moderators, would it not?? And it is better for potential moderators to know this before running for election, isn't it? Imagining what it might look like and hearing what it actually was like are quite different things. – zyx May 3 '13 at 2:38
• +1 to the thread idea. For example it would be nice to know: How many hours does a moderator work here, say, weekly? How many hours of moderator work is required weekly? And then do the arithmetic, and get an idea how many moderators we should have so that the workload won't be too much? – Jyrki Lahtonen May 3 '13 at 3:18
• @Jyrki, what a remarkable idea, using math to figure out how many mods this site might need... ;) – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 3:31

## A bit about time spent moderating

Jyrki mentioned

+1 to the thread idea. For example it would be nice to know: How many hours does a moderator work here, say, weekly? How many hours of moderator work is required weekly? And then do the arithmetic, and get an idea how many moderators we should have so that the workload won't be too much?

In short, there is lots of work that can be done and it is not easy to quantify. In many ways, mods are little different than high rep users: newer users look to the posts of experienced and high rep users as indicators of what is good, expected, or desired. Along these lines, mods are chosen by the community in recognition (I hope) of their behavior and good posts on the site - so we would hope that they continue doing whatever they were doing, though we don't know how much time that actually takes.

So I spend much of my time on MSE reading and browsing questions and/or answers as I always have. Sometimes, I take some time to write a comment or edit. I think I would have done these without being a 'moderator,' but I nonetheless think these are important actions for a moderator to do. This is simply part of being a part of the site and wanting it to function well, I think, and I've enjoyed the mixture of reading interesting content and providing a little guidance here and there.

Unfortunately, many things change once there is a little diamond next to your name.

Firstly, there are the flags. The order of magnitude of the number of flags that have occurred in the last 30 days is in the thousands. I maintain the view that this is good in that mods cannot be everywhere. If you see things that should not be here and that you either cannot handle or have doubts about, flagging is the way to go. There are many hundreds of questions and many more hundreds of answers each day - I do not read anywhere close to them all. Nonetheless, flags take time. Some flags are easy to handle: spam flags are usually particularly easy. But most flags are not - duplicate flags, plagiarism flags, etc. require us to read questions and/or answers and thus take time. Very often, experienced users use custom-message flags to try to say that some new user is doing something strange. These can take a long time, as we often have to read questions and/or answers and/or try to decipher intent. Finally, there are some flags that may require us to reach into the moderator toolbox and really do some detective work and perhaps consult the other mods, and these can be painful. And sometimes flags demand for messages to be written to users (mods can write private messages of sorts, for those that don't know), which take their own time.

Secondly, and deceptively unpalatable, are the subtle restrictions on actions that somehow affect everything. Mod votes are final: votes to close or delete are immediately binding. Flags to remove are immediately acted upon. Consequences for a slip of the tongue seem to be far more severe for mods. Mods, like everyone else, can get a bit hot under the collar in situations, and it is just so easy to quickly type a comment-reply and hit enter before fully thinking. Many members of this community have lashed out at mods in the past for this. At times, meta posts essentially targeting a particular moderator's actions are created; I feel obligated to respond in such cases. I try to consider everything I do to prevent any such unfortunate occurrence, and consequently everything I do is a bit slowed down. I'm much quieter on MSE now than I am in real life, and I've noticed that my comments are sort of watered down from what they were in the past.

To provide a concrete answer: it's hard to quantify. But I spend less than 30 minutes a day on average doing 'moderator-only' things, not counting the sort of regular browsing. Comparing my stats to the other mods for reference, I handle about the median number of flags and create/delete about the median number of comments; but I write fewer answers (compared to both the other mods and what I used to).

And to speak to the intent: if the mods of MSE thought we were getting swamped, I'm sure we could talk to the SE community team (who are great and provide a lot of guidance) and could get a few more mods.

A note about my response: I'd like to note that my answer may contain opinions that are not the same as the other moderators; this is merely my opinion.

In response to a comment below, I'd like partially update this answer from the original answer given a year and a half ago. There are two significant changes: more posts than ever before, and the enhanced review queue.

It might be hard to believe now, but I remember when I first started paying attention to MSE, and I could (if I really wanted) read every post that occurs in a day. The number of posts is vastly larger, and no mod (nor any single person) reads them all. In fact, there are now many questions asked that none of the mods read at all -- even a large majority of questions. This isn't bad, because moderators aren't gatekeepers - they're there for exceptional cases.

So much of the generic moderating that occurs on the site is from non-diamond users (again, as it should be). Another key difference is the domain-mastery superpowers given to gold-badge users in a tag. Certain members of the community have taken significant but largely hidden responsibilities for sections of the site, perhaps especially through these golden superpowers. (We also have some core editers, and it is no secret that the perhaps single most impactful person behind the tag system of MSE is not a mod nor from the Community Team).

On the other side, the review queue is now far more active, and submits automatically generated flags to mods all the time. So the landscape of flags has changed. Altogether, far more flags occur now than 18 months ago. For no particularly good reason, the number of flags handled by each moderator is not at all equal. In general, one mod handles far more flags than the others (not me).

• Being a moderator didn't sound so bad there, until I got to the "Unfortunately, many things change once there is a little diamond next to your name." – TMM May 3 '13 at 9:40
• About the binding votes to close: I suppose that sometimes a mod may just want to express his own opinion that a question should be closed, without making it a binding vote. Is that an option too? Or is the only way to prevent the question from getting closed immediately not to vote at all? – TMM May 3 '13 at 9:42
• @TMM: It's not unusual to see diamond users leaving comments about duplicates, or off topic-ness, etc. – Asaf Karagila Mod May 3 '13 at 10:53
• @TMM, Sometimes, mods leave comments to the tune of "I'd vote to close now, had my close vote not been unilateral..." On the other hand, one route taken is to wait for three or four non-mod close votes to accumulate, and only then does the mod act with swift justice. – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 10:54
• Back a long ways, around the time of the first mods pro tempore, Jeff Atwood said something to the effect that the per-capita flag rate here was at least an order of magnitude greater than on any other SE site. Hearing that there are thousands of flags in a month, I wonder if that's still the case. – Isaac May 3 '13 at 14:48
• Do mods have to look at duplicate-flags? I guess that is something that the 300+ rep users with closing rights can deal with themselves. – Michael Greinecker Mod May 3 '13 at 17:18
• @Michael, ostensibly, if none of our users of sufficient rep have already dealt with it, it'd be left up for the mods to see. – J. M. ain't a mathematician May 3 '13 at 18:03
• About number of flags: in an answer from 7 March 2013, another moderator wrote that in the preceding month, the rate of flags was about 50 per day ( meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/8703/academic-integrity/… ). – zyx May 4 '13 at 0:30
• I linked to this post when someone asked about moderation duties, but I'm not sure the information is current. The site is larger now, and also many flags are processed differently from how they were in 2013. Could you update your answer, or post a new one? – user147263 Dec 10 '14 at 2:13

Some data on cumulative moderator activity for the 30-day period beginning 10 Nov 2014:

• Flags Handled: 3291
• Comments Deleted: 1449
• Posts Deleted: 190
• Posts Closed: 78
• Edits: 52
• Mod Messages Sent: 46
• Comments Created: 332
• Posts Created: 126
• Of those 3,291 flags handled, would there be statistics on how many were "helpful", how many "declined"? – Gerry Myerson Dec 10 '14 at 23:37
• Also, on how many flags were handled by you vs all other mods combined? – user147263 Dec 11 '14 at 1:31
• @Behaviour: Perhaps remarkably, the internal statistics are badly kept. When multiple users flag the same question, it augments the overall flag counter many times. But if a mod clears many of them at once, it only registers once as a flag cleared by that mod. But to answer your question, Arthur handled about 2/3 of the flags, I handled about 1/6, and the rest handled the other 1/6 – davidlowryduda Mod Dec 11 '14 at 1:43
• @GerryMyerson: A large number of the flags (sorry, I don't know the exact statistics) are automatically raised flags: disputed low-quality review, too many recent comments, too many answers, too many edits, etc. Even if I take no action (this is usually the case, though they each require inspection), I personally mark all of these as helpful since the system will continue to raise these flags regardless of what I choose. For user-raised flags it's almost impossible to say. We only have limited access to previously handled flags without searching through each and every post in the system. .... – user642796 Dec 11 '14 at 4:42
• ... We get good user flags, and not-so-good user flags (e.g., "please answer my question"), and I hope we act on them appropriately. But I will say that for the size of the site, we probably get fewer flags than should be expected. (Super User gets less than 200 questions per day, but the number of flags their mods receive is comparable to us. Source: private communication with Journeyman Geek) – user642796 Dec 11 '14 at 4:59

[Add questions for current and former moderators in the comments below]

• Q: When not all moderators agree on a certain action, do they take a vote or keep discussing it until consensus forms? – 75064 May 6 '13 at 23:28
• Q: What is the approximate time demand of being a moderator here? – apnorton May 6 '13 at 23:59
• @anorton: I did my best to answer that question in my answer above. – davidlowryduda Mod May 7 '13 at 3:55
• @mixedmath (Or below, for people who sort meta threads by activity.) – 75064 May 7 '13 at 5:01
• Do moderators spent a lot of time in a mod-only chatroom discussing things? If a moderator is not sure about a way to handle something, is this the first place where he asks about it? – Martin Sleziak Sep 9 '13 at 12:43
• @MartinSleziak or "If a moderator is not sure about a way to handle something, is this the first place where s/he asks about it?" – amWhy Sep 29 '17 at 18:56