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I have a David vs Goliath case here involving a teen moderator on Stack Overflow. His display name is BoltClock.

I'm a low reputation SO user (less than 150 points) who was recently suspended for Voting Irregularities by BoltClock. Eventually the mistake was corrected by another non-teen moderator. Normally, you cannot argue with a moderator unless you have solid proof. Following is the proof in my case:

mistake by teen moderator on SO

Now back to our discussion. How come a moderator can suspend a user without any proof of wrongdoing? Could it be that BoltClock's lack of experience or young age is the factor for his mistake? What is the lesson from this mistake? Do we need to introduce a minimum age requirement for any future moderator on the SE network?

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Or, you know, we fat-fingered this one –  Yi Jiang Mar 26 '12 at 12:54
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By making this about age you're going down a very non-constructive route, age just isn't important in this case. A moderator needs a certain maturity, but that is not strongly correlated with age in my experience. Moderators make mistakes, they are just humans (with some exceptions). We have excellent mods on the network that are still underage, I see no reason why we should stop them from becoming mods. –  Mad Scientist Mar 26 '12 at 12:55
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The mods here do a great job - but this is one of the "known issues" of being human. It is not a bug :P Even the highest ranking users here sometimes make mistakes - same as the new users... No need to take offence or point fingers... –  Lix Mar 26 '12 at 12:57
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How is blaming a mistake on a mod's age different than the mistake said mod made in this case? –  Origami Robot Mar 26 '12 at 12:58
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Given that this was resolved several hours ago, it does seem to be counter productive to raise it here now. –  ChrisF Mar 26 '12 at 12:58
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The reason this has been down-voted so heavily is that the voters simply don't think an age limit is needed to be a mod. Voting on Meta works differently, but since this isn't your first Meta post, I'm sure you are aware of this. –  cdeszaq Mar 26 '12 at 13:00
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@Karipap Yep, it's you against the world, buddy. But I'm not sure about the "fat finger" either, because it implies an accidental button press. I'm not a 100% sure about the process, but suspending a user for a specific reason with an accidental click sounds unlikely. –  lunboks Mar 26 '12 at 13:00
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@Karipap Your David vs Goliath analogy is flawed. David wins. –  C. Ross Mar 26 '12 at 13:01
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@C.Ross, unless he's referring to age, in which case, BoltClock is David. Of course, my first (and continuing) reaction to this "question" was - Are you freakin' kidding me? –  RivieraKid Mar 26 '12 at 13:10
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I reopened it because it'd be a shame to see this go down so quickly. One day, I'll grow up... –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 26 '12 at 13:28
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Yawn Is there something of value here or can we close this again? This got tired 15 seconds after it was posted. –  casperOne Mar 26 '12 at 13:31
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@Karipap Yes, yes, indeed I am. Other shameless acts I'll perform are suspensions for people who are extremely rude when it's codified in the site FAQ to be nice. Seriously, we all have better things to do today. –  casperOne Mar 26 '12 at 15:48
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@Karipap I don't think the volunteer moderator team is easily bullied by threats of complaining to their boss, either. Especially when you compare their contributions to the contributions of the person doing the complaining. –  JNK Mar 26 '12 at 15:58
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Everybody's commented here, but this question bothered me enough that I had to chip in my two cents. I had seen BoltClock around the site for a good long while (well before he was elected moderator) before I found out what his age was. I have to say I was shocked, because he carried himself with greater maturity that someone twice or three times his age. I strongly endorsed him in the election because of this, and he's done a great job since then. Age plays no role here, and as far as experience goes, he's spent more time on this site than the vast majority of users. –  Brad Larson Mar 26 '12 at 17:34
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I decided to undelete this, not so much because the answers are useful as for the sake of my own entertainment. Also, I turned 21 last month, so it's like a belated birthday present to myself or something. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 5 '13 at 16:44

5 Answers 5

Splitting hairs, but BoltClock isn't a teenager. According to his profile he's 20.

Regardless of anyone's age, every single active moderator has made mistakes. The more active we are, the more mistakes we make. (The proportion stays about even, but it's a numbers game.)

Now back to our discussion. How come a moderator can suspend a user without any proof of wrong doing?

At the very least I would rate your account history as an interesting read, so this is a far cry from a case "without any proof of wrong doing."

Is it because BoltClock just lack of experience or young age is the factor for his mistake?

I doubt it. After reading your reply BoltClock asked another moderator to double check his decision. An immature person might have just ignored your response, or tried to bury it. That clearly didn't happen here, since BoltClock asked other moderators for a second opinion.

What is the lesson for this mistake? Do we need to introduce minimum age requirement for any future moderator on SE network?

I don't think that's necessary for several reasons:

  1. When we elect moderators we look at their contributions to the site. We can all decide based on their actions and writing whether or not we think they're mature enough to handle the responsibility. The community can make that decision without taking age into account.

  2. People can lie about their age on their profile. You don't really know how old anyone is on here.

  3. BoltClock is the youngest moderator on Stack Overflow, but he's not the least mature. (Commence debating on who that is... ;))

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"Splitting hairs, but BoltClock isn't a teenager. According to his profile he's 20." :) –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 26 '12 at 13:11
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Youngest MOD? –  Lix Mar 26 '12 at 13:11
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@Lix Yes, that'd be me. However, I'm not on stackoverflow, and as such the culture is different. –  jrg Mar 26 '12 at 13:11
    
@Lix ...on Stack Overflow. I can't keep up with the whole network. :) –  Bill the Lizard Mar 26 '12 at 13:12
    
LOL - :P Just my $0.02 @jrg - you learn something new every day :P –  Lix Mar 26 '12 at 13:13
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"but he's not the least mature." HEY!!! –  Won't Mar 26 '12 at 13:17
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"every single active moderator has made mistakes" Uhg. But haven't we. –  dmckee Mar 26 '12 at 16:16
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I object to this answer implying I'm not infallible. –  Ben Brocka Mar 26 '12 at 21:44
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@dmckee right? Oy. –  jcolebrand Mar 27 '12 at 3:48
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I think I'm the youngest mod (or pretty close) now. :P –  American Luke Feb 5 '13 at 20:07
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@Luke Congratulations! I think you are the youngest now, since jrg turned 16. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 5 '13 at 20:29
    
@BilltheLizard: Nope, it's this guy –  Manishearth Feb 5 '13 at 20:34
    
@Manishearth So young he won't even fill in his birth date? I won't ask, in case he'd be violating COPPA. :) –  Bill the Lizard Feb 5 '13 at 20:36
    
@BilltheLizard: Nah, he's mentioned his age somewhere in public chat. Doesn't mean he wants it on his profile. –  Manishearth Feb 5 '13 at 20:41
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He's almost as old as Luke, but not quite. –  Manishearth Feb 5 '13 at 20:43

Every moderator is prone to mistakes, young or old. Everyone is also capable of maturity, teenage or adult. I do not believe that age is a factor that should be considered for a moderator. Note that revealing age isn't even required on the sites, so this really isn't even an enforceable metric to require of moderators. Moderators are required to sign a simple EULA which requires affirming the Terms of Service which requires the person to be of at least 13 years of age. Past that, we're good.

There are only two ways to be a moderator - you have to be handpicked by the Team, or you have to be elected by the community. This isn't a job that just anyone can get - people get this job through the merits of their contributions and activity on the site. We've both appointed and elected young moderators across the entire network, and they've proven to be as responsible and capable as the adult moderators, sometimes even shining above their older compatriots on the same sites. So, no, I don't think we should implement an age requirement, because we'd lose a number of very good moderators for reasons completely unrelated to their own ability to help us succeed as a network.

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Following your logic, we should probably screen all questions on meta from users with purple fractal gravatars because you have a purple gravatar and 100% of your meta questions have more than 20 downvotes! Both your answers have negative scores, too.

The correlation is FOUR TIMES AS STRONG as that between the young moderator and making mistakes since it's happened four times as often, and with 100% consistency.

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Fan-slam-tastic. –  jadarnel27 Mar 26 '12 at 14:45
    
I have the spine to voice my opinions despite my poor command of English. Everyone know how to voice politically correct talks. I'm who I'm. Check your past answers and questions. –  user774411 Mar 26 '12 at 14:49
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@Karipap I have checked my own. I'm making a point that you are confusing correlation with causation. Just because I shave every morning, and every morning the sun rises, does not mean that my shaving makes the sun rise. –  JNK Mar 26 '12 at 14:51

Disclaimer: I myself am a teen, so this may be a wee bit biased

I really doubt that the reason for the mistake is that he was a teen. While most teens act immature, the mature ones have pretty much the same level of maturity as other adults, in my experience. You usually can't even tell the difference... A teen who's been elected a mod most certainly falls under this "mature" category, and wouldn't be any different from the other mods.

People make mistakes. So do mods. Note that the vote-detection system is internal, and mods can only see certain patterns. They cannot see who you voted against, just something or the other indicating "unusual voting patterns detected" (I'm not a mod so I don't know exactly what they see). In this case, I believe that the mod under scrutiny just saw the flag and maybe made a mistake in interpreting it/hit the button too quickly.

Also, BoltClock is 20 and I doubt that the concept of teenage immaturity, however flawed, even applies to him.

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I'll just toss this up in the air, but from what I've seen, teens are as much of a grab bag as adults are - you might get crazy ones, you might get whiny ones, you might get anything else. Just being a "teen" means there is a stereotype that is being applied. note: I'm biased as well, since I'm also a young moderator (not on SO though). –  jrg Mar 26 '12 at 13:34
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Yeah, the only major I see between teens and adults is that we can cut the teens some slack for lack of experience. Adults have no excuse. –  Ghost User Mar 26 '12 at 13:36
    
@jrg exactly my point :) –  Manishearth Mar 26 '12 at 14:08

I've noticed a ton of other very high-rep SO users that are much younger than I am, and that would likely make much better mods than me. Age is not what makes one a good moderator.

As a metric, age is likely to have some correlation with one's skill at moderating a community, but the correlation is definitely NOT a uniform correlation because at various ages, one's ability will be different.

Much more important is how the community sees the moderator in question. If the community feels that the moderator is fair, just, a good leader, wields his/her power responsibly, and makes the community better, then the moderator is doing a good job. These "measuring sticks" are very much the same ones used in most governments around the world where leaders are elected by the citizens and, in general, it has proven to work pretty well, which is why moderators for the SE network are elected, and not just appointed.

Raising the concern is valid, and it is always good to have a discussion, but in this case, I don't believe you have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to supporting your argument that age is a factor in moderation ability. If anything, time matters much more.

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