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To be honest I find it hard to keep up with all the changes, and very frequently I have to go look at the privileges list to see whether a user (that I'm looking at, so I have his reputation value) has a certain privilege or not.

However, I still don't know what that user will actually see or how the site actually behaves for that user.

There's quite a number of posts here on meta about "where did this go" and "why can't I" and I can't really tell either way how a site behaves for a user with a reputation level of 2500.

So, I propose the following functionality:

  1. For all users, be able to view the site as though you had less reputation than you actually have
  2. Bonus-feature: For all users, be able to use the site at that reputation level, unless some features of low-level users conflict with your actual functionality
  3. For mods, be able to view the site as a specific users (be able to see all he sees, exactly the way he sees it), but of course not pose as that user (ie. things I do would still be me)

The UI could be merged into the mod menu and the privileges menu:

mod menu

(Note, I chose a user randomly, Olivier Pons is in no way related to this question or flags, or whatever that I know of.)

privileges menu

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I think a list of earned privileges on the user's profile would be an easier way to solve the problem (the "view as specific user" part), and it could be visible to everyone not just mods. –  Yannis Mar 27 '12 at 11:05
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To be honest, no, though that would be good as well. The site undergoes changes so while I can see that the user can retag (as an example), the UI changes for retagging as your reputation changes (whether you have to use an edit or can retag inline.) There are other changes as well, and some parts of the site are not visible at lower rep levels, which makes a comment by me as "Why didn't you use X" when the user clearly cannot even see X particularly silly. As a mod, I frequently have to know what the site looks like for a user in order to give good advice/respond correctly. –  Lasse V. Karlsen Mar 27 '12 at 11:07
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"All" you need to do is maintain your accounts on other sites at specific reputation levels so you can check features on those sites ;) –  ChrisF Mar 27 '12 at 11:13
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@YannisRizos That's available already, although it's not linked for non-mods. You can see my privileges here –  Michael Mrozek Mar 27 '12 at 11:15
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Right, I'll get right on with building up 20 sockpuppets and upvoting them. It would be nice of you other mods not to ban me or anything just as silly, kthxbai :) –  Lasse V. Karlsen Mar 27 '12 at 11:15
    
I haven't yet found myself in a situation that such a feature would be useful, but I'm still in my early days as a mod, so I'll just take your word for it. It certainly sounds useful. –  Yannis Mar 27 '12 at 11:15
    
@MichaelMrozek Ah, that's great! I (now) vaguely remember seeing that at some point, but it's always nice when a feature you thought of already exists... –  Yannis Mar 27 '12 at 11:26
    
@MichaelMrozek but where's your privilege to impersonate other users? I know you have it, I saw the screenshot in chat a long time ago! ;-) –  The Unhandled Exception Mar 27 '12 at 12:55
    
phpBB has this feature where an admin can see what a particular user sees the boards as - this feature can be very useful –  Sathya Mar 27 '12 at 13:25
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Ideally, there's a whole community of other people able to answer the kinds of questions you're referring to, without needing this functionality. I'm trying to visualise what would be necessary to implement this (which, since I can't see the source either, is admittedly a complete guess on my part), and it seems like it'd be too much effort unless there's a more significant problem to address. Is there something beyond what you've stated that this would help you with? –  Tim Stone Mar 27 '12 at 13:34
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@TimStone the difference is that no, there's not. Most of that community doesn't see the need for interaction the way we mods see the need for interaction. You see it as "oh, a 10k should step in here" or "well surely there's a 4k just lurking that can answer this" but in truth, especially with SO, that's just not the case. On DBA I have very few 10k users, so I'm (and JackD!!) the only one they can turn to for advice on functionality on the site or here on meta. The power users are often +5k, but you know that doesn't give a lot of usability in certain places. –  jcolebrand Mar 27 '12 at 13:49
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Additionally, I think this is a useful feature because sometimes the user doesn't understand how a feature looks on screen, so if you can show him using his own name, then he will understand a little faster. (He/She, I hate pronouns, and everyone gets offended if I say "It") We all here on meta tend to be devs, or have worked rather extensively in customer service, so we know that making things as explicit as possible is a net positive. –  jcolebrand Mar 27 '12 at 13:53
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It really isn't hard to open incognito mode and use a second email account tbh... And the "accidentally doing things you shouldn't" is simple - don't vote on your own posts. –  Tim Jul 13 at 13:15
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Opening a second email account doesn't let me check the behavior for a user with over 3K reputation but below 5K, or over 20K reputation but below 30K, or check what parts of the interface will look different to a 10K user vs a 20K user ... and voting on your own posts is far from the only issue it's important to avoid. –  Glen_b Jul 13 at 13:24
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@Tim Some examples of reasons a moderator might want to see the behavior of the site for a user of a specific reputation level: i) being able to give accurate help in response to meta questions on a site that may not even have an active meta user with the same level of privilege. ii) seeing what a user is talking about when they raise a particular issue. ... ctd –  Glen_b Jul 13 at 14:22

3 Answers 3

I'd like to see this. As a moderator, I agree that it's difficult to remember all of the privileges all of the time (and all of the reputation required for them). Sometimes, it would be nice to see exactly what they see.

I'd propose a few changes to make it more intuitive. First, if you want to view the site at a certain reputation level, it should be on the profile page, like so:

view site with X reputation option

For moderators, if they are on another user's profile and want to view the site as that user, then they will see this under that users profile:

view site as another user

With the option to revert back on their own profile (in the same place where the rep box would be).

Note, the following things should be explicitly disallowed:

  • Moderators and users cannot view the site with more rep than they have (it's feasible to have moderators that are not above 10K in rep, especially on the other Stack Exchange sites)
  • Moderators should not be able to view the site as other moderators.
  • Votes that a user has cast should not be visible to the user that you are viewing the site as (as per Manishearth's comment)

The above is more to lower the chance of bugs, more than anything.

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Note that when a mod Sudo's a user, he should not see the votes of that user, keeping with existing mod privileges. And obviously he shouldn't be allowed to post answers as that user. –  Manishearth Mar 27 '12 at 12:55
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Mod shouldn't be able to log in as other mods. Too bad--recursion is always fun :) –  Manishearth Mar 27 '12 at 12:57
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Incepflow....... –  Lasse V. Karlsen Mar 27 '12 at 13:02
    
@Manishearth Updated answer with first point. –  casperOne Mar 27 '12 at 13:03
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Interesting that you say a moderator cannot view the site with more rep than they have, when a moderator can see all to begin with. Is there anything specific as to why you say that? –  jrg Mar 27 '12 at 14:03
    
@jrg Just to reduce the chance of bugs when working out the logic on their end. No need to overcomplicate things. –  casperOne Mar 27 '12 at 14:04
    
@casperOne Fair enough. Was just curious. –  jrg Mar 27 '12 at 14:07
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"With the option to revert back on their own profile" Although I kind of think there should be a giant banner in the corner of every page saying "Don't forget you're viewing the site as someone else, click here to turn back into yourself before trying to do anything", just to avoid confusion :) –  Jack V. Mar 30 '12 at 16:38

I've encouraged our mods to create a new account and try to get to 200 rep on their site as something fun to do, and an exercise with keeping in touch with how it feels to be a low-rep user. It's not mandatory for them to do this, we ask an awful lot of them already, but it's more strongly encouraged if you work here.

For testing purposes on our dev tier, we have the ability to just become any 2k, 3k, or even 10k account that we want; contained nicely in a sandbox. That's how we test new features.

But the best way to get the experience along with the UX the user sees is to just use another account for testing. Just ask Eggs McLaren. If it got to the point that a mod needed to be a user with 200 rep in order to figure something out, it would be a lot easier, and a much better use of their time for them to just ask us and let us know what might be going on.

If we let mods troubleshoot stuff to the degree that we do, they'd do it, which means we've inadvertently asked for more of their time. I'm not quite comfortable with that, the tooling should allow them to get more done in less time, with fewer clicks.

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Since both this and this older request got good answers now, can you please merge them? –  Shadow Wizard Jul 13 at 13:56
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(just a fun fact) At least 3 of the CMs hired in the last 18 months started their training by picking a site that interested them, and seeing how far they could go using it for a couple of weeks, prior to us ramping up their access on all sites. It's something I'm going to be encouraging more and more (company wide) for new and established folks, because it's a great way to keep in touch with how users feel at that level of experience. –  Tim Post Jul 13 at 13:56
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As a mod I never thought to try that; thanks for the suggestion. One need I sometimes have is to be able to look at, or provide screen shots of, site features that vary by rep -- there I am trying to remember what a 500-rep user sees on the "flag" link because he can't yet vote to close, for example, and I can't so I'm answering support questions from memory if I don't have an account on another site to use to check. This may be an argument for being more active across the network. :-) (I'm, err, pretty good at that, but I don't have full rep coverage.) –  Monica Cellio Jul 13 at 15:18
    
The main use for this feature isn't to experience the life of an X-rep user, but to respond to support questions and more generally provide guidance. Should we tell a 1-rep user to flag their post, or can they not do it? What does a 20-rep user see when they flag a question and select “close as off-topic”? Of course it would be more helpful if you would document this clearly (rather than have to follow every single answer posted by devs, and wonder whether we've found the latest one), since this information is useful to more than mods. –  Gilles Jul 13 at 17:57
    
Can a user with 46 rep flag to close as duplicate? –  Gilles Jul 14 at 15:29
    
@Gilles No, and that's documented. I agree that some of those entries need to be checked to make sure they have all (and correct) info. –  Tim Post Jul 15 at 5:56

I don't think mods need to.

We already have users with a certain amount of rep that can complain/appreciate the disadvantages/advantages of being at their rep level. If you want to know how other users are doing, you could simply ask in chat or attempt a discussion right here without getting the question, downvoted, closed, deleted, and utterly destroyed.

Though mods can really do anything they want to, it isn't like they could try exploring as an user with x amount of rep. They could just "ignore" their special privileges and only use them when necessary. I don't see the use of changing the amount of rep you have can help mods experience the life of a user. I mean, they have an entire army of users they can ask from anyways. And they can stick to what they do best: moderating our SE sites from any trouble-makers.

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