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Looking at the 50 most used tags there are certain tags where the current moderators, as a group, are not, currently, "active".

Active being defined as all moderators, as a group, have posted more than 30 questions or answers in the past year.

Disclaimer: Obviously this doesn't disqualify the current moderators from being able to act in an appropriate manner on other tags and I'm fairly certain they would be asking and answering less now that they have to deal with all the flags. It's also not to say that the current moderators don't know more than the nominees about these tags; just that they haven't been posting much in them recently.

However, there are a number of common tags where the current nominees, as a group, are active and the current moderators are not. Notably the following:

TagName        Nominees
-------------- -------- 
database       41       
performance    25       
vb.net         78       
image          31       
json           56       
visual-studio  22       
android        165      
asp.net-mvc-3  62       
c              86       
silverlight    22       
xcode          22       
ajax           81       
asp.net-mvc    54       
multithreading 28       
c++            238      
facebook       258    

When joined against the current list of nominees this list returns everyone! Which was a little surprising but a great indication of the diversity of the nominees.

Extending this query further (making it look really awful) there are several nominees who are individually "active" in tags that the current moderators are not (in no particular order)

Does any of this matter? Is it wiser to have moderators that add to the collective knowledge of the current ones?

Even taking this into account there's still some noticeable "gaps" in both the current moderators and the nominees "expertise"

Second disclaimer: I actually intend on casting one of my votes for someone not on this list so I'm going to partially ignore it!

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+1, these are interesting observations! –  jadarnel27 Jun 8 '12 at 13:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I don't think it really matters that much.

Slight side story first.

I, personally, am an amateur chemist. I don't know too much beyond high-school level chemistry. I stated this clearly on my chem.SE mod nomination, and I was told that subject knowledge doesn't really matter:

My understanding is that being a mod has nothing (or very little) to do with the material at hand. Flags can be rejected for a reason that is something like "moderators are not responsible for removing incorrect answers" Don't worry about the expertise so much. Much more important is moderating (if you get the diamond).

And, from Aarthi:

I don't think that[not knowing too much chemistry] will be an issue at all; while the other two are experienced moderators, having a user who's committed to helping new users learn the rules and understand how SE works is just as (if not more so) valuable as someone who can handle conflicts about technical subjects.

So despite the fact that I don't know too much chemistry, I did get appointed. This does show that SE/the community feels that topic knowledge isn't really required for a mod.


Aaanyway, back to SO. SO caters to many many different languages, and having a mod for each one of them isn't that feasible.

Looking at the major languages, it is feasible to pick mods who "fill in the gaps"--but I wouldn't do that.

I don't think that the mods regularly have to deal with stuff requiring subject-specific knowledge. One can see a bad quality post from afar, and wrong answers are caught/downvoted by the respective communities. Aside from that, the rest of moderation work has nearly nothing to do with the subject at hand.

The only thing this would give is an extra pair of eyes watching the tag. But I doubt that that's required. Remember that each subcommunity has its own set of 20ks,10ks,5ks,3ks, and flaggers/downvoters/commenters. Those already are watching and dealing with these problems. Moderators, as human exception handlers, have to deal with more esoteric things that come their way.

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I was going to ping you to answer this ;) –  Yannis Jun 8 '12 at 13:20
    
@YannisRizos: Why me? O_0 –  Manishearth Jun 8 '12 at 13:20
    
I, personally, am an amateur chemist. I don't know too much beyond high-school level chemistry. I stated this clearly on my chem.SE mod nomination –  Yannis Jun 8 '12 at 13:21
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@YannisRizos: You knew that? scared of stalkers ;-) –  Manishearth Jun 8 '12 at 13:21
    
@Tim because of your story? –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 8 '12 at 13:21
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I know everything. (you talked about this in a comment in the election page) –  Yannis Jun 8 '12 at 13:22

Yes, it matters -- with some caveats. Having the best possible "coverage" means that it's more likely that a moderator will have relevant domain experience when dealing with some thorny problems. But for your numbers to be meaningful, they'd need to be normalized according to the number of flags seen for each tag. I strongly suspect that not all tags attract the same number of problematic questions or abusive answers and comments. Moderators may be less active in some tags because they're self-regulating, or because the expert population is larger, or for any number of other reasons.

Thanks for the interesting statistics!

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+1 a good point on the flags. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 8 '12 at 13:06

If the goal and purpose of the moderators was to "add to the collective knowledge" then it might be something worth investigating, if only as an academic exercise to find the distribution of knowledge among them as you're attempting to do.

However, the goal and purpose of the moderators is more toward maintaining the site's integrity and adherence to the stated topic, while monitoring and acting on community moderation efforts. Given that the moderation tools list pending flags across all tag categories, the moderators are unlikely to just patrol the tags in which they're most active. Rather, they can view the moderation queue and act site-wide as necessary.

It seems not uncommon that individuals who are at one time very prolific answerers, once becoming diamond community moderators find far less time to answer anyway.

One advantage I can see of a moderator who is active in a tag others are not is having somewhat better knowledge of the other common contributors in that tag, to know what is considered acceptable behavior in that particular tag. However, I'm not sure that they ought to be applying different standards to different tags so I don't see a great payoff from this.

Addendum after comments:

I can certainly see the value of domain knowledge in a tag when, for example, delivering rulings "not an answer" flags. But, hope that the site guidelines are well enough defined and understood by the moderators that they can be applied more or less uniformly across tag categories, without a need for that specific domain knowledge.

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Playing devils advocate; isn't a new moderator who has demonstrable knowledge of an area which the current ones don't preferable as they will be more able act advisedly on those areas. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 8 '12 at 13:02
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@Ben I can see value in that for tasks like ruling on "not an answer" flags, where some domain knowledge can come in handy, but I would hope that the site guidelines are well enough understood and defined that they can be applied more uniformly, without needing that specific domain knowledge. –  Michael Berkowski Jun 8 '12 at 13:10
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@Ben It would be nice, but it's probably the least important aspect of the election. When domain knowledge is necessary, the mods always have the option to consult with the community, for example via the topic's dedicated chat room. –  Yannis Jun 8 '12 at 13:19
    
@Yannis, as I say I'm going to (try to) ignore these observations in at least one instance; I'm wondering how much it matters. If the answer is hardly at all then all well and good! Your point about chat is a good one. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 8 '12 at 13:26
    
@Ben Well, surprisingly, it might make a difference in this election, because we have a lot of excellent candidates. But it's the last thing you should be looking for in a candidate, thick skin, patience, availability and timezone matter a lot more than domain knowledge. –  Yannis Jun 8 '12 at 13:30

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