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If the moderator workload is so high, then why is there only 3 new moderator positions available? As per http://stackoverflow.com/election?cb=1

Why not 5, 10 or 20?

There are a lot of people with significant rep and dedication to SO, so why not allow for more than 3 new moderators?

Ref: There's an election going on. What's happening and how does it work?

There are currently 16 candidates, and its very likely that the majority of them would make good moderators. Lets say 10 of them would make excellent moderators. How much of a difference would 10 new active moderators make to the workload of "an average of over 1,000 flags per day!"?

Of the current nominations there are some very excellent candidates:

And because there are only 3 spots then a lot of extremely deserving well qualified and willing candidates will miss out.

When IMHO many of the above should just be appointed as moderators on the spot for their well known and proven dedication and leave the election for 3 spots to the remaining candidates (who are also deserving of the position).

Edit: Just to be clear the above list is my opinion only and was chosen on the basis of name recognition (those names that I have seen contributing countless times during my 2 years on SO) plus a few more based on rep to bring the list up to 10. I don't claim the list to be in any way accurate, but I do claim that it shows there are far more than 3 deserving candidates.

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You're also assuming those with high rep even bother to help out by checking the 10k flags queue instead of posting one liner answers –  random Jun 11 '12 at 1:40
    
20? We don't even have 20 candidates. –  animuson Jun 11 '12 at 2:03
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Specific mindset, if a user sees 3 slots they will assume that they don't have a chance. 20 candidates you change the mindset and users will feel that the barrier drops, the current # of candidates has nothing to do with it –  phwd Jun 11 '12 at 2:06
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There are at least 5 candidates who, without a doubt would make great mods (imo). I definitely think the team should consider expanding the number a bit. There's no reason to make our mods work so hard when there are so many more willing to do the job. –  Adam Rackis Jun 11 '12 at 2:30
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@Adam I thought the same thing. Adding one or two more would be a fine idea. –  Pëkka Jun 11 '12 at 2:45
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@JoshCaswell: Deep fried spam? –  animuson Jun 11 '12 at 2:52
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@JoshC - Jeff was a sharp guy, but sometimes he had a habit of arguing against straw men. I don't know the context of that quote, so I won't comment there, but nobody here wants to open the floodgates and throw bodies at the problem; OP is just suggesting that an addition of a few more than the previous 3 mods would do a lot of good. (and to be clear, you never made that argument, you're just quoting Jeff; I'm just saying Jeff's argument doesn't apply here) –  Adam Rackis Jun 11 '12 at 3:02
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What I think would be a better suggestion is to hold more elections over the year. Instead of the current two in a year, we can spread out a little and have 3 in a year or so. Too many mods at a time and the current mods wouldn't be much able to help out new mods. –  jokerdino Jun 11 '12 at 4:03
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I'm sorry, @user147272, but in this case it would appear that you've only chosen "would make a great mod" based on rep, and that's a flat out lie. Please do not vote in this election, as you know nothing of the system. At least 3 of those you listed would make terrible mods, because they are not in-tune with meta. They may think they are, but they've shown through action and inaction that they are not. And this is a very inflaming statement, but I don't mind getting torched on this. I assure you, your choices are flawed. –  jcolebrand Jun 11 '12 at 14:44
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@jcolebrand I'm not going to flame you at all :) Your comment has validity, I did add some to my list based on rep only. But the majority on my list are there because of name recognition, they are names that have made well known and significant contributions to SO. Sorry if I left you and Sathya (who is already a mod on SU) off my list :) I'm only trying to say that there is much more than 3 deserving candidates. SO will will get 3 truly excellent new mods but will miss out on also potentially getting as many as 10 truly excellent new mods. –  user147272 Jun 11 '12 at 22:49
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@jcolebrand: "At least 3 of those you listed would make terrible mods, because they are not in-tune with meta." For some, that's a good reason to make them moderators. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 11 '12 at 22:49
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@NicolBolas I might agree except two of the people on that list have already demonstrated to me personally that they aren't yet mature enough to make good decisions on the network. That doesn't mean I have judged them on age, as some might read into this comment, because some of the best mods on this network are under 20. It just means that those people don't seem to make the best mods, in my experience. However, you may be right, because throw them into the fire, and they have no choice but to improve or to perish. –  jcolebrand Jun 12 '12 at 3:39
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@jcolebrand I am not exactly sure what you talking about. My thoughts behind the suggestion was, instead of bringing in more mods at any one time, we could have multiple elections so the new mods are adequately trained by existing mods. We probably are on the same wavelength but I am not really too sure about that. –  jokerdino Jun 12 '12 at 3:50
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@JoshCaswell I understand mod elections are held based primarily on necessity. But, if the workload for the moderators are significantly high, I think it is common sensical to bring in more mods. But, there is concern from the existing mods that training new mods is quite a job in itself. Hence, I was suggesting we should have more elections so we could bring down the average workload as well as sufficiently train the new mods. Feel free to disagree though. –  jokerdino Jun 12 '12 at 3:58
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@jcolebrand I actually was merely placing my opinion giving the OP's suggestion (appoint more mods to cut down workload) and the opposite views to that (which was new mods need time to settle in). I thought the right way to balance that issue was to conduct more elections. But, as it is, I don't think there is much of a problem since the mods can request for elections if necessary. (On other note, the OP's name would be highlighted in comments so you know who is OP and who is not) –  jokerdino Jun 12 '12 at 4:09

5 Answers 5

dmckee and Tim Stone pretty much nailed it:

  • It takes time and effort - from the SE staff, the existing moderators, and the community at large - to bring a new moderator up to speed. There are certainly some candidates who could probably hit the ground running, but there's no guarantee they'll be the ones elected... And the more brought on at once, the less time and attention we can devote to each.

  • The voting system itself works less well with more than three elected moderators. We don't actually let folks cast 10 votes, even though there are 10 candidates in the final round, so as we draw from the pool, fewer people will have voted for them. Increasing the number of votes that can be cast would put more strain on voters.

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Well, I guess if the mods and the team concur that three is an okay number, that's the correct answer then - we non-mods can hardly judge this. It's just that if I look at the candidate list, I see more than three people who I'm sure would make great mods... but then, of course, we can't know whether they would actually end up getting elected. –  Pëkka Jun 11 '12 at 11:54
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Shog, if the site is growing fast, and mods are swamped in a few months, you should just consider picking one or two of your top-choice mods, no matter where they finish in this election. There's no law that says every single mod has to be purely and directly elected. –  Adam Rackis Jun 12 '12 at 19:58

Well, this is a tricky problem. While there's a large workload that could use as much manmodpower thrown behind it as possible, increasing the number of election positions is potentially undesirable for two reasons.

The first problem is that it puts more burden on the voters. Ideally, voters will use up all of their votes to chose the top n candidates that they feel are most qualified to fill the role of moderator. By increasing n, you also increase the likelihood that people don't bother to actually make n selections (since deciding is hard).

If they don't make a selection for every open position, they can end up with an exhausted vote in the Meek STV method used to determine the elected candidates, effectively nullifying their contribution. It's not something to lose sleep over necessarily, but limiting the open positions helps to reduce the extent to which this happens.

The other issue comes in after the new moderators have been elected. While you reasonably state that there are a number of candidates in the current election who seem very qualified to be moderator, it's impossible to know that for certain until they've actually been put into that role.

Given that, there is some administrative overhead that goes into bringing aboard new moderators. Since not everyone turns out to be as great of a moderator as the voters expected, Stack Exchange has to do its part to maintain the health of its sites by making sure that the people who get elected are adequately performing their duties. Given that elections occur all across the network, it's important for them to keep the new inductees at manageable levels - even if they're just watching from a distance.

You also want the moderation team as a whole to be able to be as productive as possible. Though I'm sure there's resources to help new moderators feel comfortable in their new position, I suspect that the current moderators ultimately participate in the onboarding process. The more electees you have, the more time could potentially be used up by those activities, and that could end up counterproductive.

Instead, electing only a few new moderators at a time helps to reduce these burdens. Granted, adding one (or possibly two) more position would probably not increase this substantially, but I'm not sure that it's absolutely necessary. Remember, there's nothing that prevents Stack Exchange from calling up additional moderators post-election, so only taking three candidates now doesn't necessarily mean that the workload can't be properly addressed within a reasonable amount in time (and without necessitating additional elections).

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I've listed some of the candidates, and there are more than 3 who are well known and proven contributors. So there might not be as much of an increase in mod training as you think. –  user147272 Jun 11 '12 at 6:49
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You made a good point in your closing, we can always call additional moderators up if we need them. This election should produce three good moderators, with some good talent left in the proverbial 'bullpen'. If we get three people that spend 30 minutes a day processing flags somewhat consistently, I am a very happy mod :) –  Tim Post Jun 11 '12 at 10:00
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@user147272 There are still site-specific nuances of the job that take some settling into, though. As Shog9 mentions, you also can't guarantee that the people who can "hit the ground running" will be the ones elected, and even if they are, there's always some risk that things don't go as smoothly because they underestimated the level of effort required. –  Tim Stone Jun 11 '12 at 12:04
    
While we can look at the pool of candidates and believe there's a reduced chance of that happening, it's still safer to just add a few at a time and see how things go. Then, if it becomes apparent that's not enough, more can be added in the same way until the workload per moderator becomes more manageable. –  Tim Stone Jun 11 '12 at 12:05

There's a chance that if you put up too many positions compared to the number of nominations, that users that wouldn't have been elected in any standard election with three positions get elected. Increasing the number of positions too far makes it more likely that a user that isn't really mod-material gets elected.

But for this specific election, we have a very strong field as many have already mentioned. I see no problem in increasing the number of positions to 4 or 5. There's also some precedent for that, both for increasing the number of positions during the early nomination period and for making the 4th and 5th user in the election a mod some time after the election, when there is a need.

Now, as Jeff said just throwing mods at the problem isn't a viable strategy long-term. Moderators don't scale indefinitely, and getting the community to handle more of the moderation by itself is very important. Having SE focus on enabling the community moderation more and relieving the mods that way is important, but I think this is a bit of a strawman in the specific situation of SO right now.

Compared to the smaller SE sites, SO just has a very small number of mods if you adjust for size. SO has 50-100x as many questions as Gaming.SE, but only double the number of moderators.

Here's a rough overview of how many flags are handled on different SE sites:

+-------------+-------+-------------+-----------+------+---------------+
|    site     | Q/day | flags/month | flags/day | mods | flags/day/mod |
+-------------+-------+-------------+-----------+------+---------------+
| SO          |  5000 |       40000 | 1333,3    |   12 | 111,1         |
| Gaming      |    50 |        2250 | 75,0      |    6 | 12,5          |
| Programmers |    30 |         900 | 30,0      |    5 | 6,0           |
| Webapps     |    13 |         400 | 13,3      |    3 | 4,4           |
| Scifi       |    16 |         300 | 10,0      |    3 | 3,3           |
| WordPress   |    40 |         300 | 10,0      |    6 | 1,7           |
| Skeptics    |     4 |         200 | 6,7       |    4 | 1,7           |
| Security    |    10 |         125 | 4,2       |    3 | 1,4           |
| DIY         |     7 |          50 | 1,7       |    3 | 0,6           |
+-------------+-------+-------------+-----------+------+---------------+

The data is rounded, and it doesn't take into account that not all moderators are active, so it's somewhat optimistic. You can see that SO has an order of magnitude more flags per moderator than any of the other sites, and most sites are far below that.

It's not a matter of just throwing more mods at the problem right now, but getting SO to an adequate number of mods for its size. It's been vastly understaffed forever now compared to other SE sites, and the workload for each moderator is far, far higher than for any other site on the network. That mismatch needs to be addressed.

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Yes that's definitely what I was getting at - SO is very understaffed. –  user147272 Jun 11 '12 at 6:08
    
It's good to have this data out here, so moderator candidates (on any site) have a rough idea of what they're into. Of course, moderating is not only flags, but the bigger the site, the more moderating is mostly processing flags. I would completely omit beta sites from the table, there flags are only a small part of the job. –  Gilles Jun 11 '12 at 12:06
    
Why does WordPress have 6 mods? –  BalusC Jun 11 '12 at 12:31
    
@Chichiray You should take this data with a grain of salt, flagging is only part of a moderator's job, and not all moderators that are listed here are actually active. My suspicion is that WP has fewer users flagging, I would have expected it to rank higher here based on its size. –  Mad Scientist Jun 11 '12 at 12:35
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@Chichiray - Wordpress has 6 moderators because not all of them are active at a period where there was significant flagging etc, so extra moderators were elected to help out. The actual work load for the active moderators will be higher than that shown here. –  ChrisF Jun 11 '12 at 12:43
    
@jokerdino I don't have that data available, I just asked a few other mods for their stats to create that table. –  Mad Scientist Jun 12 '12 at 6:02

I have to say that even though I got to learn moderating on a beta site as a pro tem and then on the fairly low traffic site that is Physics.SE there is a learning curve and I made a much higher fraction error rate at first.

Bring new mods on a few at a time makes sense to me just in terms of getting them oriented.

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I don't want to trivialise the process or your answer, but "getting them oriented" can't be too hard a task - some of us make a living by being able to pick up and digest very complex technologies and concepts in a very fast way. (Of course you also need a personality to go along with those mad skills :) –  slugster Jun 11 '12 at 12:02
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@slugster The some of us that has to bone up on a regular basis includes me, but (1) most moderators do this in the spare time left over after their finished boning up for work, and (2) moderating doesn't have a well defined API: it is as much a people skill as a technical problem. –  dmckee Jun 11 '12 at 17:01
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@slugster: the technical considerations are the least of it. As dmckee notes, this is far more about learning how to deal with people. On SO, a lot of people. I laugh every time I see a nomination post that trivializes this aspect - these are the folks who end up doing nothing after they're elected. It's easy to be everyone's buddy when you never have to be the exception handler, the place where the buck stops. –  Shogging through the snow Jun 11 '12 at 23:57
    
@Shog9, I agree with what you're saying re dealing with people. You guys may need to give some specific guidance occasionally, but I wouldn't expect that you'd have to teach new mods too much - IMO they should already have some people skills. I would be disappointed if you had to spend much time on them. –  slugster Jun 12 '12 at 2:08
    
@slugster: the hard truth is simply that even the best end up learning on the job. I've watched all of the SO moderators learning; some of them take to it like a fish to water, many of them struggle. This isn't a knock against anyone - it is a unique experience in many ways. –  Shogging through the snow Jun 12 '12 at 2:17
    
@Shog9 point taken, I guess it is just hard to comprehend what effort is required until we've actually experienced doing the job. –  slugster Jun 12 '12 at 4:36

I believe it's an incremental strategy SE Inc. is doing (I'm sure there is official terminology for this somewhere in business/recruitment)

They are assuming (well I'm assuming they are assuming) that the mods that come in will pull the average rate of flag processing at the very least. If they (the 3 new mods) do, then each pre-existing SO mod's load drops, allowing for less time to be spent between all mods. You don't need 20 to drop everyone's load to bearable levels. Three, I assume is a number they chose based on previous elections and how the current flag process rate per mod looks. As well you need the cream from the crop. The current pyramid is

  • top 30 (nomination)
  • top 10 (primary)
  • top 3 (election)

It's 1/3 the previous selection with the progression of each round

Based on the current election page setup, to handle for example 10 or 20, would be a bit unbearable and decreases the viewing area each candidate gets from the SO community (which is why users ask candidates to keep their nominations short).

It could have been 5, but then again 3 really gets the cream out from the crop. You are thrown in to the mindset that

I am volunteering because I want this job, crazy enough to waste long hours processing a never-ending flag queue and I am the best qualified for it so I am confident I can make the cut for the top 3

vs

I am volunteering because SO said the work load is high and I can help for a bit

If (the 3 new mods) are not able to match the current average rate, i.e. they suck at their job, have to quit, or some pre-existing mod is holding the slack or SO flags are increasing even more than the current rate, then they (SE Inc.) can add three new mods (increment) in the next quarter (Fall).

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IIRC, SE also calls in an additional mod (whoever came fourth in the election) if there is enough workload. jjinguy is an example of this, unfortunately the election has borked the usual stackoverflow.com/election page, so I can't show you what I mean :\ –  Manishearth Jun 11 '12 at 3:09
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@TimManishEarth he was called to replace Anna Lear. For that election, there was indeed a high unbearable load (some mods weren't pulling their weight / had to leave) that was made aware, so the increase to 4 in Nov made sense. –  phwd Jun 11 '12 at 3:14
    
Hmm, didn't know that, thanks :) –  Manishearth Jun 11 '12 at 4:30
    
@TimMan - try stackoverflow.com/election/2 –  Shogging through the snow Jun 11 '12 at 6:28
    
So, what happens if the ratio of the number of moderators needed (as a function of the number of users on the site) grows at a rate of more than 3 per quarter? –  Nicol Bolas Jun 11 '12 at 6:44
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At 3 positions then a large number of extremely deserving candidates will miss out. Even at 5 positions many will miss out. When you have that many exceptional candidates who are willing to help, then why not accept their help? –  user147272 Jun 11 '12 at 6:51

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