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Studying some recent MSO questions made me wonder if this is a good practice?

Same moderator overruling reopen votes of five privileged community members may be perceived as biased subjective judgement: "seems to be on a roll today" 1, "Community moderation at its finest" 2, "eagerly closing" 3 etc.

Would it make less room for tension if second-time closure was performed by another moderator?


If I understand correctly, in cases like this "first closer" moderator has an option to signal their evaluation to colleagues using "Other" flag which avoids a binding close effect.

http://i.stack.imgur.com/VC71d.png

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From the moderator's answer in the first link: "Had other moderators been around at the time (the SO Mod chat room was empty), I would have asked them about it before acting again." –  Arjan Aug 19 '12 at 11:46
    
@Arjan yeah that's exactly why I mentioned falgging. Mod can't close-vote without binding and if mod chat is empty, this kind of leaves them speechless - this feels quite unfair if mod still believes the question is closeworthy. As an active close-voter at Programmers I experienced this myself at reopened questions where my own close vote was out already –  gnat Aug 19 '12 at 11:59
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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Would it make less room for tension if second-time closure was performed by another moderator?

Unfortunately no. Both your examples seem to focus on the moderator closing the question rather than whether the questions should be closed or not, I'd say that tension is build in them and it wouldn't make any difference if it was another moderator closing the second time. Worth noting however that other than a handful of passive aggressive comments, the community seems to agree with the closures on both examples, and in the second case the question was re-opened after it was improved - I call that a win.

Generally speaking, it might make sense for a different moderator to close the second time, even if only for appearances sake. But, as kiamlaluno already mentioned, the people who'd concentrate on the moderator closing the question instead of the actual merits of the question would probably also be very quick to liberally accuse the moderators for covering for each other, and we'd be back where we started.

I see only one "solution": If your question was closed, concentrate on discussing the question itself and not the close voters, regardless if there was a moderator involved or not. It's extremely simple really, come on Meta and ask:

Hey, can someone explain to me why this question is off topic / not constructive? Is there anything I could do to improve it?

That's all, if you are doing anything different you're doing it wrong. A closed question is just that, closed, there isn't any difference if it was closed by five community votes or by a moderator. And there's absolutely no gain for the community - other than a pint of entertaining Meta drama - if you concentrate on anything else but how the question could be improved and re-opened.

Here's a very recent example of Meta awesomeness - the system works!

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An anecdote is not data. Pointing to a single instance of the system "working" does not mean that the system works. I find it disconcerting that your solution to potential problems with moderation is to just not bring it up. Keep calm and carry on. Nothing to see here. –  Nicol Bolas Aug 20 '12 at 9:26
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@NicolBolas What potential problems with moderation? In both examples the community seems to overwhelmingly agree with the closures, and the question and my proposed solution is about the tension around those examples and not really about moderation. A question getting closed, even wrongly closed, is not a problem with moderation, unless of course you're implying that moderators are or should be infallible. –  Yannis Aug 20 '12 at 9:32
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@NicolBolas I do agree that an anecdote is not data, however I don't feel I need to convince anyone that bringing up issues in a constructive manner works, that's just common sense. I just pointed to a recent example where the moderator mis-read the question, and the matter was resolved quickly and productively. Moderators make mistakes. Ranting about it helps no one. Assuming good faith when bringing up issues is what I'm trying to say, and in my experience it always works. –  Yannis Aug 20 '12 at 9:34
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I don't think it's tension that comes into play in these circumstances, I think it's contention. There are going to be times when the community wants something done differently and the moderator just knows (based on past experience) that the artifact of the community's 'will' will probably be used as a trampoline by someone else to post something even more problematic in the future.

With that being said, when there is a significant amount of contention surrounding a question, it's in the moderator's best interest to ask another moderator or community coordinator to take a look. That is not mandatory, nor should it be, because it presumes that one or the other is going to be immediately available. I've asked and been asked to review decisions just for a sanity check, it is quite common.

The community is never without options:

  • Anyone can flag a post where moderator action has been taken and specifically request that a different moderator review the action. We honor these requests without fail.

  • Anyone can raise discussions here on Meta requesting that the community review the moderator's actions, which you've cited.

  • You can contact the Stack Exchange community team directly via e-mail, though the first two options are going to be your best bet. Discussions of this nature should be out in the open anyway.

I would not support putting a barrier in front of a moderator forcing them to involve another mod when they are 100% certain that the action they're taking is the correct action to take. As demonstrated in the linked questions, any action we take is reversible. If I'm about to super vote the same question closed twice, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm confident in my decision. None of us enjoy being called out on meta. If we're not prepared to back up a decision, we generally refrain from taking action. We also have no problem admitting to error when we make mistakes.

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Would it make less room for tension if second-time closure was performed by another moderator?

It would probably create less tension if the question is closed from another moderator, the second time. Still, I can imagine somebody saying the second moderator closed the question because moderators protect each other.

If five users re-open the question that was closed from a moderator, it could be the moderator misunderstood the question, or the five users who re-opened it misunderstood the question. In any case, it is probably better to understand why there is a different opinion about the question.
I am not sure on how this would scale for Stack Overflow, but in these cases it is probably better to ask on the meta site why the question was closed, rather than starting a close/reopen war that see the vantage on the moderators' side, as a single moderator can close a question more than once.

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Would it make less room for tension if second-time closure was performed by another moderator?

No, probably not. However, that doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

Forcing a second moderator to review and close the post is entirely reasonable in my opinion. Not for the above reason, but because it ensures that someone else is looking at it. That it's not just the personal opinion of one moderator. Two mods are a lot less likely to make a mistake than one.

I don't see it causing a problem with reopening bad questions. Generally, the community can spot crap and deal with it quite effectively. If people are reopening the question, then there's a fair chance that there's a good reason for it. So if it's going to be one-vote-reclosed, it would be good if someone else had to do it. Just to prevent mistakes.

This makes even more sense considering that regular users don't get to cast two close votes. And if the community is truly wrong, it's not hard for a second moderator to get involved. And if it keeps getting reopened for dubious reasons, then it can be brought up on MSO by any interested parties.

So it's not about lessening tension so much as reducing errors.

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Obviously it's a good idea, asking for a second set of eyes is a good thing. That said the question was about tension, and unfortunately the answer is that if someone is biased against one moderator, their mind won't change just because another moderator stepped in. –  Yannis Aug 20 '12 at 9:38
    
interesting. That sounds like Two-man rule right? –  gnat Aug 20 '12 at 12:59
    
@gnat Actually that has been discussed on MSO at some point, but I can't find the post (it could have been a comment discussion though). Overly complicated solution to what is essentially a non-issue (imho), even if a moderator goes crazy with power, everything we can do is reversible and all you have to do is bring it up on Meta constructively. –  Yannis Aug 21 '12 at 13:02
    
@YannisRizos in case of abuse, it is quite likely that constructive part of bringing it to meta would be difficult one. As you noted, in both cases mentioned in my question OPs have shown traces of what you call passive-aggressive behavior - and that was even for cases where mods actions were reasonably justified imNSho. –  gnat Aug 21 '12 at 13:33
    
@gnat When I say constructive, I don't necessarily mean you should be extra nice, mod abuse is a serious accusation and all I'm asking is that people treat it as such - for example bring forth actual evidence of the abuse instead of posting trolling comments. If you have the evidence that clearly show that a mod went nuts, feel free to rant about it, I wouldn't mind at all and I'd probably rage against the fellow mod myself. –  Yannis Aug 21 '12 at 13:39
    
@YannisRizos I see, fair enough –  gnat Aug 21 '12 at 13:40
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