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TL;DR

Moderators are human and make mistakes. If you feel a moderator screwed up, please be patient with us and try to communicate objectively to help us avoid a lot of unnecessary meta drama. All our mistakes are easily reversible, and we do welcome constructive criticism.


I find it quite distressing that although our communities are very quick to shut down any kind of rudeness towards regular users, I feel we tend to be far more relaxed when it comes to rudeness against moderators.

I don't think I'm alone in this feeling and feel certain that most Meta regulars in all Stack Exchange communities have stumbled upon at least one (or two, or three...) posts that would not have survived for long if they were calling out regular users instead of moderators.

And there is another side to this story. As an elected moderator myself, I have a vested interested in instances of mod abuse. Real mod abuse, not stuff like "a mod closed my favorite question". If (when?) actual mod abuse happens, there's little chance to catch it and deal with it appropriately if it's not brought up constructively.

In any case: Meta is for discussing general behaviours and content, not individuals.

Yes, moderators are supposed to have a thick skin. Yes, moderators are supposed to be able to defend all their actions. Still, we are only humans (well, most of us), and we are volunteering our time. We will make mistakes and when that happens it would be a lot more constructive to discuss the mistake itself than the moderator who did it. Some examples:

  • Did a moderator close your favourite question?

    Great, post on Meta telling us what's so wonderful about that question. There's absolutely no need to mention the moderator, it will not help getting the question re-opened faster. Discussing the moderator who closed your question is as counter productive as discussing the five close voters, had the question been closed through community voting.

  • Do you disagree with some of the rules & guidelines of the community?

    Great, let's change them! But for as long as the rules & guidelines stand, moderators don't have a choice but to enforce them. For all you know they might disagree themselves, but it's their responsibility to follow and enforce whatever we've reached consensus on, regardless of their personal opinions.

  • Did you spot someone not being nice to a moderator?

    Do exactly the same as you would do if that someone was not being nice to a regular user, doing anything less (or nothing at all) is nonsensical. The "she/he's a mod she/he can take it" attitude is a bit hard to take all the time.

I said it once, and I'll say it again: We are glorified janitors, we are not f'ing politicians.

So please don't forget moderators are just volunteers, and we really don't have to be here. And all of us would rush to shut down any kind of rudeness towards regular users, and none of us is looking for a pat on the back for it.

Is it too much to ask from regular users to do the same when we're being targeted? There's nothing fair about being targeted, even if you've done something wrong. We can always correct the mistake with extremely little effort, nothing helpful about harassment.

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Can we get an official ruling on this: Meta is for discussing general behaviours and content, not individuals. I see far too many posts on Meta smearing another user instead of abstracting the problem to a level it can be discussed in a civilized manner. –  Mike B Nov 19 '12 at 13:13
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@gnat Painful? Really? I've seen users whose account was deleted by a moderator by mistake, and they were extremely nice about it. And the specific case I have in mind was a relatively low rep user without much familiarity with the network. –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 13:39
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I suppose many such people are rude to real life janitors, too, not just to politicans. –  Paŭlo Ebermann Nov 19 '12 at 15:03
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I started reading this post thinking it would be good, however by the time I finished reading it I had changed my mind. My biggest problem with it is it sounds like you are accusing the majority of users who disagree or argue with moderators as "trolls", and you telling users to be nicer to moderators while turning a blind eye to the reverse: moderator rudeness towards new/inexperienced SE users. I think you'll have better luck working on the reverse: Moderator niceness/patience with new/inexperienced users who finally feel strongly enough about something to visit meta. Lead by example. –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 15:06
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@YannisRizos I'm referring to phrases like "getting almost constantly abused by every troll out there" in your post. And if this was just about two people, why even make a meta post about it? Wouldn't that just be a rant targeting two unnamed individuals? –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 15:10
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I'm just saying... instead of moderators telling people to be nicer to them, how about they lead by example by being nicer and more understanding with others, particularly new/inexperienced SE users? Many of you guys already do this, but it only takes a few users to give the entire group a bad reputation. –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 15:17
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@Rachel No, stop just saying. If you think there's a problem with a moderator abusing their powers, post on Meta about it. Be polite (as you usually are) and constructive, and bring forth evidence. Stop "just saying" in comments, you aren't helping solve the problem (if it exists). –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 15:19
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While I don't disagree with most of what you've written, I'm struggling to see how this is constructive: you're not bringing up specific issues, you're not addressing specific behaviors... Frankly, it feels like you're just venting. So it doesn't surprise me at all to see the same sort of thing in the answers and comments. Is this really what you're going for here? –  Shog9 Nov 19 '12 at 15:38
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@YannisRizos: Given that you're posting this on MSO, unless your evidence points to an issue on MSO specifically, it is not relevant. Moreover, you ask us to just believe you, but I can't. My personal experience on MSO is that the moderators as a whole are not open to criticism. Any criticism against moderators specifically or in general, or against the moderation policies as a whole are dealt with as if it is rude an intolerable trolling. –  John Dibling Nov 19 '12 at 15:48
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@YannisRizos: Hypocritical in part because while you suggest that the moderation on SE is open to polite, well-meaning criticism of their policies and practices, in my experience this simply isn't true. Hypocritical because this post is being critical apparently of the SE readership at large while not being open to criticism yourself. –  John Dibling Nov 19 '12 at 15:58
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I am not and never will be a moderator on an SE site and my experience is that almost all of the criticism directed at the moderators is overblown nonsense, frankly. And yes, if there was a serious issue raised it'd be too easy to dismiss it as just yet more rubbish. Allowing users to carry on a tedious crusade against imaginary moderator abuse is an excellent way to ensure real abuse goes unnoticed. –  McCannot Nov 19 '12 at 16:11
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I'm concerned that you describe having to abide by the moderator agreement as "unfortunate." –  Pops Nov 19 '12 at 17:10
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I am a Programmers moderator and I answer to the Programmers community, not you. And you have a problem with that? Hah. Then fold your tail and cry on that meta site, not here. You sound like you deserve whatever you got. Certainly among the bottom mods that I have come across in terms of etiquette and political nouse. –  RichardTheKiwi Nov 19 '12 at 19:25
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@YannisRizos: With all due respect, responding to blatant trolling is unbecoming of a moderator. Nothing you can say will improve matters. –  McCannot Nov 19 '12 at 19:44
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@RobertHarvey While we're at it, could you please encourage the StackExchange staff to finally split Meta.SO into separate Meta.StackExchange and Meta.StackOverflow sites so we can stop cluttering Meta.SO with cross-network issues? –  Powerlord Nov 19 '12 at 23:53

5 Answers 5

up vote 51 down vote accepted

I think what we're seeing here is the confluence of two very separate problems. Together, I think, they create situations like those Yannis described in generalities.

First: The Silent Majority

I've done my best to consistently remind people that the VAST MAJORITY of our userbase is excellent. We have some really amazing people on our sites who, while sometimes troublesome, are mostly wonderful, positive contributors who do the right things. I'm talking about the almost 700,000 users on Stack Overflow alone who are less than 1,000 rep and who never get mod message and flag / vote to close correctly and keep the site puttering along nicely. I'm talking about the numerous users on a site like Programmers who might vote in a meta discussion about hats but may never have anything to say in chat or who might not have enough strong feelings about a site design change to comment in that discussion.

The vast majority of users don't know about meta. Many meta users don't feel they have anything constructive/important to add to a discussion. I know that I often feel that way, and I work here. My MSO rep isn't higher for a reason: it's not because I don't love SE (I do, for the record) but because I often feel that my position is adequately verbalized by someone else (usually Shog9) and I just vote for him and move on. I'm exactly the type of user that would never be mentioned in a mod-only chatroom, whose entire existence is not notable in the scope of the site's lifetime. I'm important, yes, but I'm just another username/avatar in this context.

So when this is the default case, where the majority of users are excellent and quiet and don't need a lot of attention or handholding or just action, situations like what Yannis describes become particularly piquant. Troublesome users, those who just don't seem to get it become notable, become glaringly obvious and memorable because of the contrast they present.

It's also worth noting that there is a difference between a troll and a troublesome user: the former is deliberately trying to get a rise out of you, is deliberately breaking rules and doing what s/he wants because s/he couldn't care less about the site and in fact takes gleeful pleasure in everyone getting his/her proverbial knickers in a twist. On the other hand, a troublesome user might be someone who needs handholding, sometimes a lot of it because s/he is new to the network, doesn't know our norms, has never encountered a site like ours before, or is young and new to the internet in general. Both types of users can cause headaches, but there is a chance the latter is salvageable. A troll is never salvageable.

The trouble comes when we lose sight of the distinction, when those of us who serve as moderators and custodians of our spaces forget that there is a potentially valuable subset of users there. When we forget, we risk alienating and driving away people who genuinely want to learn/contribute but don't know why their actions are being received so poorly.

Second: Default Public

One of the guiding principles of Stack Exchange is the idea of everything being "default public," meaning that conversations should be by default held in the public space. This includes meta posts. I think a lot of times it's hard to separate the person from their diamond. It's definitely something that I struggle with daily. One thing I do is make clear when I'm speaking as myself, where the diamond is merely an accident and not me speaking "for the company," as it were.

In the same vein, I think moderators should be able to speak publicly about their struggles with users, to the extent that they don't violate the moderator agreement by revealing personal information about a user. (Note that mods are also not allowed to discuss suspensions, though observant users can usually make an educated guess about what prompted certain actions.)

This is the part where the line is difficult to draw with any clarity. I think, in my personal opinion, that having a mod-only chatroom sometimes creates a negative echo-chamber, where it's easy to only see the worst of our userbase. I think, also, that we as a userbase should make a concerted effort to engage our moderator team and remind them of what brought them to the site in the first place, what made them want to be a moderator. Because, as much as moderators are custodians of their site, they're also part welcoming committee, part event planners, and part PR machine. The scope of a moderator's duties varies by site size, topic, and community.

We, as a userbase, should question our moderators. That's the responsibility we have, especially when moderators are elected. It's our job to question moderator actions. Yannis is right in that we must focus on what happened, and NOT on who did the action. As the userbase, we can only make our disapproval clear when we choose to speak up. Ask the seemingly foolish question, take ownership of your site. Chances are what you're asking is quietly being asked by plenty of other people.

This section is a bit muddled, but that's because the secondary issue here is a bit more nuanced. We're seeing ongoing problems and cryptically-worded comment threads between mods and deliberately combative users, so the concerned public always feels like we're only seeing the tip of the iceberge but never the bit below the surface. And sometimes, the tip is kind of epically massive already. As a typical user, I can't make an informed decision if I feel that half the conversation is being held in innuendo and implication.

The other reason you should have as much happen in public as possible: you will see those excellent, 300-rep silent-flagging users begin to speak up. Lord knows that my natural lurker tendencies have been broken by seeing certain conversations/"drama" crop up over and over and over and over. At some point, even my tolerant self hits her limit; by having the important disagreements in meta, you can refer to them periodically and even see those of us who usually keep quiet break our silence. (We have seen this before on sites where one troublesome user suddenly took over the majority of the conversations on a site.)

The Thin Blue (Diamond) Line

Moderators are held to a higher standard than the rest of the community. Their actions are subject to more scrutiny, both from their userbase as well as from the community managers who keep an eye on their interactions with users. That said: increased scrutiny does not negate the fact that moderators receive the same protections as normal users. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated, including against mods.

It's absolutely worth nothing that, especially on MSO, a lot of the top/consistent contributors are going to be SE 2.0 moderators, employees, and (many times) people who have needed the tools that moderator provides. It's true of any profession: no one understands your problems better than your own. In turn, that makes contributions from the rest of the userbase -- people like me, people like you -- even more important.

The trouble arises when we create a culture that forgets about the nuances in building and maintaining a site. Mature sites like Stack Overflow do set the moderation tone for the rest of the network -- but moderation on SO is vastly different than it would be for a burgeoning site like Genealogy. To reiterate: the scope of a moderator's duties varies by site size, topic, and community.

When we create an echo chamber, we teach new recruits that this is the accepted and correct way of looking at our users. When we expect the worst of our userbase, they will always succeed at meeting our expectations.

Summary

To summarize this post:

  • The vast majority of users are awesome, never need moderator attention, and will do the right thing every time. Remember this! You are a moderator for those users, and not the ones who are simply there to get a rise out of you.
  • Do as much publicly as you can. Users should (civilly) question actions as much as they see fit. The more we default to public discussions, the more likely we are to get honest responses from usually-silent community members.
  • Understand that moderation creates its own culture, and this is (in part) . However, also remember that moderators enforce community norms and are, themselves, people who love the site just as much as you or I. It's not your site any more than it is theirs.
  • Personal attacks against any individual user are unacceptable. Comparisons to Nazis/dictators/genocidal totalitarian state figureheads in lieu of constructive criticism are prohibited and should be removed on sight, whether they are directed at moderators or anyone else.
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So if it is never ok to compare a moderator or their actions to a state figurehead that you feel exhibited similar behavior, and you assert that mods are to be treated the same as any other user: Are we to be ok with a moderator trying to discredit members of the community with terms like 'troll'? –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 17:46
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I believe she was specifically addressing Yannis's comment about Godwinning, @GEOCHET - however, the broader philosophy is that personal attacks are unwarranted; name-calling doesn't become acceptable when it's a moderator calling names. Ideally, you stick to describing behavior: Aarthi writes (not "is a writer"), Rich edits (not "is an editor"), Shog trolls (not "is a troll")... –  Shog9 Nov 19 '12 at 17:52
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@GEOCHET: I may make a full post here later, since my thoughts are too large for the margin to contain, but 1) I've never seen mod behavior that could be equitably compared to the behavior of Mussolini or Hitler and 2) the vast majority of moderator complaints I've seen here either a) demonstrate a profound lack of knowledge about how the SE network works, or b) are genuinely trollish in nature. I recall a few genuine complaints adequately elocuted, but they seem to be comparatively rare, and the situations they describe are easily corrected. –  Robert Harvey Nov 19 '12 at 17:54
    
Feel free to cite the instances. I have yet to see a moderator 'godwinned'. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 17:56
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@GEOCHET: More like "This moderator is a despot. He closed my question, and I think he should be removed from his position so he doesn't inflict his mod-abuse on anyone else." It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's sometimes done in a way that's disruptive. There are plenty of checks and balances in the system; all people need to do is use them, and they work. Being disruptive is just not necessary. –  Robert Harvey Nov 19 '12 at 17:58
    
That is hardly the same. You should correct your language above if that is the case. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 18:00
    
I wasn't the one who brought up Godwin. :) –  Robert Harvey Nov 19 '12 at 18:02
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"I've never seen mod behavior that could be equitably compared to the behavior of Mussolini or Hitler" -- ORLY –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 18:03
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@GEOCHET: That was a general response to all of the "ad-hitlerian" responses I saw earlier. I don't want to get into an argument about semantics; I trust that I've already adequately stated my position. –  Robert Harvey Nov 19 '12 at 18:05
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I find your comment discussing that to be quite disingenuous then. The two are hardly even similar, it has a very troll-like flavor to it. If your assertion is that is somehow relevant, do you care to tell me why your reply is addressed to me and launches straight into telling me that you don't think mods can be equated to Hitler? What exactly are you replying to? –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 18:10
    
Wooooo, Godwin! –  DwarfSlice Dec 24 '12 at 16:53

I still don't consider this a particularly constructive discussion, but since Rachel took the time to edit out some of the rants and Aarthi took the time to provide a long and detailed answer, I'll let it be for the moment.

That being said... I think you're making a couple of very fundamental mistakes, and they're causing you an undue amount of frustration.

Being Nice

Yes, moderators are supposed to have a thick skin. Yes, moderators are supposed to be able to defend all their actions.

Well, those are two different things. You should have a reason for what you're doing, and you should be willing to provide it when asked. That doesn't mean you have to put up with endless bitching from malcontents who disagree with you - state your reasoning and move on. If someone comes after you, let another moderator handle it - just like any other user would.

This is advice you should be giving to any other member of the site when you see them getting dragged into flame wars, so... lead by example by knowing when to walk away.

Being Atlas

So please don't forget moderators are just volunteers, and we really don't have to be here.

You're right, you don't. Hopefully, you volunteered at least somewhat aware of what you were volunteering for, but if not you can and should step down the moment you decide it's not something you want to be doing.

Remember, the folks with the diamonds next to their names aren't the only people moderating these sites - the entire system is designed to make the bulk of moderation something anyone can do, provided they've put the effort in to earn that privilege. You're there to handle stuff that can't or won't be handled by anyone else.

And if you need support, there are folks standing behind you ready to provide it - if your team is unsure, frustrated, or fed up with a person or situation, don't hesitate to kick that upstairs and get on with your life.

Remember: this is supposed to be fun. If you aren't enjoying what you're doing in your spare time... heck, if this isn't on some level a labor of love, then... Do something else. Go for a walk, fix the roof, learn to juggle.

Life's too short to let Internet People get you down.

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Unfortunately, this whole Meta post is a bit hopeless, because the real audience for it -- those folks who don't bother to learn the basic fundamentals of using SE sites, but who are quite willing to waste everyone else's time making bad posts and complaining about despot moderators -- will never read it, or change their behavior because of it. –  Robert Harvey Nov 20 '12 at 1:13
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Yuuuuuup... Which is why I'm addressing the moderators, who appear to be avid readers. –  Shog9 Nov 20 '12 at 1:15
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Basic juggling actually isn't that hard to learn –  random Nov 20 '12 at 1:30
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"Remember, the folks with the diamonds next to their names aren't the only people moderating these sites - the entire system is designed to make the bulk of moderation something anyone can do, provided they've put the effort in to earn that privilege. You're there to handle stuff that can't or won't be handled by anyone else." -- And that really is the key point, is it not? Most of the mod abuse issues we have seen lately revolve around moderators exercising their 'one click' voting powers to handle issues that need to be left to the community. (cont) –  GEOCHET Nov 20 '12 at 2:22
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Therefore, they create a problem, people (rightfully) complain about it. Then they go on the hyper defensive trying to back up their actions while shouting down the community that is simply asking them to stop 'trying so hard'. –  GEOCHET Nov 20 '12 at 2:23
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Doing nothing is always preferable to doing evil. –  GEOCHET Nov 20 '12 at 2:23
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Even doing good - and for the most part, these moderators are doing good - it doesn't have to all be you. There are always at least three appointed or elected moderators, plus additional users with the reputation to vote, edit, close or re-open - when everyone's chipping in, no one has to be the sole target for criticism or feel the need to constantly defend themselves. –  Shog9 Nov 20 '12 at 2:33
    
Agreed. I think I would argue the category of 'good' in many of these cases, but with the mods who keep popping up in the middle of drama, there is a reason. –  GEOCHET Nov 20 '12 at 2:39

Let me start by saying I agree with you that moderators are only human and make mistakes, and that users should always keep that in mind when disagreeing with any moderator action. Moderators are people too, and should be treated with the same politeness and respect as you would treat anyone else.

However moderators are much more in the spotlight than other users due to how visible and active they are within the community, so your mistakes are often highlighted far more than a regular user's mistake would be.

This comes as part of the the job you took when you volunteered for such a visible and powerful position within the community.

You will get upset users coming to you about an action you took, and bringing the rest of the SE community into it as well. Its important that you are able to look at the underlying issue objectively, and not get caught up in the words the users use to express their frustration and/or confusion. If you're unable to get past the words a user uses to see the underlying problem, then perhaps you need to take a step back and have someone else come mediate the problem.

I know moderators already try their hardest to do this, however I still frequently see sarcasm, intolerance, and rudeness on meta by some moderators, and it only takes a few instances of this to give an entire group a bad name.

I will do my part to try and be nice and understanding with moderators, and ask that they do their part to try and be nice and understanding to the community in return, particularly towards new or inexperienced members.

This includes not making rude/sarcastic comments, not making completely dismissive comments to discredit the user or put them down, not calling them derogatory names like trolls, idiots, or losers when referencing them or their posts/comments, and not upvoting comments that do these things as well.

Moderators are publicly declared as established and trusted members of the community, and users look towards them for guidance and often follow the example they set.

Respect/Niceness is a two-way street. You can't expect to get it, but not give it.

In short, lead by example and the community will follow.

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I will do part to try and be nice and understanding to the community, particularly new or inexperienced members, if you do your part to try and be nice and understanding with moderators. Nope, it doesn't make sense. Either try to be nice and understanding or don't, this isn't about making deals. Lead by example (and I honestly mean that, more than once your behaviour was inspiring). –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 17:25
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@YannisRizos The differences is moderators are established users in positions of power within the community. People look up to them and follow the example they set. In contrast, new users are new to the community and do not know what sort of behavior is acceptable in the community. Its nice to say on paper that you should always treat others the way you want to be treated, but lets face it, that rule is not often remembered on the internet. –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 17:27
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@Rachel No difference. You are also an established user in almost every site you participate in. –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 17:28
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I don't find it constructive for either side to hold the other at "ransom"; to say that you will only be nice and understanding if others are is a complete perversion of the Golden Rule. There is no conditional "...as long as others treat me as I want to be treated" on there. Neither side should be rude or abusive regardless of anyone else's behavior. And I don't see a compelling argument showing moderator "rudeness" is causing the problem of user rudeness either; lash-outs are very random and very rarely provoked. –  Ben Brocka Nov 19 '12 at 17:49
    
Well that doesn't make sense. If someone else is treating you and the community poorly, you are under no obligation to be respectful or nice to them in return. In fact, one could argue that as a community, we have a duty to be unkind to that person until the behavior is corrected. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 17:51
    
Thanks for that particular rephrasing. Minor but significant IMHO. –  Bart Nov 19 '12 at 17:51
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@BenBrocka Thanks, I didn't notice that's how that phrase ended up sounding. I updated it to try and reflect what I meant to say. I didn't mean for it to sound like I wouldn't be polite unless they did to, but meant for it to ask them to focus on their own behavior as well instead of just asking users to be nice to them. –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 17:52
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@GEOCHET If everyone was rude/unkind to everyone that was rude/unkind towards them, nothing would ever change. "Be the change you want to see in the world" :) –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 18:03
    
@GEOCHET That's a poor indication of the integrity of the community, especially when the FAQ says to "be nice" not "be nice but if someone isn't nice to you, then feel free to engage collectively in not being nice to that person". You could argue it, but I'd wager that if you tried to say that's the direction this community should head, you'd lose. –  casperOne Nov 19 '12 at 18:03
    
'Be nice' would apply to both users and moderators I would assume. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 18:51
    
Great edit, thanks. –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 19:23
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+1 though I think "You can't expect to get it, but not give it. Work at giving it, and you'll get it." is a bit of a rose-tinted view, and anyway besides the main point (I think), that moderators should strive to continue to be polite even when attacked. –  Jack Douglas Nov 19 '12 at 19:57
    
@JackDouglas Thanks, and I'm a rose-tinted kind of person :) The point I was trying to get at there is you'll have more success in getting people to "be nice" to you by being nice yourself. I felt a bit offended when reading the question the first time because I felt like the OP was asking users to be nicer to them, while at the same time calling the same users trolls, and accusing them of harassing/abusing moderators. –  Rachel Nov 19 '12 at 20:26
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-1 I find it... peculiar (for lack of a better word) when people vote to close a question yet still answer it. When you vote to close something you're saying "it doesn't belong here." If you think that way, you shouldn't validate the question with an answer of your own. But that's just me. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 19 '12 at 20:35
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@FrédéricHamidi I was responding to the @Yannis, I think she's right part of your comment - Yeap, she is ;) –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 23:05

If someone is being disruptive, well, appropriate action should be taken. I'm not a mod anywhere on SE but I have been elsewhere. The 'right' action to me is -

  1. Identify that this person is doing this for the wrong reasons. Is he following and harassing a mod? Is this happening on site, or off site? Is this clearly something not within the scope of the site?

  2. If its in the open, is the community responding to this in the 'right' way? In which case, act as if it was flagged for the same reasons.

  3. Let another mod (or the rest know this is happening). There's a mod team for a reason. Let cooler heads handle it - that way we can say 'look, this wasn't a knee jerk reaction, and I took a step back'. Warn (pointing out that this isn't acceptable no matter who the user is), then suspend and so on. If a mod is on the verge of quitting ...

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Then again, as far as I'm concerned its the same for any regular.

If someone is not being that obvious, well, unfortunately the best action is to ignore it. I wouldn't treat my mods with any more or less respect than I would a regular user, and outside letting another mod handle it, it shouldn't be treated any differently

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I agree overall, although I am not sure I agree with this: "Identify that this person is doing this for the wrong reasons.". This is outside the scope of the moderators. Let the community decide whether or not what the person is saying makes sense or has a moral and logical consistency. Don't start delegating the interpretation of the intent of a person's actions to the people inside of the echo chamber. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 14:34
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But this line made me agree with your answer overall without regard for my reservation: "I wouldn't treat my mods with any more or less respect than I would a regular user, and outside letting another mod handle it, it shouldn't be treated any differently". This is really a good summation of what I have been preaching for a long time. If we saw a user that was continually abusing the system and misusing the trust that the community and the system have given him, no one would hesitate to call that person out loudly, honestly and publicly. But in the case of moderators, we must seek censorship? –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 14:37
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@GEOCHET Hm? Have you seen a moderator continually abusing the system and misusing the trust that the community and the system have given him? If so, did you post a Meta question about it? If not, why not? –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 14:38
    
[numbers correspond to your points] 1) Sometimes you can identify that it's trolling, but that doesn't mean you can take action against it -- if you do, it can be treated as mod abuse. We're cautious when it comes to stuff like this, we should be able to irrevocably show that a user is trolling, and only then can we take lasting action. Which is why there are lots of trolls which we can't really touch. 2) Sometimes a troll can get a "fan following", which complicates stuff. 3) In some cases, part of the team is inactive. [contd] –  Manishearth Nov 19 '12 at 14:40
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The concept of large mod abuse threads versus interacting with each incident report of mod abuse in context has been answered many times in this thread. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 14:41
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In others, the entire mod team is called out (repeatedly). Team isn't too helpful there. Regarding "its the same for any regular" -- not really. A regular can't be accused of mod abuse/etc. Voted closes are hard to oppose, unilateral closes are sitting ducks for trolls. And deletions. And bans. And other things. So I appreciate your points, but they don't really seem feasible. –  Manishearth Nov 19 '12 at 14:41
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Mod power is a pain in the ass. I've been a mod elsewhere. I've been mad enough at a user to hit him with a banhammer. I stopped for a moment, decided to work out what was REALLY bothering him, then didn't ban him. Identifying intent is a great way to be objective, as does relying on users and other mods. You're free to disagree with actions. If someone is actually going out of the way to harass a mod or a specific user, then something is off. If we're talking about actions, or a pattern of actions, question the actions, and if you think its a mod, let it be implicit. –  Journeyman Geek Nov 19 '12 at 14:41
    
@Manishearth: 1) subjectiveness. If you can say clearly why and what actions merited action, no one can accuse you of mod abuse 2) High rep users are nearly moderators. SE moderates itself, and as such, I think to some extent votes and flags are a criteria in handling such things. 3) Being a lone mod sucks. No site has a single mod active I hope, and getting someone else to handle it is best practices. We have more than one mod for a reason. If its the whole team, well, thats a different story. However I doubt the core users of an entire site will turn on the mod team without good reason –  Journeyman Geek Nov 19 '12 at 14:44
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isn't disruption a tremendous change-agent? we should be careful about how we speak of "disruption." –  swasheck Nov 19 '12 at 19:45
    
@swasheck +1, this is... uh... important. For the community and stuff. –  DwarfSlice Dec 24 '12 at 17:02

I think it is ridiculous to expect that a community elected moderator would not be subject to community criticism. The very suggestion is quite a bit offensive, really.

If moderators do not like being called to the carpet when they engage in certain behaviors, they are free to stop engaging in those behaviors or to move on.

After all, what happened to:

  • "I'm all for more transparency"

  • "If I'm doing a bad or even average job as a moderator, here I am, tell me all about it."

  • "If there's actually a problem with rogue moderators, let's talk about it, openly and honestly."

(http://meta.stackexchange.com/a/151625/5640)

After all, ever notice how you never hear a complaint against certain moderators, but some moderators are lightning rods for attention here on MSO? Think this is just a coincidence?

As they say, where there is smoke, there is fire.

The alleged premise of this question is not served by the language of this question. It claims to seek some sort of relaxation of the conflict between 'two users' and moderators as a whole, but it attempts to do so by furthering an 'us vs them' mentality that is the cause of many people's complaints. In short: This question has become a symptom of the very problem that the question seeks to silence discussion of.

share|improve this answer
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Community criticism is just fine. If constructive. Community abuse isn't. It's simple really. –  Bart Nov 19 '12 at 13:50
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No. I think closing or deleting community content with a single moderator vote is a bit harsh. Telling moderators that they will have to deal with community discussion of such actions afterwards is kind, if anything. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 13:51
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I think you have the burden of proof to show 'community abuse'. After all, abuse isn't whatever you define it to be today, is it? –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 13:51
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Sure, there are levels to it and one is more easily offended than another. But I think no moderator would disagree with you on criticism being fair play. And I don't think @Yannis was intending to suggest that criticism is out of bounds. There's just some persistent abuse, or jabs taken at mods in comments on Meta, that is not constructive and only there to troll or harm. If that stuff goes away and the constructive discussion stays, I have no problem with that. –  Bart Nov 19 '12 at 13:54
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@GEOCHET Then address that constructively. Gather the data, and make it a question. Or email the team if it's bad enough. It's really not all that difficult. –  Bart Nov 19 '12 at 13:59
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@GEOCHET If there's a consistent problem with abuse from moderators, please show us some evidence. You've expressed similar feelings more than a few times, but you've never actually convinced anyone as you've never brought forth any evidence. –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 14:01
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There is a difference between "This question was closed incorrectly because of...." and "Nasty moderator closed my post". And if you can't see that difference then there's no point in discussing this. –  ChrisF Nov 19 '12 at 14:02
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If constructive, by all means go ahead. But regular comments like "Once again moderator X abusing his powers" don't add anything. They hint without evidence and don't help a discussion along. Back it up with some evidence and I'll support you if it's correct. –  Bart Nov 19 '12 at 14:02
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I speak my mind about the topics at hand when I see them and I do it in context to the issue at hand. I don't feel the need to write new questions listing all the abuses of each moderator. After all, that goes against the spirit of this site. The record will speak for itself in short time. –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 14:03
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'Proof' is not found in a bunch of moderators and sympathizers saying "there is nothing to be seen here". –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 14:12
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@GEOCHET You got a point there. I really want to share details, and I'm very sorry that I can't. Unfortunately I can't prove either. Also since you quoted my Meta answer, feel free to call me out on Meta Programmers any time you'd like and check my response. The fact that I personally want more transparency doesn't mean that we'll get it, especially if it hurts privacy. That said, when I screw up, feel free to completely destroy me on Meta. –  Yannis Nov 19 '12 at 14:22
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@GEOCHET: This isn't a war. Please don't make it that way. –  Manishearth Nov 19 '12 at 14:30
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Yep, no comparison at all. Mods are elected by the community. Mods are representatives of the community's will. Mods are assessed and evaluated based on their performance by the community... –  GEOCHET Nov 19 '12 at 18:02
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+1 I haven't read all the comments but in my view you make some excellent points in your answer and, speaking as a mod elsewhere on SE, I fully support the thrust of what you are saying. –  Jack Douglas Nov 19 '12 at 19:49
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@JackDouglas I thought so too. The delivery seemed ranty and people just downvoted it, which is a shame really because there are good points in this answer. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 19 '12 at 20:44

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