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I've seen this a couple times now, and I'm wondering if this qualifies as moderator abuse.

Someone asks a question. Moderator drops by with a sarcastic, totally unhelpful answer like "It's called x language/tech/etc, learn it better".

A Couple people respond by calling the Mod out on being unhelpful.

Return 5 minutes later and Mod has removed all comments either by him/her as well as the people who called him out.

Now I understand that none of this was relevant to the question, and therefore doesn't belong there, but this seems like abuse to me. What is the non-mod community's recourse in this situation?

This is isolated to one or two individuals, I think overall the Mods do a fantastic job at keeping the site useful.

EDIT: I think this is one of the questions I'm talking about, but since I can't see comments etc, I can't be sure, I didn't think to bookmark it at the time.

For clarification, I'm not really interested in following up with one or two particular incidents, and I'm not looking for "punishment" or anything like that. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that so many aspects of SE have so much transparency, to me it's a huge part of what makes it work. My point is that this transparency doesn't extend to Mods and their actions, and because of that it lends itself to abuse.

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I know who you are talking about. It's a-- ARRRGGHHHH!! –  jmfsg May 13 '11 at 21:16
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If every time a moderator makes a poor comment, the community calls them out on it, and they delete the comments, what more do you want to happen? Isn't that what should be happening? –  NickC May 13 '11 at 21:28
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@Renesis moderators should be exercising better judgement and not leaving sarcastic, totally unhelpful answers in the first place. –  user149432 May 13 '11 at 21:34
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@Mark - Should be, yes, but after the fact, what more should happen? –  NickC May 13 '11 at 21:35
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@Renesis you're missing the point. A moderator is allegedly being a total jerk and covering it up when people call him out. The fact that the cover-up action overlaps with a routine moderator action is pretty much inconsequential and mostly irrelevant. –  user149432 May 13 '11 at 21:36
    
@Mark For the record, I'm in agreement with Michael Mrozek - email if it's persistent and egregious. But, to be completely fair to any potential parties involved, the exact same description in the question could apply to a moderator who is acting with full good intentions, but some bad judgment on the original comment. –  NickC May 13 '11 at 21:39
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An apology comment might be in order. Maybe there's a need for a comment that self-destructs in a couple of days. –  Steve314 May 13 '11 at 21:57
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I see moderators allowing themselves to get sarcastic only here in Meta - what you described is certainly worth reporting. –  Shadow Wizard May 13 '11 at 22:03
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I'm not defending it as such, but mods are people too, they're not saints. You see some incredibly dumb questions on SO sometimes, so i can understand the impulse to throw an idle comment out there. –  slugster May 13 '11 at 22:14
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@slugster: agree, but since mods are people too and people may apologize for their actions, I can fully understand they can stand up and say 'sorry' instead of pretending nothing had happened. Anyway, that all would probably be noise from SO perspective, so a cleanup would be eventually inevitable. –  GrzegorzOledzki May 13 '11 at 22:22
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@slugster, whilst "mods are people too, they're not saints" is true, they might be people too, but they're also moderators. If you're going to perform a function where you're "leading" the community, you will be held to a higher standard than others, and rightly so. Moderators should lead by example. –  Rob May 13 '11 at 22:41
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@slugster: "with great power comes great responsibility"... or some such nonsense. –  Brook May 13 '11 at 22:50
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@Brook - Are you sure it's "responsibility"? Not "ego"? Or "corruption"? –  Steve314 May 13 '11 at 23:34
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@Cody - Reality doesn't determine reality - appearances determine reality. As a rule, people avoid saying/doing things if they will appear offensive, even if the intent is constructive - and those of us who don't anticipate the offence before speaking get beaten over the head with big sticks. Possibly, if answering using a phone means you tend to cause offence - just or unjust - it may be better not to answer using a phone. You're probably not the only person who can answer, and you can always answer some other time. –  Steve314 May 14 '11 at 5:48
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@Cody - I have Aspergers. I'm often oversensitive, but I'm also very aware that people will take offence when no offence was intended, and trying to explain usually just leads to more anger at the "excuses" and cries of "how stupid do you think I am!". There really are multiple versions of reality, at least metaphorically. What's more, it seems that even our own memories of our intent are in significant part post-hoc rationalisations, and a deficit of hypocrisy and self-deception is a serious mental disorder. I'm even being a hypocrite now, but I only have a very mild case of that disorder ;-) –  Steve314 May 14 '11 at 7:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 19 down vote accepted

I guess you could argue that the mod is essentially cleaning up a mess, since a mod coming across that situation as a third party would do the same thing -- delete all the comments, as they're either rude or have nothing to do with the post. However, if the same mod is doing that multiple times it's probably bad. The standard way to give feedback about mods is to e-mail the SO team directly -- team@stackoverflow.com. They can see deleted comments, so include links to the posts where this has happened if you have them

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I agree. This is definitely an abuse.

And the reasoning the moderator only cleans up the mess is of little value to me. Does it mean a moderator may offend someone in a comment and clean it up (by deleting) an hour later? (Just to be clear, I didn't see any such a situation happen - it's just an example)

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I'd think that if it happened to me. But I see the argument. Also - how do you even know it was the same moderator who cleaned up the mess? And was that cleanup even requested, by someone else flagging the mess for attention? –  Steve314 May 13 '11 at 21:59

It's entirely possible that the comments were flagged and cleaned up by a different moderator.

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That's a good point, had not occurred to me. Checks and balances. –  Brook May 14 '11 at 3:25

Someone asks a question. Moderator drops by with a sarcastic, totally unhelpful answer like "It's called x language/tech/etc, learn it better".

A Couple people respond by calling the Mod out on being unhelpful.

Return 5 minutes later and Mod has removed all comments either by him/her as well as the people who called him out.

Can you provide specific examples of this, edit your question to include some URLs? I know it's all deleted now (as it should be) but I want to look at the underlying examples.

For the record, I agree 100% that moderators should not be rude and sarcastic.

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This might be it, but I can't be sure because comments etc were deleted and I can't see them in my "activity". It's a relatively mundane question, but I still think the Mod comments were unhelpful. stackoverflow.com/questions/5951651/… . The other time it happened was at least a few months ago, I'd have a really hard time finding it. –  Brook May 14 '11 at 3:23

Anyone who has a ♦ next to their name is (in one way or another) representing the site, and so needs to be especially conscious of what they say and how it might (even inadvertently) offend someone. Any comment which is impolite or might otherwise be considered offensive is bad, however if it is from a ♦ moderator or other position of authority then it is even more likely to be taken personally - what from a normal user might be consider playful banter might be interpreted differently if it is posted by a moderator.

All the moderators that I've encountered are doing a fantastic job, but with any sufficiently large community comes the possibility that a moderator post might be miss-interpreted (or something), and so in this case the correct course of action to take when you see something like this would seem to be just to flag the moderators post as you would any other.

I don't know if this is actually the case, but I'd imagine that any flags on moderators posts would at some point be reviewed by another moderator (if nothing else then simply to provide feedback - moderators are only human and moderating a community can be a difficult job with a steep learning curve)

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