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When a moderator comes across a question that deserves to be closed, they should not. This should be left to the community to handle.

Here's a fresh example right out of the Stack Overflow oven: "STDLIB and IO routines in C++".

It's a crappy question, to be sure. It is long, ranty, and flame-fodder. It should have been closed, but not by a moderator.

It is not the moderators' jobs to decide on their own what is and is not proper content for a site. That is the job of the community.

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What if the question had been flagged by one (or more) < 3K user? Otherwise why would he be looking at the post? –  ChrisF May 24 '11 at 13:44
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Why is that not a moderator's job? –  Cody Gray May 24 '11 at 14:01
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@Cody: It is the community's job to decide what is on-topic and what is not. Else, why do we have votes to close? –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 14:02
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I agree that it is in the community's job, and that is definitely why we have close votes. But that's not what I asked. I don't understand why you're drawing a distinction between the community and the moderators. Why are those two groups of people at odds with one another? –  Cody Gray May 24 '11 at 14:03
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@Cody: Because the moderators are akin to a form of government, whereas the rest of the community are akin to it's citizens. I don't feel it is appropriate for government to arbitrarily enact or enforce legislation. Do it all the time, or do it never. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 14:09
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@Cody: When I checked a few seconds ago, there were 7 closed questions on my front page. One was closed by Kev, the others were closed by 5 votes to close among the community. When the moderators pick and choose where to apply sweeping enforcement, that is arbitrary. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 14:10
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I was under the impression we elected them to take care of situations like that. I've got time to vote to close crap, but I'd rather not spend much time. If Kev can hop on there and close it before I ever see it, all the better. In fact, if 90% of the questions were closed today I don't think the majority of us would notice. –  user7116 May 24 '11 at 14:12
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Wow, so... What do you think moderators should do? You don't think they should have the right to close questions at all? –  Cody Gray May 24 '11 at 14:13
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@John: That's exactly what he did. The problem is, a single vote from a moderator is binding. They don't have the discretion to leave a binding or non-binding vote. It's always binding. They've asked for this discretion, but it's been denied. So as it stands now, they either have to look on helplessly when they see a question that needs closing, or they can vote to close it. Certainly you don't think moderators shouldn't be able to close questions at all, just by virtue of the fact that they're moderators and their votes are now binding? And I'm sure they'd love to nuke them all. –  Cody Gray May 24 '11 at 14:17
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@John: We simply can't apply a single close vote. We look at posts that are flagged by the community for moderator attention and act on the behalf of the community. That's what we're here for. What you're proposing is that we just stop moderating. –  Bill the Lizard May 24 '11 at 14:18
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@Bill: Then the system is broken for moderators. Yes, I absolutely want Kev to be able to vote that crappy question closed. But it should not be Kev's burden to have to moderate every single question. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 14:20
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@John - that's your opinion. Someone else thought it did need intervention and a moderator agreed. If you disagree vote to reopen and (possibly) flag for the moderators to review the original close. –  ChrisF May 24 '11 at 14:26
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Note that (on mature sites) the community is perfectly capable of overriding a moderators mistaken close. The reopen process works just the same. For that matter other moderators can, too, though on the sites where I have that power we tend to talk first. –  dmckee May 25 '11 at 4:55
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Second note: where I have moderator powers I withhold my vote if I have the slightest doubt. Or wait until four others have already votes so my "normal" vote would have been binding anyway. –  dmckee May 25 '11 at 4:58
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How in hell is this question not constructive? Just because you think I'm wrong doesn't make my question invalid. –  John Dibling May 1 '12 at 16:58
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closed as not constructive by Barry, gnostradamus, jmfsg, Cody Gray, Jon Seigel May 25 '11 at 16:55

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

10 Answers

Moderators are still members of the community. If it should have been closed for being "long, ranty, and flame-fodder" then it's perfectly fine for a moderator to step in and close it instantly instead of waiting on five other people to do it. I do it all the time when posts get flagged by the community.

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If Kev was acting simply as a member of the community, then he should have simply voted to close it; just like any other member of the community. This post did not require moderator intervention. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 13:49
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@John That's exactly what he did. Moderator close votes (and flags) are binding, so they take effect immediately. –  Anna Lear May 24 '11 at 13:51
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@Anna: Then we should abolish votes altogether and just let the mods run the site. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 13:53
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@John Err... I'm honestly not sure why you're arguing that a moderator (a volunteer from the community, not an SE employee) closed a question that should've been closed. That in no way infringes on the rest of the community's rights and responsibilities. –  Anna Lear May 24 '11 at 13:54
    
-1: Moderators should have the ability to act as a normal user. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:05
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@John: Why do we need that? If a question definitely needs closed, we close it. If we aren't sure we can do nothing and wait and see what the community thinks. If four other people vote to close, I can cast the last vote as though I were a normal user. –  Bill the Lizard May 24 '11 at 15:15
    
@Bill: Re "Why do we need that?" See here: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/41062/… –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:16
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It is pretty clearly a bad question all around.

So if the question should've been closed and the moderator (an elected representative of the community) closed it, where's the problem? That's a moderator acting exactly how he's supposed to. Now, if the question should've stayed open and a moderator closed it, that'd be an issue.

And as Al said, there could've been flags on the question that us normal users can't see.

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The problem is that the moderator isn't acting as he is supposed to. A moderator is supposed to step in under exceptional circumstances. This was not an exceptional circumstance. I understand that a moderator doesn't have the ability to contribute a non-binding vote, but that is irrelevant, and addressed here: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/41062/… –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:04
    
@John How would you define exceptional circumstances? –  Anna Lear May 24 '11 at 15:08
    
@Anna: Anything that if not immediately dealt with will have a major, negative impact on the site. Difficult to quantify in exact terms, but a vanilla crappy off-topic or subjective post is clearly not exceptional. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:10
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@John But it does have a negative impact on the site, so again... where's the problem? I could understand if you thought the question was worth keeping and a moderator unilaterally decided to close it. That is worth objecting to. But for a question that doesn't belong in the first place? This honestly makes no sense and I think you're completely overreacting. –  Anna Lear May 24 '11 at 15:12
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@Anna: <sigh> I think it's pretty funny that when people with power are questioned in their use of that power, a great way to win the hearts and minds of the sheep is to accuse them of "overreacting." But, you're right. I just quit giving a damn. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:21
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@John You've received answers and explanations in response to your inquiry. If the only answer you want to hear is "the mod was wrong", then I'm sorry, I can't be the person to give you that answer. –  Anna Lear May 24 '11 at 15:24
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It is not the moderators' jobs to decide on their own what is and is not proper content for SO. That is the job of the community.

Fortunately, that's not what happened here...

Someone flagged that post for moderator attention, and the response was to close it. Why was that the response? You said it yourself:

[...] is a crappy question, to be sure. It is long, ranty, and flame-fodder.

Flame-bait, rants, and unclear questions have not ever been considered "proper content" for SO. Go ahead, ask anyone, "Should SO host crappy, ranty, flame-fodder questions?", and I'll bet you 9 out of 10 responses will be "no" (with the rest being some form of, "Only when I'm awake to partake of the carnage").

There are a few simple ways for you to judge the community's support of the moderator's action:

  • Was the question re-opened after the moderator closed it? (No, in fact there's only one re-open vote... and currently two votes to delete)

  • Was the question edited by someone other than the original author to address the problems pointed out in comments? (No, no one has made any attempt to salvage this question)

  • Are there any comments calling for the question to be re-opened? (No, comments are universally negative regarding the value of the question)

So the question was closed in accordance with the community's wishes. Good work, Kev...

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I did explain in the comments why I closed this (also it had been flagged as well):

@haroogan - the problem with this post is that it's a bit of a "wall of text". You're asking too many questions, many of which are subjective and argumentative. Statements such as "what kind of "rubbish" is that?" and "interface is extremely messy and inconsistent." aren't constructive. This is not a site for discussing the merits or otherwise of specific API or library designs. Re-think your question, be a bit less sensational and perhaps the folks at programmers.stackexchange.com might be willing to answer your concerns.

I think that was fair assessment of the post.

It isn't a good question and there was already the potential for flaming starting to show in the comments.

I did suggest they could carry on the "discussion" in a chat room. All in all this was a bad question.

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It was a bad question. You were correct in your assesment of that. You should have the ability to apply a single vote-to-close just like the rest of us. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 14:24
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@JohnDibling: Except he isn't just like the rest of us. He's just like the rest of us. That makes sense if you're a mod, btw. Also, I hope you're happy now, @Kev. See what you have gotten yourself into??? –  Won't May 24 '11 at 15:30
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Welcome to the bullpen. :) Didn't take long to attract your first meta post, did it? (This always happens when new mods come on board). –  Robert Harvey May 24 '11 at 17:27
    
@robert - yep, I think I've broken my duck or so to speak :) –  Kev May 24 '11 at 17:39
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A few points I'd like to make:

  1. I generally only act on posts that have already been flagged. That means I already have consensus from at least one other community member. If I unambiguously agree with the flag, I generally take action on it.

  2. I act in accordance with the rules set forth in the FAQ, which dictates clear and specific guidelines for on-topic questions. The FAQ has, in large part, been forged by community involvement and participation.

  3. I do read the posts here on meta, and am familiar with the overall viewpoint of the community, which does change from time to time.

  4. I was elected by community consensus, and was given the power to act by the community.

Many unremarkable, but clearly off-topic posts on StackOverflow never achieve close velocity, because they are too uninteresting to get enough views. I close them anyway. This accounts for probably 75% of my close actions.

Remember, the ultimate goal of StackOverflow is to provide a high-quality repository of programming knowledge, not necessarily to provide the highest possible degrees of freedom for its netizens. Every marginal question and answer detracts from that goal.

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Not everyone has enough rep to vote to close. How do you know there weren't a bunch of flags on that post?

Besides, the multitude of comments on that post indicate a large part of the community already didn't approve of it.

Seems to me that it was getting ready to devolve into a full-on flame war. I probably would have closed it too.

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The "About" page for SO says, "We don’t run Stack Overflow. You do." –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 13:51
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@John: Kev is a community moderator. A volunteer, not an employee of Stack Exchange. His moderating is exactly what they mean by "You do." –  Bill the Lizard May 24 '11 at 13:53
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@Bill: Kev is not just a member of the community. His actions carry more weight than a normal member's. He is also a member of the administration of this site. Paid or not, a moderator's actions set precedence for the "rule of law" here. Moderators should be judicious when setting that precedence. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 13:58
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@John Dibling - Just an FYI, mods on SE are voted in by the community. Thus, Kev was nominated and voted in as a mod by the very community he participates in. He isn't paid, and does it b/c he likes helping the community. So, your argument is rather invalid. –  Tyanna May 24 '11 at 14:00
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@John: The precedent was set long ago. Ranty flame bait gets closed. If the rest of the community disagrees with a moderator's decision they can vote to reopen the post. –  Bill the Lizard May 24 '11 at 14:02
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@John His actions carry more weight because the community voted for him to have more weight. How is closing a bad question that was going to be closed anyways not judicious? –  Matthew Read May 24 '11 at 14:03
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When a question obviously breaks several suggestions in the FAQ, any moderator that runs across it should close it immediately without waiting for the community to act.

There is no need for discussion or consensus for such obviously out of place questions.

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It is not the moderators' jobs to decide on their own what is and is not proper content for SO. That is the job of the community.

If that were true, why do moderators have this ability? Did we trick Jeff etal into giving us this ability? I'm confused here.

Seems to me you should be asking for a to remove this ability.

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My money's on bribery and blackmail. I hope you kept the negatives... –  Shog9 May 24 '11 at 15:39
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Well, comment on this answer if you manage to get that reopened. I'll gladly provide my "not a real question" close vote on it, if that makes you any happier; I'm pretty sure you'll be able to collect 4 more close votes fairly quickly. That will 1) show that the question would have been closed anyway, and 2) therefore Kev's action was justified.

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(although I'll suspect that will just get us another "Why was my question closed" question here on Meta) –  Piskvor May 24 '11 at 14:41
    
@Piskvor: With the duplicate-question-detection technology that we've got now, we may very well stop seeing so many of those questions... One can only hope. ;-) –  Cody Gray May 24 '11 at 14:51
    
@Cody Gray: Is it live yet? I've been seeing nothing but "how dare you close my precious question" on Meta all week. –  Piskvor May 24 '11 at 14:58
    
Yeah, it's definitely live, but I think it's only been very recent. All I saw today was "why am I banned from chat". Which, I must be honest, was quite amusing. –  Cody Gray May 24 '11 at 15:00
    
[searches] @Cody Gray: Oh, the drrrrama! Someone should make this into a geek soap opera :D –  Piskvor May 24 '11 at 15:01
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Quite a troll-ish response. I didn't post because I wanted to reopen the question in order to close it again, obviously. I am questioning the policies of the site that led Kev to nuke the question in the first place. Please stay on-topic. –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:08
    
@John Dibling: To quote your question: "It should have been closed, but not by a mod. [...] That is the job of the community." I happen to think that I am a part of the community, and I'm offering my help to close the question in the way you want (and incidentally, showing that Kev's action was justified). Or are you now implying that you don't want that question to be closed? –  Piskvor May 24 '11 at 15:12
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@Piskvor: Wow, you love the strawmen, don't you? –  John Dibling May 24 '11 at 15:24
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[abandons hope, ceases feeding] –  Piskvor May 24 '11 at 15:29
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Acting as a moderator, their only duty is to intervene when the community cannot:

  • Banning harassing users
  • Closing questions / deleting answers or comment threads that go off topic
  • Removing content that would prescribe the SO community in a negative light to visitors
    • (For example: an attack on character in a disagreement)
  • Removing hate speech, vulgar speech, obscene speech.

It should not include regulating content, because often a singular moderator may not be able to decide what is valid content. (Moderator decides that CSS question doesn't belong in HTML tag). I know we try to spread moderators across tag expertise, but not all tags can be consistently covered, and someone somewhere is going to have to moderate content that they have no knowledge of. This is why they shouldn't moderate validity of content scope.

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What are you referring to with your CSS/HTML comment? –  Shog9 May 24 '11 at 17:55
    
@Shog9 Just a very bad example. Nothing more. –  Lee Louviere Nov 28 '12 at 23:49
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