Stack Overflow requires at least 3000 rep for a user to nominate himself/herself to a moderator election. On the rest of the Stack Exchange network, only 300 rep is required. While it is true that the bar needs to be set higher for SO because SO has far more users, 300 is still too low for the rest of the network. As a result, we are seeing completely unqualified users nominating themselves for an election.

It would be a good idea to raise the reputation required for nomination to something like 1500 for Super User and Server Fault and 750 for non-Trilogy sites. In addition, a nominee should be required to have at least 10 posts on Meta for at least +25 and have at least 50 helpful flags (on Trilogy sites; 25 on the rest of the network). For sites that don't have enough users with sufficient rep, moderators should be appointed.

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    Don't vote for unqualified candidates? – user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 15:23
  • Though I don't at all disagree with you, I think that individual case should be dealt with in isolation without having to make sweeping changes. – jonsca Jul 11 '12 at 15:25
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    There was one like that in the last Arqade election, too. Reputation doesn't indicate qualifications, though: there were a few candidates during the last Stack Overflow election who weren't qualified and had well over 10,000 rep. – user149432 Jul 11 '12 at 15:28
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    @sixlettervariables This isn't just an unqualified candidate, though, it's someone that's making a joke out of the process (and not even a funny one!) – jonsca Jul 11 '12 at 15:29
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    @jonsca: who says making a joke out of an election is out of line? Perhaps the "legitimate" candidates are all horrible? Besides, troll candidates can exist with good reputation :) – user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 15:31
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    I think @sixlettervariables hit the nail on the head. Increasing the rep requirement won't necessarily solve the problem. I think things like this have to be dealt with on a case by case basis. – James Allardice Jul 11 '12 at 15:32
  • @sixlettervariables I assure you that the legitimate candidates are anything but horrible. There's "hey, I've made a clever statement" (totally okay) and then there's graffiti. – jonsca Jul 11 '12 at 15:33
  • @jonsca: You already pointed it out though. Raising the rep floor won't stop trolls. Troll candidates should be stopped through moderation (if the feature exists that is). – user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 15:35
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    allow nominations to be flagged so that nominations by unqualified users can be removed That's about as undemocratic as it goes. A joke nomination will get downvoted into oblivion once the primary begins. Problem solved. – Dennis Jul 11 '12 at 15:36
  • @DragonLord: pick one for your feature request. Rep increase or Flag Nominations. I don't want to upvote Rep Increase, but I would upvote Flag Nominations. – user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 15:36
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    We should add a cuteness metric to elections! – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '12 at 15:43
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    @PopularDemand Bribes and empty promises? – user149432 Jul 11 '12 at 15:57
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    Also, should we be able to elect moderators who can't retag questions and aren't even considered "established users"? – Yawus Jul 11 '12 at 16:00
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    "For sites that don't have enough users with sufficient rep, moderators should be appointed." - One of the things we look at, when making the decision to graduate a public beta into a full site, is "Can this site support an election?", which includes how reputation thresholds are distributed amongst the populace and if we can reasonably expect enough candidates applying for an election to take place. So, with or without increased thresholds to nominate for candidacy, the issue of insufficient qualified users probably will not come up. – Grace Note Jul 11 '12 at 17:55
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    @JoshCaswell The removed nomination was (more or less) just this: "I'm cute, vote for me! xoxoxo" with zero flags and meta participation... – yannis Jul 11 '12 at 18:24

First off, as sixlettervariables notes there's no guarantee that raising the rep threshold would do anything - we've certainly seen "joke nominations" from high-rep users on SO elections.

Second, getting into the practice of actively removing "unsuitable" candidates sets a bad precedent: elections are intended to be the time when the community's voice is heard the loudest, when the wishes of Stack Exchange Inc. and the existing moderators must take a backseat to popular opinion. To date, we've only removed candidates who:

  • Fail to meet the criteria stated up front in the election announcement.

  • Are being obviously abusive.

In cases where a "joke" nomination threatens to invalidate legit nominations (because there are so many nominees that the reputation threshold automatically increases to limit them), we've strongly encouraged them to withdraw. And we reserve the right to remove candidates who fail the "in good standing" requirement... But under normal circumstances, it is far better that we trust the voters to do the right thing.

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    In this case I felt it was unserious to the point of mocking and undermining the election process, so I elected (pun!) to remove that entry. I do think this is the rare case where moderation is necessary, as it was basically graffiti. – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '12 at 16:59
  • Can't really say anything of value was lost, but I do want to tread carefully here - even a "joke" candidate can be a reminder that the process is open to all – Shog9 Jul 11 '12 at 17:11
  • It also played to gender stereotypes, in addition to being little more than graffiti. Net negative, harming the process as a broken window. We might want to mail the user just to let them know. Elections are some of the most important things we do, and we cannot allow them to be undermined or trivialized. – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '12 at 17:14
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    I'd also add if someone wants to have fun with their actual real nomination, by all means. Just don't waste everyone's time with complete nonsense, because that is not what Stack Exchange is about. – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '12 at 17:19
  • Well, I send a message; we'll see if s[he] comes back with a more serious nom or not. – Shog9 Jul 11 '12 at 17:36

Perhaps, someday, the election requirements can scale up with the requirements of the site (i.e. bigger site needs a higher bar of "experience required"). But I'd like to see it done in a consistent manner and not so piecemeal. Stack Overflow's runaway success brings us "big-city issues" that require us to take these exceptional measures — preferably not to be emulated across the network as we evolve and improve these processes.

But ultimately the solution — and where we are putting our efforts — is to improve the transparency and discoverability of the candidate-voting process.

If a candidate is inherently unqualified, the users should be able to see that and vote accordingly. Philosophically speaking, I don't like the idea of artificially limiting participation in an election, preferring to make it much more obvious who is qualified and who is not. More participation, not less, is the best way to assure that the best possible candidates are selected.

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  • +1, although it may be worthwhile to allow flagging potential Spam nominations. – user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 16:20
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    I think there is a difference between a candidate participating in good faith with little chance of winning, and someone spray painting "KONY 2012" on the polling area. – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '12 at 17:02

I'm in favor of increasing the reputation requirements, not in some sense of trying to suss out what the proper "qualifications" are for moderators, but to prevent people from wasting their time with what amounts to election Kabuki theatre.

What I mean by this is this: someone like the person you point out or ronnie on Arqade is not going to get elected with 4.9 sigma certainty. Whether that person is trolling or not misses the point: even if they're completely sincere they're still not going to get elected. I think the election with the lowest average reputation amongst nominees was either Web Applications or Pro Webmasters, and even in those situations, the moderators had well over 1,000 rep.

So a nominee with only 300 or 400 reputation wastes everyone's time: their own—if they're sincere—for spending time on a platform and answering questions, and everyone else's, particularly if that person is what triggers a primary runoff. Everyone (except for maybe the nominee) knows that person isn't going to make it to the election, but the election is increased by another 7 days just to engage the bureaucracy machine to eject them. It's the ultimate in passive aggressiveness.

Rather, I'd like to see the requirements to increase to at least 1,000 on any site: maybe it makes sense to go higher on specific sites, too. But I don't think we do anyone favors by pretending someone with 300 or 400 reputation has even a remote chance of getting elected.

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  • Agreed, N+1 party candidates have no chance! Shouldn't waste our votes. – user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 16:19
  • @sixlettervariables It's not about vote wasting: the chances of wasting your vote in STV is very low. To me, this is more about being honest and more transparent with potential nominees about what it takes to get elected. If Clippy came up when a 300-rep user nominated themselves and said, "It looks like you're trying to run for moderator. Successful nominees always have far more experience than you currently have. Are you sure you don't want to answer some more questions instead?" that'd be okay too, I guess. – user149432 Jul 11 '12 at 16:38

I suppose another alternative would be to keep self nominations but have a second user second the nomination. It's still democratic, but active, well known users should have no issues getting a seconder, while a total unknown wouldn't.

It also means a low rep user who is active in the site community as a whole should have no issue finding a seconder, while joke candidates, who are known, may have some problems. This doesn't take into account sock puppets, but it's a way to raise the barrier without flagging or raising the rep cap.

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  • Nah, that's what the primary is for. This wouldn't be useful at all. – jcolebrand Jul 11 '12 at 16:12
  • @jcolebrand, it would also be a nice way to get an endorsement – soandos Jul 11 '12 at 16:13
  • What exactly is an endorsement? Who says that the endorsee is qualified to endorse? – jcolebrand Jul 11 '12 at 16:13
  • It simply means a 'joke' candidate needs to take a little more effort, and find someone with at least X rep to back them up - maybe 300 for both. I would think someone qualified for an election should be qualified to second someone. – Journeyman Geek Jul 11 '12 at 16:30
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    "I am Yawus and I approve of this message/candidate/unicorn." – Yawus Jul 11 '12 at 16:32

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