Title says it all. I had a situation where a moderator answered a question and then marked another answer (that said the same thing, but more directly) for conversion to comment because they felt "its length was not up to community standards".

While I think it is important to maintain some set of standards for answers, I don't think it is appropriate for a moderator to remove (and therefore penalize) other answers to a question in which the moderator has also provided a "competing" answer.

In response to some of the comments...

Linking to the question has dealt with the specifics of the question, not the thing I was trying to get addressed. Also, there is no place that shows what mod has actually done the removal. This is not about WHO did the deleting.

Because some are reading the question and ignoring the statement in the title, it bears restating - "A moderator should not be allowed to moderate questions in which they have participated in answering (and vice versa)".

I want this feature added (hence the feature-request tag).

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    Link to the question? – Bart Nov 12 '12 at 16:15
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    I would prefer not to call anyone out directly and cause them bad feelings, and just deal with the concern as described. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 16:17
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    Here is the answer in question. Note: I was the one who he claims deleted it, I answered the question and commented, but I did not delete it. I flagged it as not an answer, and I was not the only one. Another moderator, whom I had zero communication with on this post, acted on both flags. I don't disagree with the premise that moderators shouldn't moderate questions they are acting as a user on, but what you're claiming didn't happen here. I only acted as a user here (answering, voting, and flagging for another moderator's attention). – casperOne Nov 12 '12 at 16:20
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    @casperOne all you did was copy the OPs answer and expand on it. I do not see how your answer was anything new. you could have just edited the original answer with your extension. The OPs answer was fully correct, noone had to flag as not an answer. – Naftali aka Neal Nov 12 '12 at 16:21
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    @casperOne I would understand if the answer was just a link. but the answer was a link stating what to do. We do not really need to "spoonfeed" people now do we? – Naftali aka Neal Nov 12 '12 at 16:26
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    @amanaPlanaCAnalPAnaMA Wait, so providing a link which says "do something", and then saying "it addresses your concern" without saying why or how is an answer? I'm sorry, but in my eyes, that's way below the bar of quality here on Stack Overflow, to the point where it's even absurd that we're even considering that an answer. If that link goes down, then the next question is "how do I strong name my assemblies" and possibly "how does this solve my problem". – casperOne Nov 12 '12 at 16:32
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    @BenVoigt How about you post a correct answer then? – yannis Nov 12 '12 at 16:33
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    @Yannis: I had already voted to close as a duplication of the question where the correct answers already exist. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:34
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    I'm not convinced the "reward" for a moderator gaming an answer is worth any sort of malevolent effort to get it. I'm also opposed to spoon-feeding, and the lack of votes, the occasional downvote, and occasional deletion, when I answer in a less-than-handholding way are my reward, just like yours. It's a difference in philosophy, and it's okay. – Dave Newton Nov 12 '12 at 16:41
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    @StingyJack Perhaps you could update your answer with a summary of why Strong Named Assemblies are the answer, and flag your answer to be undeleted? Personally I don't think it should be deleted in the first place as its just a little bit more than just a link-only answer, but if you make an edit to expand your answer a bit, there's no reason why it should stay deleted. – Rachel Nov 12 '12 at 16:49
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    N.B. - It does, in fact, show which moderator removed the post. I assume this requires 10k privileges, of course. – McCannot Nov 12 '12 at 17:14
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    I tend to agree with @Ben that this question isn't really answered until someone notes that there's no way to prevent someone with access to the machine and determination from patching in a rogue library. But that discussion belongs on the question itself; please limit this to discussion of the link-only answer's deletion. – Shog9 Nov 12 '12 at 17:30
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    @JNK and GEOCHET - I suggest you just drop it. I am asking for a feature, and you two arguing are solving nothing to help my feature request. Go fight elsewhere. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:35
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    I'm locking this for an hour so all interested can have a moment to have a moment. – Tim Post Nov 12 '12 at 17:52
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    Just want to point out to you that you -- and anyone else for that matter -- can see who deleted and undeleted your post by looking at the revision history. – jmort253 Nov 13 '12 at 4:58

The moderator who answered the question is not the same moderator who converted your answer to a comment. He followed the correct (IMO) protocol of flagging your answer, just as any other user could do. (One other user did also flag your post as 'not an answer'.)

Your answer is a link-only answer, and as pointed out in the comments, those are looked upon as not really good answers. After your post was flagged, I did wait to give you time to expand on the link. Once it became clear from your comments that you weren't going to edit your post, I converted it to a comment.

In response to your edit:

This is not about WHO did the deleting.

Then I don't understand what your question is about. Your title says that moderators shouldn't be allowed to moderate questions they've participated in. He didn't. The body of your questions says

I don't think it is appropriate for a moderator to remove (and therefore penalize) other answers to a question in which the moderator has also provided a "competing" answer.

Again, he didn't do that. He commented and flagged your post and let another moderator handle it. What are you suggesting should be done?

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    +1; I don't see anything wrong here. – Dave Newton Nov 12 '12 at 16:42
  • When you took action, were you aware that one or more of the flags came from users with competing answers? Do you give more credence to a flag from another diamond mod? – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:44
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    @BenVoigt Yes, I was aware that one flag came from a user with a competing answer. That happens all the time. I give as much credence to a flag from another moderator as I do to any flag from someone that I recognize from having a good flagging history. I still evaluate each flag on its own merits, not based on who tossed the flag. – Bill the Lizard Nov 12 '12 at 16:48
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    @BenVoigt I'm as circumspect when dealing with diamond mods as I am with everyone else. I don't see a real need to treat them any differently. These are the people the community elected because they're trusted. Why should I trust them less? – Bill the Lizard Nov 12 '12 at 17:06
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    @BenVoigt a link only answer is a bad answer, period. They should ALL be closed as "Not an answer". The other details are totally irrelevant. – JNK Nov 12 '12 at 17:06
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    @BenVoigt The two answers were posted less than two minutes apart. No attribution was necessary. – Bill the Lizard Nov 12 '12 at 17:12
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    Can a moderator participate in a question that they have moderated in and vice versa? If the answer is yes, then they shouldn't be able to do so. I have updated the question to restate this. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:20
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    Why should I trust you or @casperOne to do the "right" thing unless you are truly an impartial 3rd party? Make it transparent. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:26
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    @StingyJack Why do they owe you more transparency? Moderators are many orders of magnitude more visible and more accountable to the community and to the operators of the site than you or any other non-mod user. In this circumstance you misinterpreted what happened. There is no problem, please move on. – JNK Nov 12 '12 at 17:28
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    Clearly not more visible. Note the lack of deletor information. i.imgur.com/YwEN0.png Regardless of WHO did the deleting, this feature request is to prevent an OBVIOUS conflict of interest, not to argue quality of answer, etc. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:31
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    I really can't imagine what sort of transparency would help here beyond what already exists (showing who deleted the post). This really should be visible to the person who posted the answer, though. – McCannot Nov 12 '12 at 17:31
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    @StingyJack Well, casperOne did do the right thing here, so I guess that's one reason to trust him. Also, all of our actions are logged and are subject to review by Stack Exchange employees. This does seem like a fair feature request though, despite the confusion over the exact sequence of events regarding your post. I don't really see anything wrong with bringing it up for discussion. – Bill the Lizard Nov 12 '12 at 17:32
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    I dont care about the post which is why its not included in the question. I care about the conflict of interest. That feeds resentment and distrust for the mods and within the community – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:37
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    @StingyJack: Which moderator deleted an answer actually is visible for users who can view deleted posts (>10k reputation). – David Robinson Nov 12 '12 at 19:49
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    Yeah, that restriction seems to serve little purpose. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 20:05

I think we need some facts:

  1. casperOne did not delete the answer, another moderator did. The answer was deleted because it contained only a link. Link only answers are extremely problematic for us due to link rot. The action that the other moderator took was appropriate

  2. There is no conspiracy to remove competing answers. If we were all twelve years old, I might consider discussing such a notion. Since we have to be at least 13 to use Stack Overflow, I'm not going there. If the answer did not warrant action, the other moderator (who is the most senior on our team) would not have lifted a finger. casperOne did just what you would do, he flagged the answer for a moderator to review, and he wasn't alone in flagging.

  3. It is extremely common for us to find problematic posts that could also create a conflict of interest if we, as a participant, could benefit if we took action. While there is no official rule regarding what to do when that happens, every one of us asks someone else to evaluate and handle it. Notice, I said evaluate. Not once in my tenure have I, or any other mod I know been asked to do something inappropriate by another moderator.

The action that was taken was purely due to the fact that your answer did not meet our quality standards. Nothing less, nothing more. casperOne did not, in fact, use any of his moderator abilities on that question. He used the same privileges available to any other user with sufficient reputation to flag a post.


Per your comment, this has everything to do with the specific question since the scenario didn't happen. However, as I commented under Brad's answer:

Worth noting that the reason no official rule exists is because it's never been a problem. We've all just naturally not taken action that could benefit us unfairly, and asked someone else to look into it. Now that it's actually been questioned, perhaps it should become policy.

I'd support that. A conflict of interest could arise if we:

  • Modify the CW status on a post that we own

  • Delete upvoted posts that we own which non-moderators could not do with a single vote

  • Delete any answer to a question that we've answered which is not obviously a:

    • SPAM drop (gucci bags, etc)

    • "Me too! Me too! Did you find the answer to this?"

    • "asgjsdhgjshhkds U ALL SNIFF LLAMA FEET FTW!!"

  • Delete comments written by others under individual posts we own, barring the same criteria

In the above cases, it's better if we just flag and let another moderator handle it. I also propose no changes to the system, only that we directly address the above in our code of conduct, which (beyond this) has not been canonized.

This has never been, and still is not a problem in need of a solution in the form of policy or anything else. Yet .. it probably wouldn't hurt anything to plainly state what we all took as obvious. I don't want to look back later and wish we had.

  • Diamonds editing diamonds; it'll be anarchy. – Dave Newton Nov 12 '12 at 16:53
  • @DaveNewton Well, I thought he looked rather dashing in StudlyCamel, but we digress. – Tim Post Nov 12 '12 at 16:57
  • Good heavens. Editing a post to correct the capitalization of his username? Now that's shameless abuse of power if I've ever seen it! – McCannot Nov 12 '12 at 16:57
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    @McCannot It's not the first time. I'm particular about it. =) – casperOne Nov 12 '12 at 16:59
  • Link rot is a problem. An answer that contains a link and all the search terms necessary to find the information again if it moves isn't so bad at all, IMO. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 17:01
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    @BenVoigt: Whether or not that's the case, to be honest I can't take your argument seriously. After the ridiculous histrionics in the answer you posted it's hard to see your objections as anything other than a desperate attempt to find some reason to condemn the moderators' actions. – McCannot Nov 12 '12 at 17:12
  • This has nothing to do with the specific question. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:14
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    @BenVoigt The answer is not gone, it's now a very useful comment, providing exactly what you describe. Dead comments are much more easier to deal with than dead answers when quality is crowdsourced. Waffles toiled for quite a while just scratching the surface of the link rot issue. We definitely don't want to feed it opportunities to get bigger, while we continue to make it appreciably smaller. – Tim Post Nov 12 '12 at 17:14
  • @McCannot: It's at least partially a reaction to seeing misinformation about strong named assemblies promuglated for the Nth time. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 17:14

You bring up a good question. How should moderators handle questions and answers they have participated in as a normal user?

It's a grey area, but the way that we usually handle something like this is just what was done here. It's generally accepted that moderating a question where you stand to benefit (due to having asked the question or given an answer) presents a conflict of interest, so we usually ask other moderators to look at these items for us. This is done via flags or by offline requests in chat.

While I acknowledge that moderators are more likely to act on a flag or a request by another moderator, there have been several cases I've seen recently where other moderators disagreed. I know I feel a lot better when a third party handles a case where I'm involved.

As Bill states, this is a good example of the proper way to handle a case like this. casperOne flagged what he believed to be a problem with your answer, and another moderator reviewed it. It was only when a second non-moderator flagged the answer for the same reason that this flag was acted on.

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    Worth noting that the reason no official rule exists is because it's never been a problem. We've all just naturally not taken action that could benefit us unfairly, and asked someone else to look into it. Now that it's actually been questioned, perhaps it should become policy. – Tim Post Nov 12 '12 at 16:54
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    I can say this: I run into the same scenario myself, where someone else posted an answer with similar approach although different quality. If I feel mine contains a better explanation, I leave both and let the community judge which is more helpful. Otherwise I delete mine. What I don't do is flag the other answer (unless it's off-topic spam). And I won't downvote the other answer unless it makes an objectively incorrect statement, in which case I'll also leave a comment correcting it. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:58

Let me - for a change - focus on

Because some are reading the question and ignoring the statement in the title, it bears restating - "A moderator should not be allowed to moderate questions in which they have participated in answering (and vice versa)".

I want this feature added (hence the feature-request tag).

I don't think that would be a good feature.

I agree that in general, a moderator should refrain from deleting answers to questions they answered themselves, but a hard and inviolable, possibly software-enforced, rule that they cannot would be wrong.

I don't think it's controversial that there is no harm in a moderator deleting an "asdfasdf" answer to a question regardless of whether the moderator answered that question too. But it would also be no harm if the moderator had to call such answers to other moderators' attention to remove it.

Even for "wow gold" spam, there's no real harm if that sits a few moments longer in the open until another moderator can handle it.

But if an answer is posted containing hate speech, I would not want a moderator's hands to be tied just because the hate speech appeared while they were composing their own answer.

I want the moderators to be able to delete such upon sight, without any restriction.

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    Things can be disallowed by official policy without having technical enforcement. – Ben Voigt Nov 13 '12 at 0:45

To get at your intended point here, rather than the specific case: Moderator actions already have plenty of transparency, with the caveat that you need 10k privileges to see deleted posts and that the owner of a post doesn't see the moderator who deleted it (which seems like an oversight, not something intentional).

Furthermore, preventing moderators from moderating in questions they've answered would be counterproductive at best. Suppose that a moderator is, in fact, behaving inappropriately: this can be brought to the attention of other moderators and/or SE staff, who will deal with the situation as they deem appropriate. If other moderators are willing to condone misbehavior, then there'd be nothing to stop them from cooperating to work around hard restrictions (in fact, such exchanged "favors" are common in environments with a lot of corruption).

Either way, if it's just one bad moderator, they'll be dealt with; if it's systemic, there wouldn't be any real obstacle anyway. Putting a hard restriction in place would mostly serve to make it less convenient for a moderator to use their powers appropriately.

Really, if you can't trust moderators to behave appropriately in a situation as clear-cut as conflicts of interest like this, you've got bigger problems than adding minor limits on moderator power can solve.

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    You can see who deleted and undeleted the post by looking at the revision history of said post. – jmort253 Nov 13 '12 at 4:54

I have no qualms about calling out the scenario. I was just about to post a request for censure here on meta myself.

Here is the question: How to prevent spoofing of DLLs in .NET

A diamond mod posted a duplicate answer. He clearly saw the pre-existing answer because he commented on it. After (ab)using his power to ensure deletion of the competing answer, he then racked up a large number of votes and the green checkmark.

enter image description here

Yes, the earlier answer wasn't very complete. Neither is the diamond mod's answer. It is in fact not a solution to the question asked at all. As previously noted here: https://stackoverflow.com/a/4532558/103167

IMO, this use of authority is intolerable.

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    Exactly! see my comment here: "@casperOne all you did was copy the OPs answer and expand on it. I do not see how your answer was anything new. you could have just edited the original answer with your extension. The OPs answer was fully correct, noone had to flag as not an answer." +1 to you sir! – Naftali aka Neal Nov 12 '12 at 16:23
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    Wow, way to misrepresent. a) I didn't delete the answer b) StingyJack's answer was posted while I was writing my first revision, which came in ~1.5 minutes after he posted his answer. It's not unreasonable to think that given how much more extensive my answer is, that it would take me that long to type it and c) I didn't delete it. Please get your facts straight. And I also posted the link to the question myself, so you're not "outing" anyone here. – casperOne Nov 12 '12 at 16:26
  • @casperOne: I didn't say you deleted the answer. I said your influence ensured its deletion. That's true -- flag weight of diamond mod carries an insane level of influence. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:28
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    @BenVoigt For the record, my initial flag as "Not An Answer" was marked as helpful, but no action was taken, and I let it stand. It was only acted on after it was flagged as "Not An Answer" a second time, and I didn't cast a second flag, nor did I speak with the moderator about this post at all. Ask any of the people from SE who have access to the back-channel chat rooms. – casperOne Nov 12 '12 at 16:29
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    "He clearly saw the pre-existing answer because he commented on it." <- But that comment came more than six minutes after he posted his own answer. That's no indication of his seeing the earlier answer before submitting his own. – Daniel Fischer Nov 12 '12 at 16:30
  • @DanielFischer: But he saw it before he took the very questionable actions that followed. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:31
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    @BenVoigt I don't follow. Whether he commented or not, the flagging itself requires that he saw the answer, so what's the comment got to do with anything? – Daniel Fischer Nov 12 '12 at 16:33
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    Did you steal this from Evan Carroll's desk? – animuson ModStaff Nov 12 '12 at 16:35
  • @animuson: I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the reference. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:36
  • @Rachel: I'm not sure that StingyJack will see your comment since you didn't @-invoke his name. And I don't really want to promote an incorrect answer, even the first incorrect answer. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 16:46
  • "invoke his name" is a fun choice of words. – StingyJack Nov 12 '12 at 17:24
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    For what it's worth, we don't discourage posting significantly expanded answers on questions that are technically already answered. For that matter, we actually encourage that. There's often room for improvement, a better explanation, etc. – Adam Lear ModStaff Nov 12 '12 at 17:26
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    @Anna: Absolutely -- if you look at my comments to Bill and Brad's answers, you'll see that I support that approach. But then let the community sort out whether a short answer containing a link to an long authoritative explanation is as useful as a longer standalone answer. Flagging the other answer is not something I think should be encouraged. – Ben Voigt Nov 12 '12 at 17:56
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    IMO it makes no sense to say a moderator isn't part of the community; they're not only community, but community we've endowed with power and responsibility. I have yet to see moderator malfeasance to any degree, including in this case. – Dave Newton Nov 13 '12 at 0:20
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    I guess I disagree; while I take a different approach to link-only answers, I don't think it's an invalid approach, and it was flagged more than once. – Dave Newton Nov 13 '12 at 0:43

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