What is it like to be a Stack Exchange moderator? Do you have to be on the site 24/7? Are there certain expectations of you every day (answering set amount of questions, reviewing set amount of items, etc.)?

What is working in that position like? Is it time-demanding? Or is it something you can work with others on a schedule with? Are you supposed to treat it like a "job"?

  • 44
    All these questions seem to be based on the assumption that you're dealing with humans?... That has never been conclusively proven.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 12:55
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    Mary Huestis Pengilly, an ex moderator, wrote extensively about her experiences moderating Stack Overflow in Diary Written in the Provincial Lunatic Asylum
    – yannis
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:00
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    If I get a moment from dealing with the daily drama of moderating on Stack Overflow, I'll tell you =)
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:00
  • Are there "meetings" where you're expected to show up because it's mandatory?
    – yuritsuki
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:02
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    @Retrosaur Nothing is mandatory really. SO mods are expected to show up every six months, but the only thing that is mandatory is to abide by the moderator's agreement.
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:03
  • @Retrosaur There are "meetings" (chat events), but they aren't mandatory.
    – yannis
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:04
  • @Retrosaur: Mods need to maintain a goodish level of modding activity (with a varying definition of "goodish" depending on the site you mod -- SO needs much more activity from a mod than a beta site). We have scheduled chat events which can be counted as meetings, but those are nowhere near mandatory. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:12
  • @Manishearth That's not completely true, or rather, "goodish" is a very, very low bar.
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:32
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    They oscillate. All the time.
    – J. Steen
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:32
  • I'm a little disturbed that not one single moderator has brought up the women (and/or men, goats, whatever), lasers, black helicopters, and baguettes. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 14:26
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    You go to work, get called a nazi four or five times, delete their accounts, then you drink.
    – user1228
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:15
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    You asked specifically about Stack Overflow so I'll leave this in a comment, but I asked about the moderator job on a smaller site and the answer isn't specific to that site. It doesn't take into account the huge volume of SO, of course. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 16:07
  • @Bart well, BoltClock is actually a unicorn...
    – Cole Tobin
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 18:14
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    @ColeJohnson His honesty is appreciated. Whether Bill is also really a lizzard, I don't know. And Random is of course...well..yeah.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 18:47
  • 1
    @Retrosaur - Good news! You don't have to accept an answer Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 20:29

5 Answers 5


When you boil it down, we're really just unicorn yodelers.

Cat yodeling is the act of gently, but firmly cuddling a cat in a manner that makes the cat somewhat uncomfortable in an effort to solicit a desirable series of noises. Unicorn yodeling, also known as moderation, is quite similar to cat yodeling except that the yodeler is a large human community with a very sharp horn and blunt hooves; desirable unicorn yodels are referred to as signal.

We process approximately 1500 flags per day, in an effort to keep the signal on the site much higher than the noise. A typical day:

  • Process a bunch of flags (often leading to resolving disputes between users)
  • Help with maintenance tasks (tag related stuff)
  • Answer some questions here on Meta
  • Help other moderators asking questions in our chat room
  • Coordinate ongoing things with the community managers
  • Deal with chat flags

Once in a while some take the opportunity to reach out as an emissary of the site, typically by helping an open source project better utilize Stack Overflow.

Sometimes, we need to place restrictions such as a timed suspension on users that are creating continued disruptions in the community. This is never fun, but we do find some laughter in the creative things people call us.

The time we put in is broadly up to us. Being a moderator on SO means that you're expected to show up occasionally and handle some flags. On average about thirty minutes a day on at least a few days per week is the norm for an active moderator. Everyone basically gives what they can. The work itself isn't like 'work', but the environment is a very warm and supportive 'working' environment. We treat each other as colleagues.

At the end of the day I think most of us leave with a generally good feeling. We helped maintain something that we really care about, and we work with good company and friends.

And, well, making unicorns yodel is pretty awesome too.

  • 1
    'We treat each other as colleagues'. In Public. In Teachers it was... well, ...the administration is different. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:37
  • @Mr.Disappointment It's different, but I've made no qualms about that in my post. We might not like each other, but we respected (even if we didn't admit it) each other's domains (even though some may have been slower to realize it than others *ahem* *cough* *myself*).
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:40
  • you said 1500 flags per day, just curious how much time of a day you devote for moderating? and is it in exchange of some remuneration (though I know their is no such remuneration for moderators, I am just curious how do you afford...)?
    – Mahesha999
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 9:39

Of course, this is my own perspective, and I've only been a moderator a little more than a year.

My typical day:

For me, a good amount of my focus currently is on flags, flags, and more flags. We currently have 769 flags in the queue. We might be able to knock that down to about 200, and today, I'll probably handle somewhere between 200-300 flags.

Some of them are really easy. "Not An Answer" and "Very Low Quality" flags are low-hanging fruit.

Close reason flags are also fairly simple, but require more context switching.

Then there are the custom moderation flags. Those require the most time/context switching.

If we're fortunate, myself and a few others will be able to clear the flag queue every day. There are many times we can't, because one of us is not around to help (because you can just get sick of processing flags in a day).

But that's not all:

Of course, there are (many) times when what we do is contentious.

At best we'll get a comment @ us somewhere asking (or sniping) at us. We'll usually go and review our action.

And then there is Meta:

There are times when a situation requires more than what can be fit in a custom flag box, or, someone wants the consensus of the community.

Or (and this is unfortunate), there are times when people want to express outrage over an action that has been taken.

In all of these cases, they'll come to Meta and post.

Most of the time, the community here on meta, or the other moderators will support or post even though they weren't the moderator that performed the action in question.

I have to say, that's one of the many awesome things about the Stack Overflow moderation team. When I first joined, I thought that I had to answer pretty much every call-out on Meta involving a decision of mine. I learned quickly that isn't the case, and that I have a group that supports me, and I do my best to support them.

This doesn't mean that they blindly support me, if I'm wrong, then I'm wrong. It's those times where we'll post our response to what happened, and hash it out with the community.

There's also the feature requests, commenting, and general feedback loop that moderators give, either because there is a gap, or to promote understanding about the governance of Stack Overflow that any user can participate in.

The social aspect:

A good amount of my day is spent hanging out in the private chatroom for all of the Stack Exchange moderators. We talk to other moderators about moderation issues, and we have meetings (with optional attendance, but it's worth being a part of) among all the moderators.

That room is important, because we can all share our experiences and views on moderation, and many times, if there's something we have a question about, we can get a number of viewpoints on the topic (or be reminded of the viewpoint, if necessary). Of course, it's an opportunity to provide that insight to others (even though it might not be something that helps their site, as all the sites face different issues).

However, most of the time, there's a great amount of fooling around, and that's ok as this room is a place where moderators can go to de-stress.

And like any group, there are politics, people who don't like one another (I'll be frank, there are people who loathe each other in there), but we all get along and are civil.

But, I have to say, it's a great group of people to hang out with virtually on a daily basis, and they help make the day go that much faster.

Is that all there is?

Not at all. There are many moderators who contribute in other ways, who communicate in different ways.

For example, some of the Stack Overflow moderators hang out in the Stack Overflow-specific moderator chat room.

Some moderators don't chat at all. Or handle many flags. But they might make amazing posts on Meta on perceptions about the community and how we can all govern Stack Overflow better.

The point is, being a moderator, while defined overwhelmingly by some specific actions, isn't limited to just that. Each of the moderators on the Stack Overflow team has a distinct personality and it shows in their moderation, as well as what they excel at.

For example, one of our moderators is just absolutely amazing at sussing out sock puppets/fraudulent voting in a way that borders on mysticism.

Oh, yeah, and this is in the course of my regular workday.

So what's mandatory?

The only thing that's really mandatory is abiding by the moderator agreement. Beyond that, if we show up and do something every few months, we're ok.

However, if one of us is very active, and we're not going to be active for any particular reason, then the community team does appreciate if we tell them (for example, I was really light when my daughter was born last week and I told the SE staff and SO mod team).

Other than that, it's a blast. I was at a point when I was getting bored with Stack Overflow, and now I see it, and the entire Stack Exchange network in a completely different way, one that inspires me to want to do so much more for it.

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    @GertArnold Thank you! If you want to see her (her name is casperTwo): i.sstatic.net/DyKi9.jpg
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 14:07
  • Nice little girl. But if you had time to become a father, haven't you neglected your moderator duties? Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 14:30
  • @DanielFischer I cleared about 300+ flags yesterday as well as put in two feature requests on meta. I'd say no.
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:32
  • @Spontifixus Thank you! While not official, it's what the SE community has come to call her. =)
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:33
  • @casperOne I meant last May or so (and of course I was just teasing, I know you're working hard on the flags, and I appreciate it). Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:34
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    Well, the Stack Overflow subset of that community was like casperOnepointnineninenineninethree, but that was just too long.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:37
  • @DanielFischer Oh, did I slack then? ha! Sorry! I'll clear the flag queue today to make up for that!
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:38
  • 1
    If you had time for fooling around with your wife, you obviously slacked. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:40
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    @DanielFischer There was lots of slacking if a baby was the result =P The moral of the story: YOU GUYS AREN'T FLAGGING ENOUGH!!!
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:41
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    Oh, and lest it be forgotten, give our love and best wishes to the missus. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:51
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    casper 2.0. Major release! What's New? See the breathtaking picture! Known issues: bottle feeding not supported. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 16:00
  • 4
    @GertArnold I have a lot of feature-requests for casperTwo, as well as some support tickets that need to be filled, and there's plenty of discussion which are really just rants.
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 16:07
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    "casperTwo" - ha! :) Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 16:52
  • 2
    @casperOne, about the "not flagging enough" - CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
    – Azulflame
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 17:12
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    @casper - it gets better for awhile. 2-3 ish can be much better (when they're in a good mood, that is...) Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 17:56

I'll answer your specific questions first.

Do you have to be on the site 24/7? Are there certain expectations of you each day (answering set amount of questions, reviewing set amount of items, etc.)?

No, each of us don't have to visit the site every day, although some of us do. There are 15 of us now, so the work can be spread out. There aren't any expectations on answering questions, and there are very low expectations as far as processing flags. If we're on the site for a significant amount of time asking or answering questions, we are asked to spend a little bit of time helping out in the flag queue.

How is the position? Is it time-demanding? Or is it something you can work with others on a schedule with? Are you supposed to treat it as a "job"?

It's a volunteer position, so there really is very little actual demand to do anything. Some moderators only process flags when they happen to be on the site already, and some treat it like a hobby that they do daily. It's really up to the individual.

What is it like to be a Stack Overflow moderator?

Others have already posted great answers about what it's like right now. I can tell you how much it has changed in the (nearly) four years I've been doing this. One big change is the number of flags we get in a day. There were originally only two moderators (plus Jeff) and we handled the flags easily. I remember the first time I saw the queue hit 20 flags, several weeks after I became a moderator. I nearly freaked out because that seemed like so many. Stack Overflow has grown a lot since then, and the queue typically has hundreds of flags at any given time.

Another big change is the quality and number of the tools we have. The flag queue was originally just a list of links to posts that had been flagged. Now it's a really slick dashboard that has all the information we need about each flagged post. We can process most flags directly from the dashboard, which saves us a lot of time. We also have tools for a variety of other tasks that come up on Meta (it just occurred to me that Meta didn't exist when I started moderating SO either), like merging tags and creating tag synonyms, and detecting and dealing with voting irregularities.

Finally, the biggest change has been the community itself. It's grown like crazy, and expanded to dozens of other Stack Exchange sites. That growth means that there's more for moderators to do, but also that there are more people to share the burden. Tools that were once moderator-only are often shared with higher-reputation (trusted) users so the community can moderate itself as much as possible.

  • 1
    Well, not all the information, but if we didn't have the queue, we'd be so screwed right now.
    – casperOne
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 15:43
  • 2
    I wasn't a mod on SO during the early days, but I did run a (now defunct) SE 1.0 site, back in the 'double diamond' days. The difference between now and then is just huge.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 16:08

Flags, flags, and more flags. :)

And no, I wouldn't consider it like a real job. You just do mod stuff (did I mention flags?) whenever you want. That could be once a day, a few times a day, etc. - doesn't really matter.

  • Is there an emphasis on doing your job though? Say you end up not visiting the site for 4 days. Is this enough to get you out of your job? Do you have to be there at least once a day?
    – yuritsuki
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 12:59
  • If you can't do it for some time you are supposed to let SE know. But there is no requirement e.g. to do flags every day. To be removed as a moderator for inactivity you need to be absent for several weeks (>6w I think..) without notice. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 13:00

I am on the site daily. My participation in moderation depends upon my workload. Somedays I may be able to clear hundreds of flags, and some days I barely clear 20. It evens out, or at least that's what I tell myself.

I also don't always moderate the same way other moderators do. Since I'm first and foremost a member of the community, I act very much similar to how I did before I had the diamond attached to my name. If I see a post that needs to be closed, I'll vote to close it. If I see a post that should be reopened, I'll do the same. I've said all this in my nominations, so it shouldn't be a surprise for anyone.

Besides the organic moderation efforts I take part in, I also try to spend some time actually clearing flags each day. This involves looking at the moderator queue and evaluating each post that's been flagged. Sometimes I can clear a flag a second, other times I'll spend upwards of minutes on a single post; it just all depends on the flag and what catches my eye.

I also try to keep up to date on what's going on on Meta. This is by far the best place to share your thoughts on what you think we should (or should not) moderate. I try to answer one meta question a day, but again, it all depends on my workload. It used to be that I would answer multiple meta questions a day, but I'm happy to note that other users have taken up the reign of first line support, and for that I'm grateful.

If I've still got time, I'll go back to the moderation queue and try to get more flags cleared. It's really discouraging to see flags in the hundreds, but it's even more discouraging to see the flag queue to be cleared out one hour, only to have hundreds more flags show up just an hour or two later.


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