It has always been understood that moderators can and should email users that are abusive or have an issue that's best resolved privately offline. However, there have been a few suggestions recently that suggest that a broader approach should be taken.

First, in this discussion, it is suggested that moderators email users to follow up on the moderator flags that they leave on the site. My opinion is that this feature should be incorporated into the site, and that it's a bit forward to email another user, unsolicited, from my personal email address.*

However, it's this answer that prompted me to write this question. I think it's highly unprofessional, as a moderator, to email a user on behalf of another user, especially for something as trivial as a bounty. To me, this is clearly past the line. But the question is: where exactly is the line? When a user enters their email address (presumably to provide a Gravatar for their account) what communication does the user agree to receive?

* I might feel differently about this if I had a @stackoverflow.com email, and maybe some sample correspondences so that I don't feel like I'm starting with a blank slate every time I send an email

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    I think the title should be "give moderators [name]@stackoverflow.com" ;) – mmx Aug 25 '09 at 3:28
  • That wouldn't help me one bit :-P – Ivo Flipse Jun 15 '10 at 21:12

I agree it's very unprofessional to email a user to an address he/she has not publicly listed (except for extreme situations.)

Even a @stackoverflow.com email address does not fundamentally change anything. As you said, this feature should be incorporated in the Web site. A message from moderator could show up in the "envelope" page.

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    Obligatory +1 to correct sort order after my hasty edit :) Plus I agree – Ian Elliott Aug 25 '09 at 3:35
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    I totally agree. Thing is, any attempt to bring up private messaging is quickly (and violently) shot down. – Kyle Cronin Aug 25 '09 at 3:48
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    Kyle: This is not "private messaging" as a means of social interaction. It's like the reverse of "flag for moderator attention." – mmx Aug 25 '09 at 3:56
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    Could be well implemented as something that appears on the recent page. Moderators could supply short (one way) messages directly to users. – Ian Elliott Aug 25 '09 at 4:01
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    I guess that time Marc e-mailed me was very unprofessional. But I learned that he likes ice cream! Is ice cream unprofessional now? Marc and I both like vanilla ice cream. Well, I like mint Oreo ice cream the best. Vanilla is the third best ice cream. But anyway I don't think it's up to you to decide what is and is not "professional". I was being an ass, and he asked me to stop being an ass in an e-mail. Luckily I didn't heed his warning and have continued to be even more of an ass from that day forward. That backfired on you, eh Marc? Bwahahahahahaha! – Welbog Aug 25 '09 at 11:39

It's a difficult question to answer for the general case. I don't mind getting emails from anyone (including websites that I've registered at), I just dislike obvious spam mail. I accept the fact that if I put my email somewhere when registering I may get the occasional message. Personally, if something concerns me on SO I wouldn't mind getting an email informing me. At the end of the day I can decide if I want to read it -- it causes me no inconvenience.

I'm also aware that many people may not share my outlook, and would probably be furious over unsolicited email. As a general rule I would advise against personal mail simply to avoid aggravating these users.


"It has always been understood that moderators can and should email users that are abusive or have an issue that's best resolved privately offline"

I totally agree with this. I also feel that moderators should inform users when they act on a post that the user has flagged. It seems like every time I flag a post as offensive, spam, or inform moderator, I never actually get to see if anything happened on it because I forget about it.

Now about the bounty: I don't see any reason as to why a user wouldn't want to know about a chance to gain rep.

My personal belief is that the moderators are here to help us and the overall well being of S[OUF]. I wish the moderators could be more involved with the users. I love the idea of one-on-one relationships and dialogs with mods.

One important thing to note would be adding check a box that would allow mods to contact a user on there user profile page. This would allow a user to opt out of mods contacting them about bounty's and things of that nature, but not contacting them about misbehavior.

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    Your bold is bleeding my eyes. – Ladybug Killer Aug 25 '09 at 6:52
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    SORRY I SHOULD HAVE PUT IT IN ALL CAPS ALSO! ;-) – Kredns Aug 26 '09 at 1:04

I don't mind receiving mail to my privately-listed address, but I really do wish that people would sign their name, so I know who to address my reply to if I want to follow up.

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    Yeah, that kinda puts my teeth on edge too... I'm tempted to preface my responses with, "Dear Collective," – Shog9 Jun 15 '10 at 18:20
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    necromancer hunt? – juan Jun 15 '10 at 18:20
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    @Juan: I came here re Shog's reference at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/53719/… – Ether Jun 15 '10 at 18:30
  • oh, hadn't seen that =) – juan Jun 15 '10 at 19:28

How about a feature request that messages from moderators light up the magic envelope? Messages can get queued up in the Recent Activity screen.


Moderators should never be emailing account emails directly.

There is one exception. If the account has been locked out, then the moderator who locked it, (or the system itself) should send an email message (if it doesn't already) with some context.

Beyond that, all SO communications should come from within SO. Keep in mind, when we recieve messages in the magic inbox, we understand that they are coming from within SO. This is the same as anything that comes from a moderator. Moderators are not some user sending me a message, there is a particular purpose to what they are trying to accomplish by messaging you.

Furthermore, it should never be something that requires user input. The moderators should be able to 'post' a message to someone's recent event feed, but because there is no way for anyone to response to these messages, they should not be considered two way communication, but rather an announcement from the moderator to a single user.

I'd prefer that everything to do with SO live entirely within my browser, and only when I point it to the website.

  • we're talking about exceptional cases, though, not typical everyday stuff. – Jeff Atwood Mar 2 '10 at 8:01

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