You may have noticed that we have a bit of a backlog for bugs and feature requests related to moderator tools.

Our moderators do a lot of work to keep our sites running smoothly, and we recognize that sometimes the tools get in the way - through inefficiencies or bugs we aren't aware of or haven't had time to fix. That's not ideal.

We've made some room in our schedule for one developer to spend a couple of weeks improving tools available to mods. We're sorry that it can't be more; there are definitely aspects of the mod tools that we won't be able to fix in that time period, but we'd like to do what we can.

Here's where you all come in. We need current (and former) moderators – the people who are using these tools on a daily basis – to help us figure out what to fix. What's broken? What tools do you wish you had available in the mod interface? What are you currently finding workarounds for that we can incorporate directly into our system?

If you have ideas for how we can improve mod tools:

  • Post one bug/request per answer. (Please read through and see if someone else has already posted your suggestion; if yes, upvote the existing post rather than reiterating the same idea in a new answer.)
  • Vote for other people's suggestions that you support to help us determine which things we should prioritize.
  • Remember, please do not post screenshots or otherwise expose information that's available only to moderators.

Because we have a few hundred moderators, try to limit your suggestions to the one or two biggest wishes or annoyances you have.

Keep in mind that because we don't have a lot of resources to throw at this, we won't be able to implement all of your suggested changes, but we hope to make these tools a little more efficient and effective.

  • You mean 10k tools or tools specific to diamond mods? – Doorknob Jul 19 '13 at 13:38
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    @Doorknob - From context, I would say diamond mod tools, though, arguably, improvements to the 10k tools would help diamond mods too. – Oded Jul 19 '13 at 13:40
  • Do we have to link to the existing open questions as well or are those already under consideration? – ChrisF Mod Jul 19 '13 at 13:46
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    @Doorknob The goal is to focus primarily on removing obstacles for diamond moderators, but there's definitely overlap in what's useful for diamond mods and what's useful for 10k users. We're always open to suggestions, so go ahead and post both. – Laura Jul 19 '13 at 13:46
  • @Laura Alright, I'm not a mod so I can't suggest anything about that but I did post a suggestion for the 10k tools :) – Doorknob Jul 19 '13 at 13:47
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    @ChrisF we'll be looking at the existing questions, but if there's something you care really strongly about, it won't hurt to post a link and a one-sentence summary here. – Laura Jul 19 '13 at 13:47
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    @Laura - well there's anything I've reported for a start :) – ChrisF Mod Jul 19 '13 at 13:50
  • @Laura: Do you also consider existing heavily upvoted bug-reports/feature-requests or just the proposals here? – juergen d Jul 19 '13 at 15:16
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    @juergend both! – Laura Jul 19 '13 at 15:22
  • Is there a way this could be shared to all Mods network wide? Not everybody visits MSO. I say this as the more opinions from people who actually use these tools, the more the chances of implementing relevant changes. – asheeshr Jul 19 '13 at 15:34
  • @AsheeshR it's been posted twice (and pinned in the starred message list) in the chat room that all moderators have access to; that's the best way for us to reach all the mods for something we want their input on in a relatively quick manner. – Laura Jul 19 '13 at 15:38
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    Alright, I somehow missed that. There should be something like a network wide ping or notification feature available to SE employees. – asheeshr Jul 19 '13 at 15:43
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    I thought the minimum time interval for any development effort was six to eight weeks. – user102937 Jul 19 '13 at 19:55
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    Who would down-vote this? Someone who doesn't want moderators' jobs to be made easier? – Aaron Bertrand Jul 21 '13 at 15:21
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    Where should we submit improvements to the secret parts of the moderator tools? – Mad Scientist Jul 26 '13 at 9:50

37 Answers 37


OK, here's a more meaningful request than my first:

Specify how many times a user has been flagged for possible vandalism in each subsequent vandalism flag.

In the process of cleaning up old, low-scoring posts, users typically delete them in bulk, hit the daily limit and get blocked from further deletions. This also causes the post where the block was triggered to be automatically flagged for possible vandalism.

Some of these users will continue tripping the limit again and again, causing more flags to be raised. While not all cases are harmful, this can sometimes be the sign of a real self-vandalism that warrants further action, but we can't know for sure until we look at the user's history of flagged posts. That requires more clicks, and while I routinely do that for every vandalism flag, I'll admit it's not very efficient.

It would be nice if this information could be listed directly in the automatic flag message, so we can tell at a glance if a user is actively and repeatedly vandalizing their own content. I shan't get into the details, but we've had at least one user successfully erode enough of their content that a permanent suspension was necessary, and all because nobody thought to find out just how many times that user had been fighting the system in order to erase their useful content.


Somewhat linked in to Wax Eagle's suggestion but I'd love to see this request implemented:

Move position of post notices on answers

The post messages appear below all the comments that are made on both questions and answers, so if the post message is 'Insufficient Explanation' or 'Citation Needed' such posts usually generate a bunch of comments on it such as 'can you explain what you mean', 'where did you find these facts / statements'... The post notice will appear below these comments, separating the message from the post itself. In fact it could easily appear that the post notice belongs to the post below instead of the actual post it's referring to.

Can we move the position of this post notice on both questions and answers? Probably to just above the comments on that post, so it is clear to everyone reading it that there are some issues with the question / answer that need to be addressed.

  • You could post this as a separate request since this is more of a UI issue than mod-tools issue. – asheeshr Aug 27 '13 at 17:33

I would like to see cleaning tool for comments;

An option to show questions with a certain number of comments.

Especially useful for older questions that get decent visits and are covered with sometimes obsolete comments.

  • Don't mods still get automatic flags when there are a large number of comments on a particular post? Do you find that is not generally sufficient? – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 11:43
  • @CodyGray Not that I know of, but might be because I'm in Beta (we do have a 'Questions with most comments' tool, but it only shows a limited amount of them). I keep running into old posts that get bumped to the top and are filled with comments that are no longer relevant, so this would be more of a cleaning tool, something you can visit once in a while when you feel like tidying up a little. – Yisela Jul 25 '13 at 20:41
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    I suspect she's talking about a somewhat smaller volume of comments (<20 in a day) than trigger the flag, @Cody. – Shog9 Jul 26 '13 at 5:30
  • +1. But you can use the SEDE unless and until this is implemented. – msh210 Jul 31 '13 at 18:31

I still can't view all-time flag handling stats on Stack Overflow.

I don't care that this is only relevant to little over a dozen of us out of all the moderators on the network. I want my all-time stats back.

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    Are you sure that's not because of an integer overflow? – Kevin Jul 19 '13 at 13:41
  • *all-time spill clean-ups ... you're a janitor remember? – Kermit Jul 19 '13 at 13:42
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    It took about 15-20 seconds, but I did get the all-time stats page to load for SO. This might be working intermittently. I hadn't checked it in ages. – Bill the Lizard Jul 19 '13 at 14:14
  • @Bill the Lizard: It took as long for me to get an error page. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 19 '13 at 14:15
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn Yeah, sometimes it gives me an error page. But I got it trying to load the page again. Perhaps these stats could be cached better so it doesn't take as much effort to load them. – animuson ModStaff Jul 19 '13 at 15:07
  • I haven't managed to get it to throw while seeing if I could reproduce this, strange. I can only confirm slow, not broken, but we will take a look at that. – Tim Post Jul 19 '13 at 16:09
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    It did work for me yesterday, for the first time in months, so it isn't as busted as it used to be. – Brad Larson Jul 19 '13 at 16:14
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    This should work now; it's slow as hell, so it's possible your network is timing out or something. We could cache it heavily, but... Then it'll never be accurate and on SO (which is the only place heavy caching is needed) it could be significantly off. – Shog9 Jul 23 '13 at 19:12
  • Aaakk... Soo. Many. Diamonds. – Undo Jul 29 '13 at 17:14

Force comment consideration when moving a question.

We've all done it, migrate a question to another site, only to realize it has several comments that relate to the migration. These should have been removed prior to moving it, but the mistake was made. What should be done? It would be nice if a quick review of comments was done prior to migration.


A convert to question tool.

A large number of the "not an answer" flags I see on Cooking are questions posted as answers. I see this more often than I see things to convert to comments, which we do have a tool for. So I get to write comments saying "please post this as a question", and they often never do. Yes, I could post them myself, taking the rep (okay, whatever) and keeping them from getting notified of answers (that's pretty crappy), and making handling flags an activity I can only do correctly when I have spare time (not good), and forcing me to guess immediately whether the OP will return (in which case I should let them repost) or not (in which case I should).

This was posted as a feature request over two years ago, when it was closed as a duplicate of one from four years ago. But things have changed since then. I don't buy "it'd need a migration notice, which adds clutter" as a reason here. People can see their own deleted answers (and the comments on them); all we need is an autogenerated comment.

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    The biggest show-stopper here isn't the UX; that's actually fairly trivial (as you note, you can already do this manually if you really want to). It's that these tend to be pretty lousy questions, completely aside from being posted as answers. Best-case, you're still left with some manual cleanup effort after the conversion (primarily title and tags); worst-case, you have a new, incomplete question with a MIA owner who, if he ever returns, is gonna come back to find his answer deleted and a question he doesn't remember posting closed. – Shog9 Aug 27 '13 at 18:28
  • @Shog9 My point here is that I'm asking for the feature because I routinely see things I want posted as questions. When I delete and add comments suggesting that they post it as a question, I mean it! I want the questions! Our community will be quite happy to take ownership and edit if necessary. (I'm not planning on converting crappy things to questions.) – Cascabel Aug 27 '13 at 18:30
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    Well, let's test this then: start converting them to questions. Post a question under your own name (or use a sockpuppet for this purpose, your call) and pick an appropriate title and tags. Then just copy the answer into the body; maybe include a prefix noting the source question or something. Finally, leave a comment linking to the new question on the answer you're deleting. Do this for a month or so, and then once you have a reasonable amount of data on how such questions fare come back with that. – Shog9 Aug 27 '13 at 18:35
  • @Shog9 Okay, I guess I'll start looking through past deletions then, and come back in a while. For what it's worth, I see this discussion as similar to what you could say about converting to comments. Yes, a lot of new user non-answers would make terrible comments. But we still have a convert to comment feature, we just know well enough not to use it on those. Same goes for convert to question. As a mod on a site whose main problem is surely relatively low numbers of questions per day, I do really feel we should be making it easier to end up with questions. – Cascabel Aug 27 '13 at 18:36
  • Big difference, @Jefromi, is that new folks can't comment but can answer - and occasionally (not often), those comments-as-answers are worth preserving in the right venue. Everyone can post questions though. Note that there's no "convert comment to answer" feature either... – Shog9 Aug 27 '13 at 18:40
  • @Shog9 Right, I know they could have posted it as a question. I just think the issue of "did they figure out how to use the site" is separate from "do we want this question." – Cascabel Aug 27 '13 at 18:41
  • I'll try and collect some examples here: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1799/… – Cascabel Aug 27 '13 at 18:42
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    Of course it's separate - you already know they couldn't figure out how to post a question. The real questions are: 1) do you want the question at all, and 2) are you willing to put the effort into creating the question that the asker wasn't willing/able to? A tool that automatically copy-pastes an answer into a new question only reduces the effort involved a little bit, after all... – Shog9 Aug 27 '13 at 18:43
  • @Shog9 I have a decent number of examples here: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/q/1799/1672. They're by no means all of the question-as-answers our site has seen - it's only from my flag handling, not the other mods, and I only added things when I had spare time while handling flags. (Which is one of the reasons I would like this feature; the question getting salvaged wouldn't depend on a mod having spare time.) – Cascabel Feb 24 '14 at 22:45

Implement a "shadow ban" option

Sometimes we destroy spam/troll users, and they just create a new account. Letting us just shadow ban them could prevent them from doing so.

We should still be able to see their activity, perhaps faded out or something like that.

Sometimes I don't destroy users and just keep an eye on them and delete individual posts in order to trigger the "post ban for too many deleted posts", which I assume does not trigger if I destroy them and they create a new account (I might be wrong about this though)

  • So, basically everything they post gets auto-deleted? – asheeshr Jul 19 '13 at 15:36
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  • I think they'd still just create new accounts (sometimes just to check and see if they're shadow banned), but at least we'd still have the old accounts around to check associations against. – Bill the Lizard Jul 19 '13 at 16:40
  • What is a "shadow ban?" – user102937 Jul 19 '13 at 17:09
  • @RobertHarvey basically they are the only ones that see their activities, and tricks them into thinking they're successful in whatever they are doing. It's useful to minimise their circumventing ban systems (they don't realise they're banned) – juan Jul 19 '13 at 19:15
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    Mmm, yeah. It's a hell ban. meta.stackexchange.com/a/93811 – user102937 Jul 19 '13 at 19:30
  • @RobertHarvey Just read your answer there and the linked blog post; terrifying! I can see how this would be effective but I wouldn't feel right about it. Two wrongs don't make a right; responding to bad user behavior with ethically dubious bans doesn't sit well with me. Sorry jmfsg; I see where you're coming from but personally I disagree. – WendiKidd Jul 20 '13 at 2:32
  • I could see this as being useful against spammers. Make it so some posts can exist but only be seen by their owner and mods. Spammers can keep spamming into the ether and thinking they're winning. – Oli Jul 20 '13 at 7:27
  • I agree with @WendiKidd on this. This just seems unethical on our part. – asheeshr Jul 20 '13 at 7:34
  • This might be a useful trick for the toolbag in the war on spammers, but I think it would be far to tempting to abuse for other mod purposes. Pretty soon this would be the tool of choice for trolls or generally disruptive users who cause too much friction. I think the net value of this would be negative for the site. If nothing else the suspicion level against moderators would be raised. – Caleb Jul 20 '13 at 9:56
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    An alternative might be to manually flag spam accounts in some other way such that limits the ease at which they can spam by requiring CAPCATCHAs for every activity, being auto-flagged, etc. – Caleb Jul 20 '13 at 9:58
  • Shadowbanning is what drove me away from Reddit. Tools to help fight spammers, sure, but shadowbanning is not the way to go... – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 22 '13 at 13:58
  • @PearsonArtPhoto were you banned? – juan Jul 22 '13 at 13:59
  • @jmfsg: Yep. Had no clue until one of the site moderators pointed it out. I tried to get it un-done, but I eventually gave up, frustrated, and hating Reddit. I still don't know why it was done, but I do know I'm not the only one to have that problem. – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 22 '13 at 14:05
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    @jmfsg: It is a great way to combat spammers, but is too easy to abuse. The sites I'm a moderator on don't have enough of a problem with spammers to bother with a shadow ban approach. And users who are banned for a minor offense need to know why they were punished. – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 22 '13 at 14:21

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