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Moderators are busy.

They try to handle a lot of work on Stack Overflow. I see that the flag queue is pretty full most of the time and I for instance have 2 mod-only flags being active for a week now. I am not the only one with this problem. No real problem there - it seems to work out.

But I ask myself: Why don't we have more moderators?

It's not like they get paid. And I am sure there are capable people out there ready for the responsibility. And when the work of moderators would get easier and a little less - nobody would get hurt. The time to instruct a moderator pays off multiple times. Most moderators keep up their work a long time.

So why not throw in a few extra moderators to speed things up? Why only have just enough to keep up?

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  • 3
    What type are those flags? Some of them are not (exclusively) handled by moderators.
    – Bart
    Oct 25, 2013 at 8:07
  • My "other" flags tend to be answered in a few hours, but the workload expected of moderators seems quite high, I'd be interested to hear the reason. Although I expect it will be something to do with having a small enough group so communication about "whats going on" on the site isn't too difficult (the old communications between n people grows as n^2 deal) Oct 25, 2013 at 8:10
  • 2
    Those are mod-only flags. Sock puppet issue i.e.
    – juergen d
    Oct 25, 2013 at 8:10
  • Okay, haven't experienced such a delay myself. Not sure if they are planning on new elections any time soon.
    – Bart
    Oct 25, 2013 at 8:14
  • You wonder if those two have been seen but require investigation Oct 25, 2013 at 8:23
  • 2
    Don't worry, some folks are having it much worse than you guys. Oct 25, 2013 at 11:01
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn: What's the queue like these days?
    – user1228
    Oct 25, 2013 at 17:42
  • 1
    @Won't: At least we aren't averaging 1000 yet... Nov 8, 2013 at 17:23
  • I've been out due to new babby and buying a house / moving; I'm hoping to be back in the saddle soon. Nov 8, 2013 at 20:39
  • 5
    So myself and the community team went to town on the weekend. The numbers are unbelievably low now. But we can't call it quits just yet. No... the fun never ends. Nov 18, 2013 at 11:15
  • 2 active flags is not much. I had 19 a few days ago! But now it dropped by half :)
    – Szymon
    Nov 18, 2013 at 11:28
  • Currently we seem to be at ~5 days. A month or two ago I had a flag that took 19 days to handle. Nov 18, 2013 at 15:26

2 Answers 2

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Most of the moderation has to happen by the community, diamond moderators don't scale well enough for a site like SO. Adding more moderators can't solve fundamental problems with moderation workload, those have to be addressed by making the moderation tools better and by enabling the community to deal with most problems.

There is a limit to the number of moderators you can effectively elect without lowering the bar too much to also get some users elected that probably shouldn't have a diamond and the associated powers. I think that there are easily enough qualified users on SO, but I would still be very cautious in lowering the barrier to becoming a moderator. Increasing the election frequency too much would cause election fatigue, adding too many moderators in a single election makes it more likely for an unqualified moderator to get elected.

That said, I think the number of moderators on SO is too low and should be systematically increased. The disparity between the workload of an SO moderator and a moderator on other SE sites is very large. I think that a cautious increase in election frequency and number of spots should be possible without compromising the quality of the moderators.

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    You would assume noOfModCompetentPeople=someConstant*noOfUsers. To take the top two sites by number of users; Super user has 1 mod per 20k users, whereas stack overflow has 1 mod per 125k users. Assuming stack overflow users are on average as competent as super user users we could elect 80 new moderators while still maintaining the same bar as super user Oct 25, 2013 at 11:18
  • @RichardTingle I guess the noise on moderator's chat could become unbearable. Mods must cooperate to at least maintain appearance of consistency (real consistency would be ideal), and that does not scale well. And don't forget that the intelligence of a crowd == intelligence of most stupid crowd member, divided by the number of people in crowd. I guess crowding moderators can be bad.
    – Mołot
    Oct 25, 2013 at 11:22
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    @RichardTingle I'd rather think of logarithmic dependency instead of linear, noOfModerators = someConstant * log(noOfUsers). Linear rarely scale well, and, yeah I doubt the amount of mod-competent users will increase in linear proportion. When user base grows, effort should be focused more on improving community moderation than on increase of the moderator count (to avoid misunderstanding, increase looks necessary to me, just not on a linear scale)
    – gnat
    Oct 25, 2013 at 11:40
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Most of the stuff in the flag queue isn't something that diamond moderators (♦) need to deal with. General low-quality stuff is handled better by the community - that's why the close vote flags no longer get flagged directly to moderators to deal with, they just go to the close review queue.

Diamond moderators are there for the other stuff. The spam, the abuse, the trolling, the sock-puppetry, the plagiarism... Basically whatever is flagged under the 'Other' flag reason. Currently that stuff is pretty much under control (as far as I'm aware). More moderators would be elected when this sort of stuff gets out of control.

More moderators wouldn't really make a dent on the SO review flag queue - there are plenty of users with +3000 reputation that could be dealing with that as well.

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    And even the spam and offensive stuff rarely gets to the moderators; usually falling to the 6 flags Oct 25, 2013 at 8:12

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