I just got an inbox notification asking me to vote in the community moderator primaries. It seems a big part of the community moderator role is processing flags (see also https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/101431/should-stack-overflow-moderators-have-a-standard-of-duty)

My question: are moderators really the right people to process flags? Couldn't we / SO's bots identify people with large scores (>10k?) for questions with specific tags, and delegate this responsibility to them for that tag? Seems to me that they have earned the knowledge and standing for this role.

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    Moderators are not there to gauge technical content, so why should they be experienced in certain tags? Sure, more understanding never helps, but I'd rather have someone experienced with moderation as a whole than technical understanding of a certain field.
    – icktoofay
    Feb 19, 2014 at 2:36
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    If you're referring to a particular question, it might be helpful to know which one it is. For close votes, for the most part users cast them, not moderators. Moderators cast close votes when they have enough experience in the subject area to make an accurate decision or there is something wrong in the question independent of the subject matter. Perhaps you meant to suggest that the privilege of closing questions should be limited to tags in which the closer has a certain amount of reputation?
    – icktoofay
    Feb 19, 2014 at 2:44
  • @icktoofay: Not referring to a particular question, no. You might have figured out the question I was trying to ask, though. But in general it just seems odd that we have so few moderators and require so much work of them. Feb 19, 2014 at 2:46
  • @AndyClifton: that's because moderators already offload some of the work to the community. For example, the "low quality posts" queue is meant to remove crap posts where moderators can't act on them as quickly. Feb 19, 2014 at 2:51

4 Answers 4


I've come to realize that this isn't as crazy as it sounds. (Yes, it does sound crazy. Don't feel bad; we're all mad here).

As Bill notes, most flags don't require subject-matter expertise to handle. And that's good: for obscure subjects, finding an expert to post answers is hard enough; finding one to handle flags would be well nigh impossible.

But the handful that do are a real pain.

And that's why a subset of flags are exposed to folks with >= 10K reputation via /tools?tab=flags, and why the various /review queues can be filtered down to a set of tags. If you're reasonably competent in your field and you want to help out, don't hesitate to jump in - there's a lot of opportunity to assist the moderators with your experience.

  • Well, I would love to jump in. Just need another ~9,000 reputation... Feb 19, 2014 at 4:44

It's certainly nice to have good tag coverage on the moderator team, but it's not the most important thing to consider. 99% of flags don't really require any subject matter expertise, so getting moderators who understand the community and how the site works is more important. If we need to, we can always bring those rare tag-specific flags to the community here on Meta or in a chat room.


I'll second what Bill the Lizard said in his answer.

I will add an example though:

Often times moderators are compared to janitors. I'm seeing this more frequently currently since there is a moderator election going on.

So, lets say there is a janitor at an elementary school.

On day 1 the lunch menu is pizza, chips, and soda. Table 23 gets tipped over by a bully in the 5th grade and 8 3rd graders lunch trays get spilled on the ground.

The janitor goes and cleans up the mess.

On day 2 , there are no big messes.

On day 3, the lunch menu is extra sloppy joes and a snack pack (either vanilla or chocolate). On this day, boys at table 11 started throwing some plastic spoons at the girls at table 2. The girls got upset and one girl took a big fat sloppy joe and threw it at a particular gentlemen at table 11. Then that little boy started crying, but his friends all grabbed what was remaining of their sloppy joes, and chucked them all at the one girl at table 2, however, a lot of it missed her, and also hit innocent civilians at table 5, 7, and 9.

The janitor went and cleaned it up after lunch was over.

So as you can see, the janitor does not care what type of food is served at lunch, if the food makes a mess on the floor, he goes and cleans it up.

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    "On day 2 , there are no big messes." LOL! ;) Feb 19, 2014 at 3:11
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    A kid starts advertising his French lasers during lunch, prompting the janitor to expel him? :-P
    – Jamal
    Feb 19, 2014 at 3:16
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    "On Day 1 , the lunch menu is pizza, chips and soda." Is there some moderator training camp I'm not getting told about? Feb 19, 2014 at 4:44
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    If this isn't relevant, nothing is.
    – user50049
    Feb 19, 2014 at 4:59

Moderation is firsts and foremost the privilege to judge whether or not a situation needs to be managed or not. It's not the same as being an expert in the field, giving expert advice in answers and comments. It's management within a domain where moderators are elected by the community for having domain knowledge and good judgement.

Flags are being handled by 10k users, but the final depiction of a flag is made by the moderator. The 10k user flag is in a way a guide for the moderator, but the final call lies in the good judgement of the moderator.

Moderators do act on flags in such a way a delegation would compromise the entire system. Flag handling may have subsequent actions such as converting a non-answer to a comment, deleting a post or suggest migration. Not within the scope of a 10k user.

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    In my experience and humble opinion not all moderators have "good judgement" and often cause more problems than they solve. They are human and as such they are no more qualified than anyone else, just been appointed to the post because they may have been around it longer. I have moderated hundreds of forums, including those specific to companies like Microsoft, Cisco and Netgear; can do it in my sleep but the fact is that the "way" they do it here and want it done is very contrary to intuition, its only gained by being overly exposed to it HERE. FWIW. Don't confuse title with wisdom. Feb 19, 2014 at 3:12
  • @GµårÐïåñ And some of the current candidates have been members for less than one year. Many for less than two years. Feb 19, 2014 at 5:05
  • @GµårÐïåñ Of course there are moderators not meeting standards, as well as managers don't always do. But in that case, SE Employee can withdraw moderation privileges without warning. The point is they are elected and can lose their privilege on misconduct. No system is bullet proof. Feb 19, 2014 at 6:09
  • @MatthewLundberg absolutely, you are correct. They may have the advantage of having only been exposed to the style here, which will do them more good to fit into what is expected of them. I have seen excellent moderators, whom I adore and I have seen many who are barely worth the title of human let alone anything else. Unfortunately the latter outnumbers the former and that's what breaks my heart honestly. There isn't a culture of nurturing and support, but more of a how dare you cross my gaze be gone. They don't account for varying levels of people who all equally deserve help a a community. Feb 19, 2014 at 17:18
  • @BennySkogberg yes they can withdraw privileges but they don't. I know this from first hand experience with several really awful mods and the response from SE was "they are elected by the community, we don't control it" which would go in the face of what you are saying. Either they can do something and choose to just be apathetic or they really can't based on a broken system they have put in place. No way to know for sure. When people have to emphasize that they will be kind and respectful to everyone to get elected, it shows you there must be a systematic lack of it, and there is. Feb 19, 2014 at 17:21

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