This post degenerated from disagreement of opinion into some discussion over capitalization and luckily didn't go any further. It highlights an issue which has cropped up in, among other places, the very evolved ecology of Wikipedia editors: who moderates the moderators? To what extent are moderators allowed to use the power they wield to enforce decisions about their own conduct?

I'm not affiliated with either 'side' of this one; just a passerby who saw the discussion devolve and would like to prevent it in the future.

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    There was only one Moderator who edited that post. Sep 18, 2009 at 21:39
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    I would like to point out that only Diamond moderators can lock posts. I suspect this one was flagged which is why Marc intervened. As for the rollback issue, this is solely a editing tasks, so in this case the "moderators" had no "power" apart from being able to edit the post, and since it was CW, almost any person on SO can edit it. Sep 18, 2009 at 21:56
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    Usual answer: they moderate each other. Sep 18, 2009 at 22:11
  • Uhmm... the Watchmen?
    – Even Mien
    Dec 18, 2009 at 20:50
  • I know @Jeff logs them all the timeeven no he is anti-loging.
    – Benny
    Jan 26, 2011 at 4:37
  • @Shadow Please don't indiscriminately go about bumping old posts just to replace older-style duplicate closures with newer-style ones. (Was there recent activity around this post?) May 6, 2018 at 21:18
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog I personnaly think the closure reason is now better, and this topic is interesting as with all the activity around moderation, it's a sensible subject. I would tend to direct to a feature request to not bump old question edited for historical's value, pretty sure one exist somewhere.
    – yagmoth555
    May 7, 2018 at 1:36

6 Answers 6


I just thought I'd better weigh in... after a number of users flagged the post for moderator attention (for the record, I don't think the flags were by any of the people directly involved), I reviewed the thread. There was a clear and pointless edit/rollback war beginning focusing mainly on a spelling/casing of MATLAB vs Matlab. This was in both the question and in the answers.

When revisions start getting into double digits of revisions without adding any value it is just noise, distracting both the users involved, and everyone else who sees the question keep appearing at the top of the front page. It also affects the OP if the question goes "wiki" (the OP was not party to the edit war).

A very brief search showed that MATLAB is the correct casing, so I reverted to the most recent MATLAB versions and locked the top post to call an end to it. I also reverted the same in a number of the answers, but didn't bother locking them; I figured the message was clear enough.

As for "who moderates the moderators"; in part the community, in part each-other, and ultimately Jeff - I happily hold my actions up for inspection. I don't really follow what you mean by "about their own conduct"; but note that I had no personal interest / investment in that thread. Moderation is best done impartially.

Sigh. It seems one of the parties involved considered this action abuse bordering on subjugation. Again; to clarify - nobody was admonished; nobody was punished; nobody was told off; simply: the edit was abruptly terminated. I make no apology for "siding" one way or another. I do, however, regret the need for this entire thread - for the sake of the wasted time of the MSO readers. Of course, if we closed the thread that would somehow be wrong too - you can't win as a moderator.

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    Keep up the good work! Sep 19, 2009 at 15:22
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    Well said. I couldn't think of anything meaningful to add. Sadly it also proves why Jeff made a decision to have official moderators. Sep 19, 2009 at 20:13
  • I'd like to give props to all of our moderators Sep 19, 2009 at 20:41
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    On the upside you got 120 reputationimigies from this. Read rule number 285 dmwright.com/html/ferengi.htm
    – waffles
    Sep 19, 2009 at 23:12
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    I think the answer boils down to your statement here: "in part the community, in part each-other, and ultimately Jeff." The ability to affect the site, to act as superuser, in the end outweighs other concerns: might can make right. However, the inclusion of 'the community' is what makes a communal site like SO work -- they can, after all, bug off and go somewhere else -- and I think you capture that as well. Oct 1, 2009 at 14:50
  • Questions no longer go wiki, perhaps this should be updated.
    – Aaron Hall
    Oct 15, 2015 at 20:42

As someone who was knee-deep in that debacle, here's what went down...

(I'll leave it anonymous, but you can pretty much figure out the names from the comments and edit history)

  • A user edited the question and some answers to correct misspellings ("MATLAB" is correct!). I was actually about to edit them myself, since I routinely do this for MATLAB questions, but they got to them first.
  • A second user came along and felt the need to rollback all the edits, for apparently political reasons (I guess?).
  • Marc Gravell swooped in to stop the rollback wars and enforce the corrections, and I thank him for it.
  • The second user cried moderator abuse (totally unjustified, IMO).

Of course, there was much more wrong with the post than just this. Not only was it mostly a big flame-war, but some even decided to put forward their definitions of what constitutes a "real" programmer. The question should really just be closed.

As I see it, that question is an example of the helpful role moderators play

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    Your opinion is irrelevant because you're not a real programmer. Good day sir.
    – TheTXI
    Sep 18, 2009 at 20:26
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    Damn, you found me out! Sep 18, 2009 at 20:31
  • You're an engineer! Nyah nyah!
    – beska
    Sep 18, 2009 at 20:54
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    @beska, I think it's far worse than that, I believe that gnovice is in fact... an software architect Sep 19, 2009 at 20:40
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    @Nathan: "You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision." Sep 21, 2009 at 19:46

If you think that the moderators are not being fair or performing their tasks with impartiality, then email [email protected].

In the example provided, I think Marc did well to go and lock the post to allow cooler heads to prevail. No good comes out of an edit and rollback war, and I imagine that the comments got pretty heated.


There was no disagreement of any Moderators. There was, however, a disagreement between two Users who had enough rep to edit Community Wiki posts.

Only one of those two would have been able to edit the question had it not been Community Wiki. The interesting thing is, that the person who kept changing it to the incorrect capitalization, was the one who could have edited it.

The person on the wrong/losing side, really doesn't seem to be active in the [matlab] tag.

Luckily a moderator came and reverted it. Then locked it, to prevent the rollback war.


I'd say that post started out degenerate. How-you-say? Ah, yes. Subjective and argumentative.

Who moderates the moderators? The site owners, if necessary, and at their sole discretion. Who moderates them? Nobody.


I thought about this when I first joined SO and thought it might be a problem. But I quickly realized that by the time someone racks up the reputation to have moderator control, they feel vested into SOFU and want to further improve it. They more than likely won't need to be monitored since it's unlikely that they'll do anything out of line.

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    That's what we want you to think. :) Sep 18, 2009 at 21:31

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