Well, the previous question on a better way to contact moderators, An @Moderators ping got a big vote of no confidence. But we've been trying to address the perception among new users that our site (and other SEs) are unwelcoming – "rude" is a word often used.

A relevant quote many of our users agree on: "The process by which one can contact a moderator has significant amounts of mystery."

Sure, new users should have perfect mastery of the help center and go root through meta and somehow know about the various chat rooms – but we're not talking about a problem with experienced users; it's with new users who don't have much chance of knowing about most of that. We value the "improving" nature of SE – putting bad questions on hold, workshopping them, etc. – but it is obviously hard on new users and many of them find themselves at a loss as to what to do/where to go. Chat is, frankly, often even worse; the lack of good moderation tools there generally makes it just a place to "take the argument to" and argue some more, escalating rather than de-escalating the situation.

I understand that a custom flag is "supposed to be" the path to that. But that's very unclear to a new user. (Actually, they tend to assume that anyone hassling them over their question quality must be one of the mods.)

We get pulled into it sooner or later; I'd rather it be by some kind of "need help" button than when there's a bunch of angry folks, and someone's already deleted all their content from the site, and a big mess is already well in progress.

It could use the flagging system, but just be more obvious visually. A button, a dropdown option under help... "Get Help" or "Contact a Moderator" or something similar.

(It actually wouldn't hurt to have some more contextual help too; if someone's looking for help on their closed question, surfacing relevant help center/meta stuff to them based on that context would be good – we don't have edit access to most of the help center, and newbies don't always find it intuitive where to get info.)

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    This would be abused beyond belief. SO Mods have mentioned that "Please answer this question" flags are not uncommon. So if you make it easier for someone to contact the mods, you invite more of these, as well as "please remove the downvotes", and other nonsensical flags. – psubsee2003 Apr 26 '14 at 18:58
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    Well, since he is a moderator on a site, I think he does see some value in this, and would also be aware of the downsides. The dynamics of the trilogy sites, and the smaller sites can be totally different. – mpdonadio Apr 26 '14 at 20:14
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    @MPD thanks, exactly. I understand that's not a good plan for SO, but that's why this isn't meta.SO any more. For the vast majority of sites in the "long tail" of SEs, we have a lot more small scale issues - and RPG.SE isn't in the bottom 50% by any means! This might be an overwhelming amount of noise for the top 2-3 sites, but not for all the rest of us. – mxyzplk Apr 26 '14 at 20:32
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    I'm not seeing the benefit. Why do they need to contact moderators? Any community member could just as easily guide a new user to improving their question, starting the reopening process, whatever it may be. Moderators are exception handlers, not personal assistants or greeters. – animuson Apr 26 '14 at 23:40
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    That's the problem, when the community is "helping" a new user to distraction and they need some help. Some of our site users can be a bit overbearing (shocking I know) and we've turned off various new users not familiar with the SE model with excessive legal wrangling. And again, smaller SEs don't have 20 people in chat all the time. Look at this from a non-SO lens. – mxyzplk Apr 27 '14 at 5:08

Ultimately, I don't think this is a good idea.

I'm not an SO guy, I moderate Christianity and Gardening, I'm pretty active on the site you moderate too.

The problem you're trying to solve doesn't get fixed with an easy line to the moderators. The problem you're trying to fix is solved with better community education, better enforcement of existing rules and simply more patience on the part of the community.

Here are the problems I see:

  1. This idea simply doesn't scale. This has been pointed out already, but it's not only true on the big 3. Plenty of other sites have sufficient volume to make this a problem.

  2. This already exists. If a user wants to contact the mods they have the option to flag, I know you've discounted this, but flagging is probably the right answer.

  3. It puts the burden on the moderators instead of the community. SE doesn't work unless the community is helping new users along. It would be impossible to add sufficient moderators to help every new user, and adding more to the moderator load seems impractical. Especially when, generally, the community is plenty good at handling this kind of thing themselves.

That said, there are some things you can do to facilitate being nice, and easier contact of the moderators on your site if you want to do that.

  1. Set the tone. The moderators can and should set the tone for interactions not just with new users, but with all users. If the moderators are being jerks, their users will be. Be nice. Even in your regular site interactions, and your users will be nice.

  2. Be more active in chat. If users don't want to flag, then chat is the best way to get in touch with a moderator. If the mods aren't in chat, they don't have many options. Chat is a great place to do quick support work. While the moderator tools aren't great, it is a good place to have a chat with a new user if you're having issues. The lack of moderation tools is a straw man, there's no need for moderation tools when you're simply having a discussion. If you have to you can even take it private.

  3. Launch a meta campaign. SE had the Summer of Love campaign a couple of years ago and it seemed to nicen things up a lot around here. It might not hurt (if you're seeing too many folks being driven away by rudeness), to launch one of your own.

To me, the only bit about this request that's worth pursuing is the parenthetical. Giving some contextual clues about what they are doing might help to get them where they need to go in the help center. One of the complaints I've seen on RPG.SE's meta a few times has been that important info is hard to find. It would be best to give the community some idea of which help center pages to link to struggling users. I've seen relatively few of those links around in comments on the site.

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