There's a moderation problem on Ask Patents.

Review screenshot

Nobody is reviewing.

Moderator list screenshot

There are no community moderators.

Front page screenshot

I'm... not sure what to think about question quality...

So what's going on here?

  • 2
    +1 I am trying my best given my lack of rep there to help with clean up, by flagging questions, up-voting good ones, editing titles and bodies of good ones to improve grammar and such, and trying to find canonical questions and flag duplicates. However, it seems very bleak over there.
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 4:32
  • 1
    What about Micah Siegel? He's not a Stack Exchange employee, as far as I can tell, but is a moderator. Shouldn't he appear in the moderators list as an "appointed" moderator?
    – jmort253
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 7:17
  • 3
    @jmort253 Well, the site is "special". It skipped Area 51 and popped out of nowhere right into private beta. Guess they appointed Micah behind the scenes directly via the database, so his moderatorship isn't "documented" like others. Looks like he's the only one though. Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 7:55
  • 5
    @jmort253 Micah is a consultant/Senior Patent Expert for Stack Exchange. He's not quite an employee, I think he comes under the 'contractor' provision in the TOS, but he's not exactly a community moderator.
    – hichris123
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 14:40

1 Answer 1


This isn't really an answer, but adding some info; one of the issues is there aren't really a lot of people with moderation privileges (August 2014):

Privilege            Rep  Count PastMonth PastWeek
protect              3500 1     1         1        
mod tools            2000 2     1         1        
access review queues 350  40    13        6        
close / reopen votes 250  56    16        7        
edit                 250  56    16        7        
vote down            125  225   32        9        
vote up              15   3530  152       49       
flag posts           15   3530  152       49  
total                0    5998  332       110

In that table, Count is the number of users with that privilege, PastMonth is the number of users with that privilege who have accessed the site within the past 30 days, PastWeek is the same but for the last 7 days. The "total" row is just all users.

There doesn't seem to be enough active users to handle site maintenance, in addition to (apparent) lack of community moderators.

Also, even though rep thresholds are low, there still doesn't seem to be enough questions and activity on the site to allow enough users to gain enough rep to make a difference. It seems like the site suffers greatly due to low question activity.

Fast forward three years from this original post (March 2017) and the privilege situation has remained about the same. The highest rep user on the site is no longer active and no new users have crossed the 3500 threshold:

Privilege            Rep  Count PastMonth PastWeek (Diff Aug '14)
protect              3500 1     1         0        (-1)       
mod tools            2000 3     1         1        ( 0)       
access review queues 350  65    14        7        (+1)   
close / reopen votes 250  95    17        9        (+2)   
edit                 250  95    17        9        (+2)   
vote down            125  354   41        21       (+12)    
vote up              15   5264  217       83       (+34)      
flag posts           15   5264  217       83       (+34)
total                0    9874  406       143      (+33)

The goals of Ask Patents, I think, are very worthwhile and as a community I think we should support it.

It follows from the above that one of the best things we can do as a community (in addition to becoming actively involved in Ask Patents), I think, is to up-vote good, existing, on-topic questions. This will help get the users who are active there the privileges they need to deal with some of the issues on the site.

For example, Tracking and Managing Group Expenditures (Google) - Patent Application - PRIOR ART REQUEST is a perfect on-topic question and a great success story, and that question and most of its answers deserve far more credit than they have received so far. Another success story is Scaling based on pixel density (Microsoft) - Patent Application - PRIOR ART REQUEST. And there are many others.

From another of Joel's articles:

Got 15 minutes? Go to Ask Patents right now, and see if one of these RFPAs covers a topic you know something about, and post any examples you can find. They’re hidden in plain view; most of the prior art you need for software patents can be found on Google. Happy hunting!

  • 1
    How did this get through beta? Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:47
  • 8
    @Pureferret There was no beta. It was not an Area51 proposal, it was created in cooperation with the USPTO. It is a very good idea in theory. I'd love to see the community pull together, breathe some life into it, and make it work.
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 23:09
  • 7
    that is probably the problem then. Beta wild have given the community enough time to pull together. Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 6:30
  • 3
    The privileges issue has not improved, but we have been keeping the review queues down in single digits for a while now.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 18:57

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