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I see that the moderators have had been answering a lot on technical questions in the past. I don't see the same enthusiasm/involvement with technical questions. I see a lot of moderators quite active on Meta, with a handsome reputation on Stack Overflow (for example). Nice answers backdated, and high reputation thus gained. The same applies to moderators on other sites.

The moderators would have definitely given their best and demonstrated their expertise in their respective domain before achieving the moderator status. They deserve the respect.

So, does moderation brings in a huge responsibility that it might impact someone from answering technical questions? Are they spending more time involving in the site related stuff, such that they are unable to spend the same quality time to answer the technical questions now?

P.S. : I assume that a moderator might also be a moderator on multiple sites.

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    Is this meant to be solely SO focused? It could work for any site, so it might be better if you replaced "Stack Overflow" with "Stack Exchange site", to keep this open for mods from other sites to respond to. – ben is uǝq backwards Mar 3 '15 at 14:47
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    Is this Stack Overflow-specific? If so, you might want to ask it on meta.so. – Doorknob Mar 3 '15 at 14:48
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    Thanks for the replies. I am not sure about that fact, so I have added a post scriptum in the question. – Lalit Kumar B Mar 3 '15 at 14:51
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    I think this question could potentially be adjusted to apply to any site not just SO. You could alter it to ask if being a moderator impacts their ability to answer questions on the site they moderate, then this wouldn't be so specific to SO. – Taryn Mar 3 '15 at 14:57
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I'm a moderator on Stack Overflow and for me, it's a combination of things. I've been around long enough on Stack Overflow, that I tend to be picky in the questions that I answer. If I see something that's interesting, I'll spend time writing up a decent answer, typically with tested, code, etc - these typically take time to write. Lately these questions are few and far between so I don't spend as much time answering and more time moderating.

As a moderator, I am also expected to spend time handling flags, and performing other janitorial duties which does take away from my ability to answer questions. Considering I have a full-time job, a family, and I like to spend time away from my computer (I know it's shocking), it can be a bit of a juggling act being a moderator on a site as big as SO. I've got to pick and choose what I'm going to tackle on the site, I could spend hours moderating the site.

Most days on the site, I'll spend time moderating but will watch the tags that I like to see if there is something I've got time to answer. Answering questions gives me a break from moderating, and moderating gives me a break from other stuff on the site.

As far as answering on Meta, I do tend to answer more questions there, mainly because we get a lot of questions about moderator actions, and about the site in general. I'll answer based on my perspective as a mod, or based on my experience as a user of the site.

  • Appreciate your answer. A question, it came up vua comments on the question, could it be that a moderator here is also a moderator on Stack Overflow or vice-versa? – Lalit Kumar B Mar 3 '15 at 14:53
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    ^ Note: You're looking at the God of Flags here. At times, known to clear out the entire (huge) SO flag queue at once. If you want an answer from someone who handles lots of flags, here it is. :) – Doorknob Mar 3 '15 at 14:53
  • @LalitKumarB Meta Stack Exchange (the site you're on now) does not have any moderators. Yes, some moderators on SO are also mods on other sites. – Doorknob Mar 3 '15 at 14:54
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    @LalitKumarB There are moderators on SO who also moderator multiple sites - see ChrisF but he'd have to speak about any impacts with that. I only moderator the one site and while I still answer questions, I've got other things that are a priority in my day. – Taryn Mar 3 '15 at 14:55
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I was elected in 2011, the first election using our STV system that we had on a large site. I'm now employed by Stack Exchange, something I'll come back to at the end of my answer.

If you look at my profile, you'll see that I joined Stack Overflow very late in 2008. I'd been reading the site since it opened to the public, just watching - because Jeff was introducing heaps of concepts that, at the time, I though were quite radical if all mixed together. Anyone can basically edit anything? That's not going to go well, I said, as I stuffed my face full of those puffed cheesy things and pulled up a chair. By December, I saw it actually working, and I decided to try answering a few of the softer questions to test the waters. There were harder questions surrounding stuff I knew that I could have answered, but they already had great answers.1

Stack Overflow did a great job of funneling people into doing more things. You either became (sometimes oddly) obsessed with the extrinsic motivation that the site offered, or you became really curious as to how everything ticked. In order to figure out how everything ticked, you also had to become oddly obsessed with the extrinsic motivations the site offered in order to unlock the stuff so you could figure it out. It was brilliant, and it gave me someone intelligent to argue with for free (Jeff) on this planet called 'Uservoice' - I was hooked.

New things quite often don't become old things - that's just the way that selection works when you're competing for people's attention and admiration, especially when they're programmers. What? We're closing questions now? Ah well, it was nice while it lasted - but this time I was eating home-made pork rinds. That was just my first week after signing up. The site obviously continued to exist.

We then proceeded to be awesome. (fast-forward a bit)

I can remember where I was when the Challenger exploded, where I was when the OJ verdict was read, and where I was when I hit 10k rep on SO. I was in IRC, talking to this guy, who also had a penchant for writing lengthy answers and had been neck-and-neck with me on the rep scale.

I promise, I'm not digressing.

Sometimes, really smart people weigh a bunch of arbitrary factors, take a hard look and decide that while they spend their paycheck hours taking care of business, the business of building something that helps everyone else do the same is probably the most convenient way to make things just a little better than they might have been for someone else. They start looking at this amazing .. mousetrap .. and want to start filling the cracks they see.

Everyone has a slightly different motivation. Some want to work on quality, some want to make sure new users have a better experience. Some have been irked continuously for more than a few years about how certain things work and just want a stronger voice to demand fixing. Every single one of us decided that there was something else we should be working on apart from answering questions, and every single one of our communities agreed, once they realized that we wouldn't make a point of bossing people around unless there was a very good reason to do so.

When this happens, you start caring about things more than you did previously. You care about every single post people type on Meta because that's what you've decided to work on. You start feeling a little hurt when people vent their frustrations about an action you took on Reddit. You decide that your best contribution to the site is building something better for people like you.

That's now my full-time job, I went so far as to realize that I'm much better at being a programmer than I am at programming, after 20 years of doing it.

You can substitute 'programmer' with cook, mechanic, linguist, parent, gamer, netizen, chip hacker, poker player - at some point you need an outlet to give differently than you have to that which you're really passionate about. That's why folks become moderators, or come to work here, or flip us the bird and start something aiming to fix everything we're not doing .. right.

It's easy (well, sometimes) to be you. Working on enabling people to be better than you? Yeah, that's a mod. When you get to that point, you begin caring more about getting things out of the way of awesomeness, because awesome really does need to flourish and you've got ideas as to how it can do that - all you need is a chance.

1Many will say that the first year or so was full of nothing but Microsoft stack stuff, that wasn't the case. It was hard, but not exactly rare to find unanswered questions on C / Linux (kernel) which is what I was eating and breathing at the time.

  • Thanks for taking time to answer. I got to know a lot of things which I was unaware of. You are doing a wonderful job, keep it up. – Lalit Kumar B Mar 10 '15 at 12:09
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Let's put it one way: as a moderator on Stack Overflow, I've handled more flags total than I have points of reputation. That's taken a chunk of my time.

However, my rate of answering questions was decreasing well before I became a moderator. When I first became active on the site in late 2008, there were far fewer people answering and many more fundamental questions being asked. It was a fun exercise for me to go find important questions that no one had answered and provide basic solutions to them.

As the site grew and matured, more people were able to answer these questions. That was a great thing, but it made me less interested in answering basic questions. If someone else could do as good a job of answering as I could, I'd rather give them a chance. I like finding areas where I can make a unique contribution, so I started seeking out more niche and technical questions to answer. This significantly reduced my rate of answering.

As a result, I spent more time helping to improve the site using the moderation-related tools, and I found that I could make a positive impact with those. That ended up taking most of my time on the site, eventually leading to me becoming a moderator.

Lately, almost all of my answers have been in support of an open source project I wrote. That's one area where I'm often the only one who could answer a question, and I'm glad to help there. I also hunt down obscure and interesting questions as a palate cleanser after dealing with the amount of absolute trash and horrible human behavior moderators see each day. It's helpful to have a regular reminder that there's far more great content and great people than bad.

  • I understand when you say I spent more time helping to improve the site using the moderation-related tools Moderation has it's own responsibilities and requires some quality time. Thanks for taking time to answer. – Lalit Kumar B Mar 10 '15 at 12:10

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