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Community Managers (e.g. paid employees of Stack Exchange) play a large part in the background running of the SE sites and can be seen to exert enormous influence over users.

We've seen that there's modest interest in Community Moderators weighing in on Moderator Elections...

Should existing moderators keep their opinions and views neutral during the election?

... but should Community Managers remain impartial during this process? Or should they just act like normal diamond moderators and feel free to express a clear opinion in favour of certain candidates?

32

I see no reason why they should stay impartial . . . but they should make it clear who they're speaking for.

Community Managers work for Stack Exchange. Whenever I see one doing something, I generally assume it's on Stack Exchange business - moderation, community promotion stuff, etc. And most of the time, this is the case.

But let's say that a CM asks a question on a site - or answers a question, like here. In this case, they're most likely not using the site to do something related to their job. It doesn't matter that Robert Cartaino works for Stack Exchange; it matters that he wrote a good answer with cool pictures of Saturn-like rings over New York City. He can act on his own; it's fine.

It's possible for a CM to do things in Stack Exchange that have nothing to do with the fact that they work for the company behind it. So it's also possible for a CM to weigh in on community business like this and express their own views, so long as it's clear that they're not either endorsing or not endorsing the candidate on behalf of Stack Exchange. This doesn't have to include a disclaimer; a preface like "In my opinion . . ." could be fine.

Another big point I'd like to bring up has been brought up before in the context of moderators. CMs know how to judge a person. Pro-tempore mods typically end up doing well. Doesn't this show something about good judgment?

That said, I don't think it's always necessarily a good idea. Preface or no preface, people might take it as a secret endorsement by Stack Exchange. An attempt to shadily influence the voters by telling them that a certain candidate is good for the job. No matter what the CMs use as makeshift disclaimers, there may be unintended consequences by people who don't trust them.

But should they be explicitly forbidden from speaking during the election? No.

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    I don't exactly disagree with you, but... I think y'all put way too much thought into this. If I had the ability to sway an election via commentary, I'd have done it by now. – Shog9 Jan 19 '16 at 2:04
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    @Shog9: I really don't think you have that power, but to be quite honest, I also think it would be surprisingly difficult for us to tell, reliably, if even a 10-15% bump in voting could be attributed in significant part to the comments of one such as yourself. So just saying "as you all well know, I've obviously never done this" is ... just a touch oversimplifying, I guess. It's the sort of thing that makes one go "hmm". – Nathan Tuggy Jan 19 '16 at 8:03
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    Fair enough. My point was really that any election of note has an awful lot of voters who never even read the comments. Much as I'd like to believe my words carry some weight, the truth is I'm completely unknown among the vast majority of people who make up this network, and that certainly doesn't change during elections. Realistically, the most I've ever managed to accomplish was to tease out some better information from nominees, and maybe give a little bit of confidence to someone volunteering here and there. – Shog9 Jan 19 '16 at 15:15
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    @Shog9 Good point. I sometimes forget that some know the CMs more than many other users. – HDE 226868 Jan 19 '16 at 16:12
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    A great answer. I definitely agree with this. Cheers. – Richard Jan 19 '16 at 21:18
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    How about letting the whole election process be where the community has its say? Remember that the company doesn't have to accept the result of the election if it doesn't like it. So just let the election run its course without CMs expressing opinions on any candidate. – user314825 Jan 21 '16 at 13:26
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    @ruffle Letting CMs comment won't stop the community from having its say. Besides, I'm talking about letting the CMs expressing their own opinions, not those of SE. – HDE 226868 Jan 21 '16 at 21:11
  • @Shog9 It'd be fun to test it (A/B/...C?); leave a couple positive comments, a couple negative comments, and then show positive/negative/no CM comments to random 1/3s of people and compare their votes. Evil, but fun. And for science. – Jason C Apr 23 '17 at 5:34
23

No. The community managers are part of the community. They are also uniquely situated to know both problem users and exceptional behavior from users. Their opinions are important.

You mention influence. I think moderators and high rep users have the same ability to influence. I don't think they should be prevented from expressing their opinions on a candidate either. If someone has something constructive to contribute to a nomination thread - either good or bad for the candidate - then it shouldn't be censored.

-5

Yes.

Community Managers should not express their opinion on any candidate at any stage during an election.

Shog9 is a bad culprit here. He has expressed his opinions on 5 of the 6 candidates in the SFF election. What would be lost if he sat on his hands and didn't type his opinions on any of them? Let alone if he didn't come out with sarcasm and spite when someone asks whether CM intervention during elections is appropriate? Seriously. Could someone tell me what would be lost?

He says in a comment to one candidate's nomination that "It is important that a moderator is able to step back from his own participation and observe the effect it has on others, correcting if need-be". It's a shame he doesn't practice what he preaches.

His actions, and the support for recent actions by moderators, suggests the following question.

Is there a company policy to drive out top users?

I ask this question in all seriousness. If there is, perhaps the aim is to show remaining users their place, so that those with too much independence of spirit are deterred from participating or remaining here. Or perhaps it is because driving them out will raise the proportion of clicks that come from people who aren't already registered users, thereby increasing the value of advertising space? Let's not forget that this whole site is for the slapping of advertisements on freely contributed material.

If there isn't such a policy, then Shog9 has been stepping way out of line with his interventions, and should consider his position - or his employers should.

Shog9 - please don't respond to this answer for a week. Is that OK?

Those who downvote this answer, could they please identify themselves in the comments so that the community can know whether they work for the company or not, whether in paid or unpaid roles. Thank you.

  • 2
    Some interesting points, right until the middle where the total tinfoil hat stuff started. (And I'm not working for that company.) – Christian Rau Jan 21 '16 at 13:35
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    @ChristianRau If there's no policy to drive out top users, then it's a problem that their leaving the site after getting annoyed at how they've been treated isn't officially and publicly regarded as a bad thing, as an indication of a systemic problem with the state of management and moderation. Elections should be where the community has its say, without intervention by CMs. The company doesn't have to accept the result of an election. If it influences elections, neither it nor the community will find out how the community would have voted uninfluenced. – user314825 Jan 21 '16 at 14:06
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    Well, believe it or not, but high reputation doesn't make you immune to being overly indignant, in need of being petted, or rage-quitting when you feel the evil moderators are against you. Some people might simply not be fit for SE and all you can do is try to stop them from leaving without adapting the rules just for their pleasure. I doubt there is a policy for actively driving away high-rep users, but I also doubt this is actually happening to a problematic extent at all in the first place. – Christian Rau Jan 21 '16 at 14:09
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    Okaaaaay. Well, I will identify myself as one of the downvoters so far (and yes, I don't work for SE, although that would be cool). I don't like three things about this answer: The attack on Shog9, which I feel is uncalled for, at least according to what I've seen so far, the claim that SE is trying to drive out users, which is patently false, despite what some of those users would say, and finally the unfair request that Shog9 not respond to this and have the chance to repudiate some of this. – HDE 226868 Jan 21 '16 at 21:14
  • Wait, what advertisements? – cde Feb 1 '16 at 3:04
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I think they should. But they usually don't, so please don't be surprised when they take sides:

The first link above now points to the most relevant answer from the discussion. It also highlights that this is not a coincidence but a long-running trend, even with same people doing the same thing across the network.

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    This doesn't have much to do with elections. – yannis Jan 19 '16 at 7:55
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    @Yannis - you can check the election history which led to the debacle. – Deer Hunter Jan 19 '16 at 10:06
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    Sorry, I don't have the time to research how your answer may be related to an election. How about you update it to make it obvious instead? – yannis Jan 19 '16 at 10:08
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    Perhaps @Yannis would find the 2014 elections at ServerFault page itself to be more useful (sorry, can't link directly to HopelessNoob's nomination). A possibly more useful link than the aftermath posts would be Can we turn down the campaign heat, please? as it pertains to an ongoing election at the time. – user213963 Jan 19 '16 at 16:43
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    @MichaelT: That's getting closer to the point (I think) Deer Hunter is making. But: 1) it really should be edited into the answer and 2) somebody should connect the dots between the election and the aftermath. As a team we made some mistakes in that situation, but I don't know if the mistake was commenting during the election. I'd say our mistake was ignoring a potential problem (via inaction) after the election was finished. Without the cause and effect lines spelled out, it's not really possible to see things in a new light. This answer just seems like a red herring at the moment. – Jon Ericson Jan 19 '16 at 17:04
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    @JonEricson - it's not a herring, it's a kipper! – Deer Hunter Jan 19 '16 at 17:24

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