237

Well, it's election season again. On sites all over the network, moderators are being selected from among the good folk willing to volunteer their time to help guide and support their communities. I'm proud to be part of a system that governs itself in this manner; for all of its inherent messiness, democracy goes an awful long way toward avoiding the sort of alienation and discontent that tends to settle on communities over time.

But about that messiness... For as long as we've been doing this, we've faced the question of whether or not to allow candidates who are currently or recently suspended. In the past, we've taken a hard stance on preventing or removing nominations from folks who are currently suspended on the site running the election. But the more elections I see, the more I've come to believe that allowing nominations from candidates who are currently or recently suspended anywhere on the network is a bad idea:

  • They lead to speculation and personal attacks. It's natural and healthy to discuss the beliefs and behaviors of nominees, but suspension details are mostly not public; this makes frank discussions difficult. It is possible for the moderators involved in the suspensions to reveal the details, but this tends to be seen as unnecessarily personal and vindictive, even by those who would normally favor transparency.
  • They leave insufficient opportunity to demonstrate good faith. Everyone makes mistakes; most of us try to move on from them. But moving on takes time; rebuilding a reputation tarnished by inexperience or one bad day requires long-term effort. In the meantime, even the most sincere candidate's record will be controversial.
  • They distract everyone from the most important question in any election: who will make a good moderator? Let's face it: a checkered past is entertaining in a way that years of patient service to the community isn't. But turning elections into a circus hurts everyone who cares about the long-term health of the site.

Five years ago, Pekka made a reasonable suggestion:

Candidates who have a record of vote fraud within the last two or three years (or whatever time span is decided) be silently removed from the nomination page - the more boring, but probably wisest option.

I think we should do this. 2-3 years is a long time on The Internet, but 1 year (after the end of the suspension) strikes me as quite reasonable - and also happens to match the longest suspension period normally imposed. If you can manage to avoid trouble for that long, you should have a reasonable chance of being able to run on your merits.

Unless someone can raise a credible objection to this, I plan to start implementing this immediately: the next time someone nominates themselves after having been suspended on any Stack Exchange Q&A site during the past year, we'll quietly withdraw their nomination and send them a message to let them know why.

In cases where the suspension was clearly in error - lifted early with a message explaining the situation - we'll forego this process.

I spent this afternoon spot-checking various elections throughout Stack Exchange's history, and found very few cases where this would've mattered (see Appendix below for details). But invariably, these were some of the most controversial and distracting nominations in those elections.

Any thoughts or concerns?

Appendix: how would this have affected past elections?

A few people have expressed concerns that this would be either too widespread or too fuzzy. So here are some hard numbers:

  • There've been 136 elections held under the current system
  • There've been 1266 nominations
  • ...from 984 users
  • ...of whom 76 have been suspended at least once
  • And finally, 54 nominations were posted within a year of a previous suspension by the nominee.

The last one - 54 nominations - is the number that would've been blocked if we were doing this all along. Except... It shouldn't really be 54, since at least two of them were posted after a candidate (already a moderator) got another moderator to suspend him "For Science". This same candidate went on to run in two elections and win one, making him one of only 3 candidates with recent suspensions to ever win a moderator election.

What can we take away from this data? Here's what I got out of it: folks with sketchy pasts getting elected isn't a problem - it almost never happens. Folks are pretty good about letting others know when someone is likely to cause problems.

...But that - the discussion of past suspensions - has been a problem: far too many of those 54 nominations have managed to significantly derail the elections they were part of, turning them into public trials of the nominees. The goal of a timed suspension is to let someone reconsider their actions and move on quietly, without having to leave the site or spend the rest of their days under a dark cloud; having everything dragged out into public defeats that goal, hurts the person nominating as well as the larger group who must try to sift through the drama to determine what is and isn't relevant.

  • 25
    Just to be clear, the ban is for one year after the suspension ends? – Kevin Feb 4 '16 at 6:40
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    Correct, @kevin – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 6:41
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    +1: I agree with this idea wholeheartedly and will amplify it with these two cents: There are users who come here who grow and accumulate rep but don’t do so with any great competitive aspirations; they simply “mesh” with an SE community. Others here clearly just want to make every interaction a game to gain rep and end up suspending themselves. Yes, there are other reasons for suspensions, but that happens. Which is to say someone running for a mod role clearly should have a more responsible mindset from the beginning and—as a result—would be able to accept a nomination framework like this. – JakeGould Feb 4 '16 at 6:48
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    I agree with this anyway, but are we taking chat suspensions into account too? – M.A.R. The Chemical Wizard Feb 4 '16 at 7:16
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    Not suspensions in chat, @IͶΔ. If you end up getting suspended on main for behavior in chat, that'd be another matter. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 7:35
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    While there may have been very few cases where this would have been mattered, in at least one case it would have mattered a great deal (the difference between a candidate being disqualified or actually elected to be a moderator). That can be considered a plus or a minus of this proposal; I’m just pointing out that it is not just about avoiding unnecessary controversy and distraction. – chirlu Feb 4 '16 at 9:11
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    I think nobody should be blocked from running, but upon throwing their hat in the ring everything in their mod-interaction history gets published--custom flags, warnings, and private contacts. I've just bought a popcorn farm and I need the sales. – Won't Feb 4 '16 at 14:26
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    Any length of suspension? I know that a lot of new users have initial issues adjusting but make quick improvements after a reality check and become valuable members of the site. – Catija Feb 4 '16 at 16:00
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    What Nathan said, @Ward. The goal here is to reduce distractions in future elections; no point in trying to close the barn doors where all the horses are already gone. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 16:39
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    The problem is people, so let's change the proposal to, "Let's disallow nominations from people" and eliminate the subjective human element altogether. – Adam Davis Feb 4 '16 at 18:05
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    I'm pretty sure that Adam was trying to say "no people should be allowed to be moderators", @TylerH; presumably that would include AIs and open for discussion such items as whether chimps, dolphins, crows, and other intelligent non-humans qualify for moderatorship. Also up for discussion would be whether non-intelligent humans qualify. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 20:33
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    How many of those 54 nominations were Evan Carroll? – mmyers Feb 5 '16 at 1:25
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    Lots, @mmyers. Lots. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 1:26
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    @NickGammon: Presumably, "For Science" here means "to see what will happen." Presumably, the moderator in question wanted to either a) see what getting suspended looks like, b) test whether a moderator can, in fact, suspend another moderator, c) test whether they could un-suspend themselves, d) all of the above, or e) something else like that. – Ilmari Karonen Feb 5 '16 at 11:06
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    FOR SCIENCE! – Adam Davis Feb 5 '16 at 14:41

14 Answers 14

102

I am very happy with this. I don't think it's an unreasonable restriction and the net win for the process itself is big. This is supposed to be a fun and exciting time for a site and everyone that participates in the process.

I have a couple of thoughts.

While it's not an unreasonable restriction, we have to ensure that people anticipate it. I don't want a scenario where someone spends a large block of time putting forth a good-faith nomination only to realize that they weren't eligible because of that argument they kept poking 11.5 months ago and have since forgotten about. We need to make it clear where they enter their nomination that we have this restriction, and encourage anyone in doubt to contact us to talk about it.

Secondly, suspensions are sometimes issued in error, or in excess of what the situation called for upon review. It doesn't happen often, but mistakes do happen. This could theoretically lead to someone thinking:

I know this user was suspended on Mayonnaise SE within the last year, something something about Miracle Whip.

If the nomination is allowed to continue, folks are going to just have to trust that we (the Community Growth team) reviewed everything there is to review and determined that the user shouldn't have been suspended. In other words, I don't want to create even more incentive for the details of the suspension to be aired out like laundry - that's a big part of what we're trying to avoid.

What I like the most about this plan is that we're not creating any additional process around an already kind of complicated thing. It's just more review.

  • 2
    I personally would have agreed with a "no current suspensions". It'd clear some people I think that shouldn't have been elected, and would be very clearly visible to that person. Or something like "suspension from nomination for the duration of suspension after the suspension" (1 day suspension: Can't nominate for 1 day after suspension, 1 year suspension: Can't nominate for 1 year after suspension etc.) – Ave Feb 5 '16 at 0:17
  • Actually, I think we can afford to be reasonably communicative in situations where we aren't taking down nominations. Anything we let through should be pretty benign, after all. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 6:00
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    @Shog9 I think it's fine to say "That suspension was for science!" or "Someone had the wrong profile open while breaking up a bar fight" - but if we let anything else pass, "We reviewed everything and found that the suspension probably wasn't necessary" is the furthest extent we should go (and the expectation we should set now) - or we're once again talking about a suspension when we're supposed to be talking about an election. But I think that's an implementation detail we can look at when it actually happens, and what makes sense at the time. I am really happy where we are. – Tim Post Feb 5 '16 at 6:30
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    @Shog9 Soooo.... rand al'thor is now a moderator on scifi.se (election Jan 2016) even though he was basically permanently suspended for spam on puzzling.se in August 2015? How did that happen? – durron597 Jul 2 '16 at 3:58
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    Look at the date on the post you're answering, @durr – Shog9 Jul 2 '16 at 6:03
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    "we have to ensure that people anticipate it" -> You mean by, for example, stating it clearly in the election announcement? Or for that matter anywhere other than here? Evidently not...I suppose this will take a dozen more Meta discussions with a clear and unequivocal consensus... – goldilocks Jan 25 '17 at 18:50
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    Not sure what problem you guys are trying to solve here. If a candidate doesn't want the details of his nomination to be discussed in public, he could simply not nominate himself. Not sure why you need to make strange rules to enforce something so self-regulatory. I would suggest focussing your energy on fixing issues with a wider reach and importance, some of which have been pending for ages, rather than worrying about scenarios that apply to a handful of users once in a blue moon. – Masked Man Feb 9 '17 at 17:46
  • @MaskedMan - huh? As was stated by OP, this is about eliminating a distraction from the election process, not about what a candidate does or doesn't want. – ToolmakerSteve Apr 7 '17 at 21:29
35

I agree with this. Being a moderator is a higher responsibility than being an ordinary user; it should follow that moderators are held to a higher standard, and that there is an intermediate stage where someone is trusted enough to be a user, but not to be a moderator.

But I'd like to propose a tweak (I think I got the idea from Chris in chat): rather than make the ban on nominating for moderator last one year, it should last as long as the suspension. At least in this ballpark, perhaps not exactly with a 1:1 ratio.

This reflects the fact that different suspension lengths reflect different levels of problematic behavior. I don't think that someone who was banned for one day to halt an edit war should be banned from running in an election six months later. At the other extreme, someone in a one-year suspension didn't get that way by accident (one-year suspensions are normally handed out for a third instance of problematic behavior, clearly a habit and not a bad day).

This also means that there is no need for an election suspension review process that's separate from the participation suspension review process. If a suspension is considered unwarranted and overturned after three days, it won't have lasting impact. If the suspension is maintained, the election suspension stays.

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    A user X is baited and suspended for 1 week 1 week before the election. Even if the ban is terminated 4 days into the ban he misses the election. Review process isn't instantaneous, and feet can be dragged. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 13:02
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    @DeerHunter If the suspension is overturned (as opposed to shortened), then the user becomes eligible immediately. – Gilles Feb 4 '16 at 13:16
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    I'd still prefer the decision to suspend a candidate to come from CMs, not future peer mods. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 13:20
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    @DeerHunter I don't think it's a good idea for nominees in an election to become effectively unsuspendable. It wouldn't work anyway if the user was suspended when they were about to nominate. I expect that a review of a suspension concerning a current candidate or would-be candidate would be treated as high priority. – Gilles Feb 4 '16 at 13:27
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    this rulechange changes nothing. Once a mod, a person can be immediately demodded/defrocked/put into carbonite at the whim of CMs. Adding a modicum of propriety into the process won't change this basic fact. CMs are only afraid of having a Victoria on their hands... – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 13:32
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    I agree with the tweak. Preventing a user from running for mod for a minor infraction that has since been corrected and not repeated is excessive. – Andy Feb 4 '16 at 14:38
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    @DeerHunter Implementationally, it would come from us. We're not going to write code to enforce this - but we do want to be able to say if you've created problems on other sites in the last [timeframe], we reserve the right to withdraw your nomination here. I kinda like Gilles' idea - a 24 hour cool-down probably shouldn't stop you from running in a month. But this is policy and guidance we're hashing out that we (the CMs) will be in charge of applying. It won't be automatic, I don't think it could be - and that's just considering honest mistakes. – Tim Post Feb 4 '16 at 15:10
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    @TimPost - anything less than automatic smacks of arbitrariness. You surely understand you are walking a very thin line here. But you need not listen to my opinion - judging by the votes, it is hugely unpopular, anyway. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 15:16
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    @DeerHunter I'm listening, because you're really adamant about it, and I'm wondering what I'm not seeing that might be right in front of me. We would not enforce this if a suspension was a clear mistake, or malicious. The line there isn't as thin as you might imagine, mistakes are very easy to identify. So I'm just going to keep listening whether you like it or not until I can be sure I've heard what you're trying to tell us. :) – Tim Post Feb 4 '16 at 15:27
  • @TimPost - thanks a bunch, I've edited the post to the best of my abilities. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 15:28
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    @TimPost This is a matter of inequity, incongruence with "A theory of moderation" where more is less, and a lack of faith in the communities. I've made an answer too, but it's pretty unpopular as well. – fredsbend Feb 4 '16 at 21:44
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    FWIW, one of the people who inspired a blog post about edit wars later became a moderator on Stack Overflow. A good one at that: I think he learned a lot from the experience. Of course, he didn't learn it overnight. Much as I like symmetry, if the goal is to make sure problems are well in the past then let's just do that - plenty of folks manage to avoid being suspended ever, so surely someone stepping up to be an exemplary user should be able to pull it off for a year. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 1:00
33

I tend to agree with this. The reason is, unlike content that you contribute to different Stack Exchange sites, the principles of moderation stay the same between them, for the most part.

These people should be exemplars of good behaviour within the community, and that includes other SE sites - it most definitely is relevant. When their reputation is tarnished by a suspension - especially, but not only, when the circumstances around the suspension are controversial - it shifts the focus from electing moderators to stopping candidates from being elected.

It turns what is generally, and what, in my opinion, should be a positive campaign of people promoting their merits and recognising their shortcomings into target for negative campaigning, where people dredge up the past. It's certainly not healthy for the candidate either, I don't think.

On the other hand, there is the supposed view that the end of this timed suspension period, your reputation will be recalculated, and your account will resume as normal. We don't hold grudges. I'd probably say that this means to apply only to being able to participate as a user on the site, and that's fair - moderators are held to a higher standard, and rightfully so.

Additionally, preventing someone from running in elections for an entire year even if their suspension was for a single day might be harsh. However, that really does come down to moderators exercising good judgement when issuing suspensions, even single-day suspensions. Suspensions should never be taken lightly anyway, and as far as I know, aren't, so this shouldn't be a real problem.

On balance, I think this would have positive effects, as it would avoid the kinds of issues you mentioned, but also give everyone a chance to forget about the person's past behaviours, focus on their (more) recent contributions, and, for the candidates involved, not have those past incidents brought up despite their attempts to improve and move on from them.

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    I agree with Shog9’s question as well as the thoughts presented in this answer. But your citation of “…the end of this timed suspension period, your reputation will be recalculated, and your account will resume as normal. We don't hold grudges.” is a bit idealistic: Ultimately past suspensions affect future suspensions. The concept of recidivism is not lost on SE sites. The “grudges” not being held is the idea that somehow the suspension can result in a user reflecting on their actions. Anyone running for mod role who doesn’t learn from their own personal suspensions should not be a mod. – JakeGould Feb 4 '16 at 6:44
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    Note also that even first suspensions are often the result of small "grudges" - repeated minor offenses eventually merit suspension even if each individual one wouldn't. So again, it seems fair that we also remember those things in some cases come election time. – Cascabel Feb 4 '16 at 7:06
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    @Jefromi it's not grudges we hold so much as a long (and computer-aided) memory. While a user is behaving themselves we don't discriminate against them for past transgressions, but neither do we forget those past transgressions in the case that we need to take corrective action against a user. – Kevin Feb 4 '16 at 7:17
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    @jefromi It's not that the initial suspension was for a single action because of past actions - initial suspensions are usually issued as a result of looking at the entire body of actions and determining whether it is warranted in that situation. – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 7:19
  • @jimsug Sure, but the point is that we don't immediately forget something just because it didn't result in a suspension (or because the suspension it resulted in is over). We remember things in that context, and it's fair to remember them here too. – Cascabel Feb 4 '16 at 7:23
  • Even if they wait a year after the suspension, people will still dredge up the past, years later. A probationary period will do nothing for that. People will still try to to disparage the character of another user if they feel it is important, which for a moderator election, they tend to think so. – fredsbend Feb 4 '16 at 21:38
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    @fredsbend sure. But you can agree that waiting would surely reduce the number of people doing this, right? At the very least, it wouldn't increase the number of people... – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 21:40
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    @jimsug I don't think it should matter that much. I think the community should have the right to decide for themselves who would make a good moderator. – fredsbend Feb 4 '16 at 21:55
  • @fredsbend Fair enough. Elections don't always happen that often; sometimes 2-3 years can pass without one. Essentially, this is a 1-year period of being unable to run for moderator elections only if the election occurs a year after their suspension was lifted. In all other cases, it's longer, and those people who would bring it up after that time... they'd bring it up anyway. The people who wouidn't, won't. – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 21:59
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    @fredsbend This also puts an official stamp of approval on things: it's been a year, and StackExchange is definitely fine with them running (as opposed to just letting them run because they hadn't made a policy yet). So if people bring it up, they can much more easily be shot down. – Cascabel Feb 4 '16 at 23:49
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    @Jefromi That is true, but I still have issues with users being barred from running. You can read my answer here if you want my reasons. – fredsbend Feb 5 '16 at 0:56
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I agree with this in general. I'd say if you've been so immoderate as to get yourself banned from an SE site, you need time to let bygones be bygones before you can be an undivisive candidate.

There are however certain suspension reasons, and/or times, that I think would be valid exceptions to that:

Why was BalusC temporarily suspended from SO?

Congratulations Eric Lippert for finally winning the 'c#-language' badge (I guess that no suspension was actually handed out here, but it was strongly suggested)

Both of these involved users in otherwise very good standing being suspended essentially for "What the heck is going on? Stop for a second so we can talk".

Opinions may vary on this, but I don't even see a "one bad day" level of reputation tarnish there. But if you're going to have a rule about disallowing someone from this level of interaction with their site, I think the rule must be applied consistently. BalusC shouldn't be prevented from nominating, but not because he's a cool guy who contributes a lot of good stuff: because the suspension reason was preventative, not punitive.

In other words, I think the stakes are high enough here that this rule should not be subject to -- or even be able to be cast as -- favoritism-like decisions about who can and can't be a mod.

I'd suggest that only long-term suspensions count for this disqualification: more than a week, say. Another option would be only suspensions that were not lifted manually. A third would be to add an explicit "slow down" suspension reason, distinct from "cool down", that is excepted from this rule.

  • Rereading Shog9's post, it sounds like this process is not automatic, and is subject to manual review. – Aza Feb 4 '16 at 6:25
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    Yeah, but I think if we're going to have a rule like this, it ought not to be subject to even a suspicion of favoritism-type bias. BalusC and John Saunders shouldn't be disallowed from nominating because of who they are, but because the suspension was preventative rather than punitive. Let me make that more clear. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 6:27
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    Yeah, I think we can afford to make exceptions for exceptional circumstances (not that I've come across any examples thus far where we would've needed to). FWIW, no one was actually suspended in your second example. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 6:27
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    Ah, my mistake there, @Shog9; I only read about that event as past history. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 6:28
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    Too many negatives: the comment above should say "...shouldn't be disallowed from nominating not because of who they are...". I think I've got them right in the post body, though. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 6:39
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    'add an explicit "slow down" suspension reason, distinct from "cool down",' — there already is a "self-destruction of own content" reason, to be used essentially in the way you describe, which was likely the one used for BalusC. Presumably, users who are suspended for that reason would be at least subject to manual review under this system, possibly automatically exempted if the suspension is removed early. – Kevin Feb 4 '16 at 7:06
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    Sure, that makes sense, @Kevin; I'm not really concerned with what it's called, just that the exception exist, and be codified. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 17:48
23

To somewhat play devil’s advocate, I am throwing an alternative into the ring that has not been discussed yet (forgive me if I missed something):

TL;DR

Let the voters decide, but steer inform them appropriately.

Suggestion

Do not block anybody from nominating (with the possible exception of currently suspendend users) but show the suspensions big and noticeable on the candidate’s nomination, i.e., like this:

Hello, my name is Palpatine and I want to be your emperor moderator …

[candidate’s text]

Palpatine was suspended on 19.05.1999 on Galactic Politics SE for vote fraud (suspension was lifted due to being accidental).

Palpatine was suspended from 16.05.2002 to 23.05.2002 (one week) on Galactic Politics SE for warmongering.

Palpatine was suspended from 02.09.2002 to 02.10.2002 (one month) on Galactic Politics SE for warmongering.

Palpatine was suspended from 15.05.2003 to 15.05.2005 (two years) on Galactic Politics SE for warmongering.

However, be somewhat less lenient with what suspensions are shown, e.g., show every suspension within the last year, but show all year-long suspensions from the last three years.

Why could this solve the problem at hand?

We know that most voters do not look any further than the election page. For example 27 k users voted in the last SO eletion, but the Questionnaire for that election was visited by only 6 k people until today¹. Most voters do not want to spend much time on voting but want a short digest of most import information on the candidates, which guides their decision.

As far as I can tell a considerable amount of the drama around the recent SciFi Election was about making the candidates’ suspension history known and the fact that the community actually elected one of these candidates. I think it is safe to say that if the suspensions were displayed, the former source of drama would have been obsolete and the latter source of drama would never have occurred since the candidate would not have been elected.

Yes, all of this is influencing the voters, but so does displaying candidate scores and reputation on the election page. SE is neither important enough to have independent journalism to pre-digest information about candidates nor is it relevant enough to motivate voters to consume that pre-digested information. The best we can have is a digest which is as informative and neutral as possible. And displaying recent suspensions fits very much into this.

¹ which includes a lot of repeating visitors and visitors who did not vote. Note that I chose SO here to keep the relative impact of that number as low as possible.

Further Pros

  • This is more democratic.

  • It softens the threshold. You still have to choose when to show a suspension, but at the end of the day, the voters decide.

  • This alleviates possible fuzz around borderline cases, weighting suspension lengths and reasons, unjust suspensions and so on. It’s the candidate’s job to explain their suspension.

  • Moderators do not have to worry that much about ruining a user’s election chances when issuing a short suspension.

Cons

  • With some candidates, it causes more quarrel than if those candidates weren’t allowed to run in the first place. However, in some cases, it causes less quarrel. It’s hard to foretell.

  • Such a candidate may still be elected and do bad stuff, but that would require expertise demagogy or true dedication.

  • This poses the problem of candidates not being honest about their suspension in their nomination. Outright lies should arguably lead to a disqualification, but what about the grey area?

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    The problem isn't bad folk getting elected. The problem is folks getting all worried about past suspensions and disrupting elections. This would make that worse. In a year's time, any credible candidate will have done enough good that folks will be able to talk about that instead of long-ago suspensions; surely this is a better use of everyone's time than having to hold a kangaroo court for every poor sap who nominates without realizing what that entails... – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 0:48
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    I can get behind this, but it doesn't resolve @Shog9 biggest concern: Users may and likely will fixate on that, rather than whether Palpatine would be a good moderator. I personally think he would. It's like there's a force behind him or something. – fredsbend Feb 5 '16 at 1:00
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    @Shog9: The problem is folks getting all worried about past suspensions and disrupting elections. – But that worry is based on the fact that the candidate in question might get elected. I cannot remember any drama arising around this nomination. That being said, I do not claim that this solution has no flaws; it just has different flaws. – Wrzlprmft Feb 5 '16 at 9:34
  • ...and you link to the only nomination in that election to attract more than 15 comments. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 12:55
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    @Shog9: But you cannot honestly compare it to the drama around the recent SciFi election. It’s like a streaker: You look at them; you make some sarcastic comment; you laugh; and life continues. – Wrzlprmft Feb 5 '16 at 13:02
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    Lol, +1 for the Palpatine example, and part of me would like to see this implemented just for the drama and entertainment it would generate. There'd be plenty of customers for Will's popcorn farm, and my newly founded torch & pitchfork mail-order! But silently removing candidates is really the more graceful option. – Pëkka Feb 5 '16 at 15:26
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    Life continues no matter what, @Wrzlprmft - this is a moderator role on a website, not hangin' judge. If you wanna trivialize all this, it's pretty easy to argue that none of this process really matters much. If you do wish to take it seriously, then seeing the majority of a community's attention drawn by a candidate who has no chance of winning isn't particularly great even if the reaction is less extreme than it perhaps could be. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 17:02
8

It sounds like a nice idea in one sense. It is a bit analogous to that of a man being locked up for 5 years for robbing a bank. Upon being released from jail he can return to the normal community, but would hardly expect to get a job as a bank teller. Such jobs have higher degrees of trust and probity attached to them.


But, could the system be "gamed"? A lot of computer systems are gamed these days by people working out how the rules can be turned to their advantage.

Here's a hypothetical scenario:

  • A user John Doe has been doing a good job on his site, he has gained reasonable amounts of rep, and done his job editing posts, voting to close, and so on.
  • He lets it be known that he is interested (or is an obvious candidate) in the next moderator elections
  • Another user has a grudge against John Doe. This user didn't like his posts being voted to close, or his edits refused, or something.
  • This other user provokes John Doe into doing something silly. With enough goading John eventually lashes out with an insult or something similar.
  • The other user makes a strongly worded complaint to the moderators about John Doe. "This isn't the way to run a site, I'm deeply offended, blah blah".
  • John Doe is suspended for a week.
  • The other user has achieved his objective. Now John Doe can't be considered for the upcoming moderator elections, because of this extra year's period.

I'm not sure of a good compromise but maybe this proposed rule would kick in for long suspensions (for something really bad) but not short suspensions.


(edited to add)

Possibly influence moderators to not suspend

Another issue would be the effect this might have on moderators. Presently if you suspend someone for a week, that is the entire punishment. But now you would have to take into account possibly forthcoming moderator elections. You might think "is what he did bad enough to not allow him to nominate for an entire year?".

So you might not suspend, but merely warn.

Therefore a side-effect of this proposal might be that less people are suspended than previously. Is that a good thing?

  • 20
    John would have to be coerced into a level of behavior that is below his normal standard. While every human being is susceptible to this if enough provocation is provided, John has the ability very early-on to flag these shenanigans and move on. Additionally, nominations can be very draining and contentious things where ample opportunity to lose your temper as a candidate emerges - not buying into it is a hallmark trait of a good moderator. In other words, one doesn't have to go to the trouble of going to another site to attempt this, and it's already a phenomenon. – Tim Post Feb 4 '16 at 7:33
  • 9
    I think someone who can be baited into suspension-worthy behaviour needs to learn better, and show that they have, before they're suitable as a moderator candidate. – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 7:52
  • 3
    These are very good ripostes. I have added another section about the possible effects this proposal might have on the number of suspensions. I am thinking here of the Law of Unintended Consequences – Nick Gammon Feb 4 '16 at 8:10
  • 1
    I don't think you have to take into account forthcoming elections, because they should be taking that into account when they're acting in ways that may result in suspensions. I will feel no guilt for people I suspend, whether or not they are aware of this. – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 9:57
  • 13
    "A lot of computer systems are gamed these days" - the thing is, only humans hand out account suspensions, not any automated system. As a moderator, you will be subject to abuse, insults, threats, serial downvotes, and on and on. You have to be able to keep your cool in the worst situations, which is why I care more about how a moderator candidate reacts to tough questions than number of flags or other measures. If someone responds to provocation so badly that a simple warning wouldn't suffice, I'd say they're probably not ready to be a moderator. We don't suspend for minor insults. – Brad Larson Feb 4 '16 at 15:18
  • 1
    @BradLarson - why don't you skip the nomination phase in graduated sites altogether and do all the nomination (and perhaps, primaries, and elections) yourselves? After all, you know moral fibre of the potential candidates much better than the average Joe the user. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 15:21
  • 18
    @DeerHunter - That's quite a leap of logic. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I imagine the total percentage of all active users who have had a suspension within the last year is a pretty small number. Do you seriously think that moderators could get away with intentionally suspending select users only to prevent them from being a moderator? Communities have started uproars over actions much less controversial than that. If SE started moving towards moderators or employees hand-picking moderator nominees for graduated sites, I'll be right there with you to protest. – Brad Larson Feb 4 '16 at 15:45
  • 1
    Problem with the logic presented here is there’s always someone out there who has the extra motivation or free time to “game” a system. Yes, “…a lot of computer systems are gamed these days…” no kidding. I do security work. And the one thing you will learn pretty quickly dealing with security is it’s more of an overall mindset and less of an absolute. Meaning, there is no such thing as an impenetrable system. But you can structure a system to minimize damage when a breach happens. The effort Shog9 presents attempts to minimize damage caused by a problematic user attempting to become a mod. – JakeGould Feb 4 '16 at 20:19
  • @JakeGould - are we in the pre-cognitive justice business? – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 20:33
  • 2
    @DeerHunter Amazing logical leap you are making. No, we aren’t into the “pre-cognitive” justice business. But recidivism is a reality. In my mind one has to go out of there way to not only be suspended but also not learn from their mistakes; that is a special combo that helps nobody. And even if they are upset at being suspended and cannot be a moderator as a result, they should at least be mature/cognizant enough to know why they need to wait. The issue is not whether they are allowed to participate on the site but rather whether they should have increased powers and responsibility. – JakeGould Feb 4 '16 at 20:42
  • @JakeGould - aren't there access controls on PII in the mod tool pages? E.g. logged access, audit trail and all the familiar stuff? – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 20:48
  • 1
    @DeerHunter PII access is logged, but there aren't really any restrictions as far as I know. – Mad Scientist Feb 4 '16 at 20:56
  • 1
    @DeerHunter I don’t even know what you are talking about as far as PII “personally identifiable information” goes. You are making bizarre leaps in logic here. What I am agreeing to has nothing to do with technology tools or politics: If someone in my tribal group has stepped out of line, I agree they should be sent to a remote cave to chill out for a while. But depending on the severity of their infraction, I do not want this tribal colleague to have any power in the tribe when they return. They are welcome to hunt and forage with us as a group, but past that they cannot acquire more power. – JakeGould Feb 4 '16 at 21:09
  • 1
    @JakeGould - going by your caveman analogy, the position of a mod isn't exactly that of power. The tribe's chief keeps a sharp eye on his modding minions and uses his mace to knock out e.g. anyone who looks at his wife the wrong way. Minions can use or abuse what power they've got but their lot is going through the ahem tribe's by-products with a fine comb every day. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 21:23
  • 4
    Really, if someone can be goaded into a suspension, they should not be a moderator. You'd be amazed at the amount of filth people at the wrong end of a moderator action are willing to throw at you. A good moderator knows when they are being trolled and just ignore. – Martijn Pieters Feb 5 '16 at 8:33
8

This is partially in response to Nick Gammon's answer.

Rather than hard coding it as a year since the last suspension of any length, make it that the time passed is greater than the length of the last suspension.

Thus if they've only been suspended for a week, then they're only blocked for a week after the suspension ends. This means that the blocking period doesn't seem to be excessive for minor infractions. However, as Catija points out a week (or a day) might not be long enough to determine whether the person has reformed or not. So perhaps the time should be the next suspension level or a year (which ever is the greater).

So for a suspension of a day they can't nominate for a week, for a week a month, and for a month or longer they can't nominate for a year.

  • 3
    I disagree... I generally don't know that I agree that a year ban for a one week suspension is appropriate but I certainly don't agree that a one week ban for a one week suspension is enough time for the user to overcome their issues. I might agree 6 months for a month or less and a year for a year... but I don't know that a week or a month is appropriate. – Catija Feb 4 '16 at 16:02
  • @Catija - that did cross my mind when I posted this, but couldn't think of a suitable workaround. Perhaps the time should be the next suspension level or a year (which ever is the greater). – ChrisF Feb 4 '16 at 16:05
  • 1
    Similar proposal in Gilles’s answer. – chirlu Feb 4 '16 at 16:59
  • @chirlu - missed that :( – ChrisF Feb 4 '16 at 17:03
  • 1
    @chirlu I think I got the idea from Chris in chat, actually. Sorry for not acknowledging but I wasn't sure and I didn't want to put words in Chris's mouth. – Gilles Feb 4 '16 at 17:24
6

To split out a sidenote from Gilles' answer, I'd suggest specifically that if the suspension was ended early, the default should be to allow nomination with no further ban period. That would handle the majority of cases identified so far where the suspension shouldn't weigh on the candidate's eligibility: preventative suspensions (e.g. BalusC) and suspensions that proved incorrect.

These cases are, as I understand it, rare; most suspensions are served out. But when they do happen, it seems like they almost never correlate with any sort of behavior that should really cast a shadow on future elections in any way. So it should be safe to remove early-ended suspensions from consideration.

  • 3
    Just so we're clear: BalusC didn't run in the last election, which would've been the only one where this would've mattered. In fact, BalusC has never run in an election. I'm sure he'd make a good mod if he wanted to be one, but folks know and love him because he writes lots of good answers not because he's a moderator. As a hypothetical situation, this is fine, but... Hypothetically, we can look at that & say "this was a mistake that was quickly corrected" and all get on with our lives. We're better served building rules for situations that have actually occurred first. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 16:49
  • 4
    @Shog9: Right. I'm just using BalusC as an example of a guy who had a highly visible suspension that was later reversed for good reason, and should therefore be eligible should he desire to try for moderatorship. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 4 '16 at 16:50
  • 1
    I get it, but keep in mind that it was highly-visible in part because it was so damn unusual. It's like worrying that folks are gonna think your best answer has gotten no votes if it suddenly gets enough votes to overflow the counter; that has happened, and is possible, but... It's not really a pressing concern in practice. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 16:59
  • 1
    Just in case: I'm not ever interested in getting additional and time-consuming moderator-related duties. Moreover, All those monkeys in /review is too stressful I'd ignore /review all time, and my meta participation is so low I'd even not vote for myself. I'm more than happy with the Mjölnir ;) – BalusC Feb 9 '16 at 13:15
3

Full disclosure

As of the time I posted this answer, I had just exited from a one-day suspension on Super User.

While this idea was on my mind for some time, I have to put it out there that I may be under a conflict of interest, so please take this answer with a grain of salt.


I think the underlying idea has very good merit. However, one year for any suspension of any length anywhere in the network within the last year does seem a bit harsh to me. A minor issue can cause brief suspensions lasting a week or less, and often with just a short-term effect on the community's goodwill toward the user.

I'd suggest that users be disqualified for 10× the sum of the length of all suspensions ending within the last year, with a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 365 days. This means:

  • A user suspended for three days or less will be prevented from running for moderator for 30 days.
  • A user suspended for a week will be prevented from running for moderator for 70 days (about 2-1/3 months).
  • A user suspended for a month will be prevented from running for moderator for ten months.

This should address the concerns posed by Nick Gammon's answer and avoid being too harsh on good-faith users while still reducing the chance that a dispute would arise during an election due to a prior suspension for a more serious issue.

In any case, incumbent moderators should be able to exercise discretion in applying this rule.

  • 6
    As I said elsewhere, the value in a check like this is in encouraging folks to demonstrate an ability to remain unsuspended for a significant length of time, not so much in any inherent balance between suspension length and waiting period. Think of it like those N Days without an accident er, "loss-time incident" signs they put up in factories - it's a way of showing your ability to be safe that "Average fingers lost per day" just doesn't quite match. – Shog9 Mar 4 '16 at 3:59
  • 1
    This is why I suggested a 30-day minimum. If that's not enough, 90 days may be more appropriate. – bwDraco Mar 4 '16 at 4:02
  • 5
    Yeah, but why? If a year is good for one candidate, a year is good for another. When answering also remember that for the foreseeable future we have to apply and explain whatever rules we decide on manually, so... I have a vested interest in having a really, really good reason for any slight increase in complexity. – Shog9 Mar 4 '16 at 4:04
  • 2
    And not to get too personal, but in your case specifically I would strongly encourage not selling yourself short when it comes to setting long-term goals here. – Shog9 Mar 4 '16 at 4:08
-5

What real problem is this actually solving?

A user suspended on one site is unrelated to their activity on another. If they happen to be a negative contributor on the site, they are very unlikely to be elected. So if they were suspended recently on a different site, why should they be barred from running? Just because some baseless accusations might fly in this political environment (e.g. "I was suspended because the mods are scared of me winning elections")? This is the nature of heated political environments and must just be suffered.

These don't sound like real problems.

Further, community managers can take down moderators and presumably nominees at will. Preventing the rare self-destroying community from it's own destruction is part of their job. And as far as I know this deus ex machina has never been employed on nominees or recently elected moderators.

This is not equitable

If formerly suspended users are not allowed to run, they are still paying for their mistakes when their suspension should have covered it. They messed up and paid with a suspension. The suspension has now passed. The violation against the community has been paid back. But worse, they would be barred for a violation against a different community entirely, not even the one they are hoping to represent.

Much in the same way ex-convicts have trouble getting jobs. It's not equitable and it's not right. The difference is we have the power to be equitable on Stack Exchange.

I would rather hear baseless arguments about a suspension than valid arguments that SE moderator election are inequitable.

What about the good guys?

Your post here says that you want elections to be about the merit of the candidates, and if they would be good moderators. Barring people from running for past reasons neglects the reality that they may very well make good moderators now. It assumes that once suspended users are not capable of moderating, which is frankly not true. And again, you take this a step further, declaring that apparent past inability to positively contribute on one site means they clearly cannot contribute positively on a completely different site. What bollocks.

We should trust the communities to make good voting choices

This proposal shows no faith in the communities that elect their moderators. The users that bother to vote generally have a good idea of who would be a good moderator and who would not. And for those that don't, the pre-election phases allow for plenty of time for the trusted users to make it known that they believe the bad ones are indeed bad.

In the tour of every SE site it reads:

[SE site] is run by you!

A hollow claim to those barred from moderator nomination.


This proposal is not congruent with the philosophy found in these two posts:

  • 5
    Going with the criminal justice analogy, I too am opposed to permanent felon disenfranchisement, but I don't think ineligibility for government office during a mandated, probationary period is unreasonable. After you've returned from jail/suspension, I accept that you've "served your time", but I still don't think you're eligible to be the mayor/moderator until you've spent some time back among society. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 19:36
  • 3
    I do, but only for moderatorship, @fredsbend, the "highest level of privilege" on these sites, which (among other things) grants access to users' personal information. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 19:48
  • 3
    @fredsbend: That’s why I support Deer Hunter’s call for “more context” (in one of the deeply downvotes answers here). Yes, there was such an incident in a very recent election. – chirlu Feb 4 '16 at 20:01
  • 5
    @fredsbend (started writing before you deleted your previous comment) Well, considering all sites on the Network abide by the same general rules, there's not much difference between what site you get suspended from. You don't get account suspensions for breaking site-local rules like "what's on topic here", you get account suspensions for network-wide rules, like "don't flame" or "don't commit voter fraud". The "be nice" policy, for example, is in effect network-wide, and if someone is suspended from site X for being not nice, I definitely don't want them running for moderator on site Y. – TylerH Feb 4 '16 at 20:31
  • 6
    @fredsbend Yes. While I'm not accusing anyone of this, it is the defining mark of a sociopath to be able to hide their behavior or explain it away when facts or evidence are scant. As for not being worried, you may not be worried, but I and apparently (by the reaction to this post and conversations I've had with other users and moderators) everyone else is worried. Peoples' behavior doesn't really change site to site, and if it does, well, again, sociopaths (especially with a history of suspension) probably shouldn't be moderators, considering it's a "trusted" position w/ elevated privileges – TylerH Feb 4 '16 at 20:39
  • 3
    @fredsbend Changed behavior is not what we are discussing. This is a Q&A about people currently or recently undergoing suspension for rule violation. – TylerH Feb 4 '16 at 20:43
  • 5
    @fredsbend I'm not sure you know what a red herring is. Your argument is that behavior outside of site X shouldn't be relevant to being a moderator on site X. I have shown several examples of how behavior outside of a single site X can be detrimental and have shown that it has resulted in SE staff removing a moderator. My counterpoints have directly addressed your argument, every time. – TylerH Feb 4 '16 at 20:49
  • 3
    @fredsbend Without going into to details, I can confirm that at least one moderator has been removed for behavior on another SE site. – Andy Feb 4 '16 at 20:58
  • 4
    It's not entirely clear that "a Stack Overflow moderator was removed because [emphasis mine] he was charged with $A_CRIME in real life", @TylerH. At least initially the removal was simply because the mod was completely unreachable online: a consequence of being in police custody, presumably. – Josh Caswell Feb 4 '16 at 20:59
  • 2
    @TylerH Wow. Irrelevance, sanctimony, a pinch of ad hominem (for this hypothetical moderator), and scare tactics, all in a single comment. I don't think you are helping this discussion go anywhere fruitful. – fredsbend Feb 4 '16 at 21:05
  • 6
    @fredsbend Really? You are accusing me of ad hominem against a hypothetical example? The reason I had to go broad and hypothetical in the first place is because you didn't accept specific examples. That should've been my first sign. Anyway, I'm done trying to convince you of the relevance and reality of the fishbowl effect. I can't really add anything that isn't already in Gilles' or jimsung's answers. – TylerH Feb 4 '16 at 21:11
  • 8
    Sorry, I didn't have time to get into this earlier. I've posted some data on how this has played out in the past; the problem isn't that communities can't make good choices, it's that they're being asked to extract signal from a veritable cacophony - it's exhausting at best, and puts everyone in a foul mood at worst. And I've come to believe it's unnecessary. Principles are nice things to stand on, but horrible things to be chained to; we can forgive and move on without being required to forget. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 1:06
  • 3
    @Shog9 Then the answer is to provide users with information not make the decision for them. There's another answer here that suggests a banner informing would be voters of suspensions on other sites. This allows users to easily be informed and is equitable for those that have been suspended. It still has a few issues but it's better than what your original post suggests. – fredsbend Feb 5 '16 at 1:43
  • 3
    Part of the issues with suspensions is that there's no public record giving a reason why. – fredsbend Feb 5 '16 at 1:45
  • 3
    @jimsug Exactly. So they can move on. This proposal doesn't help that. – fredsbend Feb 5 '16 at 6:00
-8

I disagree.

Sometimes people challenge the status quo and pick up a suspension in the process.

And sometimes, especially on the smaller and younger Stackexchange sites, suspensions can be politically motivated; often stemming from either a personality conflict or a difference of opinion.

Preventing recently suspended users from running for moderator would be a bad idea.

  • 11
    If somebody gets suspended due to challenging the status quo, a difference of opinion or personality conflict, the respective moderators should be sacked – assuming that the person in question is acting in a civil way. – Wrzlprmft Feb 4 '16 at 23:54
  • @Wrzlprmft: I agree, but it happens. Kangaroo courts pick pro tempore moderators who have not been elected by the young community. The pro tempore moderators range from outstanding to lousy. – Jim G. Feb 4 '16 at 23:59
  • 4
    And if the are “challenging the status quo” and they get elected mod what happens next? Endless fights and conflicts and tin-foil hat level arguments? There are things about small SE sites that drive me nuts and I believe cliques exist in them, but I have no delusion that somehow if I alone became a mod on any of the smaller, more dysfunctional sites I would change one thing. Someone whose main method of engagement results in suspension will not change anything. – JakeGould Feb 5 '16 at 0:20
  • 3
    @JakeGould: Wow. You should visit North Korea. All citizens who attempt to disrupt the status quo are suspended. And then either starved or executed. – Jim G. Feb 5 '16 at 0:26
  • 12
    @JimG. I love this whole thread. Not just your answers and comments, but the utter hyperbolic nonsense. I’m completely for challenging the status quo… And if this were about elections in the real world, my POV would be different. But the issue at hand here is someone being an unpaid moderator for what is essentially a message board. In that context, my approach is different: Why would someone who alienates others and gets suspended want to be a moderator for an environment that treats them that way? I cannot see a positive outcome of a mod behaving in such way helping change anything. – JakeGould Feb 5 '16 at 0:30
  • 19
    There is a big leap between challenging the status quo and getting suspended. Something else happened in there, not just the challenge. Meta exists on all sites. If mods (pro-tem or otherwise) ignore obvious community voting, report it. If moderators suspend without cause, report it. (These things are taken really seriously.) If you're trying to challenge the status quo and the community votes for the status quo, don't blame the mods for going with it. Either way, don't become hostile or otherwise abuse the site in a way that can get you suspended. – Cascabel Feb 5 '16 at 0:32
  • 20
    There's "challenging the status quo" and then there's "following people around harassing them because they disagree". The former is encouraged; the latter will get you a suspension. Critically, the latter will also get you removed from office even if you do get elected, so it's pretty important that prospective moderators understand the distinction here. Also, I'm pretty sure we went over all this before. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 0:40
  • 8
    Also, if two users have a dispute, a mod will nuke them both for a week, just for some peace and quiet. Much like when Mom sends both of us to our rooms when it was clearly your fault. ;) – fredsbend Feb 5 '16 at 0:59
-13

There's a problem with this policy.

If a moderator isn't doing his job properly, he's likely to receive some criticism. For example, if he's turned a blind eye to a "friend" being abusive towards another poster, he's likely to catch some stick. Probably from somebody responsible and adult, who doesn't like to see such abuse. From somebody who might make a better moderator.

This policy gives the bad moderator the means to remove the competition. If he's received some criticism from somebody who would make a good moderator, the bad moderator simply has to dish out some trumped-up ban, and that's the good guy done for. Particularly since the bad moderator can hint that the good guy has said something heineous that has since been deleted, and is covered by we don't discuss moderation discussions.

This policy has unintended consequences, and should be rescinded. And whilst I'm on a roll: I will add that I think moderation decisions should be subject to public scrutiny. In society we have open justice, not secret police.

Edit : see the comments below, note that I now have a 365-day chat ban, plus insinuations that I've been "spewing vitriol", and must have done something nasty, or many many many unpleasant things. I rest my case.

  • 8
    If you think a moderator is behaving poorly then, if your not comfortable with raising it on the appropriate site meta, e-mail the team using the "contact us" form and they'll look into it. – ChrisF Oct 1 '16 at 12:41
  • 12
    Hmmm, I wonder what could possibly have prompted this. More to the point, the question here explicitly says that if a suspension was invalid or in error, as reviewed by the Stack Exchange team, then the candidate won't be removed. If SE says it was in error, then the existing mod has some explaining to do; if not, then it was hardly a "trumped-up" ban, was it? – ArtOfCode Oct 1 '16 at 12:44
  • 5
    @ChrisF : I got a 30-day ban for nothing. Lubos Motl called me all sorts of names, and I was civil. Before that I got a 7-day ban from ArtofCode, with no warning, for complaining about chatroom moderation. On both instances I emailed the "contact us" team and got nowhere. When I showed screenshots to Shog recently to prove that the bans were unfair, he said I should have raised it at the time, and when I said I did, he wasn't interested. – John Duffield Oct 1 '16 at 13:21
  • 1
    @ArtOfCode : personal experience prompted it. I've complained about poor moderation, I received trumped-up bans, I complained but received no response from the team, and now I can't be a moderator. If you'd like to justify to ChrisF why you banned me for 7 days, please feel free. If you'd like the screenshots to prompt your memory, please don't hesitate to email me on myname at btconnect dot com. – John Duffield Oct 1 '16 at 13:27
  • 16
    @John, I told you - and I quote - "So, the time to debate that was back when the message was sent." You got nowhere with your replies to moderators or your emails to staff because you never accept your own part in what happens surrounding you. It's always someone else's fault: someone else offended you, so you spewed vitrol; someone else downvoted you, so you insulted everyone who tried to critique your work; someone else disagreed with you once somewhere, so you felt it necessary to rag on them in an irrelevant thread. Three suspensions for rudeness in the span of a year for this. – Shog9 Oct 1 '16 at 15:05
  • 15
    And you did the same thing when I talked to you the other day (accusing other people in the conversation of running sockpuppets with zero evidence to back this up), and you're doing the same thing now (accusing the moderators - three different moderators - who suspended you of conspiring against you). You accuse anyone else of the most heinous of crimes, yet cannot or will not accept responsibility for your own actions. And you want this nonsense front and center in an election? Rubbish. Either be honest about your own actions, or you've no business standing for a moderator ever. – Shog9 Oct 1 '16 at 15:09
  • 1
    @Shog9 : you know full well that ArtofCode suspended me for 7 days without warning for complaining about moderation. And you should know full well that I wasn't spewing vitriol. I had the vitriol spewed at me, and I got suspended for 30 days. Would you like me to post up the full details? Or send them to you? – John Duffield Oct 2 '16 at 12:13
  • 7
    I was talking about the main site, @John. Since that's what this discussion is about; it's not unusual for someone to be suspended in chat for a few minutes for an ill-advised comment. Of course, you've been suspended in chat a lot longer than a few minutes, and a lot more than once. You've been chat-suspended by 7 different moderators on 3 different sites, most of them more than once. You've been suspended by the system on numerous occasions for rude comments. You've been suspended by me on at least one occasion. But that's all someone else's fault too, right? – Shog9 Oct 2 '16 at 15:31
  • 1
    @Shog9 : I haven't been chat-suspended by 7 different moderators on 3 different sites. Or the rest. I haven't been spewing vitriol, and you know it. I challenge you to post up the details instead of casting yet more Catch-22 aspersions. – John Duffield Oct 2 '16 at 18:02
  • 9
    @JohnDuffield Every moderator (from any site) can see your (extensive) suspension history. There is no point in denying this stuff. – Danu Oct 2 '16 at 18:25
  • 2
    I challenged you yesterday to be honest about your past, @John. Since it appears you've no intention of doing that, I'm walking away from this conversation. A strategy I highly recommend you adopt the next time you're in one of these disagreements that seem to so frequently lead you into trouble. Good day. – Shog9 Oct 2 '16 at 18:45
  • 1
    @Danu : but can every moderator see that it wasn't me spewing the vitriol? That it was the other guy spewing the vitriol, but it was me who got the 30-day suspension? – John Duffield Oct 2 '16 at 18:49
  • 1
    @Shog9 : I'm honest about my past. I'm not anonymous, I'm civil poster, and I don't go round spewing vitriol. Unlike some, who do not receive a 30-day ban for it. Good day to you too. – John Duffield Oct 2 '16 at 18:53
  • 1
    @Shog9 : ah, I see a message: your account has been temporarily suspended by a moderator and cannot chat for 364 days. Doubtless there will be some dark insinuations that I've been "spewing vitriol" to try to justify that. Even though I've got everything recorded. – John Duffield Oct 2 '16 at 19:06
  • 2
    Sulfuric acid, @BernardMeurer. Useful for getting rid of mold. – Shog9 Oct 3 '16 at 0:48
-16
+50

Except for voting fraud suspensions (which are supported by objective, system level facts about the user) I am not interested in suspensions candidate had on some other site.

There are over 500 moderators at over 150 sites across the network, sometimes with totally different culture. I did not vote for these guys, I do not participate in sites they moderate and I have no slightest reason to trust their judgement if they decided that particular user needs to cool down at their site.

I don't want these 500 guys to stand in my way of evaluating candidate. I prefer to do it myself based on candidate's activity on my site (except for if they were involved in voting fraud elsewhere).


For now, you can enjoy your little scientific stats and supportive voting from your buddies at Teachers Lounge. But wait until someone publicly complains about being blocked from elections.

If (when) this happens, you better hope that their suspension wasn't even remotely questionable and that you will be able to communicate that publicly. Because to the world outside of TL this will look like unfair manipulation.

  • 3
    Why is voting fraud so much more important? Or, to put it another way, why should it be more important than anything else? If a user plagiarises content significantly, is that better or worse than manipulating imaginary points on a website? – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 9:54
  • 2
    @jimsug it's just as important as anything else, and I would be happy to trust other sites moderators on other things - if I had reasons to do so. The case with voting fraud is only different as I pointed in that it's supported by objective facts, not solely by unknown guy judgement – gnat Feb 4 '16 at 10:01
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    Every suspension should be supported by facts. However, every suspension also relies on a moderator to take those facts and act upon them honestly. Whether the offense is voting for yourself, vandalizing answers, or editing racist screeds into someone's question, sooner or later someone has to make a call on its severity and what must be done to stop it; we're trusting people to do the right thing, even in the face of criticism, and relying in part on venues like this one to let us know when someone screws up. A leap of faith... But then, so is all of this. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 14:43
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    too much a leap for me, I simply don't trust these 500 folks from obscure sites – gnat Feb 4 '16 at 14:51
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    I can sympathize; that said, I don't think the status quo is helping that either: seeing folks running with multiple recent suspensions and troubling allegations still stuck to their heels doesn't exactly engender confidence in the future. In any case, you could always do what I do: nose out & encourage promising candidates before / during the nomination period, so you can get wind of what's making folks reluctant and perhaps catch anything fishy before it's too late. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 15:04
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    that's what I do already @Shog9 and I don't need a manipulative bunch with diamonds acquired at obscure sites to decide anything for me. "I did not vote for these guys, I do not participate in sites they moderate and I have no slightest reason to trust their judgement if they decided that particular user needs to cool down at their site." – gnat Feb 4 '16 at 15:15
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    Please take the meta-meta voting mod-cabal discussion to chat, I'm getting weary of trying to bring this back on-topic. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 16:01
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    @Shog9: You used the words "trust" and "leap of faith". I'm fine applying those words to elected moderators, but I have a problem applying them to pro tempore moderators who were appointed. – Jim G. Feb 5 '16 at 0:22
  • I'm well aware of that, @JimG. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 0:50
-19

I think we need more context on this. Politicians usually propose a change in the law touted as designed 'for the Greater Good' (TM) but in effect promoting their own /special interests. I hope this is not the case here.

The election at SFF seems to be the background of this discussion, and people on Meta SE don't know even 1 per cent of the stuff that has been happening there, and cannot come to a meaningful conclusion based on this question alone.

Thus, I have two things to say:

  • first and foremost, I don't want past transgressions on a site or current bans on other sites to disqualify anybody from running in the election. If a person does not abide by the rules of the network, issue a permaban and be done with it, moderator or not a moderator.

  • second, the question has to be revised to reflect the story at SFF, and to include the viewpoints of all the sides. Otherwise, it will be regarded as hopelessly biased.

I also agree with Nick Gammon's view that this opens up the field for power games and election manipulation.

EDIT: At Tim's request, I'd like to make my position clearer.

  • Bans for infractions on other sites should not disqualify a SE user from running in an election. We have to avoid the impression of power games by other peer mods. no change needed
  • Community managers already have the authority to terminate an elected moderator. If they deem a moderator unsuitable for the position, they can de-frock him/her practically at will. no change needed
  • If an infraction on another site is deemed serious enough to prevent joyful inauguration as a mod, it is also serious enough to ban the user from Stack Exchange. Thus, the network-wide ban should be imposed by Community Managers which automatically means the user won't take part in the elections. no change needed except in SOP

EDIT #2: I see quite a few similarities between the proposal under discussion and this one (YouTube):

The Jar Jar Motion

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    Do we really need more context? You yourself have highlighted the election at SFF. I'm not sure why this needs to reflect SFF. That ship has sailed, we have new mods and all is done. This should be a policy across all sites that applies to all future candidates. I don't know what the controversy is here. – Andrew Martin Feb 4 '16 at 9:11
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    now continue to influence network-wide stuff - Fantastic! Isn't that what we want our CMs to do? I agree policy change isn't a void and needs discussed, but policy decisions should be universal across all sites, not specific solutions for specific Stacks depending on user bases (as that is variable). – Andrew Martin Feb 4 '16 at 9:17
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    @AndrewMartin - election policy should indeed be the same for the network. I'm also all for declaring conflicts of interest. The OP did not tell the whole truth, and did not reveal the CoI @ the SFF election. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 9:19
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    If a person does not abide by the rules of the network, issue a permaban and be done with it, moderator or not a moderator Your solution is a permaban for all rule transgressions? That means you are disqualifying users from running in an election - by banning them. – jimsug Feb 4 '16 at 9:53
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    @jimsug - Shog9's proposal effectively allows any moderator on any site to prevent any person from running for a mod on another site for a year. In my proposal, you can't disqualify a candidate without having an active ban on the site of the election (aka current policy). If the transgressions committed on other sites are that grave, CMs should issue a network-wide ban (and risk backlash if that's arbitrary). Shog9 effectively deputizes candidate-killing to mods on other sites. – Deer Hunter Feb 4 '16 at 10:01
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    @DeerHunter: That's a very dramatic interpretation of what he's saying. Are you suggesting moderators will begin issuing year-long bans to prevent anyone being able to run on any other site? And are you suggesting CMs will take no action against this? – Andrew Martin Feb 4 '16 at 10:04
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    @DeerHunter: I have done. I'm still not seeing anything to suggest something as drastic as you're suggesting. Year long suspensions are quite rare things and aren't handed out flippantly. – Andrew Martin Feb 4 '16 at 10:11
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    Deer - I don't think I could get away with banning someone on one of my sites to try and prevent someone running for mod. There is so much challenge internally around suspensions and bans that it would never fly. Mods spend a lot of time arguing specific cases so that we don't negatively impact sites and communities. Personally, I think the checks and oversight work pretty well for the sites I moderate, and while I know some are very different, I can't imagine their moderators work in a different way to me - we all catch up in moderator chat to sanity check bigger decisions anyway. – Rory Alsop Feb 4 '16 at 10:41
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    To be fair, I am not active on SFF, and would not even vaguely want to try and moderate there - it does seem more challenging than I would like. Just trying to describe what appears to work (most of the time anyway). I have up voted your post as it does at least ask for openness and fairness (which I agree with) - I just think there is more protection against abuse than many may think. – Rory Alsop Feb 4 '16 at 10:54
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    FWIW, moderators abusing suspensions is A Big Deal. You might not know this, @DeerHunter, but abusing moderator privileges can lead to losing those privileges in fairly short order. We don't talk about it a lot, but this sort of thing has happened in the past on several sites; it's not something anyone wants to see, and certainly not something a reasonable moderator would risk for the sake of spoiling an election. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 14:34
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    Well, that's why I'm here to talk about it, @DeerHunter: I know I can do what I like, but I want to make sure that's what y'all want. I've removed plenty of candidates for violating the rules or the spirit of these elections before, but I've generally been reluctant to remove nominees who appear to be acting in good faith even when their nomination is massively disruptive. At some point though, I gotta question whether that laissez faire attitude is best for the sites... or just easiest for me. SFF is but the last in a line of situations that points toward the latter. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 14:53
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    I'm not a big fan of people sitting on their feet, @DeerHunter. If someone feels uncomfortable, by all means they should leave and leave as soon as possible. The door's always open; better to have fewer happy people than a throng of members who wish they were elsewhere. The notion that we should try to placate or lock in users goes against everything Stack Overflow was built on; it's a big ol' Internet out there, plenty of room for everyone to find a place where they belong. – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 15:20
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    This is much clearer now. To paraphrase, if they're that undesirable, why hasn't more aggressive moderation on the network level taken place? And that's a fair question to ask. Or, am I off? – Tim Post Feb 4 '16 at 15:30
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    Getting pretty off-topic here, but there's a small problem with that query, @DeerHunter: it ignores the tendency for posts to collect more votes the longer they're visible on the site. Accounting for that still leaves a pretty significant dip in early 2015, but alters the direction of the trend since then. (Ping me in the tavern if you're interested in discussing that further, since this is pretty tangential.) – Shog9 Feb 4 '16 at 15:40
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    I've attempted to add some clarification to my proposal (in the form of hard data). Specifically, this isn't about keeping people from becoming moderators; this won't really do much for that, and anyway we've learned a lot about dealing with problematic moderators over the years. Rather, it's about ensuring that voters have a better chance of being able to discuss candidates' merits without getting dragged down into drama and speculation, and candidates have the motivation to make a good record for themselves before stepping up. – Shog9 Feb 5 '16 at 0:53

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