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When one is in receipt of a seemingly well intentioned correspondence from a moderator regarding a user's actions which utilises the customisation of a template response well, and seems to have the site's best intentions at heart, but which, seemingly unintentionally, misrepresents key facts of the user's actions, does anyone have any particular suggestions as to how to best advise the moderator on their actions without treading on any toes? Below is the response I would be interested in guidance on, as well as the user's reply (I have redacted the moderator and user's name to protect their identities):

Moderator Message:

"MODERATOR PRIVATE MESSAGE your message has been sent

from

[Redacted]♦

sent 1 hour ago to

[Redacted] Hello,

I'm writing in reference to your [Redacted] account:

[Redacted URL of offending post to protect identities]

We've observed some rudeness and provocative behavior in your latest activity. We get it; anyone who's ever tried to engage with others online has probably been tempted to lash out at someone else. Remember that we require all participants to be professional and civil when using these sites. If you think another user has wronged you in some way, please do not respond in kind or make passive-aggressive comments or posts. Simply flag objectionable content for moderator attention and move on.

You said that you don't intend to stop your disruptive behavior. That's not ok. We have temporarily suspended your account; you may return after 7 days.

Regards, [Redacted] [Redacted] moderator"

User Reply:

"from

[Redacted]

sent 47 mins ago to moderators Not a problem, [Redacted].

I understand that in many cases jokes are not taken well when it appears, rightly or wrongly, that people on the forum feel targeted by those jokes. It is, of course, important to maintain a positive, professional office-like environment here, where people are shielded from what may have been perceived as rudeness, regardless of the positive and altruistic intent of the maker of these remarks.

On the other hand, on forums as well as offices, provocative actions often lead to more dynamic and creative environments and I would urge you to take a proactive role in facilitating and nurturing these. I'm sure we all know the infamous burning platform speech made by a Blackberry executive during a particularly stagnant time for the company. I wouldn't want elements of Stack Exchange to find themselves in that position due to management's inability to react and accommodate change.

Kindest Regards, Mr/Mrs/Ms [redacted] BA MA"

My question:

Having read through the question at issue (now deleted) several times, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that while the user's post was surely an ill-conceived joke, that it did not constitute any sort of direct rudeness, was generally civil in tone, and did not appear to be lashing out at any other users, but rather made a well-intentioned but unprofessional and out-of-place joke about the forum itself, which may have confused other Meta users, and hence should have been removed. I was also unable to find evidence of the user suggesting any continuation of the behaviour, and the only reference I could find to it was an incident in which the moderator suggested they thought the user might be trolling, and the user replied they were attempting to tell people the truth and they would continue to tell the truth on the forum, which to my mind doesn't seem to amount to the same thing.

How to diplomatically let the moderator know that the response could have been better judged, without causing undue upset?

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  • 20
    More flowery language than a botanical garden
    – random
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:38
  • 11
    I don't get it. There already is a reply to the message stating disagreement with the decision. What more is there to do? Restate it somewhere else?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:39
  • 11
    For one, I'd tell your friend to leave out the nonsense about Blackberry, since that seems to be a hidden threat that if they don't get their way Stack Exchange is doomed. When you start making statements like that, you're much less likely to be taken seriously. Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:41
  • 13
    Agreed on all points. What kind of person has to sign their name mentioning they spent some years in tertiary education? A dynamic drop-kick of that user seems to be making a healthier eco-system for the site overall. Couldn't have said it better
    – random
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:44
  • What exactly was the Blackberry burning platform speech? I only have the vaguest idea about what it was from a previous technical support position where I remember it being mentioned in passing, and some details turning up in a tech news site. Does anyone know in detail what was being referred to? I see no problem with them signing their name with the details of their degrees. It's pretty standard in the UK in formal correspondences and I do it myself occasionally, where appropriate. Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:45
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    You should also tell your friend to think about context - it doesn't matter if a remark is okay in context, when it gets taken out of context and people read it on its own (such as can be done with comments, especially when some get deleted), if it's rude and offensive then, it shouldn't be posted.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:51
  • 1
    Why doesn't this happen to other users? Don't say something that has the potential to cause drama, simple as that.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:22
  • Why doesn't what happen to other users? Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:22
  • 8
    Ugh, I hate learning about delicious drama I can't enjoy :(
    – user1228
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:35
  • Ok, I'm off to meet some Mormons at their church now, so if I don't reply it's not that I don't want to, I probably just haven't seen your messages yet :). Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:36
  • 7
    No Six Sigma Illuminati I suppose? Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:40
  • 2
    The "'Burning Platform' memo," according to Wikipedia, "likened the 2010 situation of Nokia, in the smartphone market, to a person standing on a burning oil platform." The Wall Street Journal has the full text of the memo.
    – Pops
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:42
  • @ChristianRau Who are the Six Sigma Illuminati? Do they have an e-mail address? I've got one for The Knights Templar, but from what I can tell they just run Dungeons and Dragons and Rogue Trader games in my local area. Or at least, that's what outward appearances seem to indicate. Though this may just be a front. What better way to hide in plain sight than by calling yourself what you are under there surface, then sandwiching your front organisation just in between the two layers... Commented May 23, 2016 at 20:25
  • 4
    This contains more drama than the royal Shakespeare company
    – user316129
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 17:57
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    Given the amount of awkward phrasing that you're forcing the people in this thread to use because they have to play along with the illusion that this question isn't about you, this might be your most successful troll attempt yet.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 18:03

3 Answers 3

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It seems you've got a few issues with this situation.

Contesting a mod decision

If you have reason to believe a moderator has abused their powers, read this question, which details what you can do in this case.

If you don't think it's abuse but you think the decision is wrong, you should contact the moderator in chat or post on the site's meta to discuss the action. The latter is the recommended course of action.

Be aware, while you're doing this, that moderators have access to a lot of information you don't, especially if you're not connected with the situation at all as your question seems to indicate. Comments, for example, are totally invisible to regular users when they're deleted. Comments are also where quite a lot of quickfire discussion goes on.

Being Diplomatic

The user response you cite is diplomatic enough - from its tone, I wonder if it's entirely serious, but it's certainly not abusive. All you need to do to be diplomatic about a situation is to accept what's happened, and discuss what can be done going forwards (respectfully) without trying to blame anyone.

Mod message text

It seems you think the text of the original moderator message could have been worded better? If that's the case, then you should post a here containing your suggested wording, since moderator messages are for the most part templated and identical across all Stack Exchange sites.

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    The "you can't see deleted things" part might be one of the most important points. Pretty much by definition, the kind of posts that can get someone suspended will get deleted. If you try to look into things as a non-mod after the fact, you'll almost never be able to see the justification. (And if you can, it might just mean you've found more things to flag for deletion.) So exercise caution before defending someone based only on undeleted posts.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:54
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At this point, the user can not reply until the moderators reply back. Users are given one chance to respond to a message and this user appears to have done so.

I was also unable to find evidence of the user suggesting any continuation of the behaviour

Unless you are the user, and you don't present your self as such in this question, then you aren't aware of all the facts of the situation. The user may have a history on the site. They may have deleted questions, comments or answers on both the main site and on meta. They may have a history of "ill-conceived" jokes, which are not appropriate for the site.

The moderator mentions the reason for the ban:

Remember that we require all participants to be professional and civil when using these sites.

Jokes are not professional. Passive aggressive comments attacking other users are not professional. In short, there really doesn't seem to be much this user can appeal. The moderator has provided their feedback and the user is welcome back in a week.

Hopefully they take this time to understand what the site should be used for and return a better citizen of the site.

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Just a note, every time you receive (or send) a message to a moderator, they are CC'ed to Stack Exchange employees.

This means that your friend's message from and then to the moderator were seen by SE itself, who generally provide guidance to moderators overall.

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