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After communicated with a lot of a moderators, I've found a pattern.

I've got an impression, that despite their diamond-like position, they are in the reality oppressed. The reasons:

  1. They are very careful before mentioning any non-public information even in the cases if it is perfectly irreal (for example, they do this even if it is my own data, for which he has access).
  2. They talk as little as possible. If they talk, they prefer citing rules or public information.
  3. They don't like to say anything about their opinion. It seems as if they wouldn't have opinion from anything, only rules to follow.

The common picture is somebody who has to follow so many rules so carefully, that practically there is nothing what they could do on their free will.

As I can remember, the SE estimates the daily work need of the modship around 1 hour, which is a significant part of their lifetime.

My impression is that the life of a mod is essentially a continuous fight for making the chance of his de-modding as low as possible. And they sacrifice nearly all of their freedom in this fight.

Is it possible, that a mod has an idea, how can they make a site better, and he simply realizes it?

It is possible, that a mod thinks somebody is an a***e and he simply says it? Or he has to wait until this person commits something which is enough for a mod warning? I think, the first is much better.

And, here is another problem. And this is that the argumentation between a mod and a non-mod is heavy, the non-mod can take some "risky" things. The mod can't. Which results that the people can even a insult them and they must permit it. To me, if I talk with one, it is a much more motivation to remain polite that he is not allowed to attack back, as his mod powers (what he can't use in the actual case).

If I see them, I don't see judges. I see people with an oppressed personality.

Why they do this then?

  • 36
    You make this all sound so casual. We put dedication into those reeducation camps; those cement block walls are laid with love. – Shog9 Mar 17 '17 at 23:29
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    How very dare these moderators try being polite while users are ranting and claiming free speech while changing their names every other month to try and claim their innocence. It's not that they're rule based, it's that these are the first interactions of many have outside their basement – random Mar 17 '17 at 23:33
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    One of the qualities of being a good moderator is being able to moderate (see verb forms) things. Not getting sucked in to petty matters is part of the job description, is a difficult thing to do, and is a responsibility you take on when you volunteer yourself to become a moderator. And moderators do defend their choices when it's relevant, a good one will do so in a constructive manner. Every once in a while you might see a moderator get sucked in to some sort of wild, petty battle. This almost never ends well. – Jason C Mar 17 '17 at 23:55
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    'They are very careful', 'They talk as little as possible', 'They don't like to say anything about their opinion'.... have you considered getting them drunk? – Martin James Mar 18 '17 at 0:03
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    "They don't like to say anything about their opinion." You obviously haven't met me. – ɥʇǝS Mar 18 '17 at 0:56
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    I don't think anyone has ever suggested I'm quiet. And I'm certainly not oppressed. I get to say what I want to when I want to, and I use my moderation privileges to help the sites I moderate because I want to. I don't generally want to respond in kind to folks swearing at me though - as I am an adult. This is just general good behaviour and intent. As Seth said: have you met me? :-) (to be fair though, we are forced to wear Stack Exchange t-shirts...) – Rory Alsop Mar 18 '17 at 11:07
  • I don't discuss any information that moderators have access to that normal users do not unless it is in one of the moderator chat rooms or a moderator message, even if you claim that it is your private information. I don't want to be this person: Targeted scam hits 800 San Marcos employees – ColleenV Mar 19 '17 at 23:03
  • @ColleenV Also the fear of the mods from a targeted IRL attack is well known to me, but I would like to mention: the overwhelming majority of the people you've interacted, find this unimaginable, independently what you did to them. Furthermore I still can't understand, why you don't like to cite, for example, from my deleted posts in a private mod message, and if you would do, why would it increase your (in my opinion, negligible) risks. In my opinion, its real reason is that you try to avoid a possible accusation of misusing private data even on irrational ways. – peterh Mar 19 '17 at 23:40
  • @RoryAlsop I don't know your mod behavior, I never had any problem on any sites where you are a mod. (Well, maybe migrating this wasn't a really lovely action in my view, hehe.) On indirect signatures I think you are probably a rational mod in the sense of this question. – peterh Mar 19 '17 at 23:51
  • @ɥʇǝS Yes. I don't have an askubuntu account, although I like (and use) ubuntu, I am considering to have one. – peterh Mar 20 '17 at 4:01
  • @MartinJames The nearest mod from which I know, where he is living, is around 400km away, and he ignores me :-) He won't ever talk to me, also not cage me - we had some... clashes before his election and he tries to avoid any chance of an accuse that he misused his powers, probably on the reasons above. – peterh Mar 20 '17 at 4:02
  • @random So you say not the stackexchange suppresses them, but simply they are in a position where they have to watch their steps always very carefully? I don't think it would be an intentional oppression from the SE, only they could think they want to get the maximum from these highly trusted people. – peterh Mar 20 '17 at 4:08
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    You're always free to waive our protection of your privacy and share what was in your deleted posts or in a moderator message yourself - Its been done in the past. With power comes an equivalent responsibility, and a good deal of "private" information we are privy to is not much use except for moderation and nefarious actvities. What sort of private information do you think we're hoarding? – Journeyman Geek Mar 20 '17 at 5:00
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    Did you read the privacy policy? Did you read the Terms of Service? Those, in combination with the moderator agreement which links to both, can't really be regarded as "nothing", can they? If you want a play by play of every conceivable situation, yeah, that's not going to happen. But in general it's safe to say moderators shouldn't, can't and won't reveal any private information. – Bart Mar 20 '17 at 10:48
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    They are explicitly linked in the Moderator Agreement. Right after the "I will abide by" ... so pretty damn important – Bart Mar 20 '17 at 13:20
25

When you hold all the cards, there's no point in being petty; every day, folks on one site or another get frustrated by something and lash out because they feel powerless to do anything constructive — but moderators should not often feel that way.

Sometimes, they still do.

We put a lot of time and effort into the moderator tooling on these sites, and into the guidance we provide to moderators. Not just "diamond" moderators – anyone who wants to pitch in. The goal is to always provide a constructive option, a path for the moderator to follow that makes the situation better — even when the only way for that to happen is to remove someone else from the site.

Sometimes, we fail to achieve that goal.

There are a good many situations that a moderator can encounter which are frustrating, either because the tooling does not enable them to resolve it or because the documentation and guidance are insufficient and they simply don't know how to resolve it. In these situations, it may happen that a moderator will lash out. And then me or one of my teammates will try to figure out what led to it.

We've been doing this, nearly every day, for a good long while now. So there's less frustration than perhaps you might expect.

But, we're still a long, long way from that goal . . . So, every day, we wake up and try to get a little bit closer.

  • Mind, this is one of the biggest reasons for the relative absence of just continous crap flinging thats incredibly prevalent on other sites on the internet. If someone really annoys me or disrespects me, I can just flag it and move on with my life, safe in the knowledge that they'll be dealt with. – Magisch Mar 25 '17 at 6:23
29

I think you are confusing "oppression" with "professionalism". The moderators of Stack Exchange are invested in the communities they help moderate. They want to see it grow, they want the users to contribute, they want everyone to provide input and experience. You don't get that by airing every minor grievance or sniping at every user that expresses an opinion different than your own.

Moderators hold many opinions and express those opinions across the network. There are opinions that disagree with other moderators, other users, and Stack Exchange employees. I don't think there are any mods that are concerned about expressing their opinions in public. The thing is, they can do it professionally. Dissenting opinions aren't a bad thing. If presented well, they can even turn the tide of a post. Moderators are one group of users that take the extra few minutes to compose that well thought out argument.

None of this is oppression though. This is common decency and you seem to have mentioned one of the benefits:

If I talk with one, it is a much more motivation to remain polite that he is not allowed to attack back [...]

That's great to hear! It means a leader in the community you are a member of has set a good example. You, as a community member, have learned and seen that a calm, reasonably argued point is more effective than an attack. Hopefully others also pick up on that example.

  • I know that I could say much stronger to them as normal, but I feel it inappropriate knowing that they are not allowed to response. Furthermore I see mostly as if they would try to somehow... mediate between me, and the power users of their site, and I know that most of these users would use much heavier measures against me if they could. So there is no reason to harm them, it is much more important to convince them (although it is mostly chanceless, because on the reasons above, they can't really explain what do they really think). – peterh Mar 20 '17 at 4:31
22

We are definitely oppressed.

We have to read all sorts of posts from users who can make accusations, insult, and otherwise demean us and we still have to respond civilly.

We simultaneously are accused of being too much X and too little X.

Every once in a while we get love letters on meta though, that makes it all worthwhile.

21

As a moderator...

You have no idea. We sleep all night and we work all day...

Oh wait, that's lumberjacks.

You really have no idea why/how we do these things. I'll try to handle this point by point.

They are very careful before mentioning any non-public information even in the cases if it is perfectly irreal (for example, they do this even if it is my own data, for which he have access).

Yeah, because its non public information. With great power comes great responsibility. We have access to PII and other potentially legally perilous information. We essentially have a contract with SE (in the form of a moderator agreement).

I've historically been willing to discuss moderator decisions with the permission of the affected parties, since we're protecting them not us.

They talk as little as possible. If they talk, they prefer citing rules or public information.

I'm the third chattiest person on chat. First chattiest is also a mod. Second is Smoke Detector. I'm sure the denizens of root access would die of laughter if anyone accused me of "talking as little as possible"

However when talking about moderation policy, for the sake of consistency we often refer to overall network wide rules and such. Consistency means you do not have to deal with moderators disagreeing on what to do openly, and improves your overall experience.

I have so far never had a CM interfere in the normal course of moderation and they have certainly never told me what to say.

They don't like to say anything about their opinion. It seems as if they wouldn't have opinion from anything, only rules to follow.

I have opinions. I have lots of opinions. I even have opinions that I explicitly have said weren't official moderator opinions. I've even criticized aspects of SE policy - in terms of how changes are communicated to my users.

The common picture is somebody who has to follow so many rules so carefully, that practically there is nothing what they could do on their free will.

Citation and statistics needed. Smells like post-consumer male cattle waste to me.

As I can remember, the SE estimates the daily work need of the modship around 1 hour, which is a significant part of their lifetime.

30 minutes or less. And you can step down at any time. Its an investment in the community, if you care enough, and we're all volunteers

My impression is that the life of a mod is essentially a continuous fight for making the chance of his de-modding as low as possible. And they sacrifice nearly all of their freedom in this fight.

AHAHAHAHAHAA. Let me compose myself. MWAHAHAAHAHA

Its pretty damned hard to get demodded. And its moderator triggered unless there's some pretty egregious issues. I've only seen two mods asked to leave, ever, over several hundred moderators.

It is possible, that a mod thinks somebody is an a***e and he simply says it? Or he has to wait until this person commits something which is enough for a mod warning? I think, the first is much better.

That wouldn't be acceptable for a normal user. I've often used the "quiet word" to deal with a potentially problematic user, commented and mod messaged. We have the tools (superpings and comments) and I often try to head off issues before they happen.

I don't need to stoop to insults, when I can deal with the actual problem behaviors instead.

People who do resort to less than nice language get treated the same no matter who's the target. In these cases, I might actually prefer to deal with it, since it limits fallout, though in some cases I may call in a CM for assistance if the tools at our disposal are insufficient.

And, here is another problem. And this is that the argumentation between a mod and a non-mod is heavy, the non-mod can take some "risky" things. The mod can't. Which results that the people can even a insult them and they must permit it. To me, if I talk with one, it is a much more motivation to remain polite that he is not allowed to attack back, as his mod powers (what he can't use in the actual case).

Insulting is not being nice. I can politely take apart an argument with common sense, common courtesy and style. Much more fun than resorting to insults. I don't need my moderator powers to be effective at moderation and my site has a few non moderators who do an excellent job at such things while maintaining niceness.

I don't need to lower myself to attacks. I don't need to lash out. By being a good moderator I have my community behind me. On the few occasions where I've been directly attacked, I was asleep, and most things were handled by the time I woke up.

While there's unhappy ex-mods, in my experience SE/SO corporate rarely pokes their nose in what I say or how I say it. There's no muzzling of views and anything I express.

  • 2
    I'm oppressing you by making your answer easier to read. – enderland Mar 18 '17 at 1:20
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    HELP HELP I AM BEING OPPRESSED! JUST CAUSE A WATERY TART THREW A DIAMOND AT YOU DOES NOT MAKE YOU KING! (Actually... dang. I should have done that myself. Thank ye kindly ye feudal oppressor) – Journeyman Geek Mar 18 '17 at 1:21
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    I don't like stooping to insults because the target usually doesn't "get it" anyway. Ant, that just ain't no fun. – Gypsy Spellweaver Mar 18 '17 at 6:29
13

Let me begin at the end:

Why they do this then?

I mod because I want my community to be better. Good moderation leads to better questions and better answers.

I've got an impression, that despite their diamond-like position, they are in the reality oppressed.

Not oppressed; nobody's forcing me to moderate.

There are guidelines for being a moderator; I'm glad they're there -- even the parts I don't 100% agree with. They're pretty sensible and they're a great help to me. I want to be constructive and consistent and they're really handy for that.

Personally I am astonished at the amount of power moderators have to act on their own, without any need for consultation.

They are very careful before mentioning any non-public information

Yes, to protect the users whose private information we can see. If a moderator makes a mistake (makes private information public) it's almost impossible to undo - what's been seen is already seen. So of course we're careful with it, just as I'd want my own information dealt with carefully.

Once in a while they exercise more caution than strictly needed. That's the right side to err on.

They talk as little as possible. If they talk, they prefer citing rules or public information.

I talk a lot; I'm the second most prolific commenter on the site I moderate. I also spend time in chat and participate in a lot of questions on meta. If I am trying to explain why something someone did isn't okay, then yes, I cite the public information and the rules because that's what justifies what otherwise would look like opinion. I don't make the rules; I interpret them, explain them and try to make them work.

They don't like to say anything about their opinion. It seems as if they wouldn't have opinion from anything, only rules to follow.

I express my opinion regularly. Where it needs to be distinguished from the site norms, I try to make it clear what's only my opinion and what is me reporting what seems to be consensus.

This is really just being responsible and clear.

The common picture is somebody who has to follow so many rules so carefully,

Having a site that runs consistently and by clear rules is important. Moderators shouldn't be acting arbitrarily, but rather in ways that make sense to the people they serve (or at least to most of them).

that practically there is nothing what they could do on their free will.

Well, sure, not every rule I uphold nor every consensus I explain is the way I'd do it if I was choosing. Any person who is trying to maintain some kind of order while being consistent will find that happens from time to time. That said, that stuff still makes sense. When (rarely) it doesn't seem to, there's ways to discuss it with the community moderators ... and usually they explain something we might not have thought of. Sometimes they change how they do things, but that's usually best organized in the usual way via meta (such as posting feature requests).

As I can remember, the SE estimates the daily work need of the modship around 1 hour, which is a significant part of their lifetime.

The amount of time mods spend helping keep their sites running is significant and the rewards are usually a bit on the vague side (well unless you particularly like being called a Nazi, then it's a carnival).

My impression is that the life of a mod is essentially a continuous fight for making the chance of his de-modding as low as possible.

The possibility that I might one day no longer be a mod doesn't worry me at all. I'm not going to be a moderator forever; it's presently part of my life and probably will be for a while, but I could quite happily do without it. I don't need the diamond, I do it to help out.

I'd be more concerned that I might do the wrong thing because it might cause harm, not because it might lose me the ability to do some of those moderatey things -- I was already doing most of them before I was a mod, either alone (such as with gold tag privileges) or with other users (e.g. when voting to migrate), so my participation wouldn't change all that much -- I'd go back to answering more, and do relatively more time in the review queues again (with no flags to handle, that frees up some time). So I'd still serve the community if I wasn't a moderator.

Is it possible, that a mod has an idea, how can they make a site better, and he simply realizes it?

I sometimes have ideas for making the site better or doing things differently; I raise them on meta (like any other user can) and in chat as suits the circumstances.

It is possible, that a mod thinks somebody is an a***e

well of course - now and then that's going to happen

and he simply says it?

This is not okay, certainly not in public. Ideally nobody - moderators or not - should be talking about other users in this fashion in any public way, because it isn't in keeping with the "be nice" policy. That policy is there for a reason. Avoiding personal animosity for no good purpose means I get to spend more of my time on the fun stuff (like occasionally answering a question)

Or he has to wait until this person commits something which is enough for a mod warning?

It's possible - and encouraged - to offer guidance before things get to the stage of official warnings, mod messages, suspensions and so on. Even then, it's essential to avoid personally characterizing people. We talk about actions (you said this, or did that) and avoid trying to infer personality or motives. This makes it less personally affronting and makes it clearer how to change ("don't do those particular things" ... rather than trying to figure out how to act on "you're a problem", )

Moderators are expected (not just by StackExchange, but by their own communities, the ones that chose them) to behave like adults, not children. Generally speaking they try really hard to do that.

And, here is another problem. And this is that the argumentation between a mod and a non-mod is heavy, the non-mod can take some "risky" things. The mod can't.

Yes, the non-mod user sometimes gets away with things the moderator should not do or say.

The moderator - who has power the ordinary user does not - should not only be constructive and impartial and properly behaved, they should as far as possible be seen to be so. This is sometimes tricky, because moderators are people too, and they can get impatient, misunderstand things and so on.

Which results that the people can even a insult them and they must permit it.

We don't have to permit it but we can't (or shouldn't) respond in kind. Very rude behaviour toward a moderator can be treated just as very rude behavior toward anyone else -- you can, for example, get suspended for it. I prefer (and I have seen other moderators on my site appearing to follow the same general principle) not to be the one that acts on insulting behaviour directed at me (I try to leave it to the other mods to deal with) - aside from occasionally just deleting comments that are so rude I don't think anyone should have to see them. Any consequences I try to leave to the other mods. This lack of direct action to personal insults is because if I act on them it may be interpreted as acting in my own self-interest or out of pettiness. Again, moderators should behave like adults.

To me, if I talk with one, it is a much more motivation to remain polite that he is not allowed to attack back, as his mod powers (what he can't use in the actual case).

If I see them, I don't see judges. I see people with an oppressed personality.

I don't see us as judges, but judges - if they're any good at all - must also exercise restraint, must act impartially, must be consistent, must follow the rules they try to adjudicate, and must not respond to provocation in kind. The same is true of almost anyone in a public position of responsibility (such as elected representatives -- and if we don't get it, we should demand it).

In short, we should behave more like Spiderman and less like Batman. Yes, that may occasionally mean we don't say and do exactly what we feel like doing every instant. I wouldn't want to have moderators that did.

[If feel you'd enjoy that, you might find some parts of reddit worth a try. There are plenty of subreddits where moderators do 'express their personality' rather than operate by a consistent set of principles or the will of the community -- who feel free to be insulting when insulted and so on. I don't like the communities that result, but some people seem to; to each their own I guess*. I'd rather put my time and effort into a place that facilitates being constructive and makes it easier to put more energy into helping people]

*(Not all subreddits do this -- some do attempt to serve their community and try to enforce their rules in a consistent and clear way)

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