We're really excited to announce the appointment of three new community moderators to Meta Stack Exchange! I know this might come as a really big surprise to some, and I can't wait to talk about it, but let's not delay the introductions any more. Please welcome ChrisF, Tinkeringbell and Journeyman Geek as they step up to become emissaries of Meta Stack Exchange!
Monica is an experienced moderator across the Stack Exchange network and we thought it would be presumptuous to ask her to step up yet again; that was a little short-sighted of us because she's been rocking it here and has the cycles to come on board. If we make more changes, we'll write a separate post. Things have been going very well, so we don't anticipate that being any time soon.
These folks have quite a bit of moderation experience, some since
the dawn of time the concept of pro-tem moderation itself. All of these individuals have been leaders on their respective sites, as well as leaders in the broader Stack Exchange moderator community. They're fair, even-keeled and most importantly, they're incredibly great at disagreeing with Stack Exchange!
I'm sure you've all noticed the recent up-tick in off-topic questions as well as a tad more than the usual snark in comments, these folks will definitely help with that. But, appointing community leadership here is something I've always intended to do since we split all the metas years back, it just wasn't until recently that we could clearly define what a role for a community moderator would look like on what's become our primary support site.
Why do we need moderators on MSE?
In my opinion, moderators should only do what the rest of the community cannot.
The community simply can not deal with the tide of off-topic questions that engagement efforts inadvertently create. Has anyone ran out of close votes recently? We've also seen an uptick in targeted trolling, as well as people simply not acting in good faith. There are also janitorial tag tasks, languishing synonyms, stuff that still probably needs to be migrated, short-circuited duplicate chains - there's no shortage of stuff to do.
But going even further, I'd like to share something with you that I wrote when I was offering guidance to moderators in the Teacher's Lounge; it's the best stab I've taken at trying to articulate the finesse required to fairly moderate a very active meta community (this really needs to be public guidance, so I'm making a deliberate decision to re-post it here):
In a dynamic where we essentially hold all of the cards and power, we need to give folks as much latitude as possible in order to create a field that's as level as possible. That means, we've gotta let the truth hurt, essentially, even when it's incredibly inconvenient. HOWEVER, if we can't find a trace of good faith in correspondence or it has become personal, it needs to be removed to keep the bar to entry in line with what we can take.
That, right there, is a big part of the balance that I feel we've been missing since we separated Meta Stack Overflow away from the network discussion resulting in MSE becoming an insular site. Everyone that works at Stack Exchange is very passionate about what they do, which leads to very passionate discussions especially where there's criticism involved. Sometimes, we as employees need to disengage, or dial it back, or whatever euphemism you want to use for calm the heck down and think about the goals and the people helping you meet them.
Our appointed moderators will have full agency to correct any chain of correspondence that appears to be going off the rails, no matter who was originally driving the train. Sometimes it's better to let an objective party step in and handle things, we'll just leave it at that.
Why are moderators appointed instead of elected?
Candidacy for moderation here would be rather empty if it were self-appointed, because of the following reasons:
- There's no agenda for a candidate (no "more of this, but less of that") as a basis for a platform. There's nothing to really change. This is our main support site, we set what's on-topic, and we may even be trying new features soon (better bug tracker tie-in, re-starting community blogging as a special kind of post, etc).
- There are no real growth initiatives that other sites might take on, or liaison roles between moderators and Stack Exchange like we'd see on other sites. However, we need people with demonstrated experience in navigating treacherous interpersonal dynamics and that's something that we're just going to have to select for based on observation.
- This isn't a pro-tem appointment, this is an office that they'll hold until they don't want it anymore or lose the capacity to continue. While we're very deliberately seeking folks that can constructively disagree with us, 'constructively' is a very key modifier, and we need to see that over a period of time.
There are literally hundreds of moderators that would be great for this role.
I had to pick three, and that was hard.
When appointing moderators we usually touch on the fact that we almost certainly missed the opportunity to connect with someone that would be a perfect fit; that's an artifact of having way more talent on-hand than you actually need and there are far worse problems to have :)
However, if we add or replace moderators, we'll open a post and give people an opportunity to express their interest, similar to how we open up additional seats on younger sites.
Is this an experiment? This sounds like an experiment.
It was always going to be one, just one that you couldn't simply stop if things weren't going the way that you expected. We're calling it a trial for the first few months just to make sure your moderators don't get sick of us, and that we're able to ensure they're thriving in a role that's fulfilling and enjoyable for them. We don't anticipate any snags, but we'll get through them together if we hit any, always with the mindset that we're all about making it work for them.
Please, join us in welcoming these brave three! If you have any questions, ask away!