I was surprised this evening that one particular moderator, who is this one, was completely unprofessional and exhibited substantial disdain to a fellow user on this website (myself). In short, I have had a small discussion here with some users about the benefit (and the harm) that downvoting does to a website. I expressed my personal opinion, and a moderator, who is "Cody Gray", claimed, that all moderators agreed with one user (that downvoting is good). After questioning whether there was a real consensus about this issue, I got the following ironical response from "Bhargav Rao":

There was a consensus meeting held yesterday in the mod room just to make sure that the moderators on Stack Overflow agreed with what DavidG said. We authorized Cody Gray to be our representative.

Of course, the point of the argument (whether anyone's point is right or wrong) is irrelevant, but the fact that 2 moderators intervened, where the first one claiming that all other moderators agreed with what one person said, and the second one stating that they met the day before said person commented and agreed that they will agree with his comment (that was not yet written), and authorizing "Cody Gray" to be their representative, indicates a level of non-professionalism that SO is sinking into. It seems that some SO moderators are not taking their mandate seriously.

My question is: Should such behavior be tolerated on SO? And if it's not, how do moderators address such situations where one moderator acts unprofessionally (who will moderate moderators? If it tolerated, then what is the limit? I understand that everyone wants to be "funny" from time to time and make other people laugh, but this is a professional site, and, IMHO, moderators should set an example.

The conversation is presented here, but exists currently in the comments section on rptwsthi's nomination:

Screenshot of comments on rptwsthi's answer on the Stack Overflow 11th election nominations

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    Moderators are humans too. Maybe his comment came off a little bit more snarky than he intended. He apologized twice afterwards when he found out you took offense. Seems like the matter is settled there. Time to move on. What else are you needing here? – n8te Mar 7 '19 at 4:57
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    Ok, this is the third time I'm saying sorry if I've come across as unprofessional. I just wanted to inform you about a message that you wanted clarification about. – Bhargav Rao Mar 7 '19 at 5:00
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    Can you please explain what you found unprofessional about any of this? – Cody Gray Mar 7 '19 at 5:07
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    @itoctopus I'm curious. Do you accept that there's a possibility that what Bhargav Rao said could have been meant in a serious way? I can understand that it could be taken as a joke but our moderators do regularly communicate amongst themselves and it would be simple for them to do so and to wish to convey that information. Surely there's room for accepting that what Bhargav said was the honest truth? – Catija Mar 7 '19 at 5:08
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    Quite simply... this is a subject of much debate for years and the generally-accepted and agreed-on thinking regarding downvotes is that they are a valuable - necessary, even - part of site moderation. Even then, I'm not sure where you're deciding that such a discussion had to occur before DavidG's message... there were seven hours between DavidG's comment and Cody Gray's. DavidG is imagining the response to a standard, long-standing conversation. – Catija Mar 7 '19 at 5:16
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    ... please see my answer. The discussion about downvotes had been ongoing at least a day and a half before DavidG's comment. It has nothing to do with subterfuge and joking and everything to do with an ongoing and serious discussion of the issues being debated during the election. – Catija Mar 7 '19 at 5:36
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    You are not the first person to have ever made criticisms of downvoting. It is a regular topic on Stack Overflow's Meta site, and all of the moderators have discussed it countless times. Not to mention what Catija has mentioned about specific criticisms being leveled at users who downvote during this very election. There was absolutely nothing sarcastic about any of the comments made there. As I stated, voting (both up and down) is a fundamental part of the Stack Exchange model. It is even prominently featured on the Tour page, which all new users take. – Cody Gray Mar 7 '19 at 6:28
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    When I first saw these comments (i.e., reading this post) I assumed they were joking, as you did, but I didn't see anything offensive or mocking about that. If I suggested that the mods of some site had a variety of opinions about XYZ, and one of them snarked back, "no, we had a meeting yesterday and every single one of us agreed on ABC", I'm pretty sure I would find that amusing, not obnoxious. So I'd echo @CodyGray in asking for more clarification on what, exactly, you find unprofessional about any part of the situation. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 7 '19 at 9:47
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    Also, side note: putting people's usernames, especially usernames that reflect their actual names, in "air quotes" (like 'authorizing "Cody Gray" to be their representative') is not respectful or professional. This may be a matter of different linguistic customs, but in American and British (and Australian, and Canadian, and New Zealand, etc, as far as I know) English that does not look good; it looks like you don't believe they are who they call themselves. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 7 '19 at 9:52
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    Are you really making an issue of this? Even if this was sarcasm / irony, so what. Mods are still human and act human all the time. They're not paid, they're volunteers. While they do hold themselves to the highest standards of accountability and transparency, as you can see from the fact that you even got conciliatory responses from some of them here in the face of this clearly ridiculous assertion, come on. – Magisch Mar 7 '19 at 10:20
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    The post was not downvoted (much) because "someone dared to question whether moderators need to be moderated by a higher authority". It was downvoted because of the hypocritical disrespect, because of the defensiveness and overreactionary tone, because voters saw nothing offensive about the humor, because voters knew the comments were not intended as jokes, or perhaps just because of lack of research — after all, moderators are already subject to moderation by higher authorities. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 7 '19 at 12:07
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    Moderators do not need to be professional. Being a professional implies being employed and getting wage for the work you're doing. Moderators are amateurs by definition. Is that better? – Andras Deak Mar 7 '19 at 12:22
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    @itoctopus: When you complain about "disdain" (your word), then use air quotes around someone's name, which looks disdainful, that looks hypocritical. Mentioning someone's name is not disrespectful. Using punctuation to imply that you doubt that's really what they're called, however, is. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 7 '19 at 12:30
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    There's also another aspect of hypocrisy here. You are accusing moderators with being unprofessional, claiming that they snarked at you disrespectfully. Here's the thing: both Cody and Bhargav are civil to a fault, and Bhargav is one of the kindest moderators we have. Which you don't have to know since apparently you hadn't done anything on meta.SO before interacting with the elections. But then why assume that you are being wronged? Why demand action in a tone that comes across as really arrogant? You should have considered the possibility that the mods are nice people, and you misunderstood. – Andras Deak Mar 7 '19 at 12:30
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    @itoctopus: OK. I allowed for that possibility in my initial comment. But now you know, and will hopefully never do that again. Because it looks rude in English, even for developers. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 7 '19 at 12:36

What I see here is a discussion about voting that probably should have moved to the election chat room before it went on so long and a couple of the moderators on Stack Overflow conveying the generally accepted belief that downvotes are an important part of content moderation across our network. While the 570+ moderators do not all share this opinion, I can easily accept that all of the Stack Overflow moderators do - and it would be easy to check by looking at their voting histories on their profiles.

Professionalism for moderators

We do expect our moderators to show professional demeanors and to act respectfully of other users. I've reviewed this several times and I don't see a joke here. I see conveyance of information - whether you wish to believe it or not - that is very likely accurate.

Our moderators do have private spaces to discuss these things and it's very likely that, because downvotes has been a major part of the discussion during this election, did have a discussion about it in the time since it was first brought up.

The first comment I see mentioning someone downvoting too much was on 5 March at ~6:00 Z in the comments section on Zoe's nomination. Even on the thread you're looking at there's discussion on 6 March at 8:01 Z, while DavidG's comment didn't show up until 16:25, eight hours later. For reference, I'm writing this on 7 March at 5:36 Z.

So, if you look at the full context of the nominations, it's completely plausible that the Stack Overflow mods had a discussion in their private room about downvoting. You seem to be missing some of the relevant points which may make these moderators seem somehow nefarious but all I see is a team of conscientious mods who have active discussions between themselves about the issues being brought to the fore during an election - arguably the busiest time for such things.

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    Yep, spot on and thanks for the support. We discuss everything. We're a close knit team. We don't agree on everything, but we all see each other's points of view and this makes us stronger. – user310756 Mar 7 '19 at 10:08

Moderators talk to each other a lot. We revisit decisions, talk about topics that are complex. Essentially part of our job is to ensure the health of the site in ways the mechanics don't always naturally help with.

Communication and delegation is part of a job. SO has 26 mods. That's 26 different voices and opinions, and having someone to speak for the moderation team is amazingly professional considering the sheer number and diversity of folks.

I also feel to a certain extent you literally asked several times if all the moderators agreed with downvotes being good - and someone mostly confirmed it. Part of the reaction is literally being told "yes, we actually feel that way" when you assumed otherwise.

More or less - its a response to specific questions you asked, and I can imagine conversations between mods on such topics simply cause we don't and can't work in a vacuum.

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