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Recently, Physics SE has finished the 2019 moderator election nomination phase. Earlier today, within 24 hours of the nomination completing, a user was removed from the nominations. The user later let us know that the reason was because of a short suspension, and the community managers had denied their nomination. (I am not disputing that decision in any way, it's the established process)

The biggest complaint is that this was somewhat jarring for the community, or at least the users discussing it at The h Bar (Physics Chat). It seemed as though there was a bit of a game of chicken going on with nominations, and having the user with the highest candidate score removed on the last day of nominations led to some confusion (and a bit of panicking with a couple users).

To mitigate this, I am wondering how feasible it would be to treat nominations from previously suspended users in a similar way to how pending edits from lower rep users are treated. This would mean that the nomination gets sent through on the nominating users end, but it is not visible to the general community until approved by a Community Manager(perhaps with a message like "This nomination requires approval from community managers, and will not be visible unless approved.").

It seems like this may not be a large project to implement, which is the only reason I suggest looking into it for something as rare as moderator elections.

How difficult would this be to implement, and would the feature be worth it?

  • feel there is some reason to think about nomination process and how it relates to suspensions but, obvious point, elections are rather rare, last one was 2016, 3yrs ago. election system is not as finetuned as other mechanisms on the site & theres not much to gain by modifying it much if theyre so rare, and youre effectively proposing a SE-network wide chg or creating an exception. but, think this case brings to light where a user who had significant/ substantial qualifications beyond others, real support from the userbase, and earnest motive was thwarted by a suspension for a minor infraction. – vzn Apr 30 at 2:09
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    @vzn elections on any given site are usually infrequent, but especially with the addition of pro-tem elections, there are a lot of elections across the network -- seems like a couple a month, or more, lately. – Monica Cellio Apr 30 at 2:41
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    Minor nitpick: you likely mean "community managers" (the SE employees) rather than "community moderators" (the regular diamond mods). – Blue Apr 30 at 5:13
  • I was under the impression they were manually gone through, and the general guideline was suspensions over the last year? – Journeyman Geek Apr 30 at 5:34
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    Shog has already answered why we don't hard-prevent users with recent suspensions from nominating as a moderator candidate. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 30 at 7:58
  • @SonictheInclusivehedgehog Yeah, I read through those. That's why I'm also looking for feedback from the team on how feasible this would be. If it takes signicant time to implement, it's probably not worth it. If it's an easy fix, it might even save the team some headaches. – JMac Apr 30 at 9:52
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    As the user in question, a "pending approval" status would have prevented the nausea that ensued. I also only nominated myself because, at the time I sent the email requesting an exemption, there were 2 nominees & one had 350 rep on Physics with a 3/40 candidate score (compared to my 40/40). After I sent it, another worthy candidate did nominate themselves. We should be fine with these two people in place, but it sucks that I was ripped out at last minute (mostly due to nominating myself on a Sunday) – Kyle Kanos Apr 30 at 11:19
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    @dmckee It's not correct that, in this case, the relevant suspension was more than a year in the past. – rob Apr 30 at 11:26
  • @rob Ah. I seem to have gotten a couple of things confused. – dmckee Apr 30 at 13:39
  • @Kyle Kanos : Aw, you dodged a bullet here. Just think of the time you would have had to have put in, and all the free time you'll now have. – John Duffield Apr 30 at 15:50
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I agree with Blue, in that it's "unfair and unprofessional to make previously suspended candidates fill up their nominations and answer the gigantic questionnaire, and then tell them that they're not allowed." And that's why, when a user is disallowed to run in an election, we show 'em this message:

You've been suspended from one or more Stack Exchange sites during the past year. Recent suspensions tend to be a distraction during elections, distracting voters from the your qualifications and depriving other candidates of much-needed scrutiny during this critical period. You should avoid nominating in any election until at least 1 year has passed from the end of your last suspension. If you feel there are extenuating circumstances that should permit you to run in this election, please contact the Stack Exchange team and let us know. If you do not do this, your nomination may be removed without further warning.

Granted, the user can still decide to run, and fill in the questionnaire... but even if we left the nomination as "pending" they'd still prolly be filling in the questionnaire somewhere locally to have their answers ready as soon as the nomination was approved by CMs (as per your request) — it's a good thing to be prepared when running in an election, and there isn't much we can do there.

Timing-wise, though, I'd add that since elections transition to the next phase on Mondays, we always need to do a final sanity check before that happens, which may sometimes cause some awkwardness. Furthermore, if a user who's disallowed to run nominated late Friday, it'll most likely only be noticed by CMs on Monday — we take weekends too! We can reassess whether moving these usual happenings from Mondays to another day of the week is reasonable, though.


We're pushing a fix to make the message look like this instead:

enter image description here

The new copy makes it clearer that users who see this are not allowed to run in the election, and must get permission for the Community Team to do so. It also links to the Meta post I linked to above that outlines our current policy on this, so users can see what "extenuating circumstances" can mean.

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    I wasn’t really thinking about this just from the perspective of the user who is nominating themselves. This situation seemed especially confusing for the other members, who are able to see the nomination while it is still pending CM approval. For regular users, there is no way to even know the nomination may be removed by a third party, unless the user nominating themselves chooses to make that clear. I feel like not showing those nominations to the public until they get past the pending process would be a lot more intuitive for how users expect the process to work. – JMac Apr 30 at 12:51
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    the core issue in my mind was the timing of removal, so close to the nomination deadline. Basically, some users went to bed, or some users went to work, and during that period the nomination from the top-scoring candidate (out of 40) and that had accumulated a number of upvotes was vaporized AND the nomination process was closed. If the nomination had been pulled 48hours before, or if the nomination period had been extended by 48hours after the nomination was pulled, then all would be much better. – ZeroTheHero Apr 30 at 12:53
  • @ZeroTheHero it's a difficult balance. I've seen users who haven't nominated answer the questionnaire - it's just a normal meta question - so you can vote for their answers regardless of whether they're running or not. But I'm not really sure that even moving the election transition time will necessary help as there will always be a time between when someone nominates and when they may be removed from the election. We also have specific exclusions where we let someone run despite the suspension and they'd be potentially harmed by a delay on our part to approve them. – Catija Apr 30 at 13:09
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    Also, what is the benefit of extending the deadline, @ZeroTheHero ? What is the reason for upsetting the announced schedule because someone who's ineligible (who was warned of this rule) decided to put forward a candidacy anyway? They could do this intentionally to put off the election... – Catija Apr 30 at 13:14
  • The thing with that proposal, @JMac, is that you're proposing a "heavy" system for something that happens really rarely — furthermore, of the few times users who were disallowed to run on an election still nominated, there wasn't a single one in which the result of their appeal to still be able to run was favorable. So a lot of work would need to be put into something with very little gain. – JNat Apr 30 at 13:28
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    @catija "someone who's ineligible" the language in the pop up window does not make this clear that previously suspended users are ineligible. It actually says quite the opposite of that in the last paragraph & the fact that there's a "I want to continue anyway" option. If a previously suspended user is actually ineligible, they shouldn't be allowed to run, period. – Kyle Kanos Apr 30 at 13:45
  • I mean, @KyleKanos, I'd say the bold text is pretty clear: "You should avoid nominating in any election until at least 1 year has passed from the end of your last suspension." Granted, we could drop a link to this Meta post just so you know what is likely to happen — as in, you're likely to have your nomination withdrawn. Though, again, the last paragraph makes that crystal clear. – JNat Apr 30 at 13:53
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    @Jnat I agree the text is clear that you could have your nomination removed by SE, but to claim that such users are outright ineligible, as Catija did, is a bit contrary to what the window says. I have no problems with my removal, but I question the option to even "continue anyway" if it's a hard No from SE team anyway. – Kyle Kanos Apr 30 at 13:57
  • Thing is, @KyleKanos, it is not a hard no from us — there are rare occasions in which it won't be a no, as explained here... hasn't happened so far, but that's not to say it won't ever happen. We can revise the pop up, sure, but I'd argue that it's currently set up in a way that invites you to contact us and not run, with the "OK - I won't run for election this time" button being clearly highlighted. Again, a link to the post that outlines the policy might be a good idea, so you know what "extenuating circumstances" are in this context. – JNat Apr 30 at 14:04
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    The system you're asking for is "heavy" - the reasons are boring, but effectively we'd have to change how nominations work in a lot of ways. Now, some of those changes might be useful anyway - if we end up making it easy in the future then we can reconsider this. But for now I think it's more important to consider how we can change the guidance in that popup or similarly-inexpensive changes to better communicate the intent here. @JMac – Shog9 Apr 30 at 14:24
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    I definitely agree shifting election progression to midweek (e.g. Wednesday or Thursday) would be a good improvement for situations like this. – doppelgreener Apr 30 at 14:36
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    @JNat "it is not a hard no from us"...according to the post you linked, the only case it talks about would be if the user's suspension was determined to be in error. To be clear here, does your phrase mean that there are indeed occasional cases when SE is willing to step aside and make exceptions to the rule, or that suspensions in error are the only reason that will be considered and otherwise it's a hard no? The phrasing in the message strongly implies the former, so if it's the latter, that phrasing needs to be changed. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 30 at 14:57
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    @JNat It is clear in the post, that's true. What I said is that the text of the warning message implies something different (that SE may be willing to make exceptions to the rules). I just wanted a clear answer that other than a suspension being in error or "for science", there are no other exceptions (which you've given me in your last comment). – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 30 at 17:44
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    @JNat: The cold hard truth is that the vast majority of SE users never even look at meta.SE at all, let alone one specific post on meta.SE. If it's not in the UI, it doesn't exist. – Kevin May 1 at 0:11
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    Thanks a lot for the update @JNat. This is perfect (with the link and without the "I want to continue"). :) – Blue May 1 at 15:20
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Thanks for writing this up. To reiterate what I said in the Physics chat: it's rather unfair and unprofessional to make previously suspended candidates fill up their nominations and answer the gigantic questionnaire, and then tell them that they're not allowed, just a couple of hours before the election begins. Such users should be blocked and clearly notified by the user-interface beforehand that their nomination and questionnaire answers may not be approved and may not appear on the site unless the community managers decide to make an exception for their case. Basically, make it a block-by-default system rather than an allow-by-default system, at least for priorly suspended users.

The specific case you have quoted was particularly poorly handled — we lost out one on of our top candidates (out of the only four who nominated for a two-slot election) just a few hours before the election. The sudden turn of events didn't even leave much time for the rest of our active and experienced users to reconsider nominating themselves. All in all, the Physics election was a complete mess this time. I sincerely hope that SE will come up with a more streamlined and transparent method to handle these cases in the future, like the one you mention.

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    I should emphasize the phrase "top candidate": the user in question has a history of great meta and review contributions, and had a score of 40, in an election where one nominee scored 3 and didn't respond to the questionnaire. Surely such candidates should be considered particularly carefully? – user392547 Apr 30 at 5:05
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    Previously suspended users are shown a warning before nominating. – MEE was the missing bracket Apr 30 at 5:17
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    @MEEthesetupwizard I'm aware of that but the warning is quite vague as mentioned here. I'm asking for a full-on block than a warning like that. It doesn't make sense to make candidates write up their nomination post and the answers to the huge questionnaire if it's pre-decided that they aren't allowed to run. At least that'll avoid giving the nominee and the rest of the community a sense of false hope. – Blue Apr 30 at 5:18
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    I actually did ask about why the SE team decided not to put in place a hard block, and the answer was that they thought a hard-block would be more work for them, since it would cause those users to bring up their suspensions publicly and thus create a public spectacle of themselves, whereas allowing them to run and then "kindly" removing their nomination wouldn't. Personally, though, I prefer the semi-hard-block proposed in the question, rather than the current soft block. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 30 at 7:54

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