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Welcome to the second episode of Unicorn Meta Zoo, a brand new podcast by members of the Stack Exchange community team. If you want to avoid spoilers, jump straight to the audio.

Participants

hairboat Juan M Jon Ericson

We're talking about moderation and how it's different on Stack Exchange than on forums.

Links

Transcript

I used YouTube to produce a raw, automated transcript of this episode. There is a wiki for transcripts, if you'd like to produce a cleaner, more coherent transcript. I'm extremely grateful for users who helped fill in most of the first episode's transcript:

  • grooveplex
  • Jeremy Banks
  • MilkyWay90

Meta

Moments before the start of this episode, Abby asked if the name of the podcast is "Meta Petting Zoo". In the heat of the moment I couldn't remember and just said yes. In reality, the name we decided on was "Unicorn Meta Zoo" based on actual unicorn petting zoos. Abby just changed to the wrong word to "meta".

At around the 18:40 mark in the recording you can hear Abby's tea slide off her tilted desk and fall on the floor. No mugs were harmed in the making of this podcast. The same can't be said of the tea.

For some reason, Juan's channel got really noisy in the beginning of the episode with my podcast editing script. I fixed the problem by making the pre-channel loudness normalization optional.

What do you think?

Take a listen and respond in the answers below.

  • 9
    Given that more than half of all of the estate's moderators are appointed, rather than elected, why bother with elections at all? – Richard May 3 at 17:08
  • 20
    @Richard: We've experimented with elections for all moderators and I believe it's been largely successful. I'm gathering data to write up the results soonish, but at this point all new moderators are elected. – Jon Ericson May 3 at 17:22
  • 1
    @JonEricson - I'm struggling to recall an aphorism. Something about horses and stable doors. – Richard May 3 at 17:34
  • 3
    @Richard: Perhaps: "If wishes were horses, the market for stable doors would be a lot bigger." That said, as moderators are replaced for various reasons and new moderators are added, the ratio of elected to appointed moderators will increase. – Jon Ericson May 3 at 18:45
  • 1
    Here's a run through of a quick transcription via AWS, and parsed by a script I wrote - might help in addition to the youtube one: pastebin.com/mnVCNUY5 – jeremycg May 3 at 20:02
  • 1
    That was interesting. I use to moderate on an old video game forum for Diablo II. However, it would seem there were a lot more perks involved with that job than there are for SE mods. I have always wondered what the perks of being a moderator on SE are. – Rob May 3 at 21:02
  • 12
    @rob, you get a cool hat! And you feel bad whenever you post a comment that should be something in chat. – Peter Turner May 3 at 21:31
  • 6
    I nominate VonC: by May 27 of this year, they will have been the sole user to visit Stack Exchange for the last ten years (since site visits began to be tracked). – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 5 at 0:21
  • just completed what i hope is a coherent transcript, but it's on the pc which i can't email from, may i post it, pastebin thing it, or do i get a webmail to join the transcript club with then forget the password every month? – ocæon May 5 at 18:18
  • @ocæon If you have a GitHub account, you can edit the wiki. GitHub has a free personal account option which will work fine to edit. If that doesn't work for you for some reason, ping me and we can try some other options. – Jon Ericson May 5 at 21:41
  • @Sonic VonC is not the only one. There is one other person. (Given that it is just Stack Overflow moderator knowledge, and that the other person hasn't come forward to mention that, I'd not name them, but you can be sure that VonC isn't the only one) – Bhargav Rao May 8 at 6:23
  • 1
    Moderator's role: exactly same as in a nuclear power plant. First Rule: never let anything go critical. Second rule: try to maximize energy throughput without violating First Rule. – Carl Witthoft May 9 at 13:25
  • 4
    @Rob If you're doing it for "perks" you're doing it for the wrong reasons. We don't want moderators who are there for "perks". We want moderators who care about moderating. And yes I realise that's kind of a "you should do this artwork for me for the exposure!" argument, but then this entire enterprise is voluntary rather than a livelihood (except for the actual SE staff). What are the perks for the biggest content contributors? – Lightness Races in Orbit May 10 at 10:31
  • 3
    @Rob: I won't speak for you, or for anyone else. Personally, I can't think of anything worse than moderators that have been bought. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 11 at 0:50
  • 2
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Well they already get a cool hat so technically there already bought and I get the feeling you have never worked with moderators who have been "bought", perhaps I am wrong but perhaps you shouldn't pose to have experience with things you don't have experience with. Sounds to me like your just shooting the idea in the foot before it has a chance to walk. – Rob May 13 at 14:40
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I haven't listened through the entire podcast yet, and only skimmed the transcript, so this might have been answered already. I know I already created several other questions and answers on this topic in various meta sites across the network, but I'm going to keep bringing this up when it's relevant regardless of how unpopular this opinion is.

You're talking a lot about the concept of community-based moderation, where users with large amounts of rep are involved in the moderation process. At certain levels of reputation, users gain a privilege related to moderation, like certain review queues, more flags to hand out, more power when reviewing stuff.

Problem is not everyone likes to have this extra privilege. Some people, like me, actively stay away from anything that remotely resembles a role of leadership or power because we do not AT ALL feel comfortable in such a role. We are natural born followers and supporters, but do not at all know what to do with or how to handle anything that gives us even the smallest amount of control over other people or content on a site. And being forced, or Shanghaied as I like to call it, into a role like this actually makes us uncomfortable using the site.

Note that I'm talking about more intensive moderation related to actual spam and offensive content. I don't mind closing things as duplicates, editing questions and answers for better content quality or throwing in the occasional reminder about accepting answers and editing additional information into questions, because this isn't moderation, but editing. Editing is about improving the quality of individual pieces of content. Moderation is about improving the overall quality of the site through removal of content that isn't suitable.

For the overall site this is mostly fine. since the top bar redesign there is no longer an obnoxious indicator near the moderator queue button for outstanding moderation items. This has removed a large amount of the stress since it's now easier to ignore the moderation queue entirely.

However, there is still such an indicator on the chat footer: the blue orb that indicates flagged messages. There are some fundamental issues with showing chat flags to everyone with enough rep. The first is that chat has a greater variety and flexibility of topics, meaning the things posted in chat sometimes tend to be slightly more outside the acceptable than the main site. The second is that there is a large variety of non-English sites with non-English chatrooms, but these messages are shown to users from all rooms, not just those with significant rep on the particular site. I have no rep for any of the Russian accounts, yet I still see flags for them and I have no idea what to do with them. Same with the dozen or so other sites that are foreign language. Finally, chat flag visibility is AFAIK based on rep across the network, so having a lot of smaller accounts easily brings you over the rep floor t see those flags.

I think at least one change that would make most of these problems less of an issue is to make it so you need at least some non-automated rep from a site before you see chat flags for that site.

  • 1
    Re: "...make it so you need at least some non-automated rep from a site before you see chat flags for that site.". Erm, bad idea. Some of the smaller sites have a very small pool of active members who use chat, and in some cases outside intervention becomes necessary. I would, however, agree with having an option to opt out from receiving chat flags. – Blue May 9 at 15:22
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    Also having a lot of accounts will not bring you automatically above the rep-threshold. The rules are: If you don't have association bonus: All rep earned on any site (excluding the 1 standard rep) + 1, If association bonus: All rep earned on any site with more than 200 rep. This exists exactly because of the problem you try to adress. – GDPR May 9 at 17:15
  • @MEEthesetupwizard There's still the issue with foreign language posts getting flagged that I have no clue what to do with because I don't speak Romanian, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Farsi or whatever other languages have subsites on here. – Nzall May 9 at 20:40
  • @Nzall sure. I didn’t try to address that part. – GDPR May 9 at 20:41
  • oh dear, sounds like having a profile linked to so many sites has brought more pain than gain. do you know what the process is for leaving those language sites? – ocæon May 9 at 23:49
  • 1
    @nzall of course, the simplest answer is that there is absolutely no reason for you to do anything. Some people find this a perk and others, such as yourself don't. That's fine! Nobody's forcing you, feel very free to stick to only the aspects of the site you enjoy. That said, you might like this proposal: meta.stackexchange.com/q/258676/203101 – terdon May 10 at 23:52
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I think interviewing moderators or significant contributors to StackOverflow might be an interesting idea.

So as thanks, I wanted to share an optional nice closing question you all might like to someday use:

Original: "What was the one question you expected us to ask, but we didn't? And what is the answer?"

Q/A variation: "What was the one question you were expecting to be asked, but weren't? And what is the answer?"

This was shamelessly borrowed from this podcast: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/482401760/the-view-from-here

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Honing in on your idea that you could interview moderators, why not interview one or two of our new MSE moderators? I'd like to see a deep dive into how moderating this meta site differs mechanically and philosophically from moderating a normal site.

Perhaps also more about the impetus to create meta.SE moderator positions after a long time.

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I think a transcript should be overseen by a human before releasing it. I find this hard to read and I am hard of hearing so I can't enjoy the original audio. Is there an ETA for when a human will help out with it?

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At 16:50 in the audio we hear:

John: ... Maybe in future episodes we could interview moderators?

Abby: Ooh!

Juan: That's a great idea!

Abby: This is a call for you know requests for proposals if you'd like to be interviewed on this podcast you can call 1-800 ...

(All laugh)

Abby: ... We do not have a phone number set up this is a very low-budget podcast.

Which leads me to wonder if it's appropriate to, and therin where to, nominate moderators for appearance on the metapodcast. Hopefully not a premium line, because of geographic restrictions!

On the channel normalisation, since you asked specifically, I have a delicate ear (yes, one) and was listening through before reading the post. To begin with I had briefly wondered if Juan had a slight breath attenuation that could have used a plosive filter, yet I didn't feel it was uncomfortable at all, just a curiosity about your setup. Upon reading the post it accounts for the artifacts, and I feel you still got a great mix. In my hobbyist experience a strong voice at the beginning of the recording would be due to someone arriving just in time and still wearing their "Taxi!" voice while they catch their breath.

Thanks for another shiny show, the whole project is full of wonderful insights.

  • 9
    If there's someone you particularly want to hear, nominating them here seems reasonable. No guarantees, of course. (Maybe ping them on their site to let them know of course.) – Jon Ericson Apr 30 at 18:00
  • 3
    @JonEricson I have wondered many times how to get the attention of a specific person on SE. How do you "ping them on their site"? – thymaro May 9 at 5:50
  • I'd love to hear from deceze, he is someone who inspires. Or perhaps have a debate among moderators about: What is "Good Stack Overflow Citizenship"? or perhaps more valuable -- What is GREAT StackExchange citizenship? – mickmackusa May 9 at 12:21
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    How about this hypothetical question for future guests: If you could instantly inject a thousand volunteers into a given community with the focus to revolutionize / accelerate growth / drastically refine content / improve morale by doing 5 key things, what would those 5 things be? – mickmackusa May 9 at 12:29

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