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The current method for scheduling moderator elections seems to be, with the usual UTC times,

  • question collection begins: Monday, 20:00-ish (manual)
  • nominations begin: the next Monday, 20:00
  • nominations close, primary begins: the next Monday, 20:00
  • primary ends, elections begin: Friday, 20:00
  • election ends, results announced: Tuesday, 20:00

If there are not enough candidates to warrant a primary phase, the third Monday transition is to an eight-day election, and there's no transition on a Friday.

In a recent election, we had a qualified candidate who was reluctant to nominate due to a recent suspension, probably warned by the handy warning banner. However, as the nomination deadline approached with not many other candidates, this individual made an over-the-weekend decision to write a contact-form letter and nominate anyway, as the warning message implies that this is a soft rule, and that SE can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The response from the community to the nomination was positive, because this candidate had a 40/40 candidate score, far higher than any of the other contenders.

The contact-form message sat unread over the weekend (to which I say: good for you, SE!), and was processed early in the workday after the weekend --- which led to the ineligible candidate being removed at 17:00 UTC, only three hours before the end of nominations. This last-minute (well, last-hours) change to the candidate slate caused a bunch of consternation and drama in the community chat room.

Causing consternation and drama isn't what moderation actions should do, and is the exact opposite of the reason put forth for disallowing previously-suspended users to run.

This particular bit of drama could have been reduced if the end of the nomination period hadn't occurred in the first few hours after a weekend, so that the contact-form message about the disallowed nomination would have been read and handled significantly before the end of the nomination process. For instance a schedule of Tuesday-Tuesday-Tuesday-Saturday-Wednesday --- though that puts the primary-to-election transition on a weekend, and as an outsider I don't know whether the primary-to-election transition requires any manual oversight from an SE employee who would rather spend their Saturday fly-fishing. A weekend-free election schedule, without changing any durations, would have phase transitions on Thursday-Thursday-Thursday-Monday-Friday.

The idea of adjusting the election schedules was proposed in the Teacher's Lounge and mentioned in another post about this event as something that SE was willing to consider; this question is just a formal request to make the change, with about a million links.


Update: this change to the self-nomination form has changed some of the logic which prompted this proposal.

  • Do I understand correctly that the nomination form allows disqualified people to nominate? – Robert Harvey Apr 30 at 19:26
  • @RobertHarvey Yes, it does. I asked why and the answer was that altogether disallowing it would (supposedly) create more work for them. (I would have assumed you knew this, given that you commented on that answer.) – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 30 at 19:32
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    The wording of the warning needs to be changed as well; it implies that SE is willing to bend the rules in certain cases. But in comments on the post, SE clarified that it would only allow it if the suspension itself was in error, and otherwise no exceptions would be allowed. But considering that they also said that making any changes to the overall system wouldn't be prudent since this case doesn't happen that often, I think this is the most feasible solution. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 30 at 19:35
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    Also, transitions between election phases are automatic. There was once an election that proceeded from nomination straight to election with no candidates, because a staff member forgot to change the deadlines in time. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 30 at 19:42
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    Finally, some personal opinion: the reason given in that post for this rule is that it would distract from the election. However, if the user has brought it up with the community in advance, and the community is willing to fully support them despite a recent suspension elsewhere, I think the rule shouldn't be enforced, because it goes against its spirit. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 30 at 19:47
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    theres been a lot of drama/ angst over the Physics election and then some proposals on chging SE software. but its widely acknowledged there that users preferred to wait to last minute to nominate and thats the key dynamic in play, and have seen it play out in other elections. software or schedule wont counteract human nature. a bigger story is how SE handles suspensions wrt elections and in general. my suggestion is to keep some open general statistics available about suspensions by site, and emphasize to mod teams suspensions are to be avoided due to emphasis on light moderation. – vzn Apr 30 at 20:38
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    @vzn "Don't suspend people" is kind of a terrible way to try and solve this problem, to the point it's barely relevant to mention here. If anything, our network moderators tend to be entirely too lenient and we consistently have to tell them "just suspend the person" in a variety of scenarios. In fact, we've even withdrawn someone in the past because they should have been suspended for other behavior but a moderator didn't follow through with it. – animuson Apr 30 at 21:30
  • I'm considering if this is a duplicate because it's asked (add the rule) and answered (done). The only grounds for review are suspension by error or a late appeal of an excessive suspension based on what was alleged. Since the review was completed in time, and the person was just hoping - they ought to have expected to have not mounted a successful appeal. Nothing supports that the decision was rushed or wrong. - Tip: Avoid suspensions, and appeal early if you think there is an error. – Rob Apr 30 at 21:57
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    @animuson Is there an official guidance anywhere, with regards to whether or not moderators should consider if a certain offense is "severe" enough that the user should be banned from nominating in elections for an entire year? – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 30 at 22:24
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    @animuson am not against suspensions in general but would like to see any written policy anywhere near to what you are suggesting. suspension policy probably/ apparently varies a lot between sites, and individual mods, some using it more frequently than others and some rarely to never utilizing it. yes some underdo it but feel its sometimes being overdone on Physics from long observation in chat room (~½ decade) hence suggest looking into (ideally open) statistics. the point is "suspensions are one of the biggest hammers" and SE policy officially emphasizes light moderation... – vzn Apr 30 at 22:26
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    @vzn The fact that we rarely ever lift suspensions based on appeals through the contact form suggests that moderators use the tool appropriately, if not enough. But what kinds of statistics would you want to see? Just the number issued per site? – animuson Apr 30 at 22:31
  • yes, figured exactly that: suspensions were rarely reversed but feel thats more about not undermining/ 2nd guessing mods by oversight and not direct proof of "no overkill". eg total # of suspensions issued by each mod would be a significant metric for increased transparency. (am sure someone will come up with some reason to reject it. it seems maybe that suspension dynamics are opaque on purpose, seem to see snap/ split second/ hair trigger decisions esp in chat... ie its not really a process but often, afaict, a quick-on-the-spot determination/ judgement by mods...) – vzn Apr 30 at 22:35
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    @vzn To be honest, I don't think number per mod is a good thing to look at anyways. Suspensions are meant to be "from the team" and not an individual, and some sites certainly do have the dynamic of one moderator being more comfortable issuing them and takes charge in sending them out for the rest of the team once consensus has been reached. But we're getting too far from the subject of the question. If you'd like better data or transparency somewhere, perhaps ask your own question? – animuson Apr 30 at 22:38
  • Your comment implies that mods will use suspensions to prevent users from nominating in elections that will happen some time over the coming year, @Sonic; you're looking at this from a wrong angle. Elections are not usually scheduled months in advance (rare exceptions are if we have a full schedule for one or two months already), so if a user needs to be suspended now, and in a week the team realizes they need an election... the user needs to be suspended now, regardless of whether or not that prevents 'em from being able to run in the election. – JNat May 2 at 13:51
  • Adding a "is this user a good candidate for a possibly upcoming election in the coming here" check before suspending a user doesn't make any sense (so creating guidance for that doesn't make sense either) since suspensions are a moderation tool, and not an "election nomination prevention" tool. – JNat May 2 at 13:51

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