In the wake of recent events, I tried to find out how many moderators are left on one of the SE sites I frequent. On the "moderators" page, I found the following text:

We believe moderation starts with the community itself, so in addition to privileges earned through reputation, we periodically hold democratic moderator elections.

If you follow the link, you will find sentences like these:

As we’ve said from the very first days of the Stack Overflow beta:

We don’t run Stack Overflow. You do.

Every site under our banner has the same philosophy. The community is the source of everything useful that happens to exist on our websites. We gladly reciprocate by trusting you to lead and govern your own community. Democratically elected community moderators are the ultimate goal of, and foundation for, every site in our network.

Emphasis is not mine, but Jeff Atwood's, the author.

I have no doubt that the moderator fired last week for reasons not published would immediately be re-elected by their "populace" in the next election, probably in a landslide against whoever is desperate enough to go on the ballot against them, because we as voters have no indication whatsoever of any wrongdoing on their part and we have no problem with their moderation of our community.

So I will take a guess and say SE will find a way to tell us that we missed the part of the policy that tells us we cannot re-elect them. And I get it. They have the power, it's not a democracy, it's a corporation. Removing people does not make sense if they could be reinstated again, just because people like them and voted for them.

So my question is, how is it "democratic" to filter the list of candidates I can vote for with criteria I have no access to? Last time this happened on German soil, it was called the "German Democratic Republic". You can probably guess what it was not. Pick two.

How can I make an informed decision, when I'm not allowed to view the information?

The "party line" (I leave it to the informed reader to figure out if it's SE or SED) is:

This is always done based on what we believe is best for all [...].

Yeah. Well. Problem is, if you want to call it democratic, you'd need to leave that decision to the "all".

So how much of the "democratic" will we see in reality and how much will be PR?

  • Related: chat.stackoverflow.com/rooms/197438/the-meta-room
    – user474678
    Sep 30, 2019 at 12:08
  • 5
    "we missed the part of the policy that tells us we cannot re-elect them" There's a clause in the election which states something like being required to have stood in good standing with SE for the previous year to be eligible. That's probably supposed to disqualify recently banned users, but it may apply to users that used to be moderators in the past weeks as well. Regardless, if they didn't want to comply with the (new) CoC then (which was the case for at least a couple of them), they won't want to comply with it in a few weeks either I suppose.
    – Mast
    Oct 1, 2019 at 0:27
  • 4
    +1, and if I could +10. I cannot understand why moderators are elected for life. They told me they are a sort of judges like in the US Supreme Court. I see no need for that. I think it should be better for everyone if there was an election every 4-5 years, like in any democracy which deserves that name.
    – CarLaTeX
    Oct 1, 2019 at 7:26
  • 4
    They only have to suspend the offending mod for a short while with some "good" excuse, after which they'd no longer be eligible for nomination. Oct 1, 2019 at 8:51
  • 9
    @Laura I have rolled back your edits once, because they changed the topic of the post. I have rolled them back again now. Please refrain from editing this post again, otherwise I will flag you for moderator intervention. I think after rolling your edits back twice now, it should be clear that I don't want them.
    – nvoigt
    Oct 1, 2019 at 16:02
  • 1
    All democracies have filters on who can run for office. Mostly it's tied to money.
    – Meta Ellen
    Oct 4, 2019 at 8:35
  • 1
    @MattEllen I guess my country is an exception then? I just looked it up: you need 200 signatures of supporters, must be of legal age and a citizen (none of which costs money), to be eligible on the ballot. Sure, to be successful it helps to have a party and a lot of money for a campaign, but that's a different topic.
    – nvoigt
    Oct 4, 2019 at 8:55
  • @nvoigt costs £500 to run for MP in the UK. Not sure about USA and their thingies. So your country has filters, too, just not financial ones.
    – Meta Ellen
    Oct 4, 2019 at 9:03
  • 3
    Yes, but they are public. The government cannot just say "You may not run, because... uh... we cannot tell." Even court orders preventing people from running are public.
    – nvoigt
    Oct 4, 2019 at 9:19
  • Note that staff (Tim Post) has already explicitly said "We gladly reciprocate by trusting you to lead and govern your own community" isn't true for Stack Overflow--the CMs reserve the right to decide what content is OK there even if the entire community disagrees (specifically re: Meta decided what questions to allow on their site). As soon as they crossed that line it seems like a short step to expand that policy to whatever other site on the network they want to next.
    – TylerH
    Oct 8, 2019 at 20:14
  • 4
    Erf. On the bounty - bit of comment abuse there, but there's nothing much stopping a user in good standing, even as an ex mod from standing for election. With the letter of the rules, she was never suspended, and if she's welcome to go through the re-instatement process, she ought to be able to stand. If she wants to - I'm not sure if she does but no reason that's not an option Dec 27, 2019 at 15:21
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/334728/273494 @JourneymanGeek If it is that straightforward, that’s great. I don’t think it is. None of this has anything to do with what the rules were as written and the fact that she’s being forced to go through the reinstatement process instead of just getting reinstated is concerning to me. If you want me to remove the comment, I’m OK with that. I will create the bounty without it if you cancel it.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 27, 2019 at 17:43
  • 2
    I left on good terms - I hope. I went through that process. That said, I didn't go through the trauma or political bs she did. I don't think any of the other mods would have minded, and most of the pushback is more on SO's actions than mine at the time. Any mod who steps down and asks for re-instatement will follow the same process. The issue is with trusting the same organisation that railroaded her removal to start with. Dec 27, 2019 at 17:47
  • 1
    @JourneymanGeek I think the new process is a good one. I don’t think they would invite her to go through it if they knew they were going to deny her. That’s not my problem with making her go through the process. Inviting her to apply to get back what was wrongfully taken instead of just giving it back is the problem.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 27, 2019 at 17:49
  • 1
    I don’t understand what you mean about “adding it to your answer”. I’m just curious if Monica (or other mods I guess) have to go through the process or if they can go through an election instead. The bounty is to attract answers that take into account the new public statement by SE.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 27, 2019 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


Moderators who resigned resigned in good standing. I don't think anyone can fault them for choosing the path of action they did, simply because there's no alternative. Outside of seeing that other moderators choose this path, there has been no organisation - we literally did as our conscience led us.

Right now, elections to replace those moderators seem pointless. I'm not sure we can ever truly replace the moderators we have lost, merely fill their seats. It certainly doesn’t heal the damage that has caused to their communities.

The ideal would be to fix things. To try to get back into a state where folks feel they can serve their community and this isn't at odds with the choices the company makes.

Elections will run as they always have. Folks who feel that they have something to contribute to the community or at least have a shiny diamond will step up. Some may win an election and find that they're not ready. Others find they don't have the time, or that the task isn't fulfilling any more.

As a moderator, I serve my community. When I was a moderator here - to some extent that included staff and my fellow moderators. I do not serve the company.

I don't think that moderators who resigned coming back, or the moderator who was removed standing again can be anything more than a hypothetical. The level of emotion, of hurt is just much too much. At this point I don't think the company has behaved in a manner that has shown the sort of wisdom, kindness and empathy I'd expect from the lovely people I know here.

And that's what we need.

Wisdom, kindness, and empathy.

The empty chairs can never be filled. Every moderator we have lost is a massive blow to the community.

It is not enough to talk about inclusiveness or to fill a CoC with what we consider abominations unto nuggan.

We need to consider the wisdom of our actions - and the outcomes.
And at this point the outcome is divisiveness and strife.

Kindness for those who need it, not violence against those who don't.
And I'm not even sure I can express when I feel the latter is the case without being attacked. I tried.

Empathy for those who we may disagree with so we can reach out, and bridge that gap.
Even if people feel it's dumb and naive. Probably because it's too hard

It is not my job to try. I do it because many of these people matter to me. That is also why I'm so sad, tired and disappointed in how this has happened so far.

Right now - an election on any of these sites will be empty. Considering the emotions we have now, we will see expressions of protest, of rage and of protest. And this will not get better until we see better leadership from the company. If there are elections - I recommend politely reminding folks of the circumstances, and letting folks act as they feel fit.

We've often been asked by the company to trust them. And that their actions are in our best interests and that we'd get better resources for the company.

A lot of folks have stood by the company and had faith in them. This has been eroded over time. We've lost entire communities and others have been barely held together by sheer strength of personality and love for out community.

I think it's the time the company consider giving something back. To act in earnest good faith to earn the trust of our core community back.

Meta sites are a small portion of "the millions" of users SE and SO have. We're also the ones who guide, curate, and teach. We're the heart of community - and moderators the heart of that.

Without a social contract, the ability to act without fear of arbitrary removal, the company might as well replace us with a sweatshop somewhere.

I try not to be prone to hyperbole, but this feels like a tipping point. If SE can choose to remove a moderator, at short notice at a time that was badly chosen, they can take the responsibility act to heal the wounds. You have good people. Let them do their jobs. Every day this crisis stretches out basically makes it worse, not better.

I guess I'm back, and while the tenses used before vary I think there's little need to revise what was said before. A few things may have changed - a settlement to the inciting event, if not a resolution, but still lots of tough decisions, and lots of work ahead, no matter what path you pick.

  • 12
    Well said, my friend, well said. SE does need to deal with the effect all of this has. Simply processing people's resignations and moving on does not heal this wound and renew the trust.
    – user351483
    Oct 1, 2019 at 5:24
  • The timing of this matters a LOT. For the moderator of a Judaism area, it is pretty likely that they'll be offline for Shabbat. The high holy days are always around this time of year, too. Even someone not mega-informed on Judaism can do a quick google. (Granted, had Monica only been a mod on, say, Worldbuilding, there'd be no implicit indication about the holidays. In general, Friday is an awful day to "fire" people (or de-status them), because they have the weekend to brood. I read that Tuesday and Wednesday are best. (source unremembered) Oct 1, 2019 at 21:19
  • 2
    I've been a mod alongside Monica - and this is one of the reasons that I find this difficult to accept Oct 2, 2019 at 2:12

How can I make an informed decision, when I'm not allowed to view the information?

That information is public and can be found in the Help Center:

I acknowledge and agree that as a moderator for Stack Exchange Inc.

i. I will abide by the then-current Terms of Service of [insert Stack Exchange site here], and other moderator policies made available to me,

The Code of Conduct is one of them (actually, it applies to all users):

We commit to enforcing and improving the Code of Conduct. It applies to everyone using Meta Stack Exchange and the Stack Exchange network, including our team, moderators, and anyone posting to Q&A sites or chat rooms.

At least, that's the theory, but let me quote Monica for the other side of this story:

They did this not because I've done anything to violate SE policies (which I have not done), but because they think I will in the future violate a thoughtcrime-style provision of a Code of Conduct change that hasn't been made yet.

I'm not taking any sides here (there is too much unknown at the moment, and I fear even in the future), I'm just trying to state some facts. Nobody has a crystal ball, it's hard not possible to predict the future, but here's hoping that we actually can have democratic elections in the future.

  • 19
    The newly announced CoC is not posted publicly yet anywhere that I know of, but multiple staff members have emphatically repeated that what they have suggested it will included will not change — and they are enforcing it on moderators already.
    – Caleb
    Sep 30, 2019 at 11:49
  • 6
    There's some difficulty, I believe, in that the "updated CoC" isn't extant anywhere. My understanding is that we're not expecting a new CoC, but some clarification on what SE thinks the current CoC actually covers. But I certainly could be wrong....
    – nitsua60
    Sep 30, 2019 at 17:43

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