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Tl;Dr The Stack Exchange community is culturally very diverse. Please help me find discussions on Meta SE about how to be nice with all the community members while moderating the sites and communicate with the Company effectively,


According to the Company we weren't perceived as a nice community, and on the last days one ♦ moderator was retired ("fired") then several ♦ moderators resigned or voluntarily suspended their active participation partially (as stop moderating their respective sites) or totally.

Then I was wondering if the group of ♦ moderators include enough representatives of the SE members. By representatives I mean like in representative sample rather that in representation (politics). Also I was wondering if any ♦ moderators election included a mechanism to promote that the group of ♦ moderators as a whole to include enough representatives of the SE members.

Then I realized that most of the ♦ moderators were elected by the community of a site, there are others that were designated by the Company, i.e. tempore moderators, META SE moderators. Also I realized that the number of them were determined by the Company too.

Now I'm wondering what could the community members could contribute to having here on Meta SE a representative participation of all the SE Network subgroups as apparently voting, flagging and posting most of the time questions, answers and comments brief and direct looks that isn't working, but then I realized that this is something that this could be already discussed.

Could you help me to find those discussions? What tags should I look into?

Related

  • The tag autocomplete suggested users and culture I will look into them a bit later. – Rubén Oct 20 at 20:05
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    The title is a bit different from the body. Is it about proportionality of interests within the moderators group? – Trilarion Oct 20 at 20:10
  • There’s no new elections scheduled. I guess we’re going to wait and see what happens over the next few days. Any moderator who has resigned is free to go through the reinstatement process. The remaining moderators are picking up the slack on the interim period. – user351483 Oct 20 at 20:17
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    My impression is that mods are not a “representative sample” of the community they refer to, that’s because of how mods elections are structured. It is a sort of beauty context where the more determined tend to win, but that has nothing to do with representing different cultures or other peculiar aspects of the community. – user Oct 20 at 20:20
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    @user "Beauty contest" - well, no matter how determined I'd be, I'd never win that one ;-) I think the main contributing factors are (the technical ones, e.g. moderation badges), the history of discussion and participation on the site (i.e. whether people are able to be objective and reasonable, and can articulate some coherent arguments), and the answers to the questions that are set up for the mods prior to the election (I'm really curious to see what they will be about during the next election ... although... no, I'm not. I already know it...) – Marco13 Oct 20 at 20:28
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    @Trilarion My initial intention was a to ask that (if the ♦ moderators are a representative of the users beliefs & feelings) but my answered my self on my head "No" because the reasons I mentioned in the question. – Rubén Oct 20 at 21:08
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks. I made a slight edition (we don't know how many more will resign in the coming days) – Rubén Oct 20 at 21:46
  • Possible tags used for discussions that could have question about how function more effectively: be-nice-policy, code-of-conduct, welcoming, new-users? – Rubén Oct 20 at 22:52
  • one more tags community, and an example of questions that I look to find (or to bookmark / curate someway) Why is SE giving so much attention to the “be nice”-policy? – Rubén Oct 20 at 23:26
  • The sample of moderators is not representative as it is biased towards active members, and members that offer to take up a moderator position. Or are you looking to categorize members based on other qualities, such as gender, race, religion, age, or something else entirely? – Inactive - Objecting Extremism Oct 21 at 0:35
  • @Inactive-avoidingCoC I'm not looking to categorize members as individuals. I'm trying to learn about the subcultures among the SE Community members. – Rubén Oct 21 at 3:50
  • more possible tags: behavior, rant – Rubén Oct 21 at 4:08
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Stack Exchange is based on a very simple premise:

Eliminate the problems with online forums by removing those things that detract from the site's singular purpose, which is to provide fast and quality answers to people's questions about a specific topic area.

That's it.

Stack Overflow mods are (in theory) elected on the basis of how well they can fulfill this singular premise. The moderator position was never meant to fulfill political expectations or satisfy everyone's sensibilities about how the site should be run. That's one reason moderators are elected for life: so that they don't have to succumb to arbitrary and capricious pressures from the user community.

Rather, the position was created to fill a void: step in when the community is unable to resolve disputes on their own. It follows that, for the most part, the communities should be able to run themselves, and moderators should step in only when needed.

To achieve the premise outlined above, Stack Exchange created a framework, some software and a set of conditions and rules that govern the way all Stack Exchange sites work. This framework includes a self-moderation mechanism that allows users with experience to vote on posts, cast close and delete votes, and engage in editing. These tools allow the user community to curate content, which means that, by necessity, the content that is least useful eventually gets removed.

Within that framework, moderators and the user community must exercise their judgement. Which content is useful, and which content isn't? For the most part, the quality and character of that judgement is what moderators campaign on, and how the user community decides who gets elected.

This approach does not come without a degree of controversy. There is no shortage of posts on the Internet accusing Stack Overflow of being an elitist club, mostly from new users whose vague, underspecified questions get closed; and to be fair, the veteran user community has been more snarky about this than they should have been.1 This was the motivation for the "Be Nice" policy, a policy that I wholeheartedly endorse.

This was the status quo at Stack Exchange for many years, until the "Welcome Wagon" came along. Suddenly, it was no longer about curating content; it was about being welcoming to everyone who visits the site. The veteran user community, long used to being called elitist by new users who couldn't bother to form a complete sentence in their posts, was re-cast as the enemy of inclusion.

Have you noticed that I haven't used the word "culture" even once yet? That's because the community genuinely couldn't care less what your background is, so long as you know how to ask a good question.

So do the moderators accurately reflect a cross-section of the user community? New users whose questions routinely get closed represent a significant percentage of the user population. What do they want? They want their questions to stay open. Do we represent their wants? What happens to site quality if we simply acquiesce and give them what they want?

The job of a moderator, at least until recently, was a very simple one. Remove anything that detracts from the singular goal of getting good answers to good questions. You don't need a survey or a form or a new CoC or any special considerations from anyone to fulfill that promise.

Stack Exchange, as a platform, was never designed to do what we're trying to get it to do now. "Learn the ways of the platform" and "Be nice to others" was always good enough.


1Although it is not an excuse, in their defense, the users who take it upon themselves to improve site quality by undertaking curation duties are vastly outnumbered by the number of new users who haven't figured out how to ask a good question. Many people don't know this, but Stack Overflow actually has an automated filter, similar to the Bayesian filters used in email systems, that removes the worst of the worst posts before they ever get to the front page. I don't remember exactly what percentage of posts are blocked this way, but it is significant; somewhere between 15 and 35 percent of all new posting attempts are blocked, IIRC.

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    Stack Overflow actually has an automated filter, similar to the Bayesian filters used in email systems, that removes the worst of the worst posts before they ever get to the front page. That's good to know, I had no idea that this existed! – Nick Martin Oct 20 at 21:40
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    I have read dozens of accounts complaining about the sarkiness and intolerance on Stack Overflow vs the millions of visitors that do not post about how they have nothing but good have good experiences. Math tells me all I need to know. In every case of someone complaining on Twitter they never actually post screenshots or proof of the egrious systemic abuse. If the community was the villians that we were made out to be and thrown under the bus, there would be plenty of damning evidence, that fact there is none makes this all the more of a fiasco. – user148287 Oct 20 at 23:36
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    This is skimming over complications. The vitriol against the LGBT+ community that has been spilling over in the past couple of weeks is not coming from nowhere. People from the LGBT+ community have felt unwelcome and posted about it for years - and nobody paid attention. It wasn't all sunshine and puppy dogs before the welcome wagon, and plenty of things happened that had nothing to do with whether someone could write a good question or not. – heather Oct 20 at 23:46
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    @heather: I've been here for years. I was one of the first moderators to be elected on Stack Overflow. I had access to the moderator tools. During that whole time, I have only encountered a single gender dispute on Stack Overflow, which I summarily dispatched. – Robert Harvey Oct 20 at 23:50
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    @RobertHarvey With all due respect, just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it hasn't happened. See also the resignation posts of several LGBTQ+ moderators who cited harassment and feeling unsafe as reasons for their resignation, most recently Ash (this was from before the Monica incident and before Meta erupted). – heather Oct 20 at 23:53
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    @heather: Kinda knew you were gonna say that. If someone with such high-level access and exposure isn't seeing these things, well, who is? – Robert Harvey Oct 20 at 23:56
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    @heather: And for the record, that whole thing with the LGBTQ+ moderators erupted in the Teacher's Lounge. Nobody ever saw that except a handful of other moderators that were also in there. Why the corp felt they had to draft a legal document for the entire user community to solve a problem that happened in a private chat room where only a tiny number of people actually saw it is beyond me. – Robert Harvey Oct 20 at 23:57
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    @RobertHarvey I guess the staff at SE had a desired solution in mind already and went looking for a problem they could "solve" with it. – gbjbaanb Oct 21 at 0:03
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    @RobertHarvey Maybe the LGBT+ people it was directed at? You might not have recognized it for what it was. You may have just not seen it - there's a reason there's a bunch of SO mods. – heather Oct 21 at 0:04
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    I'm only leaving the first comment because of the link it contains. It seems light years ago when users, mods and CMs engaged in discussions and interacted as civil people, collaborating together on a piece of policy. And it wasn't that long ago either. +1 – Mari-Lou A Oct 21 at 0:29
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    Robert isn't the only Stack Overflow moderator who hasn't seen this "vitriol against the LGBT+ community" that @heather speaks of. I haven't seen anywhere this happened, until the company decided to start shoving it down everyone's throats. Then, there were some objections to the policy (which got inappropriately cast as "transphobia") and, yes, some trolling. The latter was summarily dispatched. I suspect that most of the problems happen in chat, rather than on the Q&A sites, which has always been a bit of a "wild west" when it comes to moderation because the tools just aren't good enough. – Cody Gray Oct 21 at 2:38
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    One plausible reason moderators would not be alerted to systemic patterns of exclusion is that it was not codified as problematic behavior in any policy. I haven't particularly felt offended when someone called me "he" so I haven't kept a score; but even if I did, the uneasiness of the situation would hardly outweigh the uneasiness of struggling to get a mod flag accepted in each instance. Lack of reliable statistics does not translate to lack of any problem. – tripleee Oct 22 at 3:06
  • @tripleee: The "Be Nice" policy is now so strict that it would be hard to see how any such misgendering would go unnoticed. – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 3:11
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    Maybe so, but I assume you and Cody et al. are referring to statistics from before the new CoC mainly. – tripleee Oct 22 at 5:56
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    @tripleee: Indeed. As I've stated before, the existing CoC was already good enough. – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 6:00
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You're never going to find any accurate (or even anything resembling) statistics on the representation of moderators. The problem is that nobody signs up and fills out a questionairre of all their identity factors.

  • Am I black or white, or pink, yellow, or green?
  • Am I male, female, both, indeterminate, or only one or the other on a Tuesday evening?
  • Am I gay, straight, both, neither, or all of them?
  • Am I a human, furry wolf, little pony or tentacle monster?

Nobody knows, and nobody will know what the mods are either. All you have to go on is past writings by them and the content of their minds. And a username, that could be any old garbage combination of characters.

the best you're going to get is the survey SO carries out regularly, and I guess the mods could declare themselves in a secton of that to show a representative correlation. But after the current craziness, I doubt any of them would.

And even then, so what does it matter. What we ask of the mods is to be fair and reasonable and balanced (and nice, hopefully). And IMHO that is all that matters.

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