68

Several moderators have left their positions. To the best of my knowledge there has been no attempt by SE to fill those missing volunteer positions.

While I am currently a moderator on a small SE site, I don't think I would volunteer for a new position with the current state of affairs.

There are several posts about current events here on meta, and there has been some talk about warning potential new mods about the risks of volunteering.

How can we concisely phrase a warning, that would be appropriate to share if/when new moderators are actively being recruited?

  • 32
    I'm not sure that warnings are needed. Any potential moderator should be well aware of the recent events and should make their own mind up about whether to self-nominate or not. The community questionnaire phase of any election should also shake apples from the Tree of Fair Warning. – user351483 Nov 11 at 13:36
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    @Snow "Apples from the Tree of Fair Warning" - I'm not sure if that's a band name or the title of a poetry collection. – Jenny D Reinstate Monica Nov 11 at 13:51
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    "To the best of my knowledge there has been no attempt by SE to fill those missing volunteer positions." Just so you know, we don't run elections this late in the year due to holidays. The earliest possible we'd start running elections again is in January. – animuson Nov 11 at 13:59
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    During the nomination period you can always ask potential new moderators how they would conduct themselves in light of events such as happened recently. – Bart Nov 11 at 14:11
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    @Bart, something like how would you fare if your moderator status was removed on alleged charges of transphobia right before an important religious holiday? That would be a blast, and it doesn't even touch the whole being libeled in the press case. – Frédéric Hamidi Nov 11 at 14:14
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    Any sites considering asking for new moderators should also take ownership of contacting any moderators that have stepped down and ensure that they definitely won't want to come back again to their Diamonded Throne. It would seem unfriendly to elect new people only for an old mod to be denied remodding due to a full team. – user351483 Nov 11 at 14:15
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    @Snow I doubt an old mod would ever be denied their diamond back solely for a full team. I've never heard of that happening. As per the new reinstatement process I guess the current mods could make that case for vetoing their reinstatement but I find that unlikely. – Magisch Nov 11 at 14:17
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    @mag to be fair, this situation has never occurred before. – user351483 Nov 11 at 14:18
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    @Snow you have a point. FWIW I agree that any mods who resigned in good standing should have absolute first pickings over having to run another election. Their mandate didn't expire so there are no democratic concerns, since we elected them for life to begin with. – Magisch Nov 11 at 14:19
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    If the moderator election process remains unchanged (with questions from the community in the form of comments) then there's no chance in hell candidates won't learn about this, in great detail. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Nov 11 at 15:34
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    Someone who isn't aware of the current situation isn't a suitable moderator. Candidates are expected to be active on meta. If SO intends to hold the same standard for mods as previously, then they won't find any until the situation is resolved. Nothing is stopping SO from dropping their quality standards and pick some average Joe though... – Lundin Nov 11 at 15:38
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    @Lundin suitable to who the community or SE? I would argue that anyone NOT aware would be most suitable to SE. – James Jenkins Nov 11 at 15:40
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    @JamesJenkins Both. If you don't know how meta works or don't even read it, you shouldn't be running for moderator. – Lundin Nov 11 at 15:42
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    "Warning potential new moderators?" - yes, tell them to run away before they get sucked into a horrible environment – Zoe Nov 11 at 19:03
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    @Zoe that is so, so, so different from firing a moderator on false allegations. It’s a completely separate issue to change imaginary internet points. – Stormblessed Nov 11 at 19:08
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+50

I don't necessarily think that a warning is what is required here.

AFAIK, moderator candidates receive a list of questions to answer prior to the election itself.

If a specific community cares about the "CoC 2019 updates / de-modding related situation", then that community could include a question like

What is your stance on the CoC 2019 updates / de-modding related situation?

Then the people who will be voting can draw their very own conclusions on the response they receive for that question. Very much up to the individual communities to make that choice.

My personal two cents: at least for any upcoming election during the next months, a candidate who doesn't talk about that situation right on their profile upfront, that person definitely won't get my vote. In a year from now, who knows if "we" will still be here. Or how "the community" works and thinks 4Q2020.

Meaning: right now, a warning is useless, because a person for a moderator position better knows what is going on, and has made a conscious decision.

So that warning would be for the future?! But as said: how could we possibly know today what exactly we should warn a moderator about in 2021 or so?

Finally, from a "technical point of view", the question really looks at this from the wrong end.

People shouldn't discuss how to warn moderators.

Be proactive, be creative, and as mentioned before: the moderators could/should sit down and discuss the set of rules/practices that they want SE Inc. to uphold from now on, so that every current and future moderator knows exactly what to expect. And maybe, just maybe all moderators agree that all of them would step down if SE Inc. ever violates that to-be-defined contract.

  • 11
    Worth noting that pro-tem elections don't have questionnaires, though of course the community can self-organize whatever they want. And pro-tem appointments, if those still happen anywhere, are even less formal. – Monica Cellio Nov 11 at 15:14
  • @MonicaCellio Thank you. You obviously know more about this stuff than most of us, and most of the folks over there at "the company". – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 11 at 19:07
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    @MonicaCellio on the other hand, pro temp elections are announced so people can nominate candidates, someone caring can raise the warning on the site meta post (and that sounds more useful than here IMHO) – Tensibai Nov 11 at 22:33
14

To warn someone, point them to summary posts or just use your own words

This is a very complex issue with lots of intertwined concerns; it would be pretty impossible for us to come up with an impartial warning that was relevant to every person and would effectively convey the issues that you want to convey to a moderator candidate. If you have a particular concern that you think the candidate(s) should be aware of, write your own and focus on that.

Either that, or just post a message to any one of the several summary MSE posts and let them come to their own conclusions.

Just be aware there has been a lot of drama recently surrounding MSE and moderation that potential moderators should be aware of. See [insert links] and read up.

Ideally, moderator candidates should already be aware or will make themselves aware

Moderator candidates should be aware of the situation on MSE already or, if not, they should be checking into things as part of deciding whether moderation is something they want to do. Since one of the roles of a moderator is to be aware of such things, I'd hope that it would be important to them.

I'd also be shocked if questions at the very least hinting at this were not going to be put on nearly every moderator candidate questionnaire, which could serve as a warning if not a call to investigate things further.

Adding such a question (assuming it gains community acceptance) yourself would be a good way of ensuring that candidates are both aware of and actively think about the issues at hand.

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    I agree with this. Any "warning" would be biased toward the viewpoint of the person creating the warning. As this is a complex issue and people have different viewpoints on the various issues at play here, a single warning wouldn't be appropriate. And candidate really has to conduct their own due diligence. – user351483 Nov 11 at 14:12
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    There are many users, including mods, who never stray from their own corner of the network. Such folks will quite possibly have absolutely no idea that anything strange is going on. I don't think it's fair to assume aspiring mods will necessarily be aware of the issues. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 11 at 14:18
  • @terdon-stopharmingMonica that's what the second part of the answer is for :) I'm more hoping that every moderator candidate will be aware of network issues than assuming it (at least that was my intent) – Rubiksmoose Nov 11 at 14:37
11

I think this could extend into a general guideline for involving yourself in an online community. Nothing is truly anonymous, but a lot of people are well served to protect their real identities, especially when stepping up to a position in which conflict and strife will be unavoidable to some extent.

Even diverging from the point that the company may publicly out you (ugly and depressing as that state of affairs is), it is generally a good idea to protect your privacy if you're going to moderate a SE site. By nature of your job, you will have to tell a lot of angry and perhaps dangerous people to calm down or suspend them. Making the mod messages themselves pseudonymous was a good first step, but wasn't comprehensive.

Guarding your online identity is a good idea regardless of circumstance in these times.

8

I believe all "mod-only guidelines and FAQs" should be made public.

For any potential moderator to decide whether or not they are willing to become a moderator, they should be able to know exactly what rules and guidelines they would be expected to follow and enforce.

Currently, there are guidelines which are not public, but which moderators are expected to follow and uphold.

This creates a hidden line of information. That's a bad thing in this case.

Of course, I understand that moderators need to have the ability to have private conversations. That's a different point. What I'm talking about is knowing what rules you would be expected to follow if you become a moderator.

I think knowing such rules would provide sufficient "warning."

If by "warning" you mean telling them that "Stack Exchange is a mess" or some such thing, I can't really get behind that. But I definitely believe that potential moderators should know exactly what they are signing up for, which they cannot do when there are secret but still authoritative guidelines for moderators.


There was some discussion on this exact topic on an answer to a now deleted question.

One user pointed to the mod-oriented FAQ about recent code of conduct changes.

Another user replied (with 38 comment upvotes):

It'd be helpful for non-moderators to have access to this, so they can determine if they would be willing to become moderators in the first place.

My own reply (13 comment upvotes) was:

I look forward to the first post from someone who wins a moderator election, then immediately resigns when they read the secret FAQ. If the moderator guidelines aren't made public for this contentious issue, it's only a matter of time before it happens....

1

When you say warning I'm thinking of something like the new post notices, something that jumps out at you when you click the button to nominate yourself for an election.

No I do not think SE needs a warning to new mods. Better documentation, and clearer focus (publicly facing) for all mods, but not a warning.

If someone does not know enough about SE to know about "the mess" then does that person know enough to be a mod?

There is a whole heap of things SE should do, lets hope that they try to fix some of them before jumping into replacement mod elections; and this warning would just be a band-aid on the elections - not a fix for the real problems.

-5

For me, there are two possible answers to your question:

A: Any election would not need a warning on a site that no moderator are on strike against SE or where a moderator left (resigned)

B: For sites with moderator(s) on strike, aka suspended activities: Stack Exchange needs to fix the situation before running any new election that would replace any moderator(s) that has stepped down their activities.

In my book this would not be ok, like strikebreaker in such case if they do that.

I have personally sent an email to the SE team in the past, still unanswered, that their mess is putting a pressure into moderators that are left, but if they want to resolve the issue they need to solve it at the base.

  • 1
    Am I understanding correctly that you would hold a grudge against community members that stepped up to be a mod on sites where a moderator is on strike or resigned in protest? – Rubiksmoose Nov 11 at 15:26
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    Whether a specific site happens to have any mods that resigned over current affairs does not change the current affairs themselves nor does it change the situation new mods will be getting themselves into. – Caleb Nov 11 at 15:30
  • @Caleb I agree, but when SE state a new election is coming they usualy state the why. If it's because a moderator resignated, it would be indirected tell there, the into the moderator will go to. So my opinion is no need to an extra warning, as an active meta site would know the why – yagmoth555 - GoFoundMe Monica Nov 11 at 15:56
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    @Rubiksmoose I would not hold a grudge against community members that stepped up to moderate, it's not what I intended to tell. I would hold a grudge to SE for making it look like that, as how you name that when community volounter hold a strike, and you replace them ? You need respect from both side – yagmoth555 - GoFoundMe Monica Nov 11 at 18:11
  • @Rubiksmoose Some can advance better solutions. Many offer different solutions. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Nov 11 at 21:31
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    The mod that promises to resign in protest the day after the election is the only one I'd vote for. (At least, until they perform restitution to Monica.) Anything else would be undercutting the mods that did act on their principles and resign. – Ask About Monica Nov 12 at 20:58
-7

A large number of moderators have recently taken a stand-down. [Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?]

Some people are blinded by their innocence and desire to help moderate this great platform.

Sometimes, a minimal amount of enlightenment is but required in order to bring awareness to extremely controversial topics, especially when they concern the company to which they wish to moderate.

A large number of moderators have recently taken a stand-down. This is one such perfect example. It's counter-intuitive for anyone to be applying as a moderator, unless they're perfectly aware of the situation, and still wish to proceed.

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