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I've noticed on a couple of sites that moderators aren't moderating their sites. They seem to be waiting for high-rep users to do it. Some close queues never get empty (even if there are less than 100 items and there are 4-6 moderators there) and many moderators don't even bother reviewing them. Their activity is limited to just well... I don't know.

I always thought that high-rep users with additional privileges only support moderators in their work but it looks like they're actually the ones doing it. If moderators don't care about the queues, why do we have them at all?

Now, in times where many people quit, isn't the job of a moderator even more important?

Aren't moderators supposed to show users how each site works, keep questions clean, edit bad titles, give askers tips etc.? Some sites look like a dumpster and none of the moderators are doing anything to change it.

Maybe we should look for new moderators and elect some more active ones that do care about their communities?

  • It's quite dependant on each site's team. They all do it a bit differently and it hugely differs between sites and individual moderators how moderating actually takes place. – Mast Nov 17 at 13:00
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    If you want to unseat a moderator (it has been done), contact another moderator on the site that is active or raise the issue on the meta of that specific site. – Mast Nov 17 at 13:01
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    Moderators have queues non-mods can't access, like comment flags or custom flags, so what sense would it make to review "common" queues instead of their mod queues? High-rep users are supporting the mods by reviewing stuff they can handle themselves. To be honest, I consider your question pretty rude and uninformed. – Tom Nov 17 at 13:01
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    Moderators don't have a "job". They're volunteers doing whatever they can. Hopefully moderators on a site can handle exceptions that the community as a whole doesn't address. Anything else is a bonus. – Rob Moir Nov 17 at 13:13
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    @Jeff "It's their primary job to review all queues and keep their site running. Other ppl might help but they are not obligated to do it." - When I read help/site-moderators I don't see anything that suggests moderators are obligated to clear the review queues. – npostavs Nov 17 at 13:25
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    @npostavs we aren't. In fact, we are usually advised not to and to let the community handle it. After all, it is far easier to defend closing a question when it takes 5 people to agree than when you jus have some rando with a diamond next to their names doing it. We don't want to turn the sites into little fiefdoms controlled by moderators. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 17 at 14:12
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I always thought that high-rep users with additional privileges only support moderators in their work but it looks like they're actually the ones doing it. If moderators don't care about the queues, why do we have them at all?

Good! Then you're looking at healthy sites. The queues are there for the community, not for the mods. In fact, on the sites I mod, I essentially stopped using the queues as soon as I became a moderator. I was elected to handle exceptions, not to single-handedly decide which questions should be open and which ones should be closed!

Mods can't just vote to close something, our votes are binding. So if I go around clearing the queues, I am essentially imposing my opinion on the community. That isn't how the SE sites are supposed to work. In fact, one of the best ways of being (correctly) accused of power abuse is to do that. Whenever possible, a moderator should let the community decide and should only get involved if the community cannot.

And this is indeed how it works. Here are the top 15 reviewers from SO's close votes queue. These are people with tens of thousands of reviews and not a single mod among them:

Close vote reviewers

That's exactly as it should be.

Aren't moderators supposed to show users how each site works, keep questions clean, edit bad titles, give askers tips etc.? Some sites look like a dumpster and none of the moderators are doing anything to change it.

Absolutely not. A moderator's job is to do the things that the community cannot. We handle flags and offensive content, we try to mediate disputes between users, we try and get a consensus on meta to develop site policy and we enforce the policies we have agreed on. But mods are absolutely not supposed to be the main closers and editors of a site. If they are, the site isn't working well.

The general rule of thumb is this: if the community can do it, the moderator should stay out of it.

  • not to single-handedly decide which questions should be open and which ones should be closed That's an excellent point. I hadn't thought of it that way before. – Ageax Nov 18 at 0:04
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Aren't moderators supposed to show users how each site works, keep questions clean, edit bad titles, give askers tips etc.?

No, the job of site moderators is to handle the exceptional cases of

  • rudeness or other violations of the CoC
  • detect abuse like irregular voting
  • reviewing the flag queues when moderator attention is needed

Anything else can be handled by community members with the privileges they've gained so far.

The job of (high-rep) community users is to handle

  • judging if questions are following the site rules
  • judging semantical correctness of answers
  • keeping up quality of questions and answers for specific domains
  • searching and judging duplicate questions
  • deleting blatant off-topic questions

Moderators aren't required to have any domain specific knowledge, and thus should only use their powers, if they actually have and it's blatant.

As @Mast said in their comment:

Yet, StackExchange is community moderated. That's one of the core ideas behind the network.

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    No, you're not told that you MUST review queues when you gain a new privilege. It's a courtesy when yo do it. – Jeff Darwood Nov 17 at 13:08
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    @JeffDarwood Yet, StackExchange is community moderated. That's one of the core ideas behind the network. – Mast Nov 17 at 13:15
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    Moderators also often delete blatant off topic questions and answers. You don't need to be expert for those. – Resistance Is Futile Nov 17 at 13:20
  • @Mast you're almost right. It's supported by the community who's got additional tools. It's moderated by moderators. No user is required to do anything but moderators. Most high-rep users don't do reviews anyway. – Jeff Darwood Nov 17 at 13:21
  • @her Sure, they do. – πάντα ῥεῖ Nov 17 at 13:23
  • @Jeff For the record: I personally hate to work on the queues, I am just lurking for the newest questions coming in, and try to judge these appropriately. – πάντα ῥεῖ Nov 17 at 13:25
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    @πάνταῥεῖ your review history is another example that my theory is correct. It's not moderated by community because community, all of you, is not moderating anything. There is probably less than a dozen of ppl who might do it, occasionally. – Jeff Darwood Nov 17 at 13:29
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    @πάνταῥεῖ partially I am - I didn't see your comment because I guess we were writing at the same time but you shouldn't claim that SE is community moderated while you yourself aren't moderating. It's funny how everyone thinks the others are moderating and at the end nobody does. – Jeff Darwood Nov 17 at 13:55
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    @Jeff I am moderating a lot. See my vote and close vote history on each of the sites I am active. – πάντα ῥεῖ Nov 17 at 13:57
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    @JeffDarwood sorry, but you're completely wrong in this. In fact, in a healthy community, moderators would review nothing and do as little as possible. The whole point of these sites is that they are moderated by the community. A mod who keeps closing things unilaterally is not doing their job but overstepping their bounds. It is far better for questions to be closed by multiple community members than by a single mod. Mods avoid doing things single-handedly as much as possible. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 17 at 14:04
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In addition to what πάντα ῥεῖ and terdon said...

Now, in times where many people quit, isn't the job of a moderator even more important?

In case you haven't noticed many moderators actually resigned and suspended their non-critical activities. Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?

Many high reputation users that have moderation powers also suspended their activities as form of protest.

Maybe we should look for new moderators and elect some more active ones that do care about their communities?

Moderators that resigned and ones that suspended activities also do care deeply about their communities, but SE is turning their back on both moderators and communities.

At some point you have to say stop, no more, unless things change and SE starts listening to their moderators and users again.


Even before most recent events some queues were always full and could not be handled. That is a permanent issue on some sites, especially on Stack Overflow.

  • Then this looks like the whole idea moderated by community doesn't really work unless there are a couple of hyper-active non-moderator users. I guess if just the half of the usually active users cared about the queues then even the SO queue would be empty. – Jeff Darwood Nov 17 at 13:44
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    @JeffDarwood Are you going to force them do moderate? Community moderation does work. But we need better tools and new users need to be better educated about how sites work. This is where SE fails. Instead of providing what community wanted and needed for a long time, they are implementing changes that have opposite effects. – Resistance Is Futile Nov 17 at 13:57
  • IIRC, there are also limits on how many tasks can be reviewed in a given time period, regardless of how full the queue is. So even before users and mods started suspended activities in protest of recent events, it wasn't always possible to make a dent in the queues. – Ageax Nov 18 at 0:03
  • @Ageax Limit is only valid for regular users. And, yes that is also part of the problem with handling some queues. I haven't gone into details about that part because it is not directly relevant to the questions. – Resistance Is Futile Nov 18 at 7:30
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We all have a stake in keeping the sites clean, not just moderators. Anyone who posts regularly on Stack Exchange or even just frequently goes to Stack Exchange for information has a vested interest in helping to keep the site clean so that they don't have to wade through piles of garbage to find stuff to answer or the information they're looking for.

I remember the "bad old days" before Stack Overflow where when you had a question you had to wade through discussion forums that were filled with clarifying questions, "me too!" answers, and thread hijacking just to find the one piece of information you need in order to complete your task.

I have a strong interest in making sure that that doesn't happen on Stack Overflow, so whenever I see this kind of answer I flag it, and I work the Very Low Quality queue to help delete this kind of content. This helps make sure that I can quickly find the information I need when I'm looking for it. I use the site to find information too (I can't even count how many times Stack Overflow has helped me get "unstuck" on a tough problem or find a weirdly specific piece of information I was looking for), so it's just as much my responsibility to keep it clean as it is anyone else's.

One of the things I appreciate about Stack Overflow and the other SE sites is that they're focused on answers, not just people sharing opinions. If you're looking for concrete information, it's much easier to find it here than it is on old discussion forums. While entertaining to participants, most people simply don't care about the records of other people's discussions on the topic - they'd rather have a site where they can quickly find what they need.

I've noticed on a couple of sites that moderators aren't moderating their sites. They seem to be waiting for high-rep users to do it.

The entire point of giving high-rep users these privileges in the first place is so that they can take care of moderation tasks that don't require moderator intervention.

This is particularly the case on sites like Stack Overflow, where in practice there is far too much needed moderation for the current moderator staff to take care of themselves.

Stack Exchange sites are community-moderated, not moderator-moderated. It's everyone's responsibility to help keep the site clean.

Aren't moderators supposed to show users how each site works, keep questions clean, edit bad titles, give askers tips etc.?

No, that's what high-rep users are for. (Not to mention each site's site tour, FAQ, and Help Center; there's plenty of documentation available on how the sites work, it's just that many new users never read it).

I always thought that high-rep users with additional privileges only support moderators in their work but it looks like they're actually the ones doing it.

No, high-rep users do things that the community's allowed to do, and moderators do things that the community's not allowed to do. Moderators do things like moderate comments, track down sock puppets and voting fraud, etc. that the community can't do itself.

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