In a chatroom, someone mentioned having trouble with an aged away spam flag on Ask Patents (the spam is still there as of the posting of this question, weeks after it was posted), and another user responded that the spam flag probably aged away because Ask Patents doesn't have any diamond ♦ moderators.

How can a community without diamond ♦ moderators start the process of getting moderators, either elected or appointed ones? Is there a specific process that the community can follow either to trigger an election or formally ask the company for Pro Tempore Moderator appointments, or must the community wait to see if the company cares enough about the site to start the process?

If there is no process, could we please have one?

This question is not about moderator reinstatement, for which a formal process already exists. I'm asking about situations in which any former moderators are either unwilling to go through the process, uninterested in returning to moderation, or were refused reinstatement, leaving the site without any moderators.

I know that there has been discussion in the past (e.g. here) about sites that are felt to not have enough moderators, but this is different - a site with zero moderators in which spam is staying up for weeks as users futilely flag it only for their flags to age away because there is literally no one on the other end.

I recognize that I could have asked this on Ask Patents Meta, but there are two major reasons not to:

  • I am asking about the general case of what happens to a site without moderators, with the Ask Patents example as an example of how the issue is more than theoretical at this point. Once that process is clarified, we could get the Ask Patents community to rally around it and get it started for that site.
  • Ask Patents literally has no moderators, so it seems unlikely it would get an adequate response there.
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    As far as the spam post in question, please report it to Charcoal, so that members there can cast flags on it and have it automatically nuked. Commented May 23, 2020 at 20:15
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    @SonictheStay-HomeHedgehog it was already reported, two months ago.... I guess even Charcoal doesn't care about Ask Patents. Commented May 23, 2020 at 20:23
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    Well, the meta effect worked. I just cast the last flag to nuke it now. Commented May 23, 2020 at 20:24
  • @SonictheStay-HomeHedgehog thanks! Commented May 23, 2020 at 20:24
  • Robert, I have Autoflagged 7 spam posts there; all marked as helpful - either a moderator / CM confirmed my lone flag or I was joined by a quorum and we succeeded in deleting the post by ourselves.
    – Rob
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking, a site does not need to do anything to "start the process". If a site has no moderators, whether they've all resigned or they're just not doing anything, we are perfectly aware of that situation and have it noted to do something about it. There is no situation where a site would just slip through the cracks and run indefinitely with no moderation. We have multiple systems in place to alert us of these types of problems.

That said, Ask Patents is very different. We explicitly never sought out moderators there and I'm not aware of any plan to change that. It was mostly moderated by Robert, and will probably end up falling on another CM to just keep an eye on the flags queue.

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    It used to have appointed volunteer moderators. What happened to them? Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:01
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    @Sonic From what I understood, the appointees were people directly affiliated with the project with Google and did not follow any standard process for selection. I'm pretty sure they were removed simply because they stopped visiting and we don't like leaving inactive users with access to moderator tools.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:05

Ask Patents is a bit of a unique case - and iirc doesn't run within the 'regular' SE framework - it's supposed to be a partnership with the USPTO if memory serves, and there may be other things in play

It feels a little like it's an older problem, and it's more than putting moderators in place - it's a rather specialist site, so your pool of SMEs would be small.

Practically though, there's nothing stopping the CM team from running an election at any time - especially if there's insufficient active moderators. Finding folks capable and willing might be another story. If a spam flag aged away not only did the mods miss it, there's not enough people flagging too. People who flag appropriately might be possible mods.

So it's a little bit more than a "lack of mods" problem - its also a broader matter of growing and sustaining the curatorial part of the community.

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    It's not only Ask Patents though. As I understand it, Writing also has no active moderators - only one remains and she's still on strike, so presumably not going to ask SE for an election any time soon. Commented May 23, 2020 at 19:13
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    And 'we don't have any active mods - we are going to run an election' seems like a valid reason. That said - on the short term - without addressing the reason writing has no mods, which is pretty much how Monica was treated , and more broadly how parts of the company interacted with her and the mind community in general, I don't see an election going well Commented May 23, 2020 at 19:17
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    This seems more like a frame challenge than a direct answer to the question. Suppose the community of Ask Patents, Writing, or some other diamond moderation-less site gets its act together and decides that it's time to get ♦ moderators. What does that process look like? Do they start a discussion on their per-site Meta and hope a sympathetic CM passes by? Do they use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page to file a direct Petition for Election? Do they need to find a moderator on another site to sponsor them for the monthly Moderation Opportunity Discernment meeting? Commented May 23, 2020 at 19:46
  • @RobertColumbia As far as I'm aware, if a moderator team feels they're insufficient, they can ask the CMs directly for an election at any time. Commented May 23, 2020 at 20:14
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    @SonictheStay-HomeHedgehog the problem here is that there isn't even a moderator team to communicate with the CM's. Commented May 23, 2020 at 20:25

From other answers it sounds like Ask Patents is a special case.

For most, if not all, other sites, in the absence of any active moderators, I think that it should be as simple as starting a discussion on your per-site Meta, to see if your community thinks that it is ready to have a moderator election/appointment held/made sooner rather than later.

If consensus for that is strong, then send a link for that discussion to the Community Team (https://your_site.stackexchange.com/contact) explaining that you have no moderators to make the case for a moderator election/appointment but the community appears ready and anxious for one to happen.

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