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I'm a relatively new (active) user from Mathematics SE. We are about to have an election and I asked a similar question on the Q&A thread, where I was encouraged to post it here.

Rounding up, our current moderators were elected {8,8,7,7,6,6,3,2,2} years ago. My limited experience with them has been positive: as far as I can tell, they are doing a great job to keep the site working as it's supposed to. However, two-thirds of them have served for over five years, which is a rather long time, specifically when elections happen somewhat infrequently. More to the point, as far as I can tell re-elections are non-existent: once elected, mods are free to retain their privileges indefinitely.

My questions:

  1. How frequently are elections "supposed" to take place?
  2. Are re-elections a thing?
  3. Several mods indicated it is a network-wide policy that moderators do not have term limits. If this is correct, why is this so?

Personally I am in favor of gentle term limits. Over at MSE, which is a larger site, 3-5 years is probably a good length of time to get acclimated to the responsibilities and make meaningful contributions while allowing other active users to participate in the same way. Being a mod is a lot of work but I think most people have enjoyed doing it and more people should have the opportunity. Maybe the length can vary by community.

To be clear: the mods at MSE are doing good work!

Update: I am aware that a similar question was asked in a thread 11 years ago. I think this discussion is worth having anew.

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    @Randal'Thor No, particularly because that question is 11 years old so it might be worth discussing again. – Integrand Jul 18 at 14:47
  • There's a moderator on Stack Overflow that's still appointed (elections weren't a thing yet). Running for 10 years. – Mast Jul 18 at 15:07
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    Are the moderators on your site still doing a good job? If so, it's primarily up to the moderator team to figure out if they need fresh blood or not. If all of them are failing, it's a different matter. – Mast Jul 18 at 15:08
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    @Mast yes but even so there's nothing wrong with sharing responsibility and allowing other users to have that role. Part of the way to ensure the longevity of the site is to make sure it does not become overly dependent on specific users. – Integrand Jul 18 at 15:14
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    Moderators should be relatively insulated from politics and popular whims. They should be able to do what is best for the site, without having to worry about standing for regular re-election. – Cody Gray Jul 18 at 15:29
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    I'm confused - how is being a mod 'enjoyable'? It's like saying slavery is enjoyable because you get new, clean chains every month:( I cannot see term limits being useful when the pool of users who are stup....dedicated enough to be good mods is so small:) – Martin James Jul 18 at 17:59
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How frequently are elections "supposed" to take place?

Whenever there's a need for mods, or some mods resign, there will be an election. There is no set time limit between elections (apart from SO which usually takes place yearly).

Are re-elections a thing?

No, moderators keep their position until they resign or get removed (in rare cases). An exception is when a beta site graduates, the mods will need to be re-elected.

Several mods indicated it is a network-wide policy that moderators do not have term limits. If this is correct, why is this so? Personally I am in favor of gentle term limits.

They don't, it is usually assumed that nominees will be able to have time to serve their community. Let's not have "limits", after all, they're volunteers.

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    Actually getting removed would be more accurate. Mods can be removed for inactivity as well as other things and we would need to work here to be fired – Journeyman Geek Jul 18 at 14:11
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    Overall I agree with this post, except for the last sentence. We're all volunteers, in a sense: the SE/Overflow network is entirely voluntary and there's no tangible reward for being a part of it. In fact, it's this sense of community that made me ask the question, as I think every 3-5 years it is good for someone else to assume the mantle of responsibility. – Integrand Jul 18 at 14:21
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    @Integrand You talk about that 3-5 years in your comments, yet don't explain why you think that would be better. This might've been good to have included in the first iteration of your post. I'm not sure it's any good to add it now. – Mast Jul 18 at 15:10
  • @Mast I don't know what Integrand was thinking, but 3-5 years sounds like a "rule of thumb" to me..,just like we have 5 fingers... – flow2k Jul 27 at 11:40
  • @flow2k That would make it a "rule of hand", but I still don't get why this value seems so natural to you (both). Is it simply because that's roughly how often we (most countries) normally have political elections? Those are quite different from moderator elections. What communities do you know that have elections every 3-5 years that makes this suggestion come so natural without willing to explain it? – Mast Jul 27 at 12:18
  • @Mast Yes, "rule of hand" is more appropriate :) And yes, it's definitely true that mods are not politicians, but I think we have to agree, being elected and all, they still occupy positions of power and are (or at least, should be) the most respected members of the community. So perhaps, as you say, the term limit of the head of state in the U.S. being 4 years has ingrained us (or at least me) with that figure. – flow2k Jul 27 at 23:55
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As stated in the Help Center entry for the site moderators:

(...) Moderators are elected for life, though they may resign (or, in very rare cases, be removed).

As to why this policy was chosen, I would assume it was to simplify the job. It requires some work to start an election process from the CM team, so having election only when required, rather than on a yearly basis, makes is more lightweight.

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  • A good point on the effort required to set up elections. I was thinking every 3-5 years, although if terms were offset by a few years because of start dates that would mean more frequent elections in practice (nearly yearly, as you mentioned). – Integrand Jul 18 at 14:22
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    @Integrand Something else to consider: I suspect that not all sites have the number of people that are willing, capable, and qualified to be good mods for any kind of short rotation. Some sites are quite small (Math is one of the bigger ones). – Rubiksmoose Jul 18 at 14:49
  • @Integrand reflecting Rubikmoose's statement, there have been some failed election attempts on smaller sites due to anyone not interested in nominating themselves. – Meta Andrew T. Jul 21 at 8:05

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