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I've just been informed by a user who received mod messages that they start with some explanatory text that looks like this:

What is this?

It is a private, confidential communication mechanism between Ask Ubuntu community moderators and users.

Our goal is to amicably resolve issues in a constructive way through direct communication...

(As far as I can tell, this text isn't visible to moderators.)

In this case, a CM had initiated the suspension and sent the original message, which the user was unaware of. After an exchange of messages clarifying what was going on between the user and mods, the CM replied once more stating that the message was from Stack Exchange Staff.

The user was unaware that Stack Exchange Staff were able to see the messages, having been told that they were "private, confidential" and "between Ask Ubuntu community moderators and users". Per the FAQ on the community team, CMs are not considered members of any site's community moderator team.

This explanatory header should not mislead users into thinking that only local moderators can read the communication.

Can the wording please be changed to be more accurate about who is able to see the messages?

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    CM's do have a mod label, so they are also part of the moderation team...
    – Luuklag
    Sep 5, 2021 at 14:16
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    @Luuklag The ‘m’ in CM is manager, not moderator. They have moderator privileges, but they aren’t community moderators, who are elected. Regardless, the user was confused, and it’s not just staff with moderator privileges can see those messages (even though it might take more steps), so clarifying the text is probably a good idea.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 5, 2021 at 14:26
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    We can't see the messages because we're staff. Staff generally can not see mod messages. We can see them because we have moderator access to the site.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Sep 5, 2021 at 14:29
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    @Catija thanks for clarifying that - I've edited the title. I still think the text needs to be more explicit. The description the CM gave for the source of the message was "Stack Exchange Staff".
    – Zanna
    Sep 5, 2021 at 14:38
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    @Catija I'm planning on filing a related feature request - that mod messages sent by staff with moderator rights not be signed as coming from the site's moderation team (which staff aren't considered part of, as far as I can tell), but I wanted to check to see if that isn't already implemented before filing. Is it already implemented? Sep 5, 2021 at 18:01
  • in theory - the "signature" in the mod messages is a matter of the templates used. It would be, at a minimum, a simple matter of changing it, either manually or through a user script. In this specific instance, its explicit that it was sent by the CM team, as I understand from the conversation that precipitated this question
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Sep 5, 2021 at 18:07
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog , to be clear, the original mod message, sent by the CM, was signed as coming from a CM team member... so... yeah. The transparency here existed, the person messaged missed the signature. It's relatively standard practice that we edit it, though it's not always been the case.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Sep 5, 2021 at 18:10
  • @Catija Yeah, the text at the bottom saying "Regards, [site moderation team]" can be edited. But what about the text at the top, the one that says "from [Site] moderator team -> to [User to whom message was sent]"? That's generated by the system, so does that change if it was sent by a staff member? (I know it's system-generated because I have a past mod message sent back when it used to show the mod sending the message, and it's since changed to show the team sending the message.) Sep 5, 2021 at 18:33
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog - not as far as I'm aware but I'd rather this be expanded to address them both rather than having two separate requests.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Sep 5, 2021 at 18:36
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    @Catija To me, these requests seem unrelated. This request specifically asks about that paragraph of text in the sidebar, and about a perceived lapse in confidentiality from mod messages (sent by anyone, mods or staff) being able to be viewed by people who aren't mentioned in that paragraph. (The facts that a CM sent the message and the user was confused as to who sent the message, when it comes to the implementation of this request, seem tangential.) Sep 5, 2021 at 18:44
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    Zanna, it should probably clarify that nothing is guaranteed to be private and that there's a chance that anyone can see or modify anything - that's simply how things have always worked, everywhere. If it's not encrypted and digitally signed, granting only two people access, then you know others can read it; if it is digitally signed there's still a small possiblity, increased by leaving your password on a sticky-note on your screen, etc.
    – Rob
    Sep 5, 2021 at 23:44

2 Answers 2

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I support this FR for the following reasons.

Explicit is better than implicit in these cases, to leave no room for ambiguity. E.g. on a small site having only 2 or 3 mods -that you've interacted with frequently over the years- a user might be led to colloquialisms they wouldn't use if knowing a CM whom they never interacted with could read the messages.

Of course the CMs are trusted to have the necessary sensitivity to understand interactions in their proper context. However the FR would duly advise an OP who may -be oblivious or feel misguided in hindsight- want to adjust for their own reasons.

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It's probably worth taking a broader look at what the end user sees when they get a moderator message.

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I've seen a user get irate at the moderator team and name specific people at least once for a CM initiated moderator message. It was sad and amusing, and there clearly is room for improvement.

A few small tweaks might help.

On the message itself - changing the signature is already done when folks remember. But I wonder on the short term, if the CM team could 'fake' doing a specific signature with a userscript. Manually doing anything sucks, and having the 'right' signature by default seems like a good idea. I recall using one for custom mod message reasons a few installs ago, but can't remember who wrote it.

The second confusion is - the replies are addressed to the specific mods on the site. I don't feel that in the context of a mod message, there's any real benefit to having a list of moderators - considering we stopped signing off our messages with our usernames, it might be 'simpler' to turn it into a static string reading to "Meta Stack Exchange Moderation Team, and Community Management Team", with the relevant site. This reflects the oversight the CM team has and since ex-mods can't see mod messages (and it's only visible via the site), is more precise. We see mod messages 'in the role' rather than 'as the user' anyway.

It might also be worth looking at the explanatory text to the right - as a long time user I've kinda taken it for granted that CMs will see everything, and as a moderator - consider it a 'check' against what I do. I'm not sure what would be the right way phrase for it tho.

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  • Yeah, I 100% agree with changing the "to" text. This will also cover the case of mods who are later elected or appointed after the reply is sent (or the message is viewed). Sep 7, 2021 at 20:03

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