It is very easy to be a candidate in a moderator election. If we exclude the prerequisites to become a moderator on Stack Overflow and the necessary 1,000 rep for Mathematics, a nominee needs only three requirements to run for election:
To be 18 or over.
To have earned 300 reputation points (equivalent of thirty upvotes).
Not be suspended on any SE site in the last 12 months.
In theory, these requisites allow the following scenarios
- A user who has never posted a question, answer or comment on meta can be elected as moderator for life.
- A user who has never suggested an edit, or reviewed or edited a single post that was not theirs, could be elected as a moderator.
- A nominee who has cast zero votes during their time on the site is eligible for election.
- A user who has either raised no flags, or more worryingly, whose flags have been declined, is eligible for election nonetheless.
- A nominee might not have contributed, participated or even visited the site in one or more years prior to an election.
- A former moderator cannot run for reelection because they were suspended on a completely different site in the preceding 12 months. No distinction is made between a suspension of a single day, week, month or year. No distinction whether it was the first suspension in the former moderator's history or their tenth.
- In the candidate score, where 40 is the maximum, a nominee's score could be as low as 0. I don't believe this has ever happened on any election on any SE site but the rules do not explicitly state a minimum score is necessary.
For context, on English Language Learners (ELL): as of today, two former nominees' score are 3/40 and 4/40. But the scores of three former ELL moderators are 33/40, 37/40, and 38/40.
In the 2022 election on French Language: all three nominees had less than 700 rep, and their current candidate scores are between 1/40 and 6/40.
A community which allows their least active and lowest-rep members to run for election, may be an example of a free and democratic election but it is potentially a dangerous situation.
Ideally, in a healthy flourishing community, the weakest and least qualified candidates should easily lose. However, as we have often seen, users on smaller SE sites are typically reluctant to nominate themselves. Last year ELL had four nominees running, this year three. In the future, there will be elections where two seats are open and one or more nominees will have little to no history of reviewing, voting, editing posts (not theirs) or helping the community via comments or through chat. These are under-qualified nominees running for a lifelong role.
What do I mean by an under-qualified nominee? It is a user who has not contributed significantly or actively sought to improve, uphold standards, or help run the site in any shape or form. In fact, on Stack Exchange there are specific milestones which hinge on reputation points earned. For example, before a user is trusted to cast close and reopen votes, they must have earned 3K.
3,000 ⇅ cast close and reopen votes help decide whether posts are off-topic or duplicates
If a nominee has not earned 1k, Stack Exchange suggests that they are not an "established user".
1,000 🏆 established user you've been around for a while; see vote counts
If a nominee has not earned 500 rep, they are not allowed to use the review queues.
500 ⇅ access review queues Access the First posts and Late answers review queues
And yet once elected, the under-qualified ♦ moderator can unilaterally put on hold, lock, close, reopen, and migrate questions. They can also delete and undelete comments, answers and questions. They can convert answers into comments, freely edit posts, and suspend users without knowing anything about the user or their contributions, owing to the fact the newly-elected moderator has not participated on the main site. It is worth reminding that Stack Exchange does not allow a community to change their mind about a moderator once that nominee is elected. Unless the moderator voluntarily steps down (retires), is removed for inactivity or fired by Stack Exchange; an unqualified, ineffectual moderator will be allowed to hold that position permanently. For more information: Who are the diamond moderators, and what is their role?
For all the reasons above, I suggest that the aforementioned minimum requirements be revised. For example, raising the minimum candidate score to 4/40, one badge for each category: reputation, moderation, editing and participation. Failing that, demand that a nominee have one moderator badge and the Quorum badge (participation on meta).
I would appreciate hearing the community's opinion.