When a staff member or a mod posts or performs an action on a site (like commenting, reviews, revisions) their status as Staff and/or Mod status is clearly identified using symbols or text set next to the user's display name. Especially on Meta sites, this is extremely important contextual information for other users to reference when viewing content, as Staff and Mod users have a great degree of authority in their actions and nearly everything that they do. This is true when it comes to site policy pronouncements, discussions related to features and bugs, comments, etc.
However, once the user loses their Staff and/or Mod status, there is no way for users to easily tell that previous posts/comments/revisions/etc by that user were done under the authority of their former status. This invariably leads to a lot of confusion for all but the most engaged and senior members of the Community (who know the history of these user changes). (Update 2023-12-27: a long-time former CM deleted their account a few days ago, so now there are hundreds of posts - like this one - that are authored by a deleted user, with no way for people to vet the legitimacy of the author.)
Take my record for example. I was a Staff/Mod across the network for a decade. From the Summer of 2019 through last week I was extremely active on Meta Stack Exchange/Overflow, posting all sorts of content: authoritative questions and answers related to feature announcements, bug fixes, company and community policy, and more. If you view any of these today, they look like they were posted by some random user with no authority to do so. A new user would have no way of easily knowing that they had been posted as staff/mod. The same issue holds true for hundreds of other users who used to have Staff and/or Mod status.
I am requesting a fix for this situation. A marker to be placed by the name of the user who used to have Staff or Mod status, for any action performed while they had that status. It could be something like "Former Staff" or "Former Mod" text next to the username, or some new indicator for this status, with a tooltip that gives more information.
This would show up in any place where the user's display name is shown in the context of an action performed during their period of Staff/Mod status (including things like the timeline and revision histories, mod message history, review history, flag history, and of course, posting and commenting). I would expect this to only be turned on for Meta sites.
Note: I know that it would be nice for these users to list their former status in their user profiles, but this is insufficient for several reasons: (1) the information is not verified or authoritative - anyone can write in this in their profiles; (2) it is not reasonable to expect users to go to the profiles of other users to find this; (3) not everyone will update this info, and we have no reason to expect this to change.
I am deliberately not recommending a "stickier" solution like adding to the post history of the post when it is authored by Staff/Mod users, even though this allows coverage of edge cases like when a former Staff/Mod user deletes their account, or for allowing a user to pick and choose and say "I wrote this as mod" and "I wrote this as community member". For the following reasons:
- This only covers the one case of post authorship. Doesn't touch things like comments, revisions, and reviews, which I think are easy to overlook here, but are also an important part of the historical record.
- This will be prohibitively expensive to run. Knowing what goes into loading a page like question listings, I know that I would have fought against this solution that would require either new expensive queries (and additional logic) or new expensive joins on almost every single page.
- The current solution that I recommended is relatively easy to implement, with very low risk of regression issues and very high confidence in having no noticeable performance impact (these cached lookups are very fast). Thus this has a much higher chance of getting done (compared to something more complicated and fancier). תפסת מרובה לא תפסת - תפסת מועט תפסת.
(To my former colleagues - I think that this can be implemented relatively quickly (think: a few days, conservatively a 5), initializing a global cache of Lookup of userIds with this status that leads to a
List of date ranges of service and user status during this time (some users have been Mods during one period and Staff during others, and others have had multiple non-consecutive periods of Mod or Staff service). This list could easily be repopulated using a scheduled daily job querying
UserHistory records. This can then be accessed very quickly when loading display names, and it's ok for it to be refreshed relatively infrequently, as the list will seldom change).
Adding this will help make the site and network more usable for new users who aren't familiar with "who did what in the past" and reduce the feeling of Meta being a club for insiders only. It is important that historical information from former staff/mods be listed as such (especially considering that many of these are still official policy today or canonical posts today and are still referenced as such).