Given the right statistics, this doesn't seem to be a problem after all.

Left a trimmed down version of the question for reference...

My thoughts is that a four day election period is too short for people that only visit the sites occasionally, people that haven't seen the site notifications for the nomination and primary phase might suddenly get a user notification on the site that asks them to make votes on the nominees.

I'm pretty sure there are a lot of (high reputation) users who have the right to vote, participate actively, but don't visit the site every single week and thus may overlook that the election is coming.

So, can the election time be extended to more than four days? If not now, next time?

Alternative solutions:

- Keep the system notification longer, so we have a message appear for the full period.
- Make the system notification a user notification instead, so that the users will see it.
- Send out mails to users that have been active in the last X days/weeks.

  • The original question asked for mailing all eligible voters and was changed to asking for extending the voting period. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:27
  • I added the edit to indicate that the question changed substantially, I now also changed my answer accordingly. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:38
  • Tagging this wrongly won't help obtaining an answer faster. Jan 30, 2011 at 2:15
  • 1
    you are calling it support because of your incorrect belief that, if it's marked as such, you'll get "faster attention" as you said. support is meant to be used when asking help about how to use overflow; a bug is something that wasn't intended by the developers (so this is not a bug); a feature-request involves asking for something to be changed, which is what you are doing. Jan 30, 2011 at 2:39
  • @Kop: I am "asking for help" for the election (support), and this might "not be intended by the developers" (bug). But it is not at all a feature request from a Software Engineering point of view as this is not about requesting a new feature, but rather requesting a small change to an existing feature which might not perform well, hence that tag wasn't right and a bug tag would be better but support is still the right one in this situation. If you believe it is incorrect, please flag instead... Jan 30, 2011 at 3:23

6 Answers 6


You are off by an order of magnitude. There are only 4,516 (at this moment) eligible voters on Superuser. Supposing only 100 people voted in the primary then we've caught over 2% of the voting population of superuser.

It's very important to understand that nominations were only on a yellow banner for the nomination period for two days purposefully to avoid those people that don't come to superuser every day. If they aren't there often enough to see the banner, they aren't going to be there enough for moderation duties.

Similarly, the primaries are an opportunity for the most active users to narrow the field somewhat.

Voting will be open for only four days, but the banner should be up for all four days, and I expect you'll get a significantly higher turnout in that time period than the others.

Keep in mind that the mandatory (ie, couldn't be dismissed) notifications for all three periods of voting are present on the site for nearly 50% of 2.5 weeks. Yes, it's quite possible that many people will not be present at all during those two weeks, and it's possible that someone will only participate during the days where the notifications aren't present. They will be in the minority.

Further, I think people are putting too much importance on the moderator elections. They are not kings of the site. They influence direction only slightly. I'm really quite interested in how you expect another few days of voting, which would only capture a small fraction of additional votes, would actually change the outcome of the election, and why that particular change would be important. Are late voters going to choose significantly differently than those that were around and voted during the first four days?

The first few elections on Stackoverflow were open ended - they had no ending date, until they actually ended (surprise surprise!) and people were getting anxious to see the results. A week was too long. Unfortunately the ballot file given at the end of the last SO election doesn't have timestamps, so we can't see the voting trend, but it's my expectation that after 3-4 days the voting was very low.

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    +1 Whoa! The right statistics and numbers make it clear... Jan 30, 2011 at 3:26
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    also, remember that "please vote in the election (hyperlink)" messages are inserted in every single eligible voter's message queue when the election begins. The only way to miss the election is to never visit the site during the entire period of the nominations, primary, and election. Jan 30, 2011 at 6:10

I'm not sure if I would want to have anyone voting in the election who doesn't already know it's going on. They probably don't know most of the nominees well enough to make a proper judgement anyway.

Besides, 400 users should be enough to democratically decide who should be the next moderators.

  • +1 imho, 4 days is long enough, if they don't come on at least once, I would think that they don't really care enough to want to vote. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:59

I think the 4 days are a bit on the short side, though most active users should see the notification for the election. A lot of the 40.000 users you mention are probably not active users, and are consequently not really interested in voting for moderators on a site they don't really use regularly.

We will miss the vote of people currently on vacation, or occupied in some other way, but there is really nothing we can do about that. But I think we should try to give every active member of the community a chance to vote, and 4 days is a bit short for that. I would favor 7-10 days for the election, it really doesn't hurt if the elections takes a few days longer.

  • @TomWij You're always going to have some people on vacation, or something else. There's not much we can do about that. But besides that, everyone who is really interested in the site is going to visit it at least once a week. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:19
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    You could send an email out to those on vacation. Perhaps they have an email address which they will check in the four days of election.
    – Moshe
    Jan 29, 2011 at 23:21

You cited the low SU vote percentage in your first revision, but it's possible a lot of people really don't care who the mods are, or aren't active enough to place an educated vote, so they just abstain. An interesting metric might be the electorate percentage that didn't visit the site during the entire election (i.e. they missed every announcement entirely); if it's quite high than maybe something does need to be changed. Personally (this is similar to what Ivo said) I think 2+ weeks is more than enough time for people to show up at least once -- if they manage to miss the whole election there's not much more SOIS can do

Edit: Maybe a way to solve the problem is to push the notification to people at the beginning of the nomination phase, instead of the beginning of the election phase. It's much more likely everyone will see it then; the downside is of course that people need to remember to come back for the primaries and election, but I hope people are capable of that on their own

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    Just as one point of data, I have voting rights on SU, but I'm not really involved enough in the site to judge the moderator-nominees, so I abstained from voting in the primary and will do so in the election. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:40
  • @TomWij Oh, I see. How much research do people really need to put into the candidates though? I read through everyone's position statements and used Yi Jang's very handy tool, but my primary votes were almost entirely based on people I thought would be good mods before the election even started Jan 29, 2011 at 22:41
  • @Fabian I'm sure you're not the only one; I'm curious how many non-voters are like you and how many just missed the election entirely, but I don't think there's a good way to find out without database access Jan 29, 2011 at 22:42
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    I also see no need for the main election to be shorter than the primary, I was under the impression that both were supposed to take 7 days. I'm not sure why they are in a hurry, suddenly. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:51
  • @Fabian Personally I thought the primary was ridiculously long; by the last two days there was barely any activity. 4 days to vote is hardly a hurry Jan 29, 2011 at 22:54
  • I've seen the election page barely 15 minutes after it was online, but I think we should allow for people who don't visit every day. We, who are discussing right here are probably not representative of the majority of SE users. Jan 29, 2011 at 22:58
  • @Fabian Everyone needs to stop using the phase "every day" -- the election isn't one day long. It's 15 days long, and even if you're only talking about the last phase, it's still 4 days long. 15 days is massive; people who care about the election will probably be visiting at least weekly. I'm open to things like changing when the notification is pushed, or leaving the system message up the whole time, but making the election even longer is probably not a good idea Jan 29, 2011 at 23:00
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    I was overstating it with the everyday. But it really only counts if you visit the site on the 4 days the election is actually running. And there are plenty of reasons for not being able to visit the site for 4 days. I'm mostly suprised that the election period is shorter than the primary period, but I still think it does not hurt if both are 7 days long. We are not in a hurry. Jan 29, 2011 at 23:05

It isn't necessary for everyone to vote. It's good (good enough) if a 'statistically significant' number of people vote: if the number is large enough to be 'representative' then there's little value in having even more votes.

Also, having a shorter period skews the voting towards users who are on the site more frequently, which could be a good thing too.


I think the 4 day period is reasonable, but I'd like to see it cover more of the work-week vs weekend.

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