While I applaud the excellent work of all our community moderators, the question has come up:

How long will be the elected moderator’s “mandate”? Is it for life, or are we going to have “moderator elections” regularly?

Of course, any community moderator who wishes to recuse him or herself can certainly do that at any time.

  • Should we have term limits that require community moderators be cycled out periodically, so others get a chance to moderate?
  • Should we hold regular (say, yearly) moderator elections?
  • Is it better to have a larger pool of community moderators, and let the normal ebb and flow of turnover get us "natural" variability in moderation?

What are your thoughts on this?

  • 56
    Why when I hear "moderator for life" do I do think it's going to end in someone being stabbed to death on the Senate floor? Will we one day miss the old republic? :)
    – cletus
    Jun 30, 2009 at 8:57
  • 7
    Stabbed to death is fine - if a moderator consistently engages in gross malpractice they can be booted but a fixed term and re-election process would encourage populist moderators. Jun 30, 2009 at 9:46
  • 2
    I do think there should be some kind of probation period for newly elected moderators... at the end of which they need to be approved by their peers.
    – Benjol
    Jan 19, 2011 at 7:35
  • 5
    I'm telling you, man... recall elections. (Never mind that that was posted under the "suggest an April Fool's joke" question.)
    – Pops
    May 20, 2011 at 14:33
  • 5
    Feature request: downvote bounties Aug 9, 2012 at 20:37
  • 3
    @MichaelMrozek There is no need to be upset. For the record, the reason I bountied this now is because of the number of comments on the latest blog post saying the problem with niceness is really due to the institutionalization of <insert negative adjective here> moderators, so why not address the elephant in the room directly?
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:43
  • 3
    @MarkTrapp you mean aside from the fact that the "elephant in the room" is completely absurd strawman completely unrelated to the point of the blog post? Which has been discussed ad nauseum in the comments in the 3 related blog posts? And the fact that this discussion itself has nothing to do with niceness or what moderators should be doing? The bounty just gives apparent weight to an absurd claim.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 9, 2012 at 22:32
  • 2
    @BenBrocka I humbly suggest, between your status as a moderator and your extensive involvement in responding to the comments on the blog post I linked, that perhaps you might be a little too close to the issue to make that type of judgement regarding the merits of the claim. At any rate, it's fine if you think this isn't something worth spending energy on: you didn't need to respond to it. But I, of course, disagree.
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 22:37
  • 3
    @Mark this is a fair question to ask and put a bounty on, but I think most of the people whining about "mod overzealousness" in the ongoing discussion don't even know what a Stack Overflow moderator is. Ie. they confuse users with close and delete rights with mods
    – Pekka
    Aug 10, 2012 at 6:48
  • 3
    This page says "Moderator elections are held periodically". "Periodically" means the amount of time from one election to the next is always the same. But this page contradicts that. And this present discussion suggests they ought not to be periodic. What is the truth? Jun 22, 2017 at 6:18
  • @MichaelHardyMichael The truth is someone doesn't know what "periodically" means. The correct word would be "occasionally". But my 6 years SE experience has told me this is also not true. Elections are only held when a need arises, either by site growth or a vacant position.
    – user212646
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:21

19 Answers 19


Yeah, It should be 'for life'. I think this because:

  • You would be effectively kicking out experienced moderators.

  • It would also mean that the moderating 'team' is split once a year. Which is also undesirable.

  • Moderating is pretty much the same person to person. Someone who is competent will not be too different from someone else who is competent. It's not like you can have different policies for which users can vote. The job is simply to enforce the terms and conditions of the site and some maintenance/tidying up.

  • Although Stack Overflow is meant to be community driven I am not sure on the idea on them worrying about community approval. Sometimes, not often though, it may be their job to be unpopular (say, closing a popular but wildly off-topic question).

Ultimately I see little to gain in moderator elections. If any moderator is bad/abuses their position then I imagine they would be kicked out by the SO Team anyway!.

I think regular elections for new moderators is fine, but I don't see why existing ones should be up for re-election and maybe booted out.

Finally you should consider that generally elections are useful in deciding the direction of the community. This is not that. These are people who follow the policy and decisions decided by the SO team and the community. They are civil servants, not politicians.

  • 31
    +1 - for worrying about community approval. A term and re-election system would encourage populist moderators which is not a good thing. Judges are given life appointments in judicial systems precisely so that they cannot be manipulated by political pressure. For sure, boot any moderator who engages in consistent malpractice but don't set up a moderation system that rewards populism. Jun 30, 2009 at 9:36
  • 9
    -1: Populism is not nessasirly a bad thing, and we have Royalty to overrule the masses if the populus gets out of hand. While judges may be for life in some places, they elected in others. And I see the role of moderators as more of a law enforcement roll, like a sheriff. Jun 30, 2009 at 10:14
  • 19
    It's not Populism I am worried about, it's the fact moderators may be worried about community approval in a way which effects their ability to do the job. The added dimension of elections would, in however small a way, introduce a unwelcome angle of politics to SO.
    – Damien
    Jun 30, 2009 at 10:29
  • 9
    That's exactly the failure mode of populism. A populist will worry about their public image as they moderate, particularly if they have to remain popular in order to get re-elected. Someone with tenure does not have to worry about this, and management in the form of Jeff et. al. is still available to deal with moderator malpractice. I probably needed to be more specifc about the meaning of 'populist' as I used it in this context. Jun 30, 2009 at 14:14

I'd say "for life unless they misbehave or become inactive".

If the site grows quickly we may need to have elections periodically to create more moderators anyway, of course - but I'd say we should keep trusting existing moderators unless we have a reason not to.

I'd be concerned about a moderator who didn't log in for a month, and obviously any examples of abuse of power need to be taken seriously, but other than that I think it's best to let them get on with their "job".

  • 3
    It's very easy for minor abuses to be swept away time and again while sticking within the rules, eternal moderators can easily slip into unchanging rigidity and authoritarianism Apr 28, 2017 at 12:57
  • 2
    It's incredibly unlikely that the users towards which a moderator misbehaves will take this up in any way to remove his/her moderator status.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 10, 2018 at 23:11
  • 3
    "any examples of abuse of power need to be taken seriously" I know you're an SO guy, but 10 years later and on smaller SE sites, I've seen a lot of obstinate moderators make a lot of minor infractions, that individually don't warrant action, but they add up. The SE staff has never acted on this, afaik. I'm strongly convinced certain moderators wouldn't win a reelection.
    – user212646
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:31

Throw the bums out!

(I jest.)

Me thoughts:

  • At least a regular election/selection would be nice. Once a year maybe? Just because a moderator's "term" is up doesn't mean they won't be renewed. We won't necessarily be loosing experience.
  • Furthermore, being a moderator is not a bucket full of roses. There is a degree of responsibility involved that can wear on folks, and makes them a target of abuse. No need to run them into the ground. It can also rot the soul, leading to a sense of entitlement. Yes, J&J can boot them, but this is a destructive process.
  • Stack Overflow is by its nature very democratic. Having sheriffs for life does not continue that democratic philosophy.
  • Being a community moderator is a growth experience for many folks, and I think it would be best for more people to hold the position over time. This would be good for the newly appointed moderators, SO itself, and the wider community.

(I assume a fixed/defined number of ♦ moderators will be determined by the SO team and adjusted as they see fit.)

  • 5
    +1, as I believe what you're saying is that terms is better than life. I think that's what you're saying, at least. I think it would be great as a sort of MVP for SO users. MVPs are chosen from the community and, I'm pretty sure, are not lifetime positions.
    – user1228
    Oct 4, 2010 at 15:49
  • 4
    On pt. 2, nothing stops a moderator-for-life from resigning if he tires of the responsibility. Jul 28, 2012 at 0:25
  • 6
    I like the idea of a yea/nay vote yearly for continuation. When they do this in politics for say judges, usually candidates get 98-99% of the vote and continue, no big deal. Just in case a moderator is not toeing the line or regularly the subject of intense debate, the possibility does exist of not being renewed.
    – demongolem
    Aug 8, 2012 at 15:53
  • Would it be possible to simply elect moderators on a yearly basis and only demote moderators who aren't upholding the rules?
    – rpgstar
    Mar 9, 2018 at 5:01
  • +1 (many years later) but I'm not sure in what way you think SO is inherently democratic. It's the other way around.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 10, 2018 at 23:12

Something the "kick the bums out" argument sorely misses is sites gradually need more moderators. This is why we add rather than replace mods. This isn't the US where we need one president, and we keep up with the changes as we go. This is more like a big company, and we need more directors/managers/whatever as we go to keep things going. Elections are held because there is more work to do, not because we don't like or trust these guys anymore.

But wait! We'll just elect more new mods each time, who cares if some get voted out?

Training moderators is hard work. Learning to be a moderator is hard work. There's lots of buttons you need to learn when to press and where to find them, what they do. You need to learn the social aspects. You need to learn how to work with your follow mods on your site. You need to learn how to work with other mods on other sites for migrations. You need to learn how to work with users and their complaints/requests/issues. You need to work with Stack Exchange employees and learn the general SE way of applying certain sensitive issues like suspending users. It's a damn lot of work.

In addition to all the added effort for everyone involved, you're also throwing out the very people who already know what they're doing. You're axing your senior developer to bring on an intern, shooting yourself in the foot so you can staple on a hoof, adding awkward metaphors on instead of making sense!

See also If the moderator workload is so high, then why are there only 3 new moderator positions available? if a system were put into place where a growing number of contested spots is available each time, we could quite easily end up in this situation where a hard to manage number of new mods come into play at once.

Finally, this whole thing pits new candidates against old candidates. Suddenly old mods don't want to speak up for the new crop because these jack$##es are after my job! Right now, old mods are a huge part of the election/new mod training process. Turning this into a conflict between old and new mod poisons that relationship in nasty ways. Suddenly letting the community know that Jim Bob would be a good mod could be the final knife in your back that removes your modship.

So no. Mods shouldn't be forced to proceedurally defend their position. If they're doing a good job who the hell cares how long they've been there? If they're not doing a good job...well, who the hell cares how long they've been there, still? An actively harmful new mod shouldn't really get all that much more slack than a mod of 5 years who's actively harmful.

  • 7
    "If they're doing a good job who the hell cares how long they've been there?" The community currently has no structured way to make that determination.
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:20
  • 5
    It would indeed be an interesting quandary if all of the old mods were thrown out in favor of new ones. "How does this work, Jim?" "F*ck if I know."
    – user102937
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:20
  • 4
    +1 for adding awkward metaphors on instead of making sense Aug 9, 2012 at 20:20
  • @MarkTrapp arbitrary numbers of slots for mods which rotate every arbitrary time period aren't a good way to determine that, and, as I hope I've explained, would be actively harmful in addition to being pointless.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:22
  • 9
    @MarkTrapp We do get emails about moderators periodically and we review their actions. I'm not saying that's necessarily the best way to do this, but the system is there. (Disclaimer for those potentially unaware: I work for SE and moderating the moderators is a part of my job.)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:23
  • 2
    @BenBrocka I'm not saying one way or the other that elections are that structured way, but you've provided a conditional that is currently unanswerable by the community. How do we test whether a moderator is, in fact, doing a good job in a way that's fair and, for lack of a better word, empowering to users who might feel otherwise?
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:23
  • 1
    @AnnaLear True, but users would need to know that's the proper way to "evaluate" moderators, and that doesn't seem to be all that obvious (I'd even go as far to say it's pretty hidden). Hm, maybe moderators need those "How's my driving? Call 1-800-KL5-PLOW" bumper stickers...
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:27
  • 4
    @MarkTrapp yeah, I think we could do better at publicizing that the community team exists and is available for all your reporting-moderator-abuse needs.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:33
  • 2
    If they're not doing a good job...well, who the hell cares how long they've been there - really? Isn't that the whole point, to have some way for bad mods to get 'voted off the island'?
    – Alok
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:40
  • 3
    @Alok His point is that if a mod is doing badly, it doesn't matter if they're new or if they've been a mod for years. Bad moderation is bad moderation and should be corrected regardless.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 9, 2012 at 20:43
  • 2
    @MarkTrapp I really don't like setting the precedent that the moderator who closes the most posts/suspends the most users/(insert necessary action that ticks off the receiver of action where) gets booted out just for doing their job. It's necessary that a moderator will make some users angry; some people inherently don't want to be moderated. That's part of why case-by-case inspections are necessary; number of people upset doesn't mean much here, it's why they're upset. Populism is not a good way to go here.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 9, 2012 at 21:28
  • 1
    @BenBrocka I think you might be pinging the wrong person: who said they "the person who closes the most posts/suspends the most users/(insert necessary action that ticks off the receiver of the action where) gets booted out just for doing their job"? Because I didn't say that.
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 21:37
  • @MarkTrapp a public review process based solely on votes is going to strongly be biased by populism. Since you haven't formally proposed one I can only assume you're wanting a more direct way for complaints to be lodged against moderators and have moderators removed via those complaints. I'm simply saying "most complaints" is not a useful metric. Anyway, if you have a better system for review, you really should post it as a separate meta request; it's becoming tangential to the specific question posed.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 9, 2012 at 21:41
  • 2
    @BenBrocka I'd appreciate it if you didn't assign specious motives or create straw man arguments after straw man arguments instead of answering a simple request for clarification to your answer. You've asserted, and emphasized, the conditional, "If they're doing a good job who the hell cares how long they've been there?". Okay, great: how do we determine whether they're doing a good job? Because there currently is no structured way for the community to do that, which is what an election ostensibly might provide. If not an election, what?
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 21:43
  • 2
    @BenBrocka Again, you (not me) asserted and emphasized that this is all moot because if a moderator is doing a good job, who cares? That is, moderators should be elected for life because nobody cares unless the moderators are doing a bad job. So how does the community determine whether a moderator is doing a bad job? Your answer hinges upon that, and without you proposing an alternative to an election, winds up begging the question: moderators should keep their position for as long as they're doing a good job, and we know they're doing a good job because they're still moderators.
    – user149432
    Aug 9, 2012 at 21:54

Life Sentence?

  1. Moderator for life ends up in an autocracy, a dictatorship without benevolence. Power goes to people's heads. They quickly become completely unaware they they have some personal bias against or for someone or other, and that they are no longer moderating. Besides, which sane person really wants to be a moderator on Stack Overflow for life.

    • if someone's contribution needs to be recognised above all others, fair enough, give them an honorary title for life; but it is honorary, absent of power and responsibility.

Policing the Police

  1. The point is, moderators need to be moderated. All their actions and interactions need to be transparent. Like any good police force in a free country. We are only as sick as our secrets. If there is no higher authority, people quickly deteriorate into tyrants. Therefore all the moderators should be able to police any other moderator.

    • once a dispute or personality issue is flagged, then the moderator should voluntarily give up handling the complainant (and thus retain credibility and integrity), or the other moderators take the issue off them (and thus they learn something).

    • absence of this structure means the moderator become a site owner, Stack Overflow becomes the highest ranking moderator.

    • if it is a community, then the community has to police the police. Failing to do so very quickly ends up in a police state. Lack of transparency defines a police state.

  2. Of course it is a learning experience. Moderators are going to make mistakes. Let them be corrected, by the other (uninvolved) moderators, it is the only way to grow. People are here for their contribution to the community, not for personal power.

    • But it needs to be recognised that people are people, and their personal and power issues will come to the fore when they are given positions of power.

    • Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord (Baron) Acton.

    • Again (1) is essential.

Terms [of Reference]

Therefore terms, and a healthy pool of enthusiatic moderators, is the only way to go.

  1. Elections appear to be the accepted form here, so that is fine. Splits and competition then have to be accepted as a part of the election process. Mature people will be less split, and less personally involved, and therefore post-election can continue to work with others. Immature people will learn.

  2. I think six months is too short. One year is minimum. Three years is probably too long for people to commit to (and when they commit, they have to commit to the duty and responsibility of the role, not the power of the position). Two years would be the best; it gives people time to mend their post-election fences, and get their personalities out of the way.

  3. The pool has to be large enough so that no one or few people carry an unbalanced workload.

  4. The pool has to cross enough time zones to be effectively and immediate in their actions.

  5. It also has to have enough range; junior moderators through senior moderators. In order to cultivate senior moderators for the long term.

  6. Given that it is a community, the health of the moderator community depends on them exercising and enjoying a real community. Which means no hierarchies. Rank, yes, reputation, yes; but no hierarchies. Hierarchies lead directly to dictatorships.

  7. And gender balance. OK, the industry is not gender balanced, but we have to have better gender balance than the industry. Women add value that men cannot understand or identify. They will make mistakes too, the amazons and school marms will get weeded out in one term, just like the stalins.

  8. To be clear, I am saying moderators should be elected on the basis of merit, not popularity, but Stack Overflow does not have a system for tracking merit; popularity is all we have. Far more prone to problems people have identified in other answers, but there is no alternative.


One related issue is the FAQ, while I love the short and sweet nature, it is too short and sweet. That leads to each moderator having their own (personal) interpretation of it. Which often results in different moderators have drastically different interpretations, and applications thereof. It also results in substantial waste of time and energy arguing definitions of what "be nice" and "be honest" is, all of which can be avoided. Therefore I think the FAQ need to be fleshed out just a bit more.

  • A law cannot be relied upon unless it is stated in definitive terms, and it is applied the same to everyone. Otherwise it is a fish that slides around, and it loses its value. the result is not dictatorship but fiefdoms of warlords.
  • 5
    Ehrm, concerning power going to moderators' head: link or it didn't happen... :)
    – Benjol
    Jan 19, 2011 at 7:34
  • 6
    @Benjol, maybe you were just trying to be funny, but that comment seems to me to be pretty indicative of the problem with many in the moderator (or wanting to someday be moderator) community. For one, on multiple occasions, the actions of moderators that I found to be unprofessional, or indicative of abuse of power, have been removed (like a disagreement over closing a question ... question and comments get deleted). Or maybe I just can't see them because I haven't hit 10k. Either way, I can't link to them, and yes, they did happen.
    – Nate
    Feb 5, 2013 at 10:39

I always liked the ways Slashdot did it. Moderation abilities are something that you earn and that you have to keep earning. So someone who stays away for a month might lose his/her mod status.

  • Might leave some sites without mods... I mean those struggling to get users. True, that might mean it's just time to call it and let the site die.
    – user212646
    Feb 21, 2019 at 17:28
  • That attitude is precisely why SE needs turnover in its members, because it is dead; presumably why you left, and why SE keeps kicking even though. Not that that has anything specifically to do with moderators, but anyone who still wants that job after 11 years (and after the most recent debacle which has its own Wiki heading), my hat's off to you.
    – Mazura
    May 24, 2020 at 8:42

Rather than term limits, I think it would make much more sense to have annual elections in which existing mods need to be re-elected.

This would give mods a chance to reflect on whether they want to keep serving the community, and it would also give the community more voice. Right now, there is very little that forces mods to take account of what the userbase wants. It would probably be better if there were an opportunity for the community to review their behaviour annually.

  • To the contrary, the fact that you can still post an opinion on this topic nearly two years after the question is posed is a testament to the openness of the community feedback process. There are limits to that openness, however. If the peasants want to burn down the castle, chances are good we're not going to allow that, no matter how popular the idea might seem at the time.
    – user102937
    May 20, 2011 at 14:35
  • Also, the policies that are followed by the moderators today are, in large part, established by this community process. So you can't really say that the desires of the community are not taken into account.
    – user102937
    May 20, 2011 at 14:39
  • 4
    @Robert Harvey: There's a big difference between merely being heard, and having the chance to review the performance and execution of moderators.
    – Marcin
    May 20, 2011 at 14:45
  • Ah. For more on that topic, see here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/90677/…
    – user102937
    May 20, 2011 at 14:48
  • 1
    Right, but annual re-election is a totally different beast from meta-moderation. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but significantly the problems and advantages don't overlap (beyond community control of the moderators).
    – Marcin
    May 20, 2011 at 14:52
  • If the point here is to make moderators really consider if they want to continue to serve via some token of effort to continue, that happens much more than once a year. Every action we take is open and can be readily disputed via a variety of mechanisms - defending your self is an emotionally and time expensive proposition - learning from that is equally if not more taxing. Fragmenting the team on an annual basis would mean teaching everyone how to do what we do within the policy we enforce, which would be even more taxing. I'm sorry, but -1 to this.
    – user50049
    May 20, 2011 at 19:41
  • 6
    @Tim: I don't see why an annual election would lead to fragmentation of the team. If the moderators have the confidence of the community there would be no reason why they could remain indefinitely if they wanted. As to "every decision" making you consider whether you want to continue - I'm sure you realise that there is a difference between something you have to do every day, and something that occurs annually. Maybe you feel challenged every day, but I bet you don't reflect on every decision and see it as an opportunity to gracefully withdraw.
    – Marcin
    May 20, 2011 at 21:48

Should we have term limits that require community moderators be cycled out periodically, so others get a chance to moderate?

No, experience is key here.

Should we hold regular (say, yearly) moderator elections?

This should be done as the community grows. There should be some number to go by. Like at n number of questions / answers per day you need y mods.

Is it better to have a larger pool of community moderators, and let the normal ebb and flow of turnover get us "natural" variability in moderation?

If you are referring to 10k mods. Then I think it's good to have a large pool of them, since usually there are a lot of minor fixes they can do. And when the community grows, the number of 10k mods should grow as well.

  • 4
    I like the "grow ♦ moderators as questions/comments rise" idea. Jun 30, 2009 at 10:17

An experienced moderator is a good moderator. If they do a good job keep them as long as they wish.

  • 10
    Regular elections would not necessarily mean the loss of experienced moderators. Jun 30, 2009 at 10:14
  • 1
    The question was "for life" or "cycle periodically". I vote "till death". Jun 30, 2009 at 10:47
  • 1
    Very binary of you :P The question is multifaceted, and the issue open to debate. Shades of gray. Analog. Other options exist than just 'cycle' or 'till death'. Jun 30, 2009 at 11:18
  • Well, first of all, I've never written, that I am against elections. Many of the actual moderators were elected. Second, if one was elected I vote "for death", not kicking him out just because to give others a chance. No, tell me, where is the shade? Jun 30, 2009 at 11:25
  • 1
    1) I never said you were against elections. 2) Your comment "The question was..." above is both binary/shadeless and inaccurate. Jun 30, 2009 at 11:35

I think at least one new moderator should be elected each year. In the event that we then get too many moderators one long serving moderator should be chosen at random to be removed.

We need new blood to be coming in, but as long as a site is growing fast I don’t think we need to get rid of the old blood.

  • 2
    So far there has never been more than a nine-month gap between new rounds of moderators (May '09 - January '10 - July '10 - January '11), so I think we're doing okay on that score.
    – mmyers
    May 20, 2011 at 15:11

It's unclear whether the question addresses this as a possibility but it would seem to me that the moderators should both be subjection to periodic elections while having no maximum term limit.

I've seen a lot of comparison to the United States government in these answers and will therefore use it as an example:

The president - term limited

The moderators do not hold executive power. They are not singular decision makers. The reason to term limit the president is because (s)he has a great deal of power concentrated in one person. The president exists as a position because the United States needs a single person to be able to do things like represent the United States in treaty negotiations (whether in person or through an ambassador/negotiator). Clearly moderators are not used for such singular positions and therefore do not need a term limit.

Justices of the supreme court - the only constitutionally created office not subject to re-election/appointment

Justices are appointed to life terms because they are nominally above politics. They must not be held to the whims of the people because they do not form policy. Rather, they decide how specific cases fit the law, which can be unpopular (e.g. if the law does not cover an offense). Of course if they abuse their positions they can be impeached by congress. Furthermore, on the federal side in the United States, judges and justices are not elected by the people, they are appointed and confirmed by elected officials. There job is not to reflect the will of the people, but rather to be skilled in applying the law to specific cases.

As has been pointed out above, moderators do partially fall into this category. They apply the policies to specific cases. However...

Congressman and Senators - no limit but subject to elections every two/six years

Congressman and senators form the bulk of the representation in the United States democracy. They create the statutes that form the law that the courts decide. The president does have the veto power, though the bills are generally crafted in such a way that the president will sign them. As such congressman are elected every two years, so that they will well represent the public. Senators are elected every six years and are expected to be more level headed, representing more people and looking out more for the general good then any specific group of people.

While the moderators do not generally have the ability to change the rules of the site (I know of no specific cases where moderators set the rules, but I would imagine they would have a large say in any changes to the rules), the rules are broad enough that they have a large control over interpretation. As most of us are willing to follow the leaders (not a bad thing), we tend to make our decisions based on what we see the moderators doing. This is as close as we come to democratic decision making on Stack Overflow and in the Stack Exchange. As such, I would suggest we treat the moderators as congressman or better yet senators: elected to terms (overlapping in the case of senators), subject to re-election, generally re-elected unless something is going wrong.


I would suggest we treat moderators similar to United States Senators. As the closest things to democratic decision makers they should be subject to re-election. As the position involves a significant amount of learning and then teaching they should be elected to overlapping terms (in the United States Senate one third of the Senators are re-elected every two years for a term of six years). Perhaps a moderator would be elected for a three year term with elections held every year. Also, moderators up for re-election could be featured at the top of the list. This would allow moderators the time to learn the job and teach new moderators. Furthermore, most elected officials in any system are re-elected (the incumbent advantage). In general moderators would likely have long terms anyway unless their actions are noticeably and memorably unpopular.


It might be worth creating another position that decides on matters of policy. They could for example craft answer to popular questions of policy on the meta sites: e.g. when is a homework question allowable. There are often many competing not entirely contradictory, but not entirely the same answers on the meta. Often more than one with quite a few up votes. This body could draft, and vote on, official responses to said questions to leave no doubt as to the official policy. The site's rules could be seen as a constitution of sorts, not generally subject to change. These decisions would then be seen to make up a set of statutes, declaring with a higher degree of precision the interpretation of the rules. Vote records would be kept and if the community doesn't like the positions being taken they could vote in new leadership.

Meanwhile the moderators would be focused towards implementation of the decisions of the new body rather then interpretation of the rules of the site. This would also ease the transition for those with sufficient reputation to use many of the tools given to the community (i.e. votes to close, reopen, etc.). Yes, the meta site does offer some guidance, however it is often hard to determine when consensus has been formed or which of a competing set of answers to use. As far as moderator terms, in this case I would suggest they be long or indefinite (life) as they would no longer be representing the community but rather deciding on the basis of the rules that the new body formed.


I'm a 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.

Personally I am in favor of gentle term limits. Over at Math.SE, which is a larger site, 3-5 years (maybe the length can vary by community for smaller ones) 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. Math.SE has literally thousands of active, high-quality users but fewer than 20 have served as mods. I believe indefinite terms give too much responsibility to too few users and that it is in the best interests of the community to allow more users to serve as mods by having some term limit.

To be clear: the mods at Math.SE are doing good work!

  • 2
    Be careful because MSE is also the acronym used for Meta.SE! It can get confusing so I edited to make it clear that you were talking about Math.SE. Jul 18, 2020 at 18:07
  • 2
    Something else to consider: I suspect that not all sites have the enough people that are willing, capable, and qualified to be good mods to support this kind of short rotation. Some sites are quite small (Math is one of the bigger ones). I would worry about a forced rotation decreasing the quality of moderators on many sites (and/or causing many failed elections) for this reason. Jul 18, 2020 at 18:18

I am in support of terms, without a cap on the number of times they may be reelected. I think this is a best-of-both-worlds solution between for-life and finitely-termed.


  • Moderators are reminded every election that they are, above all, simply community members with a shiny ♦ next to their name.
  • If they seek reelection, moderators must convince the community that they have done their job well and will do so in the future. The community must decide that they have not been abusing their powers and deserve reelection (rather than relying on the mod gods to do so).
  • ♦ moderation is more community-oriented. In a for-life solution, seats in the ♦ council will remain filled indefinitely. New members will only be admitted when a) new seats are added or b) a moderator resigns. Under a termed-reelection system, new members can be added as often as every moderator election.
  • Being a moderator is a tough job. Having fresh minds on the team would be advantageous.


  • I forsee that this solution could result in a situation where voters consider who to vote for and think "Well, the community hasn't imploded, and I still enjoy participating in it, I'll vote for the incumbent!", meaning that ♦ moderators will continually be reelected regardless of true performance.

Now, would it be such a bad thing if they are continually reelected? I don't think so: it would result in a situation very similar to a for-life scenario. I think that ♦ moderators should have the ability to resign at any point, and a special election be held to fill the vacancy, or a pro-tem mod appointed to finish the term.


Moderation should primarily be a meritocracy as quality of work is more useful than popularity of the work. Democracy is secondary to that - it is peripherally useful in that public opinion of the merits of a particular individual may be correlated with their actual merits. However recent history is littered with examples where this was not the case.

Also, public opinion can be manipulated by people with access to mass media - which can undermine the democratic process by skewing public opinion with incomplete or biased information or outright propoganda.


Replacing a moderator would also be/mean changing the team.

Hopefully a team will jell -- i.e. learn to get along with each other and work together and so on.

Replacing a moderator might make it harder for the rest, if the new moderator disagrees with the others.

For what it's worth I get the impression that if any user complains about a moderator then, other things being equal, SE might be inclined to side with the moderator or the status quo -- and that conversely what's more likely to see a moderator removed, is if the other moderators of the site complain about them.


A benevolent dictatorship is always better than democracy.

May I suggest however, moderators should be:

  1. Distributed evenly through time zones - no point having 80% in the US etc.
  2. A range of "specialties", this may involve for example "Objective-C only shortlist"
  3. Some women - it's a real sausage-fest round here. Seriously, I'd support a "women only short list" for the next moderator.
  • 4
    Time Zones is a good idea. I don't think they need specific domain logic? Their job is to moderate. Not verify content. That's what the community is for.
    – Damien
    Jun 30, 2009 at 11:16
  • 1
    I refer you to an old podcast - (I think) Jeff said (and I'm para-phrasing) a C# guy might be more generous to C# questions [subconsciously] so it's good to have a mix. Jun 30, 2009 at 11:18
  • 11
    #3 sounds like affirmative action... Jun 30, 2009 at 13:00
  • 3
    Nothing wrong with that, a few women moderators would help increase the total number of women users - then you don't have to worry about it. Jun 30, 2009 at 13:06
  • 5
    Regarding geographic distribution, I was curious so I created a map of the SO moderators given their location in their profile: google.com/maps/…. As you can see ~85% are in the US (two are even in the same city!) but there's a pretty good spread among the timezones. Some east Asian moderators ought to cover the gap. Jul 1, 2009 at 1:24
  • Can has Australian modz now?
    – Sam Becker
    Jan 15, 2010 at 11:11
  • 2
    +1 for time zones, thought that's difficult to guarantee with elections.
    – Benjol
    Jan 19, 2011 at 7:31
  • I can't tell most users' gender. They have to say so, either explicitly, with a picture, or a gendered name. I only hedge my bets that any given user is male because I know the stats.
    – user212646
    Feb 21, 2019 at 21:03

Definitely don't force them out. Maybe regular elections (6-monthly?), but perhaps even that isn't needed. The downside of "for life" is that unless there is a turnover, when some moderators do then leave, you've suddenly got (perhaps multiple) inexperienced moderators. I'd say leave things as they are for the next 12 months and review things then - I can't see anything going too badly wrong before then!


We should do this the way it is often done with judges. Moderators stand for re-election without opposition on a periodic (say, annual) basis. Almost all of them would win - if not, it's because there is a serious disconnect between them and users that needs to be addressed anyway.

If any moderators are removed as a result of this, elections are held as soon as possible for any needed replacements.

  • 5
    this would cause election fatigue and de-value the election process IMHO. "another election? who cares, we have those all the time, and there's nobody new and exciting to vote for anyway..." Oct 17, 2012 at 18:32
  • 5
    @JeffAtwood - Yes, you hope the re-election's are boring, because it means people aren't unhappy with the moderators and re-election is routine. But it has the value of proving the re-election is routine. And if for whatever reason re-election isn't routine, then this is something you really need. And, yes, you make a big distinction between the votes of confidence for existing moderators and the election of new moderators (which will usually get much more voting) to try to avoid any issue of election fatigue.
    – psr
    Oct 17, 2012 at 18:40

After reading through the previously made answers I think that there is a simple solution. Have an election every 12 months in every SE site for a new moderator, that new moderator has the next 12 months to prove that they can stand the pressure of being a moderator at which point the community has another vote to keep or demote him as a moderator at the same time as electing a new young moderator. this has a few pros and cons:


  • We get a steady flow of new blood in the moderator pool.
  • More moderators mean easier work distribution.
  • Potential to be scaled up for larger sites e.g. votes every 6 months / 2 mods added every 12 month period.
  • Potential to be scaled down for smaller sites e.g. votes happen every 2 years


  • We may get an over abundance of moderators.
  • Excessive votes may make less people vote.
  • New moderators don't moderate well (this is partially why the 12 month probation period is there)

In my opinion the Pros great outweigh the Cons, and the Cons are things the community will naturally deal with through the voting system. If people don't vote then that's their problem, but they will have the choice to vote if they so wish it.

  • 4
    "another vote to keep or demote him as a moderator" - no, that's the worst thing that can be done. It will force the moderators to act based on the results, not based on the needs of the sites, i.e. they will avoid acting when knowing it might cause a "demote vote". The result will be much worse moderation. Mar 9, 2018 at 8:06
  • @ShadowWizard the 12-month vote is to say "is this person upholding the rules of the site" and should be voted on as such. any vote is going to cause bias but a solution to that problem is to make the second vote one done by moderators only and have them give reason and evidence for their vote. That way it promotes co-operation from new moderators and means they want to uphold the rules to the best of their ability not please the masses.
    – rpgstar
    Mar 9, 2018 at 9:03
  • -1 You're proposing to turn the moderator tool into a blood bath...
    – ChrisW
    Jul 19, 2020 at 8:17

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