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I'm starting to get a bit of the heebiejeebies of the recent communications of our moderator team.

Together, this conjures an image to me of the moderator team as some sort of thought police that maintains a "wall of silence". This is undoubtedly not their intention, but it does come across to me as such.

This makes me reluctant to do community tasks like

  • Performing review tasks when I have the idea that my opinion doesn't line up with the moderators opinion
  • Speaking my mind on Meta, if I have the idea that my opinion doesn't line up with the moderators opinion
  • Speaking my mind in chat

And finally and most importantly make me feel unwelcome on this site. Even writing this post makes me fear it will lead to my suspension or summary deletion of this post. I'm afraid that if this goes for me it goes for others as well. I believe the pluriformity of a community is important for its scope, for avoiding groupthink, to prevent cronyism and to create and maintain a pleasant working environment for all volunteers on this project.

If we want to avoid bleeding out contributors, I believe we have to do something to turn this around. This is not a fun subject, but if we don't address this, it might fester and spread, to the point it's too late to address it before more serious harm is done than just my heebiejeebies, and starts to do actual harm to the site. What can we do to alleviate these feelings and concerns?

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    You're right, that isn't our intention, and I'm glad you brought this up if that's what it feels like. I know we haven't been doing as well as we could. Just to say I've noticed this, and I'm working on it - you'll have an answer later on. – ArtOfCode Aug 31 '15 at 11:34
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Together, this conjures an image to me of the moderator team as some sort of thought police that maintains a "wall of silence".

This surely isn't intended, as you note yourself. We moderators do disagree on some stuff. I can speak for myself, that I don't push disagreement to the outside to not undermine the standing of particular moderators. But we are not a uniform thought police and the wall of silence is the consequence of the mod-chat being private. We can't cite from that, so that makes it sometimes hard to talk about what was discussed.

For the review-stuff I was assured, that no ban is handed out based only on a metric, some misuse of the review must be made (like close-voting targeted at a specific person) to get a ban, the metric might support a decision, that is all.

I think we should step a bit back (including mods) and concentrate on what is important. In my opinion the important task for our phase of the beta is discussed here. if something is missing it should be added, so the community can vote on how important they think this topic is.

I think probably topics should be earlier be discussed on Meta. Modding should be reduced more or less to handling flags and moderating toxic discussions. Moderators are humans too, with ideas for the site, good or bad. But our ideas for the site aren't worth more than the ones of non-mod members of the community. So I think discussions about the course of the site should be more on Meta.

My post reflects my personal opinions, not the ones of the mod-team. Maybe the other mods have different stances on this and should offer them.

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    "We can't cite from that, so that makes it sometimes hard to talk about what was discussed." Why are you having these discussions in a moderator room? The description of a private room is: "Private: only approved users may enter this room (this should only be used for moderation purposes)". If you aren't moderating, pull the discussion in the public. Additionally, you are more than welcome to cite from the private room. You, as a team, need to agree on it. You may be thinking of TL, which has very explicit rules. Your private moderation room is for your team to but isn't bound by the TL rules. – Andy Aug 31 '15 at 15:12
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    "Modding should be reduced more or less to handling flags and moderating toxic discussions" <- this. Elsewhere on SE it's been painfully explained to me over the years that mods are exception handlers - it's the community who're supposed to do most of the closing of inappropriate questions (via the review tools), shaping the community (via Meta), and so on. It's lovely that our mods are willing to do this all themselves, but it's an awful lot of work. – MadHatter Aug 31 '15 at 15:19
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    Just as a note/reminder: it's perfectly fine to disagree publicly, and doesn't mean anyone has to lose face. Handling disagreement publicly in an adult and collegial manner sets a far better example than pretending everyone agrees on everything and argue behind closed doors. That said, bringing an implied private discussion public can do some harm. – Martijn Aug 31 '15 at 15:39
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Mnementh has already covered the fact that we're not trying to harm. I'd like to cover some specific points from this post, and make some general comments.

  • Stay Bright! A wake up call to reviewers, especially in it's earlier iterations (check its history) tells me I'm not banned yet, but stay on your toes, because you might well be in the future.

As I said in this answer, this post was a disaster zone. That doesn't excuse us, and there was certainly better communication to be had around this issue, but please don't take that post as an example of how your mod team is always going to be. It isn't.

  • What should our site goals be? tells me there is/was a desire to have communal ideals that should be used as a litmus test for questions and answers (this was fortunately rejected by the community.)

Hang about there. I wrote this post from a non-official standpoint, on the suggestion of another user in chat. It wasn't suggesting that we should have anything; it was exploring what the community felt we were here for. If that's just to be a good Q&A site, that's fine - this wasn't a Serious Moderator Proposal™.

  • I've seen discussions in comments get cleared (with or without a note that it was moved to chat) when they discuss moderator or SE actions (for example Discussing scope overhauls with Programmers SE, but I know I have seen others as well, this is not so easy to find.)

This isn't, as you seem to think, malicious. We remove comments wherever a comment train gets too long and would benefit from being in a more free venue. If that's on a post that discusses mod/SE actions, so be it. We're equally likely to remove comments on any other post, meta or main. The discussions aren't being erased: they get moved to chat, where we're entirely happy for the discussions to continue.

  • Discussions are being held in opaque and secret backchannels, from which transcripts can't be provided.

This is something that happens daily, all over the SE network. Moderators have secret discussions. Most of those discussions are about unicorns, cats, or grumbles about our days. Occasionally, we discuss something else. When we have such discussions in a mod room, they're private - as Andy points out, we can agree to produce full transcripts, but our default position is not to release conversations from such rooms unless we agree. In the case of the review reviews, releasing the transcript would not have been productive - it's far too messy and full of conflicting ideas to be useful in understanding the situation. A summary, such as we gave, has far more use there.

Private discussions aren't evil. Nor are the moderators. We'll tell you important things, we'll look for input on important things. Cats, unicorns, and our days are usually not important.


All that said, thank you for bringing this up. I said, way back in my nomination for the mod position, that I'd be open and transparent - and if I'm not being enough of either, call me out on it. Well, I've been called out on it, so:

We're all trying. We have been trying to get what we can out; on the other hand, I do understand that it feels like there hasn't been quite enough communication to people here.


Please do continue speaking out. Speaking out, whether for or against the people in power, is useful - it lets us get a feel of what the community standpoint is, and use that in what we do. None of us are evil, and we're not going to summarily punish people we don't like.

And finally, if you do have ideas on how we could improve (in any area), shout. Find one/two/all of us in chat, drop a quick comment on a post, and tell us. We want to work together with everyone here so that everyone is welcome.

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    Other than following Mnemeths suggestion of doing less (which I understand is hard, because you want to do everything you can to help the site), just try not to get caught in backchannels. It's not evil, and sometimes it's necessary - specifically in case personal identifying information come up: peoples real names, IP information, that stuff. But in cases it's not necessary it's usually better to keep to public venues, for a variety of reasons – Martijn Aug 31 '15 at 18:04

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