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A few weeks ago, we announced to the Open Source community that we had trouble getting the necessary number of nominations to hold a competitive election. We hoped that this would start a conversation on the need for nominations for moderators on the site.

We have greatly appreciated MadHatter and apsillers’s work to keep the site well moderated. We need the election to be competitive to hold one. Since this is a post-graduation election, it has to be competitive to be successful. If we have another unsuccessful election, Open Source will have an uncertain future that could lead it to being close at some point.

So why don't you want to moderate for Open Source?

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    I used to be a prolific contributor on this and other sites in the network and even stood for election once, but this year I deliberately stopped writing posts and only troll around in the comments. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was SO temporarily withholding the data dump, but other trust-destroying actions didn't help. Like firing CMs, or dragging your feet on implementing the resolution of the moderator strike. Given that background, and my history with SO corporate, I don't think I could sign the mod agreement in good conscience.
    – amon
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 22:16

4 Answers 4

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Let me flip the question round: how will the site be improved by an election? MadHatter and apsillers do an excellent job moderating the site in my opinion, and I see no evidence of disruptive behaviour not being dealt with. If we manage to press gang a couple of candidates ("A" and "B") to make a "competitive" election, there are two possibilities:

  • MadHatter, apsillers and one of (A or B) are elected. Marginal gain, as it's likely neither A nor B are particularly motivated to moderate this site or they would have stood in the initial election.
  • Both of A and B are elected, leaving one of MadHatter or apsillers being demoted. We lose an excellent contributor to the site.
    • I think we all know this second possibility is very unlikely barring some kind of weird astro-turfing campaign but it is a possiblity.

If we really think we need some kind of referendum on MadHatter and apsillers as moderators, let's do an election with those two and "re-open nominations". I personally think that's a waste of everyone's time and energy but accept that Stack Overflow wishes its moderators to have some kind of democratic mandate.

The biggest problem this site faces is a lack of questions, not a lack of moderators - this isn't a dig at this site in particular, it's common for a number of sites across the network, including the ones I moderate. I'd rather see Stack Overflow's efforts put into remedying that rather than having an election for the sake of having an election.

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    I, too, have argued to The Powers That Be that "re-open nominations" as an explicit candidate is a much better way of distinguishing between an electorate happy with the status quo and an apathetic electorate, than this weird house rule of "n+1 candidates". Thus far, I have not been able to persuade them. That said, thank you for your kind words, which I very much appreciate.
    – MadHatter Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 23:29
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Moderation, on any website, is thankless, unpaid work. Your every action may be subject to the community's scrutiny at any time. If you do your job flawlessly, the community will scarcely know that you have done anything at all. I frankly do not understand why anyone is willing to do it. I am grateful for their sacrifice, of course, but not enough that I'm willing to subject myself to that experience, especially seeing as I already have a full-time job.

Maybe if the moderation on OS.SE was really bad or really slow, I would be more strongly motivated to pitch in, but MadHatter and apsillers are doing a fine job as far as I can tell. Threatening to close the community is not a great motivator either - it just makes me think that you're trying to strong-arm me into giving you free work. If you don't want to continue running OS.SE, then go ahead and close it. We can always recreate it from the data dump and host it elsewhere.

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  • Not intended to come off as a strong arm. Just to be a direct conversation about why people are not nominating.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:08
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    @SpencerG: I appreciate that you're trying to be clear about the applicable Stack Exchange policies. I'm trying to be clear about where I stand as a member of the community. From my perspective, those policies make no logical sense. Either the moderation tasks are getting done, or they are not. The sense of the community, at least for now, seems to be that moderation tasks are getting done, so there is no problem to be solved. I don't really want to see OS.SE closed, and I doubt you do either, but if we want to prevent that from happening, the change that needs to happen is on the policy side.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 21:21
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I'm late to the party, but I'd like to share my view, too.

I saw the notice to apply for the elections and I considered it, twice. The is no need to copy the words of Bart van Ingen Schenau, however I feel the same. And I also felt the site in very good hands by Madhatter and apsillers like Philip Kendall explains well.

But let me explain in my own terms: Seeing this meta thread only now, 3 weeks late, is somewhat indicative of two or three things:

  • I don't want another commitment. Moderation and community management is work, and is a commitment. I have done that. Obviously I fail in that regard here - and taking on a role would also reduce the 'carefree fun in writing helpful answers when I have time and feel like'. Additionally, when I procrastinate here, I most likely do that because I would have to deal with mess-ups of others or to arbitrate.

  • my workload in the coming months will rather increase than decrease as a big project I work on for years is coming (hopefully and finally) to an end with the hardware delivery. And I might want to change job after that. So the future is somewhat uncertain, as is my availability.

  • the site seems in good hands of the current moderators. Don't fix it, if it ain't broke.

Related to the process, but not part of my reasoning reading this thread and the previous one on the repetition of the election: The requirement of having more nominees than openings is obviously absolute bogus. Any other election I know of only requires one candidate. The measure should be a working site and not an arbitrary number in a process.

It somewhat rubs me the wrong way to read 'get candidates or we might close it'. I understand there has to be good moderation. Yet there is. Trying to coerce me to do something which I'd currently only do for necessity rather than joy... not so good. However I also do understand and know: no community works without this who cares about it and work for it. Thus this work is much appreciated, thanks in particular to Madhatter and apsillers.

All this said: This is the best site I currently know to live my helper syndrome, and I like it a lot: There are intelligent questions, and own questions get answered often elaborately and concisely, there is little noise.

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When I commit to something, I take that commitment seriously. That also means that I need to have the time that comes with fulfilling the commitment available.

As a moderator, you are expected to react in a timely manner to flags and escalations. For me, that translates into being able to monitor the queues and inbox at least on a daily basis and preferably multiple times a day.

On the other hand, I have a full-time day job that is at times demanding and stressful and I also have other commitments outside of work. That combination makes that I can't commit to being able to monitor the queue and inbox at a frequency that I feel is needed.

Those were my consideration for not nominating myself, even though I am one of the top contributors.

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    What you say makes excellent sense, but in case it helps calibrate "sufficiently often" for you, or others, I'd say that a moderator-specific task crops up here about twice a week. Nearly all these are moderator flags and pruning of excessive comment threads; hardly ever do we have any thornier issue that needs moderator attention. So my feeling is that anyone who can commit to coming to the site most days will be able to honour the job. My fellow mod may have his own views on desirable visit frequency, however.
    – MadHatter Mod
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 17:11
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    I agree with @MadHatter: I deal with an interpersonal conflict or emotionally-charged issue around twice a year. The rest is chat-ifying comments threads and deleting occasional spam and obsolete comments, which comes up perhaps twice a week. Considering the frequency is light for two moderators, it would surely be even lighter for three. (Whether or not that means we warrant a third moderator is a question that MadHatter has reasonably raised elsewhere, but I agree, here, too, that it indicates the job would be managed without too great an onus.)
    – apsillers Mod
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 19:22
  • While I can't speak directly to Open Source, I'll echo what our moderators are saying above: the two sites which I moderate (one of which is a fair bit bigger than Open Source) certainly don't need check ins multiple times a day. About the only thing which is vaguely time-sensitive is spam, and the community is pretty good about dealing with that. Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 12:17

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