An interesting discussion just spun up on the SF chat, which clearly showed that some of us have strong feelings about how this site should be moderated - and who's job it is.

We have certain mods who are perhaps a bit fed up of literally drowning in mod flags every day. This made me believe that they're doing nothing but seeing crappy questions all day, because they get no time to actually answer questions (which they should, as many of them have lots of reputation and needs to share their godly wisdom).

I just went over our mod list, and I notice that many of our mods are only doing flagwork or commenting on things that might have been flagged - not answering questions. One mod (Karfa) is very inactive.

Should mods answer questions? I think so.

Do we have enough mods? I'm not so sure.. Why aren't our current mods answering questions? Not enough time? Or simply no interest?.

My proposal is that we either replace some of the mods, or elect in new ones. We need atleast 2-3 more so that our other mods can start focusing a bit more on answering questions.

EDIT/notice: I'm not on a hunt here, I hope the mods understand that. We really appriciate the effort you've all put into the site!

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There should (theoretically at least) be another moderator election coming up soon... –  voretaq7 Dec 13 '11 at 15:54
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While I agree that currently some of our mods are less active, I do not think any of them have seriously over-stepped their authority or harmed the site. They have all been active and helpful at some point in time, and I am sure we can all agree to thank them for their service to the community. I am certain none these question/answers mean to imply that anyone is doing their job badly. –  Zoredache Dec 13 '11 at 17:36
    
@Zoredache Agreed. –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 17:51
    
@Zoredache Absolutely! –  pauska Dec 13 '11 at 19:15
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Oh btw, just because we're mods, doesn't mean we're very good sysadmins ;) These two things aren't always dependant on each other. –  Mark Henderson Dec 13 '11 at 20:41
    
Just bear in mind that many (most?) with mod power have it only because they are employees or otherwise have a financial interest in the company. –  John Gardeniers Dec 14 '11 at 1:57
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@JohnGardeniers Just Kyle and Zypher, I think? Peter hasn't been given the hammer. –  Shane Madden Dec 14 '11 at 3:10
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@JohnG - I don't, I'm far too good with my money to invest it in SE :) –  Chopper3 Dec 14 '11 at 9:08
    
@Shane, just check out the posts here on Meta and I'm sure you'll spot a few more. –  John Gardeniers Dec 14 '11 at 21:03
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@JohnGardeniers I think you might be mistaken. According to serverfault.com/about there are nine people with diamonds on SF, two are George and Kyle. The other 7 are community mods. Most (all?) of the Devs and community outreach people also have diamonds so that they can do their jobs, but they do not actively moderate SF which is why they aren't listed on that page. The content of this discussion is limited to the 7 community moderators listed in serverfault.com/about that were either appointed or elected. –  MDMarra Dec 14 '11 at 23:18

8 Answers 8

I will only speak for myself. I was a very (and by very I mean very very) active member of Serverfault before I became moderator. I literally answered hundreds of questions in the first months.

At the time Jeff asked me if I wanted to become a moderator, I accepted and I somehow felt relieved, because I could help improving the site without writing answers which for me is almost a physical effort (I'm exaggerating of course), because I have to pretend that I

  1. know something about sysadmin stuff (which I only do to a certain extent; actually in some areas I'm an expert)
  2. speak English in an acceptable way (you can see in this post that I still struggle)

So, from that moment on I focused on my moderator activities – which by the way was much harder than it is today with all those fancy tools. ;-) I particularly like to improve posts, clean up stuff, remove worthless posts and spam etc. I visit the site every day (between UTC 7 and 18 multiple times) and I try to work on every flag I see (and I'm able to handle).

I admit that I'm not actively contributing Meta SF, though I read every post. But most of the times I have the feeling that other users answer the question there in a much better way that I could do given the time I have to spend on SF and StackExchange. By the way, I like other SE sites too, and recently I actively helped to grow the German SE site (as Italian, yes!). It's not something that takes much time, because there are only few questions.

Also, I am not not a chatroom-type person. I simply can't make it a habit to have an open window with a synchronous type of (not work-related) communication. Though I absolutely understand that a moderator should be there (at least regularly).

I am the last person in the world who clings to his SF-job and I told Jeff when I started that he (or other people in charge) could tell me if something was not okay. So, whoever thinks it's a good idea to bring in fresh meat (is that a phrase in English? Who cares.) – I'll be perfectly fine with it. Maybe I'll give more answers. ;-)

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This is the kind of answer I was looking for - something to explain what happens behind the curtains. It should be OK to avoid the chat if you're not that kind of person, but participation on m.SF should be mandatory IMHO. –  pauska Dec 14 '11 at 8:53

I don't want to speak for Chopper as I'm sure he'll weigh in, but he does seem to indicate that they are overwhelmed with flags from time to time.

I just went over our mod list, and I notice that many of our mods are only doing flagwork or commenting on things that might have been flagged - not answering questions. One mod (Karfa) is very inactive.

They aren't just called "Moderators", they're called "Community Moderators" because they're supposed to actively participate in the community. The mods in my timezone-range for moderation (EST), from what I can tell are: Kara Marfia, Mr Denny, and Sysadmin. Mr Denny actively answers questions, but I rarely see him on m.sf and I never see him in chat. Sysadmin still actively answers, actively participates in m.sf, and is in chat from time to time. I never see Kara do anything. Ever.

For mods outside of my time zone, Chopper is always in chat. Always answers questions, and always participates on meta. He's incredibly active and I see him more than I see any other diamond, and he's on a 5 hour offset from me. I hardly see Sam, but he's also halfway across the globe, so I can't speak to his activity other than there isn't much on m.sf. The same is true for splattne. Italy is far away, he could be very active while I'm asleep, but I don't see him participating in m.sf. Mark H is also halfway across the world, but I see much more activity from him.

I don't want this to seem like I'm calling anyone out, but it seems like someone needs to put the "Community" back in "Community Moderators". The positions were originally created so that highly respected members of the site could help run it. It is becoming apparent that this just isn't the case in some instances. If this is because they don't have time to participate because there aren't enough mods, then we need to add more mods. If it is because some people have just become inactive, then they need to be removed from their positions and replaced in another election.

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I can't talk about other mods but...

Sometimes I have lots of time to work of SF, other times due to work/family/friends/kitten-slaughter I don't and that's when I'm either not around or short with those that test my patience.

I know I can be horrible sometimes, it's always towards whoever I consider the idiot-du-jour (there's always one) and never to those that contribute a lot. In fact it annoys me that I do treat established users differently than newer ones, I know I should be more even handled but it's not in my nature - for instance I almost always accept flags from >1000 rep users and never accept flags against their comments but do come down harder on newer users; their questions are often terrible, their attitudes frequently worse and guiding them thoughtfully through how we work is just so damn hard that it's a major PITA.

Perhaps instead of doing all the usual crap we do to new/idiot users we should force them through some form of automated 'boot camp' on how the site works, how questions need to be formed etc. Not for every user, but a one-click alternative to just ridiculing them (however much fun that can be). Kind of "I see you're new and rather than ignore you or tear pieces out of you can we just ask that you sit through this ten minute training session before asking again ok?" - does that make sense?

I do struggle to get around to answering questions - look at my rep - it's flatlined since the summer. To be honest I actually enjoy finding and destroying spammers as much as answering questions. The new interesting ones that come in are often answered before I get to them or have been covered elsewhere in one form or another. I get why we don't do shopping questions and enforce that rule all the time but to be honest I'm very good at them, it's part of what I do professionally and I know they'd be useless answers 5 minutes after I would answer them but they're the only type of question that'd keep me on my toes.

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Didn't I warn you yesterday to leave the kittens out of it?!!?!??! –  TylerShads Dec 13 '11 at 16:14
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I tried turtle-slaughter but their tiny screams pale into insignificance compared to the blood-curdling wail of a half-mangled kitty. –  Chopper3 Dec 13 '11 at 16:23
    
You'd really mangle this little guy? –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 16:26
    
Awww - they're sleepy - all-creatures.org/anex/cat-fur-20.jpg –  Chopper3 Dec 13 '11 at 16:34
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I really hate you sometimes.... –  TylerShads Dec 13 '11 at 16:34
    
@Chopper3 Turtle-Slaughter sucks. Turtle-assisted-slaughter however.... Seriously, have you seen them eat? –  voretaq7 Dec 13 '11 at 18:46

Short and sweet and with no offense intended to anyone.

We need less inactive mods and/or more active ones. Whether it be answering or participating in chat and/or m.SF something needs to be done about this.

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I agree and could happily suggest at least six current users who'd make better mods than me - though to be fair I am the chuck norris of spammer hunting ;) –  Chopper3 Dec 13 '11 at 16:25
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@Chopper3 I think you're on the short list of ones we're generally happy with. Just stop hunting kittens, ok? –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 16:31
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@Chopper3 Chuck Norris doesn't hunt. Hunting implies there is room for failure. –  Holocryptic Dec 13 '11 at 17:32
    
@MarkM Is it OK if he confines the kitten-hunting to catch-and-release? –  voretaq7 Dec 13 '11 at 18:49

I'm very interested to know more about why you believe we need more mods?

I can only speak for 12 hours of the day, but in the 12 hours I'm up there's nowhere near enough mod work to justify an additional moderator (not since Sam came on board anyway).

I do agree that we have some very inactive mods (I can see a lot more data than perhaps regular users can figure out), but considering:

  • I still work a 9 hour day and my work day and my billable time hasn't suffered
  • I still answer questions when I see fit (there are fewer questions that I want to answer, but that's another story)
  • I have OCD that when I see a red number show that indicates a flag has been placed, I must must must must get that number to 0 before doing anything else
  • Really, our workload as moderators pales in insignificance compared the the number of flags on stack overflow, super user and programmers.se.

So, I'm not quite sure where the problem is. OK so we can be rude to people, but that's not just a moderator thing. And it's not just Chopper3 either - I've mad my moments where I've just gotten fed up (hell, I've even had some mod-flags on my own moderator actions!!), but we also see this behaviour from non-mods.

Additionally, in the last month, more than half of the moderators have answered 20+ questions.

So, really, at least in my timezone (which is GMT-11) I'm just not seeing a problem that needs fixing with more mods.

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I'm not sure that this was necessarily a request for more mods. We can't see mod flags and mod actions, but we can see who is active in the community. We saw that there was at least one mod, maybe more that seemed to be doing a whole lot of nothing. We wanted to know if this is because 1) they were overburdened by taking action on mod things that only they can see 2) they were just plain inactive. If 1, then we need more. If 2, those people should be replaced. –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 19:59
    
Fair enough, I guess I got focussed on the line Do we have enough mods? I'm not so sure.. Why aren't our current mods answering questions? Not enough time? Or simply no interest? –  Mark Henderson Dec 13 '11 at 20:34
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We probably don't need more mods. It's more along two lines: 1. Some of the mods active in the UTC-5 Day TZ have made some decisions that have made several people wonder if they're in touch with the community; these mods in particular have been somewhat inactive on the site. 2. We're moving to a state where we have contributor and mods, but not both; and several people think that is something we should avoid (keeping the moderation load low enough that those users can still be active contributors without "neglecting" their duties). –  Chris S Dec 13 '11 at 20:34
    
Do keep in mind the community has a range of moderator satisfaction... Your actions alone do not comprise the whole of our experience. –  Chris S Dec 13 '11 at 20:36
    
not since sysadmin came on board anyway Do you mean Sam ? Sysadmin1138 started with you didn't he ? –  Iain Dec 13 '11 at 21:33
    
I do mean Sam, my mistake. –  Mark Henderson Dec 13 '11 at 21:53

Wasn't there something not too long ago on m.SO about them wanting to require a certain level of activity from their mods? I think their discussion was around metrics for handling flags, since their flag queue is so thick. I don't see that as appropriate or necessary here, but the concept may make sense; a mod who has gone completely inactive for a long stretch should probably be replaced.

On the topic of community participation, I think the important thing for a moderator is not necessarily to participate by answering questions (or any other activity you can think of - edits, upvotes, etc), but simply to understand the community standards. For instance, someone like Ward who spends a ton of time reading and voting (having recently cracked 10k votes) has a great understanding of the community standards - what's topical, what's appropriate, what's junk - without having the commanding rep total that fits the typical moderator mold.

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You're thinking of the post where Jeff criticized some SO mods for spending too much time posting answers when they should be handling flags -- essentially the opposite of this question, which is why I found it rather funny when I saw it –  Michael Mrozek Dec 13 '11 at 18:30
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The problem with REQUIRING a certain level of activity is that it doesn't allow for the fact that the time the mods put in is their own and they each have lives (at least in the sense that sysadmins have lives). It's not like a paid occupation, where it is reasonable to require a level of activity. –  John Gardeniers Dec 14 '11 at 2:05
    
@JohnGardeniers Absolutely - the minute it gets tied to a mandatory level of activity for whatever metric, something has gone horribly wrong. I think our discussion has been (and should be) more around those who have simply lost interest in the community. –  Shane Madden Dec 14 '11 at 2:49

It's pretty much accepted that if you get a diamond added to your name, your reputation trajectory stagnates, if not limpers.

One big reason why your moderators aren't answering questions is because their attention has shifted in doing a lot of background cleanup work that you don't notice and isn't listed on their public activity. It's there for other moderators to see, but then you'd have to ask them if there's one in their ranks who also doesn't help moderate via clearing flags, destroying spammers and other red pants issues.

But if you notice a mod answering plenty and hanging out on chat all day long, then you'd be asking if they were even doing anything in mod capacity with all the time they have to chit-chat and post.

Reputation from answers isn't the only indicator of what makes a highly respected member of the community. Sure, answering a lot is a way for them to get out there, but now that they're doing diamond encrusted janitorial work, they're less in your face. As they should be.

It's a flip-flopping battle if you're an active mod. Or an inactive one.

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But if you notice a mod answering plenty and hanging out on chat all day long, then you'd be asking if they were even doing anything in mod capacity with all the time they have to chit-chat and post. - I strongly disagree. We all see Chopper closing everything in his wake, as well as answering and being available in chat. Participation and moderation are not mutually exclusive. –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 15:54
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Reputation from answers isn't the only indicator of what makes a highly respected member of the community. - One mod hasn't answered anything since July and hasn't asked anything since 2009. I'm not saying that people should have to answer stuff every day, or even every week, but I feel that for a moderator to effectively police a community, they should be a reasonably active member of that community. –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 15:56
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The point here is that we want mods who do it all (like Chopper3). We want them to answer questions, give out helpful comments, participate in the chat and on meta, and moderate the site. This is why we think that we need more mods, instead of a few who doesn't do anything other than respond to flag alerts. –  pauska Dec 13 '11 at 16:01
    
You're right in that moderation and participation are not mutually exclusive. But that participation may be taken up more in how they moderate. If they're drowning, the next round of elections (usually a yearly thing now dependent on site growth and numbers) will help that @mar –  random Dec 13 '11 at 16:09
    
The problem is is that even if those mods are active 24/7 doing moderater-y stuff, we have no clue that they are because all we see is the site. Sitting idly in chat like @KyleBrandt does is enough to me that they at least see a ticker popup from the m.SE feed (someone mentioned that this stuff goes into their inbox anyway) and can read chat notifications and respond. The silence of the mods aside from Chopper scare me in that maybe they're not doing anything at all. –  TylerShads Dec 13 '11 at 16:42
    
@Shads0 In defense of some of the others, Mark H is in Australia, Splattne is in Italy, and a few others are in the UK. The time zone difference means that they may participate a bit more than we think, even if it's not on meta. I know that Mark H is also very active, just when I'm fast asleep. Chopper is a good example of how active mods should be, but he isn't the only one doing his job. That said, there are at least one, possibly more that seem to be occupying a diamond without doing much that us plebs can see. –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 16:45
    
Aye, as I said in my answer, I mean no offense to anyone and I know some of the mods that I don't see are active. Those are the ones that shouldn't have anything to worry about :) –  TylerShads Dec 13 '11 at 17:03
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I always have wondered if they should implement some kind of cap for community moderators. Just like regular users have caps on casting close votes/flags. We really don't want a single individual to have to deal with a huge number of moderation activities per day. Lets say you limit a moderator too 100 moderator actions, if moderators are regularly getting close to that limit, then shouldn't we be getting more moderators? –  Zoredache Dec 13 '11 at 19:19

I also noticed some of the mods are less active then others. I don't think a moderator election would be a bad thing. It would help take some of the load Chopper and other active mods have to handle now. I think we need some new people on board who are willing to help out.

I don't blame the currently inactive mods. They have done great work for the community, keeping it clean and by the FAQ. Some of them have been a mod for a hefty time and I don't blame them for being struck with burnout/compassion fatigue.

Coming back to a community is not easy, especially if you have realized you may have been slacking a bit. Guilt has a lot to do with this. The community puts the moderators up on pedestals and wants them to lead by example. This is hard to accomplish. Modding on SF takes up a lot of your (sparse) free time.

To mods who might feel addressed: There is no shame in 'not being a moderator anymore'. You did a great thing. If you feel like you don't have the time to do it anymore or don't feel like doing it anymore, just tell us. We are all people. We understand.

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