Myself and a few others just noticed that HopelessN00b and Chris S are no longer listed as moderators. What is the story behind this?

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    Someone hold me. I'm scared. – Wesley Apr 9 '15 at 21:05
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    One of them decided to step down, and asked for his moderator status to be removed. The other decided something else and didn't ask anyone anything. I'll leave it to them to go into more detail if they wish to do so. – Shog9 Apr 9 '15 at 21:10
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    @Shog9 Understood if someone wants to stop down. That's fine. In the other case, though, what gives? They were elected by the users, and if that person did something so egregious as to warrant forcible removal of their mod status, I would love to know what that thing was. – EEAA Apr 9 '15 at 21:14
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    I, for one, greatly appreciate the work all the mods do. It's something I'd like to do, but don't have the time for. Seeing one lose mod status without explanation is quite upsetting. – EEAA Apr 9 '15 at 21:16
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    I'm waiting for a response from the person responsible. Hopefully, we can work this out without a ton of drama. For now, just know that removal of mod privileges is the moderator equivalent of suspension - an expedient way of halting a problematic situation until it can be resolved. – Shog9 Apr 9 '15 at 21:17
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    Oh sure...ask a question about moderators and get immediate comments from SE staff...ask for a feature-request and get crickets -- I'm taking my shovel and pail home. – TheCleaner Apr 9 '15 at 21:21
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    Not that it's relevant @TheCleaner, but this is trivial to implement if y'all wanna decide on what the pop-ups should contain. Michael requested suggestions ages ago but near as I can tell no one took him up on the offer. – Shog9 Apr 9 '15 at 21:24
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    @shog9 go ahead and say whatever you wish to about it and/or me. I'm honestly a bit curious myself, given that the on topic page explicitly calls out administration panels as off topic. – HopelessN00b Apr 9 '15 at 21:28
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    If you want to do this publicly, that's your call @Hopeless. Regardless of where we hold this discussion, I still expect an answer. – Shog9 Apr 9 '15 at 21:33
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    @Shog9 Please. You now have permission. Can you enlighten us as to what this is about? – EEAA Apr 9 '15 at 21:38
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    @Shog9 Yup, go for it. As to your answer, that will be along a little later, once I figure out what I wish to do in response to this blindsiding... And I cool off some. Also, what, specifically, you'd like explained would probably be useful to me - I don't see how closing explicitly off-topic questions requires an explanation, so your request for an explanation confuses me a little. – HopelessN00b Apr 9 '15 at 21:53
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    It looks like ad revenue is dropping and Stack Exchange is desperately trying to get new users even at the expense of site's quality. First we had this "summer of love" bullshit that opened the gates for a deluge of crap questions over on Stack Overflow, then we got this nonsense, disguised as a feature-request even though they imposed it which made flags even less effective against the low quality crap on SO, and now they're going after ServerFault... oh god. – user186340 Apr 12 '15 at 14:46
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    @EEAA I'm just a side note to all the action. I changed jobs in January and have much less time to participate. Compounding that, I strongly disagree with the direction the site has been taking, more so since the last election. I was pretty vocal about this toward the end of last year. Though I didn't always agree with the proposed solutions, I completely agreed with the people saying SF had a "walled garden" mindset problem. I don't have the energy fight it when the community overwhelmingly elected a mod running on that platform. I can't keep supporting a community I disagree with so much. – Chris S Apr 14 '15 at 13:57
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    @ChrisS congrats on the job! way to sneak in here ;) Hope to hear from you in chat. – MDMoore313 Apr 14 '15 at 15:34
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    congrats on the new job and thanks for your hard work @ChrisS – Rob Moir Apr 15 '15 at 7:42
up vote 43 down vote accepted

Since HopelessN00b wants to have this discussion in public, I will oblige.

I was on the site today because we got a few different emails this past week about it. One was Chris S, stepping down as a moderator - I'll let him talk about that if he wishes to; moderators are volunteers, and are of course free to step down at any time. The rest were complaints about actions taken by HopelessN00b. This is also not particularly unusual; we get complaints daily about moderators on all sites. Usually I spend a few minutes checking out the situation, a few minutes more explaining it, and everyone goes on with their lives.

Instead, I found this:


(actually I was looking at a different page that displays the last 500 comments, but the gist is the same: a wall of identical comment, posted in groups, each a few seconds to a few minutes apart)

This is a bit worrying, but not entirely unusual - moderators or regular users engaged in a big cleanup campaign often have histories of repetitive actions. So I dug a bit deeper - starting with the links in the comments themselves, then in recent meta activity. Nowhere did I find any hint of a massive question cleanup campaign. Now I'm getting a bit worried, especially since these closures (and comments) are still appearing while I'm researching. I checked chat - both the public rooms associated with Server Fault, and the private moderator room. Nowhere was there any discussion of this, save for a lone message from Hopeless in a nearly-abandoned chatroom noting that he had been "closing webpanel questions by the hundreds".

At this point, I'd already spent an unexpected amount of time on this, and from the look of things I'd be spending a lot more. And closed questions were still piling up; as a final sanity-check, I reviewed a sampling of them - some were obviously questions about administration panels, but this wasn't consistent; the majority of those I checked made no mention of such tools.

Handling a rogue moderator

When a normal member of the site starts making massive, controversial changes without prior discussion, the standard procedure is to immediately suspend the account in order to stop the bleeding, then discuss the matter. But suspending a moderator doesn't accomplish much. So the remaining option is to remove moderator status, and then attempt to discuss whatever is going on - if the situation can be resolved quickly, this need not be a permanent change in status; if the situation goes south, suspension is then an option.

So I removed Hopeless's moderator status and sent him a message requesting that he explain the situation (the other Server Fault moderators were also copied on this message).

I've yet to receive a response.

Thus far, I've identified 572 questions closed with some variation on that comment over the past 2 months. The average score was 0.1, the maximum score was 19. The comment was replied to 29 times; Hopeless responded to 1 of them. These questions will need to be reviewed; Michael has started a separate discussion that will help determine the criteria which should be applied to them.

Update 4/10/2015

After being asked to post this publicly, I finally got a response privately last night. It did not attempt to answer the one question I asked.

I'll be going through server logs this weekend to attempt to determine what was actually being done here.

So in summary, if you are a community moderator on a Stack Exchange site, here’s what to expect:

  1. As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.

That trust has been betrayed. I am extremely disappointed in how this situation has played out. I will be working directly with the remaining moderators to ensure that this community's standards are being upheld and communicated effectively, and that any damage is repaired.

Update / conclusion: 4/13/2015

I've finished my analysis of Hopeless's activity as a moderator on Server Fault. This is a bit long; there was a lot of activity - more on that in a bit. For those of you who aren't interested in the details, the summary is that I was relieved to find that Hopeless has acted as an enthusiastic but largely competent moderator, serving the community here faithfully except when it came to responding to questions/concerns regarding his actions and in communicating his efforts in cleaning up old posts. Related to this, I've identified two areas where our tooling is deeply lacking and likely exacerbated the problem.

Following his election in December, Hopeless was off to a good start: he handled a respectable portion of the flags raised here, participated in review, and participated actively on meta. The only oddity I found in his actions at the start was a group of 581 questions that he locked for Historical Significance in his first week; this is notable for two reasons:

  1. only 241 of them were closed prior to being locked, and
  2. that's more questions than had previously been locked in the entire history of the site. (for reference, historical locks are a bit special - it was added for "too big to fail" posts that were no longer allowed but too good to lose, and posts where it is applied disappear from the homepage and from normal question lists... So it's a bit hard to notice when it's being used - more on that later.)

A good chunk of these were subjective polls and GTKY stuff from the very early days of the site - stuff like What's your favorite Linux distribution? or What is the best VPN technology to implement in a SOHO setting?; it's hard to get upset about locking them, unless you're inclined to complain that they weren't just straight-up deleted. Still, this was a sign of things to come in that I can find no discussion of it anywhere.

Then in early January, things started to get interesting: Hopeless started cleaning up tags. Starting with a set of web admin tags he'd identified back in September, and then moving on to a much larger group of tags. The week of January 19th he edited tags on 875 questions, closed 399, deleted 221, and locked 817; he then slowed down for a few weeks before breaking his own record during the week of February 16th with 988 tag edits, 262 closures, 546 deletions and 723 locks... and 1,513 tag merges.

The locks and merges need a bit of explanation. In the big tag burning thread, he mentions using locking as a tool to prevent bumping too many questions to the homepage:

questions that are locked for historical significance can be ?-edited (therefore, retagged) without bumping them to the top of the active list... so I'll be temporarily locking questions I retag to minimize disruptions.

Not all of the locks were temporary; of the 2342 questions locked in January and February, 869 remain locked.

The merges are harder to explain. Indeed, someone asked about them on February 26th, but didn't recieve any clarification. We discussed this in chat at one point, after I'd noticed the merges and complained; apparently, the idea was to get rid of the tags first by merging everything into [off-topic] and then go back through that tag and perform any necessary cleanup. It helps a bit to read this answer, in which Hopeless responds to a user complaining about a tag he was using being suddenly gone; if you think of tagging more in terms of a physical filing system rather than a folksonomy, the concern over having too many of them is understandable.

January also marks the start of using a canned comment when closing questions, with the week of the 12th seeing a whopping 312 questions closed with:

This question appears to be off-topic because it is about working with a service provider's management interface, such as cPanel.

By late February, Hopeless had refined this message to its current form, and was using an app to integrate it into the moderation UI. Note that the question I just linked to is the only discussion of this I've been able to find, and concerns a newly-asked question. This becomes easier to understand upon realizing that a substantial portion of these questions were also being locked, at least temporarily - thus they would've immediately disappeared from all normal question lists, and their authors - although still notified of the comment - would be unable to respond to it.

After the initial tag cleanups, Hopeless was relying less and less on tags to filter questions and more on keyword searches for the names of various web administration tools. He was still using [off-topic] as a filter for retagging, but by the week of March 30th retagging had taken a clear backseat to closing: 74 retags, 227 closures (95 of them coupled with the "webadmin" comment), 67 deletions and 74 locks. Last week saw 110 closures (79 webadmin), 82 deletions, 33 locks and 35 tag edits.

To recap: this cleanup started with this meta post, where the only mention of closing is in answers noting that normal rules should be applied. It continued through a tumultuous tag burnination and transitioned into an effort to eradicate all mention of web admin tools from questions on the site. There was no discussion of this beyond the original tag cleanup; locking - though likely well-intentioned - obscured the scope of the effort for months. Very few others were involved in any way; a handful of people did participate in retagging, but the majority of the work - indeed, the majority of editing and moderation period - over the past three months have been the work of one solitary individual. A new off-topic reason was added via comments, without review by either the community or the rest of the mod team, and was single-handedly made into the single most-used close reason on the site, in the process avoiding both the guidance given to moderators for using off-topic reasons, and the restrictions built into the system itself for creating them:

The moderator who created a reason cannot approve it himself; we want at least two people to be reviewing these before making them available. Approving a reason also activates it, and as noted above, only 3 reasons can be active at any one time on most sites - to approve more than this, an existing reason will have to be deactivated first.

I believe Hopeless had good intentions here. But by playing the maverick, he left himself and the rest of us open to criticism and without a clear defense. If he had taken just a little bit of time to talk openly about what he was doing, if he had been more receptive to criticism, this all could have been avoided.

The past couple of weeks appeared to be where things started taking a serious turn for the worst, so I went through and reopened 20-some questions closed during that period where any mention of web admin systems was clearly incidental. Some of the moderators have been doing their own reviews and reopenings as well. Going forward, we'll need to do a more structured review - at minimum, there are several hundred questions where historical locks currently prevent any attempt at community moderation; those should probably be removed before anything else. I'm open to suggestions on how to conduct a productive review of them.

In closing, I'll add that doing this analysis has been an eye-opener for me:

  • The guidance we give to new moderators regarding the necessity of communication is lacking. There's an introductory email that touches on it, and of course a whole lot of history on Meta Stack Exchange... But not everyone reads the manual. This stuff needs to be baked into the UI itself, particularly when...
  • Extreme outlier events should trigger something. I'm still thinking about what exactly this should involve, but for sure quadrupling the number of locked questions on a site should cause something to happen. At minimum, it shouldn't go unnoticed by...
  • High-reputation users need better information. The current 10K tools were adequate back in '09, but a lot has changed since then. At minimum, these folks should be able to review the number of posts being deleted (and for what reason) over time, the number of questions being closed over time broken down by reason (including custom comments!) and the number of locked questions independant of things like migration.
  • And it's probably time to revisit the notion of bespoke review tasks for those situations where you really need to get a lot of folks involved in something like a tag cleanup effort. Or... reviewing 1500 locked questions.
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    Actually, if you search the body of those questions, you will find an admin panel in every one of them. Though often not explicitly stated in the question, a path which betrays the existence of the administration panel can be found in the posted configs or console messages. – HopelessN00b Apr 9 '15 at 22:43
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    Why were the actions controversial? Controversial in terms of the user whose question is closed? Yes, these were indeed. But controversial in terms of the stated topicality of SF, I'm not seeing it. – EEAA Apr 9 '15 at 23:01
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    Determining topicality via grep isn't controversial here, @EEAA? Ooookay. In that case, I can solve all of your moderation problems in 5 minutes - just give me a list of keywords and we can all go home. – Shog9 Apr 9 '15 at 23:13
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    While I'm not opposed to Bulk Closing & other cleanups, that's usually something that gets brought up on Meta (to provide a lasting record of the rationale, discussion, and consensus). While we've traditionally coordinated the cleanup efforts through chat they are documented on Meta. – voretaq7 Apr 10 '15 at 3:16
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    Is this what you missed meta.serverfault.com/questions/6538/… ? – Iain Apr 10 '15 at 12:03
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    Actually, dialog was had on this Months ago – MDMoore313 Apr 10 '15 at 12:17
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    @shog9 While I would not be opposed to grepping for the names of administration panels and closing every result programmatically, I actually read every question I closed, and selected what I believe to be the most specific, unambiguous reason, which was usually that custom one. This does not mean, or imply it's the only reason, as for example, with this question. I closed it yesterday with the administration panel reason (cPanel), but it is also off topic for at least 3 other reasons, and has already collected 2 close votes as of the time of this comment. – HopelessN00b Apr 10 '15 at 12:57
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    Web panels are off-topic, period. This has been discussed every few months for as long as I can remember. The community consensus has always been to remove them with extreme prejudice. This seems like it's less of an effort to reign in a "rogue moderator" and more like an effort to influence the community's standards for professionalism. – Hyppy Apr 10 '15 at 13:38
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    @Hyppy - I would actually concur with that last sentence. I know N00b can be course and swift in his dealing with questions/users. I've never seen him do it as a moderator based strictly on his own opinions though, but based on the guidelines (whether written or tribal knowledge) of the SF community. He's VERY active since being moderator, which I saw as a good thing, but maybe moderators aren't supposed to be seen by the general public overall. Regardless I guess it's Shog's/SE's call to do what they feel is best for the community/site/SE. – TheCleaner Apr 10 '15 at 15:27
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    @ShaneMadden You mean a meta post like meta.serverfault.com/questions/6538/… ? – Jenny D Apr 10 '15 at 17:31
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    @JennyD That tag cleanup was a different effort which was completed months ago - and the highest voted answer on that question, Michael's, implies that if we were to do a cleanup campaign we'd have some legwork to do to determine which questions were worth sending to webmasters. I'm not saying a cleanup wasn't warranted or due, I'm saying that the right way to do it is to discuss in meta first. – Shane Madden Apr 10 '15 at 17:36
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    I don't agree with at least a part of the closures, they where overzealous and indeed, the whole "project" could have been much better communicated. Anyway, frankly I think the way you handled this is just terrible. Maybe it's a language thing, but from my understanding of the english language, a command(!) like "Explain this." paired with repeated complaints to not have received an answer after a short time is completely inappropriate. You are not our boss, we are doing this mod thing for free, in out spare time. In the other question, you even named HopelessN00b a liar. That's insane. – Sven Apr 10 '15 at 20:33
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    You're volunteers and you're doing this of your own free will, @Sven. We've built extremely powerful tools for y'all to use in service to the community here... Tools that can do a great deal of damage if abused. You're free to not use them, but if you do then you should expect - heck, you should demand - some amount of oversight. This is the second time in two months I've had to clean up after reckless, uninformed use of these tools with no attempt made to communicate with the public or even with the rest of the mod team. I was very polite the first time, but this isn't a PR problem anymore. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 21:01
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    This is the most complete list of closed questions I have right now, @BigHomie; it goes back to late December. Most of the early ones seem pretty cut-and-dried off-topic - I suspect those were part of the tag cleanups prior to the tag-merges. Later questions have a lot more Kloxo and CentOS stuff, mixed with... not sure yet. Some of the mods have been going through this a bit more carefully. – Shog9 Apr 11 '15 at 1:45
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    So N00b has been closing lots of crappy, off-topic questions? And 500 over 2 months is a sudden avalanche that implies he's been somehow too trigger happy? I'm not seeing it. – BlueCompute Apr 13 '15 at 11:00

So since this is a question I'd like to discuss something tangentially related to the change in mods, which is a philosophy on mass-closures.

For my part I've got no problem with closing crap questions. I've even been a participant in some of our community-led mass purges, because some questions are in fact just crap and have no place on this site or any other.

I DO however have a problem with questions being zotted with modlike powers (which is why my close activity dropped off pretty precipitously when I became a mod).

Even assuming many of the questions were crap (which is probably the case) 500+ questions getting zotted almost certainly implies some degree of collateral damage - as to how much sadly I've not got the time to really dive in and see, but a cursory glance at a few questions from the list didn't immediately scream "this is crap". (That's not to say the questions weren't crap, but it wasn't so blatantly obvious that I would modhammer them myself without spending some time reading the questions and answers).

Collateral damage (or for that matter legitimate closures of crap) nearly always result in some ill feeling from the person whose question was closed(as the whine-fest here on meta will attest to), however the best and most defensible action is for those closures to come from the community: Multiple high reputation users demonstrating a consensus what a question is not suitable for the site.


As moderators we are elected to represent the community, but we are not the community in toto. Our ability to unilaterally close or delete questions is meant to be used to handle exceptional cases: Grossly off-topic questions ("plx fix"), spam, abusive language, and the like. A quick sampling of the top 3 questions from Shog's image moderator is using special powers to do something

As Moderators our votes to close or delete content are immediately binding - that's not a power that should be treated lightly.
I'm of the opinion that question purges of this nature should be community led: Assemble a list of "bad" questions (like we did for bad tags), post them publicly, and let the community apply normal-user close votes to them so there's a visible consensus that they're crap and don't belong (ideally from more than the same 3/4/5 people on every question).


TL;DR

If The Community really thinks these questions should be closed then The Community needs to get off its collective ass and slap some freakin' close votes on them so they go through the review queue process and the closures are truly coming From The Community (with as many being closed by normal users as possible) and not From The Moderators (as unilateral actions).

A healthy Stack Exchange site is moderated by its community.
If Server Fault has really reached the point where it needs full-time moderators to "clean up" the site that tells me the community is dying (no longer interested in stewardship and growth), and perhaps it's already too late to save the site at all...

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    In principle I would tend to agree, but the spanner in the works here is the community doesn't have enough close votes for this. – Michael Hampton Apr 11 '15 at 3:16
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    Sad to see yet another ♦ that only turns up when there is drama. far too many of them these days. – Iain Apr 11 '15 at 6:38
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    I agree with Mike, we only get x amount of close votes for the day, and it takes 5 from us to knock a question out. In comparison, even if we assume .1% of collateral damage from this (hypothetical figure) that's 5 legitimate questions, and over 500 questions that needed closing which would require 2500 community votes (assuming no mods voted), and if we assume a voting core of 100 users, then it could be done over 5 days assuming something similar to full time work. that's unrealistic, in comparison, it took n00b 2 months to accomplish by himself, so it's likely it would have taken us longer. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 11:50
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    This statement caught my attention: I DO however have a problem with questions being zotted with modlike powers (which is why my close activity dropped off pretty precipitously when I became a mod). This got me wondering whether it has to be that way. Is it possible for a moderator to not use their moderator power to overrule everybody else with their single vote? I would say it ought to be possible for a moderator to decide to vote but in a way where it still requires five votes to complete the vote. – kasperd Apr 11 '15 at 14:26
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    @MichaelHampton So maybe what we need is users who can vote more than 20 times per day but still requires five votes to close a question. Would it help if users with more than 20k reputation were exempt from the 20 votes per day limitation? – kasperd Apr 11 '15 at 14:29
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    It's 24 votes per day, @kasperd. Maybe you're thinking of 20 reviews? This is structured such that you can participate in review (using between 0 and 20 votes there) and still moderate other questions. Note that all of this is malleable if there's good reason (such as 1000 old questions that need to be closed in response to the result of some community decision). – Shog9 Apr 11 '15 at 15:37
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    @kasperd: Regarding non-binding close votes for mods: This has been discussed (several times, I guess), but Atwood and Shog9 decided it to not be necessary. I completely disagree with their reasoning and curse every day about this. – Sven Apr 12 '15 at 8:41
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    Moderator actions may be swift and powerful, but they are nearly all undoable. The community has decided to close a class of questions en masse. Do we really want to waste five high-rep users' time reading each of those questions to confirm each case? What's the reward for wasting time like that? – 200_success Apr 27 '15 at 20:28
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    @200_success The reward is a lower level of false positives, and an actual community-driven process. There's no a meta post we can point to where the "crap" was reviewed by the community and a consensus reached, nor an obvious consensus of N high-rep users in this case - there is just an action taken unilaterally (or at least without what I would call adequate documentation). The federal government engages in "Notice-and-Comment" rulemaking for precisely this reason. – voretaq7 Apr 27 '15 at 20:37
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    @200_success I'm also in no way suggesting that EVERY moderator action needs to go through notice-and-comment, but there's a line somewhere between "I unilaterally closed your question because it was low quality, go read the help center and fix it" and "I unilaterally closed 100+ questions because they're really not on-topic" where I think at least a Meta post is warranted so there's somewhere to point people if they don't like the action being taken. – voretaq7 Apr 27 '15 at 20:43
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    @voretaq7 Web panels are indisputably off-topic, and there is firm community consensus. The Notice-and-Comment period was long over, and action was overdue. – 200_success Apr 27 '15 at 20:44
  • @200_success I dispute that all web hosting panels are off-topic. I also note that the actions suggested by the accepted answer on the post you linked to have not been taken (canonical answer as to WHY they're off-topic, which these should have been closed as duplicates of, was never created or selected). I don't object to the policy, but I do object to the method by which it was enforced. – voretaq7 Apr 27 '15 at 20:47
  • @200_success For a reference on How It Should Be Done (IMHO) see the various meta posts about the somewhat successful but sadly now defunct Bad Tag Audit. Much of that work was done by moderators (including many closures), but the process of selection was community-driven & extensively (maybe overly) discussed. – voretaq7 Apr 27 '15 at 20:50
  • +1 and I deeply wish there was a way I could bounty this answer the way I can on Meta.SE. This is a pure distilled essence of what a great moderator's approach to binding actions, especially closure, should be. – DVK Mar 21 '16 at 19:48

I guess this'll teach me to ignore meta for a few days. ;)

This bothers me primarily because HopelessN00b is loud and brash and confrontational, and ran on a platform of, to put it n00b-ily, "slamming crap closed." He was duly elected, despite many SE employees (including you, Shog9) saying you thought it was a terrible idea because he's loud and brash and confrontational.

I think it's perfectly reasonable for HopelessN00b to conclude that the people who elected him wanted him to "slam crap closed."

Should he "slam crap closed" unilaterally without informing anyone that he's going to close 500 questions? Probably not. Is it reasonable for him to think that he was elected to do precisely that? Maybe. Maybe not. It's academic at this point.

I think it would smell better, however, if one of the SE employees who hadn't publicly campaigned against a moderator during the election cycle was the one to temporarily strip him of his mod privileges.

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    There are only three people on the community team that have the level of access needed to remove a moderator's status - that's how seriously we take it. Ideally, Shog could have had more time to 'freeze the action' and let someone else step in, but I truly appreciate the level of urgency he felt once he realized what was going on. I would have taken the exact same steps that he did, the technical execution of the procedure he applied had no bias, but I understand how the perception of it is what matters the most. Good points. – Tim Post Apr 12 '15 at 6:11
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    Again, the optics matter. This looks incredibly sloppy on the part of SE, and you've lost a lot of goodwill. I'd be interested in a real explanation about why Stack Exchange so easily alienates the Server Fault community. – ewwhite Apr 12 '15 at 12:26
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    @Tim Regardless of what we end up with in the post mortem, I think there's no excuse for throwing out accusations of a mod under investigation being a "straight up liar" without backing up the statement or answering requests for clarification. The technical execution may have been sound, but accusations of malicious intent with an implied reckoning were treated as an imminent fact with no need for explanation. This does not beget trust or respect for our overlords. – Andrew B Apr 12 '15 at 13:33
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    @AndrewB I'm unfortunately late to all of it, but I am going to spend quite a bit of time looking at how everything went down on Monday. Even if events modeled a best possible case, I think we've got some stuff we can learn from this, in quite a few places. – Tim Post Apr 12 '15 at 13:54
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    Thank you, @TimPost. I'm going to suggest that perhaps SE employees might want to avoid campaigning against moderators during an election cycle in the future to avoid the appearance of confirmation bias. Several SE employees (Shog9 was just the most vocal) expressed reservations against HopelessN00b becoming a moderator on the grounds that (to use N00b's phrasing) he's "temperamentally unsuited." Unfortunately, that pre-judgment means that later actions... have poor optics, yes. – Katherine Villyard Apr 12 '15 at 15:42
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    @KatherineVillyard While I disagree that they shouldn't campaign against someone during the election cycle (the opinions of those responsible for the overall network should rightfully carry some weight) I think the comments after the election are what matters most. And there was quite a bit of those as well. – Reaces Apr 12 '15 at 17:03
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    Putting aside whether or not HopelessN00b's actions were correct for the moment, I think its perfectly clear that he believed them to be and with good reason, and was therefore acting in good faith. I would suggest that at least some of the SE 'side' of this debate cannot claim the same benefit of the doubt. Maybe I'm being unfair but it seems to me that Shog was very quick to believe the worst instead of assuming good faith on the part of a moderator, which is a sorry state of affairs. I don't think it's n00b's temperament that has shown itself to be unsuited to the situation here. – Rob Moir Apr 12 '15 at 17:14
  • @Reaces I agree about the comments immediately after the election, yes. My concern about comments during the election cycle is precisely the weight they carry and the appearance of bias later. On the other hand, elected mods did endorse one of the other candidates, so perhaps I'm being unfair. But there's a difference between positive and negative campaigning and between elected mods and employees, to my mind. Clearly, not everyone agrees with me on that. – Katherine Villyard Apr 12 '15 at 17:34
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    @KatherineVillyard I don't think it's entirely fair to point the finger solely at the SE staff. The election was one of the first Meta conversations I followed and the snark flowed both ways. From my outsider opinion at the time it seemed like everyone had a history against each other. And I personally ended up not voting for HopelessN00b at the time exactly because of the way those conversations played out. (And let me end that by saying that my opinion since has drastically changed and I quite approve of the way Hopless moderated) – Reaces Apr 12 '15 at 18:16
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    I think what I'm getting at is that if someone is going to possibly end up in the position of taking someone else's mod diamond, they might not want to be on public record as having a negative opinion of that someone. Just for their own comfort and public perception. That said, yes, snark did flow both ways, yes. – Katherine Villyard Apr 12 '15 at 18:32
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    The problem @james is that it's far from clear that anything 'happened' - it should have been fairly clear that hopeless was at worst simply being over zealous. And while you might consider suspending someone you had questions about, you don't start an investigation by making assumptions of bad faith, then leaping to accuse them of being a liar. From where I'm sitting, shot expected the worst of hopeless since the election, and kept digging until they found or manufactured it. 'Optics' as someone said already. – Rob Moir Apr 13 '15 at 5:19
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    Well, the interesting this is this dialog between Shog and n00b a couple of months ago, where n00b informed Shog what was going on w/ the off-topic and Shog approved of the tag cleanup, he just didn't like the tag itself. And n00b obliged, but said it had to be cleaned before the tag could be deleted, for technical reasons it ballooned to 10.6k, and n00b closed 800 questions that week, nobody batted an eye, I'm curious why the blow up now. – MDMoore313 Apr 13 '15 at 12:18
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    @RobM: I can tell you that Shog was far too busy with other things to dig for reasons to demod, well, anyone. This situation pretty much killed his productivity last week and will likely prevent him from doing things he'd rather spend time on this week. In this job, we don't go looking for trouble; it comes looking for us. – Jon Ericson Apr 13 '15 at 22:45
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    Fair enough @JonEricson I'll assume the good will in Shogs actions that he didn't accord to one of SE's mods. But that's the thing - mods are supposed to be the most trusted members of the community (iirc that's pretty much the exact phrase SE uses?) - this error in judgement speaks volumes, then, as to how SE views this community. It reflects poorly on SE's processes and the judgement of its staff. It's a poor advert for any of 'us' who may have wished to be mods. I'd love to hear your suggestions as to how this chasm can be bridged. – Rob Moir Apr 14 '15 at 5:21
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    @JonEricson For what it's worth, this is why people are saying it looks biased. This speaks to how some people think SE views SF. – Katherine Villyard Apr 14 '15 at 14:39

From the comments here and the answers and comments on Michael Hampton's post about Admin panel questions, it seems pretty clear to me that:

  • we have broad agreement that those sorts of questions are usually off-topic
  • the vast majority of the questions Noob closed (possibly all, but I don't think multiple people are going to go through the whole list and check them all) were, in fact, off-topic.

So at this point, it seems like all that's needed is for Noob (and possibly other mods) to agree that before undertaking any big clean-up effort they'll make a meta post about it to let everyone know what's going on and give people a chance to comment.

Soon, hopefully?

Adding to the Drama

I know I probably shouldn't add to the drama of this situation, but I can't help it - I do have an opinion and I suspect it's shared by many:

There really seems to be an intent on the part of SE staff to "get" Noob:

  1. Shog's initial answer comes across to me as very emotionally loaded, e.g. statements like:

Now I'm getting a bit worried, especially since these closures (and comments) are still appearing while I'm researching.

If he's in the middle of what he thinks of as a simple cleanup, it's not surprising that they're still appearing.

At this point, I'd already spent an unexpected amount of time on this, and from the look of things I'd be spending a lot more. And closed questions were still piling up;

Again, this isn't surprising, if there are lots of closed questions and someone decides they need to check them all, they can expect it to take time.

  1. The comments about timing of responses:

I'm not going to take the time to put together a timeline of when Noob first mentioned he'd been de-modded, posts here, responses, etc. But I don't think it's unreasonable for Noob to spend some time thinking before posting.

What I do think is totally unreasonable is this comment

It did not attempt to answer the one question I asked.

"Explain yourself" is not a question, but the response you got is definitely an explanation of what Noob was doing. It's a clear enough explanation for the rest of us to understand, it's hard (impossible) for me to understand how it can be interpreted as not attempting to answer the "question."

  1. This comment on Noob's answer to the other Admin panel question:

You avoided answering my question yesterday and you are straight-up lying here. I'm done trying to protect you.

Now this is overwrought drama: another comment about "avoiding answering" (does Noob get paid for being a mod? is there an SLA for mods to respond to SE staff?) and now Noob's opinion on Admin panel questions and what to do about them is labelled "lying"? I've re-read Noob's answer 4 times now, and it's all his opinions, so to label that lying really looks to me like flying off the handle.

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    "I don't think it's unreasonable for Noob to spend some time thinking before posting." -- Accurate, particularly given his stated intent to cool off before replying. A great deal of his criticism going into this position was entering into verbal conflicts "too hot", and that has the appearance of both self-awareness and self-control. – Andrew B Apr 10 '15 at 20:11
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    Great edit/addition. @Shog9 honestly I feel like you are intentionally trying to either misread or misconstrue what Hopelessn00b is saying. You asked him to explain himself. He did. He also has explained several times his reasoning for the close reason he was using. Why continue the negativity? We all have a clear picture of what happened, and how things should be handled from here on out. Let's move on. – EEAA Apr 10 '15 at 20:15
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    You might be right about the question being unclear. I'm honestly still scrambling to figure out what was being done here, so I don't yet know what questions I should be asking. One way or another though, I'm going to find out by what criteria these questions were being identified, and by what mechanism they were being closed. The answers to those questions may well raise other questions. I really would've appreciated a frank, factual explanation from Hopeless himself a day ago, but it's increasingly clear that I'm not going to get that. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 20:18
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    @Shog9 I'm somewhat flabbergasted, which answer did not get a frank factual explanation? I thought everything was being discussed openly and quite frankly but things don't seem to be cooling down at all. And currently you're being very vocal and seem very defensive / emotional. It might just be how I'm reading it and not entirely true, but you seem like you need some time to collect your thoughts. – Reaces Apr 10 '15 at 21:01
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    @Shog9 That's kinda what we're getting at. Even before he became a mod, Hopeless had his hand slapped on several occasions for being too confrontational. Consider a scenario where Hopeless truly believed he was doing his job, and then had his mod status stripped with a perception of little to no warning. The probability of him needing to step away in order to form a coherent response ranges from "high" to "a certainty". I'm also somewhat inclined to agree with Reaces. There's something that you're trying to communicate to us regarding alleged avoidance of topic that just isn't connecting. – Andrew B Apr 10 '15 at 21:02
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    That was my concern a day ago, @Sven (hence the prompt de-modding). After digging into this for a while, I believe it was merely a collection of keyword searches combined with some specialized tools. We'll continue researching this. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 21:34
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    @Shog9 After this is done, and if there is anything found, I hope we'll get a bit more insight as to what was done and how. Because reading the threads no mention was made of automated closing besides just now by Sven. This whole thing is twisting into several shapes and it's odd/hard to follow your reasoning. First it was about doing something without community consent, then about a lack of disclosure, then about using canned responses and not responding to user questions, and now there's talk of automation and abusing tools. A single, coherent, plot would help with understanding all of it. – Reaces Apr 10 '15 at 21:59
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    @Reaces Bingo. It seems like every time a complaint is checkmated, a new one comes up. "It was without community discussion and consent!" Yes, there was community discussion and consent. "There needed to be disclosure!" ...for adhering to the FAQ and discussing it in meta? "Canned responses and user complaints!" They're accurate and well documented responses that represent the FAQ and stated mission of ServerFault; user complaints are pointless if their original question is off topic. I'm suspecting that the next step is to allege that hopelessn00b killed Abraham Lincoln. – Wesley Apr 10 '15 at 22:23
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    If it helps, @Reaces, I was originally hoping to resolve this in < 30 minutes via a private conversation. Instead, this got dragged into public and I've done my best since then to keep up with it without intentionally spreading misinformation - even as I was (and still am) lacking a complete picture myself. I've handled hundreds of similar situations in the past, but this one takes the cake - I have a lot of work left to do here before I can be sure I'm being accurate, so the best I can tell you right now is what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Which, incidentally, is all I ask of mods. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 22:25
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    @Shog9 To be honest I'm not entirely sure what the what (heh) and why is yet. I assume the what is investigating and the why is because you suspect power abuse. But so far theres been a lot of talk of lies and betrayal and some soap opera worthy conversations. Maybe a "this is what we're doing and this is why" post from the community managers is exactly what we need in stead of a jumble of comments spread across two questions containing a dozen answers. – Reaces Apr 10 '15 at 22:31
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    Read this answer, @Reaces. It describes what I have been doing, what I will be doing, and why I've been doing it. Ignore the comments - they're for the benefit of a handful of people who already know how this went down but aren't letting on in order to prolong the drama here for their own amusement. I sincerely apologize for the disruption - if I'd been watching more closely two months ago, I might've identified this sooner and been able to resolve it before it gathered steam. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 22:39
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    @Shog9 It is not my intent to be one of those people. With utmost sincerity, I am still trying to make the connection between what you are implying here and what has been presented as evidence. Very strong accusations are being made, both in your last comment and the one Noob's answer links to. If those are accurate, so be it. What we need is an understanding of how you're arriving at this conclusion of malicious intent. Yeah, some of us have been fairly critical of SE in the past and our bickering is nothing new, but if your severe statements are justified that's water under the bridge. – Andrew B Apr 10 '15 at 22:47
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    @Shog9 The latest comments there hint at something more going on than was initially what's going on, but I for one am not part of who already know how this went down but aren't letting on in order to prolong the drama here for their own amusement I'll wait and see what else comes up.... – Ward Apr 10 '15 at 22:51
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    @Shog9 It doesn't seem unreasonable to search for keywords when the relevant tags are long gone and can no longer be searched for instead (and even if they existed, posts might be incorrectly tagged). And I'm going to have to build a small tool just to review this list of questions properly, so I'm not sure why the fixation on using specialized tools? What am I missing here? – Michael Hampton Apr 10 '15 at 22:54
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    I use "specialized tools" all the time, @Michael. Some of the other mods have entire libraries of scripts they use to help them. Used judiciously, that isn't a problem. Remember this? Specialized tool. It ain't the tooling, it's how you use it - notice how folks who disagreed with what I did there were able to both find out what was going on and offer feedback, because I talked about it in public? Y'all didn't have to ask Shane to pull logs to figure out what Shog was up to, you just went to meta. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 23:40

My response to Shog, since I've been accused of avoiding answering his question:

enter image description here

(Text below)


from Shog9♦ sent 22 hours ago to HopelessN00b

Just saw this. Hundreds of questions closed with the same canned comment linking to old meta discussions that don't explain the closure. No new meta discussion.

Explain this.

Your moderator access has been revoked pending the resolution of this discussion. from HopelessN00b sent 16 hours ago to moderators

As mentioned in the meta thread, I find the request for an explanation a little confusing (as well as disheartening). Administration panels are explicitly off-topic, per the Server Fault "on-topic" page, and if I recall correctly, that was made explicit before I was elected a moderator.

Even before that time, for at least 2 years, these questions were routinely hammered shut for one of the (retired) minimal understanding, (rewritten) "non-professional" or existing "business environment" close reasons, and I briefly continued in that tradition until I got tired of being notified by by people asking me to explain how their administration panel question was in one of those categories, so I made up a custom close reason. At first, just that first sentence, but people complained or wanted an explanation in notifications to me, so I expanded it and linked what I consider to be the two "best" meta threads which explain why administration panels are off topic.

There is no new meta discussion precisely because this is not a sudden change, or a controversial one. The only change of note is that I left a specific, direct custom close reason explaining exactly why the question was closed. In fact, if you look at the existing ask date of questions containing an admin panel, you'll find only a handful (literally less than five) that were asked this year, and are still opened. This is because I've reviewed literally every question containing mention of a control panel since that time and taken what I believe to be the appropriate action. In a few, very rare instances, they've been left open, almost as rarely, I've edited them to remove mention of the administration panel, and the rest have been closed for being off topic.

I fail to see the difference between this and the hundreds of old shopping questions, list questions and career development questions that I (as well as every other moderator) have also closed. We close these for the same reason - as not to give the impression that this type of question can or should be asked anymore, and because they tend to attract more in kind. Especially, with old, answered questions, the only thing that leaving them open does is give an impression that they are valid questions.

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    No new meta discussion. We've been talking about this topic, with actual resolutions to actually take action and close questions of this nature for years. I don't understand how anyone could be blindsided by this. This was not a cabal decision. This was not unilateral. This should have taken no one by surprise. Whatever is being smoked, ship it up to Colorado because there's some cancer patients that need the good stuff. – Wesley Apr 10 '15 at 19:27
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    @Shog9 - who do we complain to about your actions? – mfinni Apr 10 '15 at 19:42
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    meta.serverfault.com/contact @mfinni - or just post here on meta, of course. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 19:44
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    @Shog9: "No one gave you mandate...". Plain wrong. He got elected as a mod by the community, which I consider as just that mandate. I didn't end up doing something like this as I honestly don't see all that much value in such a campaign to justify the amount of clickwork involved. – Sven Apr 10 '15 at 19:48
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    I feel like this really doesn't need to be this controversial - I get that many people here are upset at decisions being made from outside the SF community, but is "there should probably be a discussion on meta before blanket-closing hundreds of questions" really such an imposition? (and yes, there was discussion of tag cleanup, which was completed months ago and does not cover the kinds of specifics that are needed for question cleanup - saying it was already agreed to is disingenuous) – Shane Madden Apr 10 '15 at 19:52
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    @ShaneMadden: I think his other concern is that some questions got swept up that aren't actually about control panels, but just happened to mention them - If that did in fact happen, then we're punishing N00b because of the 1 thing he got wrong instead of supporting the 99 he got right? – joeqwerty Apr 10 '15 at 20:24
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    @Shog9: no one gave you a mandate to sweep the site clean of questions that you personally felt were tainted... - The community gave N00b the mandate to act in good faith as moderator and to in fact clean these questions up. It would appear that you're the only one who seems to think this was personal on his part. The very fact that we elected him moderator, in part to perform this function, should tell you that this type of action is the desire of the community. To say otherwise is to betray your own mission statement. – joeqwerty Apr 10 '15 at 20:32
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    @BigHomie I think Shog's original intent was a temporary diamond removal to stop the closings from continuing to happen so he could get a chance to understand what was going on. – Shane Madden Apr 10 '15 at 20:40
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    The "I'm done trying to protect you" sounds like a big old threat from Shog to n00b. Along with the accusation of lying. – mfinni Apr 10 '15 at 20:47
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    @ShaneMadden Yeah, that wasn't clear. The entire blowup looks bad from the outside. – ewwhite Apr 10 '15 at 20:47
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    @Shog9 I've been watching this bonfire to see what happens but this comment of yours concerns me, "I'm not at all convinced this is true...." (context snipped). It seems very much like you're investigating to prove malice which is a very bad sign. Speaking as a professional forensics examiner and incident responder if you make any assumptions as to outcome you MUST be relieved. It sounds like you're trying to prove malicious intent instead of determining intent. One is admirable, the other is abhorrent and completely unprofessional. – Scott Pack Apr 10 '15 at 20:58
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    I'm trying to find out what was actually being done, @Scott. Either there was an honest mistake, made repeatedly in a short period of time with no attempt at correction... Or something else. My operating assumption is that this was just carelessness, but - and this is important - I'm not a forensics examiner and this isn't a crime scene. The fundamental problem here was and continues to be a lack of communication, which is the only reason I have to be involved here in the first place - unlike criminal suspects, moderators are obliged to be candid as to what they're doing and why. – Shog9 Apr 10 '15 at 21:30
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    @Shog9 You're trying to find out what happened. That's good! That's what needs to happen. What made me uncomfortable is that most of your communication, thus far, has been unreasonably aggressive and inflammatory. It indicates an investigation to prove your correctness rather than to uncover truth. That's what I'm concerned about and what I'm trying to warn against. Not sanctity of data or chain of custody. As you implied, being held to those standards would be just silly. Removing all preconception and emotion is a necessary component to investigation, whether murder or who shrunk a sweater – Scott Pack Apr 10 '15 at 22:31
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    Just to be clear, @Scott, I have/had three separate problems to deal with here: (1) an uncommunicative (but active) moderator, (2) an unknown quantity of bad data due to #1, and (3) a big pile of meta drama. One is already dealt with, albeit not in the way I'd hoped. The second I'm dealing with. The last one I probably won't be able to handle effectively until the first two are squared away. The bit everyone's getting hung up on is #2 - and that's where I'm getting irritated, because it's trivial to observe that it exists, but hard to determine the reason or extent. But, we'll get there. – Shog9 Apr 11 '15 at 0:04
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    While I appreciate this is ultimately SE's site to do with as it wishes, I am (yet again) unsurprised but disappointed to see SE banging on about community while ignoring the wishes of large sections of the community. I coach newbie sysadmins and helldesk types at work by emphasising the difference between doing something for the users and doing something to the users. This feels like SE doing something to the community, not for the community. – Rob Moir Apr 12 '15 at 14:03

I'm more than a little confused how this situation ended up happening the way that it did. Ignoring the process that was done to close the questions for a moment the way I see it a staff member investigated a situation and asked for information on the why and that information was provided (again ignoring the timeline a little here for simplicity.)

It seems like we now have two instances of drama, one between Shog and Hopeless about a lack of communication beforehand and slow communication after, and one between the community and Shog over language used and how the situation was handled or at least how it was perceived to be handled. To my mind the close reason explained why he closed them, so if there was uncertainty over a larger consensus why not immediately bring that concern to meta to see what the community felt (which in my opinion was already explained in the close reason itself.)

Maybe I'm just being naive but everything I've read throughout the various answers and comments the community at large doesn't seem to have an issue with the actions Hopeless took and in turn he was in a way exercising our will which is what we wanted from him when we elected him. I think everyone can agree that communication beforehand and more mild language afterword would've been preferable but a simple meta post asking for the community's feelings on the subject at present and backchanneling with N00b to sort out everything else would've put out the embers before it started.

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    Very perceptive. Josh could easily have contacted the n00b via chat super-ping and asked him to stop whilst things were investigated. That he didn't and chose a much more precipitous method speaks volumes. It was clearly designed to cause all the drama. The rest is history. – Iain Apr 11 '15 at 21:37
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    @Iain Stack Exchange have their protocols that need to be followed, and I don't think that the action of removing someones powers whilst their actions are being investigated is too strong. After all, if you're going to fire someone, you don't tell them before hand. You take away their access card in case they go and fuck shit up. That's just common sense. The only reason this drama came out was because Hopeless requested that it be aired. The only reason that happened was because someone noticed that mod diamonds were missing. I'm sure that Shog and everyone at SE would have preferred it – Mark Henderson Apr 12 '15 at 9:43
  • , and myself for that matter, to be dealt with quietly. – Mark Henderson Apr 12 '15 at 9:43
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    @MarkHenderson My impression is that a lot of the drama comes from the offensive statements that Shog9 made (indicating there is likely a personal element to his actions), not over temporarily removing moderator privileges while investigating what is happening. – Håkan Lindqvist Apr 12 '15 at 19:11
  • @MarkHenderson one does indeed act that way, in a company. But this isn't a company; it's a community. When you aren't in a top-down, I-pay-your-wages scenario, but are instead trying to do something good on the shoulders of volunteers, best practice is different. – MadHatter Apr 15 '15 at 5:57
  • @MadHatter For this scenario, I disagree. Shog9 basically sits at the top of the pyramid of community members in terms of responsibility, and it's his responsibility to limit the perceived damage. When you think someone is running around smashing all the windows without permission, you don't politely ask them to stop and hope that they will. You take away their hammer until you can get the full story. – Mark Henderson Apr 15 '15 at 6:05
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    If force majeure is to be used, there must be some repercussion when it's used wrongly. In this case, I (for one) don't find that the hypothesis (HN was running around smashing windows) has been proven. On the contrary, I've seen quite a lot of good argument that he was engaging in business that was (a) usual for him, (b) in line with his election platform. And as a side question, am I by any chance right in thinking that Shog9 is a paid employee? – MadHatter Apr 15 '15 at 6:30
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    @MarkHenderson I absolutely agree - but extreme actions call for extreme justification in both directions – Rob Moir Apr 15 '15 at 8:10
  • @MarkHenderson The taking away of mod powers temporarily isn't the core issue here. The first thing Shog said about the situation was that "One of them decided to step down, and asked for his moderator status to be removed. The other decided something else and didn't ask anyone anything." So right out of the gate it sounds way worse than what was going on and puts up a wall between him and the community implying wrong doing from the outset. – David V Apr 15 '15 at 19:23

I've only read a handful of the heated debate here, but believe I've got the gist enough to ask:

Would you rather:

  1. Stack mods/staff investigated potential problems without suspension at the risk of damage and problems to the site/community
  2. Stack mods/staff stepped in, temporarily removed tools from a mod and investigated safely

2 for me, every time.

People are effectively calling Shog9 out to have handled this really badly, maybe he has, maybe not. The point is no-one yet knows because there is an investigation.

If it turns out Noob did nothing wrong, then mod status will return and what harm was there?
If it turns out there was a problem then it was "nipped in the bud" so to speak.

And I mean nothing ill of Noob, I do not know them (you) at all and may be the best mod the entire internet has ever seen.
However, even people who we think we know can turn out to be doing things they shouldn't, or even just innocently causing an issue they were not even aware of it themselves.


If in a physical company a staff member is suspected of foul play, even if that staff member is highly valued, otherwise extremely good member of the team (etc etc) the company has no choice but to ask them to leave while an investigation is performed.

What else can one do when the facts are not clear, and all evidence is not present? If the problem turns out to be real and without suspension "free reign" is allowed to continue, then the knowledge of an investigation can cause the person to do even more damage.
Even if they do not, the risk is there and is not a risk any decent company should be willing to take.

The site has rules and protocols to follow, and this includes for Staff, and Shog9. And I cannot imagine with his experience that Shog9 would just glibly revoke someone's mod status without good reason, and is just following protocol.

Shog9 stated:

I'm waiting for a response from the person responsible. Hopefully, we can work this out without a ton of drama. For now, just know that removal of mod privileges is the moderator equivalent of suspension - an expedient way of halting a problematic situation until it can be resolved.

Now, isn't that diplomatic?
However, the public demanded the drama, not Shog9.

Sure, you can say he "bit", but imagine yourself in this position, and everyone in comments and answers are publicly calling up your decision, and you find yourself trying to investigate the problem, but at the same time answering to harsh accusations and so having to defend yourself.

Would you manage to not get even a little defensive amongst a handful of answers and 80 comments in what is now your decisions and job being entirely publicly judged.

Perhaps there has been some less than professional words said, and perhaps could have been addressed and approached differently.
But, who among us is not guilty of doing something "not quite perfectly"?

If your hand is still down and you've been a manager of any kind, put your hand up immediately, and stop being in denial.


Yes, Mods are volunteering their time for free, which I fully appreciate, as I'm sure so do Stack.
But volunteering one's time for free is not a ticket to make mistakes which are detrimental to the site and users - being a mod does carry the necessity to uphold quality on the site and be fair to users.

If you are such a mod, and value the site and it's users, then you most certainly should understand when the site puts a hold on someone's mod rights while an investigation is carried out.
Because it's all for the greater good.

And if it turns out Noob did nothing wrong, then hopefully their being a mod and also wanting the best for the site, they will understand why this was done.

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    No problem with a temporary suspension while facts are worked out. Plenty of problem with statements of malicious intent that are presented as facts. The only conclusions I can reach are one of the following: 1) no one is going to substantiate the statements of implied intent until a later date, 2) those who aren't grasping it are being perceived as dense and not worth spending the time on during the flurry of comment spam, 3) those who aren't grasping it are being perceived as cronies. – Andrew B Apr 11 '15 at 0:04
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    It's a little deeper than that James. The problem is/was the fact that the community attempted to inform the CMs that we in fact requested these moves by n00b, both implicitly when we elected him as mod, and explicitly when he told us what he was doing in various chat rooms and meta posts. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:10
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    Next, there is the disconnect between the CMs and SF in general, not all but a good portion of them are not active in the chat or on main, so some of us feel that they wouldn't know how we want things done in the community. The fact that they swoop in when there is the threat of a rogue mod is fine, however they have a pretty good consensus here from the people who actually use and frequent the site that we requested this, so to assume the worst of a person who was voted in by the community who has interacted with the person before they were a mod is kind of insulting, at least to me. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:10
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    I feel that if someone is going to oversee something they should take a minute to actually be involved in that thing, if they are not going to trust the opinion of the people that oversee that thing from day to day. Also, it does not appear that anyone complained (at least from the core community) outside of the people who's questions were closed. I could be wrong about that, but if there was anyone who complained, I haven't read it in this meta post. n00b stated he has been doing this for 2 months, so either no other mods noticed, no other mods cared, or both. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:11
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    If they noticed and did nothing, it's a silent approval, and their actions should be called into question as well. In addition, this meta thing is a two way street. Yes, n00b could have posted an additional meta post to say he was explicitly closing webpanel questions. Nothing stops anyone from posting to meta to find out why their question was closed, or to find out if we have a rogue mod on the loose. I think the latter would have gathered the community's opinion on how it felt about the mass cleanup that was taking place. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:11
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    Finally, understand that this was nothing new for a portion of the core community. We are trying to restore SF to what it was, n00b helped a great deal with that, we didn't care how he closed questions, we knew he was closing them, we trusted they were off topic, and if 1 or 2 got caught in the crosshairs that's what a flag for reopen or meta is for. If the OP of the question didn't take that step, then why should we go making a thing out of it? rhetorical question. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:11
  • @BigHomie Fair points."so to assume the worst of a person who was voted in by the community" that was the point of my answer really, I don't think that's necessarily the case, more just protocol and requirement. Although I see your point with the additional info. that's something which sounds like it definitely needs sorting out - tho I only have info from one side :) – James Apr 11 '15 at 0:33
  • @BigHomie "I feel that if someone is going to oversee something they should take a minute to actually be involved in that thing" If this is the case then I have sympathy. Although it's not always simple to resolve such things. Also, from what info I have, n00b was asked what was going on. Was there actually an answer given, or was there a silence out of protest/frustration from even being asked it? I'm not speculating, just stating I (we) maybe don't really know the full story. – James Apr 11 '15 at 0:41
  • I understand. It seems from @Shog9's comments on his own answer above that he thought n00b might have been using grep'ing the site and autoclosing based on the appearance of the name of some web panels, which may or may not be true. Looking at his screen shot I don't see that, there were only a few questions that were within a minute of each other, and I can certainly read questions as fast as they were closed up there, there were no more than 2 questions closed per minute in his screenshot, certainly doable if you ask me. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:41
  • Take an hour and read through, it's quite a read ;) Seriously though, no one but them knows what happened last night, but n00b eventually replied privately (and also posted his answer above), I can't type the rest cuz it's too long :) – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:43
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    I did read a fair bit, before posting an answer TBH. Will have a deeper poke. There are two sides of the story, and a lot of fluff and turds in between. :) – James Apr 11 '15 at 0:48
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    James, can I ask how you found out about this? It doesn't appear you've been here before, I'm glad you're here fwiw, just curious. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 0:57
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    @BigHomie I actually cannot remember in the mix of actions tonight. I have been here a fair bit before, lurking - "member for 4 months". It was possibly one of the chat rooms. – James Apr 11 '15 at 1:03

I think the issue lies in the SE team's failure to communicate the issue properly.

If a moderator appears to be acting without community consensus, there should be warnings stating clearly the nature of the issue and the correct course of action to take:

HopelessN00b, I'm becoming very concerned about the recent actions you've been taking. It seems you're acting without community consensus, mass-closing questions without seeking input from the user base at large. Keep in mind that moderators are supposed to act on behalf of the community, not in place of it.

Before making any drastic changes to the site, even if supported by established rules, please ask about it on Meta and, and most critically, have the community play its part. Make sure the community is involved in the cleanup. A Meta post directing the community to vote to close such questions would be a great idea—you would simply work in tandem with the close voters.


The response from Shog9 makes this sound like a witch-hunt, not an attempt to actually address a moderation issue. HopelessN00b was confronted with accusatory statements from the start, and did not receive an explanation of why this behavior was not healthy until now: that the community was becoming over-reliant on him. Problems must be explained clearly from the start.

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