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Suggestion for rotating moderatorship

+ 2 like - 3 dislike
351 views

In order to make the moderatorship of this site more transparent and "democratic", we could have  rotating moderators. Some ideas to discuss before voting:

  • Each moderator would moderate for a maximum uninterrupted period of 1 year. After this period, they should wait at least 6 months to become a moderator again.
  • There would be a single moderator mailing-list containing all moderators. All moderators should use this mailing list regarding moderation issues or any stuff related to this site.
  • Every user who has asked or answered a question on THIS site and has rep > 500 would be strongly encouraged to moderate for this period. Even if a user lacks of time to moderate or doesn't want to do it for whatever reason, they should be strongly encouraged to become a moderator with the only passive obligation of belonging to the moderator mailing-list.
  • If there are no enough volunteers, the moderators will be chosen by draw among those user with rep > 500 who meet the other rules. 

Please, all USERS are encouraged to criticize and discuss these ideas and propose new ones. 

asked Feb 3, 2015 in Discussion by drake (885 points) [ revision history ]
recategorized Feb 4, 2015 by dimension10
I cannot moderate, I have a depression (officially), which sometimes prevents me from doing the very necessary things. Don't count on me, please.
This could help you with your depression. Anyway, all you would have to do (the minimum) is to belong to the moderation mailing-list, so that you could read the discussions going on if you feel like. Not a big deal, I think. It would protect your rights. @VladimirKalitvianski
@drake: I see, but no. Moderation and administration are not my elements. (By the way, I did not receive any ping and e-mail. No yellow mark either. Could this glitch be fixed?)
I removed my squabbling comments, as the answer is enough to express and explain my disagreement with this suggestion.

6 Answers

+ 3 like - 1 dislike

Your suggestion has a lot of underlying assumptions:

  • That any user will be happy to participate in moderation if elected.
  • That all 500 rep+ users believe in community moderation, no censorship, etc.
  • That all users are capable of moderation and can understand the technicalities of it.
  • That if the community likes a user's physics contributions, they necessarily agree with their administrative ideologies and would like them to be a moderator.

If any of these assumptions fail (which they undoubtedly will), PhysicsOverflow will either become a censorious forum, an unmoderated low-level forum, a bureaucratic forum with no room for democracy, or some odd combination of the above. There are a lot of such forums, there is no need to become one among them. If we look at the list of all users who've been a moderator, excluding founders, none have actually done any much administrative work.

Let's look at the details of your suggestion:

In order to make the moderatorship of this site more transparent and "democratic", we could have  rotating moderators.

Guess what? We already do.

  • Each moderator would moderate for a maximum uninterrupted period of 1 year. After this period, they should wait at least 6 months to become a moderator again.

1 year! We need more flexibility than that. What if there's nobody to replace them? Let's read on.

  • There would be a single moderator mailing-list containing all moderators. All moderators should use this mailing list regarding moderation issues or any stuff related to this site.

Fine.

  • Every user who has asked or answered a question on THIS site and has rep > 500 would be strongly encouraged to moderate for this period.

So no elections? Just existing moderators persuading people to be moderators? This is supposed to be a democratic site, not one run by some silly bureaucratic procedures.

Also, if all 500 rep users are moderators, then the community moderation threads should be scrapped?! Is this what you suggest?

  • Even if a user lacks of time to moderate or doesn't want to do it for whatever reason, they should be strongly encouraged to become a moderator with the only passive obligation of belonging to the moderator mailing-list.

And what if all the moderators are unwilling or lack time? Then does everybody sit passively, letting the site become an unmoderated heaven for spammers? And what if the moderators don't believe in the principle of community moderation, or the lack of censorship, or user rights? Do we just sit and watch as PhysicsOverflow turns out to be the exact opposite as what it was intended to be?

  • If there are no enough volunteers, the moderators will be chosen by draw among those user with rep > 500 who meet the other rules. 

By draw?! How meritocratic! How democratic! Sorry, we have elections, not lucky draw contests.

Please, all USERS are encouraged to criticize and discuss these ideas and propose new ones. 

What do you mean by "USERS"? Moderators are not allowed to comment? Oops.

These suggestions do the exact opposite of what you said they do, make the site "democratic". A lucky draw! How democratic! Bureaucratically "encouraging" users to mod! How democratic!

You can't democratically get rid of democracy, unfortunately. Democracy has to be shoved down people's throats, as ironic as it may sound. That's how Burma improved - democracy was enforced. On the contrary, what you suggest is simply how the reign of terror happened in France. Freedom was "democratically" censored.

Too bad, the principle of community moderation, our "constitution", makes it clear that:

The principle of community moderation on PhysicsOverflow is that members of the community who have proven themselves by earning reputation can moderate the community, while selected "experts", moderators, and administrators protect the core principle of PhysicsOverflow (the scope and level, and the principles of frankness, democracy and reputocracy), defending the needs of the community, to preserve the free and frank academic atmosphere at PhysicsOverflow.

In other words, you have democracy, but you can't vote to get rid of others' democracy.

answered Feb 4, 2015 by dimension10 (1,950 points) [ revision history ]
edited Feb 4, 2015 by dimension10

I did a lot of spam deletion early on. You did most of the admin work because you set up the admin tools, and because, like a lot of young people, you don't suffer from administration-phobia. It's wasn't always true that only you and Dilaton did admin work.

The proposal to encourage people to moderate by random draw is useful if supplemented with a quick pro-forma vote, which allows recall on the admin page, as we already do, so that if a new admin starts doing things which are opposed to the core principles you mentioned, they are recalled. There are two separate ideas: democracy and term-limits. Democracy means that the users may steer the site's politics by voting. The term-limits is to prevent someone from doing administration while forgetting what it is like to be a user, and to watch helplessly as your comments are moved or deleted, and administrators intimidate with their extra power.

I can tell you from experience that it only takes 1 comment hidden or moved to refresh your memory of the difference in power between admins and users. It also has been the case that admins on this site have mostly treated consensus among the three moderators as a substitute for consensus among the meta community. Since the meta community and Dilaton have had a conflict, you're the tie-breaking vote, and what you decide to support becomes policy.

The deletion of spam is extremely uncontroversial, and just as at the beginning, people will pick up the slack. Simlarly for import/export, and so on, although this can be done by high-rep users too, so your excellent import work can continue, as it does not really involve administrative authority (you're just the only one who does the boring work of reading stackexchange). The amount of time spent on pure administration is not that large even when summed over all the moderators, the reason people don't want to moderate is because it makes them responsible for the administrative policies of the site, and this can be damaging to your reputation real-world. This is why everyone runs away with terror when you come knocking (now including me).

Still, you make a lot of sense, and as usual you are a voice of reason, so +1 (gotta keep on your good side, right? But this genuinely makes a lot of sense to me).

@RonMaimon Propaganda again... sigh.

Dilaton's philosophy is authoritarian and aristocratic, which was pretty quickly.

And ONCE MORE, you pull the discussion towards Dilaton and his personal beliefs. How is this even relevant to this thread. Also, Dilaton has hardly been "authoritarian" at all - huh, he wouldn't even implement community moderation decisions till he got enough votes on the moderator nomination thread, because he felt he didn't have the legitimacy to do so. Editing comments was one bad hastily done act, but that doesn't really make him either of the crap that you just called him.

The proposal to encourage people to moderate by random draw is useful if supplemented with a quick pro-forma vote,

Why would we need a draw at all? How meritocratic. And who does the draw, and how do we trust them?

which allows recall on the admin page, as we already do, so that if a new admin starts doing things which are opposed to the core principles you mentioned, they are recalled.

Except that the damage will already have been done.

There are two separate ideas: democracy and term-limits. Democracy means that the users may steer the site's politics by voting. The term-limits is to prevent someone from doing administration while forgetting what it is like to be a user, and to watch helplessly as your comments are moved or deleted, and administrators intimidate with their extra power.

I agree! I agree with rotating moderation, except that the formulation suggested in the question is ridiculous, and it's clear to me that the suggestion is just for the sake of making changes to how it works currently.

It also has been the case that admins on this site have mostly ignored the opinions of

Yeah right. If you ask me, nearly everything has happened as you've asked, Ron. Do you have any example of a discussion that resulted against what you asked (except for breaching anonymity, a nepotist forum).

considering our 5 independent mostly unanimous voices to be represented well by one voice among the three moderators, and our consensus to be only worth only one vote, same as Dilaton's personal opinion.

Uh, and how? I think it's pretty clear, that you're just trying to garner sympathy. Every user has their own separate votes, except for users with less than 25 reputation points.

Dilaton is worth 5 of us currently, you see, and that doesn't make for a good experience of democracy. The ostensible reason is that Dilaton sees non-academic voices as worth 1/5 of a person.

I laugh at this crap - when has Dilaton ever over-ruled community consensus? Wait a minute, that was someone else.

The deletion of spam is extremely uncontroversial, and just as at the beginning, people will pick up the slack as the need arises. Simlarly for import/export, and so on. The amount of time spent on this is not that large even when summed over all the moderators,

Except when almost "all the moderators" don't really do much administrative work. It's not an obligation, but I can only hope that by the end of this year, there will be someone really willing to do administrative work, as opposed to just be part of political crap for the sake of being heard.

Sorry about the propaganda, I edited it out.

A draw can be implemented without bias by a pseudo-random number-generator spitting out letters of the alphabet in predetermined sequence, which you put in a file. You take the next letters in sequence until it matches a user's unique last name, discarding letters that don't work. This can be verified without trust. Not saying this should be done, just saying how.

A draw is useful because, like jury duty, the best moderators usually don't want to do it. It is annoying to have extra power and be constantly thinking about administration. Drafting people for moderation duty is a way of avoiding this problem, and making sure the pool isn't composed entirely of people who want extra power. But it can also drive people away from the site, and lead to reckless moderation, and I totally get your concerns and Dilaton's concerns.

Here are the prominent discussions I remember that resulted in a consensus against what I asked: Money bounties, Arxiv-style view for reviews, automatic high-rep moderation, non-anonymous modship, automatic import of Arxiv for review, initializing the vote-count for reviews using citation index, automatic importing of all arxiv authors as users, arxiv-style tags for questions, Q/A-tags indexed by an arxiv category or subcategory tag, no pinging on SE, release of source code and data-dump, a no-rep low-level section for full import of SE (Dilaton wanted to spin it off, reasonably), only public moderator discussions, and many individual decisions on questions/answers. All of these were community decisions against my (often wrong) judgement, and there's nothing wrong with that, nor did I resent it. I'm sure you have a similar list. The only cases where something I suggested became adopted is when other people were persuaded that it was a good idea.

"Overruling community consensus" in this case means "didn't check if there was a vote on the admin threads". I am sorry I didn't check the community moderation pages, but those threads are a pain in the neck, you have to find the relevant thing. I have a lot less time to live than you, and I prefer to use less of it scrolling. People always alerted me to the vote, and I just reversed anything stupid. But sorry about that.

Ok, fair enough regarding voting, but the vote counts are skewed by the fact that VK's isn't counted, Drake or I usually write something and so don't contribute to the numerical vote, Jia mostly stays neutral on everything now, and Eduardo only comes when I ask (and I don't feel right asking twice, as this would be vote skewing).

But all five of us agree on this administrative policy stuff, more or less, same as we all agreed including you and Dilaton last year. Dilaton votes and you vote, half-and-half. That means that either 5 or 4 (depending on whether Eduardo counts) are overruled by Dilaton and you, while 5 plus you overrules Dilaton. So you decide everything. That's not so bad, but it feels undemocratic.

@RonMaimon It's simply not overruled. I have no idea how you get the perception of being overruled. The stuff that didn't pass, that you mention, are:

  • Money bounties - It never really received any consensus, and the implementation is quite hard.
  • ArXiV-style view for reviews - I don't remember when you suggested this, nor what you mean, so I can't speak.
  • Automatic import of ArXiV for review - Well any user can create a submission for a paper that they'd like to review, so this does it just as well.
  • Automatic high-rep moderation - You mean this post? Well yes, this is the only "overruling" I'll stick to, because democracy can't overrule democracy. That's the latter part of the principle of PhysicsOverflow ("constitution").
  • Initialising vote counts for reviews with citation index - You haven't really provided a clear request on this one, and there was no dedicate meta post, just a few comments by you here and there. And the implementation would probably be very difficult.
  • Import of ArXiV authors - Again there was no clear meta request. Technical difficulties, and the problem we currently face with SE users reclaiming their accounts, "Reclaim" just can't be made prominent enough.
  • ArXiV-style tags for questions - There was "consensus" against what you said.
  • No pinging on SE - Well, any user can ping on SE, and you can't control what everybody does. This is up to every user's own free will.
  • Release of source code and data dumps - This is purely polarkernel's decision, because it regards the code, and the database, not the content.
  • Low-level section - You mean the proposed PhysicsUnderflow? Well, I don't remember how that was your request (it was Anupam Khosla's), but anyway, as I've said, it's not really possible for us to try and kickstart a complement site, but we're open to helping anyone who's willing to do so.
  • Only public moderator discussions - Well, OK, but any of that can be made public upon request.
  • Individual decisions regarding questions/answers - I wasn't talking about those. Those are dealt with through community consensus

As for "drake and I usually write something so are not counted", community moderation posts are always counted with having a basic score of +1, unless retracted. So it does contribute to the actual decision eventually. Regarding VK, that doesn't skew the votes. Rules are the same for everyone. physicsnewbie often agrees with Dilaton/me, but he can't vote, either.

The last paragraph is just untrue. I don't decide everything. It is true that I often end up agreeing with the result in the end, but is that really a problem?

I proposed random mods at the beginning of the site, it didn't catch on, it probably won't catch on now either, as even I understand your complaints and the rigid timetable is bureaucratic.

"Arxiv view" meant that the view on the reviews page is similar to arxiv, intially just an arxiv mirror really, with each author and paper score added to the view, and extra tags which organize the articles into subfields, so that academics find this site useful without any initial participation. I suggested the voting score be initialized with a tally of citations for the paper, and these are catalogued at inspire. Then the reviews and voting on originality and accuracy simply modify the initial score. The meta-tags can be generated from the reference tree, especially the introduction. These ideas did not gather consensus, they were slowly shot down. It's normal. Just don't claim I always get my way.

I think VK is a special case in this discussion, because the unfair treatment was directed at him. I mean, it is uncomfortable to discuss problems treating a person when that person is not an equal member in the discussion. Regarding voting, you can't change the rule, it is there for a reason, but you can take an opinion into consideration, because each person brings unique experience and point of view that is not the same as anyone else.
+ 2 like - 2 dislike

This suggestion seems not very well-thought of. You seem to be assuming that any 500+ rep user who's given moderator privileges will use it wisely. What if a 500+ rep user doesn't agree with the principle of PhysicsOverflow? What if the 500+ rep user does not have the time or inclination to moderate, and they replace existing active moderators? Will the site go unmoderated of spam and other crap then?

I agree with rotating moderatorship, but providing exact time periods, like "1 year" is dangerous, because it's possible we find no inclined, capable moderator at the end of the year, and we end up with a team completely comprised of incapable or even censorious moderators, or moderators who disagree with the principle of PhysicsOverflow.

There's a reason why moderatorship is decided democratically, and not just by some silly "if you have blabla rep" criterion.

Democracy can't be destroyed in a democratic fashion, democracy needs to be shoved down people's throats.

answered Feb 4, 2015 by dimension10 (1,950 points) [ revision history ]
reshown Feb 4, 2015 by dimension10
+ 2 like - 2 dislike

Our real problem right now is finding any moderators, never mind even a single academic that wants to take up the role. Ron's resigned for the sake of the keeping the site alive, so that just leaves Dilaton and Dimension10 filling in the best they can right now.

I think we need to wait until site participation is x10 what it is before even considering this idea of time scheduling moderators.

answered Feb 4, 2015 by physicsnewbie (-20 points) [ no revision ]
+ 1 like - 3 dislike
I agree with all these proposals. As a recently minted ordinary user, I would add to this that it helps if the moderator discussion group is open for any user to eavesdrop on, so that there are no secrets among the moderators. This prevents in-group cohesion and out-group discrimination.

There is a famous 1960s "blue eyes" classroom exercise, where children were given the most silly arbitrary discrimination rule, and authority over others, using the most meaningless criterion, and abuse problems started right away. We aren't children, but the problem is identical. It's very difficut to ensure problems never start, and these rules are a good start.
answered Feb 3, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,535 points) [ no revision ]
+ 1 like - 3 dislike

I dont see exactly the point of this:

500 > rep users can already make use of the community moderation threads to do things such as closing/reopening questions etc ...

In the long run, PhysicsOverflow should be run by trusted academics to ensure the quality of the site and gain and keep the trust of the real-world physics community. Once corresponding good people, such as Arnold Neumaier, Urs Schreiber, or Moshe of the former TP.SE for example, who are willing to help us with moderation are found, they should be able to stay as long as the have time and do a good job.

Assigning life-long moderators as SE does is silly of course, but implementing a superficial bureaucratic rotation system that has to be executed by all means and independent form the actual circumstances, even if very capable people (such as Arnold?) are retired while no good replacements are in sight for example, would be not very wise either.

To me it seems best to keep things flexible, such that the needs of the community and the availability of good candidates can always be adapted to. 

Also, I strongly disagree with taking such far reaching decisions now, where there is actually no meta active community on the site. Lets concentrate on reviving the site and building a stable community first, instead of pushing forward new rules, bureaucratic procedures, rules, etc now. As Polarkernel explained here, for democracy to work an active enough community is needed first. In any proprerly functioning democratic system, if there is not enough participation results of polls, elections, etc are declared invalid for good reasons.

answered Feb 3, 2015 by Dilaton (4,295 points) [ revision history ]
edited Feb 3, 2015 by Dilaton
Most voted comments show all comments
The quality should NOT be ensured by the moderators, but by the users through voting. There are great academic (Nobel prize level) who, I'm sure, wouldn't allow freedom of speech. The rotation is not bureaucratic, it's a way to uniform the distribution of power. You are obsessed with the "real-world physics community". Don't you know there are ignorants researchers in the official academia? Tell me: how can a moderator ensure the quality of the content?
I agree with Dilaton. Flexibility is essential, no artificial frames are needed.
@Dilaton: A high-quality physics from one person is a monologue. We need freedom badly, believe me. It is more important than to maintain only high-quality posts.
Without freedom of speech you won't see high-quality original content, as this is always controversial. Who is to decide whether or not something is high-quality?
As it has already been underlined, votes from different users help to distinguish high-quality content from low-quality one, although it is not perfect either.
Most recent comments show all comments

What's all the propaganda above @RonMaimon @drake? Apparently, "The community is small, so changing policies now is a farce" is synonymous to "The community is small, so the founders will decide instead". Huh.

@dimension10: It wasn't propaganda, it was a discussion with Dilaton. The statement "The community is too small for a vote" means that the real vote is held among administrators and Drake's opinion doesn't count. As Drake said, small communities makes for an easy vote, because you know everyone's opinion.
+ 0 like - 3 dislike
I would replace the threshold on reputation with a threshold that includes the number of questions and answers, so that someone with a low reputation but who is very active could/should moderate.
answered Feb 3, 2015 by drake (885 points) [ no revision ]
Most voted comments show all comments
Rep is better, as sometime people who know no physics come to simply gain power.

@drake: This is a valid concern, and it was an issue on stackexchange, but an equally big concern is people with marginal ideas suppressing honest researchers! This can happen just as easily.

Voting can give marginal ideas low regard, and it is not problematic because it is not done top down. But the low regard must not lead to administrative shutting out. This is a road to abuse, and it is why the limited moderation was adopted.

There is a tendency for some people with marginal ideas to try to popularize the ideas by methods other than debate with knowledgable people. For example, placing comments regarding the stuff in wrong places (off topic), or copy-pasting material several times with minor modifications (duplication), advertizing webites (spam), or refusing to respond to technical material (low level). These are the reasons for the specific list of criteria adopted for rejection of material.

It is tiring to respond to old tired wrong criticism when you are trying to discuss serious work. This is what academics are afraid of. This is why downvoting does not require explanation, so that the discussion can stay focused.

But up and down voting is often purely political, and can also marginalize very important work (for example, S-matrix theory, string theory, quark model, abiogenic petroleum, etc, etc, I built up a library of examples by now). There is no space limit online, so there is no jockying for filling the limited journal pages, so there is no reason to exclude any content by administrative fiat or editorial judgement. This is what make the internet different--- the internet is infinite, unlike traditional publishing.

So it is essential that the moderation allow marginal material to survive, so long as it is at the right level and focused on its appropriate page, but also that the moderation allow it to be voted on without prejudice, so that whatever is valid and valuable can be extracted by the larger community.

But the moderation does not need to exercize authority regarding who or what to let in--- the voting can do that automatically. The conflict is due to the fact that all traditional academic discussions are mediated by academic authorities deciding who to let in, which shuts out marginal opinions as long as they are marginal. This can keep the level high, but it also excludes good new ideas.

When you trust voting to keep the level high, an academic community does not need academic editorial moderation, rather neutral moderation. It still needs to be comprehending moderation, so that the judgement of "off topic" and "low level" are accurate.

@Dilaton Are you making fun of me? Every user of PO (your choice: with or without the 500 rep threshold)
@dimension10: Dilaton's comments were erased here also, I hope they are simply hidden, as it makes these comments again look like an unjustified nonsense. The comment was something along the lines of "The meta community is too small for a vote, and this is being exploited to ram through policy that wouldn't make it in a real community." or something along those lines, I forgot.
@ron maimon I'll admit that I'm a physics f***wit when it comes to understanding the fundamentals of physics, but the type of moderating that goes on here doesn't seem to require a degree in physics, never mind a PhD, in my opinion. It's just a case of looking at the questions and answers, and seeing if the buzz words are all there.

Of course, this is all open to exploitation and would require a guy like you to filter out a troll posted by a physics graduate for a laugh. But now that you've resigned, Dilaton and Dimension10 are at the mercy of this kind of behaviour all the same.
Most recent comments show all comments
@Dilaton Then, let's vote to see how many people agree with regard to any topic. You, Dilaton, you are the only one who is enforcing your view, who don't want the community  to vote.

@drake: If you disagree with Dilaton, you are not part of the community. The position I stated was the unanimous consensus of not only all the ordinary users of SE, not just you and me, but Arnold, Eduard, and all the members of TP.SE, it was the unanimous consensus among Dilaton, Dimension10, and myself when we started. It was only after a user started to bug Dilaton, when Dilaton blamed the user for wrecking PO's reputation and had the power to do something nasty to this user, that this consensus changed. It only changed in Dilaton's head, not anywhere else, and Dilaton will look to find a community of like-minded people who agree. Fortunately, online such a community has never and can never exist. Nobody will voluntarily work as another's slave, to increase their sphere of control.

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