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  How should rotating moderatorship be implemented without hurting the site's administrative load?

+ 3 like - 0 dislike

In the past, we've agreed on rotating moderatorship as a way to ensure that moderators don't forget the experience of a standard user, and understand moderation from both sides of the arrow. This is an excellent idea, in fact I have already forgotten how a normal user experiences the site - if nothing goes wrong, I'd be resigning by the end of the year.

However, I do have some concerns about implementing this.

Certain tasks, such as management of community ads and user administration (access to the admin@physicsoverflow.org account), are quite tedious and delicate respectively. I'm really afraid that the future moderation team will not be able to take care of these issues.

For managing community ads, one needs to constantly monitor the community ads voting thread to check for new votes, and update the javascript code in the admin panel accordingly. This is a relatively easy task for me, really just because most of the community ads are posted by me, and because I wrote the script for the community ads. There are some other scripts and styles as well, which I doubt anybody else would bother to maintain.

As for user administration, it's a really delicate issue, and there's a tedious process involved in finding out if a reclamation request is genuine. I'm not sure, if anybody besides Dilaton and myself would be willing to invest much effort into this task.

The solution I have in mind would be to resign, but (publicly, transparently of coruse) create a new account type "admin.retired", for each retired moderator - the user history for this account would be completely public (every single thing, including things like votes, etc.), and the account would not be allowed to do anything except resetting accounts and editing the scripts in the admin panel. This means that the user history should be completely blank, and if it's not, polarkernel would always be able to investigate who did what and lock the violating moderator out of his account (or just ban the account).

Does anyone have any concerns about this? Any better ideas?

Update: This user level has now been implemented by polarkernel.

asked Feb 14, 2015 in Discussion by dimension10 (1,985 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 7, 2015 by dimension10

great idea dim10, thanks for working out the problems!

@downvoters In case it's the idea of rotating moderatorship itself that you disagree with, then you shouldn't be expressing that as a downvote on this proposal, because this proposal is not a proposal of rotating moderatorship itself, but rather a way to prevent the site's administrative stuff from being affected despite rotating moderatorship.

Ok, I replace my downvote to an upvote for taking sensible measures to preserve functioning of the site in case the unwise moderator rotation is enforced. 

@ArnoldNeumaier It isn't "enforced", it isn't "unwise", and it the vote has not been completely replaced yet : )

I saw +3-0 shortly after I commented. 

I know that you meant it ''to preserve functioning of the site in case the wise moderator rotation takes place voluntarily" But so far everything is worded such that it is a strict policy for the future, I checked the current version of the moderator manual. I find this unwise. 

3 Answers

+ 2 like - 2 dislike

Rotating modship was agreed by the admins as part of the compromise consensus to resolve the issues on meta regarding moderator misbehavior. It was not put up for a vote, because the implementation is simply by the moderators themselves stepping down for various periods of time, it doesn't require the users to do anything except voting new moderators. The users don't need to do anything to make this happen, as it does not require any user action. Only the moderators need to agree.

They all agreed to this already. Every moderator declared intent to step down at the appropriate time, and this would allow uncontested moderator elections in the future, because nobody would worry about a moderator being permanently installed. It is mostly symbolic at this stage, but it will stay if all the moderators do as they promised, and this is expected of course.

If users are happy, they can vote the moderators right back in. That was also expected.

The happiness of users, at least this particular user, is contingent on a somewhat regular procedure of symbolic resignation for a brief period, to reacquaint oneself with the user perspective, and then symbolic reelection. We certainly don't want something less symbolic, like contested elections, at this stage.

answered Mar 24, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,720 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 24, 2015 by Ron Maimon

@RonMaimon do I understand this right that moderators can resign shortly before the yearly election, and then in the upcoming election (almost directly) be voted back by the community, if the users have been happy and satisfied with their work?

@Dilaton; Sure, that's ok. If you want to do that, why not now? The election is coming up. That leaves a period of a month or two to get acquainted with the user experience. But I wouldn't like it if it were a day before, because then you won't be a user for a month. Trust me, when you become a user, you hear all sorts of things that you didn't before, just because people feel you are socially their equal now. Ten minutes after I resigned, Drake explained to me I was being a condescending son-of-a-bitch in my comments to him, and that I was stupid to resign. Now I hear about a crap review I wrote. It was revealing. It's nice to be a user for a month.

I just hope to avoid continuous uninterrupted moderation punctuated by perfunctory elections, without any period of step-down, because then people expect automatic reelection, and there is no free period for campaigning (not that there would be ANY campaigning between now and the elections, as there are absolutely no problems at all left). The election in that case would becomes pro-forma, a foregone conclusion, rubber-stamping, and other people would be intimidated from proposing other candidates or saying anything negative, because then the mod hates them. That would turn into Soviet elections, where the approved candidate was accepted 95% of the time. But you obviously will have no problem in the reelection because, after you step down, everyone will support you. If you want, you can also do it in may, and then come back in August. It's a rotation, it's simple, it's not difficult, and it's not punitive.

@RonMaimon if a moderator steps down shortly before the election and is then re-elected or not, depending on the votes of the users, it is exclusively the community who decides if a moderator gets re-elected (or confirmed). If people are happy and satisfied with the past work of the moderator, they can re-elect him, or if there are better candidates/people nominated or the community is not satisfied enough with the past work of the moderator, he does simply not get re-elected?

I just want to reassure myself that I understand the details correctly.

If I do understand it right, this is a in some democratic countries in the real world a well established and well functioning procedure called fixed periods of terms with the possibility of re-election.

Yes, I am considering such a thing for myself.

@RonMaimon if the step-down happens a day before the election starts (with nomination and subsequent voting), there would still automatically be a period of step-down for the duration of the elections (1,2,3 weeks?), and the election itself is also the most important time of campaigning as I have observed in the real-world and in online communities.

@Dilaton: I thought you wanted to step down voluntarily, that was the statement of intent. That was a presupposition behind all this reconciliation. The day-before thing was Arnold's silly idea, it was supposed to be for 3-6 months, but whatever, if you do it now, it's fine too. One month is plenty reassuring. But I didn't know you supported Arnold in this, you shouldn't. It's not about Arnold. It's your decision, and your decision determines how much automatic support you will get from others in the future.

+ 1 like - 1 dislike

I think it is a good idea to have the XXX.retired accounts such that retired moderators and/or administrators can continue to help with administrative tasks.

However, I am against the rotating moderation issue, in my opinion it should be suspended until the community is at least 10 times as large compared to what we have now. Holding yearly elections, while moderators who have no longer time for the job can step down any time is in my personal opinion the more appropriate procedure as long as the community is that small.

(I was against the rotating moderation issue already when Dimension10 sent out the original version of the moderator manual for approvement, correction, etc. to all moderators, but for fear of more harsh replies
I did not dare anymore to complain about it there. Now that the communication climate is finally improving I hope I am not penalized anymore for almost everything I say.)

On the other hand, I would support if we installed something like fixed terms of service for moderators as for example explained here and here, so that moderators valued by the community  can immediately be re-elected for the next term but would be out if they don't get in the election the required support.

This is independent of my promise to resign; but I am seriously contemplating to follow the suggestion of @RonMaimon

If you want to do that, why not now? The election is coming up. That leaves a period of a month or two to get acquainted with the user experience.

answered Mar 24, 2015 by Dilaton (6,240 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 24, 2015 by Arnold Neumaier

However, because administrators are meant to have a purely technical role in the future, I did object in the Moderator Manual discussions with the other moderators already against the fact that administrators should rotate at all.

@Dilaton And you got agreement, right? Not about administrators rotating at all, but exclusive admins (like polarkernel and the admin.retired-styled ghost accounts) should never rotate.

+ 1 like - 3 dislike

As already mentioned in another comment, I don't think rotating moderatorship is a practical idea unless we have at least 10 times as many people active on Q&A and  at least 10 times as many people active on meta. Thus it should simply not be implemented and your concern is gone. 

we've agreed on rotating moderatorship

'We' was probably the moderators only? Or where was it discussed and agreed upon on meta?

answered Mar 24, 2015 by Arnold Neumaier (15,787 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 24, 2015 by Arnold Neumaier
Most voted comments show all comments

Only the moderators need to agree to this to make it happen, as all it requires is that they step down and renominate themselves after a period. 

This is fine for the current moderators who made the pledge.

But this is not enough for a policy that should bind moderators in the future. To be democratic, the latter must be discussed and decided publicly.

One of the moderators doesn't step down even when there is a binding vote demanding it. 

I don't understand. As long as there are no publicly agreed rules for when a moderator has to step down there cannot be a binding vote demanding it. 


as the date approaches, a bewildered outsider, who because of the issues and point of view has probably been spoken to in private earlier by this single moderator, comes here without understanding

The very first day I came back to  PO (March 3) after a 3 month break that had nothing to do with PO (and wasn't initiated by anyone as all thought I had left for good), I saw polarkernel's emergency call, which alarmed me to the highest. But I first wrote a number of scientific answers since this is the declared highest goal of PO (not freedom of speech as you want us make believe). Then I replied to the emergency call from my knowledge based on my past presence (dating from Nov.26, according to my answer history). I didn't understand all polarkernel had said, and therefore started reading the meta history in more details. What I found out over time (at first I didn't spent much time on it) was much worse than what I had expected. And some of what polarkernel said, his complaint

It makes me sick to see how you try to undermine and pervert fundamental rights, as privacy and anonymity.

makes sense to me only since very recently. Nothing of this was resolved but you even today claim on my wall that 

we found a compromise where everyone was happy, and things could be unanimous? I was sure I was leaving the site on the day before Jia got the compromise settled, VK was angry, Dim10 was angry, everyone was unsatisfied. With the moderator rotation and resignation promise, all was healed. I don't understand how anything that is so simple to do and produces such peace can be bad.

 Nothing was healed, there was no peace, just a thin cover to hide the worst. Once I started to spend more time on it since my real life duties allowed it, the problems surfaced again, and much more.

By the way, I have nothing to do with dilaton's promise, he made it without me and he'll carry through on it (I assume) without me, and according to his own schedule. I am interested in the welfare of PO, not of dilaton, except in as far it is important for PO that all, including you and dilaton, work together for making PO a place where those interested in theoretical physics like to spend their time on.

@Dilaton, come on, which part of my last comment is not factual?Do you want to claim you know better about our feelings than ourselves?? Can you stop downvoting the comment with no other reason but that it is disadvantageous to you? I never do that.

@Dilaton, I can think of no other who can possibly downvote this, if you deny it's you, I'll take your words, but don't hide any of my comments.

Most recent comments show all comments

@ArnoldNeumaier: The privacy issues were resolved by Dim10 saying "Ron, that stuff is private! You can't publish that email." And I eventually realized he was right and said "Oops, you're right." and hid it. From this point on I treated all private communications as private by default, and I still do. The anonymity issue was due to a brief mistake on my part, which I can't get into, because it would repeat the problem. Neither was recurring or terrible, certainly neither was intentional, and the mistake precedent set the policy as always, and I accepted the consensus immediately and bindingly.

I tend to argue that moderator discussions should not be private by default, but since I am alone on this, I don't act accordingly, at least not after the first time I made that mistake. I defer to the community consensus. If I would argue this, I would have to make a case on meta, which I don't want to do, because it's not that important compared to other things. As I am not a mod, it is not even an issue. The main issue is to prevent moderator deletion of old discussions, so that one doesn't have to waste time. For this, your professional-tone edit policy seems ideal, as we can clean up the discussions without any problem to get them to acceptable form.

I agree with you on reconciliation, but the reconciliation push has the unintended side effect of undermining the one main reconciliation tool, which was the declaration of intent, which is the only thing which remains in the future and not the past. That is a tool, nothing more, for producing unanimous reconciliation and uncontested elections, and it works 100% guaranteed. Please don't substitute for it anything else. It was a unexpected solution to a tough problem, due to Jia, which involves no undue inconvenience for the site or for any of the members or moderators, but has great symbolic and reassuring value to everyone.

@RonMaimon: See my post on my wall.

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