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  Request for clarification about moderator election and removal.

+ 3 like - 0 dislike

It is clear to me that

  • there was an official moderator election in 2014 through this thread
  • as in any democracy, a moderator can step down freely (which now happened twice)

However, everything else surrounding the choice or replacement of moderators is almost completely opaque to me.

Perhaps just because I can't find the relevant documents; then my question is where can these be found? How can it be ensured that future users are better informed than i currently am.

Perhaps it is because the rules are still in flux and nothing is really decided yet. In this case my question is how to fix this poor state of affairs?

Let me just note some of my puzzlements in the absence of easily accessible reliable information:

In the thread Moderator election (2014), it says:

If a user, supported by enough people, has agreed to be a moderator, please put [ELECTED] at the start of the request (answer).'

Where is it defined what enough means? Is putting [ELECTED]  behind the answer the confirmation of being elected? What if afterwards comes a downvote? Say if a net score of 3 were sufficient to be elected, and it was reached just for 10 minutes before a downvote - does being elected depend on whether someone was looking at the scores in these 10 minutes and being quick enough to place the elected sign? Shouldn't be the result of the election be determined by a fixed deadline, and be officially announced for everyone to see and review? As it is now, one cannot even determine who obtained how many votes at the - ill-determined - time the election took effect. Why was the thread used in 2015 (against the title of the thread) to elect another moderator according to vague rules? 

In the thread Moderator Review: Dilaton it says: 

Please, vote one of the answers below: Dilaton should stay on as moderator or Dilaton should step down as moderator. Or propose a new idea in a separate answer.

Apparently there is a notion of moderation review. Where is is explained and its meaning specified? Is it an official impeachment process? Does a simple majority suffice for it becoming law? Or is it just an expression of current mood of those who happen to vote? How are the results of the different questions combined to an official outcome? Where is the official outcome permanently recorded for everyone to see and to check? 

How is it determined whether a new moderator is needed? Or when the next election should take place? 

Question over question, and I have probably more such questions if I contemplate it further. I haven't found any help in the FAQ, although this is surely something that people reading the FAQ should be informed about. For the next election this must be structured in a clear and professional way.

asked Mar 23, 2015 in Support by Arnold Neumaier (15,488 points) [ revision history ]
recategorized Apr 2, 2015 by dimension10

These are all open questions, and they need to be settled by a discussion that nobody has the energy for. Please Arnold, why are you stirring up this hornets nest, we got a good compromise already which seems to satisfy everyone.

@Ron: I am just confused, and seeing that someone (dimension10? I don't remember) mentioned April 4 as the next election (on the basis of what?) makes it imperative for me that these things are clarified at least in some preliminary way.

I know that in the beginning of a community's life not everything can be fixed from the start, but what happened is grounds enough that some more care must be taken to avoid similar troubles in the next round.

Where can I read this

 good compromise already which seems to satisfy everyone.

How can you include me in ''everyone'' if i don't even know what this good compromise consists of? 

Be ensured that I try to be constructive in each of my contributions, even those that sound confrontational and those where I am downvoted.

@ArnoldNeumaier: The compromise was that VK would be let back in, I would step down for a year, Jia would be mod for a year nominated by me, Dilaton would step down in April or May and nominate a replacement for a few months which we would upvote, then we would all quietly reelect Dilaton unanimously once the rotation ended, and dimension10 would rotate out for 6 months or a year. I didn't actually want to come back, I think that the rules are stable now.

@downvoters I don't think it makes sense to downvote this - I see it as a genuine clarification about some admittedly cloudly-looking details, and exercising one's rights should be encouraged.

@dimension10; Ok, downvoted because of the implied pressure on Jia's resignation, removed downvote (and upvoted) per your request (and the removal of said pressure).

3 Answers

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

Perhaps just because I can't find the relevant documents; then my question is where can these be found? How can it be ensured that future users are better informed than i currently am.

You're right, a lot of these policies were just known between the moderators, and was recently put in written form in the form of a moderator manual (which, also was only decided within the moderators). I'd be happy to make any details public, but not the entire manual, because well, it's a bit harshly written in some places. and here's the moderator manual in full.

Where is it defined what enough means?

Yes - I noticed that this isn't clear, and thought of editing the detail in, but decided against it because it's only last year's nomination thread. "Enough" like on all other community moderation threads, means that the people in agreement must outnumber the people in disagreement by 3, which usually means a score of "+2" (but is "+3" if the nominator retracts his vote, and "+4" if the nominator retracts his vote and downvotes it instead, because the nominator can't actually vote on his own post).

Additionally, the nominee must accept their own nomination (they need to be alerted about it first) and must have at least 500 reputation points. Administrators need to be approved by polarkernel.

Is putting [ELECTED]  behind the answer the confirmation of being elected? What if afterwards comes a downvote?

While the previous election was a bit messy, "[ELECTED]" is placed only after the full duration of the election, which is generally 1 week, unless

Why was the thread used in 2015 (against the title of the thread) to elect another moderator according to vague rules? 

That was anomalous, but necessary to replace Ron (who had stepped down).

Is it an official impeachment process?


Does a simple majority suffice for it becoming law?

No, it's necessary to have an edge of +2 for the team trying to expel the moderator. There was, in Dilaton's case, during the 7-day timespan of the moderator review - 3 people voted for the expulsion and 1 (me) against (you can't count Dilaton's own vote).

How are the results of the different questions combined to an official outcome?

There's only one question - should Moderatorname step down, or stay?

Where is the official outcome permanently recorded for everyone to see and to check? 

It should be recorded in the moderator review itself - I admit the particular moderator review was hasty and unsystematic, I was also hesistant to edit the question body, because drake (who first submitted the moderator review) was for the stepping down, while I was against it, so I didn't want to be accused of manipulating the content of the review to my political standing.

How is it determined whether a new moderator is needed? Or when the next election should take place? 

Generally, moderator elections are held on 4 April of every year (the anniversary of PhysicsOverflow's public beta), and administrator (currently known as "super-administrator") elections (which are not as democratic, because polarkernel's approval is needed for any elected candidate, and rightfully so) on 4 December of every year, on the date of Ron's 1-month suspension from Stackexchange, when it was first clear that a site like PhysicsOverflow is necessary.

For the next election this must be structured in a clear and professional way.

I agree.

answered Mar 24, 2015 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 24, 2015 by dimension10

Thanks for your explanations.

I'd be happy to make any details public, but not the entire manual, because well, it's a bit harshly written in some places.

Could you please agree with the other moderators on a moderated version (pun intended) that can be made public as the basis for further discussion here on meta? I wouldn't mind if Ron an Yiyang would be involved if agreement can be achieved. Just cut out the pieces where there is no agreement; or write in their place all alternatives favored by the opposing parties - with or without names attached; I don't mind as it will be publicly discussed anyway.

There's only one question - should Moderatorname step down, or stay?

But I see on  http://www.physicsoverflow.org/26527/moderator-review-dilaton two questions,

Dilaton should stay on as moderator


Dilaton should step down as moderator

(in addition to two other answers). 

@ArnoldNeumaier - I see what you mean, I agree it's best to have a single answer saying "upvote if you think moderatorname should leave, downvote if you think moderatorname should stay" instead.

Regarding the moderator manual, alright - I will moderate (hehe) the version and share a public link to it.

@ArnoldNeumaier Here you go: moderator manual. @moderators Rather than having separate moderator manuals to maintain, I guess it's best to just stick to this one (the editing guidelines, remember? : )).

Thanks a lot. I am happy that things get more constructive again. PO will have grown up a lot once all this is over.

@ArnoldNeumaier; It was over for a while, and I agree that physicsoverflow grew up with this thing, but really it's all already over for a month. Everything in the manual was consensus when the dispute was resolved, and there is nothing I can disagrew with. It is a great document, and it should be added to an official place somewhere here so that users can see it and know what moderators do exactly (thanks Dimension10).

@RonMaimon: There was much more going on than just dilaton's case - polarkernel's emergency call that made me step in was about the way the most visible people treated each other:

I have prepared a plant for you in the hope that it gets cultivated to a beautiful garden, where flowers and other plants may grow, even those that get cut on other sites. But what I see today is a desert. The site got an arena of politics, where gladiators and self-proclaimed prosecutors produce an abominable mud-wrestling, in order to get power over the site. It makes me sick to see how you try to undermine and pervert fundamental rights, as privacy and anonymity.

and about the impact of rude manners on the core business of PO:

Today, PhysicsOverflow has fewer users than in private beta. There was a time at the beginning, where more than 200 users contributed to PO, at least by voting. Almost all of them have gone.

We must clean up the battlefield and have this properly resolved before the election.

Then it makes sense to send - at the occasion of the upcoming election - mass emails to all registered users including those who disappeared due to the dark age of PO, in the hope that they they see the renewed spirit, return, vote, and contribute again.

@RonMaimon I added the link in the user rights. By the way, I realised that the last paragraph of the user rights could be interpreted to say "no elections". Perhaps it needs rephrasing?

The Moderator/Admin manual was written by Dimension10 based on past discussions. It is a useful starting point for a public discussion and contains lots of useful and relevant information and advice.

However, as explained here, I felt unable at the time to articulate my disagreement with parts of it.

Now that the communication patterns are slowly coming back to normal I'll go through the moderated public version and will suggest alterations that reflect my true opinion on these matters as needed.

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

@dimension10 wrote:

Generally, moderator elections are held on 4 April of every year (the anniversary of PhysicsOverflow's public beta),

Thus we have very little time only to discuss the rules. I propose that the election proceeds in 2 phases:

In phase 1 (April 4-10) candidates are nominated and discussed on a page 'Moderator election 2015 - nomination and discussion'. No candidates may be nominated afterwards.

In phase 2 (April 11-17), voting is done, on a separate page 'Moderator election 2015 - voting only'. The question and all answers should be prepared according to the result of the nomination phase, by polarkernel who is anyway neutral about moderation, so that the nominees have the same anonymous voting power as any other registered user. The question should repeat the precise rules of the election, and should state that discussion may continue on the nomination page, but not on the voting page, and that any comments will be deleted by the moderators.

On April 18 0:00 (polarkernel's time?) the voting page is locked so that the result of the election is clearly visible and permanent. @polarkernel Is locking feasible? If not, an immutable copy of the page (pdf file?) should be made at the time of the deadline and linked to from the question on the voting page. 

answered Mar 24, 2015 by Arnold Neumaier (15,488 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 24, 2015 by dimension10
Most voted comments show all comments

This is a good idea, +1 from me - the immutable page can be in an html format, it's just very important that it should be prepared from a test non-administrator account, to prevent viewing of voter identities, etc.

I think it's fine if any administrator prepeares the answers for the voting and then associates the account with our dear bot, SchrodingersCatVoter. It's better if we fix the locking time at a more feasible time like 18:00, so that the administrator doing the locking isn't sleepy and clicks the wrong button, for example : )

I will find a method to create a permanent copy of the election result at the locking time. As dimension10 proposes, any administrator may prepare the answers for the voting and associate them to SchrodingersCatVoter. I would prefer a locking time a bit earlier that 0:00, if possible.

@polarkernel Do you mean that a bot automatically creates a permanent copy? Or do you mean a way for an admin to create a permanent copy? If it's the latter, isn't it simpler to just save the webpage (from a non-admin account) and put it in the root folder as physicsoverflow.org/moderator-election-2015.html, for example?

@dimension10 I was thinking on the latter, but I have to test it first. Creating a bot for this rare event is too much complicated.

@ArnoldNeumaier The site is constructed to be user driven, which means that every request from outside gets responded by the server. There is no timer available to trigger the freeze of the page. Therefore, any automation would be complicated to develop.

Most recent comments show all comments

@polarkernel: Maybe I am naive but can't the bot simulate a special user ElectionSupervisor who requests to see the page from outside at the time of the deadline? (Sorry for the multiple pings; I am apparently too tired to write correctly ...)

@ArnoldNeumaier What I mean is just that the trigger must come from outside (could be an administrator click or a Cron job or whatever). I am sorry, I am actually very busy. I will think about and propose a method later.

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

Arnold, Jia has not stepped down yet. You weren't here during my own resignation, my step-down wasn't finalized until everyone was able to weigh in on it, and I read and considered their opinion before deciding to step down for good. Jia has the same opportunity to reconsider, it is not a decision that should made lightly. I decided to step down after considering all opinions, and responding to them, and explaining the reasons, and getting a split agreement with the decision. Of course, Jia can step down regardless of what anyone says, but he hasn't done so yet.

The "moderator review" is an ordinary question on meta--- it was a quick poll to see what people thought was an appropriate response. It carried no unambiguous power of enforcement, because there were no rules regarding such things, we neglected to set any up. We never considered that such a thing could ever happen.

The opinion, however, reflects community opinion, like every other meta poll, and sincere users and moderators take a consensus seriously and adjust their opinions accordingly. This is all that this page i meant to do, to see where people stand, and to ask the moderator to abide by community will.

It is difficult to proceed in this way, when the promises made to quiet people down are later retracted without any agreement from those who asked and recieved those promises. It is difficult when votes are held and the outcomes ignored and treated as completely nonbinding (although they are officially nonbinding, there was the idea of community moderatorship--- Dilaton formulated it--- which says that community consensus is to take precedence over any individual's preference).

The lack of forthright discussion and openness makes the apologies given seem insincere, while my own sincere apologies for any hurtful behavior has not been replied to, it is simply ignored, as everything else has been ignored. The moderator elections here have never been contested before, but despite ample opportunity, there has no other mechanism of accountability set up. Please, allow the symbolic accountability mechanism to work, it was not made in haste, and you accepted a symbolic step-down as a last resort. This is a reconciliation step, as it assures that there will be full forgiveness and wholeness, everyone will move on forever (as I did when I assumed this was already settled)

But in a situation where there is no accountability by free-choice, not even symbolic accountability for a tiny period of time, then this means that the next election will be the only place to look for accountability. This suggests that in all likelihood it will not be unanimous. You can't go back on these promises, they were compromises on all sides.

answered Mar 23, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,720 points) [ revision history ]

How is an election finalized? I couldn't find out, except for that someone writing [ELECTED] on top of the nomination. Anyone, if he or she thinks there are enough upvotes, it seems.

How is a step down finalized? How can it be that an explicit request

@polarkernel @dimension10 @Dilaton, please remove my moderating powers and remove me from the moderator email list.

can mean anything else as the actual step down? It may take a few hours to physically remove the requested things but if this is not final then what is? Does he need sufficiently many upvotes on his resignation claim to be allowed to step down? Since this might be the case (how can I tell in the absence of written rules?) I just upvoted it to support his freedom (for no other reason). 

Fuzzy rules help no one.

my own sincere apologies for any hurtful behavior has not been replied to

 I am very happy about your apologies, and trust that they are sincere. 

@ArnoldNeumaier: The fuzzy rules weren't problematic for me, he is sleeping, he'll think it over tommorrow, read over the thing, then ask again, and it will be finalized. If he changes his mind, he'll write "retracted" on it. The rules are not so important, use your common sense. It took about 24 hours for me to resign, people discussed it, In the end, he can do whatever he wants, of course. But you let people make decisions calmly and when they have read all the responses, and are sure.

The election of Jia was made by me nominating him, and him immediately getting an additional two votes, then he was admitted to the moderator pool, really because both the Dilaton camp and my camp were ok with him, because both sides acknowledged he is reasonable. This might have changed afterwards, it is a grim sign that he has opposition, because he has done nothing at all except support the resignation which is supported by everyone else.

There were no disputes about his moderation, not from Dilaton, not from me, not from Dim10, not from Drake, not from Eduardo, not from VK, not from you (although you weren't here, what could you oppose?). It was finalized because obviously everyone was paying attention, and we knew the principal split in opinion, and both sides accepted Jia as appropriate to mod. That's like a miracle, considering the divisions at the time. Dilaton was elected the same way, so was I, so would you be--- it's a common sense thing of consensus for a mod. This works the same way on Wikipedia, and this vagueness just hasn't been problematic there, nor does it look problematic here.

Of course, you could recall Jia by finding some problem, but the only problem so far seems to be that he asked Dilaton to step down, and he means it. I am surprised his nomination no longer appears because everyone else except you agrees with this too by now, even Dilaton has explicitly reiterated the intention to step down.

I think you must respect the wishes of a unanimous group that includes Dilaton. I mean, I don't know who voted against Jia, and they are welcome to, but he is still net positive, as my nomination counts as +1.

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