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RPG Meta is not a very active place. For our last big discussion (should accepted answers no longer be pinned to the top?), one pro- answer was posted almost immediately, and various con- answers trickled in over the course of weeks. Voting has, at this point, seen one of the last of those con- answers (disclaimer: mine, though it hardly matters for this example) slowly overtake the pro- answer’s lead over the course of more than a month.

The nomination phase of our moderation election takes one week. Meta doesn’t do anything in a week. Plenty of users check Meta less often than that, if voting patterns on featured discussions are anything to go on. I, myself, will have been on vacation for the entire time between the election announcement and the end of the nomination phase; I have had to interact with the nominations solely over my phone, and I am lucky I checked in at all because I had not planned to. And I am one of the most active users of the site.

A week maybe makes sense at Stack Overflow. It doesn’t seem to make sense—at all—here. Meta isn’t terribly representative of the site at the best of times, making our elections necessarily fraught to begin with—this seems like an unnecessary body blow to the legitimacy of the entire process.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I was thinking the same thing. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 22 '21 at 16:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I won't lie, I laughed a bit at the combination of "Meta doesn’t do anything in a week." and asking Meta to do something in three days. But then again, what other option existed with that required urgency \$\endgroup\$ Oct 22 '21 at 21:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ 1 week is an absolutely absurd amount of time to give a community of thousands of (possibly very busy) people, to nominated and vote on who is going to become a "moderator for life". \$\endgroup\$ Oct 24 '21 at 9:31
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Yes, one week is stunningly short. I'd like to see the nomination period extended to 2+ weeks, and that includes in this present election we are having now.

For many users the beginning of the election is the beginning of the process of considering whether you even want to be a mod, a question that may not have crossed their minds. (At least, not in the couple of years since the last election. Stack Overflow might have yearly elections but we don't.) That's a decision process that takes several days.

And many of our users won't even find out about the election until several days into the nomination phase. It's not like people need to check the site here every day.

I want to see this process extended. Give people here more time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd add (having done it myself), that after becoming aware of an election and deciding to pursue a slot, it took me a couple of days' brainstorming and drafting and editing to give nomination and questionnaire-response the treatment I felt they deserved. A week does feel rather short. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Oct 22 '21 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I perceive the week that we have gathering question as part of the nomination phase that lets people decide whether they want to run or not. A week sounds short, but two weeks already sounds much better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 22 '21 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu that's a good point. And I was going to say something under kryan's answer about question-gathering being pretty short, too, but then I dug back and noticed that question-collection had been a week in previous elections, too. I guess it's just that popping at some point most days rather than multiple times every day makes a week (or two) seem like much less time.... \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Oct 22 '21 at 22:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ It didn't used to feel like too short a period, but it does now. I was chalking it up to being a busier person this time around. I also echo @nitsua60 's comment that just coming up with those answers is a substantial time sink. (I haven't run in the past and I'm not running this time. But I know the speed at which I think, draft, and write.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Oct 23 '21 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak I expect that one reason for the perceived change in the pacing of time is that the ways you interface with rpg.se changed as elections went by and on what things you placed importance on regarding the smaller days to day happenings. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 23 '21 at 23:34
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Yes! But before we change anything, please remember that there are humans on the other side of these accounts

This isn't an easy post to write because there are a lot of strong feelings in this election, but I feel just as strongly that everyone needs to remember that there are real people with real feelings on this stack - who are all here to have fun and play games.

Wanting the best for the stack is clearly in everyone's interest - especially those who are literally volunteering their time and emotional well-being to help moderate our site.

Even those who either seem to have little history or those we simply disagree with. All of those people read the questionnaire, considered it, answered it, and put their thoughts out to us.

We are all invested here and a longer nomination period, including the initial week of question gathering, can and should be considered. Either for later elections or this one.

But please don't forget that, at face value, doing so mid-election could be very discouraging to those who have already volunteered and have surpassed the number of nominees that we didn't have a problem with in the past.

I really don't know what the right call is here, because I do agree more time is good, but I needed to get that off my chest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, I have had a problem with the number of candidates in every election, I just didn’t recognize the duration of the nomination period as a possible partial cause. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 22 '21 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...especially those who are literally volunteering their time and emotional well-being to help moderate our site Well said. + many \$\endgroup\$ Oct 25 '21 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that changing it during the process probably wouldn't have been a good idea anyway, but in regards to any potential future elections, I'm a lot more hard-pressed to figure out a downside. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Nov 3 '21 at 8:57
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It feels strange to change an election process during said process

I agree that a week is very short. If this question had been raised a month ago, I would be completely on board to adjust the current process. I also agree that future elections should have a longer nomination process.

However, the idea of changing an election process during said process makes me a bit uncomfortable. I can't necessarily put a finger on why (and I'm not completely opposed to doing so), but I feel like it should be handled with extreme care. Ideally, any changes should follow established precedent1 and/or be approved by a significant portion of the community.

If there isn't an established precedent, then now is probably too late to make such a change. "Meta doesn't do anything in a week" is an accurate statement. If we can't do nominations in a week, then we certainly can't change the nomination process in less than a week.

I mainly want to avoid even the appearance of changing a process that may not be going how some may prefer. I am absolutely not saying that's what is happening, but if we aren't careful, it could seem like that.


1 I'll admit that I'm not super familiar with how election processes get changed. If there's an established way to extend the nominations phase, then I'm all in favor of it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In the recent election at fitness.se, an insufficient number of candidates nominated in the nomination phase, so it was extended by one week. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 22 '21 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this, in particular, because active meta-community members have been aware of the upcoming elections since September 7th. Since then we had 1 1/2months for this type of proposal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand the hesitation here, but I cannot imagine how an extension could possibly give anyone an unfair advantage. Would those who have already acted have done any differently knowing they would have had longer? Hard to see why, or how they would be disadvantaged by acting early is they really mightn’t have otherwise. A short period is a huge advantage for some, but losing that advantage isn’t unfair—that advantage was unfair in the first place. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I don't mean to butt in here, but I did want to offer a procedural clarification - standard process is to extend elections by a week if they do not draw enough nominees. If the election does draw enough nominees to proceed, then standard process is to let it ride. (In my experience, there can be leeway for exceptions to the process under particularly exceptional circumstances. But they are not common.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Slate StaffMod
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slate We currently have 3 nominations for 2 slots, and one of those nominations is simply not realistic (2/40 on the score thing, someone with very little activity on main site and almost none at all on Meta). Is that enough? I certainly do not think so. What is the threshold? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Last election was 3 candidates for two positions and had the same one week nomination process that we've had for every election on rpg.se. This was also the case for our very first election and our 5th election. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Per standard process, 3 earnest nominations on 2 slots means the election advances to the next phase. But the threshold for "should the community talk about next steps?" is, in my opinion, "whenever the community feels like it's necessary and appropriate to do so." That said, this isn't my election to run, so I'd be a bit out of place saying anything further or promising something more concrete. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slate StaffMod
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That, to me, certainly suggests that 1 week for nominations has consistently been a problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan For me, it's not precisely about an unfair advantage. It's that (from the outside) "there wasn't enough time to consider being nominated" is indistinguishable from "there aren't at least two nominees I like, so I want to extend the process so someone I like might be elected instead". The former should have probably been handled weeks ago; the latter feels problematic to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kryan Has this been an issue before? I haven't seen it brought up, which doesn't mean it wasn't, but if it's been a problem I think we should raise that as such with a discussion for the future with evidence. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RedOrca There is almost-literally no actual choice here. I don’t think it’s outrageous to say there needs to be before we hand the reins over to someone automatically, for as long as they care to hold them, and I don’t think “I dunno, feels wrong somehow,” is a good reason why we “have” to let that happen. Frankly the pushback here reads strongly to me as “the person I want to win is gonna win by default right now,” which is a whole hell of lot less legitimate than “I have no one to vote for,” and much less still than “there isn’t really a vote happening at all.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 22 '21 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan This is actually a good example - when people feel strongly about things, it's harder to assume good faith in others. That's why I support the most objectively neutral approach - follow whatever procedures we already have laid out. (For the record, I have various concerns about all of the current nominees, and I'd prefer more choices.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Oct 22 '21 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RedOrca And my point is that people’s motivations do not matter. The short nomination period hurts some users—so far, no one has articulated any rationale under which an extension would hurt any users. So how is this not a no-brainer? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 22 '21 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Those changes aren't impossible, though I don't think we have plans to touch elections' standard process for a long while. I'm not sure of the details, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slate StaffMod
    Nov 8 '21 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Reluctant to speculate, I don't know the code base well enough to make an accurate claim about the work required \$\endgroup\$
    – Slate StaffMod
    Nov 11 '21 at 15:18
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Let us contextualise this election and accurately look at how much time we had to prepare for it.

On September 7th, I asked, "Should we think about elections?" On the same day, our moderator confirmed the upcoming election. That was 1 1/2 months ago - 6 weeks of preparation time. Due to the kind comment of our staff, we even knew the exact starting days. That is six weeks of potential for thinking things through and coming up with questions.

For people who do not follow meta closely, that is still one week of coming up with questions and one week of nominations. Two weeks is plenty of time to form an idea about whether one wants to run or not.

Overall we had much more time than during the highly competitive 2017 election.

So what could we do better?

We have an information gap between user pools that aren't following meta closely and those that are. Moderators know much earlier when an election will occur, and they are entitled and free to share that with the community.

It seems like it would be good to publicise elections earlier in their cycle. Before we go to the formal question gathering, we could even create an informal one, featured or as a community event, from which we can port things over to the formal one. I cannot say whether this will foster something like election fatigue that we see in real-world politics, but it seems like something that we can try.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While you make an interesting point, very few users come to meta so the fact that we had a meta discussion about an election is, oddly, mostly irrelevant (And yes, it does seem counter intuitive, doesn't it?) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 25 '21 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes, and we are looking at the same userbase that would ask questions - the one that participates on meta. Engaging non-meta users only happens on our main site. Even there, our reach faces abrupt limitations, hence why I suggest extending the time that we use to feature it there. Our other stopgap measure to extend this current nomination phase would be for us candidates to all withdraw - and due to not meeting the required three nominations, the standard procedure would be to extend the nomination phase by a week. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 25 '21 at 9:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I think it is worth observing that "active on meta" is a generally favorable quality to look for in a moderator, and the users that would miss an election announcement for several weeks are not favorable candidates in that respect. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3 '21 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just saw this. Yes, everyone withdrawing would be an awful way forward, agreed. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3 '21 at 13:44

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