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RPG's users and moderators have a number of problems as summarized in this question's answers. However, several mods have said that they can't accept meta feedback in the form of anything other than individually-separated questions. While I think that's unreasonable and contrary to common meta practice here and elsewhere, in the spirit of taking all possible approaches to getting us started on resolving these problems, I'm reposting my observations as a series of questions instead of a single answer. I'm hoping for answers that generally agree with the problem statement and go on to give proposals for fixing that (and may post later with my own ideas), but answers that explain why the problems observed are less severe (or more severe) or characterized differently than stated would also fit well.

This post is about…

Moderators being community leaders instead of exception handlers

The moderators on this site are very present and lead efforts to change the site (for example changing rules and tag meanings). I don't doubt that they do this in what they think is the site's best interest. But it feels very heavy handed and not like the very laid back moderation of other sites.

Lets look at SE policies and how they explain what the moderators should do:

OK, that's a lot to read and I'd like to quote those parts I think are a very general, but also very expressive guideline to moderator duties:

But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!

[...]

Even with active community self-regulation, moderators occasionally need to intervene. Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt -- if you don't have human exception handling in place.

Please note that while I absolutely agree with the accentuation, they are not mine but taken from the original posting.

When we have a look at comparable sites (for example The Workplace was of equal size, we are now having more questions then them), then there are about an equal number of clearly off-topic questions. Right now, the front page over there has more [On hold] questions than open ones. But not a single one was closed by a moderator. They all were closed by a 5-people-consensus. While it certainly isn't wrong for a moderator to close a question when he sees it's off-topic, the fact that our moderators are quite quick to do it gives this site a quite heavy, moderated feel. Being closed by a diamond mod has a very different feel to being closed due to 5 normal community members agreeing.

Taking a recent example that lead to this whole number of posts:

Aggressively police answers

Source of Quote

This is not something I'd like a mod to do under any circumstance. The moderators are supposed to be the exception handlers. Handle exceptions. Answers are to be policed by the community. The moderators are certainly part of this community, but using the mod powers is not.

We should do this thing. All three diamond mods support it.

Source of Quote

That's not a reason to do anything about the site. The moderators are just three people. Of many. The answer is certainly not wrong, but it transports an attitude that I do not like in moderators of an SE network site.

the mod interpretation of current state is as I've stated it above. Therefore it is fact, as we're the ones that have to enforce it

Source of Quote

This shows both points quite well: the message that is sent by the mods is that the moderators police this site by enforcing rules. But it's not a mods job to use moderator powers to police this site, it's the communities job. If game-rec questions are to be banned, then the community will close them by voting. In addition, it also shows the kind of "my way or the highway" attitude that gets transported in this message. The mods have spoken, therefore the issue is settled. I'm not saying the moderators are doing this in bad faith or an attempt to become absolutist monarchs, but the message the moderators are sending both written and as a general feeling is just that. It comes across more as a ruler than a referee.

So, yes, I cannot point a finger to a single action and say "see, that's wrong". Because it's not a single action. Every single action for itself might be fine. It's the sum of actions and it's the attitude that gets transported. The message the moderators send with those actions is that of a very heavy handed and direct moderation. Other sites manage way better to have their moderators solve the real problems (voting fraud, sock-puppets, harassment, SPAM) behind the scenes and not having their diamonds show up in everyday community business.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this. The strong leadership by the moderators was good when it was about encouraging people to perform moderation they should be performing anyway, like getting people to close questions. Now, the strong leadership by the mod team seems more focused around establishing policy and telling people what the rules are now, and making the community answerable to them rather than them answerable to the entire community as fellow citizens. That's not the mods' job. That's the community's job, and the mods aren't given their powers to assert themselves in this way. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 22 '16 at 11:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you feel that the rest of the community who have various site mod privileges levels is not picking up its share of the low level moderation activity, or is it that the mods get a load of flags from active users with the rep to send them, and are thus receiving "triggers" to act? Or, do you see that the community is pitching in as compared to other stacks? I don't have a long experience with stacks, so I have no intuitive feel for this. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 22 '16 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Some things I cannot tell. For example the number of flags. But things should not end up as moderator flags anyway. If anything but offensive comments and the things mentioned in my post gets mod-flagged, that's the wrong way to handle it anyway. That's what the community review queues are for. I don't know what would happen if the mods did not close-vote that fast. I would hope the community would do it instead. I would rather not explain my view on voting behavior here because peoples disagreement on this point will dwarf the actual point of my post here. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 22 '16 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If you see anything in the system that is evil, weird, or in any way exceptional and deserving of moderator attention for any reason…flag it! That’s the primary job of a moderator: to look at every flagged post, and take action if necessary." That is from the RPG.SE Who are the site moderators page. What if the community is very conscientious and sends a lot of flags? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 22 '16 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes, evil, weird or exceptional. Someone posting an off-topic question for example is neither. That's a normal site event and can be handled by the normal site's means. Please note that a "mod flag" is the thing that says "custom reason". The other flags like NAA, VTC or VLQ go into the mentioned review queues. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 22 '16 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast "evil, weird or exceptional" would be goat porn, SPAM, fishing attempts, hacking attempts, stalking or all kinds of evil internet weirdness. I have never witnessed any of those on RPG.SE, so either our mods are lightning-fast, or it's quite rare for this to happen. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 22 '16 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ From my observations: most spam and similar obvious trash gets nuked by high-rep users before mods get to it. If spam lasts more than ten minutes it's usually during a weekend lull in user activity. That's a thing our citizenry does very well. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 22 '16 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another relevant quote from the moderation team, specifically mxyzplk’s answer to complaints about the mishandling of tool recommendations: “the mod interpretation of current state is as I've stated it above. Therefore it is fact,” which is entirely antithetical to SE’s theory of moderation. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 22 '16 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Good example, I have included my thoughts. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 22 '16 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan People were mistaken about how recommendation questions in general became on-topic originally, so that was and still is the correct exception-handling call to make. It was even confirmed by the community after everyone had settled down, but even if it hadn't been, we weren't going to bend based on people just misunderstanding site historical facts. That would have been reneging on our responsibilities to represent SE's wider policies locally and to be effective exception handlers. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '16 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey guys, even for Meta these comment threads are getting out of hand. I'm going to start migrating ones that get to the 10+ mark to chat, and please consider writing an answer (and then editing it to account for critique) rather than just circling around the same things in comment threads. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 24 '16 at 2:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli Editing isn't a mod power, nor is it related to comments. Here is what's a mod power: if you want to answer the question, please put these issues in an answer post, because even on meta this is not what comments are for and they've been deleted. We have enough clutter in these comments with people discussing (which is OK on meta) without answers in the comments making it even harder to read these metas. (Yes, I detect the irony. No, I'm not going to avoid a needful mod action just to avoid it. Mod duties are more important than irony-avoidance.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '16 at 2:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper I added the sources. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Mar 7 '16 at 11:23

11 Answers 11

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What to do?

From my perspective, the moderators should do less. A lot less. The site is fine. It attracts a reasonable amount of quality questions and answers. The next time someone posts an off-topic question and a moderators sees it? Let it slip. Wait 8 hours. By then, the community might have already policed it. And if not, the moderators still can. The next time the moderators see a tag being treated in a way they don't like? Ask an open-ended question. And accept the fact that maybe "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is an acceptable answer.

Wielding mod powers always has an air of dictatorship. For example casting a single binding vote using the mod's powers, while other users need a 5 votes consent seems absolutist. Especially to the one whose question got closed. It's unfortunate that mods cannot "unmod" and use only regular user powers. In this light, it would appear a lot less direct and heavy to use the mods powers sparingly and only when the community did not react.

If a moderator wants to lead, do so by being a role-model (you all write great answers, I'm sure that should not be hard), without taking moderator-style actions. Moderator actions are for exceptional circumstances.


(And on a personal note, maybe if you read my meta posts in the light of not asking for actions, but asking for an agreement on how to be a role-model, they might make a lot more sense. The first answer I always got was "we cannot do this within the rules". I wasn't asking for actions or enforceable rules, I was asking on a consensus on how to behave if you want to be a role-model. That's a big difference.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think there's a perceived grey area in actions which any high-rep citizen could undertake, but which is empowered by diamond status: eg, voting to close. It sounds like you're calling for mods to be role models but to refrain from some actions which model citizens should embrace b/c the diamond changes the context of those actions. Can you edit your answer to speak explicitly on this subject of what it looks like to act like a citizen while wielding mod power, please? (EG this wouldn't have escalated so much if the original edit wasn't by a mod.) \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 22 '16 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Added a paragraph about not using mods powers when they are absolute and overrule others without need. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 22 '16 at 14:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ So that you know: NAA and VLQ don't go directly to the mods, there is already a built-in delay. Of those we do see, we get a lot more NAA and VLQ flags than we action. The vast majority of them we dismiss because they misunderstand the flags' purpose. That dismissal means that they're kicked back to the community to handle. We rarely action a VLQ or NAA flag unless 1) someone has posted a chatty non-answer because they think we're a discussion forum, since that's a problem we try to keep a lid on, 2) it has nothing to do with the question, or 3) indecipherable nonsense. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '16 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ We also already refrain from super-voting on a lot of questions. Your suggestions aren't bad, they're just kinda off-point because they're already being used extensively. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '16 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: Re flag dismissal. I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but it sounds like the workflow you're envisioning is a VLQ/NAA flag slips through a slow LQP queue, gets to mod queue, gets dismissed, goes back to LQP queue. But a flag that's dismissed is gone (and the default is to dismiss all flags on a post at a time, as far as I know); for that post to be handled, someone else has to notice a problem organically. Is that just my misreading? \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 22 '16 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE As I understand it, if it's already in a review queue it stays in the queue; getting into a queue is an effect of being flagged and isn't bound with the flag itself. [Edit: I tried to track down the meta/help/faq that explains the relationship between flagging, queues, and mods being notified, but I'm failing to; if anyone who can find that and confirm/correct my understanding here it would be appreciated.] \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '16 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: OK. I went to double check; a careful reading of meta.stackexchange.com/q/230665 indicates that Community ♦ dismissals remove the flagged post from all queues (since a later flag was required to bring it back in), and meta.stackexchange.com/a/253449 states that this applies in all cases. I can ask a question if need be to clear that up. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 22 '16 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE Those posts are about two different things, the first unrelated to moderator action. The second is on-point though. It doesn't mention the delay I was informed about though, so I'm not sure if it's complete or accurate. The bit about action in either the queue or the mods' flag queue affecting the other makes sense though and is probably accurate, so I misremembered that part. In that case: it is often the case that we let a flag sit for a while if it's non-obvious, so we're already accidentally letting the community take a longer crack at those. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '16 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: Follow-up question on the mother meta to be absolutely certain. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 22 '16 at 21:07
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I'm going to play the other side of much recent meta-action for a moment:

We tapped three of our most-active users to moderate. So all of their actions now carry a diamond.

I don't think we want to still their voices--either procedurally or just through pressure--just because they're now diamond-certified. The same actions they'd always taken now carry a diamond and often carry more weight. As mxyzplk correctly points out, that's a stack-wide policy with desired effects: they don't get to be just "regular users" anymore.

Moderators qua moderators do as little as possible.

The Meta posts linked above seem, to me, at odds with the reality of Stack moderation: those from among the most active users (usually) are tagged with a diamond and told to "do as little as possible"? I can only harmonize this by reading the Theory of Moderation to be addressing moderators' moderator actions, as distinct from their user actions.

Moderators qua users are leaders. They were before being tapped, and shouldn't stop.

The same behaviors which earned these mods our votes now have diamonds attached to them (both prospectively and retroactively) and stand as an example to all comers of what this community believes represents its best behavior. Obviously, not every action, comment, and answer lives up to that standard. But their everyday actions should stand as example to new users of how to run the site well.

What should the moderators do to counteract the "heavy-handed" feeling?

I imagine that the job of a moderator is a lot like that of watching over the plaground at recess. Let's watch everyone having fun, break up any shoving matches, keep an eye on the fences, step in and enforce some rules when things get rowdy. (I do not mean to trivialize the job of the moderator, nor the feelings of any involved who have had unpleasant experiences. I'm simply hoping to step back a moment from the current, real issues and take a big-picture look at what's going on. I also don't mean to trivialize the job of a playground supervisor.)

One of the difficult things about the job of playground monitor is that no matter how many times you tell the kids to stop shoving, they never do. That's because it's always new kids, year after year. No matter how many times you explain the rules, someone's always ignorant. No matter how many times you explain why you can't climb the basketball hoop, there's some yahoo climbing the basketball hoop.

So, too, do moderators find themselves having to explain themselves over and over again. It's a part of the job they may not have appreciated at first, and I've got to imagine it tries one's patience. But they've got to stay patient, write (auto-write?) friendly and welcoming corrective comments, explain themselves ad infinitum on Meta, and all without betraing an iota of impatience.

It's a tall order, and I've seen them fall short sometimes. So when they do, let's gently correct them with a little patience, sympathy, and good-faith-assumption thrown in on our own part.


Revisited, with a blue name:

I (one month in) still stand by what I said here, in my tenth post on meta just a few months into user-hood. But I do want to reiterate, from my mod POV:

I will not always get it right. I may not know as much as you. I can use (gentle) correcting at times, too. I assume good faith, especially from those who disagree with me.

Please go ahead and address me specifically when you think I've made a mistake. Someone's going to learn something, and that makes me happy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure that the voice of reason approach is acceptable in a meta discussion? :-) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 24 '16 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ well, no green check so perhaps not acceptable =) But I figure it's worth having it out there.... \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 24 '16 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ "So when they do, let's gently correct them" can you link to an instance where this worked out? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 24 '16 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt fair question. Nope, I can't. But I've never even tried, so that's a non-signal rather than a negative signal. I have followed you with interest on meta and certainly understand (and believe) that you've felt frustrated during/by this process. And I sincerely appreciate that you have these frustrations and keep coming back to try to resolve them. (Rather than just giving up and letting the site motor on with possibly-bad things going on.) Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 24 '16 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ See, I tried that. It... didn't work. At all :( I agree with pretty much everything in your post ('cept the random last paragraph thingy of course), but I think maybe the mods need to be a little more open to being corrected by the community as well. The best result I've had doing this so far is being ignored, the worst is being passive-aggressively told that my post was offensive and the reason for mod lack of participation in communication. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Feb 24 '16 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: I disagree that, once elected, moderators should continue moderating in exactly the same way as before. The extent to which they should use a lighter touch is open to some debate, but to say that there should be no difference at all except that their votes are now binding is highly questionable. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 24 '16 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE I think that's fair, and I hope ^^ didn't come across as "they should just truck on insensate." . I just hoped to put it in context: we've slapped diamonds onto the actions of some of our most active citizens. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 24 '16 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60: It kind of did, especially in context along mxy's answer that seemed to carry some of the same "but SE told us to keep trucking along" connotations. (I'm not sure that was intended there either, though.) \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 24 '16 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer thank you for linking in your excellent post and some of the disappointing brouhaha contemporary to it. I think that's really good context for anyone reading my bordering-on-Pollyana-ish post. Do you think they're worth linking into my post as a sort of "for your consideration" self-rebuttal? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 25 '16 at 3:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ In that particular case, I definitely overreacted some, I really had my back up from the continued accusations around that issue. And note that the part I objected to in dark's question was later edited out (see edit history), part of a continued insistence that "mod impropriety" was the cause of our stance on that issue, which I did and do find offensive as a claim. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 5:34
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Overall SE Norms

So here's the deal - I think that this impression is caused by a mix of not really having visibility into what actually caused a given instance of moderator intervention (frequently it's flag driven, but there's no way for you to see that) and also a misunderstanding of what the limits of mod exception-handling should be.

Let me offer up a little anecdote. I thought that e.g. the idea of a moderator being able to cast a non-binding close vote was a good one, since it would let us not "unilaterally close" but still participate, and I went and duly championed it on meta.stackoverflow in this question.

The general response from the SO supermod community was very against this. Here's Jeff Atwood's answer:

The purpose of moderators is to moderate.

If they are afraid to do so, they should not be moderators in the first place.

As for educating the community, leaving instructive, explanatory comments is far more useful than casting a weak regular user vote in these circumstances.

So in summary: leave extensive comments, and learn to wield the big vote stick responsibly.

I specifically objected to this answer and was told:

@mxy if you want to educate, leave comments explaining your actions. Good moderators should be doing this anyway. Pretending to hide in the cloak of "oh, I'm just a regular user like you good folks" is an abdication of responsibility as a moderator.

See also Shog9's comments on the various answers on that question to the same effect.

I definitely hear how some of you have an expectation that we as mods shouldn't take action on e.g. closes until the community has exhausted itself. The problem is, this is NOT the guidance we get from the larger SO mod community. Their guidance is often very much "you're a diamond mod, do the right thing, screw the whiners." Here's another example thereof. I've taken a variety of community concerns from here to Meta.SE and generally get shot down with the reasoning "people need to have a thicker skin about life," ironically usually over my objections.

So you might see how we are sometimes a little ambivalent about how to proceed. We get that some folks here who want us to "do less," take a step back, etc., but we get feedback from the "higher-ups" that is "abdication of responsibility." It's a hard balance to strike. I think that we end up being a lot more lenient and less harsh that the advice we're given recommends. But we do have a responsibility to the entire site to uphold, and I guarantee no one here knows more about building online communities that Jeff Atwood. SSD has talked about how his perspective changed a lot once he couldn't just spout about his thoughts but was actually responsible for the site - it changes how you handle things, and it needs to. So yes, sometimes we have to do things that make some people unhappy. But that's part of the job.

The RPG.SE Community

Obviously strictness varies amongst the "new SEs". Some of this is because of the kind of community that SE serves.

You have some that are much more strict because people just can't handle the format. Christianity.SE comes to mind - they basically ended up having to say "if it's not a written down doctrine of a specific denomination, don't talk about it". It's as if we said on RPG.SE "look - we're going to do RAW and only RAW because no one can keep it together once there's any opinion involved." Then you have other SEs that are much more lax, and their quality suffers. I'll be honest, I don't use some of the other new hobby SEs because their signal to noise approaches that of a forum.

I further think we can all acknowledge that the RPG/geek community is more argumentative and opinionated than some other communities that SE serves. Less so than those drawn to something like a religious SE, but a lot more than many. This does pose a challenge, especially while RPG.SE was growing (not enough high rep site users means hard to close, delete, etc, when needed), and also users can't delete comments - and running off at the mouth in comments is a beloved part of the RPG community's habits from forums et al. It results in needing slightly more stringent rules and enforcement thereof - hopefully not to the Christianity.SE degree, but I am sure, for example, that we have a stricter comment policy than some SEs mainly because we need it more.

While our current stance isn't perfect and we've made some mistakes over the years, I think that if you review RPG.SE alongside the other SEs, we are one of the absolute best run SEs in the entire portfolio. New people show up, they ask questions, they get them answered, long term community members grow in rep - I think the results here on RPG.SE speak for themselves. In a previous question someone made a comment about the "lower quality" content on RPG.SE and I think that's completely and patently untrue, and even a basic canvas of our front page vs the front page of most other SEs indicates a much greater number of well-reasoned, coherent questions and answers, accepted answers, etc. - all the measures of "is this site doing what it's supposed to do, which is provide the Internet with quality answers to its questions."

And this isn't a result of "draconian" moderation. We've never banned someone from RPG.SE IIRC (well, except for the 0-rep spam accounts that show up). We've handed out a small handful of short suspensions over the entire span of site operation. (Any of you that participate on any RPG forum can appreciate how different that is from what's required to keep order on the average RPG community- heck, even some of you are banned from rpg.net, ENworld, etc.) The vast majority of site operation is handled by the community and the mods chip in to a small degree. Heck, I have a job and a kid - I spend maybe 10 minutes on flags/alerts/etc in the AM before work and then 15m-1h in the evening to vote, write answers/questions/comments, close things, delete comments, etc. all told. We really don't do that much. Reviewing mod stats, looks like the entire mod team closes about one question a day on average total - and that's from all causes, including spam, flag response, etc. A lot of questions, answers, comments, etc. flow through here on any given day, we don't see them all let alone act on many. I don't even go into the review queues any more, when I bother to the stuff in there disappears as I watch as the community handles it - problem solved, believe it or not I'd rather spend less time moderating this site, not more. We mods talk with each other before taking any major action, we let community close votes pile up before acting ourselves on closes that aren't clearly for cause, etc. You have to realize that the restraint is invisible to you, because you only see the actions.

The SE format itself is more restrictive than many on the Internet, and as a custom sub-culture we have many years of guidance on meta etc. Especially new users (though in the game-rec case, we learned that "new" can mean years) don't have all that context and tend to complain when they bump into the walls, and it's easy to say it's "the mods" (since that's the case on most other sites) when really it's the way the entire community works. We can comment and help people through that, but we have to realize that's also inevitable to some degree. Be careful about using "the mods" as shorthand for any way the site works - it's often not the case.

Communication Issues and How You Can Help

We try to communicate. Frankly, I feel like it backfires on us more than half the time. I remember back years ago when aramis was taking me to task for being "the mod deleting comments" - I checked our mod stats, and I wasn't in the lead, Pat was deleting the same amount (today, SSD and I are basically tied in mod intervention stats too). However, I was more scrupulous about doing what people said they wanted us to do - leaving comments about "comments have been deleted and here's why," etc. But since me leaving that communication made my intervention more visible, he just replied "well I only see YOU doing it!." He refused to even believe that I was telling the truth that I wasn't the one doing all the deleting - and the difference was that I was bothering to communicate about it. That made a deep impression on me.

We mods (and high rep users) alter tags and edit tag wikis make synonyms and stuff all the time, without asking anyone (except in some cases an edit queue). But here recently (leading to the current kerfluffle) I said "here, let me post to meta about the RAW tag because I think there's an issue." The outflow of hate and yelling about how "we dare" to do so as a result was pretty daunting. We don't always communicate perfectly, but neither does anyone. This kind of feedback makes us draw back from communicating and incentivizes acting unilaterally "under the covers" instead.

I assume you all want us to be able to communicate openly with you. People are asking for that here in this question. Sure - but please honor that by not making it easier for us to not communicate. You can help that by tempering discussion and trying to stay rational about the issues at hand. Don't expect "perfect" communication, and we won't either. Interpret things generously and assume good intent. If someone's openly insulting that's one thing, if you are put off by their "aggressive use of quotation marks" you probably need to switch filters that you're using to read their words with. When there is a mistake, don't assume it's part of some evil-Illuminati agenda, and work towards improving next time, not "assigning blame" (I'd recommend some of you read this work on blameless postmortems to that end). Again, we'll do the same.

Sidebar - Mod collaboration as an example of different communication needs

As part of this discussion, we have had some folks recommend that a way to regain trust is for the mods to not discuss amongst themselves and come to a common stance on questions/issues before engaging with the community. We talked to the Puzzling mods who tried that on for size. So we've been trying that in this discussion, we haven't been talking much between us during these metas.

As you can see, this has led to multiple people, in this very question, demanding we "get our story straight" and are otherwise upset at me, SSD, and waxy for having and expressing different attitudes and approaches.

The thing is, both are right, in that they want different things out of communication. Some folks, generally high rep users, who want to really be part of the "action" want us to engage without common agreement. Others, and IMO this includes the 90% of site users who don't engage in meta etc., just want a consistent message. Different forms of communication are more useful to different people. Given limited time and channels, we as mods have to make a lot of judgement calls about how we communicate, and it's not always going to be the same way (it can't be), we'll choose based on our anticipation of the level of discussion needed. Please also keep this in mind. If the kind of communication in a given instance isn't "best for you" - maybe it's best for the balance of the site.

Communication to/about Mods

In the perfect world people could be grotesquely nonconstructive at us but quote "mods are supposed to be better!" at us and we'd just merrily take it. This isn't that world. We take way more abuse every week on this SE than any of you would take without (rightfully) generating hysterical pleas to meta and the community leads. Frankly I think that we've been too lenient about enforcing Be Nice! in chat especially when mods are the topic, since we don't want to be "those censoring guys," but this looks like it's had the opposite of the intended effect. So keep in mind that if you would reasonably expect to get your content deleted or get disciplined for saying something about another site user, it applies if you're talking to/about mods as well. You can talk about the issues and "use your words" without needing that. We're human, so at the very least we're going to disengage. Tuggy wrote a whole other meta about the evils of "writing off" people, but if people are hostile and declare their utter resistance to change and/or open communication - well, no one pays us, and we really have better things to do than expend effort on cases where it's unlikely to make a difference. Our job is not to be customer service agents running after everyone who's unsatisfied trying to satisfy them despite themselves, and we're not going to do that. We'd love to have polite and reasoned discussion, but for those not up for that, we're not really interested.

Other Ways To Help

Help moderate the site! You have the power. Vote to close, don't not do it because it might be "mean." Flag comments when they're not appropriate. Vote to delete. Improve tag wikis. Aside from comment deletion, power-closes, and really back end stuff like user warnings/suspensions, you can all do as much with the site as we can. Meta questions, even, don't need us every time - the community can discuss and conclude as much as anyone. In fact, you too can go chip in on meta.SE on network-wide functionality/policy suggestions, that's not just for moderators or anything.

Now of course keep in mind that us acting on a flag still "looks like" us acting unilaterally because that's not shown anywhere on the site. But you'll know you're contributing to it! And you'll know your fellow site members are too. (If you don't, then you tend to assume other people aren't.) And in the end, the right thing getting done is the right thing for the site, whoever initiates the action.

Run for mod! We just elected 2 new ones you know. And the fact that the brand new mods are generally upholding how the mods act should carry some weight with y'all - we've been through 3 mod regimes so far on the site, and moderation has pretty much been consistent through them - because mostly, the right things are getting done (IMO). Again, the other option is "Illuminati?" There's folks in this argument who I personally urged to run for mod last election. No harm that they couldn't/didn't, but again, this isn't some closed clique.

The Conclusion

While we're open to discussion about how much intervention is required in certain things, none of the suggestions about "mods shouldn't close questions till X time has passed" or "mods should stay away from certain tags" or anything of that sort is going to happen. In the end we have a responsibility to the site, a responsibility that people up to Jeff Atwood clearly explain to us. We will continue to be the human exception handlers on the site in generally the same categories we do now (flag handling, closes, comment deletes, commenting to try to guide people, much-less-frequent everything else). We have to balance our community's perceived unique needs with the overall SE structure and best practices (it's not either-or).

The primary issue we have at the moment is trust, and that is largely based on a combination of communication problems and really attitude-about-communication problems. Really it's more the latter than the former IMO (on everyone's part - when everything gets heated up I and the other mods also start reacting back by reading people's words badly because we feel under attack all the time). The solution to that can start today by everyone cooling off and discussing issues and assuming good faith on everyone's part. Repeating that over time is really the only solution to the only major problem we have. The more everyone here participates in moderating the site and upholding the site norms - clear questions, quality answers, few comments, be nice, etc - the more this site becomes "your" site and not "their" site.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 2:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's interesting that on a discussion about how there is too much moderation, a moderator decided that the dissenting discussion should be moved to chat. Not even the SE mods do this (eg meta.stackexchange.com/questions/271080/…) \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Feb 25 '16 at 4:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not a punishment, chat is better suited to back and forth discussion. It's not like the content is deleted. And I think it's more important for people to be able to see the answers without pages of stuff obscuring them. (And, best as I can tell that comment thread was nearly all supportive and constructive - moving it wasn't a punishment). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 5:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JimB After a half-dozen metas on this subject wherein many comment threads derailed and obscured the useful content and opinions, I'm happy with taking the more long-winded threads to chat; it's easier for me to read the proposals without, and hasn't removed any information that the comments might have provided (in fact, chat is more permanent than comments!). This may be unusual, but I don't think it's obviously excessive; I've seen no evidence of bias or censorship (if Mxy weren't directly linking to the rooms he's creating, maybe); and so far as I can tell it's been fairly well-received. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 25 '16 at 5:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I've added an answer, it's not about intention but perception, the issue is about too much moderator intervention and a mod literally intervened for no apparent reason other then they didn't like the discussion in comments-on the discussion site! It makes it far more painful to read thru the issues and opinions when you have to click back and forth. To be very clear I do not think there was any malicious intent, but the action itself is positive feedback that the OP is spot on. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Feb 25 '16 at 5:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk - you're the key exemplar of stifling good answers by misuse of the SE guidelines as a battering ram when a gentle nudge would both work better and get the job done. You're scaring away users. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Mar 13 '16 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not true, I've just got my second suspension from d7. \$\endgroup\$ – Gray Sheep Apr 17 '17 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MorningStar Not sure what you're saying is untrue, or what suspension you “just” got (the last I see on your account was a month ago). Also, suspensions are generally from the team rather than individuals, regardless of who writes the letter. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 18 '17 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember when I was a new user here I flagged a comment discussion in Meta as too chatty. I was told by one of the mods that the rules in Meta were different and discussion here was encouraged. Now I see a lot of Meta comments moved to chat. Is there a reason for this change? \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o May 2 '17 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ a) is this the right place to ask this? b) we are more tolerant of chat discussion on meta, but when it overwhelms/derails actual answers we migrate it to chat so that the real answers aren't hidden in the goo. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica May 2 '17 at 12:19
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Policing questions before a community gets to see them, discouraging questions in comments by deleting them and jumping in before the automatic chat function kicks in.

So my gripe is when a mod decides to police a question being asked before the community even gets on top of it. I posted a question very recently that already had two upvotes before the question itself was modified to only ask about a very specific functionality of the item instead of the actual function of the item as a whole.

Then the RAW tag was removed despite my objective in seeking a RAW answer.

Now, this mod did leave an initial comment on the thread, to which I responded that I was looking for Rules as Written answers, and to which he responded that those were subjective so he was removing the RAW tag. Great. Everything in life is subjective as a technicality. I'm looking for supported, factual answers citing source material that definitively states things. I made this very, very clear.

So coming to Meta I've made some comments in the initial post about how moderators are too quick to jump on questions or insanely quick to police comments. Look, we know comments aren't for extended discussion. But when the discussion is on topic, especially for D&D, we're discussing specific nuances and potential miscommunications in the language itself. These are NECESSARY discussions. Every D&D group has gone through them, which means if somebody is asking something in the comments, they're pointing out that the question is going to come up so the answer needs to be improved in order to address that potential question.

If you'd like, people could start prefacing everything with: This is intended to help you reword your answer in such a way that will address this following question which may occur.

I personally see that as completely pointless and a waste of characters in discussion. Some mods have pointed out that they've "received invisible flags" to the community about flagged comments. Great. That works when the comments have been sitting there for a couple of days or a week. When you're jumping on people within the first couple of hours a comment is posted, especially in an ongoing discussion that's still happening, you're not handling exceptions. The system automatically offers to move you to chat for those, and we normally utilize it if the conversation gets that far in the first place.

Let the site tools do their job. If the automatic chat bubble appears too far down for your liking, set it to happen after 6 comments instead of 10 or something. I don't know the settings behind it specifically, but unless you can't modify it, there's no reason to be jumping in before it pops to tell people to move discussions to chat. You also need to consider that people may not have permission or the knowledge on how to set up a chat room, and it's something worth considering.

TL;DR version: Let the community decide if a question is good or bad before jumping in and editing it without permission from the author. Formatting a question is fine, since it doesn't change content. But the question/answer isn't yours, so don't touch it. Comment discussions are not always bad, and treating them as such is prohibitive to getting good answers.

Moderator names and links to relevant posts were left out intentionally. I don't want to point fingers, I want to address the actual problem. The moderators here are patient, helpful and knowledgeable, but this complaint is about too much hands on vs not enough.

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    \$\begingroup\$ When my own "discussions" were consistently being identified as arguments and summarily deleted by the mods (before I was one), I had the opportunity (twice!) to reconsider whether my "discussion" methods weren't actually argument methods. It was a valuable reality check and improved my ability to participate constructively on the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '16 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ This post also indicates that my comment explaining the removal of the [rules-as-written] tag from this question was misunderstood. No statement that the question's answers are inherently subjective was made — only that asking for answers to include citations is not what the tag is for, so it didn't belong. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '16 at 23:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're saying that asking for Rules as Written answers isn't a good use of the RAW tag? Wow. There's a different meta question with respect to the RAW tag anyways, this doesn't seem to be the place to address that. As for your posts, you're not doing anything different here than I was doing in the question up top, so I don't see the difference in behaviour other than the fact that you have the ability to delete comments. Which is precisely what a post highlighting the "too much moderation" is all about. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 6 '16 at 0:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not answering in comments here, I'm responding to your answer's misconceptions. You're rejecting the responses. So I suppose I'm done here. Cheers! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 6 '16 at 0:50
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tl;dr*

When I talk about waiting I simply mean, give the community some time to see if the obviously broken answer is not actually broken at all.


The Preface

I never intended to post here:

I am fairly certain that I voted for the current mods whenever the previous election was. If someone has access to the real data I don't care because quite frankly:

I nearly always smile when I see @SevenSidedDie's avatar, which is bizarre given that he/she/it is just some stranger on an SE sub I mainly lurk in now; and I find that though I may disagree I always read @waxeagle's posts; and though I'd currently describe @mxyzplk as grumpy, and maybe even heavy handed, the claim that he/she/it is out to get RAW is nothing short of paranoid, as far as I can tell. Whoever that was, if you still feel that way after (re)reading these meta threads, and a stout drink/good night's sleep/or simply a deep breath, please get some help.

One final thing, I think all the examples here are my own questions, they should be taken as examples and no additional complaint should be read into them beyond the concern they (hopefully) illustrate.

The Body

On waiting:

I definitely hear how some of you have an expectation that we as mods shouldn't take action on e.g. closes until the community has exhausted itself.

No, but I do expect that a moderator should give the community some time before taking action, and maybe not take action at all.

As an example, a mod commented on my answer here, indicating that the concern was the down votes that may result as it did not seem to answer the request. Given the comments, it seems fair to say that this was a case where the mod felt that NAA might apply, but here we are 4 years out and that post has +8/-0.

On appeals to authority:

The problem is, this is NOT the guidance we get from the larger SO mod community. Their guidance is often very much "you're a diamond mod, do the right thing, screw the whiners."

A sample to the contrary from "the larger SO mod community":

My answer here is clearly viewed by a portion of the community as not even being an answer to the question, but oddly enough it hangs on even post moderator attention. There was no whining on my part. It even hurts my reputation (as I understand it) to leave it up there, but it stands (I believe) because it was an honest attempt to answer the question as asked.

I also point back to @nvoigt's comment that pointed to Can we have an unambiguous, official ruling on what the "not an answer" flag is for?

Though sadly @waxeagle responded:

@nvoigt if that actually worked, I'd be OK with that. But it really doesn't in practice.

Sorry, you guys need to get your story straight, either you're only "taking orders from on high", in which case we get to quote the same scriptures, or what is said "on high" "really doesn't [work] in practice" in which case you can make no appeal to authority.

On why RPG.se is a unique snowflake:

Christianity.SE comes to mind - they basically ended up having to say "if it's not a written down doctrine of a specific denomination, don't talk about it".

Nope. If that was the case we'd never have had How can the logical impossibility of infinite self reference be reconciled in the case of God?. (Spending time discussing Computer Science on Christianity.se, what was I thinking?)

I further think we can all acknowledge that the RPG/geek community is more argumentative and opinionated than some other communities that SE serves. ... but I am sure, for example, that we have a stricter comment policy than some SEs mainly because we need it more.

But, you just said that you are simply following advice from SO in general? Why would you do that if RPG.SE is so unique?

I know, I am certainly inconsistent in my own thoughts, and you mentioned how tight the balancing act is. I'm really only here to present to you a different view of why we are unique, and one that might point to "less" moderator action.

We are unique. We are not SO. We are not trying to round out our resumes, or improve responsive design, or ensure that the next patriot missile system has the correct calendar algorithm. We are not dealing with wrestling with someone's view of GOD, patents, or worse yet people asking us for the codez! We are helping people spend their leisure time playing pretend.

Therefore we should be MORE relaxed than any of the others... though maybe not those si-fi people.

On Why this answer doesn't matter:

Finally, I realize that none of what I've posted is a statistical drop in the bucket, but there are real people out here debating if they should bother spending time here and when anyone appears to be running around with a hammer hitting anything that even looks like it might be thinking about going off script... well I've already invested way too much time into this.

The Conclusion

tl;dr**

If SO itself can award 230 rep for the wrong answer, maybe the mods and the rest of us can wait a day longer and see if the post that clearly does not answer the question asking for canonical sources, can become the top rated answer, or even if the question that should have never been asked can maybe teach us all a bit about being better players.

*Should be tl;wr for won't, but convention wins out.

**Actual tl;dr.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for pointing to the "PLan to Win" question, it's a totally valid question with some really nice answers! \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Apr 20 '17 at 10:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Joshua, it's a bit over a year later and I wonder if you still see it the same way. We have two new mods to add to the mix. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 3 '17 at 1:06
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Fundamentally, I don't think the mods here believe in the stackexchange model of leaving most "moderation" to the posters via voting. They are very quick to edit or make meta-comments. I envy them their spare time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like you might have a specific example in mind… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 28 '16 at 10:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, there was this one, for example. Your comment that the original could be less combative was, I think, not terribly unreasonable but I also feel that the text wasn't really terribly combative either. I feel that there was no need for you to edit the text at all; the comment would have done. It's a minor example but the very fact that it was minor but you still felt it worthwhile to change my words says something in its own right, I feel. \$\endgroup\$ – Nagora Feb 28 '16 at 10:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ That edit was explicitly reverted by me seconds after making it. The only point of the edit was to be able to explain by showing. That's… not a very meaningful example of mods being “quick to edit”. It's kinda the opposite, in fact. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 3 '16 at 23:29
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I'll probably post another more general answer here. But I really want to address something very specific for the moment. The line that seems to have struck a nerve in my RAW data collection post:

Aggressively Police Answers

All that was meant by that statement was that I was (and still am) in favor of deleting answers that do not attempt to answer the question. We even have a whole flag just for these answers (Not an Answer). That's all that was meant by that statement.

Normally, this is pretty cut and dried, you answer a 4e question with a 3.5 or 5e answer, that's not an answer, delete. You answer a FATE question with GURPs, not an answer, delete. All that statement was attempting to do was apply the same exact logic to RAW questions. You answer a RAW question with a house rule, not an answer, delete. This isn't a change, just a commitment to paying more attention to those questions during the period.

That phrase wasn't talking about hyper interventionist moderation it's simply about moderators doing their jobs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 24 '16 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ The real problem with this answer for me is that you and I clearly disagree on what constitutes answers that "[do] not attempt to answer the question". \$\endgroup\$ – user2102 Feb 24 '16 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaDrake I think that the problem might be that it's a mistaken hypothetical problem right now. The discussion of concerns that we delete too many things as NAA appears to be based on hypotheticals and worries rather than real observed errors. We're pretty strict about the definition of NAA, and most NAA flags we see don't actually clear the high bar its own definition sets. If you see answers disappearing that you think shouldn't, do please bring that up as a concrete issue; similarly once you get to 10k rep if you see deleted answers that shouldn't be, bring that up. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 24 '16 at 21:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anecdotal testimony: of all the flags I raise, the majority that get denied seem to be NAA. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 24 '16 at 23:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Uh... this conversation has been moved to chat. Please comment there, not here. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 2:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ The issue in these comments continued in chat, and I think had a good resolution at about this point in the chat. Wanted to put that here for visibility, since it's a chat room attached to a different post than this one, but eventually came around to the conflict this post had provoked. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 25 '16 at 6:31
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I'm new here, having spotted an RPG question recently while surfing StackOverflow. One of the first things I noticed about the site is that so many of the questions get edited by folks who didn't post them (in general, and specifically compared to StackOverflow).

As a sanity check, I just went in and compared the edits made to 15 questions on Stack RGP and Stack Overflow.

At StackOverflow, 2 out of 15 questions edited: on one duplicate content was removed, and the other, and obvious typo was fixed. (In the past, I know I've also seen broken English corrected as well, and the removal of punctuation such as "superfluous quoatation marks.")

At Stack RPG, 6 out of 15 questions were edited:

  • One question was heavily edited to remove some sensitive languge. That is understandable.

  • On several, tags were added or removed (sometimes questionably so).

  • Content was moved around and reworked.
  • Whole paragraphs were added to questions.
  • Grammatical errors were introduced into other people's writing (by accident, I am sure, but that happens when you edit too much)

At StackOverflow, I also see explanations (and apologies) in the comments when people get their posts edited. I don't see that here.

So yes, I think there is merit to the "too much moderation" complaint. I think the guidance from the wider SE moderator community might be getting taken too much at face value.

That's just an observation, not a complaint. This place seems like a pretty nice neighborhood.

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    \$\begingroup\$ typically this editing isn't being done by the moderators, but by community's users. SO is a bit of a different animal, first of all typically Q&As there don't require a lot of writing like they often do here, and second, it's a much, much bigger site that gets more questions in a day than this site gets in a year (two average days for them is our entire site history). A more accurate comparison might be a site like Biology, Money or Travel. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Mar 5 '16 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wax eagle, hmm, I didn't track which edits were done by mods, but I did notice a lot of diamonds, that's what drew me into this initially. Second, it's just not true that good writing isn't required at SO. Some good developers I know are afraid to post there because the folks will harsh you if they take issue with your question. IMHO the writing for a technical site is harder, as small errors are more likely to cause significant confusion. I'm new here but not new to community boards, and those are my two cents. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Mar 5 '16 at 4:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Adding links to the questions this post uses as examples/evidence might be helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '16 at 6:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for taking guidance at face value rather than synching with actual practice elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Mar 5 '16 at 22:53
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I'm seeing two major problems presented here, the first seems to be with moderators bringing up issues on meta. The second is with them proposing solutions to those problems on meta. I'm only going to address the first in this post as my opinions on that are solidified and coalesced properly. My opinions are the second are more nuanced, though a basic outline of them are written in the final question of the nomination Q&A.

We're garbagemen. But if the garbage can is on fire, we're going to do something about the fire too.

There's a reason that often it's the moderators bringing problems before the community: because we're seeing first hand the fallout from these problems.

So if we're consistently seeing the same types of questions raising flags, causing arguments, raising hackles in chat and on meta etc, we're going to say something about it, because that's part of being exception handlers. Raising exceptions when the community isn't noticing (or can't notice) the patterns.

By electing us as moderators, you aren't just trusting us to handle flags and delete garbage, but you're also entrusting us with identifying patterns of problematic behavior that may not be immediately apparent. This can be problems with users, or problems with site content.

Please understand that moderators are not bringing issues up on meta because it suits their digestion. We're doing it because we're noticing patterns of problematic behavior (flags, arguments, edit/vote warring etc) that have been brought to our attention numerous times by site users or even sometimes automated system flags.

In other words, it is our role as exception handlers to raise exceptions when we are noticing problems that are escaping the community's notice.

Lastly, there seems to be an indication that we should wait to use our powers. I disagree with this too, at least in the case of question closure. Again, here's what I wrote in my nomination post:

This may seem odd, but I strongly believe that one of the best gifts we can give to a new user is a rapid close with a strong comment about what can be fixed followed by a rapid reopening. Yes, we can scare new users off with our friendliness and adherence to site policy at times, however, we can also get a user who is just off track right on very quickly if we can get to them early, get their question closed, edited and reopened in a few short minutes. It's important in these situations to communicate both site policy and how to repair a question quickly and concisely and to pair that with decisive action (Both on the close side and the reopen side)

That's my personal theory on question closure. Do it fast so the user knows something is wrong, get them on the right track, and then get it reopened. This is because our users are really good at answering quickly sometimes, and it's a lot harder to get rid of a bad answer than it is to get the question work shopped so that the answers, when they do come in, are good and help the user as best as they can.

I'd much rather our users were closing these questions, deleting answers that need it, and raising issues with problematic tags on meta. But in reality, this kind of participation is pretty rare. We do have a pretty good set of users who do those things, but that process does break down and that's when moderators step in. If it seems like we're doing it a lot it might be because that system is breaking down more than normal.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 24 '16 at 2:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another example of battering ram moderation there, @mxyzplk \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Mar 13 '16 at 0:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "We're garbagemen. But if the garbage can is on fire, we're going to do something about the fire too." I disagree. In my opinion moderators are firemen, who should, on rare occasions, have to put out fires. The everyday garbage disposal is imho the role of the community. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin reinstate Monica Apr 27 '16 at 14:21
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In the light of some of the moderators comments, I'd like to add an alternative to my first answer:

Educate the community

Lets take the RAW and policing discussion as a prime example. What should ideally be done is that the community should down vote the answers that don't adhere to the RAW tags requirements. What you propose, because you think the community will not be able to handle it, is to flag it and moderate it.

There is a quite old, but very respected FAQ about Hacker communities, which at least SO is a part of: How To Ask Questions The Smart Way. It's way older than any SE and older than the SO idea or implementation.

Community standards do not maintain themselves: They're maintained by people actively applying them, visibly, in public.

So yes, I think this is correct. For a community to learn and apply standards, those standards must be applied by their role-models. Visibly. In public. If you flag NAA and subsequently delete a post that is not up to our standards, nobody learns anything from it. The community at large is no smarter than before.

It's like dragging the offender into a dark back-alley and spanking him. That may be effective for the offender, but if nobody knows about it, you will need to repeat it for every. single. offender.

And most won't even know what hit them. Because they never witnessed an account of wrongdoing and therefore did not even have a chance to see that what they did was wrong before a moderator action struck them.

Lets stay with the example. To set up and maintain a community standard, that RAW answer talking about house rules needs to sit at -10. With a comment nine times up-voted saying "this is a house-rule and we are looking for written rules only as per the tag". For everyone to see that this behavior is wrong. Visible. In public. Because now everyone can see that we don't want house-rules in the RAW tag. Now the community can learn, even without reading through tons of meta posts. New people will see what is expected from them and won't make the same mistake all over again.

Use your mod powers less, because using them in that way makes the site look pretty on the outside, but breeds a community that has no guideline on what is right or wrong. Flagging and mod powers that are invisible to the public add to the mistrust because they seemingly strike out of nowhere without any prior warning. The community should use their downvotes to police this site. Using mod powers for it is counterproductive.

If you don't trust the community to do this, have a chat and down-vote those you'd flag and close/remove as a team. A -3 and three comments why this is wrong is a pretty clear signal the community will see and understand. More importantly, it is a signal. Flagging and removing signals nothing. Literally. Any trace of what might be wrong is gone without any learning opportunity.

tl;dr:

Mistakes are a learning opportunity if available. Removing errors behind the scenes teaches the community nothing. And we do need a well educated community to run an SE site. So police the site, but do so visibly in public with the means available to the public. That means down-votes and comments mostly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 24 '16 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would agree that policing the answers on [rules-as-written] is not super-productive or a very good return on energy. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 24 '16 at 22:06
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When the Mods can't even leave a conversation about too much moderation alone in meta, there is too much moderation. We've had mods go bad on another site and have to have them removed. The mod removed was doing what he thought best for the site, there was no intentional malice but he was trying to clean up the site, by his interpretation, not the community. At first I thought I was seeing another one of those situations in slow motion. however, I think the problem boils down to choosing very active members for mods. It's tough (frabkly it'd be impossible for me I think) to separate the mod actions from active members of the community. Partly there is a perception problem and partly there is the moderation finality problem. I also think there is a "do something " mentality as well that is completely at odds with the "do little" theory of moderation. Case in point it what finally lead me to stick in an answer. In this question you'll notice that much of the discussion (the entire point of meta BTW to post and discuss issues as a community) was moved to chat.

Seriously??

Now I have nothing against any of the mods but that comes across as a real jerk (to keep it PG), spiteful move. It smacks of being done to ensure no one can see the dissenting opinions. The absolutely last place a moderator should be screwing around with comments is in a discussion about how the mods do too much.

Edit: on the usefulness of chat for a meta discussion - from chat "@SevenSidedDie The comment got moved to chat, so it is not handy at the moment"

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an example of taking offense without bothering to listen first. a) the content isn't deleted, and you have access to chat. The conversations are continuing in chat. Chat's better for back and forth than comments. b) I noted on the question that I was going to start migrating large comment threads to chat. That comment has been around for a day and has garnered 6 upvotes and no objections. @BESW already chimed in as to why he as a community member prefers that. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 5:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ c) Long comment threads obscure what should be the focus here, answers. While we allow more discussion on meta, the core SE concept of "fold it into a coherent answer" is a good one. d) The auto flags for >20 comments and similar still operate on meta, by design by the devs I would assume. If we believe that focusing on answers, keeping comments limited and focused, etc. is the way to get the best answers and solve problems on the main site, it's kinda weirdly hypocritical to not believe it here. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 5:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think you are listening to the OP complaint at all. I am aware that the auto flag is there, I suppose the mods on stackexchange have been hit by a bus on that 133 comment thread still being around. I've no issue with someone that prefers chat to comments, that doesn't somehow invalidate the fact that meta was designed as a place to discuss issues. "Meta Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is the part of the site where users discuss the workings and policies of RPG Stack Exchange rather than discussing role-playing games itself. " - that's from the how is meta different section. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Feb 25 '16 at 5:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Discuss away... \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 5:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ At first blush this choice does seem a bit tone-deaf given the subject matter, & I do think such context blindness is a common amplifier in the subjects under discussion. But that's my objection; I'm unclear what your objection is. You've said that it's focused on removing dissenting opinions, but I don't see that repeated in your post here. You've said it's unprecedented, but being new isn't itself a strike against an action. So please, can you edit your post to make it more clear what your specific complaint is? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 25 '16 at 6:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll put that back in, I admit it's tough to see considering the comments were removed from the page. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Feb 25 '16 at 6:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps you misunderstood me; I'm saying there's a LOT of different ideas in your post being given roughly equal weight and it's unclear what your thesis is. Adding more objections doesn't make your central point clearer. (I think the point about obscuring dissenting opinions actually weakens the strength of your position, but that's just me.) \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 25 '16 at 6:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, that comment was from me and the comment in question was from a different answer. seven and wax have spent hours now answering my concerns. \$\endgroup\$ – user2102 Feb 25 '16 at 6:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ PDM, that remark was aimed at showing that discussion was impeded/obfuscated when moved to chat rather than leaving it alone. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Feb 25 '16 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jim, his point is that it was not, in fact it led to two mods spending hours with rapid-cycle discussion with him on the topic thread there and coming to a better mutual understanding as a result. Which was the intended benefit of moving to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 26 '16 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ So to be clear, unlike other metas I've seen your expected workflow is, read question, read the chat, figure out which is hours of personal chatter and which is actual discussion, go back to meta, hopefully remember which chat items you'd like to answer and post another answer, instead of the single click, single page load. - are there any steps Im missing? And to be crystal clear I am specifically and solely talking about meta, not the actual site. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Feb 27 '16 at 3:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JimB Moved comment threads show up in separate chat rooms. You don't have to sift through general chat. (Also, the default chat text is a lot easier to read than cramped little comments, and reply highlighting makes multiple parallel statements easier to follow. It's a net benefit to usability.) \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Mar 4 '16 at 21:11

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