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When we asked Stack Staff for an election to fill wax eagle's spot, we were thinking just in terms of bringing our active moderators back up to three. We didn't think about it much farther than that.

The idea of electing more than one more mod came up in comments, and Grace Note (who's the CM taking point on our election) asked us as well if we'd thought about more than one slot for this election.

We just hadn't thought about it much. So I wanted to get the temperature of the community on this: do we want three mods or four?

This is a step in information gathering rather than an Official Vote Thing, so just speak and muse freely. We want to know what you think and why so we can proceed while well-informed.


In terms of what more mods are good for, it's mostly about handling workload. Paraphrasing Grace Note, “workload” in this sense includes not just flag handling (though that's important), but also includes things like

  • the amount of work to be done on meta
  • depth of communication, with the community and outside it
  • better coverage of timezones

We've settled on four.

Thanks for all the input! See this answer for the broad strokes reasoning.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much for the "This is a step in information gathering rather than an Official Vote Thing" line. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 15 '17 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Question - if we say we want four mods, do we definitely get the two more? Hypothetically, what happens if there are not 2 quality candidates among those who put their names forward? I'd rather have one great moderator giving us a total of 3 rather than two new ones, one of which isn't top quality \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Apr 15 '17 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Wibbs Hypothetically, if we have two slots, both will be filled unless there just aren't enough nominees (i.e., only 1). A small number of nominees in the last election is one of the reasons to maybe not want two new slots; on the other hand, we do have a lot of new faces since then so that may not be an issue this time? It's hard to predict these things. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 16 '17 at 0:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably a stupid question, but why, for example, not 5, 6 or 7? \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Apr 17 '17 at 10:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy Since the default is 3, changing the default is going to be based on active reasons rather than “why not”. Four is the next number to consider at all, and there isn't an obvious reason to consider even more, let alone seven. (Of course, an answer could say “neither, four isn't enough, we should have five” or something.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 17 '17 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just some clarification - there is no necessary rush to determine the slot count exactly now, so discussion is free to continue. The number of slots to be appointed can be changed at any time during the election, though preferably it is best done before the voting phase begins. A runner up can also be appointed some time after the election if the need is called for, assuming that there was enough support and competition during the election. No matter the slot count, everyone always gets to split their vote among 3 candidates, so considering using those to support a potential runner up as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Grace Note Apr 17 '17 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen a lot of great discussion in this question, but the answers have mostly avoided providing decisive paths forward to vote on. Do we need a companion question with definitive answers like, "Yes we want 4 mods, elect 2 in the upcoming election," "No we only need 3 mods," and "Let's revisit the issue in 6 months and tap the runner-up of this election for the 4th slot if we decide a 4th would be helpful"? \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Apr 17 '17 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage As a “step in information gathering rather than an Official Vote Thing”, that's the kind of information we were looking for: the general feeling of the community. A formal vote isn't really how mod slots get decided though — there's too many factors that aren't really up for popular decision-making that it would be very unlikely to make sense to have an Actual Vote Thingy. This is more “hey, we know our view of the need, but what do y'all think, from a non-mod view?” The result is looking to be mostly “okay, we were on the same page: more might be neat, but not needed (yet).” \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 17 '17 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That sounds reasonable to me, but I wasn't in the pitchforks-and-torches "Down with Mod Fiat" crew; they might prefer a more clearly documented community consensus. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Apr 17 '17 at 18:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage The pitchforks set has always had the same options as anyone, whatever the issue: talk policy and marshal a consensus. If they actively want a 4th mod, they can/should do the SE thing and pitch it directly as a proposal on meta. Asking for a referendum would just be asking to put an unnecessary layer in their own way to existing direct participation in site governing, and we're not really into facilitating that kind of theatre. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 17 '17 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it be possible to get some clarification on exactly how this decision is going to ultimately be made please? It seems pretty clear to me that there is no consensus or strong view based on the answers given so far, and I think it would be helpful if it was clearly stated who is going to get the final say and how they will decide \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Apr 18 '17 at 12:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wibbs The initial situation is that Grace Note responded to our request for an election by asking how many new slots; we said 1. So that's the default set already. Later Grace noted there was some discussion of 4 mods, had we considered it? We said huh, is it necessary? Not sure? I wrote this post to get the feeling of the community to inform any overturning of our original “+1” answer. So ultimately that question has still be asked of us as mods by SE, we just wanted to be sure we weren't missing any important considerations that might change the original “obvious” response to the question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 18 '17 at 14:48
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Four could be helpful for the situation mentioned in this comment:

Yep, mxyzplk and I are often on the same wavelength (enough that the times we aren't can stand out), but we're also keenly aware that a mental monoculture in the mod team is undesirable for the site. I'm personally looking forward to the stable instability that is magic number 3. – SevenSidedDie♦

Simplifying things, we could take this as meaning that you and mxyzplk mostly share the same perspective on stuff, and this manifests to the diamond moderator team's disadvantage. If it's virtuous to have three distinct perspectives available on the moderator team, four moderators are likely to give us that.

Timezone coverage would also be a benefit.

Naturally neither of these things are guaranteed to shake out that way: we could wind up electing 2 more US-based moderators who add to the monoculture. (That's probably unlikely though, just due to the diversity of our established user base.)

We don't have a need for a fourth moderator though; I'd be okay with three or four.

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I think it's obvious that we need more.

More than two, that is. It's obvious, because you two (@mxyzplk and @SevenSidedDie) say so. There might be other possible signs that a third was needed, I don't know. Your say-so is sufficient, by my thinking.

It's not obvious that we need four.

I think that having another perspective in the conversation will be good.

I think that having another citizen learn the moderation ropes will be good. (I believe strongly in an organization rotating through key positions not only to bring new ideas to that position, but to push those experiences to the broader community.)

I don't know how to judge whether one new mod is "enough" or whether two will be "necessary" on the above fronts. I think more might be better, but am wary that 50% new might also be oversaturating existing mods' responsibility to both continue moderating and teach new mods the ropes. [@greener's answer, though, brings up a good point: if 3 distinct perspectives is the goal, four may, in fact, be necessary to achieve that.]

I think I'd be happy with one new mod now if it were clear how we could request a fourth if it seemed necessary/useful.

It seems obvious that if you asked @GraceNote to run an election, say, six months from now for #4 that would happen.

What would need to happen if I and a dozen other "regular" users thought a fourth was needed?

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    \$\begingroup\$ a) Two is definitely too few. The standard minimum is 3, and we've simply been operating on only 2 because there wasn't ever a clear “okay, wax is really gone now” moment. b) If there was a vocal desire to expand from 3 to 4 moderators at a later date, that would likely appear on meta like most things do, and we'd poke the CMs for an election for that 4th mod. Elections aren't hard, I gather, just a bit of administration to arrange. They're much more commonplace on (e.g.) SO, so our sense that they're rare therefore supposed to be rare is a bit misleading. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 16 '17 at 0:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know that we couldn't use five. Wouldn't five reduce the workload on the others, while still providing a small enough group that consensus would be easy to reach? \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus Apr 18 '17 at 17:14
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I'm in agreement with the ideas floated thus far--it doesn't sound like we're sure there's a need for four modsworth of effort, but given the current team makeup we might need four mods if we want to be sure of three diverse perspectives at the elected table.

This leads me to a concern.

It's been clearly established, I think, that elected mods doing too much of the work the community can do causes toxic effects on the site. I'm worried that too many moderators with too little to do might lead to that situation happening again. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable, though; sufficient self-control on the part of the mods would obviously nip that in the bud... but it might also be kinda cruel to elect people knowing we're asking them to sit on their hands. So, in the spirit of GS/BS I think it's important to ask:

Does the Stack network have any experiential learning about what happens if a site elects moderators in excess of its practical needs for moderator action?

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a valid concern and helpful question to bring up. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 15 '17 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sitting on hands is super hard, yeah. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 16 '17 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depends on the moderators elected, I suppose. In thinking about this, I realized I would be a very hands-off moderator, letting the SE environment take care of itself for the most part (as was intended), while only stepping in in cases where there needs to be something done. \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus Apr 18 '17 at 17:15
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There's a lot of talk about "perspectives" and "diversity" regarding moderator composition, and I'd like to share my thoughts on the subject because it recently (about five minutes ago) became clear to me that people may be meaning VERY different things when we talk about these ideas. Here's where I'm coming from:

When I think about what's valuable in "a diversity of perspectives," I don't think about agendas or policy opinions. Instead, I think about how a diversity of experience can help with constructive dialogue by broadening our ability to see where somebody else is coming from and understand a tangential perspective.

Historically some of our biggest dust-ups have boiled down to communication breakdowns like confusion about historical context (tool-rec) or what jargon implies (RAW). This very answer is in response to my recognising that I was probably misunderstanding how others were using terms!

Both Mxy and d7 have taken visible pains to improve the clarity of the site's communication (see above "this is a step in information gathering rather than an Official Vote Thing"), and I don't mean to diminish their ongoing successes in any way when I say:

If a third mod brings a significantly different set of communication skills and play experiences from either d7 or Mxy I think that'd be a great boon to the entire community's culture of constructive dialogue. And if it's a communication monoculture that d7 meant by this comment, then I can see the value in a fourth mod from that perspective--though on its own I don't see that contribution being sufficient to justify opening an entire fourth mod slot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a diversity of perspectives helps shape policy discussions to create better policy as well, but a diversity of perspectives leading to better communication is definitely the #1 reason why diversity in the mod team is important. Most of my problems with process even boil down to "I don't like how you are talking", just on a meta-level. I think if we have a better spread of natural ways for the mod team to express things, then they'll be more likely to use them and associatively less likely to push my 'process has failed' buttons. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 17 '17 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relatedly: "Process has failed" is, for me at least, basically just legalese for "People are no longer communicating". Diversity makes that less likely to happen, because reasonable dissatisfied persons will engage with moderation responses that appeal to them and downvote+ignore moderation responses they don't agree with. If you look at past metas mod posts that are ostensibly in agreement with each other can have very different scores-- how you say things is everything (kind of). \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 17 '17 at 1:50
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We've asked Grace Note to give us two election slots, for a total of four mods.

After this consultation with the community we heard ideas for and against 3 and 4, but the overall sense we got from you all collectively was “eh, either is fine and maybe four would be useful, but we don't see a clear and present need for more than three.” It's good to know that the community is comfy with either possibility, even if it didn't help make up our minds.

What decided us was that we like three active mods, and having four means that each of us can more easily take short breaks to recharge the batteries. The last few mod resignations were from major burnout, and the chance to drop out for a little sabbatical and still know the site is still being minded by three active mods should make a big dent in the mod attrition rate. (I just now noticed that Baskakov_Dimitriy suggested this very reason in a comment last week.)

And we have such a wide and interesting field of candidates, now is a great opportunity to expand the mod team just a bit.

So we've asked Grace Note for two slots in this election. The election page hasn't been updated yet though (the “moderator positions available” number in the sidebar), since Grace seems to be a bit busy. Rather than wait for the button to be pushed officially though, we wanted to let you know sooner rather than later.
The election page has been officially updated to show 2 positions up for election.

I don't expect that this will change the progress of the election much, since it seems to be roaring along quite well regardless already.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That sounds like a pretty healthy reason to have four! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 27 '17 at 8:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Huh, didn't see this one coming. taps magic 8-ball I think it needs new batteries. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Korvin You didn't ask it the right yes/no questions! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 27 '17 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Well, I casually mention the number of mods in comment, it ends up as a question, most of the answers trend toward "3 is good" and Survey Says? Four! (Richard Dawson moment there, sorry, US TV show Family Feud). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 19:35
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I know it feels like a pretty odd criteria but - least for us on SU, the single moderator slot apparently discouraged some people from standing cause there were one or two candidates who had a near certain chance of winning. I don't really know this community, and who would stand for mod, but its worth taking into consideration. You may have more people standing simply cause they feel "Oh, I have a chance" rather than "X is almost certainly going to win, what's the point".

Its also worth considering more mods can be handy when you don't know what to do - On the rare occasions where we need to make a tough decisions, having other active moderators means you can bounce off ideas. SU tends to have 3-4 mods active in any timezone (overlapping of course!).

Its also worth remembering chat's a pretty good way to communicate with users, build and tap a brain trust and generally exercise soft power, and its worth considering that in a future moderator. It may not have the same weight and importance as meta but there's situations where its handy.

I'd also say, sometimes its better to have more mods with lower workloads than skirting on "enough". We do fine when I see 3-4 flags a day. I got grumpy when a user threw 20-30 "profanity" flags on old posts. Likewise, spare mods are handy when a user gets on your nerves and you want a cooler head to handle it. I once had someone get on my case, went the heck with it, and went to bed, trusting that my fellow mods would handle it. And they did.

At the end of the day, Its your choice and I'm pretty much an outsider to this community, but going for the additional mod feels like a good idea, with a 2 place vote.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We've had some trouble in the past with chat getting too big for its britches, so that part of this answer should be taken with a grain of historical salt specific to RPG.SE. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 17 '17 at 2:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Consensus, no. Its a great place to handle the petty, the inconsequential and the strange. And someone who's good at handling chat has many of the soft skills needed to be a good mod IMO. Its not essential but its useful. Will edit to reflect. \$\endgroup\$ – Journeyman Geek Apr 17 '17 at 2:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, sorry, this argument makes no sense to me. Increasing the number of slots should be based solely on whether the site needs that many more moderators. Adding more slots just to encourage more people to nominate is completely wrong to me. Set it to the number of slots we need and then trust the election process to choose the best of those who put themselves forwards. If that means only a single slot because that's what the site needs, then we end up with the best possible candidate for that one slot. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Apr 18 '17 at 12:48
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We've never really needed more than three.

We could have four - or five, or 20 - that's fine - I just don't think that it gains us anything.

Why We Want One Above SSD And I

The workload is fine with two, we just want a suitable number of perspectives and to be able to take a vacation without it all falling on one person. Since the shift to better community moderation, however, we've done that several times without issue (waxy's been checked out for a long time, and SSD and I do have real lives and have been away for a week or two at a time without incident). It would just feel more polite not to have it just reduce to one.

Why Other Reasons For More Probably Don't Help Anything

Time zone coverage is not very important IMO - have we really had problems that have gone out of control in a short time that the community hasn't been able to handle? Users can close and vote to delete and such just fine, so this is isn't a problem we've ever had.

I don't think we need "more perspectives" because "SSD and I think exactly the same." We disagree on topics and we differ on how we'd handle various incidents - you can look in meta on questions where we've both posted and there's a lot of variance. Heck, I disagree with him on the question closure in that other recent meta Q that the OP user won't behave enough to get reopened; if he ever did I'd chime in on it with a different perspective. But people that are expecting any mods to be super different will probably be disappointed. We've had many mods over the history of the site, and the group has always been well aligned - before I was a mod, when it was Ace and Pat and RC Conley, when it was me and Brian and CRoss, and when it was me and SSD and waxeagle. All these folks are really different people, I bet long timers could read a post from any of these 8 people and guess who it was. But for some reason, once the kool-aid is drunk, we all end up being pretty aligned on how to run the site. Why? There's two factors at work.

  1. The people who are willing to run for mod, which is generally a thankless job, have a high degree of sense of responsibility and buy-in to the site in the first place. We tried to get a couple folks to run last time who didn't want the hassle. So by the time you self-nominate, you're either obviously in over your head and don't get voted for, or already have a pretty good alignment with major policy issues.
  2. Once they're elected and get to "patrol the streets" for a while, the remaining happy slappy libertarian theory dries up. Ask SSD about how his perspective changed from just being a high-rep user and becoming a mod. I'm sure he won't mind me quoting him from mod chat from a year after he got elected:

I had a pretty sharp perspective shift when I moved from loud-mouthed regular user to diamond mod; some things are just clearer from here because moderating them underlines practical concerns that were only theoretical from a user perspective.

So for those that think "well certainly more mods will mean changes," and by changes you mean suddenly comments won't be deleted and questions won't be closed and site norms won't be upheld - or that those mods won't sometimes do what they think is best even when people are yelling - you'll probably be disappointed. Once a person with a sense of responsibility gets responsibility, they end up doing the responsible thing. I don't see that as a "lack of diversity," it's called a helpful and constructive alignment.

Why More Might Be A Problem

Well, we need qualified nominees. We had an election just a couple years ago and many of the most qualified people on the site that we specifically urged to run wouldn't. So in the reductio ad absurdum, if we elected 5 more mods tomorrow, would some of those not really be great candidates just because we want to fill seats? But I imagine we can find 2.

The other potential downside is for those who want "less mod intervention" - with more mods, there's going to be more people at keyboards that will feel like they should intervene in something. If they were just high rep users doing it, it would probably be fine, but once it's a "MOD!" then people get into this weird us vs them mode.

And one final one - the concept of more mods got brought up on a recent meta question in response to discussion of a kind of activity that wasted mod time. The answer to time-wasting activities is not add more mods to handle it - we're exception handlers not garbage-men. I really wouldn't want "well there's more mods, so, they can handle it" to be a justification for poor site behavior or hygeine.

So to me, there's not a huge problem with more, just not particularly any benefit, so why go for "bigger government" unless there's an actual need? Remember high rep users can do 95% of what we can, and do, and should...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for this! Among other things, it helped me realise a potential confusion I was having over the meaning of terms being used in the ongoing discussion. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 15 '17 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, my admining experience shows that the more mods/community admins/whatever you have, the easier is it to get a rest, and that's the main benefit. Of course, as you have pinpointed, a mod isn't needed here 24/7, but with 4 mods it means that getting a vacation is easier. Though I might be biased because my admining experience mainly comes from places that needed constant supervision. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Apr 17 '17 at 21:54
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4 is a bad number

I don't like even numbers in governing bodies. It makes ties possible, and even if 'voting' isn't a concern per se I think it negatively affects the way people talk when there's an even split. I'd prefer 3 or 5, and 5 seems unnecessary and unreasonable. So I think 3's good.

What about better moderator accountability?

Wax Eagle has been gone for kinda a long time. I really don't like having only 2 mods. I think it would be good to do something to have rules/guidelines for our mods to call an election sooner next time. Gradual drop outs are gonna be, I think, the most prevalent kind of drop outs in our future and guidelines make deciding something like that easier and less punitive-feeling. Maybe if you're gone for 30 days without telling people (i.e. the other mods) you're taking a vacation? Idk. Something helpful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, I don't feel like there was a real policy in place. We lost track of waxy for months and then heard indirectly he'd resigned from another modship months ago; we contacted the CMs but it took a really long while for that to turn into an election - maybe the right amount of time, but I know I personally don't know what expectations are around it. I didn't want to get overly pushy first trying to contact waxy and later with the CMs about an election because I didn't want to overstep. I think "no word for a month" would be a great rubric however. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 17 '17 at 2:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Funny how you say four is a bad number. At the time of me posting this comment, your answer has a score of exactly 4. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Apr 18 '17 at 10:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depending on when your most recent election is the runner-up can be offered the spot which is a much faster process. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanFromGDSE Apr 18 '17 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain Even odder is that 4 ended up being the number. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain I just had to downvote to keep it at a score of four. But I also think a fourth moderator would be a good idea for the reasons that SSD provided. \$\endgroup\$ – Narusan May 1 '17 at 19:51

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