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This was originally a response to How is the community doing?, but has been moved to its own question on request.

The community’s situation is improving, but acknowledgements & commitments need to be made so we can heal the wounds in our community.

I think it's safe to say that we all share the same goal of improving the site and moving forward rather than dwelling on the past. But that doesn't (can't) mean ignoring the past. In particular we need to resolve the difficulty and poor health of our meta context, a situation which is the direct result of past actions. Those past actions are still prominent in the text of our site as well as in the collective memory of the community. We need to face the cause of our meta problems by addressing them with decisions that are mindful of the past.

Consider: we have an answer about meta process issues voted to the top of our community check-in feedback request; many of our election questionnaire submissions are about fair or unfair treatment and trust; surprisingly an unfounded complaint with an astronomical number of downvotes is nevertheless garnering several upvotes. Members of the community feel a vibe of something being not quite right between ordinary users and the diamond moderator team, and neither group are sure how exactly to relate to each other anymore.

I’m going to talk about what’s going on and what we can do from here. I believe nobody is incorrigible, and I’m not out for revenge or recompense. I honestly believe everyone wants to work together to get through this and improve our community’s atmosphere of collaboration.

The Ideal

I'm going to start the meat of this post with my thoughts on the roles of moderators and the community in a Stack Exchange community.

Moderators should see themselves and be seen by others as just ordinary community members; they are not administrators nor the bosses. The community should set policy as a whole, and the mods should work to enforce it. Some of these moderators get entrusted with a diamond to perform some sensitive tasks only a few can do: mostly handle flags and trouble. According to the diamond moderator help page most of their work “is mundane”, and they do “as little as possible”. They will sometimes have to “deal with controversial issues on which not everyone agrees”, but they should mostly just have to deal with it like the rest of the community (this quote's context is in a paragraph asking other community members to be compassionate toward them while they do so). They are, after all, just ordinary community members and moderators. Those diamond moderators should “lead by example” and “show respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words.”

The rest of the moderation community (all site members) should feel comfortable relating to their elected diamond moderator representatives as roughly equals. The community’s newer and less experienced members may look to the older and more experienced members from time to time for guidance, including but not exclusively the diamond moderators. Those experienced members (diamond moderators included) should share their wisdom and set a good example. The community members should work to empower the diamond moderators to handle the tasks they were elected with privileges to perform. Community members should take the diamond moderators’ input on board as they would with other members. Community members (diamond or not) should all be answerable to each other without exception.

Our Current Situation

I stated everything in the previous section because right now our community doesn't look like that at all. There's a crisis of identity between established members and the diamond moderator team which is still visibly affecting us. I feel that it comes down to two generally identified factors. There's no way to sugarcoat this so I'm going to speak plainly.

  1. Mxyzplk's general behaviour was unacceptably poor until recently: ad hominem, reframing of members’ positions as foolish straw man versions, and generally multitudinous violations of Be Nice. Any ordinary citizen (let alone a diamond moderator who must lead by example) should be brought in line or suspended for doing these things for this long, but Mxyzplk has publicly asserted they’ve never committed any wrongdoing.

In the past six months Mxyzplk turned around his behaviour. However Mxyzplk’s past misbehaviour is still prominently displayed by the site with Mxyzplk yet to take responsibility for it and edit it out.

  1. Many established members feel the power dynamic is not as it should be. Their meta voice has been lost or diminished. They feel the site is now run by and answerable to the diamond moderators. They don't see the diamond moderators working alongside others to direct the community’s course, and feel that somehow the diamond moderators have become exceptions to the rule of everyone being answerable to each other.

You might not find these factors totally encapsulate what you feel and think and have seen. It’s my attempts to summarise my thoughts after more than a year of processing all of this stuff, and I’m trying to encapsulate dozens of meta posts and hundreds of comments and chat posts. This is difficult subtext to distill and I’m just one person.

What Happened

The first of those issues needs no more words said right now. The second requires some explaining of how we got there. Basically, we got there via the events following game-rec ban. I want to be clear: that they were banned, and remain banned, is not the problem and never was. The problems emerged in the events that followed. I’m not sure the diamond moderators fully understand and appreciate what damage was done.

I wouldn’t go through these events if I didn’t need to. However I think it’s necessary to do so here. I need to establish the context of where issues originated or escalated, and what effect those events had that is still relevant to our current situation.

Following a feedback thread on game-recs (which had no indication of being binding), the diamond moderators made a ruling to ban game-recs and other (unmentioned) subjects. It was within the diamond moderators’ purview, given the site’s history with game-rec and their poll of the community’s thoughts, to make this ruling. However the diamond moderators never took responsibility for independently making this ruling: their line was, and remained, that they merely did what voters told them to do. (See also Oct ‘15 or Feb ‘16.)

When a community member pointed out the lack of confirmation was an issue and due process was not followed, and garnered significant agreement and support from the community, that member was personally attacked by a diamond moderator, and their complaints were dismissed simply by virtue of who they were with no regard to the content of their complaint or the community's general support for the complaint. The aforementioned “we just did what you told us to do” line emerged here.

When community members protested that subjects never even mentioned in the Game Recommendations feedback had been banned, the diamond moderators said this is how it is now because the mods say so, too bad:

[...] 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, and we see no clear reason we should be interpreting past discussion in a different way.

The diamond moderator team apparently believed their actions to be completely right (see also this following message) even after all these protests, and consciously dismissed all negative response. When a community member attempted to have us discuss what was going wrong so we could improve things, the diamond moderators publicly disengaged and Mxyzplk expressed that they felt the effort was just “the usual suspects muckracking”. (To the diamond moderator team’s credit, they did engage in a subsequent “let’s talk please” question and listen to and engage with the community regarding peoples’ concerns.)

At some point the diamond moderators understood that many voters had a different understanding of game recommendation policy to them. However when confronted by the fact many community members did not know as much about the policy history as they did, they had to this point consistently responded with belligerence and blame, instead of trying to understand where those users were coming from or helping those people understand the historical context and policies. These policies were after all discussed and established in 2011, which was before most of our active meta community was even on the site.

Where That Leaves Us

Mxyzplk and SevenSidedDie, you never intended to do any harm, but you’ve succumbed to a bugbear that’s poisoned the Mod Voice. Since or perhaps even prior to the game-rec ban, your conversation with the rest of the community has been infused with a sense of superiority, and you pervasively dismiss the input of others as uninformed, emotional, trivial, confused, etc. Objections get dismissed on the basis they’re just claims of mod abuse (even when they aren’t, and such claims should not be lightly dismissed anyway); or simply because they’re “the same five people” who “will always be upset” — which as TuggyNE pointed out in point 3 of this post here can always just be used to dismiss any arbitrary individual, and was in fact used to disengage with a good-faith discussion above: see the “muckracking” comment. Several users expect to be dismissed outright by the diamond moderators irrespective of the content of their words simply because of who they are, and anybody can become one of these users at any time. This poisons the meta well and disempowers the community. You have also exhibited a tendency to shift responsibility for your own actions onto the community: the community is responsible for the diamond moderators’ decision to ban game-recs, not the diamond moderators themselves; the community is responsible for not having fully understood the ancient game-rec contexts of 2011, the diamond moderators aren’t responsible for clarifying things to them; the community is responsible for fixing up Mxyzplk’s indiscretions, not Mxyzplk. You need to recognise this bugbear for what it is and extricate it from your behaviour.

I’ve seen signs you both might already be recognising the bugbear and making efforts to eliminate it. However, simply stopping bugbear behaviour isn’t enough to change the meta atmosphere and help the community heal. You’ve engaged in this behaviour for a long period of time. The community needs to see that you recognise it was a problem and that you intend to not repeat it. The community hasn’t seen that, so instead we see a tacit signal that you believe such behaviour was totally OK, and that we should expect to see the bugbear again in comparable circumstances.

That leaves the community working in an uncomfortable context: we try to avoid circumstances that would see the bugbear re-emerge, which limits what we’re capable of doing since we expect to see the bugbear in such circumstances as “comment on problematic behaviour” or “discuss policy”. Concurrently with the bugbear’s extermination, community members need to un-learn the habit of evaluating the moderators’ words under the bugbear-poisoned version of the Mod Voice. Steady periods without bugbear behaviour, and suspicions it might finally have disappeared, are set back by events such as a user being told they were suspended because they disobeyed a mod (as opposed to “you ignored a Stack guideline/policy”): those events reinforce our paranoia that the bugbear is in fact still out there waiting for us; that we should continue to be fearful of it re-emerging, and so we continue to see the community in this light:

  • Things work the way the diamond moderators say they work. The community does what they say, not the other way around.
  • Diamond moderators get to say how policy works. The rest of the community only has any say in how policy works if it is compatible with what the diamond moderators say.
  • If anyone in the community has an issue with what the diamond moderators are doing, it doesn't matter.

These phenomena had a disastrously harmful effect on our community as the game-rec fiasco was unfolding.

  • Multiple members left the site completely or reduced their activity to almost nil. (This is not speculation — there are individuals who have explicitly cited to me the game-rec fiasco and the diamond team’s behaviour as their reason for reducing their activity or leaving the site.)
  • Multiple members have expressly stated in How is the community doing? that they just left meta completely. (If they don’t have any voice anyway, what’s the difference?)
  • I and some others sharply decreased our curation work and/or meta activity following all of this because we felt this was no longer our site (so why bother?).

The degradation of the community/diamond relationship escalated very soon afterwards when the diamond moderator team proposed re-assessing another tag’s topicality. A significant number of individuals in the community (22 people!) indicated lack of trust in the diamond moderator team’s ability to act in good faith and manage a conflict of interest appropriately. They backed concern that the diamond moderators would not act in the interest of the community but in fact in their own self-interest. This being mere months after the game rec issue, I think it is reasonable to further assert the meta community was largely unwilling to entrust the moderators with another re-evaluation over whether a topic should be banned. The community's mistrust in these fundamental moderator qualities (that they will act in good faith, in the community’s interest, and manage conflicts of interest appropriately) is a major breakdown in the community/diamond relationship.

The trust between the community and the diamond moderators is still enormously damaged and has never been repaired.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The diamond moderators can't change the past, and they want to move forward with everyone else and do good work with the community. However that's difficult to do properly without acknowledging the past and consciously working to address its effects.

I myself have accepted the policy outcomes of what happened (various things getting banned), but I’m still frustrated that the diamond moderators did everything I listed as a problem and I’m not sure how on earth they never realised the extent of the damage they were doing. This is stuff I still need to get over myself, because this frustration gets in the way of interacting with the diamond moderators, including my writing this post.

SevenSidedDie and Mxyzplk, I feel you need to do the following at minimum:

  • Acknowledge specifically what things you did that were in breach of acceptable behaviour as community members and as diamond moderators. Show understanding of what you did and why it was a problem. Take responsibility for these actions. See this comment, and note the degree of support it received. (Do this however works for you. I am not expecting it to be a response to this post, nor am I expecting that it must happen immediately.)
  • Reflect on how you can restore your interactions with the rest of the community to a healthy working relationship: you need to engage with everyone else as equals and as fellow community members. You must no longer interact with everyone as if you are the site administrators. You must leave behind the bugbear that's poisoning your conversations. In whatever way works for you (doesn’t have to be public), commit yourself to new ways of behaving that foster a healthy site of equals. I see signs you've already started doing this.
  • Clean up (yourselves) the past misbehaviour that’s still floating around, rather than shifting the responsibility to everyone else.

Our community’s current situation is unhealthy and unsustainable. I don’t feel a necessary fix is for either of you to step down. If you can’t do any of these things, though, we’ll remain on this unsustainable course and somehow things are going to get worse. I don’t think any of us want the current meta atmosphere to persist.

The rest of the community shares responsibility for our site's health, too. Members need to engage in meta dialog with good faith toward the diamond moderators. The diamond moderators can hardly even propose discussion nowadays without setting off alarm bells. I’ll grant that this is because of the poisoned Mod Voice, but if the diamond moderators take this seriously and work to reintegrate with the community, the whole community needs to give them room in which they can do that. Ordinary community members should give feedback to the diamond moderators on whatever they’re doing that works so that they can do more of that. All of us need to use our community moderation tools courageously and thoughtfully to curate a positive environment by modeling and encouraging desired behaviour and by calling attention to and addressing toxic behaviour, whether through flagging, voting, meta discussion, CM involvement, or any of our other tools as appropriate.


Special thanks goes to BESW, without whose dedicated editing, guidance and balancing perspectives this post could not have been finished.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the most important single contribution anyone has made to this site in its entire history, it seems to me. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 21 '17 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast As I pointed out to Shog9 as well, “moderators’ actions” consist of more than just use of moderator tools. The focus on the concerns and objections, and of this post, are on the issues of moderators’ inter-personal behavior and handling of meta discussions. Both the points under the current situation are very, very real, and extremely serious and deleterious to the functioning of the site. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 22 '17 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast To take a different approach than KRyan, simply having large elements of the community think that this problem exists is, in and of itself, damaging to the community. Whether you happen to agree with those elements (and since you're relatively new here, you missed a lot of the incidents that gave root to the issue), the mere fact that they feel that way is a problem for RPG.SE, completely irrespective of how justified you may think they are to feel that way. TLDR: When one part of you hurts, the fact that another part doesn't isn't proof you aren't injured. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Apr 22 '17 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Building on that notion, it's entirely possible that the diamond moderators have recently moved past the bugbear for the most part or even totally, and that the sole remaining factor doing us harm is only our expectation the bugbear might appear at any moment & how we react & what we avoid on that assumption. Alt'ly the bugbear might still be there, and our expectations and its presence need to be worked on hand-in-hand. Either way this definitely extends beyond pure moderation tool usage. It's great the whole community is actively using them & distributing workload well though. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 22 '17 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak The post has been removed now, which is consistent with the actions suggested in this feedback. We might have differing perspectives of what constitutes a personal attack; this one fell within mine. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 23 '17 at 2:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ To any who responded to my comment: I am not hand waving anything. Simply read my opening sentence; I don't feel a crisis of identity. Using hyperbole -- "crisis of idendity"-- is not useful. That is why I raised that point first. Given the comments in response to me, I'll go back to what I observed to SSD the other day: I'll stop posting in meta for a while. If the above is the kind of response my comments get, the social dysfunction here transcends who the mods are. Based on my last attempt to calm troubled waters -- fail -- not gonna salt the wound. See y'all in a few days. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 24 '17 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan extremely serious and deleterious to the functioning of the site - Really? Extremely? The site functions just fine. The dialogue on meta? That is perceived to have malfunctions that need work. (I grant that). I repeat for all ears: hyperbole is not useful. Regarding function, and dysfunction, that is a community matter, not a site matter. People, not things. Let us make sure that we are clear in making that distinction as the discussion progresses. I chose those two words with care. In the coming days during discussion here, I charge you ALL to do likewise. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 24 '17 at 3:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast As I repeatedly attempted to explain to mxy in that chat, simply the perception that mods are using their powers inappropriately or that some users are being mistreated is bad for the community. Saying that it's just a perception and that everything is actually OK comes across as ignoring the problem, and just makes the perception problem worse. To continue your metaphor, it isn't the messenger or the message that matters in this case, it's the fact that the king has (at least in appearance) been throwing messages away without reading them. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Apr 26 '17 at 23:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage As Mxy pointed out in chat, he can't mind reads. I will tell you from hard life experience you cannot control perception. You cannot demand that of the mods, nor of any human. People, me included, bring their own filters, their own baggage, and their own experiences to any endeavour ... and we all bring our own weaknesses and biases. I do not accept the demand of perception must equal reality being the point of departure. What the mods as a team have done, though sadly lacking wax's leavening influence, is improve since our last kerfluffle. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage That we can ask, that we can demand, of any human and that the both of them have done. Improve. I have had my frustrations with both mods, more mxy than SSD, but I am also wise enough to look beyond that and see what, as unpaid volunteers, they have done in trying to fulfill their role. Pretty good, my friend, given my 20 or so years of experience with the inanity that is internet interactions among humans. On the balance, all plusses and minuses put in the ledger, we are in the black. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 2:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Getting our third mod elected can only improve on that. Dragging around the carcasses of old pain, pouring salt into the old wounds Yet Again -- look, I am the one who dragged the whole butt hurt thing out of the grave, so I am not without fault here in making mountains out of molehills -- is to me a step backward. Been to enough funerals of suicides (friends and family both) in my life to be very leery of the fantasy of "closure" as a thing. Hence my complaint about the hyperbole and emotionally based language. I do NOT find it helpful for work on our Improved future. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I would not describe my statement as hyperbole. I would describe my statements as entirely accurate. Your distinction between “site” and “community” is not one I find meaningful or helpful—of course I’m talking about people and not software. Though, for that matter, the software itself was designed assuming that there would be people—marked with diamonds—that the other people—the community—could trust with the stewardship of the site. I do not feel that is the case. I do not trust them. I have ample personal experience informing that distrust. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 27 '17 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I have made a point of actively avoiding meta and moderation subjects so as to avoid the stress of dealing with it, so it is entirely possible for me to miss improvement. However, at this stage in the game, I do not consider quietly improving oneself alone to be acceptable. The history here is one full of sufficiently egregious misbehavior, over a sufficient length of time, that it will take an enormous amount of explicit and public effort to repair that trust. Public, sincere, and thorough apologies taking responsibility for past misbehavior would be only the start. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 27 '17 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Closed at OP's request while he retools it \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 30 '17 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Once you've retooled and opened I'll move all extant comments to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 30 '17 at 18:31
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Preface: The Devil's Advocate

Let me begin by saying: "I don't have a dog in this fight." I was not there to witness the explosion and the fallout. I did not know of either side's issues, woes, or agonies. And while this hurts my expertise in terms of my factual knowledge, I believe it gives me plus points for impartiality.

I do not personally have a side, but I will play the Devil's Advocate (at least, until the conversation picks up from the other parties) and voice what I believe to be impartial criticisms of your question, doppelgreener, in defense of the moderation.

The Arena is Rigged

Doppelgreener, what you have done is publicly accuse another member of this community for actions that they have denied doing in the past. Due to this fact, this conversation is tipped in favor of you and your camp from the beginning.

When you are publicly accused of misuse, malpractice, or otherwise bad behavior, the best response is to not respond at all. This is because anything the accused party has to say will now and forever be shaded by the accusations that have been put forth, and there is no way for them to respond without seeming defensive.

And so, unless SevenSidedDie and Mxyzplk engage with you in this conversation beginning with "you're right," their backs will be against the walls should they decide to engage.

Unless a third party steps in to bridge the gap, they cannot speak on their behalf without falling prey to the traps in this discussion that I outlined above.

Throwing Doubt on the Evidence

To begin your question, you have presented the top voted answer in the community checkup. The claim is, because it is the top-voted answer and is well-supported by upvotes, it must represent the community consensus.

You have also presented the Election Questionnaire as evidence, submitting them as being about "fair or unfair treatment and trust."

Finally, you mention in the opening to your question with a severely downvoted answer, but cite that it has garnered some upvotes, and so many people seem to share the unfounded sentiment that the moderation community should step down.

Taken as a whole, this sets the tone that there is mistrust between the moderation team and the community in general.

Is An Upvote Necessarily A Statement Of Full Support?

Consider the problems of the upvote/downvote system: it is binary, and it is either "I agree" or "I disagree."

When you (the hypothetical "you") see a Meta answer discussing the issues of problems in our process, it is possible you may not fully agree with each and every point raised in that answer. However, you might agree with most of those points, and since you generally agree with their answers, you upvote. If you agree with 80% of the statements made, for example, it is reasonable to upvote that.

The top-voted answer's main message is that we have process problems, and goes on to illustrate this with some specific instances of things they perceived as problems. Is an upvote evidence that they agree with all the stated examples, or is it evidence that they think some of these examples are good enough for an upvote?

Consider that answer's many distinct points raised in the first paragraph:

  • The "game-rec/tool-rec thing" was a problem (first point, and evidently many agree with this)

  • There have been many failures of process since then (second point, second sentence)

  • Moderation takes such a hostile stance to disagreement regarding appropriate site procedure and policy (third point, third sentence)

  • Moderation seems incapable of listening to "loud, angry [..] users" (fourth point, third sentence)

The first point seems to me to be generally agreed upon, and it seems to me that many agree with this strongly. Given that, would it not be likely that they will upvote only for that specific example? Have you asked the 34 upvoters if they agree with the exact stance of the given answer?

Is A Top-Voted Answer Necessarily Representative of the Community?

There is a third option to upvote/downvote, and that is no vote at all. Consider how many people go to Main vs Meta. Further consider how many people may have read the current top-voted answer and decided not to vote. Do we know the stats? What is the rate of answer-viewing to upvoting? What are the reasons of those who saw this answer and downvoted (there is one) and those who saw this question and chose not to vote? Have you asked them?

A Weak Conclusion: Upvotes Are Not Enough Grounds

If we are talking about generating consensus, especially about Moderator behavior, a binary "I agree" or "I disagree" does not cut it. We need to know the specifics. We need to know what each upvoter thought.

This does not dismantle your opening statements, but it is a way to poke a hole in it, no matter how tiny.

Our Current Situation, What Happened, Where That Leaves Us: Are You Suffering from Confirmation Bias?

You have presented your personal thoughts on the matter, and you bring as evidence the community votes as well as the voices of some other community members who agree with you.

How many people did you have this conversation with, and was there a dissenter in that conversation? Or did the conversation include only a few people who were already inclined to share your point of view? If there was a diverse and even opposite view point from a non-moderator, how did you approach their dissenting opinion?

In your discussions, did you consider the possibility that your stance might be wrong, and if so, how did you go about that?

Moderators are not asked to sit on their hands

Mxyzplk has said before that it is an abdication of responsibility to participate as a moderator in a non-moderator fashion. They receive instructions from the powers that be that, to do moderation, you must actively curate. No less than Jeff Atwood said that if a moderator is afraid to moderate, they should not be a moderator. You must close a question if you believe it is supposed to be closed, you must ban a user if you believe they are supposed to be banned.

It is my impression that this was not the only time Myxzplk and SevenSidedDie received such instructions.

The chat logs show multiple users "ganging up" on a mod

If the moderators attacked someone and was unable to separate the person from the question, then that is a separate issue from how defensive they were made. The chat logs you provided show multiple people asserting to one person "You were wrong, just admit it!"

And I tend to think that regardless of the person, when you are called out publicly as being wrong, it is natural to be on the defensive. These conversations in the past have clearly put the moderators on the defensive, and that is fair. In a conversation where the core of the discussion is "you're wrong" and "no I'm not," you will never get anywhere.

Mxyzplk garnered support (12 upvotes) when he explained why he banned Mala

With a score of +12/-2, Mxyzplk seems to have garnered support from his decision to ban Mala, despite him saying "you were banned because the mods say so."

The mods did not ban lightly, but they provided a reason why the banning happened. Let us not downplay the fact that they had their reasons why and tried to be transparent about them. And then twelve people agreed with him (which I am only using here in the way you used the upvotes to support your statements).

Moving On From The Past: A Public Apology?

Certain people seem bent on needing an apology from the moderation team. Why? Is it because a grudge has been held by one or both camps, and it is satisfying to see the other party admit they were wrong?

Issuing an apology is a sign that the offending party has recognized they have done something wrong. But that is the point of contention. As you say, the mods do not believe they were in the wrong. And as you say, they disengaged from conversations about showing them why they're wrong.

I think that that behavior -- disengaging from a conversation where the idea is to blame you -- is not at all surprising. It would wear anyone down. It would certainly tire anyone out. Especially when there are only a handful of mods answering to an entire community.

This Well Is Poisoned Regardless of Mod Behavior

From my perspective, this conversation will never end until the moderators give in and say, "fine, you're right, we're wrong."

But if the mods truly believe they were not wrong, this conversation will only have the effect of "we've heard this before, we've explained ourselves already, I'm tired of this."

I have not seen a question or an answer about a non-mod looking at things from a mod's perspective. Is this the right arena, is this the right approach, is this the right method for pursuing this line of inquiry?

The mods are people too, and people get tired. And tired people, when they give up and say "screw this", they resign.

How Does This Affect The Elections?

Doppelgreener, as a candidate for the upcoming elections, what does this mean for your working relationships with the current moderator team, should you be elected?

Repeat Disclaimer

I do not aim to make a watertight defense for the moderation team. That is on them if they wish to participate. But I believe that unless someone steps in and tries to negate the accusation from a non-mod perspective, they cannot respond to this question in any way without looking like they're on the defensive, or seeming like they are ignoring all the arguments directed against them.

Again, I have no dog in this fight. I do not even want to be a mediator between sides here. It seems like it's in my best interest to step back (which I plan to do after posting this). I may not even know what I'm talking about. Again, I was not there when all of this happened.

But I believe in fair play, and in my eyes, this question has rigged the arena of discussion against the mod team. Hopefully, I have managed to break the ice.

I apologize in advance for any mischaracterizations I have made. I assure you it was not intentional on my part.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Point of order, Devil's Advocates are not necessarily helpful. A side does not inherently need defending, and the mods are capable of (and informed enough) to defend themselves. I've been speaking with the diamond moderators today to convey how I want them to use this question as an opportunity to improve the situation for themselves and everybody. You appear to also be taking one of my initial paragraphs for the entirety of my "evidence", when it is not. It's something to take note of. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 22 '17 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've been speaking about this issue in many different conversations with many different people for over a year. You characterise that we "ganged up" on a moderator -- around that time many members of the community were trying to engage the moderators over behaviour that we generally found to be a problem, and there are more members than moderators. That doesn't mean we're "ganging up". Yes, we believed their actions were wrong. Yes, I've considered that my position might be wrong: I suggest taking a look at how much of this post I'm devoting to the community's perception and why it matters. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 22 '17 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note I am not contesting Mala's ban at any point -- it was earned, but the reasons given for the ban nevertheless also reinforce negative expectations of the mods among community members, which is the context in which I'm bringing that up. I am not taking an upvote as an indication of full support and don't need to; people don't upvote answers they fully disagree with. I disagree that the best policy when accused of wrongdoing is to do absolutely nothing, and I say that as someone who's professionally trained in handling with accusations of wrongdoing. Circumstantially it's the worst choice. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 22 '17 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a mischaracterization of the points raised in source Mxyzplk actually linked to. For example, shog9 says: "if the goal was to "speed up" closing, then there are much more direct and effective ways to accomplish that... But moderators are not supposed to function as an accelerant! [...] if there are too few close-voters to control the duplicate/off-topic questions, they need to step in; if there aren't enough flaggers to keep spam out, they need to step in; if close-wars/edit-wars/flame-wars are raging, they need to step in... Otherwise, they have no business interfering." \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica Apr 22 '17 at 21:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, "The solution (to pretty much every problem raised in this question) is more users voting (to close or re-open) - if this happened, moderators would have no reason to close at all under normal circumstances. " (source is meta.stackexchange.com/questions/41062/…, from Mxyzplk's link in the linked question.) \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica Apr 22 '17 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...and Jeff Atwood's answer, while carrying a certain amount of authority, received only THREE score. Mxyzplk's rebuttal received 40. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica Apr 22 '17 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, let me step in real quick... I do appreciate the support, but I think what we don't want is for this to be about "sides" and who's "right." From talking to @doppelgreener in chat today I think both I and SSD have a good understanding of where he's coming from and how we can all move forward. But we have things going on other than this, and so it may have to sit a couple days before it gets any response from us. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 22 '17 at 23:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having said that, @doppelgreener, I do feel that this answer has some useful feedback to help you refine the question. If the problem is how the mods communicate, it buries the lede to have it conflated with specific issues (game-rec discussion, mala, raw discussion, whatever) where I firmly believe the facts at hand show we acted correctly and there's community votes saying "yep - right decision" to that effect. I was tempted to reply with a lot of that before we spoke today and understood your real concern, that it's not about who's right but about communication and feelings. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 22 '17 at 23:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ So I do appreciate this but would prefer folks don't jump in any more with "pro" or "con" posts - we'll get back with you in due time, it'll all be OK. We appreciate dopple's (and others') perspective and think there's definite concerns to address in there. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 22 '17 at 23:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I've taken that suggestion on board and have been thinking about how I might reformulate it to make the things we talked about clearer. In the current revision, the events I'm linking to are just citation of the concerns I have actually concretely happening. (After all, concerns minus any citations of it happening would not go well.) I think the policy we arrived at in each case was fine (game-recs were banned, we have a new way to handle tool recs, mala earned a suspension, current RAW policy seems to work) but the way we got there was an issue (lots of people got bruises, inc. mods) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 23 '17 at 21:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have read through this for a second time, and find this analysis to be a breath of fresh air. I am disappointed at the number of down votes it attracted, in terms of what that signals to me. (1) How many who down voted read it through? (2) Why is an attempt to be neutral in tone attracting derision, scorn, or disagreement? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I don't get the downvotes either. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica May 1 '17 at 22:10
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\$\begingroup\$

Personally I think that the problem is that the current mods have been in their roles for too long and are suffering from too much meta/too much work/or just too much time spent moderating and it has distorted their views in a distinctly authoritarian direction. there is too much emphasis on this site being 'clean'.

Much like a long serving policeman can get to the point where they assume everyone is a criminal a long serving mod can become overly intolerant and assume that every mis-step is a deliberate attempt to attack the site.

The answer seems simple to me - the current moderators should step down and give the community a chance to elect all new mods.

We should probably have more than three mods too so that there is a wider range of views within the 'mod community'.

Lastly mods should serve for no longer than a given period (my personal opinion is a maximum of one year but the length can be readily determined by the community) which means we should have a new election at least that often to ensure that we have a regular infusion of new insight or at the very least a chance at some change.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree with these conclusions and proposed actions. (In particular, mods serving not longer than a year is quite a significant change compared to global stack policy.) However on your first paragraph, a friend recently speculated to me that regularly asking and answering questions is probably very important to remaining in touch with the broader community's experience of the site -- necessarily people not doing that would be getting a different (perhaps detached) view of how things are working and what is working well, compared to those regularly asking & answering. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 24 '17 at 11:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do think there is enough merit in the idea to at least consider limited terms of moderation in some fashion. One year strikes me as a bit short, though. One idea along these lines is staggered election: For example, three mods, three year terms, election once per year. Another possibility is regular elections with the possibility of re-election. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Apr 24 '17 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak Again though, that's a significant divergence from Stack policy. It's not enough to say “I think this would be a good idea” — it would require showing why RPG.se is so exceptional that it should become the only Stack out of 150+ that has moderator term limits. Part of the original decision to not have term limits was to avoid creating moderators who are populist politicians. SE wants mods to be able to take unpopular but necessary actions, without worries about unpopularity getting in the way (same link). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 24 '17 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ So instead of possibly getting populist we possibly get authoritarians. I don't see that as much of a benefit. Yet another reason to give SE a miss. \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Apr 25 '17 at 10:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClaraOnager You are invited to share I don't see that as much of a benefit with our SE/SO overlords. That's the model they prefer, as noted by SSD on what 150+ other sites are doing. Not sure if you've taken a look at A Theory of Moderation, but I did recently before the Christianity.SE elections we had. I find it useful. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 26 '17 at 20:59

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