Building off of @Mark Trapp's answer here, should P.SE moderators have to defend their seat?

In other words, should we keep a limited number of moderators and force them to run for re-election periodically?

Personally, I think it makes sense.

Here's why:

  • Imagine that we have eight people who are perfectly capable of performing their duties as P.SE moderator.
  • And we agree that we only need four moderators.
  • Why should we let four people serve as P.SE moderators indefinitely?
  • It seems like we should rotate and infuse some fresh blood into the P.SE group of moderators.


  • I'm less concerned about rotating.
  • Per @Mark Trapp's answer, I'm more concerned about appointing the absolute best moderators to the position. [Thanks @Mark Trapp for the suggestion. ;)]


  • It's funny how things change in a year.
  • As I've said on numerous occasions, I think that the current crop of Programmers.SE mods are doing a fantastic job, and on a specific basis, I don't see any need for them to "defend their seat".
  • OTOH, this might be a decent idea for the Stackexchange network as a whole.
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    I can understand the problems that can come up with yearly elections and forcing moderators to "defend their seat" by running for re-election against other users, however I do think the community should be given an easy way to vote a moderator out if they don't agree with the way the moderator is running the site, without making a target of themselves by calling out someone on meta. Something like a yearly vote of Re-elect this moderator? Yes/No like I've outlined in my heavily downvoted answer here :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:55
  • @Rachel: Right. Such a mechanism would also give regular users a way to blow off some steam. It can be disheartening, and in some cases, even an incentive to exit a community altogether, when a community has a disagreeable mod.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:57
  • @Rachel: I'll tell you a little secret. I upvoted that answer.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:58

5 Answers 5


Why should we let four people serve as P.SE moderators indefinitely?

Why not? Are you worried about burnout? Do you feel the current moderators are doing a poor job?

We're not particularly interested in holding periodic elections just for the fun of it. It's a big distraction and tends to stir up pointless drama. Not that I don't enjoy a bit of pointless drama, but for the sake of the site I should probably just watch more daytime TV.

Being a moderator is a volunteer position. If a person tires of it, they'll step down. If we ask them to, they'll step down. If you (the community) ask them to, they'll step down. And we'll run an election so you can pick someone to replace them. But when things are running smoothly, there is absolutely no reason to conduct elections as some sort of pageant that contributes nothing by way of actual content to the site.

And one more thing...

Imagine that we have eight people who are perfectly capable of performing their duties as P.SE moderator.

For a long time, I had to imagine this. Because it wasn't the case. Not too long ago, the stats on Programmers indicated that, apart from the moderators and maybe two other users, almost no one bothered voting to close, voting to re-open, or editing on a regular basis. For a site with this much regular traffic, that was very, very depressing. It's gotten... better...

But it's still not great. In the last week, two questions have been re-opened. One person has the Copy Editor badge. Out of the top-ten close-voters on the site, four are the active moderators, two are former moderators, and one's a moderator on another site.

Don't think of Moderator as some sort of status-symbol. They're - at best - exception handlers. All too often, they're more like janitors. A healthy site has scores of "junior janitors" doing the bulk of the work - cleaning up poor questions, helping new users understand how things work... When that happens reliably, holding an election is easy - you know there are competent folks willing to take on that responsibility.

I'm sorry, but that is simply not the case here.

Maybe in another year...


I think doing periodic election could have a positive effect on the community and would make it healthy. If we still want to call it community.

When I posted the question you mention, I really didn't knew elected moderators would be there for indefinitely. Honesly, I was shocked. But while I was thinking about it the last few days, I concluded that it makes sense in the current configuration of the project.

But still, there is no easy way for the community to make a vote of no confidence without posting on meta (and being flamed). Many simply leave without complaining. We have no way to evaluate the positive or negative effect of the moderator's behavior if we don't give the opportunity to everyone to express their opinion anonymously.

Election was a good way to do it and previous one illustrated it: one moderator that previously operated on P.SE did not get re-elected!

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    You do have anonymous recourse: sending an email to [email protected] is anonymous to both moderators and community members and is the best way to let Stack Exchange know of any problems with the moderators.
    – user8
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 16:39
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    @MarkTrapp: what you suggest is sujective and personnal. Electionare objective and global.
    – user2567
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 20:03
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    Let's say you email [email protected] about a problem that you have with Moderator 'A'. What if Moderator 'A' fields this complaint? And with such a small group of moderators (4), isn't there an unavoidable inclination to "circle the wagons" and protect each other? // For this reason, I too would back an objective mechanism.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 21:13
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    @JimG. Moderators do not see anything that goes to [email protected]: it's a direct line to Stack Exchange, Inc. They then respond and address the feedback received there, including, if necessary, replacing moderators.
    – user8
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 22:18
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    Pierre303, @Jim, I'll confirm what Mark said - mods don't see gets sent there, the SE team does. If you have a complaint that for whatever reason you aren't comfortable making in public here, then that's a good place for you to direct it. Of course, if you do have a complaint you wish to make in public, Meta is the place for it. Also, it's worth noting that the community at-large can directly override many moderator decisions: questions can be edited, closed, or re-opened by an increasingly large population. Hint, hint...;
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 2:43
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    @Mr.CRT: you are too intelligent to believe in what you just wrote. 1. most people won't complain at all, they just don't care and they'll leave without providing us important information that we could use to take our decisions. 2. community moderation is mechanically unable to override moderator's decisions in most case. The best example is that we can vote for reopen only once, and only if we actually see something worth reopening. I want my election back!
    – user2567
    Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 9:40
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    @Pierre: I'm well aware that most people just don't care. I've posted several times to this effect: on Stack Overflow, controversial edge-cases led to close-reopen wars, questions with pages of revisions, and lengthy heated Meta discussions - here, a tiny handful of folks grouse about it on Meta and the rest just shrug and move on. IMHO, the single biggest problem Programmers has had trying to define its scope is the general apathy of the userbase - y'all would rather whine about the moderators tasked with enforcing the rules than attempt to clarify or change the rules to begin with.
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 15:58

Rotating is a pretty poor idea; this isn't kindergarten: not everyone gets a turn to play with the good toy. A site deserves the best set of moderators, whether that means it's the same set for multiple terms or it means new people come in.

But, and I can't speak for the other moderators, I'm all for periodic elections: not only does it serve the chance for users to re-evaluate who's moderating, it also gives moderators who successfully run a mandate to do what they need to do to get the job done.


And we agree that we only need four moderators.

While this statement is true now, hopefully in the future we'll need more than four moderators. Therefore, it makes sense to hold elections only when we need to augment the existing team (hopefully through expansion, but also through people standing down) rather than potentially replacing them.


Periodic elections allows revalidation that the moderation direction is something that the community at large is happy with. If the community wants a change, they can vote the mods out. If the community likes them, the mods stay.

While I am positive this has downsides, I think it generates considerably more confidence in the system.

  • Thanks, Paul. I do too.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 3:58
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    If you're unhappy with the state of moderation on any site, changing the rules is probably easier than getting SE to run an election to replace moderators. Theoretically, the new set of moderators would have to enforce the same rules anyway. You might even get the best of both worlds - if a moderator really disagrees with a new set of rules, they might resign and trigger an election.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 5:47
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    @Anna: Different mods moderate differently. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 23:00
  • @PaulNathan Fair point. What aspects of the current moderators' style do you think need improvement? I'm asking this with an open mind. If you're not comfortable talking about the other mods' styles, I understand and that's cool, but I hope you can at least share if there's anything I can personally address.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 3:00
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    @AnnaLear: "in my opinion, P.SE is for potentially open-ended questions relating to the programmer life, work, and career." I have noticed many popular questions wind up getting closed as not following the rules. I reckon that popular questions need to get a flexible interpretation of the rules. Popularity is an expression of the community, and, IMO the general community needs to be respected. One sad reality of the current stackoverflow.com site is that the questions are super narrow and answers tend to be too. Really limits the broadening value of having so many A++ professionals here. Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 5:04
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    @AnnaLear: continued. I don't really feel good about pointing fingers, as mods in some ways represent a collective front unless an abuse is detected. Please understand, I really support the idea of P.SE - I literally have the shirt. :D - and want it to succeed. But with the increased tightening of focus since it opened, I find P.SE providing less and less value. More open-ended discussion provides much better value more applicable to more people and more situations. I would be happy to communicate at length on an email thread, as comment threads here aren't ideal for long-form talk. :) Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 5:09
  • @PaulNathan Ah, I see what you mean. I think, though, that that's more "the rules" rather than "moderation style". A lot of questions on SE can be wildly popular and still either off-topic or just a poor fit for the network as a whole (e.g. "favourite cartoon" type questions). Narrowly focused sites help achieve high signal and low noise, but some things can be and sometimes are lost as a result. I think that's what you're seeing happen. I'm not sure what we can do about it, though. Ultimately we have to respect the base philosophy of the network and there are other sites that fill this need.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 5:14
  • I think we have to separate topics from the types of questions we see. Perhaps there's room to include a wider range of topics, but I don't think allowing more discussion-oriented questions would be a good idea. We are still a Stack Exchange Q&A site and it's not built to support discussion well. Looking at the list of closed questions, can you point to a few that you think should've stayed open?
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 5:18
  • And yeah, comments are getting a bit awkward for a lengthy discussion. :) Would you be opposed to using chat? We could switch to email, but I'd prefer to keep the conversation out in the open where others (community members and moderators alike) can read it and weigh in if they feel like it.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 5:19
  • @Anna: Not a problem, but my responses are likely to be slow and interrupted. :) Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 5:53
  • let us continue this discussion in chat
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 6:00

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