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It is very easy to be a candidate in a moderator election. Only three requirements are needed:

  1. To be 18 or over

  2. To have earned 300 reputation points (equivalent of thirty upvotes)

  3. Not be suspended on any SE site in the last 12 months.

In theory, these requisites allow the following scenarios

  • A user who has never posted a question, answer or commented on meta can be elected as moderator for life.

  • A user who has not reviewed, suggested an edit or edited a single post that was not theirs can be elected as a moderator.

  • A user might not contribute, participate or even visit a site in the two or more years prior to an election but be qualified to be a nominee.

  • The candidate score can be as low as 0, where 40 is the maximum score. I don't believe this has ever happened on any election on any SE site but the rules do not explicitly state a minimum score is necessary.

For more detail: Are you wondering how a candidate’s score is calculated?

For context: one former nominee's score today is 4/40. But the scores of three former ELL moderators are 33/40, 37/40, and 38/40.

A community which allows their least active and lowest-rep members to run for election, may be an example of a free and democratic election but it is potentially a dangerous situation. Ideally, in a healthy flourishing community, the weakest candidates should easily lose.

However, as we have seen in the past, ELL users are typically reluctant to nominate themselves when an election is being held. Last year we had four nominees running, this year only three. So, in the future we might again face the situation where two seats are open and only three candidates running but instead of having three strong candidates there might be two under-qualified nominees guaranteeing that at least one of them will be elected.

What do I mean by an under-qualified nominee? It is a user who has not contributed significantly or actively sought to improve the site. In fact, before a user is trusted to cast close and reopen votes, they must first earn 3K.

3,000 ⇅ cast close and reopen votes       help decide whether posts are off-topic or duplicates

If a nominee has not earned 1k, Stack Exchange suggests that they are not an "established user".

1,000 🏆 established user       you've been around for a while; see vote counts

If a nominee has not earned 500 rep, they are not allowed to use the review queues.

500 ⇅ access review queues       Access the First posts and Late answers review queues

And yet once elected, the under-qualified ♦ moderator can unilaterally put on hold, lock, close, reopen, and migrate questions. They can also delete and undelete comments, answers and questions. They can convert answers into comments, freely edit posts, and suspend users without knowing anything about that person's history owing to the fact the newly-elected moderator has not participated in years or regularly visited the main site. It is worth reminding that Stack Exchange does not allow a community to change their mind about a moderator once he or she is elected. Unless the moderator voluntarily steps down (retires) or is fired by Stack Exchange, an unqualified, ineffectual moderator will be allowed to hold that position permanently. For more information: Who are the diamond moderators, and what is their role?

For all the reasons above, I suggest that the aforementioned minimum requirements be revised. I would appreciate hearing the community's opinion.

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  • 7
    This is a good discussion to be had; note that there are some sites where nominees need more reputation or more reputation and a few badges.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Aug 10, 2022 at 10:44
  • 3
    I don't mind users disagreeing. On SE Meta I have posts that have attracted 40+ and 40- scores. It's easy to guess why someone upvoted, a lot less to understand the downvote. Let's have a clarification on this meta. If someone feels these requirements should be left alone, I'd like to hear their argument in favour.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2022 at 11:16
  • 5
    Fun facts: The lowest rep moderator on any SE site has 155 rep (this is an appointed mod who is a mod on other sites too). And elsewhere on SE, on parle français and all 3 moderator candidates have less than 700 rep (and the lowest rep one has 1/40 candidate score). I'm curious to see what happens after that election.
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 10, 2022 at 11:44
  • The French candidates don't look inspiring. For one nomineee, their ìmost recent activity (posting) dates back to 2019!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2022 at 12:04
  • 1
    I have maybe an unreasonable expectation on how involved moderators should be in shepherding the community. If all that’s expected of a mod is to handle flags and escalate any that don’t fall neatly into the general SE guidelines, well, any adult with enough knowledge of how SE works can do that job. I’m not sure 300 rep, which can be earned in a few days is a good measure of how well they know how stuff works around here though. Maybe there should be a quiz on the basics? Even if they looked up the answers, they’d still be exposed to the information.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 10, 2022 at 12:19
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    @Laurel One of the candidates for French Language mod has cast a grand total of two votes!? I can forgive low reputation (I didn’t have a lot when I ran) but to not have other activity on the site like reviews, edits, or voting and low rep is really concerning. I suppose if they set the bar too high, they run the risk of not being able to get any mods elected.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 10, 2022 at 16:34
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    @Glorfindel (or anyone else who can answer): Do you have an idea about how easy it is for a site to get an exemption from SE's standard nominee requirements? If we ask, will they simply grant it, or would we need to show that this site is somehow exceptional? (And who is "we", i.e., the site members who would actually make the request?) Aug 10, 2022 at 17:04
  • 5
    @MarcInManhattan it's usually done to prevent having two dozen candidates running, not to make an additional preselection. I have no idea how easy it would be to ask for, if the community wants it, of course.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Aug 10, 2022 at 17:08
  • 2
    Just a correction: 300 rep is not always the same as 30 upvotes, because when you reach 200 reputation for the first time on any site, you get the 100 rep association bonus. This means that the first 300 rep only needs 20 upvotes.
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 10, 2022 at 18:41
  • 1
    There's a myriad of possible ways of earning 300 rep without the association bonus; 2 points for every approved suggested edit, earning 50 up to 500 rep by winning a bounty, one of your answers is accepted, accepting an answer, etc. I was just saying that 300 rep is the equivalent to 30 upvotes, which it is.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2022 at 19:04
  • Also posted to Meta Stack Exchange.
    – Andrew T.
    Aug 20, 2022 at 16:25

3 Answers 3

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Here’s a devil’s advocate argument for why additional requirements should not be added.

It is worse for a site to have too few moderators than to have moderators that may have to be taught how things work. Most of the mod work that is really necessary for a site is not skilled labor. Having too few mods could cause the existing mods to get burnt out and resign, putting the entire moderation workload on already overburdened staff.

If a moderator causes a lot of problems, there is a system in place to remove them. The reputation limit is high enough that we have some idea how they engage with the site, and the age requirement means they can be held accountable for violating the mod agreement.

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    Just to be abundantly clear when a user has been participating regularly, shows a keen interest about the site, and is generally a nice person, no one cares what their rep or candidate score is. That's why I believe evidence of voting, reviewing, editing should be highlighted because it shows impartiality and that they have the community's best interest at heart.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2022 at 18:01
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My understanding is that no minimum number of votes is required to win an election. For example, if only one person voted in an election, then that person's top choice would be elected as a moderator (and other top choices would also be elected if multiple moderator positions were at stake).

One possibility, therefore, would be to implement a threshold for being elected as moderator (for example, being selected as one the top candidates on at least a certain number of ballots). This would have the advantage of not limiting eligibility for candidacy (so that voters would still get a relatively broad slate to choose from) while limiting election winners to only those people who received strong support from voters.

This would still require an exemption from SE's election rules.

(For the record, I'm not necessarily averse to Mari-Lou's proposal but am suggesting this as a possible alternative or even something that could be done in addition.)

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  • (By the way, I'm happy to submit this as a separate question if it's not appropriate as an answer to this one.) Aug 10, 2022 at 17:42
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I think that applying formal requirements as a way to weed out users who might not do well as moderators is likely to be an ineffective technique. An informed human judgement is needed here, not a list of boxes to check off.

I would hope that the users as a group can be trusted not to vote for candidates who are likely not to do the job well.

I would be in favor of raising the bar slightly, to match the rep levels needed to access privileges similar to those that come with a mod position. perhaps a rep level of 1-2k. But consider the case of a rising relatively new user. This user has over the past 6 months been doing the kind of things the question suggests, posting on ell.meta, posting on the main ell site with good questions and/or answers, flagging improper posts, using the review queues. But the user hasn't been active that long, and has only built up say 750 rep and is only partway to the relevant badges when a mod election corms up. Elections may not happen all that often. Should we be deprived of this user's services?

Note that I would not meet the badge requirements for SO on this site, because I do not yet have the deputy badge, although I'm about 85% there, IIRC.

The feature change that in my view would help more is to provide a way for the community to indicate a lack of continuing support for a mod, and to ask SE to remove the mod pending a new election. Or to make the position of mod have a fixed term, say 2-4 years. After that the mod would need to stand for re-election. Both of those would, however, require network-wide changes, as I understand it, and might be hard to get wide support for.

As for "shaping the community" I am not sure how much i really expect mods qua mods to do that. There are a number of experienced and respected posters whose opinions are likely to influence how others do things. Some of thse are mods. Some are former mods (well at least one is.) Some have never been mods. Being a mod may give a bit of a boost to the influence that a user has, but mostly that comes from leading by example, in my view. I would hope the mods pay attention to such widely-respected users here, even those who are not mods.

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    I don’t think mods should “shape” the community. I feel that mods and veteran users have a responsibility to try to help the community reach a consensus on how the site should be, e.g. How much editing is too much? ELL is a nice place because of our active users (regardless of reputation) and I think we deserve a mod that has done a review or engaged on meta in a policy discussion or just somehow demonstrated they are engaged with the site. Maybe we need to come at this from a different angle & incentivize people to volunteer so voters have more choices instead of limiting who can run.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 10, 2022 at 18:59
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    @ColleenV That I can agree with. We need to encourage involved users to run for moderator positions, and encourage more users to become involved. If users who seem underlnvolved run, we can point this out and encourage users to vote for the more involved candidates. Aug 10, 2022 at 20:22

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