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Note: I am adding this paragraph as a preface to clarify something that was not clear before. IMHO, staff members of the Stack Exchange (SE) should have "full" moderator privileges to close and delete questions and answers, and suspend members, etc. This is so that they can protect us all from what I call the three P's (profanity, pornography, and plagiarism), and similar problems (the fourth p). That's their "day job" and the fact that their jobs, reputations and livelihoods are on the line gives them the requisite "skin in the game" to do this effectively. The following comments are meant to relate to "non=paid" moderators drawn from the community.

Right now, a moderator can unilaterally close a question, which can also be done with FIVE votes from qualified members of the community. Meaning that a moderator in effect has five close (or reopen) votes.

A "three vote" moderater would have three, not five votes to close or open a question, which is to say no such unilateral power. Instead, it would take TWO moderators (six votes) to close or reopen a question, or a moderator and two senior community members. It often happens that questions are closed this latter way; two or three community members vote to close, and a moderator comes along and "finishes" the job without the need for five votes.

This could come about in two ways. We could either limit all moderators to three votes, or have two classes of moderators: One or two people with five close votes, and the others with three.

I was offered a chance by Anna Lear to be a pro temp moderator for the site. I respectfully declined, partly because of day job pressures, and partly because I was uncomfortable with a moderator's unilateral closing powers. One reason I declined was that if I had full moderator privileges (and resp;onsibilities), it would have felt too much like a "day job," (and perhaps detracted from my real one.) If I had been given a chance to be a "three vote" moderator, I might have accepted it, since I could contribute to the site with extra votes that reflect my high reputation, but without having to "sweat out" whether I was doing the right thing by unilaterally closing something.

(I've been spending a lot of time on the site recently, in spite of myself. One way I justify this is by the fact that a number of what purport to be history questions are really "day job" questions in disguise. For instance, this question about troops with different backgrounds At the Battle of Zama, was the Roman army more "native" than the Carthaginian? could really be a question about the relative strengths of moderators drawn from SE vs. the Community.)

What do others think about having a group of moderators from the community with "limited" powers? That is three votes instead of five on close/open questions, and perhaps the power to "supend" accounts for brief periods (to send a message to SE moderators) but not to delete them.

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    Is it technically possible at SE at all? – Darek Wędrychowski Apr 7 '13 at 19:08
  • Reminds me of precautions in place against launching nuclear weapons by accident :) BTW, I personally like the/this idea of "limiting powers" in theory, but cannot judge it for SE in practice ... +1 question, nevertheless. – Drux Apr 8 '13 at 0:05
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    @JimThio If you have issues with the moderators on OnStartups you can either bring them up on OnStartups Meta or contact Stack Exchange directly ("contact us" link on the footer). Posting scathing comments on a different site where the moderator in question has little chance of seeing them and defending herself is both rude and juvenile and I'd strongly advise you to refrain from doing the same in the future. You have quite a few better options to resolve a dispute with a moderator than... bitter gossip. – yannis Apr 8 '13 at 9:04
  • Are you calling me senior? That's a new one... – American Luke Apr 10 '13 at 12:38
  • @Luke: You are precisely the kind of person that I would want to make a "three vote" moderator; very senior on the site, but a bit junior in "real life" (not old enough to vote) to carry the responsibilities of a "full" moderator. – Tom Au Apr 12 '13 at 21:18
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    @TomAu Age doesn't (and shouldn't) really have an effect on how well one can perform moderator duties. Some teens can be just as mature as adults. (And BTW, I actually am a "full" mod) – American Luke Apr 13 '13 at 13:33
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Closing questions unilaterally is the least powerful action available to moderators. In no particular order, here's a brief and incomplete list of more powerful and/or more dangerous actions:

  • Account suspensions (can't be reviewed and of course can't be reversed by the community)
  • Account deletions and destructions (same as deletion, but it also deletes all of the account's posts)
  • Post deletions (can't be reversed by the community)
  • Post locks (can't be reversed by the community)
  • Tag merges (more dangerous than closing, because they require a SE dev to reverse)
  • Comment deletions (yes, even those are more powerful as they are not reversible)

Closures are pretty tame in comparison, they are public, relatively harmless and quite easily reversible. I have absolutely no idea why we should sacrifice moderator efficiency or why you think you'd have to "sweat out" for something that so easy to fix if you happen to get it wrong.

As a moderator, if you are uncertain of whether a question belongs on the site or not, you simply do not vote to close it. It really is as simple as that, your "job" is to intervene only when you absolutely must. If a question doesn't justify immediate action, you just let it for the community to handle and move on. If, on the other hand, a question does justify immediate action, then having to wait for a second moderator to come along to close it is not a very good idea.

The two man rule makes sense for nukes, not for closing a question on a Q&A site.

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    I tend to agree with this position. I don't ever close a post on my own unless it is a clear and blatant violation of the guidelines. Even then I usually post a comment asking them to modify it first. Most of the votes to close I have exercised only come after there were already at least two "normal" votes. I rarely, if ever, close with only one "normal" vote, unless as previously suggested, it is clearly justified. I agree that these other "powers" offer more unilateral control, and I'm usually even more reluctant to use any of them. – Steven Drennon Apr 7 '13 at 22:49
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What I dearly wish I had was the ability to cast one close vote like a normal user, alongside my super-duper mod powers to close anything if need be.

Personally, as things stand I try to emulate a "two vote" mod, by not voting to close things unless three normal members have already done so.

...under normal circumstances. There are of course occasions when someone's drunk posting, or the crazy witnessing dude posts a huge off-topic wall of text, where I think it is incumbent on me to act like a proper janitor and mop up the mess before anyone else has to look at it. For situations like that, we really need to keep our full closing power.

  • As a "three vote" moderator, you could function your normal way by acting AFTER two or three close votes from others. But if you INITIATED a close vote, and I were also a "three vote moderator," I'd examine that "initiated" vote and probably support your closing as soon as I saw a report of this vote. – Tom Au Apr 7 '13 at 18:33
  • @TomAu - Well, I guess what I'm getting at is there are really two different kinds of "close" activities I would like to have. There's the typical "I think this is off-topic, what do you guys think?" type of vote closing, and then there's the "Cleanup on aisle 3!" situation, where I should just do it without leaving it there for people to trip on until enough close votes from high-rep users can be put together. For situation one, I really don't deserve any more of a say than a normal user. – T.E.D. Apr 8 '13 at 2:45
  • ...the problem here is that making me a mod removed my ability to properly perform the first type of close activity. Its perhaps compounded by the fact that sometimes we try to emulate it, but being human don't always wait until we're the last vote. :-) – T.E.D. Apr 8 '13 at 2:48
  • @T.E.D. The first few months as a moderator I missed having a "normal" close vote. Then I suddenly realized that I don't actually need it. If I think a question doesn't belong, but aren't certain enough to close it unilaterally, all I need to do is explain why I think it doesn't belong in comments. Most of the time my comments work exactly like a "normal" close vote, the question is either improved or closed. Having a diamond next to your username can be extremely restrictive, but it also has its perks ;) – yannis Apr 18 '13 at 7:14
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For the sake of the order, there has to be somebody with the full power.

I see your point and good sides of such thing. I simply love SE for its grassroots moderation system and I use it as an inspiration for my own websites.

But at every website there happen situations, when there's a need of the fast, simple decision, above the democratic system.

This way I would be against the reduction of the full moderation powers. The two classes system you've suggested sounds much better.

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I would not be against this idea. Like T.E.D., I try not to close questions on my own. I'm not sure exactly why moderators have the power to close questions based solely on their determination. I think as has been suggested by Darek efficiency, and order, are probably the main reasons.

However, if moderators had only "3 close votes" as you suggested, you would at least know there is agreement amongst the mods that the question should be closed if it ends up closed by mods. I don't know if that is necessary. I haven't seen a lot of questions about closing of questions by moderators being unjustified. It's an interesting idea.

EDIT: I posted the following question to the Stack Overflow Meta site, so we'll see if it gets any activity.

EDIT 2: The question on the Stack Overflow site got a fairly decent amount of action. I suggest checking it out if you are interested in the reasoning behind moderator power on Stack sites.

  • I think the answer I deleted on the question I linked is probably a good example of the kind of post a "mod close" is needed for. I think that ability should stay. – T.E.D. Apr 8 '13 at 2:54
  • @T.E.D. - answers are a different story... IIRC it requires tons more rep to delete them (not 3000 like VTC) and there's a LOT less chance that a random high rep user will see an awful answer like that. Also, anecdotaly, I almost never saw or heard about complaints around mods abusing binding answer deletion powers, whereas I saw and heard of plenty of such for question closing. – DVK Apr 10 '13 at 3:13
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  1. I don't think such an approach is required for practical reasons on History.SE with the current moderators.

    There doesn't seem to be a lot of unjustified closing by mods on History.SE from my observation and having been on the site for well over a year as an active participant.

  2. However, I very strongly feel that strongly limiting the ability of moderators to cast binding close votes is a great idea as a concept for all SE sites.

    On another SE site I have had a case where 3 of my questions closed unilaterally by the same mod in 1-2 day period. 2 of them were reopened after I raised the issue and explained why the mod was wrong on Meta - the mod was wrong in both binding votes. I could probably have gotten #3 reopened as well but was too exhausted to bother.

    On a technical level, an ideal solution IMHO would be to:

    • Limit binding closures to very special cases (e.g. closing as SPAM or offensive), where doing the closing quickly is of essence. On newer lower volume site, waiting for 2-3 high-rep users to get to the bad question can take a while.

    • In all other cases, force the 3-vote-binding-closing limit as discussed by Tom's question.

    • Allow an easy reversal of binding authoritarian vote (e.g. one where there weren't 2 other high-rep users voting to close as well) via VTRO. In other words, even one (or may be two?) VTRO votes by people other than OP on a question unilaterally closed by a mod is enough to erase the mod's close vote.

      Just to be clear, this ONLY applies to cases where the mod is the only one VTCing.

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    +1 OMG A MODRATOR GOT TWO CLOSE VOTES WRONG!?!? LET'S CHANGE EVERYTHING, THE SYSTEM IS CLEARLY NOT WORKING! – yannis Apr 8 '13 at 8:58
  • Off topic: how come you're no longer 42? – Darek Wędrychowski Apr 8 '13 at 9:54
  • @YannisRizos - "2 out of 3 Ain't Bad"? And that's a typical ratio for mods on that site. Just that those 3 were in a rapid sequence (could have been same day). – DVK Apr 8 '13 at 11:05
  • If that's the typical ratio for mods on that site, then perhaps the community should consider a change in leadership @DVK. Changes in software rarely do much to solve "people problems"... (also there should have been a smiley at the end of my first comment, I hope you realized it's extremely lighthearted and not really meant to be taken seriously). – yannis Apr 8 '13 at 11:08
  • @YannisRizos - (1) Most of community is either cowed by them, or disinterested, or just don't see it as worth their time. Several expressed one of those offline. (2) Plus, you have a core group of extremely loud haters who are even more extreme than the mods, and who keep electing those (as an example, witness that "Beofett" didn't get elected this last election, and he's pretty much a definition of a good mod, as demonstrated repeatedly. – DVK Apr 8 '13 at 11:29
  • You probably already know this, but just in case: Beofett is running for mod on Skeptics, and you have less than a day to vote for him. – yannis Apr 8 '13 at 11:34

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