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Am I the only one that has the impression that the site is under too much control of moderators, instead of being more open to the users?

  • Mods? what mods? – Dr. belisarius Oct 17 '12 at 16:37
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    How will you interpret a downvote to this meta question? – cormullion Oct 17 '12 at 16:39
  • To all — this is the question on main that spawned this meta Q: mathematica.stackexchange.com/q/13188/5 – rm -rf Oct 17 '12 at 16:40
  • @cormullion Downvotes in meta ALWAYS mean that you disagree – Dr. belisarius Oct 17 '12 at 16:41
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    @belisarius so an upvote means I think OP is the only one? Or an upvote means I think mods have too much control...? – cormullion Oct 17 '12 at 16:44
  • @cormullion damn. you're too clever – Dr. belisarius Oct 17 '12 at 16:45
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    @belisarius you can talk... – cormullion Oct 17 '12 at 16:45
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    @cormullion I would interpret a downvote to be a disagreement with the premise of the question, which is that moderators over-control posts (the title of this Q) and an upvote, the opposite. – rm -rf Oct 17 '12 at 16:57
  • In that spirit I shall downvote... – cormullion Oct 17 '12 at 17:30
  • The voting should be for the answers. Downvoting questions should not be allowed at all (another meta Q) There are no wrong questions after all. – NoEscape Oct 17 '12 at 17:57
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    @NoEscape These sites (SE) have been running for a few years now and within that time, a system of "rules" or "policies", or whatever you want to name them, evolved to its present form. They are of course public, and we can give you pointers to them if you wish. You are going to clash repeatedly if you disregard those rules (some are changeable, others don't) and the procedures to modify them. – Dr. belisarius Oct 17 '12 at 18:10
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I think it's worth remembering that Stack Exchange sites aren't typical Internet forums where discussions are encouraged. And if you browse Meta Stack Overflow you'll find many pages that say more or less the same: eg Is Stack Overflow a forum? . This means that the moderators are more active than on other sites. The place is more of a Wikipedia Q and A site, where your contributions are absorbed into a knowledge base. Even our original questions are hacked around to make them fit into the SE approach, and discussions or open-ended questions aren't too welcome. Perhaps new users don't immediately appreciate these differences, and find the attentive moderation more intrusive than they expect.

I think there's an IRC-style chat room for each site, where you can argue and discuss anything to your heart's content. But the main Q and A pages are kept pretty clean and tidy by the moderators. Personally I think they're keeping the place in good order, particularly when confronted with the newcomers who don't always study the FAQs before posting.

Also it's worth pointing out that moderators, like politicians, are frequently elected, so it's not like you can't overthrow the government and run for office yourself...

  • +1 for these explanations, but still the question of "how much" control is good for the site / for users remains. – NoEscape Oct 17 '12 at 18:04
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    A couple points: see Mathematica Chat, and also moderators have no term limits. The reason is the same as why Supreme Court justices are elected for life: they shouldn't be pushed toward making the popular decision over the right decision. There is an active discussion about creating a formal process to allow the community to facilitate removing a moderator from office, in cases where that becomes necessary. (An informal process already exists, i.e. complaining on meta and to the SE team.) – David Z Oct 17 '12 at 18:09
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    @NoEscape Perhaps you could clarify what levels of control you have found unacceptable. We've all had our questions downvoted and voted for closure by other users in the past (I've had to argue persuasively to get some of mine re-opened), so I'm not totally clear what you mean by 'control' and 'openness' anyway. – cormullion Oct 17 '12 at 19:30
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I was a pro-tem moderator in the beta stage of this site and recently I was appointed as a moderator by popular vote in the 2012 Moderator Election. J.M. also went through the same process. (Our third pro-tem moderator chose not to run in that election.) I assert that if the community did not like the job the pro-tem moderators had done they would not have been (re)elected.

I suspect you may be confusing:

  1. The developer-established rules of StackExchange
  2. The role of the moderators
  3. Community action

First you need to understand that ♦ moderators do not make to rules of the site, they uphold them. Of course there is some discretion in this, and the developers typically do not step in and enforce the rules, but there is a tacit understanding that the moderators do not work against the established framework of StackExchange.

You should familiarize yourself with the nature of our work by reading this: A Theory of Moderation - Jeff Atwood - StackExchange Blog

Most of the powers of the moderators are available to regular users of sufficient "reputation" when acting in numbers. Further, many moderator actions can be overruled by the community in a similar fashion, though ultimately the moderators can again overrule the community (to my knowledge this has never happened on Mathematica.SE).

Below a Closed or (for those who can see it) Deleted post you can read which members took that action. Observe that your question: https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/13188/best-practice-using-custom-stylesheets was closed not by ♦ moderators but by regular users with the Close privilege. By the same process those users could reopen one that was closed by a moderator such as Custom Magnification Setting.

Questions that are Deleted (which on SE means hidden from users with less than 10K "reputation") by ♦ moderators cannot be reopened by the community, but I leave a window of at least several days for the community to potentially reopen a question before considering deleting it, unless it is spam, etc., and I believe the other moderators do the same.

By this process there is transparency and review of most moderator actions.

(One ♦ moderator action that is not reviewable by regular users are comment deletions. There is no warning that a comment has been deleted, no indication of which moderator deleted it, and no opportunity to reverse the deletion. For this reason, among others, I delete far fewer comments than the other elected moderators, and I feel that comment deletions should be handled by their authors in most cases.)

  • Your last point is partially incorrect — there is a record of which moderator deleted the comment. Also, relevant policy on comments: meta.stackexchange.com/q/77373 – rm -rf Oct 18 '12 at 2:42
  • @rm-rf but that record is not visible to the author of the comment so it cannot be used for community review, right? – Mr.Wizard Oct 18 '12 at 2:51
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I do not think that the moderators of this site exert too much control over postings.

I would consider it to be over-control if questions were arbitrarily closed or radically altered without discussion. I see no evidence of this. On the contrary, I see lots of discussion in the comments and even more discussion in the site chat. There are plenty of examples where questions have been edited into better form after give-and-take discussion between moderators and the community (even to the extent of re-opening closed questions).

I see a group of moderators that are diligently trying to uphold a certain level of quality in postings. This is especially true of questions which can be vague, off-topic or not even questions. It is easy for us to have a clear on-topic question in mind, but then post text which is unclear to others. Interaction with the moderators and community can help us improve the wording of our questions.

Feedback of this kind can be hard to give, and hard to take. This is especially true in the cold, hard medium of text which is prone to giving the impression of aloofness or outright hostility. We as a community can always strive to improve in this regard. The vehicle for such improvement is open discussion.

About this Meta-Question

As I write this response, the present meta-question has received a number of down-votes. It is not clear to me whether such down-votes indicate disagreement with the premise, or that the question lacks enough detail to be answerable. For my part, I think that the question is legitimate but I would like to see some specific points of concern laid out by the OP. Those points could be in the question itself, or included as a separate answer. An answer has the advantage that it could receive up-votes or down-votes in its own right. Down-votes could then be accompanied by comments which rebut specific points, triggering more discussion which (hopefully) will bring clarity and resolution to the issue.

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    Just FYI, in meta downvotes mean only disagreement with the OP's opinion. No need to justify them – Dr. belisarius Oct 19 '12 at 2:16
  • @belisarius Thanks for the clarification. I did see your comment on the question, but I incorrectly thought I sensed some ambivalence in the following discussion. – WReach Oct 19 '12 at 3:55
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Yes, I would say you are the only one who feels that way.

The moderators are doing a great job (that, at least on this site) nobody else particularly desires.

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