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    It seems like a good time to elect a new moderator. Appointing a new moderator every so often will bring new energy to the task, offer existing moderators a way out if they're ready to move on, and ensure that the moderation process reflects community consensus.

    We're not absolutely sure how this should work: this thread on meta is intended to work this out! Please use this thread to discuss how the election should work. If you're itching to nominate people, do it on this other thread.

    Since it's important to have high turnout and to involve the entire community, we're almost certainly going to break with policy and hold any actual election on the main site, as a question, and use the built-in voting tools. There are a few potential problems with this, which we'll need to think about. (Interestingly, Stack Overflow has held several elections -- early on they used the Stack Exchange software, then switched to a custom STV system.)

    I see the whole process as having the following steps

    0) We start talking about the election, here.
    1) A nomination process, done informally on meta. (Perhaps with a site announcement on the main site.)
    2) Create an election question on the main site, along with a site announcement pointing to it.
    3) Anton decides whether he likes the answer or not, and appoints a new moderator :-)

    At some point we'll also need to come up with a "prompt" for the election question. It's important that we describe the powers and responsibilities a moderator has, so nominees know what they're getting into, and voters know what they're doing. I'll start doing this in the thread below.

    Some open questions:

    a) Should we just skip the nomination process, and have people self-nominate by answering the election question?
    b) Should the election question be community wiki (this has an effect on how voting works)?
    c) Should we make any (hard to enforce?) rules about downvoting and multiple voting?
    d) Is voting on MathOverflow a terrible idea? If so, does anyone want to implement an alternative system?

    Please note that the nominations thread is now open.


    Interestingly, Stack Overflow has held several elections -- early on they used the Stack Exchange software, then switched to a custom STV system.

    Why did they switch? I'm a bit skeptical of using a question as a poll booth...

    • CommentAuthorKevin Lin
    • CommentTimeJun 7th 2010

    What is STV? I am also skeptical of using the SE software for elections.


    Single Transferable Vote. Why the skepticism? I'm open to other ideas, but I'm not sure what problem we'd be solving.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2010 edited

    I'd prefer an MO-style voting (including downvotes). It's a better gauge of community opinion. I'd also like the administrators to consider filling slots based on timezone before bringing this to a vote. For example, Scott Carnahan will be in Japan, which is a key timezone, since we have no other prospective moderators in east Asia. It's not as important for Europe, since we have at least a few people nominated from there, but I think each region should at least have its own voting pool.


    Scott said:

    It seems like a good time to elect a new moderator. Appointing a new moderator every so often will bring new energy to the task, offer existing moderators a way out if they're ready to move on, and ensure that the moderation process reflects community consensus.

    Can you elaborate on that first point a little, please?

    I disagree with the second sentence. I thought that the whole point of having moderators was that they are a safety net for when the in-built community moderation doesn't work. I like knowing that the moderators are there, but I dislike it when I see them active. Knowing that they are there means that I can relax a bit over whether or not the "community moderation" is working since I know that they can always step in if things get out of hand. But when they do step in, that means that something has gotten out of hand which is Not Ideal.

    I would not favour (or favor) a vote on MO. Indeed, I would not favour a vote at all. I think that it is reasonable to have a discussion (as seems to be happening) and I would go for "nomination, acceptance, seconding": someone nominates a candidate, the candidate decides whether or not to accept the nomination, then someone else needs to second that candidate. The eventual list of such will probably be quite small, and then the current moderators can have a private discussion about who best fits their idea for MO. I would have the public part take place here, but clearly announced over on MO. If someone is vocal about MO, but doesn't come over here to join in the discussions, then I question their commitment to MO and would view them as someone just "sounding off".

    (PS I'm glad to see that the conditions for being a moderator don't include any familiarity with programming; indeed, getting Markdown syntax correct doesn't seem to be a prerequisite!)

    Is there a way to do Condorcet voting?
    • CommentAuthorMariano
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2010

    I agree with Andrew in that I do not think voting is the right approach. Most (all?) successful community driven efforts out there are not run through elections, and for more or less reasonable reasons.

    On top of that, I think MO is rather poorly adapted to be used as a voting platform!


    @Harry: I don't think the timezone issue is that huge now that MO has more users and more high-rep users. It would be nice to have moderators in many different time zones, but it's been a long time since I really felt like it would make a big difference.

    @Andrew, Mariano: I think a crude election will produce a better short list with less energy than just about any other method. I probably wouldn't use MO for a "real" election, but in this case I don't think precision is that important and voting on MO will definitely get us maximum voter turnout. The objections that (MO is a poor election platform) and (an election isn't exactly what we want) sort of cancel each other out in my head.

    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2010
    I think there should be more clarity in the process than I am seeing. Specifically:

    Are the current moderators stepping down, or completely stepping out of the moderation picture?

    Is there a definite period for when an elected moderator will perform (term of office)?

    What does the workload look like? e.g. current moderators hand 90% of the hours spent
    to the new guy(s)? and how is that time likely to be spent?

    Will a special correspondence email be set up to be used by the new moderator(s)?

    It may be that some of these are technicalities that should stay outside the discussion,
    but they need to be part of some discussion. I certainly would want to know the above
    and more before considering "throwing my hat into the ring" (actually I won't throw
    anything towards this race.)

    Gerhard "Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2010.06.08

    @grp: Current (and elected) moderators will remain moderators as long as they want to. The point of regularly electing one or two new moderators is to make it possible to maintain a group of people who care about MO and are willing to put in the time to moderate without introducing a massive discontinuity where all the moderators are replaced simultaneously.

    Exactly what it means to be a moderator is a little fuzzy. The workload is hard to quantify because a lot of moderation is a natural extension of being an active participant on MO and here on meta. Here are some typical moderator activities. Other moderators can chime in if I missed something important.

    • Occasionally use your super powers to keep MO running smoothly.
    • Set a good example for others on MO (e.g. leave constructive comments, be patient and respectful). Non-moderators should do this too, but moderators should really do it.
    • Pay attention to flags for moderator attention. Resolve them if possible.
    • Get in touch with users by email to resolve problematic behaviors. Be available by email to resolve account problems.
    • Discuss issues with other moderators (usually by email or via google wave). We try to resolve most problems on meta, but some things are best handled behind the scenes.

    There are plenty of other tasks that you don't have to be a moderator to do, but which are generally done by moderators. For example, Scott and I have done things like set up meta, get jsMath working, and write code to produce public database dumps and automatically generate arXiv trackbacks.

    Basically, by being a moderator you are officially taking on the responsibility of making MO as awesome as it can be. This isn't too hard because it mostly hums along being really awesome all by itself, but there are lots of opportunities to help it along. See also this post by Scott

    Current moderators simply use their regular email addresses for "official MO business", but I can give moderators an email if they want. I think it's usually best to use your personal email address and keep emails fairly casual.


    @Anton: Do you ever plan on stepping down as Admin?


    @Harry: I guess I'll probably want to find a replacement eventually, but I don't plan to do so in the near future. The exact means of doing that will depend on lots of things that haven't happened yet (like whether MO migrates to SE 2.0 and who is interested in the job at the time), so I haven't given it a lot of thought yet. Multiple accounts can have admin privileges, so it shouldn't be hard to make a smooth transition when the time comes.


    Hmm, well, could you still maintain a position even if you're not involved in day-to-day adminstration? There's nobody here who I trust more than you about setting the course for MO, and I think it would definitely be a great loss to the community if you were not still somehow the "bossman in charge", even if you were "bossman with reduced responsibilities".

    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeJun 10th 2010
    Here are a couple of details to ponder.

    Do we want votes to be public? (e.g. "I (grp) vote for Harry Gindi and H.H. Olsen" is recorded for Google
    tp pick up.) Or even semi-public (accessible to MO visitors but not bots)?

    Should the nominees undergo a trial period with moderator powers to see how they handle the job? I
    could see this as an internship more than as an election, and that the community would be OK with
    performance as a substitute for popularity.

    Gerhard "Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2010.06.10
    I'm wondering why the correlation between number of votes the candidates have and the order in which you added the candidates as answers is so strong. Did you add the candidates you thought had the greatest change of winning first? Or it could be an advantage to be placed higher on the list in the beginning. (But the relative number of votes seems fair, so I don't think this is a big problem. I'm just curious).

    @Sune: you've thrust my bias out into the open! I prepared a list of candidates before posting the question so that I could get all the answers up as quickly as possible. I guess I sorted that list very roughly according to what I expected the final ordering to look like. I'd forgotten that MO (unlike SO) doesn't randomize the answers within a given score, so it indeed had an effect on the sorting of the candidates in the first few minutes. Pretty soon every candidate had a different score. Hopefully it didn't make much of a difference.

    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeJun 20th 2010
    I find the entire list of candidates impressive. In view of the very close number of votes in support of Francois and Scott (123:125 while I write this) It seems logical to me to add them both as moderators.

    I suppose it is good to hash out a decision procedure for "close race" scenarios, but I think we should wait until the end of the election to decide on individuals. If a large number of people follow the strategy Gjergji Zaimi proposed in the comments, we may experience a flood of downvotes near the end. It is conceivable that in the resulting confusion, Harry Gindi ends up with the only non-negative total.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJun 20th 2010 edited

    It is conceivable that in the resulting confusion, Harry Gindi ends up with the only non-negative total.

    Heh, that'll be the day.


    Wow, Scott and Francois are neck and neck, 126 votes each with only a day to go! Exciting stuff. :-)


    Does it really matter? It was my impression that we were electing 2 moderators anyway.


    So wait, will we have both Scott and François as new moderators?