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The content in this meta answer is being disputed. The dispute revolves around an individual being singled out in the answer. The sentence in question, without the individual named is:

There is simply no need to close questions (e.g. as in potential duplicates) unilaterally; any moderator can leave a comment, suggest the potential duplicate and leave the community to decide.

As it is a moderator who is being named, I think it is important to let the community voice be heard. Despite the titular question, I would like to keep the discussion/answers focused on the content of the particular answer so that we can reach a resolution and unlock the valuable answer. I would be happy to see a more general discussion in another meta question, but as this is a moderation or moderator issue, we need a resolution.

What I need to know before unlocking the question is: Does including the name of the individual who is being "accused" of closing questions too frequently add value to the question

  • I am confused by this question. Are you asking about the general practice of naming moderators, the appropriateness of that particular post, or the subject of that post (moderators closing questions)? Please edit to clarify – ff524 Dec 10 '14 at 15:41
  • @ff524 does that help? – StrongBad Dec 10 '14 at 15:46
  • I like the close vote. – StrongBad Dec 10 '14 at 15:56
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I consider it perfectly acceptable to make meta posts about the behaviour of specific moderators while naming them. Calling out regular users is problematic, but I think moderators can deal with some additional scrutiny.

There is a very closely related issue of how constructive the complaint about a moderator is written. Posts like "Moderator xzy is a fascist because he removed my post" tend not to result in anything constructive, the language often becomes a distraction and the real issue is not actually discussed. In my experience, complaints about moderation get much better results if they're written reasonably neutral, and don't assume malice. And often this means that not even naming the specific moderator, but simply the actual issue is a good idea (unless there is a recurring pattern with a specific moderator).

As a moderator on two other SE sites, I personally tend to allow even very non-constructive criticism of the mods on meta sites, and I answer them calmly with some facts and an explanation of the relevant policies. The way a user complains reflect more on them than on me as the moderator, and I won't prevent clearly unreasonable users from demonstrating that fact.

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    I like this idea, and I would definitely implement this here (if this answer keeps getting upvotes). In practice, mods are different, and part of being a mod may just be the need to have thick skin and put up with being singled out. – eykanal Dec 10 '14 at 16:20
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  1. I don't think there is any reason for someone other than the OP to remove a moderator's name from a meta post, as long as it's (a) civil in tone, and (b) related to the moderator's activities on the site. In this case, both conditions are met.

  2. I agree with Mad Scientist on the subject of whether someone should name a moderator in their own post. Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it isn't.

  3. I did not find that particular post useful, for reasons having nothing to do with being named. I asked a specific question about moderating comments; the post was about moderating questions. It's hard to interpret the downvotes on that post, because I can't tell whether they signify "I disagree with this post" or "This doesn't answer the question." It would be much more useful to bring up the issue of moderating questions in a new post, to resolve this ambiguity and so that we can discuss it properly. But if the OP believes for some reason that his post adds something to the thread about moderating comments, I have no problem with that.

  • A huge plus 1 to this answer. It is exactly right. I don't understand how we got into a situation in which this was not obvious. – Pete L. Clark Dec 10 '14 at 18:45
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Naming a moderator when it is relevant should be encouraged. If a person doesn't know why something has occurred, and isn't allowed to ask why a moderator action was performed, he will likely continue the activity.

That being said, moderator issues should be dedicated their own question, so that they can be resolved separately. An answer like the one presented would be "Not an Answer" and the member needs to be informed as such.

The following examples from StackOverflow demonstrate that questioning moderation helps to improve member/moderator relations, establish an understanding (may not be mutual), and reach a resolution.

Exhibit A and Exhibit B

On SO especially, I do recall several examples of moderators actually revealing the name of the moderator who performed the action and pinging them to resolve the dispute. If people are unwilling to ask for clarification, we'll continue to have moderation disputes indefinitely.

I don't believe editing of a user's post on meta in such that it alters the intent is appropriate, regardless of whether it is an answer or not, though. Some of us here have the requisite 2k rep to be able to edit instantly. However, edits that are made typically should follow this rule, which is seen in the Suggested Edits queue: This edit deviates from the original intent of the post. Even edits that must make drastic changes should strive to preserve the goals of the post's owner. If the intent of the user is to name a user, removing that name is technically altering the intent.

  • Flagging as "Not an answer" just dumps the issue in the moderators' laps. How would you say they (we) should deal with this? Should we delete this post if it's flagged as "not an answer"? – ff524 Dec 11 '14 at 16:35
  • @ff524 Sorry, I meant "in a general sense." In meta, the user should be informed that their answer is not an answer and should be moved to a question, or chat, or another place where it can be addressed. – Compass Dec 11 '14 at 16:48
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As I said in my comment, remarks about the behaviour of a specific moderator should be brought up to meta, in a clear question, rather than as a "by the way" statement in an answer to a different question (even though the question is related). The question where the post is should be answered regardless of the identity of the moderator.

  • If by "should" you mean that it would be better if the OP had done this, that is a very reasonable position. However it doesn't really address the question at hand, which is how to respond to meta posts that you feel are suboptimal. There are a range of ways to do this, but changing the OP's answer after they have expressed that the edits are undesired is clearly not one of them. People get to express their opinion even when others don't agree with it. Note that I think that you are not answering the question here but I pay you the courtesy of letting you speak. This is very basic. – Pete L. Clark Dec 10 '14 at 18:52
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First of all, let me say I have nothing about ff524 or any other moderator. In fact, I have recently added a praising comment about ff524's excellent answer in Protocol for writing a recommendation letter for someone you only know on a personal basis. And I am not buddies with PeteLClark since I have never met him in my life. I have multiple times agreed, disagreed and downvoted by or upvoted by multiple power users such as ff524, JeffE and Pete. On all these times, I was civil and respected their different opinions. I expect the same courtesy from moderators.

This too much moderation is something that I have also mentioned in the past (Comments deletion in Academia SE and What is this question asking about). Since both my questions and answers were highly upvoted, this is also an interesting issue for the entire community and one that the moderators should take into account. On my answer to What is this question asking about, I think @StrongBad was convinced that the SE Academia does not really need moderator protection against controversial questions and that the community would quickly "shoot down in flames" any troll.

But what you moderators have done in my answer in Should moderators delete comments that are about moderation, once they become obsolete with respect to the question they're posted on? is not nice at all. I have expressed my civil opinion about moderation of a specific individual. If I do not like this individual's style of moderation I must be allowed to freely and publicly express my opinion. I can do that for any government official in any public news blog and SE academia moderators are somehow beyond any criticism? This is wrong by any SE policy or in any democracy.

And then getting my answer edited by another moderator (who BTW has only posted one answer in the last 5 months and only ghost-appeared for this edit) is plain rude. I could appreciate a comment, such as "could you please remove the personal name of the moderator" and I would gladly do it. But doing it "just because we can do that" is wrong. And even when Pete and me rollbacked again, then @strongbad locked the post AFTER keeping the version he prefers. Why? Was this really necessary? For whom?

You do not like my answer. I get it. Downvote. But changing the answer without consulting the original OP and changing its actual content is considered extra rude in any SE community. @StrongBad's answer to the same question refers to Pete. What if I removed the content referring to Peter, because he "targets the specific user". Would that be normal behavior? No, it won't. That is why, I do not do it and I never edit answers of those I disagree with. Especially those I disagree with. And so should moderators.

  • Explain the downvote please? – Alexandros Dec 10 '14 at 16:05
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    I removed the name because I thought it was nicer to not single out a user while we resolved the dispute. To me personally, the only reason having the name might be acceptable is that the user is a moderator. – StrongBad Dec 10 '14 at 16:09
  • @StrongBad so could you please remove the name of Pete from your answer since he is not a moderator? – Alexandros Dec 10 '14 at 16:10
  • @CharlesMorisset Are you StrongBad's representative? Should I talk to you when I refer to StrongBad's answers and moderation? – Alexandros Dec 10 '14 at 16:13
  • @Alexandros thank you, you are right adding specific names didn't add anything to my answer. I have edited it. – StrongBad Dec 10 '14 at 16:15
  • @CharlesMorisset I know how collaborative editing websites work. But common courtesy requires first to suggest the change to the original OP and then intervene. – Alexandros Dec 10 '14 at 16:22
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    @Alexandros I disagree. I would much rather let someone else do the work for me :) If you see an obvious way to improve an answer, edit it. If the OP, or anyone else, doesn't like it, they can roll it back. – StrongBad Dec 10 '14 at 16:28
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    @StrongBad I did rollback. – Alexandros Dec 10 '14 at 16:28
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    Improving someone else's answer collaboratively makes sense to a degree when on the SE sites themselves. It makes very little sense on the meta site where the purpose is to express someone's opinion. Minor formatting improvements of other people's answers, if contributed helpfully, are nice. The idea that you can improve upon someone else's opinion is terribly obnoxious. It is strange to have to explain things like this, especially since the parties involved seemed to understand this quite well except when (including their own) moderation is being criticized. – Pete L. Clark Dec 10 '14 at 18:41
  • The ideas expressed by CharlesMorisset and Strongbad mirror my own, and I have nothing more to add. – eykanal Dec 10 '14 at 19:12
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The original question:

Should moderators delete comments that are about moderation, once they become obsolete?

The contentious part of the answer that was edited out:

Of all the 4 moderators, I also think that @ff524 moderates a little too much. There is simply no need to close questions (e.g. as in potential duplicates) unilaterally

This was off-topic and out in left field; it had little to do with the original question. More importantly, a reasonable explanation was given:

that is a fine topic for discussion in a separate post, but not as an answer on this question

Those who have made exaggerated allegations of misguided censorship, demanded apologies, and engaged in a childish rollback war could have simply opened a new meta post about the issue of unilateral closures by moderators. Both discussions would have stayed more on-topic, and less barbs would have been thrown.

Rumors of moderators overusing their powers have been greatly exaggerated. This has nothing to do with a crumbling of democracy; rather, a couple people felt slighted and irate because a few of their words got removed from a discussion. Too bad cooler heads didn't prevail.

This meta question:

Does including the name of the individual who is being "accused" of closing questions too frequently add value to the question?

Because the context of the remark was closing questions – not deleting comments – I believe the moderator acted appropriately by toning down the answer, and inviting those involved in the debate to open a separate discussion on meta.

  • I agree that the post was off topic (in the context of the question it was posted on), but I don't really see how removing a moderator's name addresses that. – ff524 Dec 11 '14 at 1:17
  • @ff524 - This wasn't a mere removal of one name – the edit constructively massaged a couple sentences to make the paragraph less of a jab at one specific moderator, and more of a general mention of a related issue. I believe the edit was an improvement, because, in this particular instance, the name didn't add value to that discussion. It was an unrelated gripe, and the edit attempted to keep the discussion more civil and focused. (Unfortunately, that seems to have backfired...) – J.R. Dec 11 '14 at 1:49
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    (Your characterization of the events conflates various people's actions.) You cannot improve someone's opinion by changing it against their wishes. Nor does editing someone's opinion contribute to the civility of a discussion: very much on the contrary. More than a "couple of people" agree with this. I find your characterization of a defense of basic principles of free speech as "childish" is distressing and itself inflammatory. I could improve your answer by changing the language...but of course I won't. I am childish enough to respect your right to free speech. – Pete L. Clark Dec 11 '14 at 3:17
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    Also, you don't mention that the deleted comment which directly prompted the question concerned moderator deletion of questions. So your characterization of this part of the answer as "off topic and out in left field" is misinformed. The idea that if X causes Y then in a discussion about Y referring to X gets deleted and gets your answer locked is a really unhealthy way to run things. I don't know of any SE site that is administrated in this way. Why is everyone being so defensive? Does anyone really think "ff524 moderates a little too much" is a stinging comment? Just let it go. – Pete L. Clark Dec 11 '14 at 3:25
  • Just let it go seems like good advice – especially for someone who has already posted 17 commments to go along with a 2300-word answer. – J.R. Dec 12 '14 at 7:41

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