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Academia.SE is quite particular in the sense that

  • all its moderators seem to be on strike
  • it is not one of the highest-volume sites, so SE might not see it as a priority to intervene here
  • however, the traffic is high enough that moderation should be necessary regularly.

For these reasons, when the strike was announced on Academia.SE, I imagined that this site would be a good one to evaluate the impact of the moderation strike and see how much pressure it can put on SE. However, browsing the questions on the main page, nothing out of the ordinary catches my attention.

So is there a noticeable impact of the strike on Academia.SE? Or is someone else (staff or regular users) taking care of the moderation?

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    SE staff are handling spam flags and some others at least on the sites without moderators and SO. Enough red flags from users can also delete posts without any moderator involvement. Posts with 4 or more downvotes are also hidden on the main view.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jun 11, 2023 at 19:05
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    @BryanKrauseisonstrike This may be a stupid idea, but do you think it might be useful for the cause to flag questions without a good reason just to increase the workload of the SE staff to make them more aware that the situation needs urgent resolving?
    – Sursula
    Jun 13, 2023 at 6:35
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    @Sursulasupportsthestrike I might support that sort of civil disobedience in another circumstance, but from my perspective the message of the strike is that we think they're taking the site in a harmful direction, and while I think it's appropriate to stop offering volunteer services to emphasize how important this is, actively disrupting things by adding spurious flags is probably not. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/196930/moderation-strike feels to me like it hit the right tone as a specific action in response to de-featuring meta posts.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:23

5 Answers 5

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A little bit of all, I think.

  • Many flags have been handled by regular users and the AutoMod. I would guess this is the most significant factor -- what normally happens is that the first flag brings it to our attention and then we nuke it, but during the strike, the content has persisted until it has accumulated several flags, at which point the AutoMod has nuked it.
  • There is a small backlog of flags that would normally be handled by moderators
  • A few flags that would normally be handled by moderators have instead been handled by staff
  • And we've been a little lucky in that things have been fairly quiet. I personally haven't observed any behavior that would normally result in a mod message / suspension (for context, 58 such messages were sent in 2022). Not really surprising; June is not really our busy season.

Perhaps the "bigger picture" is that SE policy requires 3+ moderators per site. If the policy doesn't change and the current moderation team all resigns or gets fired, then a new election will have to be held, in which (at least) 4 candidates will be needed. We have historically had real trouble finding would-be moderators, so it's quite likely that a new election would fail for lack of candidates (especially in the current climate). This would put the long-term future of Academia.SE in jeopardy (i.e., the company may simply allow the site to fail).

Update: Two weeks later, the flag backlog is rather considerable, and the quality is noticeably down —- the home page has more off-topic questions than usual, new users aren’t being handheld, and there are lots of answers in the comments. But, we’ve been a bit fortunate that there haven’t yet been (m)any egregious interpersonal issues that would normally require moderator intervention, and regular users + the automod are handling the spam quite well.

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    Has there been any response to the points raised by the moderators, e.g. "we will think about it and might change our newly implemented policy again" or are they just silent and hope to "wait it out"
    – Sursula
    Jun 12, 2023 at 6:30
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    @Sursulasupportsthestrike See this on Meta: meta.stackexchange.com/q/390106/300001 Jun 12, 2023 at 6:49
  • Thanks. SE might change the three-moderator policy, but I guess they don't want to be doing all the flag-handling work for an extended period of time.
    – wimi
    Jun 12, 2023 at 7:19
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    "the quality is noticeably down" The problem is that does the company know that ? We, mods and regular users, know the quality has been down. But, how would outsiders (non-academians) know that ? I noticed that there are quite a few new users providing bad posts more than usual. How would the company know that ? Maybe they think the the quantity and the quality have been improved because there are more new users and more questions and answers.
    – Nobody
    Jun 23, 2023 at 4:56
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I'd briefly point out that curation problems have accumulated quite rapidly, whatever the case with the traditional "moderator level" flags. I don't believe there's been more than a scant handful of question closures resolved in the past week, and that includes our main site post about the strike which was reopened by curators. Edits continue to trickle through because of the lower threshold. Even glancing at the front page, I count 13 questions I'd personally find worth closing. 12 if you don't count the strike post, which is off topic and only remains due to a lack of enforcement.

We may not be swamped with outright incoherent posts at the moment, but we are by both low quality posts as well as posts that we as a matter of policy don't usually leave open. This is especially true for questions asking for individual advice on life choices that people on the internet can't really make for them.

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    I've also noted some questions that would normally be considered duplicates stay open for a long time.
    – Anyon
    Jun 13, 2023 at 23:02
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Literally the entire front page is spam.

At the moment I am writing this, literally the entire front page is spam advertising prostitutes in Middle-Eastern countries.

Literally the entire page. There is not a single question that even asks a question, let alone a question relevant to Academia.

Did you know that there's a limit of 15 flags per user per day? I didn't, and I ran out of flags long before I ran out of spam to flag.

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    It's several pages deep by now. Jul 7, 2023 at 14:05
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    The limit for number of flags is user-dependent. It's raised by 1 bonus flag for every 10 net helpful flags, and by 1 bonus flag for every 2,000 reputation, up to a cap of 100. I agree it's not particularly helpful in a situation like this.
    – Anyon
    Jul 7, 2023 at 14:34
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As nick012000 states in an answer, the site is currently completely overrun with spam. Here's a screenshot of the current front page:

Academia.SE front page

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In my 16months on 30+ SE sites, I have never seen a spam attack as big as todays with more than 500+ posts. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the worst spam attack in SE history today.

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    I doubt this was anywhere close to the worst spam attack. If you haven't seen them before, it's because they were cleaned up by volunteers before you saw it.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jul 7, 2023 at 15:18
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    500+ spam posts is a lot for 6 hours or so @BryanKrauseisonstrike Jul 7, 2023 at 15:19
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    I agree it is a lot. You're suggesting it was the worst. Those are different.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jul 7, 2023 at 15:19
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    Of course there is this but that was over a long period:meta.stackexchange.com/questions/192820/… this is probably the worst single day spam attack @BryanKrauseisonstrike Jul 7, 2023 at 15:22
  • once someone has found a vulnerability it’s likely to be constantly exploited… Jul 7, 2023 at 23:02

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