I've been on Worldbuilding now for just (10 minutes as I write this) over 4 months, after noticing the question about lights being needed on space ships in November. I've really enjoyed my time here; sure there have been a few hiccups but for the most part the community has been quite accepting of me and I have to say that I appreciate that.

Recently however, my points counter rounded past 9k and I've realised that I'm dangerously close to having access to moderator tools. All of a sudden I feel like the site may well consider me less of a dilettante and I find myself wondering whether it is right or wrong that I start to feel delusions of adequacy in what I bring to the site. Just like my day job however (and the teaching I do after hours in my local SciTech faculty) I take responsibility very seriously and I find myself focused on what it really means to be a Contributor on this site.

My curiosity was finally piqued by a comment I found on The Factory Floor a while back; I don't remember who made it, who they were talking about, etc. but I remember the comment "He's not a contributor, he only asks questions that suck up your time".

From this, I've inferred several things;

1) Answers are more valuable on the site than questions
2) Suppliers of questions are expected to contribute in other ways
3) I seem to know more about how NOT to contribute than how TO

The first is far easier to infer than one may think at first blush; upvotes on answers are worth 10 points, whereas upvotes on questions are worth only 5 (at least, I think that's the case from watching other people's rep increases; I've never received a question upvote other than for a single question here on meta).

The second makes sense insofar as contribution has to mean more than supplying questions; the site needs answers to be credible, and even the voting systems and moderation tasks in all their forms need to be manned in order for the site to be maintained in good order.

So; that leaves me with the last point; I've proven quite spectacularly in the past that I'm useless as a supplier of questions, and it's not what I want to do anyway. But, impending access to moderator tools implies some innate responsibility to contribute beyond what I'm currently doing. With that thought in mind, what am I expected to do on this site with a 10k+ rep? Is there something more I'm supposed to contribute other than just answering questions I like the look of and voting as I see fit on questions and answers otherwise?

More importantly, should there be a list of rep 'achievements' somewhere that tells you what you get access to, and how to properly use those tools and why you should (or in some cases shouldn't) use them?

If I'm to be candid for a moment, I've been making it up as I go along here so far. I've been using what tools I have access to in the best manner that I can think of, and making the best decisions I can, but without much interaction from the community to guide me in doing so. If moderator tools are what they sound like, it would make sense that there be some form of 'how to' provided to people as they gain access to ensure that the power their rep affords is governed by a clear explanation of the responsibility that is implied by the use of them.

If for no other reason than Enlightened Self Interest (not wanting to stuff up a site that generates so much opportunity for personal fun), it would be nice to know what existing moderators think is a valuable contribution to this site when rep levels reach 10k.


4 Answers 4


(I am not a moderator and normally the term "moderator" on the StackExchange network describes elected (diamond) mods, but I do have access to the mod tools privilege on Writing.SE and am close here on WorldBuilding, therefore I will take your sentence about "what existing moderators think is a valuable contribution" to mean "what do other people with experience on the network think is a valuable contribution". I will describe those later.)

  1. Answers are indeed considered to be more valuable than questions on the network as a whole as you can see for example when it comes to the difference in rep gain (+5 for questions, +10 for answers), the amount of rep lost on downvotes (0 for questions, -1 for answers), the fact that you can't put a bounty on a question for the querent, only for an answer, the amount of badges that are related to answering (there are some for asking, too, but tag badges for example are exclusively for answers) and probably a few other things I forgot know. That doesn't mean people don't like questions - without questions there are no answers and a site wouldn't serve any purpose. Look at sites who struggle getting out of their Beta for example. Writing.SE is a site I am active on that aces all of their stats that are needed for graduation - except for "questions per day", which is somewhere around 5 most of the time and should at least be at 10. They would love to have more questions! Questions are incredibly important and if you want to contribute by only ever asking high-quality questions then that's perfectly fine!

  2. In an ideal world everyone would contribute the way our elected mods do, which in general means:

    • asking high-quality questions
    • posting high-quality answer
    • editing stuff
    • keeping track of newly created tags
    • guiding new users
    • writing comments
    • going through the queues
    • keeping an eye on Meta
    • voting (up and down)
    • and all the other stuff our elected mods do.

    But in reality we can't expect everyone to be as good as the people we elect to represent us - they are exceptional. If you want to contribute then find something on the site that you like and do that. Take a look at my answer to the Meta question Why do YOU hang out on Worldbuilding? I described how I basically never answered or asked anything on the site. I liked commenting and I liked editing - stuff that many people find boring. If you look through the comments you can see that one of our elected mods encouraged this behaviour. I later changed a bit and started answering/asking again, but I am still mainly editing (~1.2k edits) and commenting (no idea if there is any easy to find number) (and flagging (~1k helpful flags)). That's fine. That's the way I contribute to the site. Every bit helps! To cite our elected mod Michael "If editing is what floats your boat, by all means do it!" You can replace editing with basically anything else you can do according to your privileges.

  3. I think you are misinterpreting a few things and I hope my point two has already showed that you can do a lot and that you are already doing a lot Mister "reads Meta and thinks about how best to use his privileges" - that is already something that not so many people seem to do and keeping an eye on Meta to help people who have questions about the site or to start discussions like this one is immensely helpful for the site. I can also see that you have ~150 answers, which is a lot, ~460 votes cast, which is also a way to contribute, I can see that you are reviewing stuff in the queues (yeah, taking a closer look at a profile reveals a lot of info), that you are commenting a lot - heck, you are already contributing a lot. Please continue to do that to help the site and everything is fine, no matter what your rep count says!

You can look at the privileges page to see all available privileges and by clicking on one you can get to the specific privilege that this question is about. There you have a description of what you can do and what you should think about when you can do that:

As one of our most experienced users, we're counting on you to guide the community and lead by example.

You can...

View deleted posts
Cast delete and undelete votes on questions
Access moderator tools
Edit tags inline

...which collectively allow you to help the elected community moderators in monitoring the site and helping to clean up messes.

Basically this means: you can see all the crap that people post on this site even after it's been deleted and you should make sure that it really is crap. If you find something deleted that is not crap and there is no reason to leave it deleted you should think about whether you want to start a discussion on Meta or in the chat to get it undeleted again. But read the whole page - it will give you all the insight you need.

Because basically what you are supposed to do is: whatever you are doing right now.

Yes, you can do a bit more, but it's not like people suddenly expect you to handle spam flags. There are some things only elected mods can do such as casting binding votes for closure and deletion, having queues for spam and rude/abusive posts, handling people who repeatedly do something that is unhealthy for the site... That's why you will often see on Meta sites that their job is something like being a janitor - they have to see the real crap while the normal people like us handle the normal stuff and only notify them of the really bad stuff. If you have 10k rep you will see more bad stuff and can act a bit better on the bad stuff, but the real crap is still up to the elected mods.

And everything you do still is not binding - you would need delete votes or undelete votes from multiple people to do something.

An interesting new feature you will see are the mod tools that can be accessed through a link that will appear besides the review queue. It's a small link and it's not totally easy to find, but you will find valuable information about exceptionally good and bad stuff - like exceptionally high votes or exceptional amounts of downvotes. Keeping an eye on this allows you to better keep track of which questions might be opinion-based and which answers might be crap that you should act on. It also allows you to see newly created tags, which might be a start for Meta discussions about whether the community really wants them or not.

Basically you are supposed to be able to better judge whether something needs to be acted upon and you get some tools that help you better and more easily identify these things. It's still up to your experienced judgement to say whether you need to act or leave it, which is why the tools are only unlocked at 10k rep - they are tools that assisst, not final arbiters. That's still the community.

If you are ever unsure about what to do simply open up a Meta discussion and let the community decide. That's the core principle of StackExchange and while your votes have a bit more power in some regards, you are still part of the machinery and other lower rep users can still vote to not do what you think would be right. There is some more power and some more responsibility, but nothing to be afraid of.

As a regular in the chat I think that you might have misinterpreted that statement. I am pretty sure I know what the topic was and it's just that some people constantly exhibit behaviour that some people don't like, such as asking ever-changing questions and expecting everyone to know every iteration of this...

I won't go into detail, but that statement as you have put it in your question is taken out of context and is most certainly not intended the way you seem to have interpreted it. That statement was about certain individuals, not the generic "mainly asking questions"-user on the site.

Asking high-quality questions on the site is incredibly valuable and important for the site!

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    $\begingroup$ You had me at "guiding new users." Responsible contributors are much more than providers of good questions and answers. They are people who take the time to explain their actions and opinions so people have the chance to learn to be contributors themselves. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 16, 2018 at 18:49

I mostly agree with what Secespitus wrote, but there's one thing in that answer which I disagree with (as seems to be common).

If you see something that you're unsure about, you don't necessarily need to start a Meta discussion about it.

  • If you are completely unsure, it might be best to take no action at all, and rather just leave it for others.
  • If you have some idea of which action to take, and feel reasonably confident in your choice, then just take the action that you feel is correct, given the site's scope.
  • If you want clarification on what would be the correct course of action and why, then go ahead and ask on Meta.

The beauty in this regard of the Stack Exchange community-moderation system is that it almost always requires multiple people to agree on a course of action before something happens. The major exception to this is diamond moderator "binding votes", which take effect immediately regardless of vote count thresholds, but diamond moderators are held to a higher standard. Note that "community moderator" in the snippet below refers to moderators elected by the community or (in the case of beta sites) appointed by Stack Exchange employees, both from the community itself; in other words, specifically those not-employees with a diamond to their name.

So in summary, if you are a community moderator on a Stack Exchange site, here’s what to expect:

  1. As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.

I can't think of any action you can take as an ordinary user which can't easily be reversed, either by the community or by a diamond moderator, if you somehow manage to screw up. Heck, even most actions by diamond moderators are quite easy to reverse (and we learn very quickly which parts of the system to tread carefully around).

For day-to-day usage of a site, hitting 10k (or 2k on a beta site), while a bit of a milestone in terms of numerals, mostly just means that you can see deleted posts, and have access to vote to delete or undelete questions (but not vote to delete answers; that's 20k). You get access to some moderator tools, but there's no requirement to use those just like there's no requirement to visit the review queues regularly if you don't want to do that, just because you hit 500 rep. The tools are tools, not chains binding you to the site or whips forcing you to take action you otherwise wouldn't.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Michael, I like the added perspective you brought to the question. It's good to know that I'm not going to disrupt things even if I experiment with the available tools. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Mar 18, 2018 at 5:14

Kind of a backup to Secespitus' answer; There are a small handful of users that are verified help vampires. They routinely try to pull focus from everyone else and ask endless streams of questions, often laying in wait for people and then ambushing them to try to suck more life giving help out. Also, because help vampires can't see themselves in a mirror, they are very bad at seeing they are help vampires, even when you explicitly point it out to them on multiple occasions.

Asking questions is very important. Asking the same questions over and over with slight variations, expecting everyone else to essentially create the world for you is not.
You are not a help vampire, especially with 147 answers and no questions.

As to using mod tools, by now you probably know what makes for a good question, and so being able to cast close/open votes on questions should be pretty clear. If you aren't sure, ask on meta and see what others think.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I had ~190 answers and, if I recall correctly, one question on English Language & Usage when I hit 10k. (I have three questions there now.) Answer-heavy users are just fine! If you have mostly answers, answers that can educate the community and help people solve their problems, there's no requirement to start asking questions too. (Not disagreeing with anything you wrote, just amplifying.) $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2018 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ Andy, This is a very interesting perspective you've given on the Help Vampires; I'd never heard the term before but I've met the kind. It's a very useful aspect to see what the concerns are so I appreciated your highlighting this and I'll factor it in when using the review queues. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Mar 18, 2018 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Help vampires...bahahahaha. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Mar 19, 2018 at 15:46

The first time that I got access to Moderator Tools on a stack, I asked if there was something that I should do with them. The general answer is no. They provide some information that is mostly useful to moderators in rare circumstances. They aren't really something that you need to use regularly as a non-moderator.

Also note that Moderator Tools are not all the tools that moderators can access. It's a bunch of tools that moderators can use to check some things. Personally, I find them rather boring on those sites where I have them.

To me, the single biggest privilege given with reputation is the Edit privilege. You can really hork up someone's post with that. Moderator Tools is rather anti-climactic. I'm not sure that I've even clicked the tab on Worldbuilding. I had to doublecheck that I had sufficient reputation for them.

Seeing deleted posts can be useful, although it also means that you see more junk on the site.

I'm not sure that I entirely agree that answers are more valuable than questions. A site needs good questions with informative answers to prosper. If you have questions, great. If not, there are plenty of people who do. I would advise against asking questions just to ask questions. But if you have some, ask away. The best questions are those that are of practical use to multiple people. The best way to generate those is to have real problems that need answered.

If it's not perfectly fine to only answer and hardly ever ask, then I'm in trouble. Because that's my pattern on every site on which I participate.

But it's also fine to only ask questions in my opinion. There are enough of us that only answer to balance those who only ask. The greater duty of people who only ask questions is to learn how to ask questions. To write questions that are clear, narrow, objectively-based, and on-topic.

It's nice if higher reputation users can participate in the review queues so as to avoid leaving that entirely on the moderators. But other than that, I don't see asking or answering as more important or tasks that need to be balanced. Both are needed. Participate as works for you.


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