Not to be too blame-y, but I haven't seen JD around in some time. According to the page of record, he has made one action on this site in the last six months.

Can we fire a moderator?

When is it appropriate to do so?

Should we?

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    $\begingroup$ A question: Does the page of record cited above reflect a WBer's activity specifically as a moderator? JD might moderating away consistently, while being less active in other areas on WB SE. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 15 '18 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android There are many moderation activities which don't show up in the public profile. There is, however, a separate moderation activity log, accessible to moderators. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 15 '18 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ "Last seen Sep 21 at 9:31", checking other network profiles reveals similar lack of activity. (No judgement, just a fact). $\endgroup$ – DonQuiKong Nov 15 '18 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think we fire a moderator without gross misconduct, though we may relieve one of duties as a result of no longer being able to perform them under current circumstances. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 15 '18 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ @aCVn Which I am sure will scrutinized. The reasonable first step will be to contact JD & determine if there is a genuine problem. Something I am sure will be done, if for no other reason to determine if everything is OK. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 15 '18 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Very sensible. Agreed. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 15 '18 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6886/… $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 18 '18 at 21:25

Can we fire a moderator?

Sort of.

Anyone can raise a complaint against a moderator.

Community Managers can remove moderators.

If enough other moderators on the site agree a moderator can be removed.

Handling Calls to Remove a Moderator

This process is more for a contested case rather than lack of activity though.

When is it appropriate to do so?

When the moderator is no longer a net benefit to the site.

It would always be done after attempts to contact the moderator in question had either failed or received no acceptable response.

Should we?

That one I'm not going to comment on.

  • $\begingroup$ This suggests that the moderators collectively should monitor the situation and then decide what action needs to be taken. This is in the case of inactivity. Presumably, things would be similar if complaints were lodged against a moderator, but there would be more impetus to do something if there were allegations of misconduct or abuse. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 15 '18 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Misconduct or abuse of mod powers should be flagged (with custom flags) to be reviewed by other moderators. If that doesn't help (there's nothing actually preventing a moderator from dismissing such flags that pertain to themselves), then reaching out in chat to another moderator can be a reasonable next step. (Moderators can set up a private chat room if needed.) If the allegations are of serious misuse of mod powers, it's also possible to contact Stack Exchange immediately, via the contact link in the page footer. Moderators have been removed in the past for misuse of powers. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 15 '18 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ The reason why flags are preferable to reaching out in chat immediately is that flags create a record, which can be looked at both by other moderators as well as staff members (primarily the community managers). Chat is logged too, but it's much harder to find everything that is relevant to a particular situation. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 15 '18 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ @aCVn My remark about moderator was intended as a side-note. The issue here is one of apparent inactivity. Abuse of powers isn't at stake. Thanks for confirming what i had anticipated would be proper procedure on SE. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 15 '18 at 23:33

I'd like to specifically address the issue of "Should we?"

At the risk of sounding mean-spirited (and possibly even appearing to bear sour-grapes, since I participated in the last mod election and lost), we, the participants on this site, elect moderators. It isn't a birthright. There isn't tenure. That privilege comes with obligations that we, the non-mods, depend on (whether we know it's happening or not) and have the right to expect. The most common among them is frequenting the site to use those privileges (and may I point out that L.Dutch is a wonderful example of just that. When he won the last election, he took the bull by the horns and never looked back. Cheers, mate!).

I don't know JD and have nothing personally against him. But he was quite literally elected by the community based on the belief that he'd volunteer the necessary time to do the job.

I agree entirely that it would be considerate to reach out to him (and any mod who's dropped off the radar) to see what's going on. But in the case of a 6-month abstention, that process should take 1-2 weeks max and then a new election occurs. To be honest, I'm a bit surprised that SE doesn't have an automatic system to remove mod status from people who haven't used mod privileges meaningfully in some identified period of time.

Therefore, yes, we should take action to either bring JD back or remove the mod status and pass it to another.

And to keep this response as unbiased as possible: I will not throw my hat in the next moderator election.

  • $\begingroup$ To add to this: Question 9 of the election questionnaire points to an expectation of regularly being active during certain time periods. I swear I remember something more explicit about this (like "don't nominate yourself if...." kinda thing) but can't find it (and maybe it was on a different election or site). Note: I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with this answer yet, still thinking about it - particularly precedent set by just waiting 1-2 weeks. $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest - Goodbye SE Nov 15 '18 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ Please don't not put in for a future election just to appear unbiased! You make a valid point and that should in no way bar you from standing for election in future. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Nov 15 '18 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JGreenwell, I see your point about the 1-2 weeks remark, but I'm basing that on a 6-month absence. My sincere hope is that the community and its moderators are noticing this long, long, long before the 6mo mark. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 15 '18 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ Given that we've recently had an election, the position would likely be given to the person who was next placed in that election (this has happened before), rather than holding a new election so soon. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 15 '18 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ Alternative: leave him on and since his near absence is causing the want of another moderator, add another moderator. A moderator who does nothing is harmless. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Nov 15 '18 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ Diamonds can be restored; trust and privacy can't. A moderator who does nothing is harmless, but a moderator with access to tools and details who then has their account breached or misused is a major potential risk. I and many others are not happy with the risks taken in trusting a user with moderatorship when getting no benefits from that trust. Especially if there's no notice or reason provided for the absence, it is nothing but sensible to remove the diamond after an extended unexplained absence. @Joshua $\endgroup$ – Nij Nov 24 '18 at 23:59

I don't find it necessary to dismiss moderators for inactivity. That said, there is a more serious issue involved.

Do we need more moderators? If you feel that more moderators would make the site work better, you should explain why that is so (preferably in a separate question). We could always hold a moderator election and add one or more moderators. Or the existing moderators might find another way to fix the problems that you are noticing.

As far as I know, there is no limit on the number of moderators that we can have. Stack Overflow has many more than Worldbuilding does. If more moderators would make the site better, we can have them. This is true whether we kick out the existing moderator for inactivity or not. So I would recommend concentrating more on whether we need more moderators and less on potential inactivity of existing moderators.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a great point. If we need more moderators, there are better ways to get more that firing existing ones. If we don't need more moderators....we don't need more moderators. I think the current mods are doing fine, so I lean towards the latter. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Nov 16 '18 at 13:24

Could be a stint of Real Life: some change in circumstance, loss of job, change of job, new baby, died. We (out here in Nonmoderator Land) don't know.

Mods at the very least ought to have basic contact info for each other and in the case of SE, an appropriate member of Staff. Goes without saying, but sometimes these things need to be said.

Before considering the firing of a Mod, I should hope that someone contacted that person to find out if something's going on.

Hypothetically, I wouldn't consider firing a Mod except under very rare circumstances: abuse of a forum member; abuse of authority; abuse of SE staff. Being absent doesn't quite reach that level. Unless there is some kind of written policy on Moderator tenure & requirements of office.

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    $\begingroup$ Stack Exchange reaches out to mods who've been inactive for a while; they wouldn't just boot somebody without doing that. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Nov 13 '18 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @MonicaCellio -- I was rather hoping you'd respond and am happy to learn that there is some kind of protocol in place. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Nov 13 '18 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ Moderators can ping other users (including other moderators) into chat, and have access to the contact information that's on the user's profile, in addition to any that might be shared in more free-form style among moderators. The process of becoming a moderator, at least when I've been involved, is partly over e-mail which too provides some degree of verification. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 13 '18 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ Proper procedure should always involve making contact and finding why there has been inactivity first. The situation might be temporary, in which it will remedy itself, or if it's likely to be long term, then some thoughtful deliberation should be undertaken to decide the way forward. Inactivity alone shouldn't be cause for removing a moderator. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 15 '18 at 1:30

In terms of whether or not we should dismiss moderators, I'm of the opinion that the real question is whether or not moderation is a perishable skill.

As I understand it (and correct me if I'm wrong), 2x moderators are elected at each election, and moderation is bestowed upon a person more or less as a lifetime appointment, or at least there is no clearly identified term that I could see when I voted in the last election. In practice, that means that if all moderators were always active, the number of moderators would increase (ideally lightening the load or keeping the current load as traffic on the site increases).

If this is all the case, then the concern about making time available for moderation tasks is valid, but one can't reasonably expect that time to be applied constantly forever. I'd argue that the moderation time investment should only need to be guaranteed from election to the next election intake. After that, if you aren't as active for whatever reason (including real life concerns, like family changes, career issues, illness etc.) then it's not as big a concern.

This is more a general answer, and I don't intend this statement to reflect JD's specific circumstances, or even to argue that first termers are subject to special rules by comparison to longer serving moderators. I merely point out that if there is a time commitment on a permanent investiture, the time commitment may be impractical to be permanent as well.

If moderation skill is perishable (and I'd argue that it's not) then sure; there's an argument to be made that lack of practice hours makes someone less effective in the role and that has to be considered. That said, could JD come back tomorrow and be just as effective in his role as he was before he left? Probably. In point of fact, he may come back even more effective because of some more life experience.

I would therefore argue that dismissing any moderator for absenteeism is perhaps at best unkind, at worst cutting off our noses to spite our faces given that he can be just as effective at a future time when he's ready to commit more time to us.

In full disclosure, I don't intend to stand for moderator election because I don't want or need that kind of responsibility and I'm very happy with my votes only taking effect as part of a chorus of like minded voices. But, I still respect those who do take on the role and I understand that this can be an issue for many who work doing it every day and whose workload is now greater as a result of someone missing. But like I say, if that's becoming a larger issue, the solution is to intake more moderators at each new election, not dismiss the ones we already have.

  • $\begingroup$ Pro tem mods serve during beta until site go live when elected mods take over. Elected mods have no term limit. Further elections are held whenever the existing mods request one and can be for any number of new mods depending on what the team needs not just 2. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 16 '18 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ Having an inactive mod on the books does have some minor risks/etc involved (for example some extremely rare procedures require 66% of mods which doesn't count active/inactive), it also means if that account gets hacked the hacker gets mod level access, etc. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 16 '18 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ But you're right, overall the cost is low. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 16 '18 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ The number of mods elected at each election is by no means fixed and is simply the number of additional mods that the current mods feel is necessary for running the site (as long as there are at least 3 mods) $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Nov 16 '18 at 10:04

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