After a few weeks spent on this site, there is something I'd like to understand better and I think this is the place where to ask.

I understand the are a number of rules regarding how and what a question and an answer should be about. Whenever these rules are broken, or as supposed to be broken, a system of rejection of the question or of the answer involved is activated.

Reading comments both here and in the Q&A session I understand that the is often disagreement about the application of there rules, but in the end it appears to me that the stricter attitude gets the upper hand.

I've seen there are users who are more involved in this process (like users Rathoney and Sumelic for instance) but also many others.

What I'd like to understand is if there is a sort of "hierarchy" in deciding what is correct or wrong in applying the rules of this site:

Have the more active users on this front a sort of 'mandate' in suggesting or imposing their views?


are moderators those who have the last word ?


are users with more seniority and reputations those whose advice and views are to be followed?

  • Most systems are carried out by ordinary users; once you get enough "reputation points," you unlock certain "privileges" such as voting to close a question, or at higher levels, to delete a question or answer. Generally speaking, ordinary users do not have any kind of "mandate," just these concrete privileges. Moderators do other things that have to be done. You can find more information about this at the Help Center. – herisson Mar 2 '16 at 6:20
  • @sumelic - I understand that there may be different levels of competence, but it looks like that there is often disagreement about rules applications, and no final decision on such issues. – user 66974 Mar 2 '16 at 6:38
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    In general, disagreement about rules is tolerated. There is not a hierarchy. People act according to their individual viewpoints. When somebody says some post goes against site rules, you should take this as a statement that the user is going to take some action, such as closing the post, or that the user thinks other people might take an action like this. – herisson Mar 2 '16 at 6:42
  • What do you mean by stricter attitude gets the upper hand? – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 8:16
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because (1) this question does not appear to be about English Language & Usage Stack Exchange or the software that powers the Stack Exchange network (2) the question is based on misunderstanding. – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 9:21
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    @Rathony - what I mean by upper hand is the kind of attitude your are just showing now with my question. – user 66974 Mar 2 '16 at 10:38
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    @Saturana If it makes you feel better, we have been accused of being too strict before. Maybe that also makes us appear unwelcoming. I hope that's not the case, but you're not the first person to suggest it. To me, it seems a trade-off: if we were less strict, what would happen? For a broad and unquantifiable topic like English, I there's a serious risk of devolving in a Yahoo!-Answers quagmire (and the reason SE even exists is other Q&A sites are a quagmire!). [continued] – Dan Bron Mar 2 '16 at 10:47
  • @Saturana [continued] Anyway, coming back to your question of "who's the boss?", you might enjoy reading the locally-famous essay by the site's founder, A Theory Of Moderation. And for why we're so strict, the Broken Windows Theory is informative, and gets a lot of press on StackExchange. – Dan Bron Mar 2 '16 at 10:50
  • @Saturana I don't have any upper hand. I judged that your question is off-topic. Other users might have different opinions. What makes you think you can judge my attitude? You are a new user. You can spend more time and watch how it works here and you can raise any issue you find difficult to understand, but the question you are asking is just "why it is the way it is based on misunderstanding of this site". I find it off-topic. I have the right to make a judgement as much as you have it. – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 11:00
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    @Dan Bron - thanks for your comment and your links. I understand there is no boss, but probably only users who behave in a "bossy" way. – user 66974 Mar 2 '16 at 12:03
  • "You're not the boss of me" – Mitch Mar 2 '16 at 13:30
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    Judging by Rathony's comments, someone's pants is on fire. It's worth pointing out that moderators have the "power" to suspend or ban users, this is perhaps their greatest arm against unruly members. When a member is suspended they cannot post answers, questions or comments, and they lose all their reputation points until the suspension is lifted. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '16 at 14:05
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    @rathony you're the expert :) EDIT: Not off topic at all, the OP specifically asks who has the last word. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '16 at 14:12
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    I have been here intermittently since May 2015, and am still figuring out the mores and taboos of this strange tribe, including what my attitude is towards them. There is no "boss", but there are more and less outspoken people, more and less knowledgeable people, more and less influential people, more and less tolerant people. Sometimes I am exasperated by the snarky comments people leave in response to earnest newbies, and often I am exasperated by crap that is posted. – ab2 Mar 2 '16 at 20:08
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    @ab2: Amen to that! (But I'm fully aware that I'm one of the people who sometimes posts "snarky comments" :) – FumbleFingers Mar 3 '16 at 16:23

The following is my personal view based on observation and experience. If users find any wrong data/fact, please feel free to edit it out.

As far as EL&U is concerned (or any site under the parent SE network, for that fact), you are your own boss! There is no hierarchy in place and the entire site is community run. You'd have noticed that even anonymous users can suggest edits to any post. However, there are various levels of Privileges that are set(till 25,000) to which access is granted once you accumulate the requisite reputation points. This is part of the gamification model in this site that help it retain users and kindle interest among them. Higher rep directly translates to more Privileges (along with added responsibility, I should say).

Coming to your specific questions:

Have the more active users on this front a sort of 'mandate' in suggesting or imposing their views?

I don't think so. I consider myself an active user and here's waht I think. If I feel that a post doesn't adhere to the community rules (listed under the Help Center), I vote to close it. (It's a privilege I earned after hitting the 3k rep mark). Yet, my vote alone is not enough to close the post(It will be once I earn silver and gold tag badges). Four more community members need to agree with me in order for the question to be completely closed. Of course, if a post is closed, it doesn't necessarily mean that we are intolerant towards the question. It just means, it has the scope to be improved so that it can prove really useful for the community in general. If the OP (expected) or any other good Samaritan of this site(least expected, as OP's context and problem is seldom known) edits the post, then we can vote to reopen the post. Similar to close votes, you need 5 reopen votes to enable the question to receive more answers.

are moderators those who have the last word ?

Only in cases where the community is unable to arrive at a consensus. As you might be aware of, Mods have elevated privileges which gives them one-click powers to bring order if chaos prevails!

are users with more seniority and reputations those whose advice and views are to be followed?

It might appear so. The general tendency is that users with higher rep, badges or with more EL&U (or any other network site) experience (in terms of years active) command a certain degree of respect. However, even they probably make mistakes(very rarely though) but they are quick in correcting them.

To summarize, I'd profess that our community is like one big family (or a flat organization) where you are your boss. More experienced EL&U users act as navigators/mentors while newbie users learn the ropes under their able guidance. And everyone is just trying to solve each other's queries in one way or the other :)

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    Thanks for your clear, respectful and helpful answer. – user 66974 Mar 2 '16 at 10:41
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    You don't make clear that users with more reputation explicitly have more power because of the privilege system (for example, those with a silver badge in a tag can immediately close questions on that tag). PS What do you mean we sometimes make misteaks? – Tim Lymington Mar 2 '16 at 13:11
  • @TimLymington - I wasn't sure about that tag privilege but I did mention about it, albeit a mention in passing. ("Yet, my vote alone is not enough to close the post(It will be once I earn gold tag badges, I think).") I have edited it now to confirm the fact. – BiscuitBoy Mar 2 '16 at 13:14

Stack Exchange sites have moderators, identified by a diamond symbol next to their name, e.g. Andrew Leach. They do have powers to moderate posts and comments and to suspend users, but these powers are rarely exercised.

Instead, the community is tasked with most of the moderation privileges, earned by rep points and exercised by voting in most cases. Privileges are accessed when a user's rep points reach a predetermined level. Rep points are the only form of hierarchy among non-moderators on SE sites.

Having said that, any user can make a case on this meta site if they think a mistake has been made. This includes newly registered users, I think. This is the forum for raising issues that you can't sort out on your own. You may gain support from others to effect what you propose, or perhaps others may cast light on the subject in a way that makes you rethink your proposal.

  • Good answer (+1) with the proviso that before you raise anything on meta you should/must read all the help section and check that your question has not been asked before. – Tim Lymington Mar 5 '16 at 15:37

I think this is a good and natural question, and if this is off topic (as per comments), then I do not know what is on topic here. It is also specific to this site because, even though one might in theory raise these points with any SE site, this question is inspired by behaviour observed here.

Privileges gained by rep milestones have been mentioned in comments and in other answers. In theory, the privileges gained by individual users offer them more and more access to running this site. In theory. In reality, though, there are, as you observe, perhaps only a few users at any given time who fully enjoy all of their privileges. People differ; some jump at new posts, some dig around old posts, some improve the site by editing, some go for rep, some go for a coveted badge, some spend the better part of their day here, some peep in occasionally, some come and go. I have not tried to get my hands at the stats, nor do I know if I can access it, but I guess that, while many users post questions and answers each day, activities such as closing, reopening, migrating, editing, deleting, etc., perhaps even voting, are, at any given time, in the hands of a few users. Users who care; users who can spare the time; users who have ambitions for this site. And, of course, users who have gained the necessary privileges. Moderators, too, are elected by the "community".

Management by being absent does not work here. Inevitably, the more active users push their views; not perhaps with each individual issue, but certainly in the big scheme of things. One can always raise this or that issue at meta, but many things that happen here simply go unnoticed by the "community". Who knows which posts have been migrated, and why? When the dust settles after the turmoil of today, it is already time to think about tomorrow.

This applies to the site rules too; they are shaped by the "community", just as language is shaped by the community using it. Just as with language, the behaviour (usage) you observe today will in all likelihood be forged into the rules of tomorrow. The more active will have the more say in it.

I've had a year of very modest and occasional participation here, and yet I think I've seen a bit of history. Even within this relatively short time, people came, shone, and went (apparently). I like to think, or I very much hope, that the best things each of us has given to this site will remain, while the dubious, the second-rate, the murky, the erroneous, and the nasty, will be wiped away. There are perhaps many things to be learned from experienced users, but one thing I am rather thankful for learning is peace of mind and a kind of statistical thinking and a belief (or blind trust) in collective effort.

In the best of possible worlds, each post here, including the halo of surrounding activity, gets the attention it deserves and is addressed appropriately. If not today, then let's hope tomorrow, or in a year perhaps. If a good question is deleted (by mistake, of course!), it will perhaps be asked again in time. If some wonderful new users get scolded with their first posts, they will (no doubt!) learn from their mistakes and increase their efforts in framing their questions and answers according to the Rulez of Thys Syte on future occasions.

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    Nice answer. I think I owe you an explanation. ELU Meta is for discussing the workings and policies of this site. Then, what is the subject for discussing? It is obviously misunderstanding by a newbie who didn't spend enough time to know how it works here. Where is any change/policy/suggestion for discussion? There is nothing. The question reads more like "I can't understand what's going on here. It seems stricter attitude gets the upper hand." Time will solve the problem. There are many references that show Stack Exchange is a community-driven site without any boss. No research, no reference – user140086 Mar 3 '16 at 4:00
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    @Rathony OP is trying to point out that only few users exercise their privileges in handling posts, which may result in a strong bias. How is that off topic? OP has read around, and is dismayed by the apparent lack of interest of some users in the activities carried out here by their peers. Hardly lack of research or off topic. At last someone (with a fresh mind, unaccustomed to the hard grind of ELU) has put their uneasiness into words and has had the nerve to speak those. – anemone Mar 3 '16 at 10:44
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    Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. OP is pointing out that only few users exercise their privileges based on misunderstanding and lack of experience. There is nothing we can do to encourage other users to be more involved as it is democracy. That's a pretty basic understanding of all communities. I firmly believe the OP didn't see any action of moderators, then, can (s)he point out that we don't see moderators very often? No. Absolutely not. That's all from the misunderstanding which could have been prevented if (s)he had spent more time or just wait and watch more before asking this Q. – user140086 Mar 3 '16 at 10:55
  • Democracy is, of course, the worst possible form of government. Apart from all the others. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 6 '16 at 15:52

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