By fiat or tradition or something, all candidates for moderator are self-nominated. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, first of all, there's the rampant Dunning Kruger syndrome, in which the skills of the sufferers are inversely proportional to their confidence in their illusory skill. This explains the survey results that show that 80% of people surveyed on a topic think they're in the top 20% of experts in that topic.

Let me hasten to add that this is a societal issue (at least in the US), and not one particular to ELU. And while I'm hastening to add things, let me also say that this isn't directed to anyone in particular in this year's list of hopefuls and that I include myself as possibly infected.

The second problem is that those striving to attain authority over others thereby offer prima facie evidence that they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that authority. This applies to the police, the military, the political apparat, and moderators of online forums. Perhaps all will turn out for the best, but by my count more than half the self-nominees are card-carrying members of the CPVPV, and there's at least one I once regarded as a stalker.

There are other ways of selecting moderators, but I don't know of better ways given that the gentle con of the StackExchange business plan is based on convincing people to exchange their time, effort, and expertise for the nugatory.

Will the election results be streamed live this year? I, for one, can't wait to hear the stirring words "May I have the envelope, please."


"... unclear what you're asking. Please edit your question." OK, I don't mind if I do. First, I call nonsense. Not least because this isn't Jeopardy. Many discussion topics do not appear as questions, especially when it comes to discussing the mechanics of keeping out the riff-raff. We've heard calls for forcing newcomers watch a video, requiring them to register, and making them post bond before they can post questions.

(OK, I made that last one up.)

But all of a sudden, when it comes to a discussion of the mechanics of moderator selection, things become so murky the "question" needs to be put on hold. At least in the opinion of one moderator, one candidate for moderator, and one other who seems eminently qualified for the position.

This is exactly the kind of behavior I'm talking about.

So is it clear yet?

Now maybe this is pointless to discuss because the procedure is set in stone system wide. And maybe it's fair to criticize me for not proposing alternatives. (Sorry, I don't have any. I've dealt with one other site in which the moderators groom high-rep users for an invitation to join their circle. I didn't think that worked any better.) But these are different considerations.

But thanks for making my point for me. Well played!

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    This is inflammatory. There is no need for stirring the pot when there's enough substantive issues and substantive people to discuss them. – Mitch Aug 14 '16 at 13:07
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    Rather than spending your time, effort, and expertise complaining about the candidates, why not instead spend it on encouraging someone you like to nominate himself? – Dan Bron Aug 14 '16 at 14:39
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    @Mitch enough ... substantive people What's that supposed to mean? That I'm not a substantive person? If so, that would be inflammatory enough to hurt my feelings. If I had any. I understand that one man's substantive issue is another man's piffle. That's what another man's downvotes are for. In spite of my style, I consider this a serious problem. If you closevoted because you disagree, that's contemptible. If you didn't closevote, never mind. – deadrat Aug 14 '16 at 18:01
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    @zaq Questions on meta don't necessarily have to ask anything. I don't know how to state my thesis any more clearly. You have valid criticism that I haven't proposed any solutions to the downside of self-nomination. I'm sorry about that, but I don't have any. That doesn't mean they don't exist. – deadrat Aug 14 '16 at 18:06
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    @DanBron To be fair, it took little time, less effort, and no expertise. Alas, there is no one like me, and if there were, he or she wouldn't self-nominate for the auto-disqualification reason given in my post. – deadrat Aug 14 '16 at 18:09
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    The rule requiring self-nomination is indeed by fiat and network-wide, so if you want to challenge it, I think you'd have to take it up with Stack Exchange. Complaining about the mechanics of SE elections on ELU Meta seems about as productive as complaining here about the mechanics of downvotes. – sumelic Aug 14 '16 at 21:42
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    I'm not sure I have a problem with this post. As a candidate, I'd prefer if you gave specific criticisms rather than vague generalities and insinuations, but it's up to you how you want to participate in discussions about the election. I'm just trying to suggest some alternative ways you could pursue your goals. – sumelic Aug 14 '16 at 21:57
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    @sumelic Well, that's a fair cop. I find the mechanics of chat annoying, and my complaint has less to do with individual candidates than with the process that caters to a general propensity that I suspect I'm inclined to as much as anyone. And notice that it's not up to me how I participate in discussions about the election. Shall we start the countdown clock on the remaining lifetime of this thread? Or am I being too harsh? – deadrat Aug 14 '16 at 22:06
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    The second topic you bring up, the perceived unsuitability of all the moderator candidates (and insinuations of wrongdoing on the part of an unspecified subset of them), is very broad and better discussed in the chat room. – sumelic Aug 14 '16 at 23:28
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    @deadrat I'm no member of any committee, and I'm sure you've seen all the other supposed members of the CPVPV disagree with me vehemently before. – curiousdannii Aug 15 '16 at 0:41
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    I don't understand what you want to discuss here. Is it the process of nomination, philosophy, the psychology of those who want to lead, or something else? I hear that you have negative feelings--you seem bitter, but I may misunderstand your intent--and I would like to have a better understanding of what you are trying to express so that I can at least attempt to address your expectations. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '16 at 0:54
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    @deadrat I think you're trying to be funny and failing hard. You disagree with the official guidelines and standards of this community and are trying to pin it on a small group rather than recognising that they were determined through the consensus of the whole community, and can be readily changed again through that consensus process. – curiousdannii Aug 15 '16 at 1:28
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    @deadrat Well sorry for misjudging you. Most people don't invent very cute acronyms when they're being deadly serious. – curiousdannii Aug 15 '16 at 1:45
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    I've learnt something new. Which just makes @deadrat's use of it even more offensive. There is no comparison between the well-meaning users of this site trying to uphold the consensus site standards and Islamic religious police enforcing Sharia law. You're right that it's not a joke. – curiousdannii Aug 15 '16 at 2:27
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    Although the Saudi CPVPV may be the direct referent for deadrat's term, a very similar impulse exists in UK and US history, with the Society for the Suppression of Vice and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, to name two such moral crusaders. (I suppose that the Saudi CPVPV might object to being characterized as crusaders—but they certainly align with their Christian counterparts on the need to fumigate society for its own good.) – Sven Yargs Aug 15 '16 at 6:09

To answer your first question, there are problems with self-nomination, as you yourself have conveniently summarized.

I'm sure you will forgive me if I take umbrage to your claim that anyone who would self-nominate is unqualified for the post. You will recall that all eight of the current moderation team self-nominated for the position, including nohat (who was previously appointed as pro tem) and waiwai (who was appointed when Kosmonaut left). I think the moderation team is doing a good job. I haven't heard anything to the contrary recently.

In my view, the issue with self-nomination is that there are many community members out there who are diligent and kind and have good instincts for moderation -- but think that moderation isn't something they are qualified for. Let me tell you this: You don't have to be high-rep to be a good mod. You don't have to be an expert in English. You don't have to devote your entire day (or life) to moderation. Here's what you should look for in a moderator:

  • patience
  • an ability to de-escalate a heated situation
  • equanimity
  • an ability to see through different styles of communication to recognize what the core of the issue is -- that means letting people "berate" you or "snark at" you or use crappy punctuation and poor grammar.

That said, if we change the system to find other ways of nominating moderators, then the ones who are in it for the power trip or to win the game of internet points will just adjust their behavior to game the new system. That's a systemic problem and not one we're going to solve by clever coding.

For your next question, the results aren't streamed live but they are posted as immediately as it takes for the algorithm to run. Often, community members who frequent chat will wait in the election chat room for the results.

And for your last question ('is it clear yet?'), no, I don't think so, but I am interested to see how others will respond to it.

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    I upvoted this answer because it seems strong on factuality, sincerity, and (to use your word) equanimity. I do have a procedural question: How did deadrat's question get taken off hold? Did you clear it on your own, or did the moderators agree more broadly to lift the hold, or did it happen by some other means? – Sven Yargs Aug 15 '16 at 17:08
  • @SvenYargs According to the post history, JEL and Kit both voted to re-open. Presumably Kit'e vote, as a mod, was decisive. – Dan Bron Aug 15 '16 at 17:23
  • @Sven As Dan indicated, there was one re-open vote, then I re-opened it myself. I felt I had something useful to say in response. I talked it over with Matt and he had no objection. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '16 at 17:37
  • 1. I felt I had something useful to say And so you did. Thank you for that. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 17:52
  • 2. Your first paragraph indicates that it's clear to you what issue I raised, but your last paragraph indicates the opposite. This leaves me bemused. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 17:55
  • 3. I'm sure you will forgive me if I take umbrage I realize that this is partially formulaic, but there's nothing to forgive. Your umbrage is yours to take as you see fit. I'll just point out that I didn't say that anyone who would self-nominate is unqualified, just that self-nomination is evidence for disqualification. Not all evidence is dispositive. In my view, this makes the process suspect and not necessarily every moderator. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 18:00
  • @deadrat I suppose it's more accurate to say I'm not clear on whether it is clear yet. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '16 at 18:00
  • 4. My own preference is for moderators to have some, er, moderate expertise English, but your list is a good one. My point is that these are exactly the qualities that people are least likely to judge properly about themselves. Take the now-cancelled hold. Was that an example of equanimity and the ability to see through different styles of communication? – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 18:09
  • @deadrat You tell me. Do you feel it was? It was my intent to listen to and address your concerns from my perspective, but you're the only one who can tell me if I succeeded at that. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '16 at 18:20
  • I was talking about the initial hold, not your cancellation thereof. Was the vote to hold an example of that equanimity and that ability to see through different styles of communication, which you hold so highly as characteristics of moderators? Or was it the reflexive urge to censor criticism on the feigned excuse that what was written was unclear? – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 19:00
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    @deadrat I don't believe it was either of those things. I think it was an example of how to appropriately handle an unclear question. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '16 at 21:09
  • I propose a trade. I won't claim to be surprised that people who obtain a position by some process are offended when I criticize that process. In return, you won't deny that closing my post was a test that a moderator and a moderator wannabe failed miserably by your own criteria of patience, de-escalation, equanimity, and forbearance. As to the clarity of my post, I'll have to recuse myself, but I refer you to JEL's answer below. – deadrat Aug 16 '16 at 1:03
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    I wouldn't accept that trade because closing your post was not a test (except perhaps in your mind) and it makes no difference to me if you are surprised by the consequences of your actions. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 16 '16 at 1:32
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    How is putting a post on hold so that it can be edited "suppressing criticism"? The post is still there for everyone to read. The post can be edited. That seems like the total opposite of suppression. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 16 '16 at 13:38
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    @deadrat I was only returning the condescension you had kindly lent me earlier. If you don't have a solution, why have the discussion? If you don't feel you will affect change, then why are you still here? – Kit Z. Fox Aug 17 '16 at 11:39

Well, first of all, there's the rampant Dunning Kruger syndrome,

Moderators aren't claiming exclusive domain over all the knowledge posted to this site, so your understanding of Dunning-Kruger seems rampantly misapplied.

The truth is that everyone on this site shares in the (small 'm') moderator responsibilities, so the tools to curate this content become increasing available based on your success in posting and managing that content. A few users volunteer their time for a few administrative duties that require a degree of "trust" to carry them out.

… those striving to attain authority over others thereby offer prima facie evidence that they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that authority.

That's why it's an election and not a political coup.

You mention that there are other ways of selecting moderators, but don't actually mention them in this post; fair enough. But saying folks who choose to become police or join the military or the political apparat need not apply… that leaves birth right and compulsory enlistment through conscription. Since neither of those solutions seem likely, decrying that you don't like an election of appointees or volunteers does not seem terribly useful… or prescriptive.

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    1. DK syndrome (syndrome is my contribution; effect is the actual term) has nothing to do with claims of exclusivity of knowledge, but with the misperception of one's expertise. The domain of that expertise under consideration here is moderation. Not "all the knowledge posted to this site", something I claim nowhere. I submit that the misapplication is not mine. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 17:33
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    2. My problem is with self-nomination. That's why I mention self-nomination in my post, not self-election. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 17:37
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    3. "[you] don't actually mention them" Actually, I mention one, in the next to last paragraph. It's neither birthright nor conscription, which aren't the only options left, as you yourself mention in your next sentence, namely appointment. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 17:43
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    4. If you'll forgive a blatant lie, I'm sorry you don't find my post useful. You're right; it's certainly not prescriptive. I don't have an answer. That could be what discussion might find, although that looks "rampantly" unlikely. – deadrat Aug 15 '16 at 17:46

I suppose I may not have anything to say that is useful or detailed enough to warrant a response-answer, but I did suggest re-opening the topic, so I feel quixotically obliged.

To respond to your last question first, because it's low-hanging fruit, your topic-question never seemed unclear to me. You included a topic paragraph and a topic question, by gum, so why should it be considered unclear? It's true the question was a bit overblown, but that blowsiness (the rhetorical "possibly") was amusing though cliched, and would have been easily overlooked even if I didn't find the humor sympathetic.

The clarity of the topic was further crystalized by the details you provided, details that outlined precisely what you suppose could and does go wrong with self-nomination systems. I hope you won't object if I summarize my understanding of your suppositions, although I will inevitably misrepresent (to those who only read the words and clauses they can understand without effort) your position.

  1. Those who nominate themselves for the duties of moderator at ELU may or may not be up to the task, but will invariably be confident that they are.
  2. Those who nominate etc., by so doing, offer superficial (prima facie) evidence they're unfit for the duties for reasons other than or in addition to their confidence etc., as mentioned in 1.

Before going on, I have to submit that neither of those points are limiting. The first succeeds when there is a happy correspondence between confidence and ability (however much that correspondence may be purely fortuitous); the second succeeds when the superficial evidence fails to reflect the factual case.

I should hasten to add (as long as we're hastening to add things), that you didn't in my interpretation rule out that self-nomination could succeed when it came to selecting moderators. You simply seemed to find it unlikely or at least chancy that good moderators would rise to the top using a self-nomination process, and suggested there might be a better way, unknown to you.

It's this last that inspires my response. I'm by no means an expert on political matters, having assiduously avoided them for most of my life, perhaps due to a primal awareness of my inaptitude and innate inability. However, I do have some crude opinions based on what little I know, and will risk my footing in the quagmire of sewage I must navigate to express those opinions.

The political landscape has been somewhat remodeled in the last 35 years or so by the advent of refined communications mechanisms (for example, the web). My knowledge, and so my opinions, have been hard-pressed to integrate the changes so wrought.

However, I've heard it suggested, and tend to agree, that the most viable known alternative to democratic systems, benevolent dictatorship, is indeed superior—but is neither sustainable nor predeterminable...that is, a benevolent dictatorship cannot be systematically installed, nor can it be systematically sustained once installed.

It may well be that the changes wrought by the refinement of communication mechanisms in recent years lend themselves to an effective hybridization of democratic and benevolent dictatorship systems. It might even be that the Stackexchange microcosm is such a hybrid.

Having wandered so far afield, and offered my tentative, ignorant suggestions, it has become obvious what a legitimate 'closure' of your 'question' would look like. You mentioned it yourself: the 'question' might be better suited to StackExchange meta (supposing it has not already been discussed there), or perhaps, acknowledging that the time is ripe now for the discussion here, on one or more of the meta politics or philosophy StackExchange sites.

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    Let's also not forget that EL&U and SE as a whole have governance, but they are by no means a government. Participation in the community is voluntary. We have had users leave because they disagreed with policies or moderator selection, amongst other things. It is hardly on the level of international politics; closer to electing school board members. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '16 at 21:17
  • @KitZ.Fox, oh sure ("closer to electing school board members"), not only with an eye to the pettiness, but also with an eye to the trivial squabbling occasioned. I should probably point out that I consider participation in any system of governance (a 'government') "voluntary" in the sense you're using. – JEL Aug 15 '16 at 21:29
  • Well, it seemed pretty clear to me, but then I might be suffering from DKS when it comes the pellucidity of my own writing. To be fair, prima facie evidence is more than superficial evidence. It's that evidence which supports an argument at "first look", but which is rebuttable. – deadrat Aug 16 '16 at 1:15
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness, and blowsiness is next to slovenliness. Is that the word you wanted? – deadrat Aug 16 '16 at 1:16
  • @deadrat, cliched was close enough to coarse to suit me this once. Admittedly, it was self-indulgent wordplay, echoing "blow" in somewhat disparate terms, but it seemed likely I had only myself to indulge with this 'answer'. As for the prima facie...you're not a lawyer? The surface is what you see on first look, although I'd probably humor a lawyer who drew a distinction; for my part, no offense, but I thought your meaning was closer to 'superficial' than to the more technical legal sense. I'm usually willing to admit I'm wrong, though, and I'll toast your zythum regarding what you meant. – JEL Aug 16 '16 at 1:36
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    No, I'm not a lawyer, although I play one on misc.legal. Prima facie evidence is strong enough to make a case absent rebuttal. So I was inviting a response. I just didn't think I'd get one that proved my point. I appreciate your response, although I'm going to refrain from voting here. You allow me describe my post as Clear and blowsy towards morning with intermittent periods of sarcasm. So that's a good thing. And I'm happy to toast your zythum right back at you (if you know what I mean). – deadrat Aug 16 '16 at 1:50

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