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Our longtime colleague Ubiquitous is stepping down as moderator, so let me take a moment to say thanks for your contributions to our site, both as a moderator and as a member. So now the site has two moderators, myself and EconJohn, where it's usual to have three.

Because our site is in Beta, we've never held an official election, though we have had a referendum before. SE Community Managers have suggested though we try to organize an actual election however, to fill the third slot.

To avoid finding ourselves in a situation where an election would fail due to an insufficient number of candidates, I was asked to post this to try to assess community members' willingness to step up and nominate themselves, if and when an actual election's nomination period starts.

Therefore,

Please leave an answer if you'd be willing to run for a moderator position, should we decide to run an election.


Comments on moderating:

What does being a moderator entail?

Being a moderator mostly involves checking in on flags that steadily come in every day, usually not for very long. Rarely have I spent more than an hour a day having to moderate, and usually it's shorter. Sometimes when I wasn't sure what to do, especially when I was newer, I've had to go to the Teacher's Lounge (a private chat room with all mods) to ask the community of mods what they think would be an appropriate course of action. There's also a lesser used private chat room for just Econ mods, which I've used on occasion, but now I prefer different means of communication (more on this later).

StackOverflow has a private Q+A section for just moderators to ask more involved questions related to moderating. It's also used to communicate network wide things to look out for, like a spike in certain problem users across multiple related networks. So this is a resource that is very helpful for when you are moderating.

Every moderator has their own strengths and weaknesses. The SE team tries to be supportive about helping moderators deal with whatever may come. For example, there's recently been a short online course put out for moderators about conflict resolution. As for between us mods, for me and EconJohn, I've found for the most part we've successfully avoided stepping on each other's toes and working with each other's moderating style. I think EconJohn is a bit more diplomatic and patient than I am, whereas maybe I'm a bit more stern on certain issues, (and have sometimes taken things too seriously). Our different styles are helpful depending on the situation, and in the end I think we're both good influences on each other.

Currently, me and EconJohn communicate through Discord, which I think is an agglomeration benefit for both of us, since we use it for other communications, and it sometimes provides a more direct way for other users we know to get our attention. SE is pretty rigid when it comes to how to communicate with other users, which I think is for the best, but it's nice to have a more informal/flexible place to be able to talk to other users. (As an aside, these venues of course require moderators to keep private user information private.)

Hopefully then this will give you some idea of what it is like to work as a moderator with us existing mods.

What are the benefits and costs to being a moderator?

The benefits of moderating are mostly abstract as far as I can tell. The costs are different for everyone. For the costs, there's the usual staring at flags. Most flags are not too hard to sift through, but sometimes you'll have to make a judgement call as to whether someone is being uncivil or not. Trying to interpret some behavior over text is hard.

Some reviews in the review queues can also be head scratchers and take some time. I've found since a moderator vote, say, in closing a question is instant, regardless of who else has voted, I've taken a more hands off approach to dealing with some questions. That said, if the queue is very large or a specific issue is very urgent, sometimes you find it best to deal with these sooner rather than later.

The tasks that take longest are trying to help correct users in a tactful and helpful way, writing messages to users for particularly bad behavior, and trying to write topics in meta like this to keep the community in the loop. All of these tasks above get better over time as you get a feel for your own jurisprudence and get to know the rhythm of the other mods.

The opportunity cost of being a moderator is higher if you are a busy academic or working professional, so what I expect is that some of the best contributors to the site will find themselves putting their efforts...well, not in moderating. But moderators should have some substantiative knowledge about economics so they don't find themselves out of depth. I can't speak for everyone, but the main benefit to moderating for me is fulfilling some sense of civic duty, or if you so please, altruism in the utility model. :) I just like being able to contribute to the Econ.SE community in this particular way.

I think the ideal moderator probably will not worry too much about any tangible benefits, and will be somewhere in the middle of that broad range of human capital of economic knowledge that will help them to deal with the wide variety of issues that come up in many of these threads. So it'd be someone who is already pretty active and has consistently good contributions, and then would be willing to substitute some of that time more directly into keeping the streets clean out here.

Anyhow, forgive the organization of these comments. I wrote more than I thought I would. Please also refer to EconJohn's written answer below on his view of the costs and benefits of moderating.


(Edit: I have removed the section asking for nominating others, to try and get a better feel for who is interested enough to put themselves out there. Please feel free to continue to put yourself out there.)

NOTE: This is not an official election nomination thread, just a "pulse check" to get a notion of how many people here would be willing to step up.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you Ubiquitous for your service on the site! $\endgroup$ – EconJohn Sep 29 '20 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ Hi everyone. You'll surely have noticed that I have neglected my duties here for some time. Having climbed my way up the academic hierarchy and acquired a wide range of professional responsibilities along the way, I find that I have much less time for everything--this site included. My apologies. But it has been gratifying to see the site grow and I hope still to be able to occasionally contribute as a member. Hoping for a new moderator who can help take the community to exciting new places (maybe even out of beta?!) Thanks for the kind words. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Sep 29 '20 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ Kitsune or @Econjohn before asking people to nominate themselves it may be good to give a rough approximation of (non-monetary) costs and benefits of being a mod so people know what they get themselves into if they actually decide to run for mod $\endgroup$ – Maarten Punt Sep 30 '20 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, I can add an edit to the post quickly. $\endgroup$ – Kitsune Cavalry Sep 30 '20 at 14:05
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Please leave an answer if you'd be willing to run for a moderator position, should we decide to run an election.

I would be willing to run if there was an election.

If desired, please leave an answer if there is someone you would like to suggest as a moderator. That person can then express whether or not they'd be interested in running in the moderator election.

Beside myself if there would be election I would be happy to nominate Giskard, Kenny LJ, Herr K, BKay, Brian Romanchuk or Adam Bailey- all respected users that frequent the site relatively often and any of them would be a good moderator in my opinion if they would be willing to run.


PS: I would also like to thank Ubiquitous for the service. I did not interacted with Ubiquitous much but I seen many answers of the user and they are excellent so I am sure the user deserves high praise for contributions to this site.

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    $\begingroup$ The difference with your community volunteering is that here you are mostly "helping" lazy undergraduates who have no interest in economics but must take a class on Mankiw. SE achieves this through the gamification of the system which extracts value from you exploiting your psychological weaknesses. No different to cocaine addiction. Trust me. In 3 years you will remember this comment. $\endgroup$ – user928172 Oct 19 '20 at 21:20
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If there is a need for a number of candidates, I will also announce my intention to run.

I'm afraid my philosophy of moderation is rather polarizing, so I will lay it out in advance: I'm in favor of more pro-active moderation.

Even though a moderator's vote to close closes the question immediately, in several cases (gibberish questions or clear cut homework questions) I would cast such a vote. This saves other users time, and it also creates a disincentive to post bad questions and provides a quick signal to the user that they need to change something if the question is important to them. It also means the moderator casting the vote will likely err sometimes (type I vs type II error trade-off). I argue that as long as this is rare, it is not a deadly sin, as moderators' votes can be overriden by a vote to reopen.

Another one of my key issues is that if turning comments into answers is an option, I will definitely turn most of Henry's short but insightful comments into answers.

I am also willing to politely correspond with users at some length but not indefinitely. I feel that we are not dealing with life and death issues here; hence users only have a limited claim on the moderators' time. This is not normally an issue, most users are pretty nice, but I have had a few instances of nearly endless comment exchanges on this site, and I will not spend an extra two hours a week chatting to accommodate this small minority.

Disclaimer: I am not a native speaker of English, and I frequently make minor spelling and grammar mistakes.

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Maarten Punt asked about some of the non-monetary costs and benefits of being a mod on this site. For myself I've noticed the following:

Costs

  • You need to spend some time reviewing flags (most of these flags are actions done by the community to close a question or spam users) This takes around 20-30 minutes a week.
  • Every now and again (maybe once every 2 years) you have to chat with a disenchanted user regarding their dissatisfaction with this site.

Benefits

  • Bragging rights to your econ buddies.
  • If you're someone applying to grad school it signals that you do economics in your spare time so it shows some seriousness regarding further studies (this is speculative benefit though).
  • I've had a number of conversations with people about this site in the real world, this in my experience makes you perceived as a more interesting person to talk to (this is just my experience though).
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