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Moderators deserve great credit for the job they do. Really that goes without saying.

Reading this question: My rude/offensive flags on insulting comments were declined, got me thinking: Is there is a way to know, come moderator re-election, how moderators have performed in their role?

Obviously, moderators deserve some confidentiality in how they perform their role, but there must also be some degree of transparency so the community can decide who to elect.

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One thing you might not be aware of by the sounds of it is that moderators aren't re-elected. The only ways I know of that a moderator will lose their status is:

  • They resign.
  • They are fairly inactive for a long time.
  • Stack Exchange removes them for egregious behavior or violating the moderator agreement.

Otherwise it's a lifetime appointment. Having said that most moderator actions are viewable by others at certain reputation levels, with one exception being who handles a particular flag under most circumstances.

For example I just checked the last answer I flagged as "not an answer" and being a 10k user that can view deleted questions I can see the moderator that handled / deleted it, but if it was declined I wouldn't know who did it unless the moderator decided to answer a meta question and explain why it was declined.

Soon at 3k you'll be able to see how various people have handled items on the close / re-open queue for example regardless of if they're a moderator or not. At 10k you can see recently deleted questions so you can check for anything deleted you think shouldn't have been. Regardless of how you spot it if you feel a moderator has made an incorrect decision I think the recommended order of things is:

  1. Flag for "other (needs ♦ moderator attention)" explaining the problem, especially if it's just something simple like an answer that sounded a bit like a question being deleted when you think it was a valid answer.

  2. Start a meta post asking for an explanation / discussion of why something was done.

  3. If not happy with the results of step 2 use the "contact us" button at the bottom of each page to contact Stack Exchange. But of course that should only be used for serious cases, like if you posted a question on meta about the issue and a moderator went ahead and deleted it and suspended you for example.

But back to elections the same applies really, you can go through a user's profile and get access to their past actions. You're free during the election to post comments about anything negative or positive that you feel strongly about in their history and ask if they'd do the same as a moderator.

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Moderation is a lifetime office because moderators sometimes have to be very unpopular people in order to do their job correctly. We don't want the threat of losing their position to influence the actions thet feel that they need to take.

That's a pretty wild direction to go in, because shouldn't moderators also be accountable to a series of poor decisions? The answer is, they are. As PeterJ explained:

  • You can call on moderators to explain any action that they took here, on meta
  • You can contact us if you feel that a moderator's actions need immedate review by someone else in charge.

But that's really not enough, because the single most thing that goes wrong is moderators simply finding themselves without enough time to moderate after entering office. Life happens, and we're very respectful of their time, but if you haven't actually moderated in a few months - the system pings the community team. This is (as noted) the most frequent reason for us to replace a moderator.

There's also the Moderator Action Review Process, which moderators on any team can initiate if they feel as if someone else on the team should be removed. This is reserved for extremely serious situations.

Finally, the community team routinely checks into what moderators have been up to recently. If we see something that concerns us, then it's generally treated as an opportunity to help good mods get even better through some additional (personalized) coaching.

The instance that you linked was jarring, but in no way indicative that you don't have a good team. This was a bit of a learning experience for us, and we're going to get better guidance out to mods on how to deal with these particularly difficult situations. There's never any kind of cut-and-dry procedure to follow, if only there were :) But our guidance will improve subsequently.

As for electing a great mod? We show some really good information next to each candidate to help you decide, and there's also a community contributed app that helps you to drill down into each candidate's history and achievements more. I usually vote for people that have a strong history of being polite and helpful, sweeping the floors and participating in discussions about community governance (on sites where I'm eligible to vote).

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