Let's disallow nominations from people who've been suspended in the past year

2018-03-13 18:43:35

Well, it's election season again. On sites all over the network, moderators are being selected from among the good folk willing to volunteer their time to help guide and support their communities. I'm proud to be part of a system that governs itself in this manner; for all of its inherent messiness, democracy goes an awful long way toward avoiding the sort of alienation and discontent that tends to settle on communities over time.

But about that messiness... For as long as we've been doing this, we've faced the question of whether or not to allow candidates who are currently or recently suspended. In the past, we've taken a hard stance on preventing or removing nominations from folks who are currently suspended on the site running the election. But the more elections I see, the more I've come to believe that allowing nominations from candidates who are currently or recently suspended anywhere on the network is a bad idea:

They lead to speculation and personal attacks.

  • I am very happy with this. I don't think it's an unreasonable restriction and the net win for the process itself is big. This is supposed to be a fun and exciting time for a site and everyone that participates in the process.

    I have a couple of thoughts.

    While it's not an unreasonable restriction, we have to ensure that people anticipate it. I don't want a scenario where someone spends a large block of time putting forth a good-faith nomination only to realize that they weren't eligible because of that argument they kept poking 11.5 months ago and have since forgotten about. We need to make it clear where they enter their nomination that we have this restriction, and encourage anyone in doubt to contact us to talk about it.

    Secondly, suspensions are sometimes issued in error, or in excess of what the situation called for upon review. It doesn't happen often, but mistakes do happen. This could theoretically lead to someone thinking:

    I know this user was suspended on Mayonnaise

    2018-03-13 18:48:38
  • I agree with this. Being a moderator is a higher responsibility than being an ordinary user; it should follow that moderators are held to a higher standard, and that there is an intermediate stage where someone is trusted enough to be a user, but not to be a moderator.

    But I'd like to propose a tweak (I think I got the idea from Chris in chat): rather than make the ban on nominating for moderator last one year, it should last as long as the suspension. At least in this ballpark, perhaps not exactly with a 1:1 ratio.

    This reflects the fact that different suspension lengths reflect different levels of problematic behavior. I don't think that someone who was banned for one day to halt an edit war should be banned from running in an election six months later. At the other extreme, someone in a one-year suspension didn't get that way by accident (one-year suspensions are normally handed out for a third instance of problematic behavior, clearly a habit and not a bad day).

    This also mean

    2018-03-13 18:53:27
  • I tend to agree with this. The reason is, unlike content that you contribute to different Stack Exchange sites, the principles of moderation stay the same between them, for the most part.

    These people should be exemplars of good behaviour within the community, and that includes other SE sites - it most definitely is relevant. When their reputation is tarnished by a suspension - especially, but not only, when the circumstances around the suspension are controversial - it shifts the focus from electing moderators to stopping candidates from being elected.

    It turns what is generally, and what, in my opinion, should be a positive campaign of people promoting their merits and recognising their shortcomings into target for negative campaigning, where people dredge up the past. It's certainly not healthy for the candidate either, I don't think.

    On the other hand, there is the supposed view that the end of this timed suspension period, your reputation will be recalculated, and your accoun

    2018-03-13 19:02:18
  • I agree with this in general. I'd say if you've been so immoderate as to get yourself banned from an SE site, you need time to let bygones be bygones before you can be an undivisive candidate.

    There are however certain suspension reasons, and/or times, that I think would be valid exceptions to that:

    Why was BalusC temporarily suspended from SO?

    Congratulations Eric Lippert for finally winning the 'c#-language' badge (I guess that no suspension was actually handed out here, but it was strongly suggested)

    Both of these involved users in otherwise very good standing being suspended essentially for "What the heck is going on? Stop for a second so we can talk".

    Opinions may vary on this, but I don't even see a "one bad day" level of reputation tarnish there. But if you're going to have a rule about disallowing someone from this level of interaction with their site, I think the rule must be applied consistently. BalusC shouldn't be prevented from nominating, but not because he's a coo

    2018-03-13 19:10:09
  • To somewhat play devil’s advocate, I am throwing an alternative into the ring that has not been discussed yet (forgive me if I missed something):


    Let the voters decide, but steer inform them appropriately.


    Do not block anybody from nominating (with the possible exception of currently suspendend users) but show the suspensions big and noticeable on the candidate’s nomination, i.e., like this:

    Hello, my name is Palpatine and I want to be your emperor moderator …

    [candidate’s text]

    Palpatine was suspended on 19.05.1999 on Galactic Politics SE for vote fraud (suspension was lifted due to being accidental).

    Palpatine was suspended from 16.05.2002 to 23.05.2002 (one week) on Galactic Politics SE for warmongering.

    Palpatine was suspended from 02.09.2002 to 02.10.2002 (one month) on Galactic Politics SE for warmongering.

    Palpatine was suspended from 15.05.2003 to 15.05.2005 (two years) on Galactic Politics SE for warmongering.

    However, be s

    2018-03-13 19:12:24
  • It sounds like a nice idea in one sense. It is a bit analogous to that of a man being locked up for 5 years for robbing a bank. Upon being released from jail he can return to the normal community, but would hardly expect to get a job as a bank teller. Such jobs have higher degrees of trust and probity attached to them.

    But, could the system be "gamed"? A lot of computer systems are gamed these days by people working out how the rules can be turned to their advantage.

    Here's a hypothetical scenario:

    A user John Doe has been doing a good job on his site, he has gained reasonable amounts of rep, and done his job editing posts, voting to close, and so on.

    He lets it be known that he is interested (or is an obvious candidate) in the next moderator elections

    Another user has a grudge against John Doe. This user didn't like his posts being voted to close, or his edits refused, or something.

    This other user provokes John Doe into doing something silly. With enough goading John eventual

    2018-03-13 19:22:53
  • This is partially in response to Nick Gammon's answer.

    Rather than hard coding it as a year since the last suspension of any length, make it that the time passed is greater than the length of the last suspension.

    Thus if they've only been suspended for a week, then they're only blocked for a week after the suspension ends. This means that the blocking period doesn't seem to be excessive for minor infractions. However, as Catija points out a week (or a day) might not be long enough to determine whether the person has reformed or not. So perhaps the time should be the next suspension level or a year (which ever is the greater).

    So for a suspension of a day they can't nominate for a week, for a week a month, and for a month or longer they can't nominate for a year.

    2018-03-13 19:26:44
  • To split out a sidenote from Gilles' answer, I'd suggest specifically that if the suspension was ended early, the default should be to allow nomination with no further ban period. That would handle the majority of cases identified so far where the suspension shouldn't weigh on the candidate's eligibility: preventative suspensions (e.g. BalusC) and suspensions that proved incorrect.

    These cases are, as I understand it, rare; most suspensions are served out. But when they do happen, it seems like they almost never correlate with any sort of behavior that should really cast a shadow on future elections in any way. So it should be safe to remove early-ended suspensions from consideration.

    2018-03-13 19:31:57
  • Full disclosure

    As of the time I posted this answer, I had just exited from a one-day suspension on Super User.

    While this idea was on my mind for some time, I have to put it out there that I may be under a conflict of interest, so please take this answer with a grain of salt.

    I think the underlying idea has very good merit. However, one year for any suspension of any length anywhere in the network within the last year does seem a bit harsh to me. A minor issue can cause brief suspensions lasting a week or less, and often with just a short-term effect on the community's goodwill toward the user.

    I'd suggest that users be disqualified for 10× the sum of the length of all suspensions ending within the last year, with a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 365 days. This means:

    A user suspended for three days or less will be prevented from running for moderator for 30 days.

    A user suspended for a week will be prevented from running for moderator for 70 days (about 2-1/3 months).

    2018-03-13 19:32:02
  • What real problem is this actually solving?

    A user suspended on one site is unrelated to their activity on another. If they happen to be a negative contributor on the site, they are very unlikely to be elected. So if they were suspended recently on a different site, why should they be barred from running? Just because some baseless accusations might fly in this political environment (e.g. "I was suspended because the mods are scared of me winning elections")? This is the nature of heated political environments and must just be suffered.

    These don't sound like real problems.

    Further, community managers can take down moderators and presumably nominees at will. Preventing the rare self-destroying community from it's own destruction is part of their job. And as far as I know this deus ex machina has never been employed on nominees or recently elected moderators.

    This is not equitable

    If formerly suspended users are not allowed to run, they are still paying for their mistakes when th

    2018-03-13 19:41:12
  • I disagree.

    Sometimes people challenge the status quo and pick up a suspension in the process.

    And sometimes, especially on the smaller and younger Stackexchange sites, suspensions can be politically motivated; often stemming from either a personality conflict or a difference of opinion.

    Preventing recently suspended users from running for moderator would be a bad idea.

    2018-03-13 19:42:01
  • There's a problem with this policy.

    If a moderator isn't doing his job properly, he's likely to receive some criticism. For example, if he's turned a blind eye to a "friend" being abusive towards another poster, he's likely to catch some stick. Probably from somebody responsible and adult, who doesn't like to see such abuse. From somebody who might make a better moderator.

    This policy gives the bad moderator the means to remove the competition. If he's received some criticism from somebody who would make a good moderator, the bad moderator simply has to dish out some trumped-up ban, and that's the good guy done for. Particularly since the bad moderator can hint that the good guy has said something heineous that has since been deleted, and is covered by we don't discuss moderation discussions.

    This policy has unintended consequences, and should be rescinded. And whilst I'm on a roll: I will add that I think moderation decisions should be subject to public scrutiny. In society we

    2018-03-13 19:42:02
  • Except for voting fraud suspensions (which are supported by objective, system level facts about the user) I am not interested in suspensions candidate had on some other site.

    There are over 500 moderators at over 150 sites across the network, sometimes with totally different culture. I did not vote for these guys, I do not participate in sites they moderate and I have no slightest reason to trust their judgement if they decided that particular user needs to cool down at their site.

    I don't want these 500 guys to stand in my way of evaluating candidate. I prefer to do it myself based on candidate's activity on my site (except for if they were involved in voting fraud elsewhere).

    For now, you can enjoy your little scientific stats and supportive voting from your buddies at Teachers Lounge. But wait until someone publicly complains about being blocked from elections.

    If (when) this happens, you better hope that their suspension wasn't even remotely questionable and that you will b

    2018-03-13 19:42:21
  • I think we need more context on this. Politicians usually propose a change in the law touted as designed 'for the Greater Good' (TM) but in effect promoting their own /special interests. I hope this is not the case here.

    The election at SFF seems to be the background of this discussion, and people on Meta SE don't know even 1 per cent of the stuff that has been happening there, and cannot come to a meaningful conclusion based on this question alone.

    Thus, I have two things to say:

    first and foremost, I don't want past transgressions on a site or current bans on other sites to disqualify anybody from running in the election. If a person does not abide by the rules of the network, issue a permaban and be done with it, moderator or not a moderator.

    second, the question has to be revised to reflect the story at SFF, and to include the viewpoints of all the sides. Otherwise, it will be regarded as hopelessly biased.

    I also agree with Nick Gammon's view that this opens up the field f

    2018-03-13 19:44:26
  • I recently got a moderator message

    Going to leave the contents of this message aside for the time being, and reveal some personal facts.

    I am the top user on DBA.StackExchange in 2017.

    I have 30k reputation on StackOverflow.

    I have never been banned or suspended on StackOverflow.

    Why can't I run as a moderator? You say being suspended distracts from who will make a good moderator? But, who are you to force your decision of who will make a good moderator on others? Isn't the point of this to let the community self-moderate? I satisfy all the requirements. How is my contested suspension on one disconnected to site weight against the fact that I'm the highest ranked user on another site.

    And, if this is a policy then why doesn't suspension inform you of this?

    2018-03-13 19:51:48