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User cnst is currently one of four moderators on Law SE.

They have not visited the site since early December 2020 (eleven weeks inactive at time of writing).

They are also a high-reputation user on several other sites, and have been inactive for a similar or longer period of time (from ten weeks, up to eight months).

This is not the first time they have been totally absent for an extended period. When the issue was raised previously, the response was "we're doing fine without them, and they haven't officially quit, forget about it".

It is clear that they have abandoned the site and possibly the network as a whole, without notifying the community.

I find this highly problematic:

  • someone has access to PII but pays no attention to whether their account is used, and would not notice if the account was compromised, a major security risk

  • someone has access to moderator tools but has no concern for the community, especially its recent development, and will cause unnecessary harm when applying tools in ignorance or carelessness

If the active moderators are having trouble keeping up, this user is not meeting their responsibility, and must make leaving official so we can elect a more productive replacement.

If, as I think is more likely, the active moderators are doing fine regardless, cnst has all the access and power of a moderator but bears none of the responsibility, and there is no need for them to keep it. The diamond should be removed until the user has shown involvement with the site and the trust of the community.

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  • The user is still active on a few SE sites, particularly Ask Different. – Andrew T. Mar 2 at 16:23
  • Their last three days of activity were February 11 (an acceptance); February 7 (an answer and few comments); and November 28 (a question and few comments). Over three weeks ago for anything at all; over three weeks and over three months ago for their last two days of major action. This is their only activity on the entire network, let alone the site they moderate, and only highlights how disengaged they are. @AndrewT. – Nij Mar 2 at 23:54
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    If it makes you feel any better, they're not getting paid while they're absent. Of course, they're not getting paid when they're here either. – Dale M Mar 3 at 3:08
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    And, not being paid, there's even less reason to expect them to either respond or care, when the worst that can happen is being demodded anyway. – Nij Mar 3 at 3:09
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    Ultimately a moderator's responsibility is towards Stack Exchange Inc, and it's up to the company to decide how to handle an absent mod and/or demand an explanation. A moderator's responsibility to users is only indirectly implied through that. Much like, say, a police officer. I'm fine with discussing policies around (absent) mods, and requesting that the company or mods do something if flags or whatever takes too long to be handled, but publicly calling the mod out is just ... wrong, especially when their only offence is not being around so much. Leave the cancel culture on Twitter. – NotThatGuy Mar 7 at 0:31
  • This isn't about a policy, this is about a specific moderator, who does have a responsibility to the community of users here, those who voted them into moderatorship and even those who didn't. – Nij Mar 7 at 1:55
  • @Nij They have a responsibility to not act maliciously. They don't have one to keep being a moderator, and Stack Exchange Inc defines the responsibility they have in terms of time commitment and the process for removing mods (and what "malicious" means). If the company or other mods are okay with them taking some time off or how much time they spend on the site, then that's really none of our concern. At most I'll concede they should probably tell us if they give up on being a mod, but only out of professional courtesy, not responsibility, and that may not even apply here. – NotThatGuy Mar 7 at 2:48
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Mar 7 at 20:06
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    You know, these days, when someone is unexpectedly inactive from something, my first reaction tends to be less "that damn slacker needs to step up or step down" and more "I hope they're all right..." – Nate Eldredge Mar 8 at 1:04
  • And you know, these days when someone does the same thing the same way as before major worldwide disruption, my first reaction is less "wow, a completely different outcome, something new must have happened" and more "twice is coincidence, three times is a pattern". On the other hand, it's fine to be concerned for someone's wellbeing, but having realised we can do nothing about it except reach out (ha! see next) we do have to look at the problem it leaves the community, either an account with mod access under zero scrutiny or a moderator with zero care for the site. – Nij Mar 8 at 3:20
  • I note that nobody, not another mod and not a CM, has said anything about trying to make contact until it's been at least four months - indicating that they likely haven't done so and won't do so until then - our collective first priority is not their wellbeing, quite clearly. – Nij Mar 8 at 3:20
  • @Nij Just because no-one reached out to them yet doesn't mean we shouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, just because a mod can take time off without everyone going crazy doesn't mean we don't care about their wellbeing. Also, you don't know about anyone trying to make contact. That doesn't mean it didn't happen. If there is something significant going on in their lives, it's very plausible for them to not want this information to be shouted from the rooftops for all to hear, and for the mod team to respect that (even if you personally think they should say at least something). – NotThatGuy Mar 8 at 14:59
  • The only one thinking of shouts from rooftops or details of any kind is you. I expect exactly one thing, the absolute minimum that any person with responsibility should perform: notice. "I will be absent for an extended period." Eight words. It is not difficult. If that is too much effort or sharing, stepping down has become obligatory, because moderation itself requires much more than that. – Nij Mar 11 at 9:09
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A lot of this question is applicable network-wide, and indeed I found this good and relevant Q&A on Meta.SE. TL;DR: There is a Stack Exchange process for removing mod status from inactive users, but it doesn't kick in until 6 months of inactivity.


The rest of this is my thoughts on the points raised:

Good point I hadn't heard before: An inactive user probably shouldn't be allowed to turn up after an extended leave and start using mod tools from a position of ignorance of the site's community, norms, developments, etc.

I also hadn't considered the security risks of an unattended mod account.

Counterpoints:

  1. Use of sensitive mod tools (particularly: every instance of access to a user's PII) is logged.
  2. Most moderator actions are (sometimes surprisingly) auditable and reversible. Counter-counterpoint: Some, like user deletion and destruction, are strangely not.
  3. Disruptive or irresponsible use of mod tools gets noticed very quickly, and I assume that Community Managers would intervene immediately if they were advised of unhandled or questionable activity.
  4. The number of mod slots is not limited. AFAIK if there is evidence that we can't keep up we just contact Community Managers, they review with current moderators, and then set up an election for however many it appears are needed. (The points raised are, however, also good reasons for the custom of keeping the corps of moderators as small as possible ... but no smaller ;)
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  • It's not much good to say "hey the access was logged" when the problem is that the access was possible in the first place. Long story short, moderators are provided significant privileges and access to enable them in their role - if they're not going to fulfill that role, they neither need nor should they have it. – Nij Mar 2 at 10:32
  • @Nij "the problem is that the access was possible in the first place". By and large, that risk is independent of how often a mod visits the site. Counterpoint 3 in this answer preemptively addressed your concern. Bashing counterpoint 1 with "It's not much good to say "hey the access was logged" [...]" reflects you are not paying attention to #3. Also, PII typically consists of email and IP addresses, not SSN or bank account #s. As for "a more productive replacement", I highly doubt LawSE needs a larger mod team than the one that remains active. Adding mods might even be counterproductive. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 2 at 12:43
  • Regardless of another comment I saw that the user is still active in another stack exchange, sometimes people's lives can get temporarily upended in drastic ways, so there should be some way to accommodate that – Andy Mar 5 at 6:56
  • @Andy if by "still active" you mean they've made two noteworthy actions in the last three months? There's upheaval in life that makes activity difficult despite wanting to, and then there's habitual abandonment without notice or reassurance that they intend to resume performing a role they're entrusted with. – Nij Mar 5 at 21:47
  • @Nij - Think yourself lucky. On SFF:SE we have two moderators who've made precisely one edit each in the last year. – Richard Mar 25 at 14:35
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Thank you for reaching out to us. We do have a standard process for resolving inactive moderators which doesn't remove privileges until there has been six months of inactivity. However, as you pointed out there are some unusual circumstances to this particular case. The CM team is going to look into this and assess next steps with the moderation team.

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