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We have recently been receiving more "flagged" posts in the moderator tools. When I get home from work, I've been looking through them, and trying to address them. Recently, two of the actions I've taken on flagged posts were met with severe dissatisfaction from a particular member of the community in full public view of our membership. A post was closed in response to concern from a member, however in the other action, a simple comment was left to indicate that a mod had noticed the flag, but was generally going to wait and see what happened before taking any particular action. Both the closure and the simple comment were met with a fair amount of hostility from this particular member.

I am not certain if that hostility is personal or general, however it does not belong on the public forum. I would like to request that, if there is a dispute with a moderator action, or with a moderator specifically, that they be taken up here in meta, or in the StackExchange chat. Publicly venting on our main forum is not beneficial to the community. It creates a hostile environment that I don't think anyone wants to be involved in.

If I, or any other moderator, have made any decisions that any other community member has a dispute with, were glad to discuss them. If a post closure has broad disagreement in the community, those are easy to resolve if the community in general chooses to re-open them. However, it should be noted that not everyone here has the same opinion. Many moderator actions will be in direct response to a flag on a post. Flags and the reasons for them are not publicly viewable, and as such, the reasons behind a moderator action may not be clear or obvious. Some actions may be taken in response to concerns from members who chose to flag a post in confidence. Regardless of why they were taken, major discussions about moderator actions should be discussed here in meta, rather than in comments on the parent site. Thats what meta is for.

  • Hey Matt, get over, we liked your answers. – Karel Sep 4 '10 at 22:19
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Jrista, as "this particular member" I'm happy to respond with precision, because I think this is at least a bit of a misunderstanding:

My initial comment on this question was intended to be light-hearted and I think calling it "hostile" is a stretch. Perhaps, at worst, pedantic sarcasm, though the hypothetical answer of the "High Guild of Portrait Photographer's Official Rules of Posing" does still make me snicker, and that's what I had in mind.

I thought you were yanking my chain with your response, which is what I asked, and what I reiterated at the end of the comment thread. How could an "official" list for any type of photography exist? Who would write it? What would make it "official"? New to photography you might be, but I know you're just not that naiive. So why be disingenuous? Mockery? or what? I still don't get it, nothing quite fits.

About this question, I felt you acted too early (I'm clearly not alone in that impression), and you'll see that I did link to what I felt was the appropriate meta topic before you told me to "take it up in meta".

I was short in my response for the simple reason that being told to "take it up in meta" immediately after pointing to meta was impossible to take in a good light. I already had taken it to meta, why tell me again?

While I'm sorry if I caused you personal distress, I think you need to take stock of your own actions here: you seem to be eager to take comments personally and pretty casually throw out the notion that someone's "going to war" with you. I intended neither.


Regarding that closure: There are, right now, only 74 people who can vote to close/re-open a topic they didn't start, and only about 2/3 of them have been online since the question was posted. Preemptive closure is asymmetrical as it acts as a large disincentive to improve the question. This makes it difficult to reverse even with broad agreement, and "leaving it to the community" is a pretty weak sauce in that context. I think it was a terrible decision, done precisely backwards from the consensus on good moderation practice, which could be summed up as "suggest improvements first" then "wait for a clear vote" – you did neither. Again, I think this was discussed here: The moderator power of "vote to close"

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    You acted as though I unilaterally made the decision to close that modeling thread. In the contrary, there were already two votes to close, a comment about it being subjective and legal-local, and in addition, someone had flagged it as too subjective and not really a question. I responded to the flag, saw that it was subjective, was NOT really a question (its a statement of personal rules), and was not CW. Given the things I saw, in addition to the reasons others wanted it close, I closed it. My actions were NOT unilateral, they were simply complementary. – jrista Sep 3 '10 at 23:51
  • Regarding the other question, I made no moderator action on that, and I don't know why you made such a big deal about it. In all honest, I have no idea if there are any official photography rules/guidelines/best practices or whatever the hell you want to call them regarding portrait poses. Perhaps "rule" is the wrong word, but its trivial and pointless in the grand scheme of things. You made an issue about a simple COMMENT, as though I had made some rogue moderator action, when all I wanted to do was mention something so the person who flagged that post would know they were not being ignored – jrista Sep 3 '10 at 23:53
  • As for the personal attack thing, you've been getting on my case for days now, and it really ramped up today. As I said before, if you want to talk about ME, do it here. Don't bring up pointless remarks about my dumb comment on the portrait thread, or drag my decision to close the modeling thread through the mud out on the public site. Meta IS the forum for such discussions. If you think it should be reopened, vote to reopen it. If you want to discuss my horrid moderating skills, start a thread here about it. – jrista Sep 3 '10 at 23:55
  • Again, I want to state, my actions were NOT unilateral, as they were in the meta topic you linked. The meta topic you linked was regarding a true unilateral decision by a moderator to close a thread before ANY kind of community input. My actions were taken after other community action as well as a direct notification to moderators about the thread. The two are different, although if we wish to discuss to what degree, and whether they should be considered the same, is again a discussion for meta. – jrista Sep 3 '10 at 23:56
  • Regarding me mocking you, that was absolutely not the case. I don't do portrait photography, and while 'rule' was not the best term to use, its not impossible for there to be an official list of best practices, guidelines, etc. I ultimately did NOT want to make a decision regarding that thread, so I simply wrote some stupid comment to let the person who flagged it know that a mod had seen their flag, and looked at the thread. I could personally care less whether it is wiki or not, it seems to be a useful topic. The mod tools are pretty limited, and flags have no direct reply option. – jrista Sep 4 '10 at 0:02
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    @jrista I don't know what to say. I've tried to address your obvious concerns, I've tried to point the discussion to meta. I don't seem to be receiving the same consideration, so I'm washing my hands of it - feel free to remove my response, I leave it entirely in your hands. Again, my sincere apologies for your obvious discomfort. – ex-ms Sep 4 '10 at 0:14
  • To be blunt, you seemed to think I was mocking you on the portrait thread, when you were clearly and openly mocking me. Seems like a double standard, and thats what set me off. I was in NO WAY mocking you, and my statements have been 100% honest from the start, regardless of how dumb you may think they were. You, on the other hand, seemed to have fun making fun of me, then disputing my decisions, then dragging them through the mud in an improper forum. I have no problem if you have a dispute, just be honorable about it and discuss it in the proper forum, where an actual discussion is possible. – jrista Sep 4 '10 at 0:43
  • Comments on questions and answers are a very difficult form to have any kind of real, lengthy debate, which is what you appeared to want, in particular with me. Finally, if I'm making a joke, you'll know, as I have the habit of sticking dumb smileys to convey emotion [i.e. :P, :-), etc.] – jrista Sep 4 '10 at 0:44
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    @jrista I'm starting to feel bullied, so I'm done with the site. In parting: you're a moderator, have the common courtesy to take an apology when it's offered. Honestly: Look at the volume of text here, and you haven't asked me one single question about what I did, or why I did it, just repeated, at length, a list of grievances. It's a lecture, it's undignified, and given that as a mod you can certainly make things harder for me than I can for you, it's completely inappropriate. Get ahold of yourself and shape up. – ex-ms Sep 4 '10 at 1:03
  • You should know that I wouldn't ever use my moderator capabilities to make life "hard" for you. You seem to have a very incorrect idea about me if you honestly think that I would do such a thing. Regardless of our little spat, you are a valued member. If you wish to leave because of me, thats your decision, but I honestly think its a sad one. To be clear, though, I would NEVER abuse any power to do anything such as delete your posts or comments etc. That should be clear given that I haven't touched any of your questions, answers, or comments so far, while I have deleted some of my own. – jrista Sep 4 '10 at 1:20
  • @jrista, your last response here is great, but in your previous ones, you seem a little... well agitated. As many of us sometimes get, but it sounds like you're upset in these posts, and annoyed and it makes you appear to be less impartial than I suspect you actually are. Just my observation. – Jaydles Oct 15 '10 at 3:24
  • @Jaydles: To be quite frank, I was upset. Matt had been pushing my buttons for weeks, and everyone has a breaking point. My overall point with this dumb little fiasco was to get Matt to move to a more appropriate forum for discussing his issues with me, and he refused (and stepped up his antagonism). There was point in that day where he flagged a few posts with dumb comments noting how he was offended by them, just to goad me, then later retracted them. For all of Matts attempts to be lofty in this one, he was a personal problem, and it got to the point where it REALLY ticked me off. – jrista Oct 15 '10 at 5:06
  • I sincerely apologize that it all had to be dragged through the public mud, and I desperately tried to get him to move the discussion here to meta, or onto the Photo.SE chat room, but he kept refusing, which just made it more frustrating. It may seem callous, but I have a hard time accepting a simple apology from someone like that when they are playing games rather than admitting their part of the wrongdoing. My issues with Matt started LONG before this whole fiasco went down, and I tried to avoid it for as long as possible. I am truly sorry that it became a huge public thing. – jrista Oct 15 '10 at 5:10
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Just a reminder, but this thread discussed moderator closure. As I said there, moderators need to take care in closing questions or they will destroy the community nature of the site. I've been a moderator on a Stack based site and I never saw a direct need for moderator intervention, the community dealt with questions that didn't fit on their own, as it should be.

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    I'm sorry, but in my year or so on StackOverflow, I've seen MANY moderator closures. This community is primarily community driven, however it is not entirely moderator hands off, they do intervene, particularly when asked through flagging (I've flagged a few things on SO myself and had immediate and direct mod intervention.) – jrista Sep 5 '10 at 4:25
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    It's your choice, but if you're trying to compare this site to SO, I think you're making a bad comparison. SO gets a lot more volume, orders of magnitude more, and heavier moderation will get less notice there than it will here. It probably also needs it more as a function of sheer volume. – John Cavan Sep 5 '10 at 14:25
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Regarding the "Modeling" question, I need to make it clear that I did not act on my own. There was no unilateral moderator action here, I responded to a pretty clear community response to it. By the time it came to my attention, there were already two votes to close it, a comment stating it was subjective and legal-local (and after reading it, I took this to mean that it brought to the table certain legal issues that differed depending on where potential answerers lived, which in turn could bring up answers that sat on some sketchy legal ground in certain locales). There had been at least one flag for moderator attention stating it was not really a question and subjective, as well as a second flag (I did not read it fully before clicking the first one, however both disappeared when I clicked the first one.) Additionally, its also been flagged as offensive by at least one person, but I did not check offensive/spam flags until recently, so I don't know if there were any others.

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My decision to close this thread was based on a lot of community reaction to it. Not everyone on this site has the power to vote to close (you only get that when you hit 250 rep), so I can't say if the flags were from people who would have otherwise chosen to close it...but given the number of individual activities on this thread, there are at least 5, enough for a community vote of closure. I believe I acted in the interests of the community at the time, and I believe it was the correct decision. My own reasons for closing were the high volume of activity regarding it, the fact that it was not worded as a question, and the fact that it was not marked as CW when it clearly should have been, in addition to the other problems that community members had initially brought it to my attention for. I am honestly surprised by the considerable reaction to its closure, especially given that it continued to get down votes after it was closed.

In the long run, if the community wishes to reopen it, they can do so. There are more than enough people with the ability to vote to reopen on this site (some 70 or so). I would gladly reopen it myself, however I would still like to see it cleaned up to be a proper question, with its current contents posted as an answer. That would address most, if not all, of the concerns that were originally brought to my attention via flagging. Any controversial answers can be voted down by those who find them controversial or offensive, leaving the question behind it all (which I think could be useful) alive and kicking.

Sadly, this whole thing turned into a big controversy on the main site, rather than here in meta, like it should have been. (I practically begged Matt to start a thread here about it if he had issues that needed discussing, but he refused, and the issue was splayed out in a forum that wasn't designed for resolving such issues.) As a result, it has become a major point of public controversy, rather than being properly discussed and resolved in a more orderly fashion. I don't really know what to make of the topic now, however it is certainly going to be infamous at best, and likely controversial. At this point, I really don't want to have anything more to do with it. I acted in response to the community, including direct requests for moderator intervention, as well as a flag noting it was offensive. While there are clearly people who wish this topic to be open, there are also people who find it to be offensive, subjective, not properly formulated, posing legal problems, and a prime candidate for community wiki. Not everyone can be satisfied here, so I'm backing off of the issue, and will let the community decide, even if that means the thread ends up being opened and closed multiple times. While I believe I made the correct decision given the initial response to the question, I won't interfere if the community decides to reverse that decision. Its in everyone else's hands now.

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I vote here for some judicious moderation.
In the real world good behaviour is encouraged by a combination of
1) signals to indicate what constitutes good behaviour
2) incentives to reward good behaviour
3) disincentives to punish bad behaviour
These signals/incentives/disincentives (I will call all of these signals) work poorly in the online world with the well known result that we see much trolling, flaming and astro-turfing.

Some sites solve this problem with heavy moderation. Other sites introduce structures to provide signalling of desired/undesired behaviour which reduce the need for moderation.
The design of Stack Exchange is particularly ingenious in this respect and ordinarily would not need much moderation. But for it to work it needs two things:
1) a certain critical mass. This site is not there yet.
2) a certain degree of consensus. Not enough time has elapsed to establish that consensus.

So for these reasons I think it is inevitable that there will be heavier moderation during the adolescence of the site, to be relaxed somewhat as the site progresses into adulthood.

When one is the target of moderation it is always irksome but if we are sincere about wanting the site to succeed we must accept it with goodwill and tolerance.

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