Anongoodnurse, a moderator of Parenting, appears to be vastly overreaching her mandate. What to do? The issue is that disparate voices that have significant contributions are driven away, because it's "just not worth it." I'm aware that overmoderation is a pandemic on StackExchange, what should be done?

As per Erica's need for more justification: Moderation is a somewhat sticky wicket. It's not easy to walk the tightrope of keeping the content valid and high-quality, and "tossing the baby with the bathwater" by over-moderating. Sometimes the problem lies with the original thread-starter, sometimes with individual posters, sometimes it's trolling or malicious behavior. Sometimes, also, the problem is that a moderator doesn't agree with info that may lie in a "gray area" of objective validity, and in that situation it's very difficult for a moderator to step outside themself and recognize that they're no longer moderating, they're censoring content that they don't understand or agree with.

If the system doesn't "self correct" here, it can go into the weeds. There are several boards on StackExchange that have reputations as being controlled by "cabals." This is not conjecture or "sour grapes." When this occurs, the only recourse for the average user is to simply abandon it. And that's not a good outcome.

  • This is difficult to answer, as it is currently very broad. Can you outline this trend that you've observed (just on Parenting)? – Acire Nov 12 '15 at 23:45
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    This definitely needs to be addressed. I just came from this thread parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/22927/… where she is editing out well over 50% of most answers simply because they are offering advise that she believes the OP doesn't need to hear. I've never seen such an abuse of power by a moderator on any SE site. – user17824 Nov 13 '15 at 14:45
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    "advise that she believes the OP doesn't need to hear" -- that isn't an accurate interpretation, and see meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/973/… for discussion on how answers to that question are being moderated. Content is being removed for arguing with the premise or being off-topic, not because of personal philosophy about the "right" answer. – Acire Nov 13 '15 at 15:48
  • @Erica It is accurate, as the moderator expressed this reasoning in different areas. On the chat thread of the question "I'm trying to respect that you're smart enough to know the dangers of this approach. Please, folks, stay on topic." On the other edits, comments like "Removed content that was not answring the question" and "remover off-topic and irrelevant material". How can the moderator know what's off topic when so many different things were brought up in the question? The question should have been moderated, not the answers. – user17824 Nov 13 '15 at 16:34
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    The OP's question is how to talk to his parents, that is what is on topic. – Acire Nov 13 '15 at 16:37
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    In its current form, this question is a duplicate of What recourse do I have if I believe a moderator has abused his/her privileges? – Acire Nov 13 '15 at 23:51
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    To be clear, your suspension was not due to posting this meta question, it was due to other content. – Acire Nov 14 '15 at 1:28
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    FYI to all. Moderator votes are non-binding here. You can vote to re-open. They are not omnipotent in meta. My vote has been cast. – Sylas Seabrook Nov 14 '15 at 4:09
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    From our Help: "Meta invites the community to discuss, debate and propose changes to the way the community itself behaves". Even if it's controversial. As I see it, moderators are part of the comunity. – Stephie Nov 14 '15 at 6:11
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    We aren't omnipotent anywhere that I'm aware of. – Acire Nov 14 '15 at 11:58
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    @Erica, to be clear, I was suspended from this group about four minutes after I posted this question in meta, and accused a moderator of overreaching and being censorous. Granted, my writing style can drift into the "acerbic..." and some bristle at that...but at the final analysis, I always attack IDEAS, not PEOPLE. – dwoz Nov 14 '15 at 16:45
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    Do you want a public discussion of your suspension? Not all of the comments that you posted were "idea" based, but read as fairly personal. It wasn't because of your meta question. May be best to start a new meta question specific to that if you want more detail. – Acire Nov 14 '15 at 16:49
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    This discussion should not be about me. I'm nobody special. I'm an example of a class of individuals who are perhaps unable to find StackExchange-parenting useful because of the structural issues. As you note, I don't write in the style of a conciliatory school guidance counselor...and if that means a post or two of mine is dumped here and there...no worries. – dwoz Nov 14 '15 at 16:56
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    @DanBeale - That's a tad dramatic, and a huge misrepresentation. Users are not restricted from discussing their suspensions openly. Moderators, on the other hand, are encouraged not to. Please feel free to discuss issues in meta (hopefully without exaggeration or misrepresentation.) – anongoodnurse Nov 18 '15 at 5:36
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    anongoodnurse...there's an apparent divergence between your stated position and the facts on the ground. You've been called out numerous times in the past by various users over time for your lack of comity and restraint in moderation. Your "who, me?" attitude here is quite disengenuous. And no, that's not rude. It's just fact. – dwoz Nov 19 '15 at 0:54

what to do about overreaching moderation?

You have 5 options (only 3 realistic):

  1. Learn to pipe down and accept the status quo.

  2. Leave the site.

    That was what I chose. Ironically - my problems with moderation on this site had 100% nothing in common with the issue specifically raised by the OP, and on this specific Meta topic {{answers opposing OP's premise}} I actually fully agree with the moderators' intent, at least in principle.

    My problem was approach to moderation of content that wasn't even posted by me, and specifically the uneven application of the stated rules to different content (rules I actually agreed with). After going route #4 and genuinely trying to hash out the issue, I was attacked by a different moderator in a for daring to go route #4 and largely left the site after that.

  3. Raise the issue to SE community team. Unless the moderator was doing something incredibly egregious (in which case they probably would have already been gone), that appears to have zero efficacy unless the person complaining has a realistic possibility of raising social media issues that parent company feels are not expedient to company's image. I saw only one case of such a complaint being successful, on SO.

  4. An interim option is to publicly complain in comments or Meta. Realistically, that merely is a prelude to either #1 or #2 outcome. I have never ever observed this leading to moderator adjusting their approach, including on this site. You'll either be ignored, or driven away.

  5. Become a popular enough member of the site that you get elected a moderator during next elections. Then hope enough people who agree with you get also elected to have a majority of vote.

    Leaving aside the difficulty of this approach, on a small site like this one new moderator elections aren't frequent (unlike SO) because there's no regular need for additional moderators due to scale growth. And of course this doesn't apply to not-yet-Graduated sites where moderator pro Tempore are appointed by SE team in the first place.

Please note that I deliberately refrained from listing option #6 which is appeal to other site moderators. It may be theoretically possible, but I found that it never works - moderators rarely publicly disagree with other moderators in practice. I especially never observed any public divisions over how heavy handed moderation should be - I've seen moderator teams that were all heavy, or all light, or even a mix - but even in a latter case, ever member of moderation team fully accepted and respected their colleague's choices.

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    alas, user3143...your answer is the correct one. Unfortunately so. I've seen it over and over on Stack Exchange. For example, there's a vast amount of bad understanding of wrong information about digital audio, which is blithely promulgated through the mechanism of the moderation and up-down-voting systems. In this very thread we also see mods being distinctly uncivil, dismissive, in exactly the way they profess to detest in the user community. "parenting" is a realm in which there are 100 million ways to a thing... and 99% of them are utterly wrong. Correct info is often shouted down. – dwoz Nov 17 '15 at 20:41
  • Moderator elections don't occur until a site graduates. – Acire Nov 17 '15 at 20:56
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    @Erica - absolutely correct, thx. parenting has been around for so long I completely spazzed out about it still being Beta. Fixed – user3143 Nov 17 '15 at 21:00
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    Agreed. It would be nice if a community were able to call for a moderator election regardless of graduation status. Graduation is a factor of many things, but if the community cannot call for change in scenarios such as this (where moderators are essentially [absent the claim that everyone not supporting the contentions is supporting their view] the only supporters of moderator behavior), then graduation is necessarily limited. – Sylas Seabrook Nov 18 '15 at 1:46
  • You can request a change in moderators by contacting a community manager -- the only difference between beta and graduated sites in that respect is that the StackExchange team would appoint another pro tem mod instead of having an election. – Acire Nov 18 '15 at 2:25

In my experience moderators moderate moderators. Not much can be done from mere mortals' positions. That leaves you with 2 choices: 1) voice your views and hope they'll be considered or 2) do not participate.

Moderators are by-and-large excellent at what they doit's volunteer work and they invest a lot of time. Sometimes, though, hubris gets to us all and we overstep what are reasonably-appropriate bounds. A reasonable person will listen to constructive criticism, though, and we hope moderators will be able to self-correct (and, notably, we may also need to correct ourselves!)

I, too, have noticed that in just the last few days (emphasis on purpose!) anongoodnurse has exercised little restraint in her moderation activities, even unilaterally editing a post by a former moderator to remove components she felt were not completely dedicated to answering the question. In response to her recent behavior (I know she's awesome and doubt this will continue!), I have deleted one of my own answers and decided to limit my activities until more moderate moderation is restored and deference to community self-moderation is given more freely.

Again, no matter your disagreement with the moderators on SE, all you can do is give your 2¢ and then wait for the best... or move on, as the case may be.

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    "I have deleted one of my own answers and decided to limit my activities until more moderate moderation is restored and deference to community self-moderation is given more freely." Oh, dear. I hope you will reconsider. I upvoted your question because I agree with what you said, but I would not want moderation of one HNQ to limit your contributions. My ears are open. – anongoodnurse Nov 13 '15 at 2:57
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    Thanksless job or not, it's completely unappreciated. I just spent over an hour of my own time writing an answer on a question that will influence the future of a young man, and I've noticed that she is deleting huge portions of answers that she thinks the OP "should be smart enough to already know". Completely unacceptable moderation. I've never seen moderators delete anything from posts except offensive material. If you think my answer isn't a good answer, let the community downvote it, don't swoop in and fundamentally change my input. – user17824 Nov 13 '15 at 14:49
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    Technik - I have gone through all the answers, and you are not being truthful here. Some answers have had anecdotal sections removed, or those that are entirely unsubstantiated. Yours, and others, have not been edited at all. Moderators (and the rest of the community) should edit out portions of questions that are likely to cause issues. Especially on an HNQ post. If you can evidence your anecdotes, that's a different matter. – Rory Alsop Nov 13 '15 at 15:56
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    @RoryAlsop, I reviewed the edits done by the moderator, and they were an abomination. Any and every one of them, were they my post, I would be forced to repudiate the edited version as "not what I said." When moderation substantially changes the nature of the message, then it's bad moderation. – dwoz Nov 15 '15 at 2:53
  • I'd disagree. On parenting, as with a few other sites, anecdotal paragraphs can actually be damaging so where someone makes a statement as fact but offers no evidence other than anecdotal, then it is generally harmful to the site – Rory Alsop Nov 15 '15 at 9:10
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    In fact the only abomination here is that the odd individual feels that because someone is a mod that it's okay to be offensive to them. This is entirely unacceptable. – Rory Alsop Nov 15 '15 at 9:13
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    @TechnikEmpire the only comment that I see deleted had profanity in it. – Acire Nov 15 '15 at 11:58
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    @RoryAlsop, if your definition of "be offensive to them" includes statements like "you're overreaching" and "I disagree" and "that seems disengenuous" then I wholeheartedly agree. I personally would wonder what kind of fantasy victorian tea party I'd inadvertently wandered into during a hallucinogenic spell, if those were the kinds of triggers for charges of "rudeness." – dwoz Nov 19 '15 at 1:12
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    Dwoz - I guess you aren't reading the full picture then, and just selectively avoiding the parts where individuals have been deliberately rude to the mods? – Rory Alsop Nov 19 '15 at 8:14

To address your larger question, if you want the direction of moderation to change, you have to step up. For those of us who prefer a lighter hand, we get burned out. That's why I am not very involved any more. When moderator elections come up, volunteer. Use flags, meta, and and the moderation tools available to all users. There's a lot you can do.

On the more specific question, I don't know when "disagreeing with the premise" became an edit-worthy let alone a deletion-worthy offense. There was a time in our culture when being a "yes-man" was seen as a negative, and successful people surrounded themselves with those who would disagree with them respectfully, so as to make sure all sides of an issue were being fully considered, and we weren't being blinded by our biases. In a military command structure, this is one of the first officer's primary responsibilities.

Yet, on this site now, if we help someone see the other side of a conflict, that part of our answer is edited out or deleted. That does a disservice to the person asking the question, and makes the answerer feel as if his or her opinions are not wanted. I hope moderators will rethink that particular policy.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Nov 19 '15 at 21:53
  • You may remember my nick from 4-5 years ago. I stopped posting specifically because my frustration with moderating had outstripped the value of actually posting. I am the guy that gave general advice around a topic. If you remove relevant advice because it doesn't adhere to a concept is fine for say stackoverflow where the knowledge is concrete. Parenting is, at best, nebulous and requires abstractions and considerations. Removing or edting posts, because they are "merely related" but don't directly answer a question, greatly homogenizes the content to the detriment of people seeking answers. – monsto Mar 19 '17 at 22:57
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    Flame wars (which is exactly what happened before the community decided that disagreeing the premise was a problem) are a greater detriment to people seeking answers than keeping the scope of answers narrowly on-target with what is actually being asked. – user420 Mar 21 '17 at 19:12

the only recourse for the average user is to simply abandon it. And that's not a good outcome.

I agree that this is not a good outcome. However, it is not the only recourse. Options are outlined in What can an SE participant do when s/he feels personally attacked by a specific moderator? and What recourse do I have if I believe a moderator has abused his/her privileges? so I won't reiterate them here.

Sometimes, also, the problem is that a moderator doesn't agree with info that may lie in a "gray area" of objective validity, and in that situation it's very difficult for a moderator to step outside themself and recognize that they're no longer moderating, they're censoring content that they don't understand or agree with.

The implication that I don't "understand or agree with" the idea that a 16-year-old should apply himself in high school in order to improve his prospects for the future is silly. Moderation of that content is not being guided by personal opinion on academics, job prospects, laziness, etc.

I hold the personal opinion that a seeker of knowledge should be treated with consideration, and all of his questions (both the one he asked, and the one implied by his behavior as outlined in the academic background portion of his Question) should be answered. However, that needs to be done with my responsibility as a moderator to keep associated discussion (chat, comments, and Answers) organized, civil, and topical.

Participants in that Question have been encouraged to

As always, any user who feels that moderation on an Answer (or comment or chat) has gone too far is allowed to flag, post in meta, or find any of the Parenting moderators in chat to discuss specifics. Very few have done so. (I don't conclude that lack of outreach means I am fully justified and discussion is over. It's just an observation.) There has been a great deal of activity in the chat room, and the OP's been reading it too (at least partway through), which suggests to me that it's working well.

  • Erica, one can only work with what one has in front of them...and at this juncture, you're taking a "party line" with this question. All well and good, but to an observer who has no idea what kind of saint or sinner you might actually be in real life, you look like someone who's applying the rules in spite of an unfortunate outcome. In the specific example we have here, giving the OP answers within the context of their premise is really akin to re-arranging deck chairs on the titanic...and the only correct way to answer it is to deny the premise. Closing the question doesn't accomplish good. – dwoz Nov 14 '15 at 16:25
  • @dwoz Closing which question, your meta? – Acire Nov 14 '15 at 16:26
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    I don't see any Answers to the OP which embrace his premise unquestioningly, and many which constructively point out its flaws while simultaneously proposing ways to improve his communication with his parents. – Acire Nov 14 '15 at 16:27
  • Trying to keep this conversation meta...and work with the abstract concepts of moderation embodied in the original postings instead of getting down into the weeds of that specific situation: heavy-handed moderation (editing) will always devolve into "group-think." This will be especially deleterious when the OP is actually looking for self-affirmation from the echo-chamber, as is the case in the example posting. What results isn't a growing collective body of objective knowledge, but rather a reinforcement of whatever whims of opinion are held by the moderators of the time. – dwoz Nov 14 '15 at 16:40
  • @Erica Please stop using a question that was more highly rated than your non-accepted answer as a reference -- unless you want to expose the current errors in thinking. – Sylas Seabrook Nov 15 '15 at 6:16
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    @JeremyMiller I don't really understand your comment, could you please clarify what question? – Acire Nov 15 '15 at 11:26

Moderators are human, and as such we all have good days and bad days, we have view on specific activities and behaviours, and our views may disagree with other moderators, or align.

This is normal - and is why we have systems to manage this. We consult with each other here, with other SE-wide mods, and with SE Community reps.

In this particular instance, the mod team discussed the actions and we agree that they were warranted. Your question was already heavily downvoted and unsalvageable - and the best outcome for you would be to write a whole new question and have that one deleted. Your response to having this explained was rude and unwelcome here - it fails our "Be Nice" guidelines.

If we drive away rude individuals through strong moderation, then so be it. SE is not built for you to be insulting, even if your content had been valuable.

Over moderation is not a pandemic, in fact on many sites mods are too lenient, which leads to abuse, insults etc., and that takes away from any good content.

So - to answer your question as to what should be done:

You should re-read our guidelines and rules and follow them. If you follow them and guidance from the community and mods, then you will be welcome.

  • this conversation has been moved to chat. Please post there if you wish to continue the conversation. Comments here will be deleted. – Rory Alsop Nov 19 '15 at 21:50

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