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Stack Exchange’s position is that every site has a team of moderators to operate in our network. Currently, this community is being moderated by D.W., Discrete Lizard, and Raphael, who have been doing an excellent job — since the last time Computer Science SE held a successful election was back in 2019, the current moderation team reached out to the Community Management Team to request we set up an election, to help get more hands on the team.

Unfortunately, we only had one nomination for this election, but would require at least two for it to have progressed to the voting phase. Members of an SE site being willing to step up as moderators has been the primary threshold for keeping a site alive since we created this policy in January 2015. Without that, a site is in danger of being shut down — although, since the team here meets our minimum of 3 mods, that might not quite be the case here.

Today, I am posting on behalf of the Community Management team to discuss the next election for this site. In order for a future election to be successful, there need to be community members who are eligible to serve as moderators who are willing to step up to the plate.

Next Steps

We are going to recommend waiting until May 2023 before setting up another election for this site. We’ll be looking for additional users from this community to nominate themselves as moderators to join the team. This next election will help to bring those folks in. We're hoping we can find at least two users willing to nominate then.

Do you have any questions about the election process, or any concerns keeping you from nominating yourself as a moderator? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to address them.

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    $\begingroup$ How much time does being a moderator consume on an average day? I'd imagine some of the hesitation is just people not wanting to commit to something and then see the waves close over their heads and realize they've made a terrible mistake. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Jones
    Mar 18, 2023 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleJones, we get an average of about 1 flag per day. Usually it takes me a minute or two to handle most flags, though occasionally it takes quite a bit longer (e.g., sock puppet networks). The load is shared among the moderators. So to someone who is worried about the commitment, it is less than a few minutes per day. And there is no expectation to log on every day -- we have multiple moderators so the load can be spread among multiple people. $\endgroup$
    – D.W. Mod
    Mar 25, 2023 at 7:07

2 Answers 2

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Rules, regulations and policies. Here we are, in our little space of computer science. We have a kind volunteer who is willing to help the existing moderation team. Alas, we cannot take him aboard because there has to be a choice, another candidate.

One way to easily solve this would be to get another volunteer that wants not to be appointed. They give bad answers to all the character questions ("yes, I will happily insult all newcomers to this site").

Actually we can implement that suggestion in an abstract way. We are theoreticians, right? Set up an empty second candidate named NIL. Then in a vote we can see whether the real candidate has enough support to be chosen.

or any concerns keeping you from nominating yourself as a moderator?

Thank you for asking. I am too old for that, don't think it is fun, and indeed, I am inclined to shout at newcomers when they don't ask questions but just copy homework.

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    $\begingroup$ In reading your post, I can distill it to the question "why do elections need to be competitive again?" Someone else had already pointed out that in other types of elections out in the world, if there's only one candidate, you either vote on them or you don't, but the election won't get cancelled because of it. I think that's a fair point, and I'll give it some thought for the future. $\endgroup$
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15, 2023 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that elections need to be "competitive" in the sense of a race between candidates, but moderators do need consensus support. This is why I think "none of the above" votes would solve everyone's concerns. $\endgroup$
    – Pseudonym Mod
    Mar 15, 2023 at 10:58
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, I think it's important that the electorate can say "no" to any given candidate; otherwise they'll have little legitimation. A soild "yes" means there is some trust in the individual -- which we need here. Unfortunately, as I remember it, the current voting system as implemented is only able to order candidates, not reject any. As such, it does require at least two candidates to choose one. (Whether being first in the list is the "yes" a talk about above it a valid question. Probably not.) $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Mar 15, 2023 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ " I am inclined to shout at newcomers when they don't ask questions but just copy homework" -- I feel that. 😅 Of course, there are polite ways to "shout"; remember the reference comments? $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Mar 15, 2023 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JNat I prefer if elections here remain competitive (as a requirement). If we switch to a model in which people can "either vote for them or not vote for them" then the candidate will always be successfully "elected", which I don't think is right. I think if allowed enough time, this community would be able to get a second person to "compete" in the election. $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2023 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani In this proposed model, any candidate would still require a quota to be successfully elected. If $n$ is the number of open positions and $v$ is the number of people casting a vote, a quota is $\frac{v}{n+1} + 1$. So if there was one open position, that would mean 50% + 1 electors would have to vote for a candidate for that candidate to be elected. If more than 50% voted "I don't want to vote for this person", they would not be elected. $\endgroup$
    – Pseudonym Mod
    Mar 15, 2023 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Pseudonym where does it say anything about n or v in the post, or anywhere in this thread other than in the comments? Anyway, I do not want elections to take place when there's only 1 candidate. It's also not good for the candidate either: many users will not take them seriously because they were not elected in the normal way. If users don't respect their moderators, lots of unhappy days lie ahead. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2023 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani I thought it might be useful to explain the proposal for the benefit of anyone reading along. "The normal way" to be elected is that a certain proportion of those who cast a ballot supports you being elected. The proportion varies depending on the number of slots to be filled, and for one slot it's 50%. This would not change that. $\endgroup$
    – Pseudonym Mod
    Mar 16, 2023 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Pseudonym You are saying that there's people who would think that getting 40% of the votes would be good enough for the single candidate to get elected, and that introducing the equation "v/(n+1) + 1" would make them understand how it really works? Anyway typing that made me realize that there's even bigger problems with this proposal: what happens if someone gets only 10% of the votes? Then they are not elected as a moderator and we are right back to square one: looking for another candidate to step up and run for the election. We might as well make sure there's two candidates. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2023 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani In the election we just had, the number of slots to be filled $n=1$. So any elected moderator would require 50% of the votes, plus one vote, to be elected. And yes, using this system, if I were the only candidate running and I had received only 49% of the vote, no moderator would be elected because I would not have had the support of the community. We would be no worse off than we are now, and as an added bonus, I would know not to run again because the community didn't want me. $\endgroup$
    – Pseudonym Mod
    Mar 16, 2023 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ "We would he no worse off..." ... I disagree, for example we would have wasted a bunch of time. I still don't get why you used that 2-variable formula to explain that we need at least 50% of the votes to have a majority. I thought every single user here would already know that without the formula. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2023 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ We already wasted a bunch of time, if you ask me. As for the second question, like a stereotypical computer scientist, I chose to use the formula that also worked if there were two vacancies and two candidates. $\endgroup$
    – Pseudonym Mod
    Mar 16, 2023 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for your last sentence. There are too many cheaters and too few people care about it. Very disgusting. I also agree with @Pseudonym's suggestion that there should be a "none of them" option to vote for. Half of the elections I have seen on SE have only candidates that I dislike, and I end up voting in order of increasing dislike. This isn't a good thing. I had to vote in order to rank them, but I do not want to support any. $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Mar 17, 2023 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ Meta question suggesting a "re-open nominations" option $\endgroup$ Mar 18, 2023 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ @GS-ApologisetoMonica Thank you for that. $\endgroup$
    – Pseudonym Mod
    Mar 19, 2023 at 22:25
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I'm honestly not sure why a community full of non-competitive people would be considered unalive. But this is good to know; I probably would not have put my name forward, had someone appropriately qualified done so first.

I mentioned this in the chat, but I believe that a solution might be to make it possible to elect no candidate, even if there is only one candidate.

At the moment, the procedure for voting is to rank candidates in order of preference. An elector may stop at any time, choosing not to express support for candidates beyond some threshold. So you can show your support for any number of candidates.

Any number, that is, except zero. But, as any computer scientist could have told you, zero is a number. As I understand it, it is only rules and possibly software that prevents this perfectly sensible kind of vote from occurring.

My ego would have been able to cope with losing an election to "none of the above", had that been the will of the people. And, if the rules don't change, as Hendrik suggested, I will be happy to take a dive for someone else this May, if it seems like the right thing to do.

Hack the system, for the good of the community.

ADDENDUM

It's now May 2023. Has the bug in the voting system been fixed?

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    $\begingroup$ Just run again next time; I think you will get plenty of support. Sorry to see that SE has once again messed up. $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Mar 17, 2023 at 9:42
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't even know that it was a requirement to have at least 2 candidates... I suddenly saw that the election had closed and there was a stupid banner saying: "5,167 voters were eligible, 0 visited the site during the election, 509 visited the election page, and 0 voted" (even [in]complete with a missing full-stop). $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Mar 17, 2023 at 9:43

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