There's a bit of a leadership vacuum inside the new Stack Exchange communities in public beta. We've put a lot of responsibility on each group to take ownership of their own site. The Stack Exchange team can act as guide, but we don't always have the domain knowledge to understand the needs of each group. As the Network expands, this stretches our ability to assure that each community's issues are properly addressed.
That's why I am in the process of identifying and organizing a team of provisional Moderators from within each community (about three per site, starting about seven days into the public Beta). This is a temporary, short-term appointment. Moderators Pro Tem focus and expedite the essential needs of each new site. By the end of Beta, the community will be better suited to hold their own elections.
Moderators in Stack Exchange have an interesting challenge. Beside the normal activities of a Moderator, part of their function is to act as liaison — a role which links the Stack Exchange team with the individual communities.
A Moderator is the site's representative to the Network.
- On a local level, they make sure their members have the means to work through local issues where they can.
- They elicit help from us, and their moderator peers on the same site and within the network, as necessary.
- If there's a feature request for a specific site, it's up to that community to vet the idea in their own meta. If the idea has merit, the Moderator would bring it to the Stack Exchange team.
We need leadership from within the community to help each site succeed, and Moderators assure that that their site is well represented.
Of course, if the idea involves the core engine or applies to a broader range of sites, the idea should be raised in meta.stackexchange.com: the "capital city" of Stack Exchange.
How Moderators are Appointed Pro Tem
About a week into the public beta, we will seek out members who are deeply engaged in the community's development; members who:
- Have a reasonably high reputation score to indicate active, consistent participation.
- Show an interest in their meta's community-building activities.
- Lead by example, showing patience and respect for their fellow community members in everything they write.
- Exhibit those intangible traits discussed in A Theory of Moderation.
Bonus points for:
- Members with participation in both meta and the parent site (i.e. interest in both community building and expertise in the field).
- Area 51 participation, social network referrals, or blogging about the site.
- Members who have already shown an interest or ability to promote their community.
Candidates will be contacted and three of them will be selected to act as provisional Moderators until the community holds formal elections after the Beta period. Besides the normal abilities of a Moderator, they will:
- Have access to a special chat room where we will collectively work through the challenges of moderation and community self-policing.
- Organize the process of selecting the site's attributes (domain names, design issues, the FAQ, etc.).
- Rally community support and drive the mission of getting publicity for the site.
Essentially, they will have the ear of the Stack Exchange team for anything we can do to help their sites succeed!
Make Sure Your Community is Well Represented
If your meta site does not have a post to nominate Moderators, start one now! Pro Tem appointments will begin about two weeks after the site is created. The more guidance we receive, the more informed our choice.
This is the basic structure of a Moderator nomination thread:
- Create a meta post with a call to nominate moderator candidates. Enumerate the qualities of a moderator (from above), and link back to this blog post.
- Specify that self nominations are okay, and even encouraged. Most sites have not had sufficient time for many users to stand out. Self nomination is simply a way to say, "I'm interested. Let my record speak for itself."
- Flag the post for moderator attention (the Stack Exchange staff will monitor these) so the post can be tagged [featured] to raise awareness on the main Q&A site.
- Each nomination should be posted as a separate answer. Link the name to the user's profile (parent and meta) so we can see their activity. Links to other activities may be helpful: Area 51 participation, participation in other sites, blog posts reviewing or announcing the site, etc.
- If the nomination was posted by a 3rd-party, the nominee should indicate their acceptance by editing the answer, adding that they accept the nomination. Optionally they can write something about themselves.
Most of all, be respectful and understanding of the Moderators Pro Tem. Members of your community are volunteering their time and learning on the job. It's a learning experience for everyone.