April 2014 Newsletter (In Progress)

2014-04-08 by . 0 comments

No More Community Wiki Auto-Conversion

We have removed all of the formerly existing triggers that automatically converted a post to Community Wiki. In their place, there are now flags for moderator attention that are raised automatically by the system. These flags will be raised when an author makes over 10 edits to their post, when 10 users edit a single post, when a question received 10 answers within a week, and when a question receives 30 answers. Note that these last two are site-specific and some sites that have higher answer count expectations will have these thresholds increased.

The removal of the automatic community wiki was not meant as a means to shift this from being automatic to “review for community wiki”. Rather, our goal is to end the idea of community wiki as a punitive tool. These flags, like the rest of the automatic flags, are warning signs meant to incite investigation. A question that attracts many answers may need some cleanup in the answers, be it the incoming or the existing. An editor may need to be contacted, via comment or mod message, depending on how abusive their edits are. You may most often not have to do anything when the flags come up.

Putting the Community back in Wiki discusses our plans and idealogy in greater detail, but community wiki is something that really should be born from community decision – as the name implies. It exists not as a tool to police the potential traffic a post may get compared to its alleged value, or to prevent abuse. It is a tool meant for collaboration between users in a comfortable ease of access beyond what suggested edits can already enable. Users who see a post that is more geared for people working together, be it short term or long term, they should start a discussion on the merits of conversion – ideally including the individual who owns the post in question. While the new flags are geared towards identifying system abuse scenarios, they will occasionally point out a question that may warrant such a discussion. What they will never point at, is a post that you will need to directly and immediately apply community wiki on. 

What Meta Stack Exchange Means for You

As, fittingly, announced at Announcing The Launch Of Meta Stack Exchange, we have now split off the “Network-wide” meta from Meta Stack Overflow, to the new Meta Stack Exchange. With the establishment of a more proper home for network-wide issues, how does it affect you as a moderator? Very little. Feel free to drop by the site as you feel comfortable, but we do not intend Meta Stack Exchange as a place that you should be constantly monitoring.

Your own sites will remain your main home and place of operations. Important discussions on Meta Stack Exchange will be broadcast to the Community Bulletin of all sites, allowing you to keep up to date similar to this newsletter. On the flip side of the equation, the guidelines regarding migrating posts from a child meta to Meta Stack Exchange remain the same as with Meta Stack Overflow – if you think that the post is ready and will benefit from the scrutiny of the network-wide community, it should be moved. Otherwise, no matter the scope of the subject being discussed, it should stick around on the child meta – there it will not only allow site specific concerns and applications be addressed, but it remains in the comfort zone of the people discussing it. We will continue to patrol child metas for bugs, support, and feature-request as before, so they will not receive different levels of attention than if asked on Meta Stack Exchange. 

Not an Answer Flags now in Review Queue

In preparation for the pending removal of the 10k flag queue, “Not an Answer” flags will now generate review tasks in the Low Quality review queue. They will appear simultaneously in the moderator flag queue – if the flag is cleared in one queue, it will be immediately removed from the other. If enough users review a post but do not come to a consensus on the appropriate (in)action, the flag will be dismissed and a new flag will be generated instead: “disputed low quality review (auto)”. This is a moderator-only flag which signals the moderators to step in and decide the final course of action. 

Giving Guidance with Review Bans

We’ve added better feedback to the review queue ban system. Users who trigger an automatic ban from failing audits will be pointed to the audits that they failed. For cases outside of audits (approval of egregious spam, “robo-reviewing”, etc.), moderators now have the ability to provide an optional comment when applying a manual ban, including a link to any particular reviews relevant to the ban. When leaving a comment, please remember to be as thorough and helpful as possible. The reviewer will be able to see these messages when they visit the review queue, in lieu of the former message that merely explained that they were barred. A moderator can find past review-ban messages for a given user in their user history.

  Read more → Could we make the review-banned-by-a-mod notice say something more descriptive? 

Auto-Protection and Protection Privilege Changes

We’ve made a couple changes to the protection system. A question that receives over a certain threshold of answers by users under 10 reputation, within 24 hours, will become automatically protected. The default threshold is 5, though some sites have increased or decreased limits in accordance to the nature of the site. This trigger will run alongside the existing trigger that happens when at least 3 answers from users under 10 reputation have been deleted. You can read up more on the site-specific adjustments at Auto-protect questions that get more than N answers from new users in a 24-hour period.

To accommodate the increased frequency of automatic protection, we have removed the original restriction that only allowed community members to remove protection that was set by that individual. Now, anyone who has the protection privilege (15,000 reputation on graduated sites, 3,500 reputation on beta sites) can act to remove protection on any protected question, manual or automatic. This should allow the community to act on these situations, rather than leaving it solely on the moderator’s shoulders to fix. 

Improved Annotation and Moderator Message Tracking

We’ve addressed a number of inconsistencies with how annotations and moderator messages are reported on user profiles. When viewing the user history page, via the mod menu or by the numeric indicator labelled “total annotations”, the top section will now display all moderator records relating to the user – all annotations as well as all moderator messages. Each entry will additionally note whether it was an annotation, a normal moderator message, or a moderator message with an associated suspension. We’ve also fixed the aforementioned numeric display; this number will now accurately reflect the number of moderator records stored in this top section.

  Read more → Moderator messages without suspension don’t appear under “Annotations” in the user history

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March 2014 Newsletter

2014-03-11 by . 0 comments

New Moderator Inbox Announcements

We’re pleased to announce that we now have the ability to push announcements to moderators across the network via the Moderator Inbox in the top bar. These will contain a quick tagline summarizing the change, and a link that can be followed. With this implemented, we hope to keep the moderator teams informed of big discussions and changes to the network while they are actively on their own sites, rather than reaching out via external services or requiring moderators to check in to Meta Stack Overflow. The announcement will show up as an orange diamond rather than the typical blue one, to inform you of the nature as a global announcement.

We’ll use these announcements as an extension of the moderator newsletter. We will broadcast when there are new changes or upgrades to the tools you use every day, as well as keep you up-to-date on important changes for the whole network. The end-of-month summary emails will still be sent, reiterating all of the changes done over the month. We see this as a big step towards keeping everyone in-the-loop.

Individual Moderator Flag Handling

Moderators are now able to provide separate resolutions for flags on the same post. When viewing a post with several flags, you can click on the individual flags in order to generate a pop-up for handling that specific flag. This will allow you to deal with situations where some flags are valid and others not, or instances where different manners of guidance must be given. This will also enable you to handle disputed flags by directly marking the appropriate flags as helpful or declined. Flags can still be handled on a post-by-post basis using the regular UI. You can handle full posts when the flags are all aligned to each other, and can granularize things when the situation calls for it.

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February 2014 Newsletter

2014-03-05 by . 0 comments

Site Switcher Now Configurable

The site-switcher on the far left of the universal top bar can now be configured to display a custom list of sites. You can choose which sites to add, as well as the order in which they are displayed, as you see fit. Meta sites can be added as well as main sites, allowing you the ability to reach one site’s meta directly from any other site. The number of sites is also not limited, allowing you to have a comfortable mix and organization of all sites that interest you, including those that you moderate.

Flag Privilege Suspension Implemented

We’ve now implemented visible warnings for users whose flagging privileges are blocked or in danger of being blocked. Whenever a user attempts to flag a post, they will be presented one of three different warning notices if they have had flags declined recently. If a user has had a flag just declined while having cast fewer than 10 flags, or if they have had at least 10% of their flags declined while having cast 10 or more flags, they will receive a warning message. Users who have had at least 25% of their flags declined amongst over 10 flags cast will have their flagging privileges temporarily revoked. All of these checks are performed over a rolling 7 day period.

  Read more → Allow recovery from flag hell ban

Election Comment Flags Disabled

We have disabled the ability for users to flag comments on election nominations, due to various conflicts in the election system and the flag UI. The Community Team will be paying extra attention to comments in order to cut out on noise and abusive commentary. Moderators are encouraged to use their best judgement to remove spam and outright offensive comments. If a nomination thread begins getting out of hand, feel free to contact the community team.

Helpful Flag Allows Comments

It is now possible to provide commentary with helpful flags, similar to handling declined flags. Providing a comment for a helpful flag is not required when handling the flag. This avenue exists to provide instruction to users who flagged a post that did need attention but the reasoning behind the flagging was off-mark, or other situations where additional guidance would be helpful in the context of the flag. As with declined flags, there is currently no overt notification that a comment was given to a helpful flag.

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January 2014 Newsletter

2014-01-15 by . 0 comments

Analytics UI Updated

A number of quality-of-life changes have been added to the moderator analytics tools for you to use. Set time periods such as “the last month”, “the last 3 months”, and “the last year” have been added as quick links under the date range selection. Furthermore, the X axis on the graphs can be broken down into a weekly or monthly basis in addition to the default daily basis. Finally, we’ve grouped together various similar graphs such as Questions and Answers into singular graphs, and the contents of these graphs can be toggled as a set of checkboxes above the graph.

Check it out from the page top ‘mod’ link → ‘analytics’

User Deletions now Delayed

We’ve added an automated queue to handle user deletions in the scenario that a user requests manual deletion, as illustrated at Delay user requests for account deletion by 24 hours. When a moderator deletes a user and selects the “This user requested deletion while logged into the site” reason, it will place the user’s account into the queue for deletion 24 hours later. The user or a moderator may, at any time before 24 hours pass, elect to cancel the deletion via a large red banner at the top of the user’s profile page. The events of entering the queue and cancelling will be logged in the user’s history appropriately.

This change will not alter the normal protocol, as outlined in the Help Center, which requires the user to confirm their ownership of the account and the intent for deletion. However, this will allow for a much smoother system for handling deletions, as well as enable normal users to rescind their deletion requests without moderator intervention.

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December 2013 Newsletter

2014-01-10 by . 0 comments

Universal Stack Exchange Top Bar

We have rolled out a new universal top bar for the entire Stack Exchange Network. Reputation and badge notifications update in real-time and show consolidated events from across the network. Additionally, moderators see some new functionality: moderator-relevant notifications are stored in a separate inbox that appears only on the site(s) you moderate. We may be expanding moderator functionality in the future to include additional information that is relevant to the moderator teams.

  Read more on the features of the top bar as a whole → A New Top Bar for Stack Exchange

Upcoming Meta Stack Exchange Splitting from Meta Stack Overflow

We are finally progressing towards our long hinted-at separation of a general network-wide meta site from Meta Stack Overflow. While nothing has been implemented yet, you can read up on how we plan to execute this change and how the site will be managed at Stack Overflow is getting a place of its own.

Question and Answer Block Visibility

Moderators can view on a user’s profile whether or not that user is blocked from posting questions and/or answers. A simple yes or no will indicate their current status. In the event that a blocked user has attempted to post, the last such timestamp will also be included. Note that only the answer block is enabled network-wide, to take care of spammers. The question block is only enabled on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User, Ask Ubuntu, Mathematics, and Programmers. On other sites, it will list the asking block as “disabled” appropriately.

Spam and Offensive Automunging

When a post is deleted by accumulating enough spam and/or offensive flags, the post’s contents will now be automatically hidden and replaced with the following text.

This answer was marked as spam or offensive and is therefore not shown – you can see the revision history for details

Note that moderators will not see this message and instead will continue to see the post in its latest state. As such, do not feel obligated to personally censor naughtiness that gets flagged, and be sure to use these flags yourself when handling these kinds of posts.

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September 2013 Newsletter

2013-09-25 by . 0 comments

Reopen Queue Now Includes Popular Closed Questions

We have added new a trigger for the reopen queue. Questions with relatively high scores (on the question or its answers,) and those with extremely high views per month are now added to the queue to ensure that posts whose value to the community may be significant get an opportunity for get broader review and potential improvement.

Additionally, we’ve widened the scope of edits that push questions into the queue to include users who haven’t flagged or voted to close the question. This way, users who find a question that they can patch up, but lack the ability to vote themselves, can help push the question into the eyes of those who can.

    Read more → Lots of questions in the reopen queue

Clarified Convert-to-Comment Guidance

We have modified our guidance for the moderator tool for converting answers to comments, as follows:

Answers should be converted to comments when they do not attempt to answer the question. A comment should ask for more information or suggest improvements to the post; poor or incomplete answers should simply be downvoted or improved.

Conversion is a tool meant for preserving posts meant for deletion that have value as comments. This new wording is intended to make that purpose clearer and less confusing.

Revamped Moderator Message UI

Moderator messages now include links to user profiles of the sender and recipient (when the recipient is not the moderators as a whole) in a new header preceding the message. Timestamps for when the message was sent, and when the recipient read the message, are also included in this header for easier organization.

Search for Duplicate Posts

Duplicates can now be filtered in searches using the phrase duplicate: in the search string. This was designed to re-enable the ability to avoid or isolate duplicates during search, which was lost when we overhauled the close system and how the duplicate message is relayed. As with similar search functions: “yes”, “true”, or “1″ will yield only duplicates while “no”, “false”, or “0″ will yield all results that are not duplicates.

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August 2013 Newsletter

2013-08-12 by . 0 comments

Moderator Timeline View

Moderators now have access to a ‘timeline’ view on posts which lists activities that have happened to the post in chronological order. The timeline includes edits (suggested and otherwise), deletions, migrations, comments posted, flags, close votes, entries into the review queue, and answers posted (when looking at a question).This new view is designed to help unravel the events of a post: who was involved in the action, when it happened, and the hows and whys of the action’s resolution. You can access this timeline on any post as follows.

    On any post → ‘mod’ » ‘actions’ » ‘timeline’

On any post which has had flags or deleted comments, you’ll also be able to find a link to the timeline on the left side margin.

About Me History Tracking

We added an edit history to the ‘about me’ section of user profiles. Although rare, there are occasions when a moderator must intervene to edit a user’s profile (for instance, to remove extremely abusive language). We do not track the day-to-day changes from users, but when a moderator is forced to make a change to a user profile, it is useful to know what actions were taken. These entries can be found in the user’s history, and link to the associated revision history.

    From a user’s profile page → ‘mod’ » ‘info’ » ‘history’

Deletion and Destruction Reasons

Deletion and destruction now have reasons stored for record-keeping. When deleting a user, a moderator is required to select a pre-established reason (such as the deletion being requested by the user), as well as fill in details regarding specifics that led to a case. Destruction similarly requires the moderator to select a reason, though the free-form field is optional in this case.

In hand with this, moderators are now capable of viewing deleted user entries when viewing the profile of a deleted user. These logs will include background on the deletion event as well as all of the details provided by the deleting moderator as described in the earlier paragraph. Delete logs are only available for users deleted starting a few months ago – earlier entries will appropriately note the lack of a log entry.

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June/July 2013 Newsletter

Deleted Comment Improvements: Undelete and In-line View

Deleted comments may now be undeleted by moderators. This can be useful if a comment was accidentally deleted during a clean-up, or if there is valuable guidance that was otherwise removed without cause. In addition, deleted comments can now be loaded directly onto the page, allowing you to view them alongside the post and in order with the rest of the comments.

Check left side of post → ‘# deleted comments’

Learn more → ‘start’ » Moderators should be able to undelete comments

Review History For Close Votes

Moderators can now review items in the close vote queue which they had previously skipped. As a moderator, sometimes you’ll come across an item in the review queue that you think the rest of the community should look at first – but you had no way to follow up on it prior. With this new functionality, you can re-evaluate items in the event that no community action was taken. This does not apply to items which you did not explicitly skip or otherwise act on.

Check lower right corner of close review queue → checkbox marked “Show only my own reviews (including skipped)

Learn more → Let moderators navigate the review queues at will

Moderator Badges

We’re happy to announce that we’re adding two new mod-only gold badges to our roster to honor those who have dedicated so much of their time to helping run the sites on our network. The Constable badge will be awarded to users who have serve as a pro tem moderator on a beta site either for at least one year, or until the site reaches graduation. The Sheriff badge will be awarded to users who have served as an elected moderator on a site for at least one year.

We’d like to take this time to thank the entirety of our moderator base for the work they put in every day to keep the network operational and our Q&A solid. We love you all.

Close Flags and Low Quality Flags Now Place Posts In Review Queue

Flags for closure (“does not belong on this site”) are no longer considered to require urgent moderator attention, and no longer go into the moderator flag queue. Instead, they put the question into the “Close Votes” queue for users to review. The flags on them will be processed based how the item gets processed in the queue – flags will be approved for questions that get close votes, and declined for those that do not. This should allow moderators to focus on the more immediate needs on their site, but you can always dive into the review queue yourself (found under /review/close) if you want to check on closing jobs.

Similarly, low quality flags (“very low quality” under “it needs ♦ moderator attention”) will also send posts into the “Low Quality Posts” queue. The number of flags on such a post will affect how many “Looks Good” pardons a post needs to get out of the queue without editing. Additionally, once a post has been dismissed from the queue (for better or for worse), further flags won’t place it back into the queue. Unlike close flags, these remain items considered for moderator attention, and will remain in the moderator flag queue.

Read more on close flags → Replace close flags with close suggestions

Read more on low quality flags → Can flags send a post into the low quality review queue?

Handling Custom Close Reasons

With the new close system introduced in our last issue, we have introduced the ability for moderators to supply custom off-topic close reasons for their sites. Each site can have up to 3 off-topic reasons specified, which will be shown as part of the blurb that appears underneath a closed question. If you have not yet done so, you should work with your community on your Meta site to determine what these reasons should be for your site. For some advice on things to think about while working on this, I recommend reading the accepted answer for What do site moderators need to do to support the new custom question close reasons?

Sharing Private Information

Contacting users should be reserved for serious moderation issues only. When you find yourself in the position of needing to contact a user privately, make sure that you don’t inadvertently reveal any personally identifiable information about another user in the message.

Examples of how this can happen accidentally are:

  • Giving the user names of other accounts that have been seen at the same IP address of the person you’re contacting. You’ve just revealed the IP address of other users to someone else if they aren’t the same person.
  • Giving the user names of other accounts that voted for or against the user you’re contacting. While this doesn’t explicitly violate our privacy policy – voting is something that should be completely anonymous.

As a general rule, you should avoid talking to users about other users in private communication. If you must mention a specific user to another user, make sure you do so only by mentioning the user by their display name, and do not reveal any additional information about them.

Relating to this, PII on user profiles is now hidden by default on all use profile pages. This is done to stress the fact that this information should not be shared or related and to make it more obvious to normal users that their information is only visible to them (and moderators). Please continue to exercise caution whenever you handle PII.

If you feel unsure, please contact the community team before initiating contact with the user.

Live Updates For Future Moderator Newsletters

Starting with our August 2013 issue, we’ll be providing articles regarding mod-specific functionality changes immediately here on moderator.stackexchange.com. In essence, rather than building up several articles over the course of a month, we will be providing news as things are added to the system. At the end of each month, all the compiled articles up until then will be grouped together and sent via email, just like we do today. This is the one of a few things we’re doing to make our communication to moderators more timely.

The content of the updates here will continue to focus on items that are specifically relevant to moderation. For general system changes or fixes, our Recent Feature Changes thread on Meta Stack Overflow generally has a more comprehensive list.

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May 2013 Newsletter

2013-06-13 by . 0 comments

New “Help Center” is Live!

We just rolled out the new ‘help’ center linked at the top of your site. The gist of this project is to consolidate the various FAQs, meta posts, and blog posts into a much more comprehensive, educational resource. See Introducing a brand new, consolidated, Help Center. This is an on-going project, so we’ll be adding many more articles and features addressing your ideas and concerns.

Please note that the article, “what topics can I ask here?” replaces the old on- and off-topic section of the FAQ — so please be sure yours is up to date. If your site has particular needs not addressed by the Help Center, please discuss your ideas with the community in meta, tagged [help-center].

Changes to the Closing System are Rolling Out

After months of discussion, work, and input from the community, we’ve begun rolling out changes to the close system. These changes are designed to improve the closing experience for both the community and the author of the post. Please read through the Closing Changes meta post for more information. The new reasons are being tested on Meta Stack Overflow this week, and we’re aiming to launch them everywhere else early next week.

Suspensions Limited to One Year

We are capping the length of time you can suspend a user to one year. If you are currently using the suspension system to, essentially, lock an account with multi-year suspensions, please simply ‘destroy’ the account instead. We maintain access to account information (IP addresses, email, access logs, etc), even after the account has been destroyed, so there is no need to hold an account hostage just to preserve those records.

If you have clear evidence that an account is being used inappropriately (spam, sock puppets, persistent trolls, circumventing suspensions, etc), continue to message or suspend the user as you see fit. If the account is clearly not made in good faith (i.e. promoting discount gucci handbags), feel free to proceed to deleting it. If there’s any doubt, please contact the community team before deleting the account outright.

Finding Problem Users in Chat

We’ve added a few simple reports to the chat system, listing users with potential problems like ‘multiple flagged messages’, ‘ignored by multiple people’, and ‘users who have invited multiple people’.

These reports are are located in the chat directory:

Leaving Comments on Deleted Posts

Moderators are now able to leave comments on deleted and locked posts. This will allow you to leave helpful guidance when a post need to be deleted quickly (or has already been deleted). Remember that your comments will appear in a user’s inbox, even after it has been deleted (July 2011), so please leave a short note when a user’s post disappears unexpectedly!

Swag Changes

With the network getting bigger and the number of moderators growing, we unfortunately have to stop doing customized business cards for moderators on graduated sites. Designing and producing those ended up taking more time than anyone had anticipated. We’ll still offer and send out business cards to any moderator who wants them, but they’re going to look a lot more like the cards we have for our employees: front back

On the upside, we are also introducing a new item to show our appreciation for everything you all do:

These will be available exclusively to moderators and employees and should go into production shortly. If you’d like one, please fill out your information here and we’ll have them shipped out ASAP once they’re ready.

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April 2013 Newsletter

2013-05-10 by . 0 comments

Deleted Question Visibility

We’re happy to announce that going forward, any user can see their own deleted questions if they are given a link. They still cannot access it via the profile page, but any link will suffice. We hope that this new functionality will make guidance for new users a lot easier for mods, as well as making the experience as a whole much smoother.

As a reminder, if a moderator leaves a comment within an hour before deleting a post, this leaves a permanent entry in the post author’s inbox that links to the post. This, combined with the new visibility of deleted questions, allows you to communicate with the users even if you have to remove the post.

Early Deletion Privilege Tweak

We’re introducing a tweak into the existing 20k privilege that allows users to delete closed questions before the first two days pass. Now, in the first two days, users with 20,000 reputation can only delete a closed question if it has a score of -3 or less. After the first two days, deletion requirements are the same as always.

Deletion within the first two days is meant to handle egregious posts and terrible spam. We hope that by altering the privilege in this fashion, it should avoid issues with removing otherwise salvageable posts too quickly and allow time for askers to learn and/or edit their posts.

New Audit Stats Available with Advanced Review Stats

We have added some new statistics for your studying pleasure to the Review Audit Stats we introduced in last month’s issue. We have also made the page a lot more accessible with a simpler route than before:

   From the page top ‘mod’ link → ‘links’ » ‘Advanced review stats’

The following new statistics are available on this page in each queue:

  • AvgDuration(s) notes the average time that the user spends on each task in that queue in seconds;

  • AuditTotal notes the total number of audit tasks that the user has run into in that particular queue;

  • AuditPass% notes what percentage of audit tasks that the user has successfully completed compared to all tasks run into within that particular queue.

We believe these stats will be helpful in identifying or analyzing suspicious or curious activity within the review queues.

A Small Note About Contacting The Community Team

When you send us an email as a moderator, especially through the team@ support address that everyone uses, please be sure to identify that you are a moderator and on which site you are a moderator. This will help us parse the information of the email faster.

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