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In a follow up to this question moderator involvement was discussed, and it was noted that moderators are elected, seemingly for life. While another post deals with adding additional new moderators, it seems odd that a site dedicated to the good government would instil such a policy. I humbly suggest that a term is established for moderator of 4 years, after which the moderator can be re-nominated and elected again for 4 additional years, after which they become moderator emeritus for life but can serve no more.

I'm not sure if the current crop of mods is elected or appointed, and it's really not directed at them personally.

Reasons for term limits:

  1. The site has been in Beta for what, 4 years? Maybe longer? It's likely to be a near perm condition. And as such, having unelected mods forever is frankly insulting to the freedom loving, intellectually curious, unruly heathens of the world. Unelected mods were supposed to be short-term.
  2. Let's face it. This is a contentious site, maybe the most contentious site on SE. It must be exhausting to be a mod on this site, and this would guard against moderator burnout.
  3. I also frankly don't care what Jeff Atwood's opinion is on this matter and have no idea why he would have the standing to opine on this community. Communities should be self-organizing and self-governing to our needs, not his preconceptions.
  4. As students and observers of politics, we should be aware of the pitfalls of democracies that have a single election, or worse, appointment.
  5. There have been observations that new blood is warranted from a curation standpoint.
  6. After several years, even long term users have differing opinions about what is in scope and what isn't about basic ideas.
  7. The site doesn't attract those working in the field, academics or polemicists. It is not a site for Political Scientists.
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    There is already a question about this topic on the general stack exchange meta by Stack Exchange Co-Founder Jeff Atwood. He accepted an answer which says moderators should not have term limits. So any answers to this question should focus on those aspects which are unique to politics stack exchange and do not apply to other stackexchange sites. – Philipp Jul 3 '18 at 12:21
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    You will have to square Phillipp's response with the beta pro tem moderator observation: This is a temporary, short-term appointment. Not sure that is possible. – K Dog Jul 3 '18 at 12:33
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    See also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/278633/… which is a more recent discussion. – Fizz Jul 4 '18 at 12:05
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    Can you please update your question to highlight why, in your opinion, term limits for moderators would benefit the community? – yannis Jul 4 '18 at 14:35
  • @yannis Done, please feel free to add your own. – K Dog Jul 4 '18 at 21:33
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    @yannis - um... your comment should be a question on main site (like, slightly re-worded maybe). The answer is actually largely obvious but would make for a good canonical Q&A – user4012 Jul 5 '18 at 0:28
  • @user4012 Hm, even after KDog's update, I don't think it's that obvious how having term limits for volunteer janitors will benefit the community... – yannis Jul 5 '18 at 6:30
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    @yannis - janitors who have judge, jury and executioner power over people who don't recycle to spec :P To make the analogy more accurate. Anyway, I wasn't commenting about the question, but about your comment. It has a canonical answer (why term limits matter/are good) – user4012 Jul 5 '18 at 11:14
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    @user4012 We have absolutely no powers over people. We have a bit more power over content than regular users, and additionally, we can remove or suspend user accounts. That's it. – yannis Jul 5 '18 at 11:26
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    @yannis - Hm. completely disagree but probably veering way off topic. First, power to remove/suspend is a big deal. The power to control whether what someone said is seen or not is a big deal too, arguably even bigger (admittely, not as much on SO as on Politics, ironically) – user4012 Jul 5 '18 at 11:32
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    @user4012 If it was a big deal, then people would put some actual effort in doublechecking diamond actions, and help us course correct when they spot something they didn't like. Constructively. All I've seen in the years I've been around - with only a handful of notable exceptions - is people randomly ranting. It's extremely hard to take someone seriously when all they seem interested in is venting. Term limits for moderators might be the greatest idea ever; this discussion isn't how we'll get them. – yannis Jul 5 '18 at 11:49
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    @yannis Are you contending that this post is a vent? – K Dog Jul 5 '18 at 12:43
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    @yannis - my main Meta experience is that when people put any efforts in double-checking diamond actions, TL down comes at them with a weight train. Or witness recent events on SFF Meta (I am ambivalent about them, but not about the fact that, as usual, all the moderators act as a "class" - dare I say it on Politics :P - to object to any efforts to said double-checking, even ones who aren't affected by criticism, or hell, have anything to do with the site itself). – user4012 Jul 5 '18 at 13:09
  • @yannis - which is again, beside the point I was trying to make from the start; that there's a legitimate "what are the benefits of elections vs. life terms" Q&A outside of the narrow scope of "Meta moderator thread". – user4012 Jul 5 '18 at 13:11
  • @user4012 SFF is not Politics though. SFF has a lot more drama (and thus mod scrutiny) than this site. I can't recall this site ever being discussed in TL, except for one instance where Yannis and I briefly continued this discussion in TL. – Martin Tournoij Jul 5 '18 at 13:41
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What Are Term Limits For?

In general, term limits are useful when there are principal-agent concerns. These problems occur when a representative agent may not be faithfully representing their constituents' needs. Sure this happens in politics (do legislators represent citizens' interests or their own?) but it also happens in any other situation where someone is being represented by someone else.

The conventional argument against term limits is that agents develop expertise over time. For example, legislators become better at legislating the longer they are in office because they learn legislative procedure, develop useful relationships, and learn to read the political arena.

What are Pro-Tempore Moderators For?

Pro-Tem moderators are described in this SO blog post. They have two roles:

  1. They are moderators who do moderation-stuff. As described in the Theory of Moderation this is mostly "janitorial" work - cleaning up the community's garbage.
  2. Pro-Tem moderators have an additional function: they are a liaison between the Stack Exchange team and our beta community.

Although not officially stated anywhere, in my SE experience moderators often have unofficially have a "first among equals" status. Moderators are senior members of the community who should be expected to represent our best practices. Even when not wielding any official moderation-power, their status as representatives of the community means that their statements and actions carry additional weight.

To put this all together: Politics.SE is intended to move out of Beta toward being a full-Stack Exchange site. Pro-Tem moderators are intended to be temporary appointees who help the community develop toward graduation.

What should we do?

In my humble opinion, we should not insist on term limits for moderators. However, we should periodically re-assess our moderation needs.

Term limits are great for professional representatives, because it forces them to be accountable to their clients/constituents. Pro-Tem moderators are volunteers. Though nominated by the community, they are not elected. Ultimately they are tools to help the site graduate, not representatives of the public will.

On the other hand, the do serve important representative functions. They represent our community to the Stack Exchange team and the rest of the network. Within our community, they are sometimes symbols of the community's standard. So we should periodically re-assess whether our moderation needs are being met. The best way to do this is through Meta posts (like this one), where we can come together as a community to discuss our needs and how to address them.

  • Well it's apparent from your earlier post that you don't think moderation needs are being met. Brythan recommended additional moderators. Any suggestions? – K Dog Jul 6 '18 at 13:15
  • @KDog I definitely agree that something should be done, but I'm not sure what. Once I have an idea I'll post it as an answer to your other question. – indigochild Jul 6 '18 at 22:07

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