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As any user who cares about the health of the Stack Exchange communities should know, there was a serious crisis in trust on this network. As a result, many moderators quit or went on strike; some even deleted their accounts. As far as I know, these moderators have not yet been replaced.

In a comment on the question 'Warning potential new moderators?', Stack Exchange employee animuson wrote on 11 November 2019,

Just so you know, we don't run elections this late in the year due to holidays. The earliest possible we'd start running elections again is in January.

We lost two moderators last year, namely Aza and Mithical. Since we are not a graduated site, it is not clear (to me at least) whether new moderators will be selected by Stack Exchange employees (contacting high-rep users by mail) or through elections.

On beta sites like ours, new moderators can be selected without elections, but under the current circumstances, this does not seem a good idea.

First, as Jeff Atwood wrote in 2009 (emphasis mine),

We designed the Stack Exchange network engine to be mostly self-regulating, in that we amortize the overall moderation cost of the system across thousands of teeny-tiny slices of effort contributed by regular, everyday users.

Appointing new moderators without letting the community have a say in this goes against the spirit of the above quote.

In addition, the loss of trust between the community and Stack Exchange (the company) was in part due to a lack of openness; see for example, Monica's situation continues unresolved. Is SE hoping the problem just goes away?. For this reason, the selection of new moderators shouldn't be couched in secrecy. The community has the right to know what the selection process is and secrecy doesn't increase or restore trust.

Finally, some members of the LGBTQ community (I have no idea what proportion) expressed that they didn't feel safe on the Stack Exchange network. An election in which people can nominate potential mods and ask them questions (e.g. about issues that are important to the LGBTQ community) is a better mechanism for restoring trust from the LGBTQ community than a selection behind closed doors. (See Accepting nominations — Who should moderate this site? for a question containing a nomination template. This template may be extended with specific questions that have become more important in recent months.)

For these reasons, I would like us to insist on an open election process if Stack Exchange contacts any of us about volunteering for moderatorship. What do you think?

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  • They have largely shifted beta sites to normal community elections now anyway, be it for the simple reason that they don't seem to have the time to hand-pick moderators anymore. – Cahir Mawr Dyffryn æp Ceallach Jan 9 at 18:52
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For what it's worth, I agree with you. But I don't know how much our opinion is going to be worth for the Stack Exchange company's decisions about its operations.

However, probably it will be a moot point since they don't seem to be appointing pro-tem moderators any more. Since the successful experiment of "pro-tem elections" which started on Parenting SE in spring 2018, Stack Exchange has continued running pro-tem elections. I don't believe any moderator (barring the special case of Meta SE) has been appointed without an election process since mid-2018. (There are people who got diamonds simply by being the only person to nominate in a election, but at least the community had the option of a full and open election process.)

So the only reason Stack Exchange might go back to appointing pro-tem moderators is if they decide they need to change the modding process after the mass resignations in the last quarter of 2019. I'm not going to say that won't happen - after the last few months, nothing is a surprise any more - but I think it's unlikely. I expect them to continue more or less as if nothing happened, for realpolitik reasons which I'm not going to analyse at length. That means, on our site which will presumably need 2 new moderators:

  • calling for volunteers for an open election process;
  • if only 1-2 people nominate themselves, giving them diamonds directly without a community vote;
  • if nobody volunteers even after an extended nomination period, investigating other possibilities such as closing down the site.

In short, I expect that their first port of call will be a pro-tem election, just as they've done elsewhere.

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  • I became a mod on Language Learning SE in October 2017 without an election (to replace someone who quit), but the pro-tem elections in Parenting SE apparently took place some time later and I hadn't see (or had forgotten about) Experimenting with Pro Tempore elections. Anyhow, I have formulated what my position would be of SE contacted me instead of organising an election. – Tsundoku Jan 5 at 19:26

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