Stack Exchange Moderator Elections Begin

by Jeff Atwood

on December 2, 2010

Back in July, we appointed Moderators Pro Tempore for the nascent Stack Exchange 2.0 communities. Leadership is critical to any community's success, and the bootstrapping of a community often requires those leaders to be appointed before the community is large enough or organized enough to elect them itself.

Our fellow moderators Pro Tempore have been instrumental in keeping their communities tidy and on track through the public beta and beyond. Now that the earliest Stack Exchange 2.0 sites have been fully public for over 60 days, we believe at least some of the communities are ready to take the last important step towards self governance -- by electing their own moderators. As we've said from the very first days of the Stack Overflow beta:

We don't run Stack Overflow. You do.

Every site under our banner has the same philosophy. The community is the source of everything useful that happens to exist on our websites. We gladly reciprocate by trusting you to lead and govern your own community. Democratically elected community moderators are the ultimate goal of, and foundation for, every site in our network.

While we've had multiple moderator appointments and elections on the trilogy -- culminating in our most recent 2010 Stack Overflow moderator election -- they have been much more ad-hoc than I would have liked.

This time, we've put all our prior experience into making moderator elections a first class function built into every site we operate. While it's still subject to a bit of change, we've started our first community moderator election on mathematics.

There are three phases in each election, all available from the same page:

  1. Nominations -- seven days

In the nomination phase, any community member in good standing with at least 300 reputation may nominate themselves -- and only themselves -- as a candidate in the moderator election. Nominations require writing a brief introduction explaining to the greater community why the candidate would make a good community moderator. Comments are encouraged in this phase, along with plenty of editing to make the introduction better, but there is no voting. The top 30 nominees (ordered by reputation) proceed to the primary phase unless they opt to withdraw.

Note: If there are 10 or less candidates at the end of this phase, we skip directly to Election.

  1. Primary -- four days

In the primary phase, all community members with at least 150 reputation can cast an up or down vote on each candidate, resulting in a public tally. No comments are allowed in the primary; any opinions on the suitability of each candidate should be expressed as a simple up or down primary vote. The top 10 candidates by score will proceed on to the election phase, unless they opt to withdraw.

  1. Election -- four days

Once the election begins, there will be per-user site notifications to all eligible voters. In the election phase, all community members with at least 150 reputation can cast three votes: 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice. All votes are private until the election is complete, at which point the election data file (the vote totals for all the candidates; no identification of who voted for whom) will be freely and permanently downloadable by anyone. We will calculate the winners using OpenSTV and the Meek STV method.

In a little over two weeks, the election process should hopefully produce three new democratically elected community moderators! We're going to run through the full process on math first, as they have an urgent need for community moderators, and also so we can see how this new election format works and refine it before going full steam ahead.

Democracy is a highly imperfect process. But it is a participatory imperfect process. Please participate in the math community moderator election -- even if only as an observer -- and give us feedback on how we can improve the moderator election process to better serve your community.