I recently saw that several of the high-rep users were getting suspended. Then it got to think me why are they getting suspended. By thinking in that direction, I see that when an issue occurs: the one who reports that issue and the one who caused the issue gets suspended. While discussing in the chat, two of the mods in TEXSE informed me that these moderations are performed in a case-by-case basis.

Having said that these are my concerns over the way the moderation is being done:

  1. For all the years I have been in TEXSE, I was under the assumption that moderations are performed in democratic way. That is looking into an issue, and then determining who made the fault and then reprimanding them (by means of suspensions ofcourse). But recent issues made me think otherwise, that may be, moderations is not being fair anymore. Becausing suspending all the parties involving in the issues does not sound democratic to me. Because, in that case, we can in fact replace mods by bots. So, my question is this: TEXSE is more than a decade old, so don't we have prior knowledge to evaluate issues? (I am pretty sure there must be a data-bin where this information can be retrieved).

  2. Moderators should abide by a set of rules while evaluating cases. Where they must explain the involved parties why they are being suspended (of course not to everyone else). If that is not the case, why do we even need mods? All we need is a bot. More importantly, why don't we -- over time let's say annually or every two-years -- replace mods and have a democratic mod election?

  3. So by reading these posts Who are the diamond moderators, and what is their role?, Handling Calls to Remove a Moderator and https://stackoverflow.com/help/site-moderators, I literally came to the conclusion mods are basically invincible. They can do whatever they want and only the powers can take or at the least consider taking actions on them (though the rules says otherwise but made in such a way to refect the former). Because, if I have to report a mod, it will end-up getting reviewed by the another mod. Which in no way is going to have an implication. So are there any cases where a mod (who got reported for a biased actions) has been removed? This is one of my biggest concern because, if we see take a sport for instance cricket as an example, when we have a problem with the umpires, we have a governing body which is neutral. But here, if we get to report a mod, then it will still be evaulated by other mods, thereby, creating conflict-of-interest, I think.

  4. Final question, how are the days in suspension box determined? I saw in the SE link that for the first-timers, the duration will be a day.

Disclaimer 1 I am only discussing about TEXSE, because I have no idea about how the mods in other site works.

Disclaimer 2 I am discussing this with a local-scope, of course mods are needed for other issues and they are doing a great job in that aspect (at least from what I saw so-far).

  • In terms of discussion, it is wroth remembering that the moderators cannot say some stuff in public: for example, we have some information on IP addresses, voting patterns, etc., that we simply are not allowed to post.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:23
  • 1
    All serious mod actions get logged with the StackOverflow staff, so there is oversight outside of the site. Also, the mod team are mindful that actions need to come from a 'netural' party: for example, if someone has complained about my posts or actions, it's down to the other mods to make a call, and I don't get involved.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:24
  • The whole 'mods are elected for life' business is a network decision: we could have more mods, or some of us could quit to force an election, or ...
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:25
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:51
  • 1
    I don't really follow your "mods reviewing actions of other mods is like no oversight at all" argument. It implies that the mods form some kind of cabal and their main agenda is to "remain in power". I see them more like judges. When one judge commits a crime, it's other judges in society that preside over their trial.
    – schtandard
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 10:41
  • Referring to the cause of the question: "I recently saw that several of the high-rep users were getting suspended. Then it got to think me why are they getting suspended." Those users could not say anything to the fact that ths suspension is publicly discussed and if they like it or not. As your question has been answered, (and the suspension is over and we can look forward) do you want to keep it public or perhaps delete it?
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:14
  • 3
    @StefanKottwitz No I would still prefer to keep the question open. Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:49

5 Answers 5


On 'why suspend more than one person', this is an unusual step. In most moderation situations, there is a reasonably clear trail to determine the transgressor. For example, a user who posts unpleasant comments will likely be flagged by several people, will post such comments in reply to multiple users, etc., and we can see where action is needed. Similarly, if a user is using sock-puppets, this is typically obvious from (mod only) data in the database.

However, where users have a dispute that is between two individuals, it may not be so easy to determine 'who started it'. The issue then becomes the 'fall out' from such a case, such as mutual negative comments, flags, etc. Where at all possible, the mods will try to untangle the source of such issue. But at the same time, the reaction of both parties is important. Where there the situation that reactions on both sides are problematic, a suspension may be needed for both (after of course simply asking that they 'cool it').

None of this lends itself to automation: the text of comments, timings, the scope of the issue, etc., are all important.

  • @Joesph Wright However, where users have a dispute that is between two individuals, it may not be so easy to determine 'who started it'. This is something I would never agree with, because, I think it is causal. Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:38
  • 1
    @Raaja It very much depends on the case. Long-running disputes over multiple questions with varied language are hard to de-convolute.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:55
  • 19
    @Raaja "Who started it" is one of the most complicated question for every war or fight between humans. Simply imagine that one person says something neutral, a second (mis)understands it as unfriendly and gives an aggressive comment and the first shouts back. Who of both started the fight? Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:55
  • @UlrikeFischer I understand, but how are we going to to avoid such things in the near future? Or what can we take along to the future? Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 6:19
  • 4
    @Raaja: That won't happen. It's reasonable to assume that moderation will always be required as new people (people unfamiliar with this environment) join all the time. Issues like this happen infrequently enough that I don't see it as a problem that require some rigid guidelines or protocols. The moderators work well here, in the background, are often available in chat and form part of many discussions.
    – Werner Mod
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 15:26
  • 2
    @Raaja It is easy: We won't be avoiding such things in the future. We can try to make the cases as rare as possible (I'll comment on this further), but we can not remove the fact that a fight starts where both parties are in a sense guilty. Please note that I do not discuss any specific case; for this I trust our moderators to judge each case properly.
    – yo'
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 18:10
  • 2
    For the issue of how rare this is: compared to anywhere else on the internet where I have been, this place is of the very coolest. The only cooler places I met are <10 people groups who know each other very very well. And even there, serious insults appear. This is for a number of factors: working flag system, new user tools (the tour, the waving hand), separation of comments from answers, etc.
    – yo'
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 18:11
  • 2
    I agree with your points, in this site I always feel welcomed and always open to help others. There was no such thing here as I'm the greatest and I'm the smartest among the users of our community. But sometimes it is just sad that nice contributors leave the site, for reasons which could have been well-advised. Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 18:16

In general we don't discuss cases in public to protect privacy of all involved users. In the best case, it gets resolved and is over in a few days and can be forgotten.

I'm not sure if it's a favour to anyone to discuss in chat or on meta. Not everybody wants to see his topics in public, and on the other hand, you know, in a discussion you get more and stronger arguments over time.

But let me see the main concern in general, that it can happen, that several users are suspended because of a single issue such as a fight.

Maybe in a comparison. If you consider this knowledge site like a TeX library, or a TeX seminar, or a TeX bar & club (like in the chat). What would you do if, again in theory of seeing strong debates:

  • several users have a noisy fight
  • they are seriously asked to stop it here
  • but it repeats over months, spread over various questions/answers
  • both users flag other comments, of cause
  • other non-involved users complain by flags

We can ask the fighting users to temporarily (!) leave the library/seminar/bar/TeX.SE as emergency stop, and to cool down, re-think.

What would you do instead? Options:

  • repeat asking, that did not help the first time
  • let it continue to take time to "investigate"
  • try to find out whose reasons are more valid
  • follow each users answer texts and comments to watch if another verbal stinger or any dispute appears again
  • edit answers to remove off-topic complaints and remove comments (and get complaints of cause)

We do and try this and that. But it happens that we might chose the emergency action above, with a temporary suspension to stop the noise, to have a pause, to send a strong signal with one of the few ways we have.

TeX.SE is still a friendly site. In chat I heard about Physics.SE yesterday and I hear about others, non-friendly sites. I think we may be good to stop aggressive disputes early, in the best case by just a temporary action and without pointing fingers.

  • 2
    Just for the records: IMHO this answer does not reflect at all what happened.
    – user121799
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 0:39
  • 3
    Sure, because there was no question about your case ("what happened") but it answers concerns in the question about the general case when several users are suspended because of the same conflict. That's what I wrote above, I had to repeat myself. I did not even refer to "what happened" and that answer is not to reflect that because the whole issue dates back to 2018 when the first kind requests and warnings about that issue were sent to the involved users.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 8:11

Dealing specifically with 'how long are suspensions for'. The model we are provided by StackOverflow is that a first serious issue should get a 7-day ban, and second serious issue a 30-day one, and after that we go to a year-long ban. However, before using any bans there is the step of simply making a polite request. On the other hand, out-and-out bad behaviour can go straight through to a long ban (the staff can impose a permanent ban, for cases such as socket-puppets).

Suspensions are a blunt tool, primarily about protecting the rest of the community rather than punishing a 'transgressor'. They are used only when necessary.


I believe that the moderators should

  1. leave it up to the users involved to decide whether or not they want to be "protected" or want to go for transparency. The current state of affairs of not having transparency leads to a black box and practically unlimited power of the moderators.
  2. not run different TeX Q & A sites. Or, at least, if they really want to do that, disentangle different sites.
  3. should be appointed for a fixed term only, and then seek reelection.

Also, I do think that moderators should try to find out who is right in the case of a controversy. (Of course, it does not mean that one should suspend users who make inadvertently wrong statements. Users who make wrong statements on purpose are a different topic.) That is, different sites have expert moderators for a reason. Otherwise we could have random moderators, some physicists for the linguistic site, say. I do not think that it is inappropriate to point out if an answer is incorrect, I personally learn from such comments when they are correct.

Even though the statement on the physics site in Stefan's post is partly correct, it is true for a very different reason: users make incorrect statements over which users start to have heated discussions. The problem is that very often it cannot be decided who is correct. The LaTeX site is different in that, in most cases, the answers to questions contain codes that can be tested.

It might be also interesting to know how many moderators are currently active on a daily basis, and to which extent it is realistic to say that if there are issues with one moderator, the other moderators will take care of that.

I condemn, in the strongest terms, the actions of a user who insults others, steals their codes and claims others steal from them. This user is a danger for every honest user on this site. Not only because of the insults, but also because if moderators do not stop such users there will be on the long run no user from whom one can steal, i.e. no more original code. IMHO moderators should encourage users to write original code and to disclose the sources of their inspirations. I stress that I always tried to do that (after learning this behavior from Torbørn T., IMHO one of the greatest contributors to this site). I also condemn the action of a moderator who was, maybe inadvertently, supporting this user. Moreover, I find it inappropriate that moderators can run more than one TeX site, and that there is no working way to challenge moderator's decisions. And I believe that moderators should either be able to discriminate lies from true statements, or resign. It is not too difficult to figure out who copied from whom.

Ah, and please do not abuse the comments under this post for your own agenda. If you want to express your opinion, write a post, which others can also downvote. It is not the purpose of comments to pursue a personal agenda. I won't read those anyway. So if you disagree with these statements, feel free to downvote the post, and to write up your thoughts in your own answer.

  • 9
    I do not believe it is the role of moderators to decide who's right in an argument; that can be done by the rest of the community. As you mentioned, most of the time it can be easily checked by anyone if something is correct. When you see an incorrect statement, leave a comment pointing that out and be done with it. If it's an answer, you can downvote; that's what the system is built for.
    – schtandard
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 17:58
  • 17
    As I see it, the role of moderators is to moderate the mode of conversation, not the content. If someone is rude and offensive that is a valid cause for moderator intervention, no matter if they are factually right or not.
    – schtandard
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 17:59
  • 1
    @schtandard This is the reason why I am pro transparency. The question is whether getting insulted is already enough for a suspension. I got suspended after I asked on the chat how much longer I need to endure insults by a certain user. I am fine with the moderators disclosing my actions (but in the context of course).
    – user121799
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 19:29
  • 1
    @schtandard I also agree with you that one cannot be rude. And this comment does not disagree with anything I am saying. Nevertheless IMHO you cannot write things of which you know that they are not true.
    – user121799
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 2:03
  • 6
    On 'protection': one thing we (moderators) are restricted on is what we can say about back-end data (things like IP addresses, login times, emails). That's part of our agreement with the network. For some moderation actions, such information is important in making a decision, but we cannot share it; that can be unfortunate but we do have to stick to the rules (think GDPR, etc.). There's also the fact that both parties to a two-person dispute would have to authorise us to talk about things beyond the very general.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 14:09
  • 5
    On moderator 'activity': the mods can see when each other were last on the site, acted, etc. Looking there, I can see that all three mods have visited the site in the last 24 hours. That's pretty typical: it's rare that one of us is away for any extended period.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 14:11
  • 4
    On point (3) (re-election): this is a general StackOverflow thing and I've always thought it was odd.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 14:21
  • 4
    @JosephWright On reelection: I don't think that it is odd. No sensible firm "reelects" a large part of its staff regularly. That only produces costs for training and administration and organizing the election and risks to push good, experienced people out of their team. And in public service too election doesn't necessarly implies reelection. We in Germany have quite a number of posts where people are elected once "for life", e.g. judges and school leaders. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 8:30
  • 1
    @UlrikeFischer I do not think the german situation with reelection/no reelection is the best one. I, for example, think it would be much better that an german Bundeskanzler can only be elected maximal two times, not more. See what happend with Dr. Kohls and Dr. Merkels third and fourth election time (Amtsperiode) ... (In german: Aussitzen tut nicht gut! -- und das gilt auch für bestimmte Dinge, die hier passieren!)
    – Mensch
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 1:51
  • 4
    @Mensch So, are you advocating for moderators to only be allowed to be moderators for a total of eight years? That seems very unreasonable to me. (And also does not have a whole lot to do with Ulrike's point.) While your point about reelecting chancellors in general is debatable, I don't think the comparison between moderators and heads of government is an adequate one. Their role in this community much more resembles the role of judges in society.
    – schtandard
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 11:22
  • 1
    @schtandard I would kindly like to ask you not to abuse these comments for your personal agenda. You are free to write your own answer, but do not use comments, which cannot be downvoted.
    – user121799
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 0:43
  • @UlrikeFischer It is true that judges are appointed for life. But they have a training, and one can reject judges if they are biased ("befangen"). None of this applies to moderators. If you ever have an argument with one of them, you may also just get suspended, and you cannot do anything about it. Maybe you are better off because you work with one of them in a team, but this is not how justice should work. (But given all what happened I am really glad that I am leaving all this behind.)
    – user121799
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 22:45
  • 7
    @marmot If I had a massive problem with a moderator, I would contact one of the others and failing this the network staff, but I never came near the need to do this. I'm member here since nearly 9 years and in the latex team since 10 month. Be aware that I didn't meant to say that the moderators here are judges. The main task of a moderator is not to judge but to restore/keep the peace. Separating angry, fighting people and sending them home or out of the room to cool down is not judging - and it is done everyday by parents, security staff, police, teachers. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 8:52
  • @UlrikeFischer Well, they are buddies and I was just standing up to lies and insults, and my suspension was predicted regardless of that user. And in the real world, police officers cannot do whatever they want, at least not in countries with a functioning system.
    – user121799
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 16:10
  • Besides all the words going back and forth here - thx marmot, you did a quite impressive job ans you and your answers helped me A LOT. I - and I guess a lot of others - "owe ya"... So: simply thx
    – AndiW
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 20:56

This is a different perspective on the answers by the moderators. I am able to substantiate my statements by emails and links, if needed.

  • The official reason for my suspension were "heated discussions" with a certain user. I am still not sure I understand what this means.
  • However, before this user become active again my suspension was predicted by one of the moderators in an email that I got after leaving TeXWelt.de. (It is true that I deleted almost all my answers on that site. It is also true that my account did not get deleted before I did that even though I asked for that. Also I deleted my own posts, which is not against any rule I am aware of. In any case, what happened on TeXWelt.de should not be part of this discussion here.)
  • There were actions by that moderator which were IMHO unbalanced. I asked this moderator to disentangle TeXWelt.de from TeX-SE. Within a few hours after I sent this email, the moderator downvoted three posts of mine: How to draw 3 components diagram?, Different xtick distance for different x ranges, Illustrating symmetric key distribution. While downvotes do not require an explanation, the timing is very suspicious IMHO.
  • It is true that last year I got a request by the moderators to leave room for the other user. I am not sure if this is the "warning" that is mentioned by the moderators. I did not get another message, nor did I behave against the request to leave room.
  • My suspension did not follow a comment or anything that may be viewed as something that goes against the user. It followed my public question on the chat how long I have to endure the behavior of the other users. I asked this on the chat because their insults did not get removed for days even though they were flagged.
  • Also the statement "that a first serious issue should get a 7-day ban, and second serious issue a 30-day one" does not seem to reflect reality since this was (at least) the second suspension of the other user, who got suspended for 7 days only.

P.S. Moderators, if you feel that you need to suspend me for that post, or you want to delete it, go ahead, I will then just delete my account before I awarded all my points. However, the purpose of this post is not retaliation or anything of this sort. The reason for this post is that I got asked by several users why I am leaving, and this post is an attempt to explain it.

  • 4
    Sorry to hear that you will be leaving. Thanks for all your great answers. They are very much appreciated and have helped me quite a bit. Really hoping that you will change your mind and not allow the actions of a few to make you leave. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 19:12
  • Keep in mind that downvotes on meta do not mean the same things as they do on the main site: Meaning of downvotes in Meta vs Main sites?. Thus, those downvoting here could merely be expressing their dislike of you leaving. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 20:52
  • 3
    I'm sorry to hear you're leaving, too. I would have preferred that you ignore all these confusions and that you continue to answer here. But, please, do not close your account and leave intact all the magnificent answers that you have already published. Thus, they will continue to serve many LaTeX users. And for me, those are the good memories I would like to keep from you. In any case, if after a few days, weeks ... or months of hibernation, you decide to come back, we (at least me) will welcome you with pleasure. Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 0:29
  • @marmot please don't leave us... Sorry, I am talking about me: don't leave me. If you can't deal with GitHub we can learn together, it is a matter of time. If you had "heated discussions" with a user you can buy a very cool cooler to reduce the heat! You have been part of my user creation, why do you think I have a duckling as profile photo? But please don't leave TeX.SE/SX, your sense of humor and bunch of creativity will be lost.
    – manooooh
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 2:42
  • I just can't stay here. Whenever I log in to the sites, I remember the insults and lies by that rogue user and the undue actions by the moderator. Maybe one day there will be a site in which honesty counts. Most likely this won't be a .com site, but some non-profit organization in which the concerns of the contributors are taken seriously, and in which no one is above the rules.
    – user121799
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 7:53
  • @marmot You hit a lot in other directions, other than that a 7-days-suspension after months of lots of disputes could be partially your fault. Sigh, seems I have to answer also here.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 11:12
  • 3
    @marmot To another one of your points, that you deleted all your posts on TeXwelt.de with the reason stated it was because of the talk if answers have to include MWEs or not. I did not predict your suspension. I said I reckon with you deleting also your posts on TeX.SE. And I was right: you started to destroy content. It's you that brings TeXwelt to this discussion. OTOH you going on the rampage destroying content in another forum doesn't look like a plus for you, though you even use it as excuse.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 11:20
  • 2
    @marmot To the fact, that you are moving your points to others, thousands already: I saw the answers with the bounties and they are great and deserve appreciation. Why didn't you set the bounties earlier? Just to clarify then: you are now misusing the bounty system to move points massively. That can be considered as gaming the system and reputation manipulation.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 11:25
  • 2
    @marmot Sorry that you have to discuss again and again, disputes with some users, then with the moderators and you keep it going. I didn't reveal issues in public for reasons above, as it's expexted to escalate. And it shows that you not only produce beautiful TikZ pictures with fancy code, but also have some behavior that not everybody sees from the answers. We mods try to maintain and keep peace. How about you? You still have the option to accept that you were sent out of the room for a while and a reason, and if you like you can delete the discussion here and elsewhere, to freshly restart.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 13:43
  • @StefanKottwitz I disagree with every single statement made by you. Why am I making this public? Because you have all the power to destroy a user, and I have none. When this happens to the next user, at least there is a record. Of course, you have the power to delete all this. Sigh.
    – user121799
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 14:58
  • 3
    @marmot I did not destroy you. You deleted your account there, you accounced to delete your account here on TeX.SE. You deleted your posts there, you started to delete post content on TeX.SE. (I saw 3) You decrease your reputation number here by shifting points via bounties. None of this is by me. You started public dispute and accused "a mod" and "his buddies", whole discussion is harming your reputation. I ask you: please stop it. I don't want to be a victim of one of your fights and I don't want to see you destroy your stuff and harm yourself. You can stop and stay here. Please stop it.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 16:10
  • 1
    @BlackMild Because this is not the surrounding I can function in. The moderators have made it explicit that getting harassed is enough to get suspended, and this is not what I want. In several hours my account will be deleted and I am no longer exposed to this moron, who continues just to copy from e.g. your answers and not to mention them, and then even wants an explanation for downvotes. (He downvoted several of my posts from which he copied and never explained any of them.) Hope you have stronger nerves than I. Was nice meeting you (and I will travel to your country in a week;-)!
    – user121799
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 23:58
  • 1
    @user121799 checked: your account deletion request came Sunday, June 9, 10:13pm. You started the mass deletion at Monday, June 10, 1pm. Considered that it is a non-commercial forum, moderation is usually done in free spare time, not in hours we work for real life. It was not ignored: I could not answer so fast. I cannot follow your logic, regarding the short time you complained and the reason of your show there. How many hours you already wait here for deletion? Here is paid staff doing work in business hours.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 14:32
  • 2
    @user121799 it may not be your intention to insult anyone but you should be aware that claiming that "this user is a danger for every honest user on this site" and accusing someone that he "abused his powers" would count as insults in my part of the world. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 16:30
  • 2
    @user121799 no you are not stating facts, but opinions - opinions I don't agree with. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 16:47

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