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When moderators or administrators are selected by community election, what are the pros and cons of scheduled confirmation votes?

For example on English Wikipedia, barring death or extreme events, adminship is for life while its sister site English Wikisource holds confirmation votes at the admin's anniversary. Both sites seem to be doing well, so neither approach would seem to be inherently bad.

What are the pro and cons of each approach?

7

Tricky question. Having run both systems, here's a rough answer:

Pros:

  • Dealing with a problematic/questionable moderator is far easier. Someone who creates questionable decisions and actions has the capacity to be replaced by someone with a clearer conception of what to do. If enough people see someone as problematic, they can be removed.

    People also frequently don't know how well suited they are for moderator positions until they've started them. If a moderator is uncomfortable/unsuitable, and it shows (trust me, it shows), somebody more fitting will take their place.

  • It allows moderators easy points at which to step down. Moderators, with relative frequency, grow tired of their positions. It doesn't happen to everyone, and it often takes a while, but it does happen. In a system where moderators are permanent, stepping down is a significant event. In a system where moderators are elected and voted on regularly, they can step down easily without creating an event.

  • It encourages people to be aware of what their moderators do. Users will feel more connected with their moderators, as they will have a broader awareness of how their moderators operate. You're giving users the power to audit their moderators consequentially, and users will use this power. This means many users will have a better idea of what moderation entails, and what moderators do.

Neutral:

  • It holds moderators closely to the will of the users and community consensus. This is positive and negative. At first glance, you might think this is a good thing, but it's only good in certain circumstances. While it is true that a moderator is less likely to lose track of the direction of the community, it also makes it hard to disagree with the community without falling under harsher light. Not impossible, just difficult.

  • It raises the accountability of moderators for specific actions. While this has specific benefits, for instance where a moderator makes a stupid or irreversible error (this will happen, guaranteed), the quorum is also less willing to accept that people make mistakes. It's good to keep people around who learn from their errors, but the community may not see this. It would be unfortunate to have a good moderator disgraced over a silly error.

  • It raises moderators' anxiety about their position. Let's face it, nobody likes being watched. That's why many people want to be the watchers: so they can watch without being watched. Putting the users in charge of auditing their moderators raises their anxiety significantly. People will be harsh with greater frequency, and this can be strenuous to handle. However, you'll also end up with moderators who think more and do less, which is arguably a very good thing. But at what cost...

Cons:

  • It might introduce a political power game. Nobody likes a political battle, even politicians. (They like the results, but not the fight.) Moderation is volunteer work almost everywhere, and if you make it a struggle for people to join, they won't. Especially the kindhearted and compassionate people. That's not good no matter how you look at it.

  • It introduces the possibility of inaction around election time. Moderators want to help the community, and to facilitate that goal, need moderator powers. You will definitely see your moderators pull back around elections. No question about it.

  • It has the potential to stigmatize moderators who were not reelected. Nobody wants a community centered around dislike, and it's hard for a moderator to be deposed without creating some hard feelings. This can make the community uncomfortable for a little bit. This isn't irreparable, but it's also not pleasant or endearing.

    • It's possible to remove something for an action they really shouldn't have been removed for. Sometimes, controversy starts over questionable decisions. I've seen this personally, and it's saddening, but if someone questions the community's trust at an election time, the moderator can be removed without a solid reason.

It's really your call on this one. It's hard to say without knowing the audience you're catering to, but these are the problems and benefits I've seen. Hopefully it helps clarify.

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These are basically flip sides of the same coin. Granting moderator for life allows independence from the community so that moderators can move in the direction that they feel is needed without having to worry about the immediately popularity of a decision, but it also removes a lot of control from the community itself.

On the other hand, confirmation votes ensure that the community maintains overall control, but makes it difficult or impossible to handle anything that is unpopular with the community (or perceived as possibly being that way), even if it really would be best for the community.

It also isn't a 100% either/or type situation. You can have hybrid situations where the community can override moderators on a case by case basis in certain cases (such as on StackExchange), cases where an independent group (possibly owners of the site) police moderators to make sure they aren't straying too far outside of community desires as a whole, or cases where moderators can be recalled, but require a larger amount of effort to remove than is required to grant it in the first place.

Each of these helps try to find a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of both extremes, thus tying the moderators to the general long-term will of the community, while making them relatively safe from short-term backlash for an unpopular, but necessary, decision.

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