Most sites require moderators to dedicate a portion of time daily to help with the workload. Stack Overflow Moderators are required to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to help.

My offsite priorities have changed (new job, new baby, etc) and I don't have as much time to contribute as a moderator.

Should I become a normal user or just moderate when I have time?

  • 1
    Is this true? :'( Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:25
  • @AnnonomusPenguin No, but I think burn out and/or lack of time impacts all of us.
    – Taryn
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:26
  • 6
    @bluefeet whew! Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:27
  • Isn't this very much a personal decision, in the absence of site-specific policy? And a site-specific policy decision otherwise?
    – Air
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:28
  • 5
    This depends on what kind of role moderators are supposed to have. Or is this question specifically about Stack Exchange? In that case it should be asked on Meta Stack Exchange. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:43

7 Answers 7


First of all, if you have a superior, talk to them. They should be able to guide you some.

Other than that:

  • If it's temporary (i.e. a few months), you might just have to see if the other mods can pick up your slack while you're gone and you could help whenever you can. Make sure they agree to this... It might also be possible to step down and then see if you can become a mod again after a year or so when you're well rested and have more time.
  • If it's a more permanent thing, you have two things you could do:
    • Give the position up and move on but still contribute
    • Keep the position and make an effort to stay dedicated. (See the note at the bottom)

You also never defined what "less time" means. If you do 16 hours a day and you think you'll only be able to do 12 hours a day of moderation, you should be good :P

Note: if you decide to keep the position, it might be better to get another mod to help. That will make everyone's lives easier. Like I said, make sure to be open about all of this and talk to anyone who you need to before making any decisions.


It depends, by keeping your position will you:

  • Disallow someone with more free time than you to take the position?
  • Hinder the rest of the active moderator team's efforts (by imposing that many more flags for them to handle?)

If the answer to either of the above is "yes", then you should step down, and let someone else take the reins. If not, keep your position and moderate when you have the time :)

  • Do not agree that "Joe has more free time" means "Joe will have more positive effect on the community"
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 4:42
  • I'm assuming her that Joe would be an elected moderator with a positive effect on the community...if you don't have the time and someone else has, why not? Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 6:34
  • @Zaralynda: Free time is the absolute first prerequisite of a moderator. No matter how good or bad you are, you have no effect on the community if you're not there.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 8:29
  • Someone else with more free time doesnt mean that the current moderator has no free time. Some people can have a better effect in 2 hr/wk than others can have in 8 hr/wk
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 17:38
  • @Zaralynda: There's workload, and there's a reaction time. If I spend 2hr/wk as two separate hourly visits over the week, that means an offender can spend 4 days annoying users and making life diddicult until I show up. A moderator dropping in for five minutes four times a day, every day is probably better than one who spends one full day working, leaving the rest of the week unattended.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 22:34

If there are other moderators who can pick up the slack, just let them know what you're doing and moderate when you have time. If that turns out to be never, you should step down and let someone who does have the time step in.


There isn't really a simple answer to this question, but it can be rephrased as another question that is easier to answer. Would the the community be better served if I was to leave my position?

There are any number of factors to consider when evaluating this. Do you prevent others from being able to take a more active and effective role? Are there other qualified individuals who could do a better job if you stepped down? Is the situation long term or temporary? Does the community actually need the moderation you are currently providing? How will the community be impacted by your lower level of participation? Will you still be tied in to the community and simply not moderating as much? If not, will you still be able to be effective in your limited time if you are less tied in to the community in general?

The overall answer depends not only on any community policies and guidelines, but also on the current state of the community. Even if you are barely going to have any time at all, if there is nobody else who can take the place of your experience in the community, it may be worth staying on and chipping in when you can. On the other hand, if there are a limited number of positions, you were doing most of the work before and there is a list of qualified people waiting to help out, then it would be best to step down and let someone else take over.

Reality generally falls somewhere in-between those extremes and you have to either use your best judgement or ask others to help with the decision if you are unsure.


How can I tell if I should step down as a moderator?

You can tell if you should step down when you ask yourself that question.

This may sound flippant, but if you are at the point when you are questioning whether you can do the job then that is the point to take a step back. As others have said that step back should initially be temporary but be prepared for it to become permanent.

I assume that what you probably don't want is for your disengagement with the site to be come complete and irrevocable. If you don't take that step back you might find that you crash in such a way that you can't continue on the site as a user either.


I would say that, a moderator would know when to step down in two cases:

  1. When the reasons and purposes for him being a moderator have disappeared

  2. When life has gotten to him/her

In my second point, what I mean by life has gotten to him is that he has absolutely no time to contribute. In your case, you have time but not as much, so I suggest you evaluate your time and if you want to step down that is your choice, if you don't want to then you can confront your moderator team (if one exists), or you can contact those above the moderators.

When you become a moderator, it should also be considerate that you have a life, meaning you may not be always available to fully contribute (unless being a moderator is an actual earning job), and so when you don't have the time then be honest with your self, evaluate the time, then tell the moderator team and those above it (admins) that you won't be able to fully contribute. This is very important, and so is communication in general.

That is all if you temporarily won't be able to contribute, if as situation is permanent then it may be best to step down and another take your place so disorder doesn't happen.


Due to the highly sophisticated human nature, it should not be possible to give a prescription for making personal decisions, which is incredibly sensitive to the decision maker and the context involved in a situation; even if the context were completely understood, it would not be possible to prescribe a perfect solution for an individual as human decisions are not necessarily objective.

So, instead of issuing "if [a condition] is satisfied then you should step down/keep the moderator position" prescriptions, I will provide some points facilitating the decision making; however, the only one who can find the best solution will be the decision-maker. Let me classify the points into two groups, according to whether they are related to the decision-maker or to the context.

Decision-maker-based Considerations

  • Having many duties to carry out does not amount to inability of managing them. One can enhance performance of duties as an athlete can enhance his/her physical strength. Although it is normal to become exhausted after performing many duties, one can enhance his/her ability of doing more duties by appropriate physically and mentally exercise and techniques. Also, dealing with many duties within a limited time, presumably, gradually enhances the performer's ability.

    Further, as an athlete should not focus only on increasing his/her physical strength but should improve required skills, which sometimes play a more effective role than physical strength, as well to succeed in his/her field, one can optimize performance of duties by employing helpful skills and techniques such as reducing wasted time and/or performing tasks simultaneously, if possible, for example, performing some moderation tasks while waiting for something/someone.
  • Whereas the ability of performing many tasks within a limited time is a promising quality, it is effectiveness that plays the most crucial role in achieving goals. A goal may not be achieved by a lot of effort while the same goal can be achieved by much less but more effective effort. To clarify this characteristic more, let us consider the following example.

    Consider a community in which there arises many controversial issues needing moderator intervention. A moderator of the community could engage in tiresome and wasteful debates, take too many disciplinary actions, and/or so on. However, "the true art of moderation" should take the least possible actions to resolve issues. For example, providing a clear and consistent set of community guidelines/rules, fairly moderation, communicating community members articulately, and acting as a "human exception handler" could dramatically reduce and more effectively resolve tensions and controversial issues within the community.
  • A new event in personal life does not necessarily inhibit one from performing activities; on the contrary, it can provide insight into how one should act and/or can cause acquired traits to manage activities.

    For example, becoming a parent can bring a transcendent view on how to moderate a community more constructively and more creatively. Also, parents, presumably, are especially patient, an essential trait for community moderators.

Context-based Considerations

  • People sometimes overload themselves with excess work beyond their required duties, perhaps due to misinterpreting their responsibilities, and so lacking enough time for their other duties.

    For example, according to the moderation theory of the OP's community platform, a moderator is a "human exception handler", who is expected to do "as little as possible", and a moderator can be inactive for 6 months, so "30 minutes per day" moderation would likely be considered as overload; however, if much less than such a moderation time were not enough for a community, it would highly be recommended to ask the managers of the platform to increase the number of moderators, instead of overworking far beyond expected responsibilities.
  • There is an opinion suggesting to count upon other moderators to pick up the moderator's slack while the moderator is gone; let me not favor it. This kind of reliance does not seem professional. Any person has their own personal problems with an unpredictable future, so one should not count upon others' promises to do his/her own tasks (although it is highly recommended to cooperate with colleagues in difficult situations).
  • Another point which I do not favor is to ponder whether there exist qualified individuals to take the moderator position or what would happen after stepping down.

    Firstly, the community platform in question is a giant company having professional teams of developers and managers. So the future of a community based on the platform of such a company would not be threatened by stepping down a moderator. So, in such a situation a moderator would not need at all to worry about the future of a community but only need to see whether he/she could continue moderating of the community.

    Secondly, on the platform, community moderators are elected through popular vote; a few community members participate in moderator elections, without any minimum limit on their turnout. (I bet that almost all of them participate in such elections only for some badges or for fun.) We should note that there has been (and will be) no implication between popularity and being qualified.

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