Selection and accountability for forum moderators and leaders

This topic discusses a process that is currently in place. It is based on discussion at Proposal: Selection and accountability for forum moderators and leaders. If you believe this process should be changed, please discuss in the proposal topic or create a new topic.

This topic describes:

  • How do we decide who gets to wield extended privileges on Discourse?
  • What do we expect of users with extended privileges?
  • How do we maintain accountability?


The following roles exist on Discourse:

  • Adminstrators: can do basically anything on the site, including running arbitrary code on the server, modifying Discourse behaviour, reading private messages between other users, editing content and impersonating users. List of admins and moderators
  • Moderators: Can edit content and moderate (flags, suspending users, …), but can’t read private messages (except when those are flagged for moderator attention) and can’t edit site setting.
  • Leaders: (also known as “TL 4”) are somewhat between moderators and users - can change tags/titles on a topic, can edit posts by others (this is currently used primarily to format code/math) and can reorganize (split/merge) topics - see the docs for trust levels for more details. List of Leaders
  • Community manager: actively managing the community, looking for ways to improve the experience on forums. This role is not directly tied to privileges on Discourse, but I am currently Admin (due to the need to adjust Discourse settings) and it is expected that Community Manager will be at least a Moderator. The position is currently paid and held by me.

I will refer to these four groups of users as privileged users in the following text.


All privileged users are expected to:

  • Follow CoC + Discourse guidelines (once they are made), be an example of good behavior (i.e. higher standard is expected than for regular members)
  • Be active on the forums (at minimum respond in timely manner when tagged / messaged and engage in some other way at least semi-regularly)
    • This is not intended to be very strict, but we also don’t want to give advanced privileges to people who are hardly around as having too many people with privileges reduces transparency/accountability.

Leaders are expected to help with the day-to-day forum business as their capacity allow, in particular

  • Look for unanswered questions and answer them or tag people
  • Edit post titles, move post to appropriate categories, add/remove (in)appropriate tags
  • Edit posts from new users for formatting (and reminding users of the formatting features in a friendly way)
  • Mark posts as “Solution” if the OP didn’t do so
  • Notify the Community Manager of any potentially problematic behavior
  • Make people feel welcome (e.g. be generous with likes)

Moderators and admins are expected to:

  • Respond to flags and other moderation events in a timely manner.
  • If possible, help with running the forums (similarly to Leaders).
  • While administrators are technically allowed to read and alter any data on the site, they will not access private information without explicit approval from the affected user or - under exceptional circumstances - from the SGB
  • Use 2-factor authentication or login via a service that uses it (e.g. if you login via GitHub and have 2FA on GitHub, this is OK).

Community manager is expected to held the responsibilities of Leaders and Moderators, and also to:

  • Proactively seek ways to improve the Discourse experience
  • Notice newly active members of the community and get in touch with them.
  • Monitor site stats and continually asses the “mood” of the forums.


  • SGB chooses Admins/Moderators and the Community manager
  • Community manager chooses Leaders (SGB can also choose Leaders directly)
  • Nominating others or oneself for a role is encouraged, but not necessary - everybody can nominate another user (but the user has to agree to take the role).
  • Community manager actively looks out for active members of the community to offer Leader privileges.
  • Appointments are announced publicly on the forums (preferably together with yearly wrap-up, see below)

Accountability, Termination

  • SGB provides guidance and feedback for the Admins/Moderators/Community manager
  • Community manager provides guidance and feedback to Leaders and other Admins/Moderators.
  • Community manager regularly monitors admin actions (edits to posts etc.)
  • Once a year (I propose this to be in October), there is a yearly wrap-up for privileged users.
  • Once appointed, privileged users are expected to stay in the role at least until next yearly wrap-up.
  • During yearly wrap-up, Community Manager starts a topic where everybody who currently has a privileged role briefly states if they wish to continue in their role (and hence want to devote time/energy to the community). It is encouraged - but not necessary - to also share past accomplishments/experiences and plans/visions for the future of the forum, especially for newly appointed members.
    • Everybody can give feedback to role holders in the yearly-wrap up
    • It is generally expected that people who wish to continue will continue in their roles, but the final decision is always with whoever appointed them.
    • The yearly wrap up ends with the Community Manager summarising the current appointments for privileged roles.
  • Community manager is expected to give updates more frequently
  • SGB/Community Manager can also revoke privileges they have given at any time, if the person failed to uphold their responsibilities.
  • Except for Code of conduct violations, first contact for any concerns/feedback about behavior of privileged users is the Community Manager. If the Community Manager is not deemed impartial in the issue, or is themselves involved in the issue, concerns can be addressed directly to SGB.

A post was merged into an existing topic: Proposal: Selection and accountability for forum moderators and leaders