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🤔 Frequently Asked Questions

Elections and ballots

Some of the features mentioned here are currently under construction.

One of the more interesting features of Aether is that communities can elect, and impeach their own moderators.

The basics

In every community, you will see a tab called elections.

In this tab, you can see the current moderators of that community, and their current, ongoing voting status. These ballots are ongoing, and always on, and they always collect votes from folks. You can vote on any existing moderator, or you can vote on people who are not, but are trying to be moderators.

All voting is public.

Voter eligibility

For you to be able to vote in an election, you need to have contributed to that community in the last 2 weeks to 6 months. Posting on that community counts, but voting on posts does not.

Election thresholds

For results of a ballot to be valid, at least 5% of a community’s last 6-months population needs to have voted on that ballot. The result of a ballot can be either an elect or an impeach, determined at which side of 50% the result is. Lastly, there needs to be at least 100 votes cast.

Election structure

Elections are always-ongoing affairs, they never stop. When you vote in an election, your vote lasts for six months in that election, and then discarded. You can re-vote in the same election every six months.

Effects of an election result

Election makes it so that the people who come into a community, who have not chosen or disabled that particular mod by themselves, will use the mod list shaped by the elections. If a user has explicitly chosen a particular person to be a mod in that community, that takes precedence. Likewise, if a user has disabled a mod, that person will never be a mod for that user, regardless of the results.

The user’s own choices always take precedence over signals from the network.

Effects of voting for a particular person

When you vote in favour of a person, you are making that person a moderator for yourself, regardless of whether they win the vote or not.

In other words, you cannot vote yes for that person in public, and have them disabled as a mod in private. Your vote for a person is you making that person a mod for you. The reverse also applies, if you disable a person from being a mod, that is an impeachment vote.

Moderator types

There are three moderator types. They largely do have the same powers, but what happens to them based on the election results slightly differ.

All types of mods are subject to elections, and they all can be impeached.

The first is the creator mod. This is the person that creates the community. This is the only person that can change the community info description, and appoint assigned mods. However, for moderation, he or she has no special powers.

Assigned mods are the mods that the creator mod appoints as moderators to the community. These mods derive their jurisdiction from being appointed by the creator mod.

Elected mods are the mods the community has elected.

Effects of election results on mod types

Effects of the election’s current result, what happens to a mod is determined by the mod type, or more specifically, by the mod’s default authority state.

Creator mod and assigned mods are by default in a state of authority. Elected mods are by default in a state of non-authority, that is, they are just regular members of that community.

When a mod that is in a state of authority by default loses an election, the state of authority is removed. They will remain in this impeached state so long as the community keeps that ballot in the impeached state.

When, or if they ever get their approval rating over 50%, or there has been so few votes in the last 6 months that the ballot is rendered invalid, they regain their authority via reverting to the default state, which is a state of authority.

When a regular user that is in a state of non-authority wins an election, this puts them into a mod state, and they will have all the rights and privileges of an assigned mod, so long as the ballot remains in their favour, and remains valid. If the ballot that elected them drops below 50% in approval, or is rendered invalid by too few votes, the user reverts to their default state, which is a state of non-authority.

Design goals

The ultimate goal is a balance between providing some implicit level of trust to the default mod team, which is the creator mod and assigned mods, and allowing the community to take that away, and elect one of their own if the desires of the default mods and the community diverges too much.

This ballot is always ongoing and time-gated to only last 6 months so as to prevent votes of people long gone from overriding the wishes of people who are currently present.

For example, if a community loses popularity due to bad mod decisions, its past population, thus past election votes would be much more in absolute numbers than what its current population could ever hope to override, had the votes never expired. This would cement the past decisions on elections, thus the current bad mod team, and it would doom the community.

Because votes can expire, the wishes of the current population of the community takes precedence over those who were there first.

Aether wants communities to be stable, and respecful of the wishes of their members. Given a tradeoff between stability and respecting the wishes of the population however, the system will choose to respect the wishes of what the members want, over what mods want.

Mind that this all applies only if you have not already cast a vote for that mod. If you have voted for a mod in a community, that person remains a moderator for you so long as your vote is valid, and that person’s current election status is of no consequence to you.

Elections system only affects the mod list, and the mod list is overridden by your own mod decisions. In other words, at no point a user is forced to accept the authority of a mod he or she does not want.

“Raiding” communities

Not as cool as this — nor effective

This structure raises a question about people ‘raiding’ communities by posting in them, then immediately vote to change the mods.

There are a few defences that mainly hinge on the fact that the mods can temporarily stop the results of the election process from being applied.

There is also a proposed feature where the voting eligibility would be a trailing qualifier. In this case, in addition to the requirement of having posted before, a requirement of your first post being older than two weeks is added.

That makes it so that if the mods see an influx of nonsensical posts, they can stop the elections process until the danger passes, and they will have about two weeks to decide whether to temporarily stop it or not (since the trailing indicator comes two weeks behind).

Even if you managed to ‘raid’ a community, your changes to the mod list would only apply to people who have not already voted for the existing mod team. If there’s a bunch of people coming into a community, they vote for a certain person, and the existing community does not respond by voting for the existing mods, then that is not a raid, that is just an influx of users.

If the community responds by voting for the existing mods, then even if the ‘raid’ succeeds, the existing mods will remain mods for the people who voted for them, thus rendering the new mods moot for the existing population.

If a mod you voted against (a mod you disabled / impeached / voted against) takes a mod action, that is ignored by your client, and has no effect. If a mod that you have taken no action on takes a mod action, it is accepted, but only so long as there is no action in reverse from a mod that you have explicitly voted for. If you don’t like actions of a mod you haven’t voted for is bothering you, you can easily disable that mod, and render them ineffectual.

This, with a slight advantage given towards the existing moderation team (via them being default mods), the effectiveness of raids are reduced.

Getting elected as a mod

There is no such thing as becoming a candidate. You just flip the mod switch on from Preferences. This will enable the mod UI in your client, and you can start modding.

This will generate moderation graph entities originating from you. These will only be valid for you, and the people who chose you as a mod (i.e. voted for you) in that community.

This will also make your name appear on the elections list. From there, people can check your past actions without applying it onto their own client first, and your reasonings for them (Mod actions provide an optional ‘reason’ field to be filled in).

If they like what they see, they will vote for you, and for the person voting, you will become a mod. That means your mod actions from that point on will start to affect what that user sees.

Given enough people doing this, your name will start to rise in the elections list, and that will make more people check your moderation actions, more people voting for you as a mod, and as a result, you becoming a mod for more people, even without actually winning an election, just by the virtue of them voting for you.

You do not need to campaign, or even be aware that other people are voting for you. Just enable the mod mode, curate your own view. If people like that curation, they will be able to opt-in to it.

That is all being a mod is: some people liking your curation enough that they decide to apply your curation to their own view as well.