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(This is a feature request only really relevant to moderators, but feel free to vote or comment anyway!)

With the move to 2.0, the moderators now have a new mechanism for contacting users, called a moderator private message. It's nice because it handles showing them the message through the site interface, but also sends a copy via email if the user has provided one. It also notifies all the other moderators through the SE inbox, but not via email.

Please BCC all moderator private messages to moderators@mathoverflow.net

My main concern is merely to have a permanent archive (ie my email) of all our official correspondence, which currently isn't possible. Further, the new mechanism for sending private messages somewhat disrupts our previous practice of consulting internally on 'problem users', and instead encourages us to follow a more SE model of moderators acting independently. I think merely having all these messages end up on the private moderator mailing list will make it easier to quickly discuss issues that arise in dealing with individual users.

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  • $\begingroup$ (I wrote this request, by the way, because I found myself avoiding the private message system and reverting back to email anyway.) $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Oct 2 '13 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ Having seen both MO and m.SE moderation in action, I think the MO model is much much better than the SE model, and hope that we can continue to stay as close as possible to the old model. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Oct 2 '13 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ Moderators on other sites typically discuss more difficult cases in a mod-only chat room. This works pretty well in my experience, but I can see how it does not fit the MO moderator workflow if you prefer email. There is an archive of all mod messages on the site at /admin/users and every mod should get notifications in their inbox for them. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Oct 3 '13 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ None of the MathOverflow moderators really adopted use of the SE chat rooms except when necessary to contact someone (i.e. we would have preferred to just know the relevant email address). I understand it's a good system, I'd just prefer that contacting users fits in well with the system we actually use, i.e. email. The archive of mod messages is useful, but not as useful to me as just being able to type "moderators@mathoverflow.net" in the search box in gmail and see them all there. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Oct 3 '13 at 23:50
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We have this, well, almost. All moderator messages sent from the system are archived. This includes replies from users.

The problem is, older messages aren't easy to discover unless you happen to be viewing the user it's attached to. That is, you might remember addressing a very specific behavioral issue in the past and what you wrote would be perfect for the message you're about to send, yet you can't find it. That's frustrating, and I have encountered the same.

I'd rather enhance the system that we have, as the community team needs to be involved in all correspondence sent to users of our network - this isn't something that can be short-circuited. We're copied via email on each message and it's very difficult to sort things out in order though email, and you lose all formatting.

If you were able to find your messages through /admin in a similar manner that you would using email, would that be sufficient? Another reason that we have the message system is that private messages to users should be kept in strict confidence, especially if the messages contain any personally identifiable information, the system that we have helps to manage this.

It's okay to contact users directly using your personal email, but it should be done only when the message system just isn't suitable (e.g., no reason to annotate the account). The community team should at least be blind copied - just so we're not blind sided if something escalates, and we're aware of it if we happen to encounter something problematic on another site where the user is participating.

To be honest, this is something I've been wanting to fix - if you think we could simply make what we have better I'm all for seeing what we can do. I also want per-site custom message templates, but that's another discussion :)

I don't want to change how you moderate your site, you should do that as you see fit, because that's what this community empowered you to do. My objection to this is purely a question of logistics.

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    $\begingroup$ Tim, so your main issue is that personal user information could leak out. But moderators@mathoverflow.net is and has always been the official email of the mathoverflow moderators. If you want us to add MathOverflow by-laws governing how this email can be used so that everything complies with the SE TOS, we can definitely do that. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 3 '13 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it's that, and we like to have any correspondence with users available to all diamonds (mods and staff), in case we need to reference it. My other concern is picking up on communication via email, and it never finding its way back to where others can find it. $\endgroup$ – Tim Post Oct 3 '13 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ OK. There is no problem adding all necessary recipients to that email address and/or deposit all incoming and outgoing messages to an appropriate location. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 3 '13 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Personally, even a decent search interface under /admin wouldn't completely solve my problem. I already have an excellent search interface for my email, and I'd love to just reduce to a previously solved problem! $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Oct 3 '13 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ I've already had instances where I didn't see that another moderator had already contacted a user through the site, and I wrote an email to our moderator mailing list proposing an alternative action to take, because I had seen anything yet show up in my inbox. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Oct 3 '13 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ I also have to admit that I continue to think "in the long term", about what would happen if one day MO again departed from the SE network. An email archive would at that point become much more useful than one under a URL on a potentially defunct website. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Oct 3 '13 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ It occurs to me that we might set up a second email alias "moderation@mathoverflow.net" that also CC's you guys. Thus for private communication amongst the moderators we could continue to use moderators@mathoverflow.net, but when we contact users we can use that address, to keep you in the loop. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Oct 3 '13 at 23:56

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