6

In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers.

Due to the submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as our back up questions for a total of 6 questions.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes. Please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written, and also including a link to your answer on your nomination post.

Once all the answers have been compiled, this will serve as a transcript for voters to view the thoughts of their candidates, and will be appropriately linked in the Election page.

Good luck to all of the candidates!

Oh, and when you've completed your answer, please provide a link to it after this blurb here, before that set of three dashes. Please leave the list of links in the order of submission.

To save scrolling here are links to the submissions from each candidate (in order of submission):


1:
As you may be aware, Stack Exchange moderators have some special abilities that go with the role. One of these is the so-called 'super-vote', such that:
Moderator votes are binding. Any place we have voting — close, open, delete, undelete, offensive, migration, etc — that vote will reach the threshold and take effect immediately if a single moderator casts a vote.


The general advice to moderators is:

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either. We've entrusted you with the ability to perform both of those tasks instantly - so use them judiciously.

Clearly, obvious troll posts and spam should be closed (and deleted) immediately. However, the question of whether posts should be closed is not always that clear. In recent years, moderators on History:SE have generally used a lighter touch, and preferred (where possible) to allow the community to decide.


So where do you think the line should be drawn?. How proactive do you think moderators should be in closing posts which may be off-topic, based on the criteria in our help centre?

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?
  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?
  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
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  • Before I post an answer to this .... where did 1 go? I could stick it in front of the "So where" above, but under the circumstances editing the questions and then answering them seems kind of shaky. – T.E.D. Oct 20 at 23:16
  • @T.E.D. my bad, 1is the big question. I'll edit. – Cesar M Oct 21 at 17:50
10

T.E.D.

As you may be aware, Stack Exchange moderators have some special abilities that go with the role. One of these is the so-called 'super-vote', such that:
Moderator votes are binding. Any place we have voting — close, open, delete, undelete, offensive, migration, etc — that vote will reach the threshold and take effect immediately if a single moderator casts a vote.


The general advice to moderators is:

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either. We've entrusted you with the ability to perform both of those tasks instantly - so use them judiciously.

Clearly, obvious troll posts and spam should be closed (and deleted) immediately. However, the question of whether posts should be closed is not always that clear. In recent years, moderators on History:SE have generally used a lighter touch, and preferred (where possible) to allow the community to decide.


(1.) So where do you think the line should be drawn?. How proactive do you think moderators should be in closing posts which may be off-topic, based on the criteria in our help centre?

If it is at all a judgement call, I think its important that diamond mods allow the users of the site a chance to make that judgement. This allows the site's vision of itself to evolve with its users, and gives users a sense of ownership in the site's mission.

However, there is some content that is objectively, indisputably off-topic (aka: "garbage"*), there's no good reason for such a post to hang out waiting for enough high-rep users to notice it. There is also (not as rare as we'd like) content that is actively damaging for users to see, such as personal abuse or generalized bigotry, and the quicker that's deleted, the better for everyone.

Sadly, due to our subject matter and the state of the world today, a large part of this job ends up being deleting Nazi posts. Of course the bright side of that is that a moderator on History gets to (metaphorically) destroy Nazis.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I'm not a robot, or a computer. If you're a longtime user on this site, I care for you, and if you start becoming a problem for other users, I want you to do better, and you will probably get more consideration from me than someone who pops onto this site fresh and immediately starts being a problem.

Is this a bit of a failing as a moderator? Possibly. That's for you as a voter to decide. This is why I'm very glad to have had a team of moderators of varying dispositions with me who can backstop me if I am worried I'm being too lenient with a user. I think we have done a stellar job of talking out issues and listening to each other when making difficult moderation decisions like this, I hope that tradition continues after the election, no matter what the selected group looks like.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

As touched on in the previous answer, we have a private moderator chat, where such things are tactfully hashed out. I will generally bring up what issue I might have with a decision there, but always with the attitude that this is just my perspective. Likely as not I'm wrong, or more often there is no right, just trade-offs. If we all have a roughly common understanding of the trade-offs involved in decisions, and how we'd like them prioritized for the site, then we can trust each other to moderate, even if I know someone is likely to be much quicker to close a post than I would be. That difference doesn't have to be a problem, it can be a strength.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

At the core, I feel like we are the site janitors. We are here to clean up the messes that other users cannot.

  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

When I first became a moderator, I was surprised about what a big deal this was. And to be honest, I'm kind of not a fan. Getting a critical comment from someone with a diamond next to their name carries something akin to an implied threat, which means moderators have to be very careful when they comment.

There are plusses to this as well though. A new user getting a kind suggestion from a diamond mod (assuming they aren't so new that they don't know what that means) can have a whole lot more impact than the same words from anyone else. A comment thread that has wandered off into problematic territory can often be calmed down with a stern reminder of site standards from a diamond mod. (Not always of course, but it does happen).

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

I think I've covered a lot of this territory in #5 above, but there is one further thing not covered elsewhere: comments. Comments can be an immense help to a post, or the thing that causes the whole site to descend into drama and acrimony.

I've made an oft-repeated post that comments are our barn cats. However, I also feel that good comments can make or break a post. Site moderators are the only users (outside of each comment's author) who can delete or edit comments, and this function I feel is vital to keeping the site running smoothly.


* - See the note on this meta post for my definition of "garbage" posts.

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  • 4
    The diamond effects are well described here. But: How the system designs the diamond thing is really scandalous: when the diamond is applied retro-actively to posts not made as diamond, it is 'changing history', and for the worse. Same goes for removing the diamond from posts when a user is no longer mod. Past mod comments are demodded? Mods should be able to fully participate as 'ordinary users' and community members, and every post should reflect the status of its author when the post was made. Therefore: how should a current mod signify making an ordinary 'standard user comment'? – LаngLаngС Oct 21 at 10:44
  • 1
    @LаngLаngС Maybe something worth raising on Meta:SE? – sempaiscuba Oct 21 at 11:21
  • @LаngLаngС - FWIW, I agree about the diamond changes "retroactively changing history" (in both directions btw). Fortunately that effect is most seen on comments, which you can't count on staying forever anyway. I know that some longtime mods on other sites who are particularly bothered by not being able to participate as a regular user have used socks (with obvious names, eg: "T.E.D.-sock") to work around the issue. – T.E.D. Oct 21 at 12:47
9

Mark C. Wallace

As you may be aware, Stack Exchange moderators have some special abilities that go with the role. One of these is the so-called 'super-vote', such that: Moderator votes are binding. Any place we have voting — close, open, delete, undelete, offensive, migration, etc — that vote will reach the threshold and take effect immediately if a single moderator casts a vote.

The general advice to moderators is:

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either. We've entrusted you with the ability to perform both of those tasks instantly - so use them judiciously.

Clearly, obvious troll posts and spam should be closed (and deleted) immediately. However, the question of whether posts should be closed is not always that clear. In recent years, moderators on History:SE have generally used a lighter touch, and preferred (where possible) to allow the community to decide.

  1. So where do you think the line should be drawn?

I would prefer to be very slow. While moderators have a great deal of power, the community should have more power to determine the culture and future of the site. There is a reason why we reward people for reviewing posts; overly quick action by the moderator denies the community the chance to act. (if the post is hateful or hurtful, then quick action is needed)

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

This is tough; the answer lies in the particulars. To the extent that I can articulate a general response: First, listen to the user to see if there is a pattern or root cause that can be addressed. Second, process the flags fairly; try to ignore the user's rep and engage with the content of the flag. Third, if the pattern rises to an actionable level discuss with other mods to make sure that I'm not over-reacting and that I'm not missing something. Fourth, if I can identify the pattern in a clear and actionable way, communicate with the user (chat or mod message) identifying the pattern and the desired change. But underlying all those is to try to understand the effect this has on the community. There may be other options to manage this situation, but they're going to depend on details that aren't present in the hypothetical.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

It happens. We are different people with different outlooks. We're strive to cooperate to build something that isn't yet defined, which means that I am not in possession of the blueprint. If someone else's moderation is contrary to mine, that may help me to better understand the shared vision. I'm pleasantly surprised by how frequently we agree. The election means that there will likely be at least one more mod, so the consensus will need to be reforged. 1 This is the kind of situation where disagreement is very likely to be constructive - to reveal something new about what we collectively want.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Exception processing, and executive action. If something happens that could damage the community before the community has a chance to come to a consensus, moderators should act to give the community time. Under normal conditions, the community is self-managing itself, and the result is a kind of pleiostasis (homeostasis with multiple semi-stable chaotic attractors); if something unexpected happens, the moderator may need to step in to give the community time to stabilize. Finally, moderators act as the executive will of the community - unfortunately this is most frequent in troll bashing - there are people/forces that are inimical to the community; they are best suppressed by prompt action and minimal attention. Trolls thrive on attention and discussion; prompt moderator action can starve the troll.

  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

Uncomfortable. There are days when I want to fire off a snap rejoinder, but I don't think I can. There are things I do that I hope contribute to improving the site; things that I would do with or without the diamond. I try to be more cautious and respectful about those activities because of the diamond. If I am ever comfortable with the diamond, I think it will be time for me to yield the diamond.

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

"more effective" is a judgemental word2, like "beauty" or "secure"; it doesn't have any meaning without a metric. I'm not sure what the OP of this question intended that word to mean. I'll continue to participate and answer where I can, and I'm sure I'll garner reputation on that basis, but I'm well past the diminishing marginal return on that reward. Where I want to be effective is to improve the community - to make it more friendly and more helpful. To clarify questions where clarity is needed, to do what I can to avoid closing questions over small punctillio's when the core of the question is fundamentally interesting. To help users with < 100 rep get past that reputation boundary. To build a better meta site with references that more clearly explain our culture, and to adapt that culture to changes in the community.


1 Why do I hear an ominous chord of music when I type that?

2 effective is bad subjective.....

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7

Semaphore

  1. So where do you think the line should be drawn? How proactive do you think moderators should be in closing posts which may be off-topic, based on the criteria in our help centre?

I believe moderators should proactively close grossly offensive or unambiguously off-topic posts. For example, holocaust/genocide denial, spam, or clearly non-historical questions. Such posts will assuredly be closed by the community at large, so mods should save everyone time and effort by dealing with them ASAP.

With legitimate posts, I believe in a more nuanced approach. In general, moderators should be restrained in the exercise of their powers, and respect the will of the community at large, including Meta consensuses. I will generally intervene in extraordinary cases, where drawing upon experience and knowledge, I see an issue in the question that needs to be resolved before someone attempts an answer, and if comments seem unlikely to be effective.

One exception is if there are already four close votes on a post. In that scenario, I believe moderators can vote from the perspectives of a regular user. Since by that stage, a fifth vote from a moderator functions just like a vote from any regular user.

In all cases with legitimate, good faith participants, I believe it is the responsibility of moderators to ensure guidance has been offered on the closed questions.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

My response will depend on the specific situation. For excessive arguments, I will first move them to chat and then delete all further attempts to argue in the comments. If they're flagged for incivility, I will manually edit the comment to remove the offending passage if the rest of the comment contains value, or delete the entire comment if not.

In all cases, my modus operandi has been to contact the user directly to ask them to improve their behavior, and escalate from that if the warnings proved insufficient. While I believe we should value everyone who produce content, no one user is irreplaceable, and maintaining an overall positive, friendly environment is more important than any single power user.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I believe this should be resolved in the mod chat room. Ideally we will come to an agreement, which we always have in the past. If an agreement is not forthcoming, I believe in asking the rest of the mod team for input.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Aside from our janitorial duties with regards to the trolls and bots, I believe the primary function of a moderator is to:

  • Set an example for other users
  • Provide guidance and assistance to users on how to use this site
  • Facilitate consensus formation on Meta and mediate disputes
  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I'm always humbled by the responsibility, and I hope I have conducted myself in a manner that befits the diamond.

In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

My feeling is that the diamond gives more weight when I offer advice to new users. History.SE has a somewhat high bar for entry because of our high standards for questions, and because history is a topic where questions are often dependent on contextual knowledge. Even though we now have several message templates that do a great job of summarising how this site works for a new user, I feel a more personalised guidance is often beneficial.

In addition, aside from the ability to quickly respond to trolls and incivility, moderator privileges also gives me more ability to maintain the tag system.

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4

Robert Columbia

As you may be aware, Stack Exchange moderators have some special abilities that go with the role. One of these is the so-called 'super-vote', such that:
Moderator votes are binding. Any place we have voting — close, open, delete, undelete, offensive, migration, etc — that vote will reach the threshold and take effect immediately if a single moderator casts a vote.


The general advice to moderators is:

When you see a post you think should be closed, close it. When you see a post you think should be re-opened, re-open it. If you're not sure, don't do either. We've entrusted you with the ability to perform both of those tasks instantly - so use them judiciously.

Clearly, obvious troll posts and spam should be closed (and deleted) immediately. However, the question of whether posts should be closed is not always that clear. In recent years, moderators on History:SE have generally used a lighter touch, and preferred (where possible) to allow the community to decide.


So where do you think the line should be drawn?. How proactive do you think moderators should be in closing posts which may be off-topic, based on the criteria in our help centre?

I'm a regular participant in Charcoal with close-vote privileges on several sites, so I see closing as just another part of the same general goal of moderation. Close-worthy questions are often targets of spam and Not An Answer (NAA) posts, so closing them when I encounter them as part of another moderation activity is a service to the community just like handling problematic answers themselves. Leaving questions open, of course, can deliver the message to users that such questions are considered acceptable - a bad example!

In general, I agree with the above statement that the community should be the primary close team whenever it is reasonably possible. I side with the old saw about diamond moderators being "human exception handlers" - they should get involved if the community is having trouble keeping up with all the flags or has indicated a desire for help, but back off when the community is actively keeping the site clean themselves.

There has been a long-standing problem on Stack Overflow with moderators declining to step up and close questions even as the community was overwhelmed with thousands of questions in the close votes queue, unable to make headway due to limited reviews and votes per day. I'm not a believer in that. If the community needs help, then I need to do it! That's what being an exception handler often is!

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

There are several different flags, so appropriate action really depends on the situation. Some users generate a large number of helpful comments that eventually become obsolete, so getting a lot of "It's no longer needed" flags for such users is normal and expected - I would just process the flags and move on.

In a scenario where a user is actively causing strife, my general rule is that we need a base level of civility in order to have a working site. Question quality and answer quality have little meaning if people are being driven from the site!

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would review the question's history and any notes that have been made in order to apprise myself of the full situation surrounding the action. At that point, if I felt the action was clearly a mistake, I would probably reverse it. If there was a significant doubt, I would bring it before the other mods and/or the community itself for a discussion, doing my best to develop a consensus.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators are the faithful leaders that keep the community working smoothly. They are the glue to the community's rubber. They occasionally must make a hard decision (e.g. suspending a long-time user), but should strive to avoid such scenarios wherever possible.

  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I strive to maintain a consistently high level of quality and civility, so I don't object to having my past actions reviewed with a different standard as long as civility is kept! I also admit that I am not perfect and am open to constructive criticism, and will strive to always be respectful.

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

Being an elected moderator will demonstrate that the community trusts me with moderation and has provided me a mandate as opposed to just being someone who earned the moderator tools by submitting awesome questions and answers.

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  • Nice observations; I started nodding my head at "Close-worthy questions are often targets. . . " – Mark C. Wallace Oct 20 at 17:16
4

Mark Johnson

  1. So where do you think the line should be drawn? How proactive do you think moderators should be in closing posts which may be off-topic, based on the criteria in our help centre?

A fine balance must exist to ensure that a system can envolve (without getting out of control). A too strict interpretation by one (or more) could lead to a stagnation or giving the impression that only certain topic are allowed.

Part of this is that eligible users should be able to close a question, so preemptive closing should be avoided in non urgent cases.

  • leeway in areas that may overlap as long as the main context is within what one consiered to be the main topic

The Moderator task would be, in cases where clear cut rules are not being violated, to guide things in the correct direction.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

Where impartiality exists, to gauge the situation based on the known facts, personal knowledge and experience. Based on those results (and the situation) deside on an appropriate reaction.

  • recusement, when in the past (or present) one has been in conflict with the same user

For serious, continuous breachs by a user, consultation with other moderators on what action should be taken.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

Discussions on meta (or the private moderator chat that seems to exist) to gauge where consensus can be made, when otherwise not clear.

Avoid 'War of the Giants' remakes, which nobody is really interested in and would destroy confidence in the position of a moderator by the users.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Most of what is stated in Q 1-3.

What a moderator should not do is to act as a final authority for any area outside the scope of the general administration of the site.

  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

As in the real world, any new privileges brings more responsibility. One must be more restrictive than one would otherwise be to insure impartiality. If one cannot accept that, then one should not apply for such a position.

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

None, since being a moderator should (in theory) be separated from any personal activity.

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