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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. Not every question was compiled - as noted, we only selected the top 8 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us.

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.

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!


What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

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?

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

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users(mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

5

What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

It seems to me that the heart of the issue is that the community is so largely divided on an aspect of our scope. I feel the best course of action here is to raise the issue on meta, see why people think it should / should not be included, and work towards a conclusion that the majority can agree on.

In cases like this, just making an overruling decision is unlikely to have helped anyone, and it will just happen again and again until we have a clearer scope.

When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

I try to first reach for the Edit button, followed shortly by the comment and then share buttons.

The edit is to try to clear up the big issues that I see, such as clearing up the grammar to make it better written and to clear out the argumentative text if possible.

I follow this by leaving a comment, letting the original poster know that I have changed their content and to see if it still holds true to what they wanted, if not I try to engage them and help them add the new content whilst remaining non-aggressive.

This is followed by share, on occasion, sometimes I need help, I’m no superhuman who can fix absolutely everything, I know we have a strong community and I try to play to their strengths, see if they can improve the post where I could not.

Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

Provided neither of the users were being threatening or abusive I would attempt to patch up the damage where possible.

I would attempt to speak to them both in private, find out the root cause, and be clear to both that I want to come to a fair solution where neither feel like I’m taking a ‘side’.

I would ask them what they think the solution should be, even if they don’t have one, asking them to think about it might be enough of a nudge in the right direction to realise the scope of their actions. If they do have a solution that they both agree on, then even better, let’s see if we can implement this successfully with agreement from the rest of the community.

What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

Growth. Spread of Users. Depth of answers.

Since graduation there has been a steady flow of new users swarming the site. One of the challenges is going to be teaching these users how to use the site, what we do and don’t accept, and importantly, making them feel like a part of the community whilst still pushing for more growth.

Stemming from this the second challenge will be making sure that we have a good spread of users, I would really like to get a lot of breadth in our questions and answers, currently we are very developer or manager central, and we are missing out on hundreds upon hundreds of topics. Encouraging those users to the site when they might be the first in their field to be active here will be a challenge.

Alongside these challenges I think we need to maintain the depth of our answers, making sure they are more than just opinions or guesses. This might not be a challenge currently, but if we are successful in the first two challenges then this could definitely rear up

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 would address the flags on an individual basis, making sure those flags are valid and are not just a result of people being harsher on the user due to historical reasons. If there is a pattern in the valid flags, i.e they are always for the same issue, then I would strive to address the user, privately, on this and encourage them to work on patching up this area.

Explaining what the user has to gain by changing will remain my main tool, but maintaining quality will always be at the forefront of my actions too.

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

Communication communication communication. It all comes down to making sure we agree on the correct course of action, if the correct course isn’t clear and it’s split between us then we’re off to meta to converse with the community. As mods it’s our job to accurately reflect the needs and wants of the community, if we are divided there is a chance the community is too. In this respect it’s very similar to what would need to be done if the community was split on what to do in certain situations

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

My time will probably increase slightly, predominantly my actions are editing, commenting, reviewing and conversing in chat and on meta, I would like to think this would remain as is, with additional time being spent to address the issues raised to moderators.

A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

Editing. Without a doubt I would like to see more editing, from all users. Jmac has done a fantastic job encouraging people to edit rather than close but I think a lot more progress can be made. Let’s not forget that we as a site lose out when we close a question that could have been fixed / improved. I’m not going to force people to edit, not everyone contributes to the site in the same way, but I would definitely like to encourage it.

How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

Bare links to any site, Wikipedia or not, I don’t consider a valid answer. An answer is about more than just saying ‘Do X’ or ‘Read this’, answering is about explaining why X is the advantageous path, answering is about explaining why reading that information will help to solve the issue.

As a result I would be comparing answers based on their ‘why’ as much as their ‘what’, two answers with different sources, but the same reasoning, would have been better as an edit into the original post.

I would try to enforce DRY by merging answers where appropriate and explaining to the users what I did and why I did it so that they can make that same choice themselves in the future.

The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users(mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

I think the key to being able to handle users like this is to try and understand why they feel that way. A user is unlikely to be angry for no reason and I would make it part of my job to understand what caused their anger, did I say something out of line? Could what I have said been interpreted incorrectly? Feedback on your actions comes in all forms, good and bad, I would be foolish to ignore this feedback. I most certainly have a patient temperament, having worked a number of customer service and customer facing jobs I am used to things being ‘my fault’ whether that is true or not, and I have learnt a lot about patience and people handling from these experiences

4

What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

Making controversial decisions can be tough. The people who participate enough to flag and/or dispute flags are smart people who do it because they care about the site and the issue at hand. There's validity to both arguments (assuming there was no major edit to render the flags obsolete, which makes this trivial), and some people will be satisfied and some disappointed either way. If I can find any clear-cut rule/guideline saying it's off-topic, not constructive, etc, then I'll delete/close/migrate. If it's in a grey area, I base the decision on whether I expect it to add value to a future visitor. If I think it it might be helpful to someone, it stays.

When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

I assume "major issues" to mean I can't simply edit the question into shape. In that case closure & comment. I want to make sure I leave a useful, constructive comment, and possibly delete any less-than-constructive comments already left. A lot of times people will comment to explain the closure, but not explain how to get the post reopened. Both points are important, but a path to reopening the question (if there is one) is key. Closing is important to prevent answers (and more importantly non-answers) from building up, and can deter less useful comments.

Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

This is probably the most difficult type of thing to deal with. You don't know these people personally, and will (most likely) never see them face-to-face. Defusing conflict over the internet, especially between people who just don't get along and might not want to.

The first step is to undestand each persons point of view. What do they want? What bothers them about the other person? Remeber that even if you think one or both (or all 7) people involved are being unreasonable, they don't. In this case, I'd personally contact each user involved. Make it clear that the constant conflict is an issue, but that you understand their point of view and why they get involved. Tell them that since the interactions between the involved parties tend to turn so negative, they should be avoid, and the user should instead flag any relevant posts and explain to the moderators what the issue is. We can take a look and figure out how to handle the situation, and nobody has to deal with people they can't stand.

What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

  1. Graduation/growth. As the community continues to grow, issues arise more and more often. Since graduation, fewer users have the means to deal with these issues, meaning a lot more work falls on those who do (both high-rep users and moderators). This issue will lighten up as more users gain priveleges, but this is definitely a busy time to be in this position.

  2. Scope/appeal. Our goal is to be focused on the workplace in general, not just on software developers' wokplaces. Coming from the Stack Exchange network, it's understandable that a high percentage of our users fit the tech category. However, a question is much more helpful to a broader audience if they don't have to worry about it being specific to one industry. Keeping questions generalized while making sure people still get the answers they're looking for can be a challenge.

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 believe this is the kind of situation the directly-contact-the-user feature was designed for. Calling them out in public will only make the situation worse. A personalized confidential message, though, can be a lot more beneficial (if worded correctly). Acknowledge the disagreement/conflict, since it clearly exists, but don't place the blame on anyone (if serious contibutors are arguing, it's not to cause trouble, it's because they have strong but differing opinions). Let the user know that the conflict casts a negative light on the community they've put so much into, and that rather than argue in comments, they should use moderator flags. We can look at the situation and decide on (and execute) the most appropriate course of action. Remember that you can always ask about the reasoning behind a moderator action (whether in chat or on meta).

If trouble continues, a short-term suspension (with an appropriate explanation) may be warranted. We don't want to lock our best contributors out, but a suspension can highlight the seriousness of the issue.

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

Moderator chatroom. It's the perfect place to confidentially work out disagreements about how to handle any issue.

I actually just dealt with this today. I disagreed with a deletion, so I went over to the room to ping the mod who did the deleting. I pointed out why I disagreed, and asked if there was any objection to reopening it. In this situation, the feeling was pretty nuetral on the other end, so I went ahead and undeleted.

It's important to remember that moderators are regular people, and any action can be undone. Just because I delete something doesn't mean it needs to be deleted forever, or even that I'm 100% sold it should be gone. I'm absolutely open to other moderators questioning or disagreeing with my actions, and I'd hope they expect the same from me. Making unilateral decisions is not a privelege that should go unchecked.

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

I'd like to increase my time on the site (currently between 30 minutes to an hour a day), but I'm not sure that's practical at this point. I've been moderating this site for over a year, so I think you all have a pretty good idea of what to expect. If elected, I plan to increase my time in the Water Cooler, since I've been so absent lately. The cost is less time digging through the flag queue, which since graduation has tended to be between 5-10x the size it was beforehand.

A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

One of the biggest issues we've had has been non-answers and borderline non-answers. Since graduation, "Not An Answer" flags have increased quite a bit. A lot of these posts fall under question #1. Commenting on these is important (explain what we expect and how/why the answer doesn't meet those expectations), and deletion prevents encouraging similar answers. Unilarteral moderator action can work, but it can also cause the "this forum is terrible the moderators hate me" response, whereas several regular users acting sends a stronger message ("we don't accept this" vs "Jim the mean angry mod doesn't like this").

How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

"Don't repeat others" can be a tough point. Some questions really have one specific point to be addressed, and there may be wide agreement on how to address it. Does the fastest answer deserve to be the only answer? The main point of the proposed solution is likely to be similar across answers, but as long as each answer provides a unique, useful explanation, I think they're fine to stay.

"Back it up" is important. We've got real issues we face in the workplace, and we're trusting strangers on the internet for advice. That advice had better have some substance to it. I don't have a problem deleting answers like this, since they can always be undeleted once they've been edited. Commenting is definitely critical here, to let the user know what we're looking for. If it's somewhat useful as-is, a post notice is probably sufficient, although non-action may warrant deletion.

The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users (mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

Absolutely. Users should definitely question actions they disagree with. We moderators are also people, and can and do make mistakes from time to time. We've got the ability to do all sorts of things on our own, but that doesn't mean we're always right. It's important to understand that users get rude or obnoxious because they feel they've been wronged, not because they're terrible people. An honest explanation can be enough to clear up such a situation, but a good moderator needs to be open to the possibility that the action they've taken might not be the best way to address the issue. Remember, there's a chatroom for site moderators, and a network-wide room for all Stack Exchange moderators, so there is no shortage of people to take a second look if you start questioning something you did.

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What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

Flags aren't always very descriptive. If there are 10 flags, and 10 flags saying those aren't the right flags, that doesn't give a clear idea of what the community:

  1. Thinks the real issue is
  2. Wants to be done with the post

Thankfully we have a meta. And in the meta we can discuss what the issue(s) with the question and/or the way it was flagged were, resolve that case (or get something more substantive than 20 flags split down the middle), and have something to refer to when dealing with similar issues the next time.

When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

A toss-up between comment and edit.

Comments are good when the changes can only be made by the author (if the question is unclear or requires clarification that only the author can give). Edits are good when the question is clear, but the wording or formatting can be improved to make it a better fit while still answering the question.

Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

I'd wager that this isn't the first second umpteenth time this has happened on the SE network. Why reinvent the wheel? Talk to the mods across the network, ask them how they've handled it and what's worked well, and then apply the best ideas given my read of the specific situation.

What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

Clearer Guidelines for Contributors

Our corner of the SE network can be difficult to grok for new and experienced users alike. A lot of our questions have multiple different types of close votes on them, and many highly-voted posts are coupled with negative comments and lots of downvotes. Maintaining quality becomes a lot more difficult if the community (both new and experienced users) aren't on the same page when it comes to what makes us a good resource.

I have done my best to initiate/participate on meta to address some of the issues that we've come across. While that is great, a majority of users will not dig through meta. As moderator, I would like to update the help center to better reflect our community guidelines based on our meta discussions to help improve understanding of what content we are trying to collect, and how to improve existing content to match those guidelines if it doesn't.

Community Moderation

There are many things our community is doing very well at. We are getting better at closing and downvoting content that isn't a good fit and requires some attention. On the flip side, we could use some work on commenting and editing that content to give it the attention it deserves instead of/in addition to the voting. Especially for users who have had a drop in privileges post-graduation, the best tools for improving content are still available: commenting and editing.

I have been pretty open about how I feel about editing, and if you browse the site for a bit I think you'd have a hard time avoiding my comments. I have tried to encourage others to edit or comment by asking in chat and by making appeals (much like this one) for more commenting and editing. When I first joined The Workplace, seeing comments and edits by jmort made me follow in his footsteps in part because he was a moderator leading by example. I would hope attaching a diamond to my contributions up until now (and moving forward) may have the same effect.

Coordinating with the Community Team

Because of the nature of our site, we tend to have different issues/needs than many of the other sites in the SE network. We often butt heads with the Community Team on things like hot questions, or the ability to deal with poor answers. Butting heads isn't a bad thing, but it needs to be a two-way street. We need to have good communication with the rest of the SE network, especially the Community Team, to make sure that we can find mutually agreeable ways to solve some of these issues and create a stronger, broader SE network as a result.

Like many of our members, I am quite active on meta.so (with over 10k rep there). I believe I have a good dialogue with members of the community team (like Shog9) who can be seen in The Water Cooler from time to time sharing stats and bouncing ideas off of us. I think that having a healthy relationship with the Powers That Be™ will result in a better site for us, and a better SE Network overall.

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'd wager that this isn't the first second umpteenth time this has happened on the SE network. Why reinvent the wheel? Talk to the mods across the network, ask them how they've handled it and what's worked well, and then apply the best ideas given my read of the specific situation.

Don't worry -- it isn't Deja Vu. That is a direct copy-paste of my answer to the earlier question about regular users butting heads.

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

First I would ask them in private in a non-accusatory manner to explain their reasoning for the action. If I still disagree, I'd share my perspective. If we come to an agreement, then all is well. If not we can discuss the best way to handle it, either asking the third mod, the community on meta, or the other mods on the SE network depending on what we agree is the most appropriate for the situation.

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

I don't plan on increasing my time on the site. Likely handling moderator duties will take time away from answering questions. We have a great community of experts who provide high-quality answers, so I doubt the absence will be noticed or harmful to the quality of our site as a resource.

A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

I strongly believe that the community should be more active in commenting and editing. I will continue to lead by example, and participate in chat to try to get other regulars to contribute as well.

How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

Enforcement of rules (including the back it up rule) is primarily a community activity. I hope that the community will continue to speak out with votes, comments, edits, and flags (where appropriate) to take care of them without moderator involvement. If there are cases where the community cannot handle it (heavily upvoted answers, for instance), I have no problem taking the time to review several answers, come up with my own conclusion based on the community signaling and my own gut, and taking action (which doesn't mean unilateral moderator action, but could be making a meta post, asking in chat, leaving a comment, or making an edit).

The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users(mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

I already collected some statistics on my interactions along with my work on aggressive edits and think I have a pretty good record of turning potentially confrontational interactions in to something constructive. Like anyone, I have bad days, and sometimes find my buttons being pushed, but I try hard to take a step back and stay constructive when the going gets rough. At the end of the day, this is volunteer work, and while because I'm passionate about our community, I am careful about keeping the experience positive to maintain that level of contribution from our users.

  • 1
    Cop-out! :) Your (double) answer about asking the mods on another site when dealing with conflicts and people issues is a good one, to be sure. However, many of these situations are so unique that it can be unfair to apply the baggage from situations on other sites to them. In any case, I'd love to hear what your instincts tell you. – Nicole Apr 2 '14 at 5:19
  • 1
    @Nick, I would hope that other mods have tried several approaches, and I could use my understanding of the situation and its quirks to pick the best one to try. If I had to go in blind, I'd gather our moderators (and perhaps a CM) in a chat with the user, explain what we think the issue is, give them a chance to give us their take, and come up with a plan on how to prevent the issue from recurring. If it happens again, have a firmer discussion explaining what behavior is required of them to stay. If it continues to be a problem, be clear about the cause, and issue a temporary suspension. – jmac Apr 2 '14 at 6:48
  • Thanks for answering! – Nicole Apr 2 '14 at 21:43
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What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

That the community is unable to remove it is, in a way, tangential; if it's that controversial, then even if the community could remove it, others in the community could also restore it. The real issue is that we have a major division over some element of our scope. We need to hear from the people casting those flags (NAA and invalid) to understand where they're coming from. Either there's a misunderstanding or something about our guidelines isn't clear (at least for this case).

I see two reasonable next steps here and I've used both, depending on some fuzzy evaluation of the specific situation. One is to post on meta asking about this case ("is this an answer according to our guidelines?" or the like), summarizing anything that's been brought up in comments or custom flags on the post. This should elicit responses that explain, in more space than a custom flag allows, either what's wrong with the post or why those other flags are wrong.

The other approach is to bring it up in chat, pointing out the post and saying that we're getting conflicting flags. I don't name any names; that would violate flaggers' privacy. But I ask if people could explain the issues on each side; some of the flaggers will probably do so, but if somebody else does so in addition or instead, that still helps. If the problem isn't clear then chat can be a good way to gather input. (There'll probably be a meta post later, assuming the discussion doesn't end quickly with the discovery of a basic misunderstanding.)

If there's no clear community consensus, then I err on the side of inclusion.

When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

Edit + comment if I can fix it; comment alone if I can't. As I said to another question, my approach to comments is to assume best intentions and that I'm misunderstanding. If the problem is that the post violates site policy (e.g. not backing up an answer), I link to the relevant meta post. If the user is new then I start off by welcoming him and suggest he take the site tour if he hasn't already.

If it's a question and the situation is dire I'll close it, but that's not the first tool I reach for. In general the community should handle problem posts to the extent it can -- with votes, edits, comments, and flags.

Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

Aside from the custodial work (like cleaning up inappropriate comments), I'd try to initiate private conversations1 with each of them (separately) to probe what the problem is. Ask questions; listen to what the user says; check frequently that what I'm hearing is what he's saying; assure each that we want the positive contributions from both of them but the fighting is a problem. I'd try to judge in these conversations if a private discussion between them (with mods present) would be productive, and if so suggest that we all sit down to talk together. (I'm saying "I" but in most cases I would expect the mod team to have discussed the situation first.)

It needs to be clear to each user that they are both being judged against the same standards (as are all users); if the process does not appear to be scrupulously fair then there will always be doubts and that can become poisonous. This is even more important when there is a power imbalance, for example if one of the arguing users is a moderator or a community manager (which I've seen happen, unfortunately). If, heaven forbid, one of my fellow moderators were involved in such a situation, I'd bring it up in our site's moderator chat room before approaching the other user. If the moderator can see his own contributions to the conflict, then we can decide if it makes sense for him to initiate the discussion with the other user (hat in hand). If not, then I would proceed. If the problem were somebody else with a diamond, like a community manager, then I'd bring it up with my fellow mods so we can figure out what to do next.

The diamond carries extra responsibility here because everything you do on the site carries that badge of official-ness. Appearances matter, and if you can't admit that you're wrong when you are (as we all are sometimes), the moderator job isn't a good fit for you. Naturally, I expect to be held to the same standard.

1 "Private" here means "between the user and the mod team", not "between the user and only me".

What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

One of our top challenges is the shortage of users at the highest privilege levels (post-graduation). We have an active community and those privileges will come back in time, but in the short term the moderators are going to have to take some actions that ought to come from the community. The community seems to have closing/reopening questions under control, but we're short on delete votes.

I've tried to encourage users to do what they can before asking mods to act -- cast a close/delete vote if you can and flag if you can't, leave comments, and vote. Unilateral mod action should be rare. When I see a VLQ flag but no downvotes, or a custom flag suggesting closure but no close votes, I see users who need to be reminded to help. Depending on the situation I will (and do) bring such things up in chat, in comments on the post, or on meta.

Another challenge is posts that don't follow our guidelines (like "back it up"). We should review our help-center pages, tour, and key meta posts to make sure they're as clear, concise, and well-linked as they can be, but then our main challenges are (a) education (leave helpful comments) and (b) curation. There's another question about enforcement of guidelines, so see there for more.

A third challenge is the issue of hot questions. I didn't say that hot questions are the challenge; they are too, but even more important than the hot questions themselves, IMO, is the frustration the whole issue is causing on our site. We've got people lobbying heavily for changes to the formula, people saying it's not a big deal, people trying to influence the results by voting on questions on another site, and quite a bit of chat discussion. I'd like to find a way to calm the agitation and move ahead more productively. I think we have to weather a few months and then we'll have enough trusted users to bring the problem under control; let's not let the frustration get to us in the meantime.

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 can, alas, be a common problem with people who come from a "forum" background. As with the fighting users in an earlier question, I'd invite him into a private chat to talk about it. I'd emphasize that we value his positive contributions and then talk about what's expected in comments. I would presume that he has good intentions and doesn't understand our norms. (An ideal outcome here is that the user comes to understand the problem and offers to remove his problem comments himself, but failing that, I'd do necessary cleanup.)

If the behavior continues, the next step would be a mod message. If that doesn't help, or if he crosses from arguments to outright trolling or other abusive behavior, then it's time for a short suspension (in consultation with the other mods). I hate having to suspend people, but sometimes you have to.

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

This isn't hypothetical for me; here's a recent example of my reaction. If the action was public (almost everything is) then I raise the issue in the site's main chat room to seek community input. Sometimes I missed something in the history that called for prompt action; sometimes the other mod changes his mind; sometimes the community speaks.

When raising an objection (not just here but in general, like when commenting on a problem post), I strive to ask questions or talk about my own understanding, rather than making assertions about the other. "I'm having trouble understanding X" or "this seems on-topic to me; can we reopen?" invites conversation; "you're wrong" or "this is unclear" invites conflict. I prefer to assume that we're all adults who want to get along, and that we all have different communication styles and assumptions about what's obvious.

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

I plan to spend about the same amount of time on the site as I have been. This means that I will probably answer fewer questions. I also probably won't be able to spend a lot of time in chat, though I'll make sure to at least review logs and stars and check in with my fellow mods. So long as somebody is there often I don't think we all need to be.

A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

I'd like to see more votes (up/down, close, delete where applicable). Sometimes we have a post with negative comments or flags but not a single downvote, or a question with comments showing that the question is unclear but no close votes. I've been known to point out that mismatch in comments or in chat and will try to do more of that. We seem to be doing well with closures once that first vote is cast.

Soon NAA flags will feed into the low-quality-posts review queue (just like VLQ flags). This greatly increases the community's ability to remove posts that don't meet our standards without waiting for moderators. When that rolls out we'll need to post on meta and encourage people to help out there.

Our community seems pretty willing to edit, which is great. Any time we can improve a post to prevent closure or downvotes, instead of closing/downvoting and hoping somebody else fixes it, we all win.

I hadn't thought about it until this question, but our tagging could use some review and refinement.

How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

A bare link is not useful nor backup, but a link accompanied by a couple sentences is, just barely, a backed-up answer. I'd like to see more and might still downvote, but it meets the guideline.

Checking for repetition is a hassle because you have to really read everything (it's not like we're dealing with cut-and-paste). I expect the community to do a lot of the work here. Don't just flag saying "repeats other answers"; point out which ones. I'm not allergic to reading all the answers, but that might not be the highest priority for moderators.

Now the main question, about enforcement. I think our main issue here is Back It Up, and for this I'd like us to use annotations -- not as an end state but as a way of tracking and revisiting these posts. It's a two-stage process: when a non-compliant post is brought to our attention and there's no obvious edit to fix it, comment (if no one else has already) and drop an annotation on it. Then, periodically review the annotated posts; if the problem hasn't been fixed in a reasonable amount of time (to be determined, but somewhere between a few days and a week) then delete the post. The "citation needed" annotation shouldn't be sitting around on the site for weeks to months; its purpose is corrective, not shaming.

The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users(mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

I think I do, and the users on Mi Yodeya seem to agree. I'm not afraid to make unpopular decisions, yet I approach the job with humility, openness, and the knowledge that I might be wrong (and if I am I'll correct the matter). I've been active here for almost two years, so what you've seen already is pretty much what you'll get.

4

What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

It seems that more flags would make it easier to decide what to do, but if flags are equally divided, that's not the case. What I would do is look for evidence in past meta discussions for guidance. Oftentimes, Meta Workplace, MSO, and the Stack Exchange blog contain helpful information that can make it more clear what action to take in certain circumstances. If it's not clear from the SE meta documentation, I may poll the community in chat or meta for specific guidance, as long as I think it won't create conflict.

In the end, if it's not actively harmful to do nothing, and I can't justify action, I will ask other moderators to take a look or simply do nothing.


When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

The first tool I reach for is the edit button. Even if my gut reaction says the post is unsalvageable, I'll edit anyway. Sometimes cleaning up distractions like bad spelling, bad grammar, bad formatting, or certain choice of words can make it more clear to me, or even to others, what can be done to fix a post.

If it's clear a post needs to be closed, I'll close and leave a comment. I make it a point to try and always leave a comment taking responsibility for the action, even if I'm the 5th person on the closed by list.


Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

The best course of action is to prevent things from getting too far out of control. It's easier to take both parties aside early on and have a one on one conversation, in a private chat, than it is to wait until those sparks have created a raging inferno where the entire community is involved.

Many times, it's best to delete inflammatory comment threads entirely. By wiping the entire thread, one person is less likely to feel singled out, which may lead to backlash from either party.

In general, I feel as long as people are being civil towards one another, I try to stay out of any arguments or debates anyone is having and let them resolve the issues themselves. Healthy meta debate is important for healthy community growth and resolution of community and site issues.


What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

Growth will be the number one challenge. This site has a core group dedicated not only to helping people find answers but also to taking community moderation seriously in terms of ensuring our site continues to be a valuable resource.

Ironically, the Stack Exchange platform was designed to avoid the "forum problem", yet the problem of noise is still very real. To prevent this, it's important that the core group continue to grow, as more and more casual users post questions and answers. The way to accomplish this is by continuing to be welcoming, open, and fair to all users while still adhering to our community standards. This is something I've encouraged from the very start.


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?

Arguments will happen. Anywhere there's people there will be civil discourse. We all know comments are temporary, so most of these extended discussions will be flagged and removed. As long as people are civil, there's really no need for a moderator to get involved other than removing the comment threads.

If posts are rude/offensive and there's a pattern, I'd leave a comment reminding the community of the help center guidelines.


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

Generally, if a question is closed by anyone, there's usually a good reason. However, that doesn't mean some editing couldn't make a case for reopening the post. After all, that's the point of putting questions on hold is to fix the problems with that post and then reopen it.

There are even some open questions that could still use some editing to make them more attractive. So as long as I can improve the post somehow, I probably will reopen it if I feel strongly about it.

Even if I did outright disagree, there are likely community members who do as well, and most likely one of them will open a meta discussion, start a conversation in chat, and go through the community process of getting the post reopened, which generally involves some editing to fix perceived problems. In short, I could most likely do nothing and let the community address it.

If I did see a case where I outright disagreed and no one else seemed to notice, I'd mention it privately and take the stance that I'm probably missing something really important. In the end, the moderators are exception handlers, and a good moderation team likely won't be closing borderline questions.

If it's a deletion, I assume there was a good reason and may try to find out why. If I don't see why, I'll ask.

While I seriously doubt there would be any major disagreements between myself and any candidate on this list, it's important that this disagreement never spill over into the community. Instead, use past meta discussions and blog posts as a guide. Also, moderators in great disagreement over something should seek assistance and guidance from the Stack Exchange community team or other moderators. It's also possible both could agree to post an objective meta post to get more information from the community. If posted, the wording should be constructive and objective. It's important to appear united, not divided.

That's not to say two moderators can't have a discussion in a meta comment thread, just that extended, heated debate is best done in private, at least in my experience.

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

I've been a moderator on this site for over a year. So most of my time is already spent in the flag queue and meta. Before the flag queue increased, I spent time community building: Tweeting questions, leaving comments, answering some questions both in meta and on the main site. But as the queue increased, most of my time is dealing with issues. As the site welcomes more 10k and 20k users, I suspect I'll be back to wandering around more, perhaps checking for obvious items in the review queue, or even posting some answers.


A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

With graduation, there is a gap, narrowed both by privileges as well as a spike in traffic, so we'll need to close this gap by up voting content that shines and down voting content that doesn't meet the mark.

If there were two areas where I'd say we need an increase, that's editing first, commenting second, and down voting third. Sometimes, a helpful edit followed by a comment can show a new user what we're looking for and help get them started in terms of being a good contributor. Even if the post is down voted, saying "Hey, I edited to make it more clear what you meant by X, as that helps make your answer more useful. If you can also fix Y, that might help reverse those down votes."


How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

The back it up guidelines are one of the toughest and most confusing aspects to this site. I see a good answer as either one that follows the back it up rule with citations, or explanations that include why and how, but I also see a good answer as one that follows the Six Subjective Guidelines in the "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" blog post.

I don't see this blog post as being just about questions. The answers themselves should approach subjective questions objectively, with a fair and impartial tone. The back it up rule's origins can be traced back to this blog post, so it's sort of a restatement of what the back it up guideline means.

The one area where I really feel citations are a must is with anything legal. Personal experiences don't really count here. We need legal citations from official, .gov websites.

As for enforcement, ideally the link should include context. If I'm familiar with the material I'll just edit it in, or I'll ask the answerer to do it. Most people who take the time to add a link are happy to edit it themselves or will give you enough information in a reply to where you can still do it for them.

When it comes to repetition, I only check if someone mentions it in a comment or as the flag reason. Moderators aren't beat cops on patrol, they're janitors called in to help sweep up a mess in most situations.


The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users(mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

This goes back to making sure there's a good reason for what I'm doing. As a regular user, you can vote to close questions, and generally, you won't get called out... well... most of the time....

I feel as long as I think about what I'm doing before I do it and know what I'm going to say if someone asks, I feel I won't have a problem. As long as I choose my words carefully, I've found that most situations end on a positive note.

4

What would you do if you found a flagged, positively scored answer where 10 users flagged it as not an answer and 10 users flagged it as invalid? How would you handle a case where the community is clearly divided on what to do with a post, yet the community is also unable to remove the post on their own?

In this case, I would discuss this question with (other) moderators, and come to some sort of consent on removing or keeping it. If other moderators can't be reached within a sensible time frame, I would turn to meta and the help center for rules or precendents applicable to this case and act on my personal judgement according to what I found.

I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this as every post is different and thus deserves individual consideration. Just going ahead and closing controversial posts, I find as mis-guided as taking this situation as a general stale mate and not acting at all.

When you see a question or answer with major issues, such as being argumentative or poorly-written, what tool do you reach for first and why?

Again, this very much depends on the issue. A question may be so broad or off topic or even unintelligible, that it's best to put it on hold right away, others may be workable from the start. All posts with these kinds of issues need guidance though, so if no such comment existed yet, I would leave a comment, explaining the issues I see including tips on fixing those. If a sufficient comment was there already I would probably not weigh in with another comment about it, as to not discourage the OP from improving their answer. Too much criticism, however constructive can do that.

So in conclusion, I would make sure there is a constructive comment, explaining the issues, for extreme cases I will consider proactively putting on hold, and either way I would flag the post to make sure it's in the review queue, for others to take a look at as well.

Two experienced users, both good contributors at times, just can't get along. Every time they interact in any way, sparks fly. Acrimonious comments pile up, distracting everyone from the actual questions being answered. Tit-for-tat flags and votes accumulate. Passive-aggressive meta posts ruin your buzz. You suspect the moderators on other sites are talking about you behind your back, clucking like so many biddy hens about your misfortune... What do you do about it?

Since both users are experienced contributors, I would address this topic with each of them individually, explaining how they kill buzz and cause additional work for mods with their flag battles. I'd be more than happy to mediate, should there be a lasting issue, but it may just be two people not getting along, which I can accept. In that case, I would strongly encourage them to either take their disputes to The Water Cooler where others may or may not chime in, or to some private chat room where they are free to call each other names all day, as far as I am concerned.

As for moderators of other sites, I couldn't care less. We probably do the same occasionally, so it's all good fun to me. As long as it doesn't bleed into our chat or meta discussions, let them hen away in their corner.

What are the top two or three challenges facing the site as it moves forward, and what do you plan to do as a moderator to address them? What have you already done?

My top points are:

  • Guiding new users to comply with our quality expectations as best they can
  • Ensuring quality in our posts that make hot list and may attract lemming answers/votes

Guiding new users to comply with our quality expectations as best they can

This I do by keeping an eye on the first post queue and generally looking around for posts from low-rep (thus probably new) users, so I can comment on them and, if necessary, guide users to our help center and relevant meta posts.

Ensuring quality in our posts that make hot list and may attract lemming answers/votes

Every now and then I check which of our posts are on the hot list and pay special attention to those, to check if something needs flagging or commenting, if it gathers lemming answers or sympathy votes on rather bad answers or dups/low quality answers start piling up. Then I will flag/vote/comment accordingly.

This is all stuff I'm doing already. I'm very active in keeping our review queues empty with special regard to close votes, low quality posts and first posts. And checking the hot list is becoming a hobby :)

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?

To me valuable answers outrank annoying or argumentative comments because they add lasting value to the community for future readers and comments can be cleaned up. In this case, again, I would try to engage them in a conversation and raise the topic to make them aware of the situation, ideally finding some common ground on how to improve it.

Since we're dealing with (responsible, grown-up) human beings, I'd rather not take any rash action or jump them with some help-center or meta articles unless all other options have been tried.

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

Maybe it's just me, but here again, my tool of choice is conversation. Trying to figure out, why it has been closed and find common grounds on whether it should or shouldn't stay that way.

If there is no way to find a common course of action, I would respect their decision as they put their name to it and in my opinion in-fighting hurts more than it could possibly help in this situation.

If elected, do you plan to increase your time on the site, or are you going to spend about the same amount of time but reallocate it? If the latter, what won't you be doing as much of now? What is the opportunity cost to the community of you becoming a mod?

I might be able to spend even more time here, but I'm not sure. It's quite a lot already. I would certainly spend more time dealing with flags or other moderator tools and less time dealing with queues.

Right now, the queues are all that I have access to, so I use them extensively, to help improve the site and guide new users into activity. That's also why I'm ranked the way I am in the queues' stats, despite only being here for around 6 months.

A large majority of moderation can be done by the community with enough reputation. Since we just graduated, there is a big gap between the privileges we had as a community a month ago, and the privileges we have today. With time, we will build more users who can form the basis for stronger community moderation again. What moderation (closing, editing, deleting, commenting, tagging, flagging, etc.) would you like to see the community be more active in, and how will you encourage that?

I would see way more users cast delete votes. I think when it comes to closing, commenting, tagging and flagging, the community is doing a very good job already (though I don't know how much of it is coming from current or potential moderators). Delete voting used to be pretty decent, too, so I have high hopes for when our active users re-gain delete privilege.

I'm going to encourage this through chat and conversations (how did I never realize, I'm that talkative?). I'm actively trying to get every remotely active participant to be active in our chat room anyway, to build a stronger community. So this will just go hand in hand with communicating necessities like casting delete votes to clean up older stuff or generally helping keep an eye on everything.

How would you enforce Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others FAQ rules? Would you consider a bare link to Wikipedia page (eg: 42, without any accompanying quotes) a legitimate backup? Would you be comfortable managing cases when checking for repetition would require studying multiple other answers?

1) How I handle these rules right now is by leaving a comment explaining the rule and how it applies to the current question. In more severe cases I also leave a downvote which doubles as a reminder to review this question. I'm also happily trying to involve the post in chat, if something needs to be discussed or is unclerar. If the poster refuses to engage, after some time has passed I will flag the answer for review. Except for that last part, I don't think my approach will change when granted moderation privilege.

2) While links to concise wikipedia pages or specific sections may be valid as backing for a post, I would still ask that relevant sections of the linked resource be included in the answer, if only on grounds that links (even wikipedia links) may change or become obsolete and we want answers to stay useful to future generations! My approach here is not limited to wikipedia, I treat other (credible) resources the same way.

3) It's something I've been doing since I first read about "Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others". I think this in immensely valuable and if I can't do it at the time I find a potential repetitive answer, I'm usually making a note to get back to it later that day. Except for maybe being a bit time consuming, I really don't see a big deal in this.

The mods here tend to get mistreated by some of the users(mostly low rep but not all). The users can be rude, and obnoxious when their questions/answers/comments are being moderated, and the more experienced users are likely to question some of your decisions as a mod. Do you think you have the temperament to withstand this, keep a good attitude, and turn the exchange into something constructive?

I don't easily get angry, especially not with new users, and for the more experienced ones, I spend long hours near the water cooler, happy to discuss everything and find a common denominator. Past experiences with kids groups as well as sales jobs taught me a good deal of patience and when all else fails, sticks and stones.

  • +1: Um... Your answer is quite awesome! Thank you! – Jim G. Apr 3 '14 at 2:53
  • @JimG. Thank you! – CMW Apr 3 '14 at 7:14

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