15

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 - at suggestion of some members of the community, two questions were merged together regarding the topic of diversity in audience. Those, and seven other top voted questions, were selected otherwise as specified, alongside our two pre-set questions for a total of 10 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. The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

  2. Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

  3. We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

  4. 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?

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

  6. A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

  7. This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

  8. What do you think about comments?

  9. How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

  10. A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

9

Snow

  1. The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

By taking a step back and addressing what the question is really about, and asking whether can the question be molded into a form that's acceptable to the site without attracting meat-grinding comments and answers. If the question isn't fit for the site, it'll be closed (or deleted if it's really not a fit for the site). Some questions will still invite reaction, so the comments may need aggressive pruning and a "controversial post" block adding.


  1. Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

(Disclosure: I submitted this question)

New users either may not search for a similar question/answers before asking their own question, or may not have a clear idea of what's considered a "good" question or may simply not provide enough information for a clear answer. Sometimes there's a knee-jerk reaction to close a question in the belief that new users understand that "on hold" means that the question should be edited.

In my experience, "on hold" questions rarely get edited and re-opened. I believe that new users should be guided while the question is still open. A few clarifying comments and being seen as helpful comes across better than being stamped upon.


  1. We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

See answer to #2. We should give new users a little more time/leniency to guide them toward better questions/answers. Let them know that we're trying to help rather than hinder. Also, I'm a great fan of using plain, easy to understand language as much as possible - I tend to avoid long words/obscure terminology that may alienate people for whom English isn't a strong skill.


  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?

Read the arguments twice and attempt to find the root of any possible misunderstanding and work forward from there. Sometimes tone and intent isn't easily understood on the internet and re-evaluating the content might help to diffuse difficult situations, especially when potentially laying blame on someone.

After analysis, I'd address any offending parties via private chat if deleting off-topic comments doesn't provide enough of a clue. Consulting other moderators is an option to provide a different view of the situation.


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

By seeking to understand why the question wasn't judged as being suitable - there's usually more than one way of looking at a problem. If I'm still not clear, I'll reach out to the moderator in question and talk things through. I wouldn't countermand another moderators actions out of hand.


  1. A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

If it's absolutely clear that a question is off-topic and there's no way of gaining a good question out of it, then the binding vote will be used.

However, the power of this weapon means that moderators are guided to moderation, seeking to guide the question into a good state rather than hammering it down.


  1. This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

I'm not sure that much can be done other than waving placards outside the local lumberyard. It's the nature of internet sites like this to be more used by office-based workers. I don't see that there's an intentional lack of diversity here, it's just that we get more office based questions.


  1. What do you think about comments?

I'm guessing this is a loaded question. Comments are there to improve the quality of the question or to lend more weight to answers. They're not there for chit-chat or providing anecdotal answers from people who can't construct a full answer. Sometimes a little humour is ok if it's not at anyone's expense.

Comments that don't result in the improvement of the question or answers should be assessed and removed - comments in the form of an answer should be removed ASAP. Inevitably, hot questions gather large amounts of discussion which should be moved to chat.

Generally speaking, I'd only want to see comments that are there to encourage the enhancement of the question or answers. I'm OK with comments on answers that provide anecdotal or additional information that improves the answer, and those that challenge the answer (although those should be removed when the challenge has been answered).


  1. How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

The system already suggests duplicate questions based on the text of the question being asked. Obviously, people are able to either read the potential duplicate questions/answers or ignore them and carry on typing. Of course, we get people believing that their question is unique, people with limited English language ability, or people who just want to hear themselves type.

We have some great users here who are really good at identifying potential duplicate questions - they're quick and mostly accurate and they're supported by everyone who visits the review queues.

So, in answering this question, I think the site is doing a great job as identifying duplicate questions. What we should be doing is guiding the user toward either accepting the duplicate or refining the question to make it clearly not a duplicate. This is already (to my mind) happening effectively.


  1. A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

Yes, it has the effect of making the site look unwelcoming. As before, taking more time to refine questions before they're closed would result in users not being quite so intimidated by early closures.

  • "I believe that new users should be guided while the question is still open." (and also from your answer to question 10) - so you want even poor questions to be kept open and postpone putting them on hold (until it's maybe clear that they are unsalvageable)? Even if the OP is willing, improving their question and guiding them through it, can take quite some time (hours, maybe even days). During this time frame, the still poor question can receive answers (and there's no shortage of FGITWs) - how do you deal with that problem (e. g. those answers being invalidated by later edits)? – Anne Daunted May 17 '18 at 12:27
  • @AnneDaunted You raise a good point here. What I'm trying to balance here is questions being shut down very quickly and tend to be abandoned soon afterwards. Answers being invalidated by additional information happens a fair bit, even with questions that look ok. Answerers are free to amend their answers accordingly, delete them, or downvote answers that aren't a good fit for the question. Personally, I don't feel comfortable with immediately closing a question that's missing a few details. The "on hold" thing can be misunderstood by new users as "this question isn't good enough for us". – Snow May 17 '18 at 12:39
  • I understand that it's frustrating when your question is put on hold quickly, but there are two remedies: 1) Communication, i. e. explain to them what it means, why it's being done and how they can get it reopened; 2) As a mod, you have greater power to ensure that it's being reopened, once it's fit for TWP. Otherwise, you may have a large number of unfitting, maybe even off-putting answers (users jumping to conclusions - not so uncommon...). The former make the question less suitable for being a resource of info, the latter may stress out the OP. What's your opinion on that? – Anne Daunted May 17 '18 at 12:56
  • 1
    It's a question of balance. Really bad questions quickly gain downvotes and close votes. Those that are more ambiguous can (I believe) cope with a slower close - I don't feel that they attract a large number of invalid answers. As a moderator, I can't influence the speed at which a question is closed (unless I use the hammer). I can however, participate in improving a question before it's closed. I just have a feeling that a user is more engaged with their question while it's open rather than after it's closed. Having a door closed in your face doesn't exactly engender friendliness. – Snow May 17 '18 at 13:08
  • 1
    Solid answers to the questions, so you've got my vote; however, I don't feel you really answered number 9 How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? – Tas May 21 '18 at 0:23
  • @Tas Many thanks for the support, and the feedback. I've gone back and edited the answer to question 9. You're right, I should have done better with that one. – Snow May 21 '18 at 6:23
  • Regarding question 8: If you become a mod, how will you deal with comments? Can you please expand on that? For now, it reads like you only stated your opinion on comments in general. – Anne Daunted May 21 '18 at 13:45
  • @AnneDaunted Thank you for the feedback. I have extended my answer on this question. – Snow May 21 '18 at 13:54
  • 2
    I notice you tend to delete your answers when you get a down vote. – paparazzo May 22 '18 at 11:15
  • 1
    @paparazzo Yes. It's self censorship. If there's a better answer than mine, and/or a comment that points out that my answer is sub-standard, I'll remove the answer. I'm less concerned about my own reputation than a question having good quality answers. Sometimes my own answers are proven to be lower quality than is desired. I'm not going to hide from that. – Snow May 22 '18 at 11:31
  • @snow As I see it, unless you agree that it's a horrible answer, it should be left up. It's your choice, of course, but it gives another perspective that may be helpful, especially since the OP would be reading all the answers. In truth, the OP may actually develop his own blended solution that includes part of your reasoning, even if you're -1 or -2 on the answer. Honestly, I think that's one reason why it takes 5 downvotes to equal one upvote. I think a strength of the SE is that different perspectives are all laid bare to see. – Chris E May 22 '18 at 14:14
  • @ChrisE Yes, you're right. I'll think more thoughtfully in future. Sometimes I do see that my answer isn't as full as it could be or is fully appropriate to the question being asked. – Snow May 22 '18 at 14:22
6

Chris E

  1. The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

It's not up to us to decide whether something is real or hypothetical. We are also unable to adjudicate something as a so-called troll. That's not our place. Going with my philosophy of light-handed moderation, our job is to do just that. We should keep a close eye in case it gets out of hand, monitor the flags and the comments to make sure they stay both in the purpose of comments as well as removing comments and putting them to a chat room.

As far as the chat room, that's a little different. Obviously the chat room can pretty much meander through any topic, but the "Be Nice" policy must still apply. It's important to remember that the OP of one of these hot questions may pop into chat and would make the whole site look bad if a lot of people were just bashing the question. It's a finer line in chat, but it's still a line regardless.

  1. Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

Edit, edit, edit. Follow that up with a comment why and link to the rule or policy (such as something off-topic) to politely let them know what it takes to fit in the guidelines for this community. I don't think the answer is to just put it on hold. Think how that would make a new person feel. They post an answer and within an hour it's closed. All they see is "We can't answer that here because it's of topic, VTC". I'm sorry, but to me that in itself seems capricious and even a little elitist. Using terms a new user almost certainly won't know is just going to make them feel stupid.

The bottom line that it's our job as a community (not just the mods) to help questions stay open wherever possible. I realize that it's easier for a person to just vote to close (or hold rather) but I'd rather see one question edited properly than to have 20 questions voted to close because it's easier.

  1. We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

I think that's a fair perception actually. While there are people who will gamify the point system, I think there are others who turn community moderation into a game, at least a personal one. To that end, there's unfortunately nothing to be done about it because the software permits it and in some ways encourages it via the review queue. But that part is a discussion for another day.

I think the best way to reduce the perception is to be helpful. Instead of looking for a reason to close a question, we should look for ways to keep it open.

There's almost like a pack mentality sometimes. On my own answers, I've seen an answer go a day and get a good amount of upvotes until one person comments why he thinks my answer is wrong and suddenly I'm getting downvotes which miraculously stop when the improper comment gets removed. By improper, I mean the comment is argumentative and not at all intended to improve my answer.

So imagine you're a new user to the site and you decide to answer a question. After you write this 4 paragraph answer, someone comes along and starts an argument in the comments, especially if it's one of those topics where people have strong feelings. Then you start getting downvotes. It gets to -4 and suddenly it's deleted. And this all took place in less than 20 minutes. Wouldn't you feel the site was rather hostile? It certainly was to your answer.

It gets back to what I've said in other answers. We should do what we can to improve a question and do what we can to make sure that the comments on an answer stay within the guidelines of what comments are for. This actually applies to mods and regular users. Mods can remove the comments but everyone else can certainly flag it.

  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?

First off, I believe that every user should be treated as equally as possible whether they have 0 reputation or 40,000, or been here 6 years or 20 minutes. The rules (especially Be Nice) apply to everyone.

If the arguments are flags are because of abuse, I think the individual needs to be dealt with directly, but I believe the system itself will do that sometimes anyway. I'm not a moderator so I'm not entirely sure.

But other than that, the user deserves to be treated just like every other user. I don't care if he has 80k reputation, he doesn't get to skirt the rules like Be Nice or be allowed to argue in the comments.

By the same token, a user that just gets off a 1 year network-wide suspension should get treated as evenly as everyone else.

What I'm essentially saying is that the rules are blind. They don't play favorites and neither should we. If you apply the rules equally and use a light hand wherever possible, the system works.

I just don't believe that a user should be sanctioned just because we got tired of deleting his argumentative (but not rude or abusive) comments.

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

open/close wars happen among regular users and that gets pretty acrimonious at times. I can't imagine how bad it would look for mods to do it. In practice, I'd try to convince the other mod of my point of view. Would I change it? Absolutely not. I can't imagine where a question being closed by a mod is so egregious that it warrants another mod of equal status to reverse it.

It's kind of like being a parent. I may not agree with something my wife said our child couldn't do, but I don't let the kids know that and I back her up.

  1. A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

I've said all along that I believe moderation should be as light-handed as possible. That includes casting votes. Basically, I'd have to stop voting except as the final vote unless it's so obvious that it needs to be done.

I would see this happening with reopen and undelete votes more often because the result is positive to the author rather than a negative.

  1. This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

About the only thing we can do (but it's a big one) is stop assuming that every person who asks a question works in IT. It's easy to do and I've done it myself. Unfortunately, there's little else that can be done because a higher percentage of IT folk are online than any other as a natural aspect of what they do.

  1. What do you think about comments?

I think comments are fine as long as they are used for what they are supposed to be used for. The guidelines are pretty clear on what comments are and what comments are not. I think if a comment is flagged, it should be evaluated and moved or deleted if necessary. I think that it's too easy to turn comments into a discussion, which is not the purpose and in those cases, they should be directed into a chat room.

Comments are a place where I believe "less is more" because of their narrow purpose. I think most comments, if we were honest, could be deleted as "too chatty". I'm not suggesting that we do this necessarily (see "heavy-handed") but technically, I suspect it was true.

  1. How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

I don't really think that we could do anything. The software already does a search when a question is being asked based on what they put as a subject.

The problem is that everyone thinks their question is unique and different. It's a matter of perspective. They're attached to their personal situation so in most cases they're bound to see what they're asking as being different than the rest.

Just like some questions, there's not always a solution, or at least a good one.

  1. A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

I think it's definitely a problem. When you look through the review history and see that one person has voted to close 8 questions in 2 minutes, you know they're not reading it. It's a game to some people I think. Either that or they think the site should be "pure" and as lean as possible. Personally, I don't get it.

By the same token, I've seen some users vote some to keep open some of the most horrible questions and that every vote for the last week has been "Keep Open" or "Looks OK". This isn't a hypothetical, I've actually seen it.

But here's the problem. They have the right to do it. Their vote is their vote and they can use it how they want. I've actually seen one person come into chat and get into an argument with someone else saying, "How could you say that it looks ok!!!!???"

As a moderator there's even less that can be done aside from what I've suggested in Question 2, which is "edit, edit, edit" and then reopen.

I have a lot of feelings about what could be done to help on the software side, but realistically they won't ever happen so it's not worth mentioning here.


Ultimately, I believe there are a few tenets that are crucial to effective moderation.

  • Fairness. Treat people equally even if you don't like them. Moderation is about what's put on the site, not the person that put it there.
  • Light-handed, especially in the use of "negative powers" like closing and deleting. Moderators are supposed to be more like referees than dictators. And since it's a community site, the community should get to make most of the decisions.
  • Participation. Just because one is a moderator doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't participate. I think it's just the opposite. It helps the community even more as a mod because it helps keep perspective. There's nothing to keep someone grounded like answering a question and having it downvoted into oblivion. :) I believe participation is important to stay IN the commmunity as opposed to being ABOVE the community.
  • Activity. If you're going to be a moderator, be prepared to put in the time necessary, including participation (in my opinion) where possible.
  • Positivity. A moderator should remember that s/he needs to be helpful, encouraging, and a positive representative of the site. If a moderator always seems crabby, that reflects on our site.

I'm Chris -- Chris Griffin

  • 5
    There's almost like a pack mentality sometimes. On my own answers, I've seen an answer go a day and get a good amount of upvotes until one person comments why he thinks my answer is wrong and suddenly I'm getting downvotes which miraculously stop when the improper comment gets removed What if the commenter made a valid point? Sometimes the comments contain a point I hadn't thought of myself when I read the answer. – Martin Tournoij May 15 '18 at 17:04
  • 2
    The keyword is "constructive". It's one thing to point out something as factually incorrect ("The OP is from India not the US") versus argumentative ("Nobody's going to get fired for coming in late just one time"). See what I'm saying? It's a little hard to cover everything in an answer, but that's what I mean. That's one reason I respond to all comments on my answers because I don't want the last word to be a disagreement on my answer. A good example of this sort of thing is my comment to Elysian Field's question for this election (#8). I'd like but I'm on mobile right now so not easy. – Chris E May 15 '18 at 21:11
  • Regarding your first point, would you say that your stance on this has changed recently? I know of at least on instance you closed a question as "not a serious question" in the past. – Dragonrage May 16 '18 at 16:22
  • 1
    "Not a serious question" isn't an available close reason. – Chris E May 16 '18 at 16:42
  • 1
    Having said that, I'll address the question anyway. My stance is consistent on closing questions. What is different is addressed in question #6. There's a significant difference in what a regular user does and what a mod does. As a moderator my point of view is different because of the much greater power it has. As a regular user I'm just 1/5. As a moderator I'm 1/1 and what I would say is what would happen so if I'm elected I expect my close votes will be pretty rare anyway in order to give the rest of the community the opportunity to express its own will. – Chris E May 16 '18 at 16:50
  • Sure, "Not a serious question" isn't a predefined close reason, but there are custom close reasons. Looking through your recent history it looks reasonable. And your overall tone in comments seems different that I experienced. Maybe I just happened to catch you on a bad day. – Dragonrage May 16 '18 at 21:51
  • I was about to leave when I saw your question and I didn't want to let it marinate without a response. I left the first answer stay because I don't delete my comments and I own what I say, for better or worse. I can see where my tone might appear curt, but it honestly wasn't intended. Just picture me smiling in my avatar when I said it. So yeah, I wasn't in a bad mood, just rushed and unfortunately unless one wants to put smiley faces everywhere, sometime intended tone gets lost. :):) see? :) (I really am smiling I'm not being sarcastic) – Chris E May 17 '18 at 0:30
  • @Chris E, you voted to close this question as primarily opinion-based: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/91879 Looking at the top active questions at the moment, almost all of them require answers based on opinions therefore how do you draw the line when voting to close a question as primarily opinion-based? Also, you added a sarcastic comment to the question which doesn't help answer the question or help the questioner understand how they could ask better questions. Was you comment appropriate? – user86764 May 19 '18 at 3:15
  • @gwp I think in this case closing the question was the right decision, as it's not only primarily opinion-based, but also too broad (asking 3 distinct questions at once (common?, legal?, have you ever seen...?). – Anne Daunted May 21 '18 at 15:10
  • If memory serves (and remember that was a long time ago) I didn't even put primarily opinion based. That's actually one of my pet peeves because on Workplace, every question is opinion based. That's just the nature of the site. I believe I put "this question asks a specific choice" or "too broad" I can't remember. The site doesn't put the reason for every voter, just the majority. With duplicates it also puts a comment. – Chris E May 21 '18 at 15:47
  • You lost me on tolerate troll. To me you are not judging the person but the content. If the content is design to incite and or mock it does not belong here IMHO. – paparazzo May 21 '18 at 20:19
4

motosubatsu

The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

There's two aspects to this - whether a question is on a controversial topic and whether it is genuine.

For the first I think there needs to be a light but vigilant moderation. Think scalpel rather than chainsaw. Negative reactions are not in themselves bad so long as Be Nice is observed. Comments in particular need special attention on a controversial question and questions touching on that topic should ideally be protected as soon as possible.

As for the authenticity of such questions I don't have a problem with hypothetical questions personally, so long as they are appropriately marked as such. By an large people who are answering questions are here to help people, and putting the effort in to help someone only to discover that it was under false pretenses leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Especially since many of the more controversial questions often carry an implied sense of urgency, if the same question were to be posted as a clearly hypothetical one then anyone who takes the time to answer will know what they getting "involved" in and can decide appropriately. That way the question and answers can still serve as a useful reference for anyone encountering a similar situation in their own life but no one feels cheated.

Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

I talked about this in my nomination post - people aren't coming here with dry, technical problems that they have a detachment from. They are coming here because they have a problem at work, and work is kind of important for most people because it not only pays the bills but it makes up a significant portion of their day to day lives. So we need to be understanding that people asking questions aren't always going to be in the most clear-headed state and give them the benefit of the doubt and remember that many of the conventions from the more technical stacks don't apply here. There is no reference manual for life and we can't expect users to have exhausted all other research options like SO does for example.

As a moderator I would intend on continuing to do as I have, work to improve the question through edits and comments that elicit any missing information and by remembering that the person asking the question is just that a person, and one that needs help. If we can't help (and we can't always - we aren't lawyers or agony aunts) I'll try point them in the direction of resources that can wherever possible.

We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

Well firstly the users you mention are right to a certain extent. I'm not saying people set out to be deliberately hostile but rather they forget that askers are real people with feelings and that they probably have a not insignificant amount of those feelings invested in the question they are asking. Being met with downvotes, votes to close and brusque comments (in various combinations) isn't exactly welcoming is it?

As to how I'd propose to reduce it well firstly I'd lead by example, addressing users as the real people they are and working with them to try and get them the help/answers they need and I'd use the weight and influence of the moderator position to encourage other users to do the same.

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?

Assuming the flags on the comments were warranted then I'd start by having a discussion with the user in chat to see if I could persuade the them to tone down that aspect of their behavior on the site. If the behavior continued and they remain resistant to change then I'd escalate through the moderation tools and suspend if necessary. Providing good answers doesn't absolve people from their obligations under Be Nice and other rules of the site.

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

If possible I'd try and find out why the other mod took the action that they did and if we continued to disagree probably ask a third mod to be a tie-breaker.

A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

The binding vote powers would be something I would use carefully.. there is a reason why SE operates the "community moderation" system and it (mostly) works. I see it as the moderators job to step in when either the "normal" system would take too long to take effect and more immediate action is required or where extenuating circumstances apply. Regarding the second part of the question.. well it would be on a case by case basis but would have to take into account things like edit history vs time of delete votes etc. Applying individual judgment to different situations is why we have human moderators in the first place - if there was a one-size-fits-all approach then we'd let an algorithm take care of it.

This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

Well the IT bias is obviously down to the close ties to Stack Overflow. Encouraging new users from other sectors is more of a question for SE's marketing dept then a moderator but in terms of being welcoming the biggest things would be as I mention above regarding making the site welcoming for new users in general. I don't really see any glaring signs that "blue collar" workers in particular are made to feel unwelcome when they get here.

What do you think about comments?

How much time do you have? Seriously though I think the comment system is too valuable to remove but there are some undesirable behaviors around them - people posting "answers" in the comments is a big one! While not strictly speaking in line with the SE policy I have no problem with lighthearted or chatty comments (to an extent) as I feel they can add a bit of character to the site but offensive or rude comments just need jumping on and squashing.

How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

Personally I think we are bit too stringent on the issue of duplicates. I think people are too quick to dismiss the nuances of a situation. What I would suggest though is some kind of guidance during the asking process that can point users to a list of some of the more commonly asked questions and encourage them to check them out first and suggest that if they don't cover their particular situation then they should think about what differentiates the two and to make sure they make that clear in their post.

A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

Yes I think it is a problem, as for how to improve it well I think that my answer to #2 would be a good place to start.

  • There is a lot of thoughtful commentary here. Kudos. I don't have any questions right now, but I saw that you haven't gotten any comments either here or on your nomination and I didn't want you to think you were being ignored. – Monica Cellio May 17 '18 at 2:28
  • @MonicaCellio Thanks! And if anything comes to mind that you'd like to know then ask me here or track me down in chat – motosubatsu May 17 '18 at 7:32
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    "I have no problem with lighthearted or chatty comments (to an extent) as I feel they can add a bit of character to the site" So think of an example of such a comment and then imagine a no longer needed flag (maybe more) - what would you do, as a moderator? – Anne Daunted May 18 '18 at 17:48
  • @annedaunted I would examine each case in context but if the comment literally served no other purpose than to be chatty or lighthearted then I would probably uphold the flag, as a moderator I'd be there to uphold the community's ideals and those of SE itself first over my own. – motosubatsu May 18 '18 at 18:23
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    "but rather they forget that askers are real people with feelings and that they probably have a not insignificant amount of those feelings invested in the question they are asking." Keeping this in mind, what about this answer, especially the last paragraph. Were the feelings of the asker taken into account? Maybe re-read the question. – Anne Daunted May 20 '18 at 18:06
  • @AnneDaunted They were, the "lose the attitude" statement was perhaps a bit.. blunt. But otherwise the paragraph was largely constructive advice to help the OP, not to make them feel bad. I'm not going to claim I always judge my tone perfectly but then no-one does but I feel the answer is supportive of the OP and their concerns even if some of my advice may not have been what they wanted to hear. – motosubatsu May 21 '18 at 10:03
4

DarkCygnus (nomination post)

  1. The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

First, one should check if the question has any problematic content or phrasing that could be reworded. This may save the question from getting tangential comments or evoking such negative or unfocused reactions, while still giving the post a merit of it's own so it can be answered and be helpful to the OP and Community.

If doing this is not possible things get a bit more complex, as the post will now require more constant attention or engagement so things don't get out of hand. If some comments start to deviate those users should be promptly made aware of it, or reminded about our Be Nice policy, in a comment. Hopefully they will understand, but sometimes that is not the case.

If some user is on a "rampage" or really starting to be rude, chances are that the Community already has flagged the content and organically pruned the problem. This would be ideal, as Mods should ultimately be exception handlers and prefer not having to use their powers if possible. If comments are getting tangential or too chatty then other course of action is to politely invite them to The Watercooler to continue the discussion (very dissuasive for users that just want to argue), and depending on the degree of the situation a Mod can move to chat all the comments to put a stop to this.

Depending on the situation, other alternative would be to Protect the post, either organically or manually. This could help stop the flow of comments a bit, and is also useful in the case of questions like this reaching HNQ. Other option is to use our recently acquired Controversial Post Notice (Meta Thread here) to clearly warn everybody to be extra careful with these posts.

We can see that this answer may be a bit scenario-specific, but there are many options and tools to use for effectively handling them. If I were to be elected and happen to see some comment or content that is clearly and undoubtedly rude, insulting, harassing, etc., I would not doubt to prune/hammer it and present an ultimatum to the offender.

  1. Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

I think we should be welcoming to new users, but it is also true that some of them may include some low-quality or bad shaped content. However, most of the times this ends up being something that giving the post some love with edits solves.

Now, we must be careful as this does not solve the real problem (it just fixes the bad post), so we should also address the poster so he/she can post with higher quality in the future. Something of the sort:

  • Hey there @user, welcome to The Workplace! I did some editing to your post so it is easier to understand. Please check if they are OK with you, and try to improve the format of your future posts so we can help you better.

  1. We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

This is a tough one, as I think that we are a welcoming place in general, even more compared to other sites on the Network.

However, if we wish to improve our hospitality we should keep our comments respectful and polite, as one would do in any Professional environment ;).

With time, new users will learn their ways on the site and know how to interact better with other users (reducing the reasons someone may have to be hostile to them), and also "toughen their skins" so they are no longer affected to much or provoked by such hostility (in other words, flag, leave a warning comment, and move on, justice will take care).

  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?

If the answers are valuable and the problem lies on the comments only then it is a matter of taking care of those comments accordingly (using the techniques described in my answer to question 1).

Alternatively, I would also invite them to chat where I would ask them to stop posting such comments. I usually prefer to give the benefit of doubt, perhaps the user is not on his/her best days, and I would hope that such chat would have an impact on them. If the problems continue to escalate then more serious measures could be taken, and depending on the severity this could even end up with the user winning a time in the penalty box.

The fact that a user has high rep or contributes good answers doesn't excuse them to break the Be Nice policy, and they should take the consequences as any other user would (you may be aware that this has happened to some users in the past).

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

If another mod did such action on a question it is highly likely that it was for good reasons. In any case, I would contact that Mod and ask him/her to explain his reasons for doing so. After that it is again highly likely that I would agree with the reasons.

However, if I still disagree, the call should fall upon the Community, and a Meta post should be initiated regarding the situation to reach a consensus.

  1. A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

I would adapt my voting behavior, and save them for really evident or critical situations. I'd prefer if the Community handled this without having to interfere.

However, if it is a disputed post, then creating a Meta post and discussing in chat would help reach a consensus. After this I would carry out the decision if the Community hasn't already.

Going to an extreme, if no consensus is reached then this would classify as a situation where a Mod has to wisely handle the exception according to his/her judgment as well as all the input observed from the discussion.

  1. This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

Besides promoting The Workplace among our folks from other industries, there are few things we can do to directly increase such diversity.

However, what we can do is to modulate our comments and attitude to be as welcoming and non-hostile as possible, giving extra attention to new users (as discussed in questions 2 and 3). This will prevent scaring off new potential valuable members, some of them who may be from different industries, and ultimately help our site grow in variety by increasing the knowledge base we posses.

With time and patience I am sure that we could start seeing tags similar to , like the health-care tag we already have, or perhaps real estate tag, etc.

Another interesting thing to consider is that, as some of our tags are kind of a mess, we may already have several posts out there that just don't have a "real estate" tag because it doesn't exist yet, so this IT dominance situation may be aggravated by such tag problem. Perhaps giving our tags some major love can lessen this perception.

  1. What do you think about comments?

I think that comments are a double-edged sword.

They can drastically help clarify or point out key aspects that improve the quality of our questions and answers, but at the same time they can completely derail or bias a post, or even become insulting or scare away new users. This is the dual nature of comments, and why they are such a fuzz.

I think that comments should stick to ask for clarification, minor suggestions or improvements, or even useful and constructive observations or corollaries...

...but not to argue about the post, discuss just about why you agree (+1 and move on instead) or disagree (post an answer with your point of view then), point out some tangential or unrelated case based on assumptions, and even less to insult or be rude. If you want to discuss or are feeling chatty The Watercooler is a better place for those things.

  1. How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

This is when new users will eventually have their first bumps on their ride in this site, and also when one should lead by example.

A user that wishes to grow and is humble will learn from these Duplicates and search before asking next time. Additionally, something I like do is to include link to other useful or related questions in the answers I provide, or well as comments under the question. This I believe encourages people to be more curious on reading older posts, something that can diminish this problem.

It would be naive to say that this situation has a definite solution, as even though we may apply this and other techniques to encourage searching before posting, nothing is preventing John/Jane Doe from creating a 1 rep account and straight go post their problem without reading.

Duplicates have and will keep happening, and at some degree it is a sign of a clean and organized site. A one-time user may be impossible to encourage to read before posting, so we should focus our efforts in users that will remain active instead, so they can continue learning their ways and smashing that Favorite button to save posts for future reference.

  1. A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

In a way posts on hold are a sign of a clean and organized site. They are helpful to keep the standards of our posts to an acceptable degree. Under this light, questions on hold are necessary to keep the site healthy. This I think is the case for several of those questions that are put on hold.

However, the portion of this that is indeed a problem is related in part to my answer for question 9.

Besides that, I think that the number of post put on hold can be reduced if we put more effort on doing edits and posting comments asking for clarification or enhancements. Sometimes I think that we should have a badge for Epic Edit, as I have seen (and once or twice done) some edits that drastically improve a question, saving it from getting downvotes and VTCs, and end up being a nice if not HNQ post.

  • I see, thanks for the comment @Nat ... I do tend to use bolds and italics to give the text more depth, but will check to cut it down a bit :) – DarkCygnus May 24 '18 at 2:53
2

Masked Man (Nominating Post)

The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

Assume questions to be genuine until we have contrary evidence. People shouldn't be denied solutions to their problems only because we find them too absurd. Such questions should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Some options are:

  • If the provocative element is not essential to the core problem, we can edit it out to reduce off-topic and non-constructive comments.
  • If the provocative element cannot be removed without altering the core problem, we can still try to edit it to be less provocative.
  • If the post is predominantly provocative and removing it doesn't leave any core workplace problem, it indicates the question is likely not useful and should be deleted.

Our current moderators handle off-topic and non-constructive comments well:

  • Move the comments to chat with a reminder to use comments only to seek clarifications or suggest improvements.
  • Delete non-constructive and off-topic comments.
  • Lock the post in extreme cases to prevent further controversial discussions.

Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

I find it unreasonable to expect new users to know all our rules for their first several weeks on the site. We should show them around for a bit. This includes doing such things as:

  • Editing their posts and explaining why that was done.
  • Posting comments asking to clarify missing information, and incorporating their responses into their question.
  • When voting to close, explain what they need to do to get the post reopened.

I already do this usually and will continue doing so, as well as encourage others to do so, regardless of being a moderator.


We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

Per my observations over the past few years, the main reasons for this perceived hostility are (1) downvotes (2) close votes and (3) rude or snarky comments. We can address them as below:

  • Downvotes: While we are free to vote as we please, we can exercise some restraint when downvoting new users' posts. We should focus on fixing their post rather than downvoting. Moreover, a post that has already got 2 or 3 downvotes, piling on further downvotes is unnecessary.

  • Close votes: When a question gets put on hold, the banner suggests to edit the question, but doesn't make it clear that it could be reopened. Users familiar with other message boards – which do not "reopen" a "locked" post – usually just move on, or think their question is not welcome. To address this, when voting to close a question, we could also post a comment that tells what can get the question reopened. Some of our users do this already, but it needs to happen more often.

  • Rude or snarky comments: The best option to address this is to restrain ourselves from making such comments. However, since that doesn't always work, the next best thing is to flag such comments early and often.


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 first check with the other moderators if they too see a problem. If they agree, I would have a polite private chat with the user reminding them to exercise discretion while posting strong and controversial opinions on the site. When their posts make other users uncomfortable and drive them away from the site, moderators must step in and make it stop.

Further transgressions should be addressed according to the site policy, which may include suspending the user. This extreme step should be taken as a last resort, particularly if there are multiple flags against the user.


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

I would first understand the reasons for their decision. If there's nothing especially disagreeable, I would leave it at that. If I am not convinced, I will discuss my concerns with them. I will go with whatever agreement we come to.

In the unlikely event where we do not come to an agreement, I might suggest the other mod to create a meta post where we can consider community feedback. If the other mod deems that unnecessary, I would just trust their judgement and let it go.


A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

Our current moderators handle their binding vote pretty well, and I will follow the same. I will not cast binding close or reopen votes until at least 3 "regular" users have cast votes (except in really obvious cases). Moderator votes are not meant to override the community.

For cases where the community users are conflicted about casting close/reopen/delete/undelete votes, I would first try to edit the post to address the concerns of the close/delete "camp" or create a meta post requesting the community members to do it.

I would avoid casting the delete vote until I am certain the post cannot be improved, because not only does a deleted post become almost invisible, but a moderator's delete vote cannot be reversed by "regular" users.


This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

This dominance is mostly unavoidable because our user community is dominated by IT industry workers, and will likely remain so. However, it is not necessary to alienate the others. There are a few things we can do:

  • Separate "navigating the workplace" and "doing my job" parts of the question: This site is about navigating the workplace, not about finding solutions to software problems. The latter type of questions (such as "how to convince my boss to do X?") can also be useful to other industries, but the former type of questions (such as "how to optimize FooLang code?") are rarely useful outside the IT industry.

  • Use relevant industry tags: For IT industry questions, use the software-industry or the other relevant tags. That makes it a bit more clear to the new users that this site is not just about IT industry questions.


What do you think about comments?

Good uses of comments:

  • Seeking clarification or suggesting improvement to the post

    Could you please specify your location, as the answer to your question will most certainly depend on local laws and practices?

  • Writing a note to the post author when you modified their post

    Hey, I edited your question because X, Y, Z. If my edit conflicts with your intention, leave a comment here or make a further edit.

  • Posting positive feedback on an answer

    I found this answer useful because it showed me A, B, C

  • Linking to meta discussion

    I edited this post to clarify the question, and posted a reopen request on meta (link here)

Not-so-good/bad uses of comments:

  • Posting answers
  • Getting into arguments
  • Making rude or snarky remarks
  • Posting irrelevant commentary or asking irrelevant questions
  • Declaring the entire answer invalid due to a one-in-a-million scenario where it wouldn't work

Both lists are indicative, and not exhaustive.


How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

Stack Exchange already provides a search box and suggests potential duplicates when we start writing the title. Unfortunately some of our new users do not write a descriptive title. This can only be addressed by "show, don't tell", that is, edit their question titles to something more descriptive and let them pick the habit. Anything more, such as "forcing" users to write a better title requires support from Stack Exchange, which is out of our scope.

I don't see duplicate questions from new users as a huge problem because of:

  • Confirmation bias: We only know the duplicate questions that are actually posted. We wouldn't know of the instances where the user found their answer through searching or through the suggested questions.

  • Users don't realize their question is a duplicate: Even our "regular" users get this wrong sometimes, as we see duplicate questions being reopened. We can certainly cut our new users some slack here. Moreover, even if the question is a "genuine" duplicate, they may not realize this until someone explains why the questions are the same.

  • SEO: Having duplicate questions is not bad, especially on a "subjective" site. Having multiple questions with slightly different phrasing or keywords helps our future users find their answers easily through search engines.


A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

This is a problem only for on-topic questions, if we forget about them after putting on hold. Putting such questions on hold should be temporary ("maintenance mode", if you will). They should be improved and eventually reopened.

This is not a problem for off-topic questions, which cannot fit our site, no matter what we do.

  • 2
    I'm assuming based on your post here that you are intending to run, but it looks like you haven't actually been nominated yet. Make sure to nominate yourself if you want to be included in the election. – David K May 16 '18 at 12:21
  • The quality of the answer has detracted from the time available for other tasks - I know about that. Don't forget to use the 'share' link of this answer in your nomination as it's a worthy read. 👍 – Rob May 17 '18 at 7:18
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    @Rob Thanks for the clarification. I will do the linking as you suggested. Enjoy the rest of your day! – Masked Man May 17 '18 at 8:41
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    "Editing the question to leave out the provocative elements while retaining the issue also helps reduce off-topic and non-constructive comments." What if that is not possible without leaving out crucial info and changing the meaning of the question. See this question and check out the original. Offensive language etc. was edited out, but the way the OP phrased it is directly related to the problem they describe. How would you handle such cases? – Anne Daunted May 18 '18 at 17:35
  • @AnneDaunted This site is concerned with solutions to workplace issues. Changing people's attitudes is, at best, a secondary goal, although that component might be better suited to Interpersonal Skills. If the question contains a core workplace issue, removing the provocative elements will allow us to focus on answering that. If we are left with nothing after removing it, it probably suggests there was no workplace issue to begin with, in which case the question is off-topic here. (contd...) – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 10:11
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    @AnneDaunted About your linked question, the core workplace issue is how the team should accommodate a transgender person. There is a significant component of OP's bias towards transgender people (using words like "weird" (3 times) and "unnatural"), which is not related to the workplace problem. (Sorry, I respectfully disagree with you on that.) Rudeness and abuse is not acceptable. Every workplace issue can be addressed without rudeness and abuse, so those are not a necessary component of any issue. – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 10:18
  • "There is a significant component of OP's bias towards transgender people [...], which is not related to the workplace problem." It causes their behavior (e. g. deliberately using the wrong pronoun), which in turn causes the friction the OP complains about. How can this not be related to the workplace issue? Or, to put it differently, knowing about the OP's bias and the actions it causes, do you believe meaningful advice can be given without touching upon it (even if it's just very vague like telling them to use correct pronouns and such)? – Anne Daunted May 19 '18 at 10:36
  • The workplace issue of accommodating a transgender person exists regardless of the OP being a "jerk" or not. Just telling the OP to not be a "jerk" doesn't fix that. The OP being a jerk is a personal issue, and might be better dealt with by IPS (although I don't visit that site often, and don't know if they would cover it). We want the questions to be useful to the community, not to a specific person. (contd...) – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 10:51
  • In addition, I don't find rules like "always do this" and "never do this" to be useful. There will be trade-offs and we often need to settle down on a middle ground. (not just on this site, but also in real life). If we go back to the OP's version, it will lead to arguments because people on both sides have strong opinions (which has already happened) and drive people away. At the other extreme, we just get rid of the question and that doesn't help either. A reasonable trade-off (IMHO) to aim for is how can we keep the question without inviting the flamethrowers? – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 10:57
  • "The workplace issue of accommodating a transgender person exists regardless of the OP being a "jerk" or not." True, but this is not really what that question is about. So you'd rather take such a question, with an unregistered OP probably never clarifying the issue, accepting an answer etc. to give advice on how to accommodate a transgender person, than a genuine and more sensible one? Then even a hypothetical question (written anew) would do a better job. – Anne Daunted May 19 '18 at 16:23
  • @Anne Daunted I strive to maintain balance. In this case, balance between helping the OP and helping the community. In 99.9% cases, those are not mutually conflicting. I avoid aggressive editing "to fit out site" at the cost of making the question useless to the OP. However, in some cases, it is necessary. If the question is full of violations of the Be Nice policy, it will get deleted sooner or later, and that helps nobody. If we preserve the "core" question without the provocative content, it can be useful to somebody. (contd...) – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 17:02
  • Granted that the edited question probably doesn't help the OP directly, but it could if he gets over his bias from advice elsewhere. People without the bias who face the situation will benefit directly. If the question is deleted, there is no chance of that. To reiterate, this should be done only in exceptional cases. Addressing the OP's concern shouldn't be at the cost of making everyone else feel miserable. It is all about balance. (contd...) – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 17:07
  • Also, I don't go by the assumption that the OP is a troll until there is contrary evidence. So I won't assume that OP made a throwaway account just to ruffle some feathers and is enjoying the argument while logged out. And just to be clear on this, this is my view on what the community should do with such questions. If I do this as a regular user, others can freely question me. If I am a moderator, I won't unilaterally make such edits because people may not feel as free to question a moderator's edit. I will initiate a meta discussion in that case and go with the community. (contd...) – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 17:13
  • Such incidents hopefully don't happen too frequently, and can be handled on a case-by-case basis. As for creating a fresh new question, that is certainly a possibility but I feel it comes down to splitting hairs over a technicality. We could see version 2 as a new question that appears under edit history of question 12345, as against having its own id. Hypothetically, if SE software provides an option to automatically "detach" version 2 into a new question, the effect is pretty much the same as doing it manually. – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 17:19
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    "As for creating a fresh new question, that is certainly a possibility but I feel it comes down to splitting hairs over a technicality." I respectfully disagree, since the question was trenched with the OP's bias and he is our only source for the colleague's behavior. "He's making some weird demands, such as getting upset whenever we call him a he (which we obviously do out of habit, I mean, what are we supposed to do, change our instincts over night?)" even in written form, always using "he". The edits now put a transgender person in a worse light, getting upset over a minor oversight maybe? – Anne Daunted May 19 '18 at 20:39
1

Daniel James

  1. The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

As long as the question is within the bounds of being 'on-topic', I think it's important to make sure they get an answer. For all we know, as the user base of The Workplace; the question might have actually happened. Even if didn't, there's no telling whether or not someone might actually face the same issue in the future.

Take questions at face value and try to answer them as best as you can. People should be made aware that despite whether a comment may seem real or not, they need to still be respectful and assume in good faith it's a legitimate question.

I think in cases like this, it'll be important to explain why it should be left open and how the question is a positive piece of content to keep on the site and get answers. It'll come down to a case by case basis of digital crowd control and managing opinions and expectations carefully.

  1. Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

I think new user's on the site is a tricky subject. Stack Exchange (in my opinion) has very strict rules which, love them or hate them, they make your first contribution difficult if you're unsure on how the site works. I don't think a relaxed system is the way forward, but a friendlier, more understanding approach to user's is a must. Not everyone is in the same boat and understands how the site works.

There's no reason to not follow the rules/guidelines, but not everyone understands the dynamic of Stack Exchange and is a tricky thing to figure out. If they're poorly written, off-topic or offensive then let's close them down. But let's ensure we provide positive steps forward.

  1. We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

I think there needs to be careful steps taken to ensure new user's are aware of WHY a question was closed or put on hold and HOW they can open it again, or ask something that's more suited. Quite often questions are closed down and no other information is given. This is confusing and assumed hostile.

Closing a question is one thing, but we should be following up by saying; "hey, that's not quite on topic or right here, but check this and it'll get you on the right track".

  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?

Everyone is different in how they would react to this and what they'd do. Personally I prefer the 'quick word' by telling them what they're posting might come across differently and just to be aware of context and other's opinions.

Quality answers are what keeps this site running, so we don't want to stop that, but if it's causing continuous arguments, something needs to be said otherwise it continues to escalate. Let's not give free passes out to high rep users, but let's also give them a reason to keep coming back. It's a give and take situation.

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

Talk to them about it. A professional conversation would soon get to the bottom of the issue. It's the internet. People disagree but shouldn't be something to argue about so if it means getting more opinions on the issue then so be it.

The whole point of the site is to be a good resource for workplace issues. So it's important to make sure that quality content is accessible so generally I don't see this as a huge issue, just something to bear in mind.

  1. A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

I see myself using these sorts of powers very cautiously where there may be space to disagree and a discussion is made. The community itself is responsible for moderation in a general sense. I see moderators being around to shut down the bad stuff so you'll have to consider your actions carefully.

Sometimes I might get it wrong but that's just a part of being human. If a judgement call is made incorrectly, it'll get rectified. This comes back to disagreeing with other mods. Open and frank discussion is what'll solve problems. As long as you don't go on a power trip, it'll be okay.

  1. This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

It's difficult because of the reputation of StackExchange and StackOverflow, it does come across as a very developer focused site. The only thing I can suggest is to promote more non-office based questions and try and make an effort to put more 'blue collar' questions in the spotlight. If there is a particular job that doesn't get much attention in the way of answers then there should probably be a community effort to try and get those answered, but answered well.

  1. What do you think about comments?

They're an interesting dynamic on the site and outer network. It's a mixed bag though. Often you'll get a good discussion on the question subject matter where some additional information might need adding to the question and sometimes it'll be chaos. For the most part they're good, especially when further discussion is needed on an answer. It provides extra context and a way to actually dive into the issue a bit more. You do get the occasional disagreement or off-topic chatter, but they're a powerful way to construct solid answers to questions.

  1. How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed.

I don't have all the answers, but making the search better is something I think it a must. Content is not always easy to find and I've found that looking through a user's profile history is better than searching for obvious reasons. I think generally if the help sections were easier to find and navigate then it'd help a lot. The ask question button is more prominent than the help section so it's obvious new user's a probably not going to read it. They don't know the site and the first thing they saw was 'ask a question right now'.

  1. A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

Yes and no. If a question is too broad, off-topic or generally poor quality then it's understandable as to why they'd be closed or what have you, but most of the time they're shut down and then no further guidance is given to that person. It's not very welcoming to see a your first post shut down as off-topic when you have a question about your job on a site called The Workplace.

I think more could be done to provide follow-up resources and a clear explanation of actually why it was closed. A new user to the site is not going to know these things. It's a well established fact that most people don't read the Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Rules, Guides and popups you get when you start out new on a site. That's not them being ignorant as such, but more so being new which is something we all do. A link or two for next steps would be very helpful.

  • Question 1: "Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?" What is your answer to this part of the question? You just mention answering them and that we may not know if they are genuine or not, but not how you would use your moderator powers in case of heated discussions etc. on a controversial question. – Anne Daunted May 18 '18 at 11:36
  • Question 8: But how would you, as a moderator, deal with comments (the various types of problematic ones, borderline cases etc.)? You write "Often you'll get good discussion on the question subject matter" - can you elaborate? Comments are not for discussions, except for meta. – Anne Daunted May 18 '18 at 11:51
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    Just a suggestion that, in my humble opinion, might help your campaign: Wonder how you would use your mod powers to tackle the problems / issues described in the questions, rather than just tell us about your opinion. Then, we would get a feeling for how you'd behave if you were elected. – Anne Daunted May 18 '18 at 11:54
  • Thanks for your comments, I've amended some answers accordingly. I have tried to convey that in my answers, although I do feel opinions play a part in moderation and making the right judgement call. Even though guidelines are set out for consistency, people always interrupt them differently in some fashion. – user66194 May 18 '18 at 11:57
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    This is the only nominee whose answers are motivated by helping the people asking questions. Everyone else has lost sight of that because they are motivated to protect the site from harm. It is sad that this person has down votes and the protectionists have up votes. – user86764 May 19 '18 at 19:44
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Mister Positive

The Workplace gets a lot of hot questions on provocative topics. Sometimes the questions seem so incredible that people question whether they are genuine. Sometimes the questions seem genuine but evoke strong negative reactions. Either way, these questions attract a lot of attention, comments, flags, and discussion in chat. How should questions like these be moderated?

I will admit, initially I would read those questions and think "Holy hell, someone is making that stuff up!!" and trying to game the system. I would vote to close and comment accordingly, until someone in the community helped me realize that I have no way of really knowing (most of the time, excluding obvious trolling) if the events occurred or not. HNQ are not necessarily evil, so in my mind you have to take these on a case by case basis, keeping the rudeness out of it by pruning silly comments and removing rude answers. Our community is strong, and will normally take the correct course of action and CLOSE and potentially DELETE the bad questions.

Where it comes to new users asking (by our standards) bad quality questions, how do you see yourself maintaining good quality for the site while still being welcoming to these new users?

I see this as a huge opportunity for us all. This issue belongs to us all. We should all work with new users to make the question suitable for this site, and politely work with the new user to encourage them even when their question cannot be made on topic.

Patience is important here as English may not be the users main language.

We occasionally receive complaints, especially from the relatively new users, that this site is too hostile. What can we do to reduce the perceived hostility?

Like others have stated, we as a community need to do a better job of shaping up mediocre and even bad questions. If a user raise the flag regarding a hostile user, as a moderator I would vigilantly investigate any such complaints and address them accordingly.

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?

These scenarios are best resolved in private, one on one. I would confer with the other moderators to make sure my evaluation of the situation was correct first, then present the user the information in a factual, professional way. If the user fails to get the point, whatever procedure is in place in terms of discipline will be followed.

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

First I understand not everyone will agree on a questions merit. If I feel strongly enough about a question, I would contact the moderator in question and request clarification on their position. I would not overturn another moderators decision.

A moderator's vote is binding in most things; you can instantly close, reopen, delete, and undelete, and you do not have the option to cast a non-binding vote. How do you see yourself using these powers? (How) does your answer change if the community is conflicted about a particular case, such as a closed question that has both reopen and delete votes?

I plan on using my new powers as infrequently as possible. In a case where the community is conflicted and a moderator is required, I would confer with the other moderators to see if we can come to a conclusion. If there is a case where it is up to me, I will use the community guidelines to make a decision as best I can.

This site has been dominated by the IT industry. What can we do to encourage more diversity? How can we be welcoming to blue collar and other workers who are not considered "professionals" or office workers?

I don't think it should matter at all what industry your in. If it is a workplace related question we should try and help. If the question is better suited on another site, we should guide the user to that resource.

Either way we should try to help the user regardless of the industry they work in. I am not certain there is a way for us to drive more diverse industry traffic.

What do you think about comments?

I believe they are an invaluable tool to the community when used appropriately. They can help flesh out a question so useful answers can be obtained. I also imagine they can be a bit of a pain for the moderators as when you introduce humor, not everyone will find it funny. I will enforce that comments are used for their intended purposed, to make the question better.

How do we motivate new users to actually search for an existing answer to their questions? It seems to me a lot of our new users ask duplicate questions that end up getting closed. ( My Question )

I think the best thing we can do is re-enforce to the new users that we have a good bit of question's and answers already built up for them to review. I think most of the time the new user is distraught and just wants to get the question into the queue.

A significant proportion of our new questions get put on hold. Do you see this as a problem? If yes, what can we do to improve the situation?

A question being put on hold is part of the process a weaker question goes through. While a question is on hold, it can be cleaned up to a point where it is on topic and can garner good answers.

I think as a community we could to a better job of cleaning up the questions before they are closed. Some questions cannot be saved, and this too is ok.

  • "I will enforce that comments are used for their intended purposed, to make the question better." What is your stance on Answers in Comments? – Anne Daunted May 15 '18 at 16:53
  • @AnneDaunted Most of the time answers are answers, and comments are comments. On rare occasion, I have seen information that is relevant and helpful to the user/asker presented in a comment that is not a direct answer. I don't have an issue with this as it is so rare. – Mister Positive May 15 '18 at 16:57
  • Imagine I wrote an answer that isn't well-received by the community (i. e. downvotes (but it doesn't violate the guidelines)), and so I decide to delete it and post it as a comment below the question instead. How would you handle it, if someone flagged that Answer in a Comment (e. g. as no longer needed)? – Anne Daunted May 15 '18 at 17:08
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    @AnneDaunted After further review, in the situation you described I would treat it as an answer posted in a comment, as the hint text says. On occasion, users will post helpful comments that are not answers, but are helpful to the user. In the spirit of helping the user, I would allow that in some rare cases. – Mister Positive May 16 '18 at 12:26
  • So, in a nutshell, you agree with the TWP rules that can be found on the privileges page? What you call "helpful comments that are not answers" could be regarded as "relevant but minor or transient information" and was not what I was asking about. – Anne Daunted May 17 '18 at 6:11
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    Thanks, your position has become clear now. – Anne Daunted May 17 '18 at 11:33
  • You voted to hold this question: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/112459 It appears to be a valid and useful question to me. It already has one useful answer in the comments. Can you explain why you voted to hold it? Given you answers above, what have you done to help the new user improve the question? – user86764 May 18 '18 at 14:12
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    @gwp As the question is now, it is too broad. I would refer to this If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer. from workplace.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask as to why its too broad. If I get time, I will attempt to edit. We had a production release this week in my real job, and I haven't had a ton of spare time. – Mister Positive May 18 '18 at 14:20
  • @Mister Positive, Your approach to the question and to my question here to be what turns off new users. You had time to vote hold, but no time to help the user. To my question you just cut and pasted from a rule book instead of giving me you personal opinion. I think that this question could have some very good answers, even if you think they may be vague. – user86764 May 18 '18 at 14:31
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    @gwp Real life happens, that is why its up to the community to work together to make questions suitable to garner useful answers. The rule book is there for a reason, its to assist in making sure we keep the clutter to a minimum. Perhaps that question can be saved, I will give it a shot when I can. – Mister Positive May 18 '18 at 14:39
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    The real issue is, as the community voted, the question is broad and off topic. I tried my best to save it but in the end it is what it is, off topic. – Mister Positive May 18 '18 at 15:02
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    @gwp This "It appears that your real objection is to poor English used." simply is not true. – Mister Positive May 18 '18 at 15:04
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    @gwp I had commented this in one of the chatrooms, but I will also post it here for more visibility. I think Mister Positive handled this correctly. Putting a question on hold is more like a "question is down for maintenance" banner, and should not be seen as "this question sucks". If a question has issues to be resolved, it is best to put it in "maintenance mode" to hold off any new answers until the question is fixed. He did that and edited the question when he could and also voted to reopen it later on. (contd...) – Masked Man May 19 '18 at 17:34
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    A lot of this answer merely repeats the minimum expectations in a very vague and line-toeing way, almost replacing the handbook statements "mods will ..." with "I will ...". Can you address the questions as they pertain specifically to you (as a user and as a person) given that this is the point of nomination and election (i.e. to decide whether you specifically are a suitable choice for moderatorship)? TLDR: we want to know what makes you in particular any better than the hypothetical mean-average replacement moderator. Tell us. – user53718 May 20 '18 at 11:14
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    @gwp "What are some methods or criteria I could use to go about contributing to an Open Source project?" is a definite improvement over (paraphrasing) "How can I start real work?" as it includes a specific goal, as against a general broad question. It is certainly open to debate whether the edit has been good enough or could have been better. – Masked Man May 20 '18 at 14:51

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