- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 software-industry, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.