- 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 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.
- Concerns have been raised about how welcoming we are to (a) newcomers, (b) marginalized people, and (c) those from outside the IT field. Some say we are not welcoming enough, and others say we go too far or do not properly evaluate vocal claims. In your opinion, how are we as a site doing in this area, what do we need to do differently (if anything), and how will you as a moderator address the situation? If you feel we have a problem now, what have you personally done about it already? In answering, consider interactions with new or marginalized users, established users, other moderators, and the greater Stack Exchange community.
I have always been of the opinion that here in The Workplace we are far more welcoming to users in general than in other SE sites (like, say? SO). Since I joined I have felt a more welcoming attitude from many users, and that has made me feel more comfortable and was probably the reason why I stayed.
Now, even though I feel we are decently welcoming in general, what I feel we lack is consistency in doing so.
Sometimes one can see users being "too welcoming", by doing lot's of feedback to OP, swiftly editing, casting reopen votes, etc... but sometimes we can see the opposite, where users just vote to close without giving any feedback or pointers, explaining new users how to make their posts on topic, or even worse, write not-so-nice comments.
So the problem I see here is one of consistency. Personally, I try to maintain a balance with my actions towards users in general. I tend to give a lot of feedback in good or bad posts, edit when I see room for improvement, but also don't hesitate to cast close votes or flag if the situations deserves it (case in which, I also like to give feedback so users can learn and improve)... and that is what I feel we should try to do more to overcome this: maintain a balance in pruning and keeping the site clean, but also be welcoming and provide feedback so users can improve their posting and interaction with the site and its people.
- Comments: They are the bane of any site that wants to maintain a good signal:noise ratio, harmless, something in between? What do you think about comments and the moderation thereof on The Workplace, and what would you like to change about it? For context, we had over 8,000 comments posted on The Workplace in the past month.
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.
- What do you feel are the top two or three challenges currently facing our site? How do you think we should address them?
I believe that the questions gathered here reflect some of the main problems we are facing currently, them being the proper use of comments and our welcoming attitude that "scares off" new users.
The welcoming attitude can be solved by practicing consistency with the way we welcome and interact with any user. I explained how in more detail in my answer to question No. 2.
Regarding the proper use of comments, I exposed my thoughts and perception of the situation and its possible solution in my answer to question No. 3. Generally speaking, any user can help by flagging comments responsibly, and mods can help by reviewing those flags and swiftly taking care of more extreme situations.
However, a third problem I see that strongly relates to the others mentioned (specially the comments problem) is that of the HNQ and the overwhelming attention and traffic it generates. We can see this is not only an issue here in TWP, but also in SE in general. For reference, check this SE post about the Twitter Mayhem we had recently, and also this post by Monica that seeks to discuss this situation and device a possible solution.
Currently, I believe the HNQ thing is still an issue and its solution is still a work in progress that the SE Community needs to discuss so we can find a way to overcome it.
- 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.
- If, upon election, you had the power to create a new flag reason (hypothetically, as this will not happen), what would it be and why? How would this help moderation, the users, and the quality of the site?
I don't think we need more flags, as those that we have already cover the possible situations that are flag-worthy.
In fact, the ideal situation would be that we didn't had to flag at all (in an Utopic world that is), or that flagging is reduced to a minimal amount. IMHO, adding more flags is not taking care of the real problem (noisy/rude comments, scaring off users, etc.) and it would not help solve it.
Instead, we should aim to address such root causes, so the interaction in the site becomes more respectful and polite, reaching a point where the flag-worthy posts are minimal and more manageable.
- 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.
- What is your view on current moderation policy on this site? Is there anything in particular you disagree with? If so, why? How would you reconcile this with needing to work with existing moderators?
Since I joined TWP, I have developed a high regard and respect for our kind Moderators; their enforcement of the moderation policy is done in a commendable way (never too soft, never too hard).
If I disagree with something, surely it is minimal and expected given everyone's unique point of view. But in general I think our mods carry their jobs very well. If some disagreement is reached, the way to reconcile it is to discuss and reach a consensus. As it is in the Professional environment and workplaces, communication is also key in these situations, so the solutions reached work for everybody (or the majority).
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
I think moderators are exception handlers. (I have even seen some mods throughout SE that refer to themselves as "janitors" of the site... although I don't know if I agree with it, and think they say it more in a joking tone).
The Community already has the power and means to manage and handle edits, votes to close/reopen, flag responsibly, give feedback, protect posts, etc.. Moderators, as their votes are binding, should try to reserve their actions for situations that the Community can't solve organically, or for cases that are obvious or that need to be solved ASAP (say a spam post).
Mods also have to handle and review flags, interact and coordinate themselves with other mods, and many other things for sure. For more reference of what being a TWP mod means, I like this answer from Snow that gives some insights to what being a mod really entails.