10

In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Due to the submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as two of our back up 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. Oh, and 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.

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!


  1. Stack Exchange has a structure and rules unlike what most new users have experienced elsewhere. Unfortunately, new users tend to post questions and answers that don't fit in that structure. As a moderator, it will be a part of your job to close or remove those posts. How will you do that but still encourage the new user to "stick out the learning curve"?

  2. Moderation can sometimes take up time and energy that might have been spent on regular site participation. Additionally, that regular participation sometimes has to be more careful; for example, users may tend to take everyday comments as absolute moderator judgment. How do you feel about this?

  3. Imagine that you wake up and see a question which should be closed, either because it is too broad or because it is out of scope (e.g. a nutrition question). However, it is immensely popular, with many upvotes and already has several well-written answers. How do you handle the situation?

  4. When you spend lots of time on the site, you interact with the users and form an opinion of them. In a few cases, there will be users towards whom you build up animosity, in others, you will feel respect for their knowledge or friendliness and a general liking. Imagine that you see problematic content posted by somebody who is not just "one of the crowd", but somebody you either like or dislike a lot. How do you act to ensure fairness in that case?

  5. What are your thoughts about the current level of Meta discussion on this site? Does it need improvement, or is it good? What are your thoughts on the importance of Meta and how it helps contribute to the site and its policies?

  6. Moderators often end up as the bearers of bad news, for example deleting newer users' posts or letting more experienced users know about a problem, which can lead to unpleasant or hostile reactions. How do you feel about taking on this role, and how would you deal with it?

  7. 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?

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

  9. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

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

  • 3
    We can vote on the responses, which looks an awful lot like voting on the candidates. Seems less than ideal - there's potential for bandwagon effects translating into the actual voting, as well as (assuming most people sort by votes) always seeing the popular one first here. Is there anything we can do about that? – Cascabel Feb 3 '16 at 1:54
  • There's not really a way to mechanically prohibit voting on the posts without, well for example locking the post from receiving comments or edits. Neither of which are desirable with this kind of thing. Some sites simply let votes go and leave it that way, others have some sort of active work from meta crowds to balance votes so that all candidates stay even. – Grace Note Feb 3 '16 at 13:35
  • 1
    That's kind of what I thought, but was hoping there was something I overlooked. I know comments and edits are desirable (though not much has happened here) but that has to be balanced against the bias/bandwagon issue. meta.stackexchange.com/q/221820/133299 also asks about this but has gotten no response. – Cascabel Feb 3 '16 at 22:38
  • @Jefromi I generally agree... but... right now there's five votes on one answer and 7 on the other... five of those votes could be from the same five people... but only one vote in the election counts at any given time... so upvoting an answer doesn't necessarily mean that that person also received the "first preference" vote in the election. There's no way to know. – Catija Feb 3 '16 at 23:07
11

Jolenealaska:

  1. Stack Exchange has a structure and rules unlike what most new users have experienced elsewhere. Unfortunately, new users tend to post questions and answers that don't fit in that structure. As a moderator, it will be a part of your job to close or remove those posts. How will you do that but still encourage the new user to "stick out the learning curve"?

In keeping with the “lightest effective touch” philosophy, I will try to keep questions open by asking the OP to clarify, or to delete off-topic portions. In some cases I would make those edits myself with a comment as to why I am making that particular edit.

Thankfully, many members of the community are quite good at welcome wagon stuff; some of those members are active in chat. Another great thing about chat is the fact that moderators can discuss with each other and with other members of the community particular issues as they come up.

Without saying anything that I wouldn’t want to be read by anybody and everybody, I would take advantage of chat to get advice and enlist all the help I can get. Further, an invitation to join chat for no reason other than that another person wants your stellar company is a very friendly gesture. Friendliness and helpful advice coming from a lot of different sources can go a long way to reduce the sting of a few posts that aren’t immediately well received.

  1. Moderation can sometimes take up time and energy that might have been spent on regular site participation. Additionally, that regular participation sometimes has to be more careful; for example, users may tend to take everyday comments as absolute moderator judgment. How do you feel about this?

I am not the slightest bit concerned that my time spent doing moderator tasks will encroach upon the time I would otherwise spend doing other things on Seasoned Advice. The fact is, there isn’t enough to do here for all the time I spend here. If I sacrifice anything that I would otherwise do on Seasoned Advice, it will be pedantic edits to two-year-old posts of mine.

As far as the second half of the question, I’m not terribly concerned about that either. I am accustomed to taking care with what I say and I don’t see that changing in either direction because of a diamond. I will be aware of the extra weight that the diamond gives my post, but I don’t see that changing my post or my willingness to say what I would otherwise say.

  1. Imagine that you wake up and see a question which should be closed, either because it is too broad or because it is out of scope (e.g. a nutrition question). However, it is immensely popular, with many upvotes and already has several well-written answers. How do you handle the situation?

Meta and Chat. I am not likely to close a popular question without discussing it with my fellow moderators and/or with the community. If and when I do choose to close the question, I will link to the discussion, giving the OP plenty of time and a forum to make his case for keeping the question open.

  1. When you spend lots of time on the site, you interact with the users and form an opinion of them. In a few cases, there will be users towards whom you build up animosity, in others, you will feel respect for their knowledge or friendliness and a general liking. Imagine that you see problematic content posted by somebody who is not just "one of the crowd", but somebody you either like or dislike a lot. How do you act to ensure fairness in that case?

I feel a bit like a broken record here. I would rely on my fellow moderators and the community in Meta and in Chat. The feedback that I get would not only suggest whether or not I’m doing the right thing, but it would also serve to give me a bit of a reality check. I can’t always rely on my own judgment, particularly if I’m closer to the situation than what would be ideal.

  1. What are your thoughts about the current level of Meta discussion on this site? Does it need improvement, or is it good? What are your thoughts on the importance of Meta and how it helps contribute to the site and its policies?

Meta is as active as it needs to be. If situations occur that need to be discussed, somebody who thinks it needs to be discussed will bring it up. That person may be me, or it may be someone who thinks I am the worst moderator ever. Either way, Meta is a safety valve. If everything is going smoothly, Meta tends to be a little boring. If the site can be improved (or should be), Meta is always there to get controversial

  1. Moderators often end up as the bearers of bad news, for example deleting newer users' posts or letting more experienced users know about a problem, which can lead to unpleasant or hostile reactions. How do you feel about taking on this role, and how would you deal with it?

I don’t like conflict or hostility, so I will try to dampen those things as much as possible - that’s just my nature. However, I’m also a military veteran. Sometimes conflict is a necessary evil. I am not particularly thin-skinned; I am quite certain that I can handle being called names.

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

I would weigh the user’s comments against the “be nice” policy. As long as he continues to be civil, I would perhaps give him a bit more slack than I would someone who doesn’t provide valuable answers. However, the “be nice” policy is not open for debate. If somebody is abusing other users here, that behavior will not be tolerated.

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

This is easy, because I’ve already done it a few times. With an open mind, I will bring it up with the other moderator. Hopefully we’ll come to an agreement. Otherwise, I’ll bring it up in meta, ideally with language that the other moderator and myself agree upon.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

As little as possible. I would rather spend five minutes encouraging other members of the community to do what needs to be done than spend two minutes doing it myself. An exception to that rule would be “bringing down the hammer”. It is for that task that moderators make the big bucks.

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

I am totally fine with that. I continue to stand by everything I have ever said (which may explain why I edit my own posts so often). If anything, the diamond will only encourage me to write better posts.

10

I'm Catija and here are my responses

  1. Stack Exchange has a structure and rules unlike what most new users have experienced elsewhere. Unfortunately, new users tend to post questions and answers that don't fit in that structure. As a moderator, it will be a part of your job to close or remove those posts. How will you do that but still encourage the new user to "stick out the learning curve"?

I think that starting any comment to a new user with "Welcome to Seasoned Advice!" can go a long way towards softening the blow of some "negative" feedback and often reminds me to be nicer in my phrasing of comments. So can being positive about their future posts and the ease of earning enough rep to attain various privileges. I love to encourage users to read the tour and the help pages and it's usually easy to see who hasn't because they usually don't have any badges.

Unfortunately, some moderator actions don't give the opportunity to leave comments, like deleting answers or converting an answer into a comment but leaving a comment for a short while on a question posted as an answer before deleting it can give them a small chance to see the encouragement that they are welcome to ask their question as a new one rather than posting it as an "answer".

  1. Moderation can sometimes take up time and energy that might have been spent on regular site participation. Additionally, that regular participation sometimes has to be more careful; for example, users may tend to take everyday comments as absolute moderator judgment. How do you feel about this?

I don't think this will be a major issue for me. While I do occasionally answer questions, most of what I do here is post leading comments on questions to encourage users to give a bit more depth in their questions and answers. Often, this is asking for them to post their actual recipe while other times it is asking for clarification of their terminology to be certain that their question is clear.

While it's not generally possible to give "tone" to a statement made on the web, there are certainly ways to write that are non-judgmental and allow for clarification rather than accusation. I think that this is an important ability in a mod and prevents simple comments from looking like the mod is smiting down the target with the power of a mod.

  1. Imagine that you wake up and see a question which should be closed, either because it is too broad or because it is out of scope (e.g. a nutrition question). However, it is immensely popular, with many upvotes and already has several well-written answers. How do you handle the situation?

If a question is off-topic as decided on Meta and described in the site "on topic" pages, the popularity of that topic doesn't really matter. A question that is closed and has answers will not get deleted by the system, so the content won't go away and it can still get answers and upvotes. If it starts to set a bad precedent, it may eventually be necessary to use the historical lock, if it is indeed very popular but these are generally used very sparingly.

Hopefully, there will be users who will have already voted to close, particularly in the case of an off-topic question. I don't think it's generally appropriate for mods to overuse their close hammers, as the community is the source of many of the decisions about the site's content.

In the case of a question that is "too broad" and occasionally "off topic", it's quite possible that the question could be narrowed or changed sufficiently through editing to make the question appropriate for the site. While it's not generally good practice to make major edits to a question after it already has answers, if the question is truly popular, it is certainly worth trying to save.

  1. When you spend lots of time on the site, you interact with the users and form an opinion of them. In a few cases, there will be users towards whom you build up animosity, in others, you will feel respect for their knowledge or friendliness and a general liking. Imagine that you see problematic content posted by somebody who is not just "one of the crowd", but somebody you either like or dislike a lot. How do you act to ensure fairness in that case?

If there's clearly a potential issue with a clash, sometimes it may be better to talk with my fellow mods to see if one of them is able to address the issue. No mod is a lonely mountain, so it's silly to expect that I'd have to address this issue on my own.

That being said, I consider myself the sort who works to be fair in everything I do and to see both sides of issues. If the content is truly problematic and needs to be addressed immediately, the person who posts it, friend or foe, is irrelevant. If it's causing harm to the site and not following the "be nice" policy, it should be addressed. It's important to remember that there's very little done on SE that can't be undone. Comments can be reinstated, questions and answers can be rolled back.

So, if I decide it's necessary to delete a comment, I will do so and comment that I've decided to remove the content for reasons of moderation and discuss the decision with the other mods when they return. If we decide that the action was inappropriate, we can reinstate the content to a level that we agree is appropriate.

  1. What are your thoughts about the current level of Meta discussion on this site? Does it need improvement, or is it good? What are your thoughts on the importance of Meta and how it helps contribute to the site and its policies?

I'll be honest, I think that the Meta participation on SA is really low. It's probably not the worst in the network but it's really low. You can see that to some degree in how few people stepped forward to fill this mod position. All of the sites I've been on for elections have had at least 8-12 people throw their hats into the ring... SA had three. I understand that not every user who participates in Meta wants to be a mod but the site engagement must be really low for so few people to want to step up to the plate of volunteering to help with the site more officially.

Most of the Meta contributions seem to come from our great, existing mods and, while that's not bad or unexpected, it makes the voices very limited. The average number of votes on any given (recent) Meta question is 6-8, and that's being a bit generous. The very fact that the main Meta page with "recently active questions" has questions that haven't been active since April is crazy.

Without active and interested participation, the site will stagnate. We need to have discussions on tags, events to encourage people to write and improve tag Wikis and excerpts... we should be working to foster an interest in the welfare of the site so that we can all be better archivists and make the site easier to use and make questions and answers easier to find.

  1. Moderators often end up as the bearers of bad news, for example deleting newer users' posts or letting more experienced users know about a problem, which can lead to unpleasant or hostile reactions. How do you feel about taking on this role, and how would you deal with it?

Being a mod isn't a popularity contest. Like being a parent (I've heard), this sometimes means you have to be the "bad guy". I've found the most important part is to be open and honest and to communicate as much as you can to help prevent users from taking your actions too personally. At the very least, if you explain why an action was taken, they will understand what to avoid in the future.

Unfortunately, this is the internet and people often have extreme reactions to certain situations. I feel confident that, with the help of the other mods here on SA and the CMs of SE, I will have the support I need to weather any overblown response.

  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?

The central rule of the SE network is "Be Nice".

To that end, my first move (after deleting the necessary comments) would be to talk with the user to directly address their behavior issues and see if it is possible to find a way for them to continue to contribute to the site but to change their commenting habits in an effort to make them aware of how their comments are perceived by the other users. This may include recommending that the user take some time away from SA in the form of a voluntary absence.

If this behavior continues, and the other moderators agree, it may be necessary to suspend a user to force them to take some time away from the site.

If a user, regardless of their contributions to the site, continues to make SA an unpleasant place for the other users, that is a major problem and can not be allowed to continue.

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

The first thing I'd want to do is get a good understanding of why the mod made the decision s/he did. It's completely possible that there is something about it that I missed, some context that went unnoticed, and so I would contact the other mod in the SA mod chat, hoping to get an explanation.

I would then consider what was said, present my thoughts on the subject and have a discussion about what should be done. If we can't come to a conclusion about the question and we both feel strongly about it, I would then take it to the other users with a Meta post, present both sides of the argument and ask for the community's opinion.

While I don't think that big decisions should be made outside the public's eye, I do think that it's best practice to maintain a level of professionalism between mods, so, rather than questioning a decision made in a public place, it's best to address it initially in private and then to present a general, non-sided front to the community.

Particularly as a new mod, I would certainly take the greater experience of other mods into account as well.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

"Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those exceptional conditions that could otherwise disrupt the community."

Moderators are here to help the site move smoothly. They are handed phenomenal cosmic SE power and hope that they don't ever need to use it. Most of the heavy lifting of keeping the site clear of spam and off-topic content should be managed by the active users with only occasional pokes by a mod.

Mods handle many of the flags and decide whether content is acceptable or not. They are there to help with disputes between users and to prevent content from getting too out of line.

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

I'd like do some review and cleanup of old comments and answers that I felt didn't suit the moderator diamond. I try to limit comments to only those that are necessary but I do sometimes get a bit chatty and very occasionally a bit rude... with the added weight of a diamond on all of my old content, I wouldn't want these to sit around and paint a negative image of my interactions with users. I generally feel positive about my interactions on SA but I know that it will do a lot if I trim my site history to match my planned behavior as a mod.

  • By the way, as to 1, you can still leave comments right before deleting an answer. If you're a moderator the user will still be notified of the last comment made under the answer (possibly in some timeframe) and that notification won't go away (and they can always see their deleted posts anyway). This works even by commenting after the answer was deleted. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Feb 4 '16 at 14:13

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