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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Not every question was compiled - I actually took out one of the presets because one of the submitted questions covered basically the same ground (just on a slightly more severe scale), and then I merged two of the submissions because I can do that. Grand total is still 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. A pretty important part of moderation is engaging the community. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

  2. Nobody's perfect. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

  3. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

  4. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

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

  6. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?

  7. There are subjects that are within the purview of the site but considered a "gray area". Examples might include such things as circumventing user agreements, which some people consider to potentially involve unethical behavior. They are a gray area because they are not officially prohibited, like piracy, but are generally deemed off-topic due only to precedent. Specific issues of this nature are periodically raised on Meta to poll member input on whether they should be on topic. This question is not about your opinion for or against such topics. Here is the question: Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

  8. Beyond answering questions and participating in community moderation functions, some members take an active role being supportive to new users. This can include such actions as suggesting helpful resources, explaining site nuances, helping to polish their posts through advice or edits, providing words of encouragement, providing friendly input when comment threads become unfriendly, etc. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

  9. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

  10. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

  • So ummm, what happened to the primary? – Jeff Mercado Mar 20 '17 at 22:05
  • @JeffMercado The primary phase is only used if there are more than ten candidates. Since we only have eight, we skipped directly to the final election phase. – Ben N Mar 21 '17 at 18:27
  • @BenN: got it thanks. Can't remember a time where an election occurred that didn't have a primary. And all the official posts mentions all the phases but doesn't mention skipping the primary. – Jeff Mercado Mar 21 '17 at 18:30
  • Not a candidate, but the answer I'd offer for #3 is to request that the site's developers offer an option of placing such users on a watch list, with the effect that their answers are only visible to moderators until a moderator confirms that it's the user's smart persona, not their abusive persona. Another way a watch-list could work would be to allow regular users to see watch-list users' answers by clicking a button with a warning about the user's history. It seems like a rare case, however. – Steve Mar 24 '17 at 6:02
39

I'm DavidPostill and here are my answers.

  1. A pretty important part of moderation is engaging the community. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

That's covered in my nomination and repeated here for convenience:

  • After some time interacting with the main site I joined Root Access (the Super User Chat room) in order to become more involved with the community and to get to know better some of the more active users and moderators.

  • Later I was trusted enough to be invited to become a room owner and have subsequently played a part in moderating the room.

Becoming a moderator would not change this.

  1. Nobody's perfect. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

I'll give two examples:

  1. Using a dupe hammer to close a question as a duplicate and using it again to reopen when the user explained how it wasn't actually a duplicate.

  2. Casting an incorrect spam flag when seeing a report in the Charcoal HQ chat room. When I was told by other room participants that my flag was incorrect I retracted the flag (this is a new feature - flags can now be retracted if they haven't been actioned).

I'm always happy to be notified if I do make a mistake and I will apologise and try to put it right (if that is possible).

  1. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

I believe the Be Nice takes precedence over great content. If the particular user chooses to ignore warning and suspensions then it clear they don't want to change their behaviour. Abusive behaviour will drive away new users to the site, and there are always other people who can answer questions.

  1. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

The current team has always done a great job (thanks guys!). I haven't noticed any major flaws in the current SU team and I haven't had occasion to disagree with any of their public decisions..

However, I have seen "foreign" mods in Root Access occasionally being a bit "heavy handed" in their responses to flags.

Our room culture is fairly relaxed and the mods and rooms owners (myself included) try to maintain a "light hand". This approach mostly works very well.

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

I would have a (private) discussion with the mod and see if we could come to an agreement about the appropriate resolution.

If we still can't agree then I would open the discussion to the rest of the mod team and let the majority decide (we have 9 mods so no deadlock is possible).

  1. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?
  • Make sure Be Nice is observed.

  • Take into account the room culture (for Root Access that would not be an issue as I've been a room owner for some time and I know the culture). For other rooms I would have to catch up on the culture. Of course, Be Nice must be observed regardless of the room culture.

  • I like to be "light handed". Moderation should mostly be invisible in a chat room. I'm lucky in that I've had Journeyman Geek to learn from.

  1. There are subjects that are within the purview of the site but considered a "gray area". Examples might include such things as circumventing user agreements, which some people consider to potentially involve unethical behavior. They are a gray area because they are not officially prohibited, like piracy, but are generally deemed off-topic due only to precedent. Specific issues of this nature are periodically raised on Meta to poll member input on whether they should be on topic. This question is not about your opinion for or against such topics. Here is the question: Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

I'm happy to let the community decide these cases. Once the policy is decided, as a mod I would uphold it, regardless of my personal opinions. After all mods are (usually elected ) representatives of their communities.

  1. Beyond answering questions and participating in community moderation functions, some members take an active role being supportive to new users. This can include such actions as suggesting helpful resources, explaining site nuances, helping to polish their posts through advice or edits, providing words of encouragement, providing friendly input when comment threads become unfriendly, etc. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

A moderator is a member of the community and has the same responsibilities (as well as a few more). In that respect a mod should be just as supportive and do all of the things mentioned.

  1. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

There will always be unanswered questions:

  • Some problems may not have an answer.

  • Many are old questions that would today considered as off-topic by current community consensus.

  • Many are old questions about technologies that are no longer in common use.

  • Others may be answerable only when a person with the right knowledge comes across the question.

As an aside there are currently 58,774 questions with no answers, so it is not as bad as it seems at first sight. The 110,000 is questions with no upvoted answers.

All in all I don't feel this is a significant issue.

  1. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

I can regularly be found in Charcoal HQ, a chat room devoted to flagging spam. The spam bot is deleting spam with a higher accuracy than human flaggers and the spam is deleted without mod intervention sometimes only a few seconds after it is posted. So in terms of spam flags the bots are reducing mod workload in spam handling. That leaves more time for other mod activities.

  • 4
    Good point about the "unanswered" questions. Often the OP never accepts an answer, and the subject is narrow enough that there's no interest, and no votes, even though the question is answered. "No answers" is a better measuring stick, I think. – Gypsy Spellweaver Mar 13 '17 at 23:54
  • What is the chat room you mention in #1? – fixer1234 Mar 13 '17 at 23:59
  • @fixer1234 Root Access – DavidPostill Mar 14 '17 at 0:00
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    Additional to the "OP never accepts an answer" comment, in a lot of cases OP posts a question using an unregistered account, changes computer or clears their browser history and never even sees an "accept" button to know that they could do it. Case in point: superuser.com/questions/1188512/… – Mokubai Mar 14 '17 at 12:10
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    @DavidPostill can you elaborate on point 5, what if those discussion don't work? – Burgi Mar 14 '17 at 12:40
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    @Burgi I believe that should discussion and negotiations fail we then fall back to pistols at dawn. Of course what with timezones and geographical problems this has never been particularly productive. – Mokubai Mar 14 '17 at 12:45
  • @Burgi Fortunately there will still be 9 SU mods. So I would open the discussion to the rest of the team and let the majority decide :) – DavidPostill Mar 14 '17 at 13:07
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    The one comment I'd make about this is your point about taking into account a chatroom's culture. That's fine to a point, but "room culture" is about "we prefer to stay on-topic for the site where possible" or "we don't like talking about religion here"; it's absolutely not about "we make rape jokes and you can't stop us". Just one to be wary of while you're learning the ropes. – ArtOfCode Mar 14 '17 at 17:25
  • @ArtOfCode Thanks for the advice. Of course that is totally against Be Nice so it's clear to me. – DavidPostill Mar 14 '17 at 17:37
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    @ArtOfCode he's been a RO for a while. By room culture - we do things like "Openly handling problems when they happen", and we've done a decent job at maintaining a *positive *room culture. Other than more heavyweight tools I think he's already well versed in the ways of handling chat moderation. – Journeyman Geek Mar 15 '17 at 0:11
  • About #5: An odd number of moderators doesn't prevent ties unless a decision is left undecided until all have voted, which slows consensus if anyone vacations off the grid or otherwise disappears temporarily. – Steve Mar 24 '17 at 6:09
  • @Steve True, but I expect that to be quite rare. – DavidPostill Mar 24 '17 at 9:33
  • @DavidPostill Fair point. I wouldn't expect that vacations off the grid or other temporary disappearances would be all that uncommon, but a vote that's tied awaiting that final vote would be fairly rare. – Steve Mar 24 '17 at 16:36
  • @MagicallyDelicous Thanks! :) I don't remember cracking the whip though! – DavidPostill Mar 26 '17 at 18:35
  • @DavidPostill It was a figure of speech but you pointed out what I was doing wrong on one of my first answers (probably deleted by now) and how I should correct the incorrect action and I've seen you do a great job regardless from answers to commenting accordingly to other help and all that with what little I've seen! JourneymanGeek is still the man tho but seems like you've accomplished a lot thus far in a short period of time too...You being a mod on SU seems inevitable to me and changing up the pic was a good change at the right time I think too. – Pimp Juice IT Mar 26 '17 at 18:54
22

I'm Ben N, and my answers (N-swers?) follow.

  1. A pretty important part of moderation is engaging the community. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

I enjoy spending time on meta, helping explain the expectations and workings of the site/network. For what it's worth, I am one of only two not-ever-SU-mods to hold a silver tag badge. (Only nine people of any kind have that badge.) I also inhabit the "capital," Meta Stack Exchange, where I've earned almost 5K reputation. I have a thoroughly good time hanging out in Root Access, Super User's main chat room, where I can be found almost any day. As a mod, I would also make sure to have a consistent presence in the "Ask a Super User Moderator" room.

Recently, I've taken an interest in data gathering, which can be seen in the SEDE queries of some of my recent MSU answers. I think it's enlightening to get hard data on the various aspects of our site, even if it's just to verify a feeling. Alas, I am far more adept at imperative programming than at SQL, so it takes me a while to create queries. I hope to get better at that so I can provide more and better statistics when appropriate.

  1. Nobody's perfect. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

I was reviewing in the Suggested Edits queue and a new tag wiki excerpt for a new tag appeared. Seeing that the excerpt incorrectly reproduced the name of the system to which the tag refers, I wrote a nice rejection message mentioning the correct name of the system and submitted my reject vote. Later that day, I wondered whether there was any existing resource that got the name wrong in that fashion, so I did a Google search, and to my shock, the suggested edit had the name right. Fortunately, the author of the edit had been in chat somewhat recently, so I pinged them and apologized for my mistake. They were very gracious. A little while later, the edit was correctly approved. Had the user not been accessible on chat, I would have left an apologetic comment on one of their posts.

Another humbling incident, though not so much a mistake because I did the right thing by sheer accident, was my new-mod "oh snap, what did I just do?" moment. It was one of my first days on the job as Artificial Intelligence moderator and there were a few flags waiting for me. I handled the normal post flags, marking the helpful ones helpful and declining an incorrect one or two. Then I looked at a flag on a borderline "too chatty" comment. Since I wanted to see the reasons to decline a comment flag, I clicked the "dismiss" link, expecting to get the "Declining because..." window as one does with post flags. To my surprise, the flag immediately went away, declined. Fortunately, as I continued to think about it, I realized that the comment was worth keeping and the flag was indeed in error, but I made sure to stop making assumptions about how the mod UI works. On the plus side, I wouldn't make any new-mod mistakes as a moderator here!

If you see that I've made an error -- as mod or otherwise -- please notify me immediately so that it can be fixed.

  1. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

Unfortunately, it looks like that user did not take the warnings or previous suspensions to heart. As much as I would love to keep a knowledgeable contributor around, rudeness is not acceptable. Abusive comments are highly likely to drive away new users who otherwise might grow into valuable, gracious contributors. I've heard this explained as an "evaporative" process: rude users cause nice users to leave, raising the proportion of rudeness and making the site appear less welcoming. Hopefully a year's vacation from the site will help convey to the abusive user that Be Nice is very important to this network.

  1. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

I think they're doing great. Flags are handled quickly, almost always within a couple hours. When people ask meta questions about moderation decisions, mods show up and provide thorough explanatory answers. There's usually at least one mod around in chat. And to top it all off, the mods are pretty neat people who am I glad to know.

On the spectrum of the current team's habits, I'm slightly on the "preserve closed questions if there's useful information in the answers" end of the median. Of course, I am always happy to put aside my own preferences when necessary and implement the consensus of the community, moderator team, and Stack Exchange. Not having been on the receiving end of any warnings or suspensions, I don't know what the speed of that progression is here, but I can say that I personally try to give people as many chances as they can accept in good faith, to the extent of what's practical.

The only area in which I have anything even vaguely critical to say is that of consistency in flag handling decisions. It seems there are differing views on what should be done with link-only answers (should they be edited into shape or flagged for removal?). It would be great if there were Official WordTM on the subject. Of course, I understand that perfect consistency is impossible; moderators are not clones and the site is richer for it.

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

I would ask them privately about it. If the action was in error, I'm sure they would be happy to correct it -- I personally would want to know immediately if I did something wrong so that we can get it fixed. If there's a genuine difference of opinion, I would definitely not reverse their action; perceived dissension among the moderation team would bode very bad for the community. Rather, I would seek to understand the other viewpoint, amending my own knowledge for the future. If the issue was very important, I would suggest that the entire moderation team weigh in on it (in private if appropriate) so that we can decide one position to be consistent in.

  1. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?

With apologies to Einstein (or maybe not), moderation should be as light as possible, but no lighter. The purpose of moderation in chat is to gracefully dispose of drama and let good discussions continue. I prefer to give gentle suggestions to get the conversation back on track when it's veering toward inappropriate, only moving on to more blatant warnings or suspensions if the soft approach doesn't work. (Rooms tend to get derailed into talking about mods' reactions/overreactions for a while after there are fireworks and suspensions.) Of course, if a user is definitely being disruptive and has not responded well to admonitions, then they will need a break from chat for a while.

Already having been a moderator on chat for a while, I tend to not get involved in unfamiliar rooms' affairs unless there's clear abuse going on. Though I'm sure moderators' intentions are good, it's very common for an incoming flood of mods (especially foreign mods) to actually increase drama. Locally, I'm pretty familiar with the Root Access culture and am generally quite pleased with the room's self-moderation.

  1. There are subjects that are within the purview of the site but considered a "gray area". Examples might include such things as circumventing user agreements, which some people consider to potentially involve unethical behavior. They are a gray area because they are not officially prohibited, like piracy, but are generally deemed off-topic due only to precedent. Specific issues of this nature are periodically raised on Meta to poll member input on whether they should be on topic. This question is not about your opinion for or against such topics. Here is the question: Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

As much as I wish policy could be consistently derived from principles, there are so many possible principles (cf. philosophy classes) that I can't imagine a single set of them that we could all agree on. Therefore, it looks like we'll have to stick with consensus. Of course, if an Official MandateTM comes down from the Stack Exchange team that we mustn't cover a topic (probably because of legal concerns), then we need to yield to them.

  1. Beyond answering questions and participating in community moderation functions, some members take an active role being supportive to new users. This can include such actions as suggesting helpful resources, explaining site nuances, helping to polish their posts through advice or edits, providing words of encouragement, providing friendly input when comment threads become unfriendly, etc. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

In my understanding, the one fundamental responsibility of a moderator is to handle exceptional situations that the community can't properly deal with.

That said, I absolutely plan to continue being supportive. When taking moderator actions on Artificial Intelligence and when recommending closure/deletion here, I make sure that there's a constructive comment explaining to the post's author why I took the action I did and linking to the tour or help center if relevant. Sometimes it takes some effort to wordsmith the right phrasing, but I've been thanked multiple times for my input. I believe that the work there is definitely worth the user education.

  1. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

I would like to see more questions get answered, but I'm not sure that being a moderator would help with that. As mentioned in the answers to this meta discussion, many of our unanswered questions are borderline unanswerable/overbroad. Troubleshooting questions, while often useful and good on the whole, frequently require additional information from the author before they can be adequately solved.

Since close votes don't cause any disruption on the front page, any user can go back and cast the appropriate votes without any special planning. If people wanted to go on a spree of polishing up old unanswered-but-useful questions during designated cleanup flood events like tag burnings (or just do a few edits occasionally), that would be great!

  1. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

I'm very glad that they exist. Anything that helps identify problematic content is a win in my book.

Most of my experience with Charcoal specifically is of them swiftly finding and removing pieces of spam on Artificial Intelligence; I am always very pleased when I see that's been dealt with for me. In general, I can't imagine needing to consider the source of an alert when judging it. From Charcoal's auto-flagging page: "flags cast on a Stack Exchange account are the responsibility of the account holder, whether they were cast by an automated system or not." I would handle automatic/machine-assisted flags the same as any other flags, but also provide feedback to the team/user responsible for the system if anything goes wrong. (And if for some reason SmokeDetector shorts out and start auto-flagging everything, there's the !!/stopflagging killswitch.)


In general, I add this: if I weren't sure what to do in a tough situation, I would consult with another mod so we can pool our discernment.

If there's anything needing clarification, please let me know so I can adjust it. Thanks!

  • 1
    Ben, I believe you're an asset to our community. One question: What impact on your effectiveness as a mod will come from adding more mod responsibilities to your plate? – Twisty Impersonator Mar 14 '17 at 13:47
  • @Twisty Good question! Artificial Intelligence is by and large very manageable, so I definitely have the capacity to serve Super User as well. In fact, I expect that moderation experience on different sites would "cross-pollinate" and provide me with a more nuanced perspective on helping both. (Interestingly, looking through this list, a few mods handle three or more sites. I'm not sure where they find all that free time!) – Ben N Mar 14 '17 at 16:00
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    I started off as a SR pro-tem mod. While I ended up not standing for elections there (Various dramas relating to work mainly), being a mod elsewhere does help since they already are well versed with the tooling of being a moderator. – Journeyman Geek Mar 16 '17 at 0:02
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    As a lurker who is mostly interested in these elections because I find them fascinating, I have an urgent question of you. Why does SQL upset you so? – Reaces Mar 21 '17 at 7:18
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    @Reaces Coming from imperative languages, SQL always surprises me with which query parts can refer to other query parts, and I miss convenient loops. I would also appreciate more specific error messages; my current strategy is stumble around sprinkling extra parentheses near the error site whenever SQL gets confused. (Admittedly, this entire comment probably betrays a lack of familiarity with how SQL writing is supposed to work, heh.) – Ben N Mar 21 '17 at 13:15
11

I am music2myear, and here are my answers:

  1. A pretty important part of moderation is engaging the community. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

I believe that "the community" of SU is two parts: the people who come through asking questions, some of them staying, many of them not, and the people who stick around and begin to care about what SU is and work to maintain and improve that.

For the first set I take a generally kind and gentle approach, making sure that if we must send them on their way they are at least informed that it's because this isn't the place to get the best answer FOR THEM.

For the second, I check out Meta regularly and answer when I think I have something to add to the discussion. I've asked a question or two as well both about the mundane and one or two about more serious policy points. I like to think that I communicate and defend my points well, but that I also make it a point not to become personal or abrasive or attacking when engaging with someone I disagree with. I'll use humor to lighten what I think might be rising tension.

  1. Nobody's perfect. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

This morning while dealing with an audit report I made changes to a system and inadvertently made one change too many, causing issues for users. When I began seeing the problem reports I immediately began going back over changes I'd made and found the error and resolved it.

When I'm wrong, I'll admit it. I value human connection more than being right in most cases. Even online.

  1. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

They apparently didn't learn from their previous suspensions. They might be engaging with the site and being partly-positively valuable, but how many and who are they scaring off with their anti-social behavior?

If they're the right type they'll come back after their long suspension and be a good member. If they're not, they may be missed, but we'll survive and be better for it.

  1. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

Ummmmm...

I flag stuff. Sometimes it disappears, sometimes it doesn't. Frankly, they aren't super visible to me, and that's not really a problem. If they were super visible it might feel like the site is more managed than it is, or the management that happens might just be more apparent.

If there was one thing I could point to, it would be that perhaps more authoritative answers on Meta written by Mods might be helpful, especially as Meta is a place many people will look to for responses from the Mods.

But, at the same time, there aren't a lot of complaints in Meta and perhaps that's because this site is generally well administered.

So, Kudos to the Mods we have. Y'all are generally invisibly awesome! Or awesomely invisble. Or something like that.

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

If I REALLY REALLY REALLY believed that it there is value to the question, I'd probably try to find a creative alternative that the various parties are all OK with. At the same time, being unified with the other mods has a benefit too. Unless I was particularly and oddly attached to a specific questiona non grata I'd probably swallow my pride and move on.

  1. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?

Use a light hand.

Live chat is a lighter medium. It's a much more connected community and there is a qualitatively different connection in chat than in main page of SU.

People might be in there to blow off, to hang with virtual buddies, and some to even ask questions. So long as they are not being actively offensive and anti-social I prefer to live and let live in live chat.

  1. There are subjects that are within the purview of the site but considered a "gray area". Examples might include such things as circumventing user agreements, which some people consider to potentially involve unethical behavior. They are a gray area because they are not officially prohibited, like piracy, but are generally deemed off-topic due only to precedent. Specific issues of this nature are periodically raised on Meta to poll member input on whether they should be on topic. This question is not about your opinion for or against such topics. Here is the question: Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

It should generally be a matter of community consensus. SU is The Community and The Community is SU. I imagine there are topics that I'd prefer remain off-topic, and I'd make that argument if the case arose, and if I could not in good conscience bear Mod responsibility over a site that dealt with such questions, I'd have to step down.

  1. Beyond answering questions and participating in community moderation functions, some members take an active role being supportive to new users. This can include such actions as suggesting helpful resources, explaining site nuances, helping to polish their posts through advice or edits, providing words of encouragement, providing friendly input when comment threads become unfriendly, etc. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

Yes it is a fundamental responsibility. Mods ought to be good examples of how new users should be interacted with, and how they and their questions should be coached and improved. A user who has a good experience will be inclined to come back. One who comes back enough could end up like me.

Come to think of it, not everyone must think that's a good outcome.

  1. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

I do not consider it a problem. Some questions don't yet have answers. Some askers will never return to mark their questions answered.

That said, surfacing old questions, and especially those without any answers, could help bring some visibility and perhaps answers to a few of these.

  1. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

You missed a comma in the question.

Assuming these bots place the flagged questions into the existing review queues most of the time, I don't think it should greatly influence how I review or how I would moderate.

There are times I look at how others have voted on a review to help understand how others are perceiving it and clarify my own thoughts on it, but for most reviews I make each determination on my own, and would intend to do the same whether I'm a mod or not.

  • 3
    I've seen you around - and while you're in my book of "Good People" - you've not really have had the same sort of presence as some of the other candidates. While being a 20K user does give you much of the "hard" tooling a moderator uses, could you give some examples of how you've defused or handled a situation as a regular user here? – Journeyman Geek Mar 20 '17 at 7:46
  • 1
    It would take some time to bring up specific instances and links, but I have saved borderline questions from deletion and gotten new users good answers by sticking to my guns, helping determine exactly what OP wants and concisely pointing out how the question is valid. In some questions and discussions there are good points being made by both disagreeing parties, and in these I'll try to bridge the gap by highlighting the good points made by each. That said, as you mention, I have stuck more to the questions and to the review queues, and haven't been involved in many of the more heated topics. – music2myear Mar 20 '17 at 16:35
  • I have a very VERY important question here for you. Namely, why did you make a comment on a spam/rude-abusive post just now, instead of purely noticing it's spam and instead flagging it? (the post is now deleted, 10k+ can see it at this link) – Thomas Ward Mar 24 '17 at 17:03
  • 1
    Because I wanted to meet you, of course! The serious answer? Because there was nothing to be lost by Super User or gained by OP by commenting, in the slight chance it was not spam, and there was a slight chance of something gained by Super User. We may judge the involved odds differently, and there's a distinct possibility that I am not aware of some nefarious plot the brave user Community battles against daily involving links to Microsoft Site and numbers that looked like phone digits but could have been an error code. If that is the case, I'd be happy to be educated. – music2myear Mar 24 '17 at 17:14
  • 1
    I think this gets down to the root of my habit here: Except in the extreme cases I always give the benefit of the doubt, I let the community sort it out, and I fight for the asker when I feel they are able to be coached through to a good question and when others seem to be harsher than I think is warranted. I don't dislike those who have a more strident or stringent approach. We're different, that's all. I'm comfortable being me, and I'm OK with them being them, and I think Super User is best that way. Spammer got deleted. Nothing was lost. I am not yet a Mod, and therefore have more leeway. – music2myear Mar 24 '17 at 17:17
5

I'm Djsmiley2k and this is what I've said

  1. A pretty important part of moderation is engaging the community. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

You might look at my meta account and say "But he's done nothing!" and I couldn't argue much on this point - I've generally stayed away from meta mainly because I enjoy looking into the technical issues, while all my 'soft' interaction happens on a more instant gratification basis via chat. I'm on chat a lot, as much as possible basically and I enjoy both being a part of and helping expand that community.

  1. Nobody's perfect. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

Posting an answer too quickly only to realise later (possibly after notification) that it's really NAA. Generally then I'll delete the answer if it's of no use to anyone, or adapt it to of least be of use to future visitors where appropriate.

  1. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

It'd depend on the type of abuse. If it's directed at a specific person with no reason behind it (such as a prior disagreement) then I'd immediately and without question put forth the action to ban. No one should suffer at the hands of another even if the other is an expert in their field. However, as with most difficult decisions the waters are normally more murky. I'd likely speak to the user in question, and other mods, losing someone good is painful, but losing innocent users is worse.

  1. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

I think they do an excellent job currently, however sometimes in chat when they aren't active (due to timezones I guess) we may end up with a mod who doesn't necessarily understand the community so well, and may end up making decisions that are then reversed once the team are active again.

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

I'd speak to the mod in question, and if we couldn't convince each other one way or the other I'd steam the rest of the teams input.

  1. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?

A light gentle touch is best - see my answer to Q1. While remembering that chat is generally less visible than the main site over time, so it may not be worth drawing attention to something on the same level you would for the main site.

  1. There are subjects that are within the purview of the site but considered a "gray area". Examples might include such things as circumventing user agreements, which some people consider to potentially involve unethical behavior. They are a gray area because they are not officially prohibited, like piracy, but are generally deemed off-topic due only to precedent. Specific issues of this nature are periodically raised on Meta to poll member input on whether they should be on topic. This question is not about your opinion for or against such topics. Here is the question: Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

If we ignore the communities wishes, the community will ignore us (i.e) move away from the site. And the community is what makes the site. So of course we need to judge what the community feels best, and follow that the best we can.

  1. Beyond answering questions and participating in community moderation functions, some members take an active role being supportive to new users. This can include such actions as suggesting helpful resources, explaining site nuances, helping to polish their posts through advice or edits, providing words of encouragement, providing friendly input when comment threads become unfriendly, etc. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

I don't feel it's part of a mods responsibility other than maybe explaining clear when action is taken, exactly why it has been and how the user can avoid this in the future. However I plan to try and help still where I can, via reviews etc.

  1. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

So 2/3rd's are answered and from what I've seen people want to answer where possible so I can't help but feel that at least some portion of these questions maybe unanswerable. This could be due to them being too specific, just plain outdated or lacking in vital information that was never provided. Simply trying to get people to answer them doesn't seem to work so maybe more work on categorising them and cleaning up where possible is the solution.

  1. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

Smokey is awesome and a great tool, and would be helpful in identifying problem users, but the process still requires a human touch to decide sometimes, what is the best course of action. I'd try and use all tools to help me understand and hopefully stop problems before they escalate any further.

4

My name is John Kieran, and here are my questionnaire responses.

  1. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

To date, I have been almost entirely active with the community through answering and asking questions. I have the odd chat with a community member from time to time, but I don't currently engage to the level that most other candidates do. I intend to be more active through Meta and chats with community members regardless of the outcome of this election.

  1. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

I answered a question in a hurry once, and missed the original intent of the question by a mile and a half. Only after answering did I realize what had happened when a community member pointed out to me that my answer was way off. I quickly corrected with the right information, but I can't help to think that I might have missed it altogether.

  1. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

When community health is concerned, no amount of intelligence or experience can excuse abusive behavior. If I were given the task of deciding whether or not to hand the user this suspension, my only consideration given is to that of the actions which lead them to be considered for suspension.

  1. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

The current moderator team is doing very well. Flags and disputes are being dealt with in a timely manner, and I haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise. My moderation style would be only slightly different. I try to be as professional as possible, but the odd Dr. Who reference or Sherlock quote might accidentally slip out. As I stated before, I look at context before taking action to ensure I'm making the right decision. I do realise that things can become quite hectic in the moderator business, but I can certainly try my best.

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

If a moderator took an action on a question that I thought was incorrect, I would try to respect their decision. I often have differing opinions with others, and I understand that everybody's opinion counts (no matter how much I may disagree). If I have an absolute objection to the action taken on a certain question, I would communicate with the moderator who took that action, and share my opinion with them. If I could not convince them otherwise, but still wanted that action reversed, I would speak to other moderators to see if my opinion is shared by any of them. I am not afraid to admit I am wrong, so if nobody agrees with me, then that is my final action.

  1. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?

Chat moderation is a tricky subject. I am personally opposed to many things that are seen as "normal-ish", so I would default to SU rules if I ever doubt myself. Above all else, as long as people respect each other and the rules, they can say pretty much anything they want.

  1. Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

SuperUser is a community driven site, all details related to on-topic and off-topic subject matter (especially "grey areas"), should be left up to the community to decide. This is within reason, of course. Not every community consensus is going to be ideal for every situation, so intervention should be available, but sparsely used.

  1. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

Being supportive to the members of the community would be a personal ideal should I become a moderator. I do not, however, believe it is something that moderators should be held to. Moderators should always be courteous and helpful to users, but not all moderators are going to come into contact with members of the community in a way that would allow for them do so. All things considered, the only fundamental responsibility of a moderator concerning users, is that they are respectful to the community members (and vice-versa).

  1. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

Unanswered questions aren't necessarily a problem. They only pose as a significant deficit in the amount of people who can answer questions like those which go for months, or even years, without a valid solution. Personally, I believe the first step in cleaning up the unanswered que is to sift through questions, and determine if they have any duplicates (possibly with solutions). The next step is to decide whether or not the questions are still relevant, and bring them to attention if they are. The community needs to be involved in an effort like this, to ensure the highest quality organization that can be offered. In the end, it is a group effort to bring questions to their deserved place, in the answered question bin.

  1. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

Automated tools are ideal for an environment like this. They can make repetitive, undesirable tasks manageable, and increase productivity. This being the case, there are some things that can (currently) only be done by people. I have no idea what they are, but I'm sure they exist. As a moderator, I would familiarize myself with the tools at my disposal, and use them as needed. I do not think using a "bot" would influence my moderation style in any significant way, but instead make me more efficient in my duties.

Thank you for reading,
John Kieran.

  • 5
    Can you edit the post to include the questions themselves? It's super tiring to scroll up every time to read the question... – PulseJet Mar 15 '17 at 13:41
  • 1
    Something I'd like to ask - which is a little more relevant to people I don't know that well. I believe that good moderation involves the application of soft power - and that my authority as a mod derives from the trust of the users and other moderators. If you were to win, you'd be starting as a relative unknown to both the moderation team, and the community. How would you build up your own "reputation" and the respect the community would have for you? In a sense, how would you punch above the weight your reputation has? – Journeyman Geek Mar 20 '17 at 7:44
  • @JourneymanGeek There isn't really a definite answer to that. Reputation is like money, it often comes in small amounts over relatively long periods of time. If I am elected as a moderator, then the community has already indicated that it respects me (or at least trusts me enough to loan me the respect that comes with being a mod). My main concern would be gaining the respect of the existing staff and moderators, which is most likely to be earned through hard work over time. Actually, now that I say it, "hard work over time" seems like a well fitting answer to the question. – Ulincsys Mar 22 '17 at 3:57
2

I'm Levi. Here's my A's to your Q's

  1. A pretty important part of moderation is engaging the community. How have you engaged the community so far, and what do you intend to do as a moderator to build on that?

I used to engage with the community on a daily basis, and I still do, just not in the way I used to. Most of the time I was active I usually either answered questions (that's how I got my rep), or commented on questions, and answers.

I intend to build on this as a moderator, by helping shape the community as it stands further into something both the community, and former (as well as present) moderators would be proud to say "Yes, I helped shape that community into what it is today"

  1. Nobody's perfect. What is one mistake you made and what did you do when you noticed it?

One of the biggest mistakes I made, was asking a question, without detail. I remember that I wasn't made to feed very welcome, and was just downvoted. I eventually realised that I needed to include more detail, so I edited the question (that will stick with me for the remainder of my time here [the not feeling very welcome to boot]).

  1. A user has a long history of posting borderline (and sometimes not-borderline) abusive comments, and they just started up again. They've been given short suspensions a couple times, but it didn't get the point across. They're now due for a year-long suspension, according to the standard progression. They're also a prolific contributor to the site, with vast expertise in $Technology. Do you consider this in how you handle the case? How?

I do consider all variables when handling moderation cases. I would consider their participation in the community, and the offence. In this case, I would opt for a non-standard one month ban (due to the member's participation), and hope that said member will have enough time to cool down

  1. How do you feel the current moderator team is doing, and how do you view your style of moderation compared to the current team? What one flaw of the current moderator team set do you think needs addressing?

I feel that the current moderation team is doing very well. As far as I have noticed, the community is doing really well, and is thriving. My moderation style is possibly more passive than the current team's style, but that may change.

To mind, I can't think of a flaw in the current team at all (I enjoy their moderation style, and their methods)

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

I would ask them why they felt the question needed to be closed/deleted/etc, and explain why I think the question shouldn't have been. Moderation is a team effort, so I feel that a mutual compromise should be met (for example, leaving the question in it's current state, or restoring a question)

  1. What is your philosophy on moderation in Chat?

My philosophy on moderation in Chat is to let users talk freely, so long as the content of the chat doesn't go against the SU rules. It's a place where users can say (almost) anything, and shouldn't take fear of being banned, after all, we all like conversation.

  1. There are subjects that are within the purview of the site but considered a "gray area". Examples might include such things as circumventing user agreements, which some people consider to potentially involve unethical behavior. They are a gray area because they are not officially prohibited, like piracy, but are generally deemed off-topic due only to precedent. Specific issues of this nature are periodically raised on Meta to poll member input on whether they should be on topic. This question is not about your opinion for or against such topics. Here is the question: Should the decision as to acceptability of any and all gray area subjects be a matter of community consensus, or should at least certain cases be based on foundational principles and not subject to community preference? And why?

I believe that we should take a mix of both community consensus and foundational principles, on a case-by-case basis. As to why, mainly because I (personally) think that we should let the community have some say as to what happens to their habitat.

  1. Beyond answering questions and participating in community moderation functions, some members take an active role being supportive to new users. This can include such actions as suggesting helpful resources, explaining site nuances, helping to polish their posts through advice or edits, providing words of encouragement, providing friendly input when comment threads become unfriendly, etc. Any member can be supportive, but for a moderator, is it a fundamental responsibility?

I think that being supportive is definitely a bigger part of being a moderator, but not necessarily a fundamental responsibility. However, it doesn't hurt to be friendly, and in most cases, friendly is really good.

  1. There are currently 110,000 unanswered questions, which is around 1/3 of the total number of questions. Do you consider this to be a problem and do you have any ideas on how to go about organizing this work? E.g. would you organize 'cleanup' events on Meta to encourage users to look at the Unanswered queue?

I do consider it a problem. Personally, I would organise cleanup events to try and clear away at least a part of the unanswered queue, as well as encouraging users to see if they can't answer some older unanswered questions first.

  1. Across the network several teams are working on, or have already deployed, automated tools (bots if you like) to assist in flagging posts for SPAM, Not an answer or plagiarism. Can you elaborate on how you expect these tools/bots influence your moderation?

I think that the bots will make moderation easier, due to them identifying problem content, however, like all things, a tool is only a means to an end. Moderators still have to make the final decision.

I will add this though. If ever I get stuck, I have a whole team behind me, as does every mod. If I can't figure it out, then I'll consult with the team to come to a decision.

  • 2
    I do consider all variables when handling moderation cases. Can you please elaborate on your prior experience as a mod? – Twisty Impersonator Mar 14 '17 at 14:08
  • Point 2 is a little vague, can you expand upon that? – Burgi Mar 14 '17 at 17:19
  • @Twisty Sure. I can usually be found on multiple IRCNets moderating the chat in different channels there. I usually look at everything, including the user's general attitude, the helpfulness of the user, and how they react to me attempting to defuse the situation, amongst other things. I know it's not much to go on, but it's something – td512 Mar 15 '17 at 3:37
  • 1
    I've organised at least one cleanup event and am looking at a second one. Its always nice to have a fresh pair of eyes, and organising them is a pain - how would you organise such an event, and what do you feel we could do better compared to the last one? – Journeyman Geek Mar 20 '17 at 7:48
  • You wrote that "I used to be extremely active on SuperUser, but due to university, my activity died down." How much time do you expect to be able to dedicate to moderating this site? – Fabio Turati Mar 20 '17 at 23:16
  • @FabioTurati: at this point, I expect to be active in the community at the very least 4 hours a day (and thanks to my schedule, I can actually do that) – td512 Mar 21 '17 at 5:58

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