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The following is a "digest" version of the 2011 Moderator Election Town Hall Chat. The format, as described on Meta Stack Overflow, is one answer to this question for every question asked in the Town Hall, containing all the candidate's answers to that question.

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If you see any corrections which need to be made to this digest, or if you were a candidate who was unable to attend the town hall and would like your answers included, please @Rebecca or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!

closed as too localized by Matthew Read Dec 1 '12 at 19:40

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11 Answers 11

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Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: New users often are not accustomed to the Stack Exchange system, and sometimes struggle to present themselves properly, either in the way they use the site or their attitude. How willing are you to work with "problematic" users, and at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth the effort?


Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: I don't think it's ever appropriate for a mod to give up. There are times when you might suspend someone after egregious behavior and a failure to improve, but you still give them another shot when the suspension is over. AFAIK it's up to the team to make a permanent suspension, and not the mods, and that's probably a good thing.

Matthew Read Matthew Read continued: As for working with problematic users -- it's important to be up front about the site policies and what's expected, and to be polite. Telling someone they're behaving badly isn't going to work if you're behaving badly yourself. I always try to point people to the relevant FAQ, Meta post, or blog post that explains the policies and their rationale. Beyond that there's not much to do besides a suspension -- hopefully a short one gives them the jolt they need.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: Very willing, and I've been. Most folks are just unaccustomed to the way Stack Overflow works and only need a little gentle prodding. If they stick around they get it. If they don't, they generally get frustrated and leave. Fortunately, my fellow mods can help with persistent troublemakers. Every situation is different, so I can't really say when it's no longer worth the effort.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: In the past I've hung around pretty poor questions on SO so that I could try to coax a real question out of someone, then tried to edit stuff an explain the site as best I can. I try to do the same here, and I'm willing to give pretty much anyone a decent shot. If a user is actively resisting any reasonable offers of help or is blatantly offensive, though, then everyone might need to walk away, cool down and try again later (including official suspension, if necessary).

eldarerathis eldarerathis continued: Having said that: I do think some people legitimately have bad attitudes and don't want to play nice. If it becomes clear that a user falls into that category then I'd have no qualms with suspending them, outlining very clearly why they're behaving unacceptably, and letting them try again at a later point.

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: I'm very willing to help prod new users in the right direction. But if after a few times they just don't "get it" then I'd consult the others on what to do (suspension or otherwise)

Flow Flow answered: I think that the community is our first line of defense again “problematic” users by flagging the posts. I would point the user to our FAQ, especially the “Etiquette” section. If the user doesn’t change his behaviour after the first or second reminder, appropriate actions should be considered. It always depends on the individual case.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Final thoughts from the candidates?


Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: Vote for Pedro.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: No matter how the election goes, I'm glad I was given the opportunity to help out. This is a good batch of candidates and the site will be in good hands, whether I'm one of them or not.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: I think I'll just take this time to say thanks to all the current mods and staff and whatnot who got this site here. I'm glad I found AE because I've learned a lot and I have a lot of fun here, and you guys did a great job getting it all together!

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: Whether elected a mod or not, I'll still be here. I enjoy the community and have enjoyed working with the current group of mods. I hope for nothing but the best for Android.SE :)

Flow Flow answered: All candidates are doing a good job on android.stackexchange.com. I would vote for them all if I could. :) I just have to add that AFAIK I am the only one residing in UTC+2 and that it is a good idea to distribute the moderators in different timezones around the globe. :-)

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Al Everett http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/bf539ceaee7e3bc432077bfad2061834?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Al Everett asked: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to the success of the Android Enthusiasts Stack Exchange?


Al Everett http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/bf539ceaee7e3bc432077bfad2061834?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Al Everett answered: To me, it's the preponderance of "fly-by-night" users. It seems like we have an awful lot of people who show up, drop a question or three (usually badly asked, too) and then disappear, never to be seen again, often without responding to comments or even waiting for their answer. I'm continually frustrated by trying to engage new folks for nought. I don't know that I have a solution, except to keep trying and to spend more effort on the ones who do stay.

eldarerathis http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/1187840ca619374e5f2d91943870d7e1?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG eldarerathis answered: I mentioned this briefly on Meta, but I think that one of the biggest difficulties is that the Q&A format it somewhat ill-suited to a lot of the real power-user discourse. IRC and forums tend to work better because they allow for discussion of, for example, ROMs that are in active development and troubleshooting.

Matthew Read http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/9f45abdea17c709041812609c7fdfb69?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Matthew Read answered: I think the biggest thing is keeping users here. We've talked before on Meta how we don't have a "middle class" to help the mods and keep the site running smoothly. So far the site is running smoothly but, with the gaining popularity of Android and this site hopefully with it, we will need these users. Many of our middling-rep users have left without explanation after a couple good months and it's somewhat concerning.

Bryan Denny http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3497d52dba17d86666a7bc82a2243c07?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Bryan Denny answered: Capturing a good audience (that sticks around). Especially the highly technical crowd. You see a lot of those types of questions being sent to XDA or reddit.com/r/android instead of here.

Flow http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/786b7a4e236f0179a2d7b67aac9b402e?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Flow answered: Reaching a critical mass of users to increase the swarm intelligence and overall knowledge of the site.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What can be done to bring more people to the community? Do you feel that's part of your responsibility as a moderator?


eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: I do think moderators have some responsibility to help attract people, and I'd like to try promoting the site a bit more on other sites. We link to XDA a whole lot, but I rarely see links back here from XDA, for example. We fill a nice niche since we're a very focused Q&A site without all the other discussion going on, so I think people from general help forums would find it attractive.

Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: The contests and promotions we've been having are a good start. I don't think moderators are responsible for promotion, but it's certainly an area I want to help with. And true mod responsibilities directly influence how the site is perceived -- it's important to be polite and consistent and all that good stuff to limit how many people are turned off by how SE works. I think our input is also really valuable when it comes to promotion - we know the site better than almost anyone else.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: I think a moderator should try to bring people in, but also help and encourage others to increase the size and quality of the community. As an Android fan, this isn't the only venue I participate in, and it's not that much effort to point people toward the site, especially when there's an interesting/topical question.

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: Anytime I can, I try to mention android.stackexchange to other android users. Here's one particular example: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/mxlfm/if_your_website_does_this_fuck_you_xpost_from/c34nopk As a moderator, I don't think it is our job the necessarily be the marketer for the site, but every little bit that we can chip in helps. We should continue with the contests (and adjust some of the rules to help the one-off users like the Kindle contest brought)

Flow Flow answered: No, I don’t feel that this is part of the responsibility as moderator. But I wouldn’t want to become a mod if I wasn’t a big fan of the stackexchange idea, therefore I do promote the sites. :)

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What is the difference between 'policing the community' and 'serving the community' and which side do you fall on, and why?


Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: Android is by-and-large a fantastic site low on the problems faced by many other SE sites. I don't see any policing aspects to the moderation job here and, regardless, it has to be about serving the community. If you're not serving the community then you're not doing your job as a mod.

Matthew Read Matthew Read continued: If a community were to be so far gone that you need to really police it, cracking down on questions the community wants and so on, then probably the site isn't viable and I would have expected the team to step in and shut it down before that point.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: "Policing" is looking around for bad actors and problems and doing something about it. "Serving" is, to me, is finding what the community needs and working to provide it. I think a moderator needs to do both, but as little as the former as possible to keep things civil.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: I'd say it's a bit of a fine line between the two. "Policing" to me implies being a bit more active in exercising moderation powers, whereas "serving" is a bit more passive, like responding to community flags and such. I would also say, though, that carrying out community consensus without always needing their explicit request (i.e. rules which were decided upon on meta) is serving - not policing. That's where I would generally fall.

Matthew Read Matthew Read clarified: I think I may have interpreted "policing" too harshly, based on Al and eldarerathis's answers :P I agree with dealing with problems and not being passive!

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: Policing is a bit too strong. Policing happens when I only want to see things I want to see on the site rather than what the community wants to see. I should be here to facilitate (serve) the community, not my own whims

Flow Flow answered: Serving the community. Policies can change. In fact the should be adjusted from time to time by the community. That assures a healthy climate and progress.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What makes you enjoy moderating and janitorial tasks (as opposed to rep-earning activities like asking/answering)?


eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: If I'm being truly honest, I have no idea :) I think I enjoy seeing things run smoothly and look nice. Plus, poor quality posts reflect poorly on the community, whether consciously and subconsciously. I'm a member of that community, so I want to make sure that I (and everyone else who's put so much hard work into this site) am well represented. We're contributing to the knowledge base of the Internet. No reason to do it halfway.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: Too many out-of-control forums? I have seen "broken windows" bring down other sites in the past. I like this site too much to stand idly by and fall into chaos, especially when I can help keep that from happening.

Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: I'm an engineer and a little pedantic :P I like things to work smoothly and be in order and correct. I like to act and not just converse. I like helping the site and community in multiple areas.

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: Reputation is nice, but at the end of the day it is number. As a moderator you actually get to keep things in order. I enjoy it because I want to see this style of community thrive over hard to read forums

Flow Flow answered: I enjoy both, but moderation and janitorial tasks satisfy my pursuit for structure and organization. Although my desk sometimes speaks a different language. ;-)

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: You have several flags indicating 'very low quality' on a single post; you can't find any obvious issues with the post. What do you do?


Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: Get a second opinion, probably via the mod chatroom. Multiple flags either means sock puppetry or something you just don't quite get. Another set of eyes can help you catch the problem, rule it out, or investigate the abuse.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: Depending on the situation, I'd leave a comment asking for more information; pop into Teacher's Lounge to ask for some other eyes to look it over; if it keeps happening check in to the users that are flagging it for potential sock-puppetry. But removing otherwise good content for no good reason doesn't seem right.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: I'd probably try to grab the other mods in chat and ask them to take a look. It's entirely possible that there's something I'm just missing, but it could be malicious flagging of some sort, too. If there's nobody readily available to take a look and the content truly doesn't appear "low quality" then I'd dismiss the flags and talk it out with other mods the next time they're available.

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: If it's salvageable, edit it to make it a more worth question. If it isn't ask the user to clarify and provide more info. If they don't, consult other mods and possibly close it. Really depends on the post.

Flow Flow answered: I am not sure if this is possible, but I would try to contact and ask the flaggers for the reason of the “very low quality” flag. A second, third, ... mod opinion would also be helpful.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What do you hope to accomplish as a moderator as opposed to a user with high rep privs?


Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: The main difference for me would be doing things vs creating work for the mods. As a regular user I'd flag things; as a mod I'd just delete/close/etc. As a regular user I'd post minor tag problems needing merging etc. to Meta; as a mod I just do what needs to be done. In both roles you always take the major things to Meta regardless of your ability to deal with it.

Al Everett Al Everett answered: I want to help a good core of high-reputation users basically self-manage the site. If everything is going well, then a moderator's job truly is to be an exception-handler, taking care of those few things that come up that a non-moderator just can't do. We have some really good users now, but we need some more.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: Honestly, I just kind of want to cut out the middle man. I find myself running into clearly off-topic questions or non-answers, constantly refreshing the review queue and such but...all I can do is flag (or edit)! I spend a lot of time "moderating" as it is, so I figured - why not volunteer to actually moderate? If I can use that time to be helpful in other ways, too, then all the better. I just legitimately enjoy maintaining the site and helping the community.

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: If I wasn't a mod, then I wouldn't be fixing the things myself. I'd just be flagging them for the current mods to do those things. Skip an extra step :) But the only difference between the two is the mod has slightly stronger powers which should hopefully not have to be used

Flow Flow answered: Moderation of the site. Asking for feedback on meta about suggestions and ideas that I think improve the overall site experience. But the last point is something that every user is able and encouraged to do, regardless of the mod status and reputation!

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Through a moderator tool, you found some people near you. Would you reach out to them?


Al Everett Al Everett answered: Heck no. That's a breach of trust.

Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: Absolutely not. If the information wasn't provided in the public profile or provided directly by the person to me, then it's private. It should only be used if necessary in the course of moderation duties and never exposed beyond the user, other mods, and the team within the appropriate contexts.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: No, I wouldn't feel at all right about doing that. I'd only ever consider contacting someone if it was through some kind of information they had chosen to make public.

Bryan Denny Bryan Denny answered: No, I would say that is "creepy." If they didn't publicly share the info, then I have no reason to try and contact them (other than the rare/exceptional sending a private message procedure)

Flow Flow answered: No, that’s not for what the tool is meant to. Especially if the data is not public visible.

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Shog9 Shog9 asked: What would you do if someone starts yelling angrily about how such and such a question breaks their NDA?


Al Everett Al Everett answered: Well, first I'd get them to calm down. Then explain that the site offers user-contributed content and we can't control other people. If they persist, I'd refer them to the Stack Exchange team and by extension their attorneys. Certainly I'd shoot an e-mail off to the Community Managers to give them a heads-up.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: An NDA seems like a type of situation that should probably be handled similar to a DMCA/Copyright situation. I'd want to try to reasonably explain to the individual that the we can't know the origin of all content that comes into the SE sites, but that they'd need to make some kind of case to the SE team. I'd also probably bring it up wherever appropriate (chat, email, etc) to make sure that the team is aware of claim.

Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: Remain calm. I believe SE's usual procedure when someone wants content removed is to ask them (or let them) file a formal DCMA takedown request. I know there's something on MSO about it so I would point them to that, and to the team if needed. Otherwise I would handle them like anyone else being disruptive: Point them to the site's policies, warn them about the results of their behavior, and proceed to suspension iff needed.

Bryan Denny answered: I would approach the situation in a calm manner and explain that if it is a copright issue then a DMCA request should be issued. Otherwise, I would explain the site guidelines and rules and close the question

Flow Flow answered: If there really had been a violation of the NDA, it was done by the user who asked/answered the question. I would ask the person, which complains about the NDA violation, to contact the user directly, if needed by asking SE officials for support contacting the user. Content can easily be deleted by the users - but should maybe be completely wiped by the SE admins in such cases.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: How would you handle an off-topic question that gets lots of upvotes/answers that the community likes/supports?


Al Everett Al Everett answered: I think the current way Stack Overflow handles this is probably the best. Close and lock it, and attach a note that it's kept for posterity but is not a good example of a question for the current topic guidelines.

eldarerathis eldarerathis answered: Close it as off-topic, leave a comment explaining the reasoning for the close. I don't think that off-topic content should exist solely because of perceived usefulness since it sets a poor precedent and gives people questions to point at later down the line if they disagree with the closure of their own.

Matthew Read Matthew Read answered: I'd go to Meta if it's near our scope. Perhaps the scope needs to be expanded if the community is behind it, and we should discuss that. Another option is to talk to the OP and see if they're open to a rewrite that would push it on-topic.

Matthew Read Matthew Read continued: If it's fully off-topic then I'd close as OT with a comment explaining my reasoning. I'm not particularly a fan of locks and I don't think they're needed on Android -- at least not till we get more high-rep users who can enter a voting open/closed battle :P

Bryan Denny answered: I see this on Stackoverflow a lot. Although these questions are popular, they are very distracting to the main purpose of the site. The question should be closed with an explanation of why

Flow Flow answered: If it’s clearly off-topic as defined by the scope within the FAQ I would close it and ask for discussion about possible corrections or other actions on meta.

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