Answer Rate, Are We Welcoming?
It is my impression that U&L regulars tend to consider the site to be fairly high-quality and welcoming. Yet U&L is way below average among SE sites when it comes to questions with at least one upvoted answers. And not everyone shares this impression of being welcomed. What are the major areas in which U&L should improve? If this is something that moderators have a role in, what do you propose to do about it? If not, what should we (meaning all users) be doing?
I think there are actually two separate issues here. First, our percentage answered; second, if we're welcoming (presumably to new users).
Our percentage answered is lower than average, but only because you're including substantially smaller and younger sites in the average. If you sort the list by traffic, our neighbors are EL&U & Ask Different above and Math and Android below. We are #2, behind EL&U's astonishing 99%, in percent answered.
But that glosses over the very different topic areas. If instead you compare us to similar sites:
Ask Different 76%
Ask Ubuntu 66%
Server Fault 81%
Super User 73%
Unix & Linux (us) 84%
Web Applications 79%
Windows Phone 87%
we really are doing pretty well.
Most of the work improving our answer rate isn't a moderator function, it's something that everyone on the site—even the newly signed up user with one reputation—can (and should) do.
The only mod-specific thing I see—and it really ought not be a high priority as it isn't really improving the site—is that there are old questions which ought to be closed. Closing them may improve the percentage a little.
Are We Welcoming?
I think for the most part, being welcoming is about how we react to less-than-perfect questions from new users. (Everyone is welcoming to perfect questions from new users). A large part again a community effort; copy editing, asking for clarification, retagging, etc. is something everyone should do, mod or not.
A mod does have a special role, though, in stopping unwelcoming behavior such as abrasive comments by both deleting said comments and by reminding other users be nice. Thankfully, that's a problem that has mostly stayed away from U&L.
A mod also has, by having the diamond next to his/her name, a responsibility to be exceptionally civil and patient, and be willing to explain how site features work, repeatedly. I think if you look at my comment history you'll find that those are comments you'll approve of coming from a moderator. Of course, you should look beyond June 3, as no doubt we've all been on our best behavior since we heard about this election.
In which time-zone do you normally operate? And, in UTC, what hours of the day can you be expected to be available for moderation?
I live in Northern Virginia, US, which is in UTC-0500/-0400. However, I'm a night person, so I'm around, or at least pingable, from about 1400 UTC through 0600 UTC. Later on weekends.
I'm in chat, and am easily pingable there (which ultimately winds up on my phone via the Android app). I'll welcome any pings for moderator needed.
One Line Answers
How do you feel about one line answers which only feature a single piece of code?
This was asked on meta, and I'm the author of the highest-voted answer there. See My answer to “Should ‘command only’ answers be flagged, down voted and deleted?”.
Of course, in the future the consensus there could change to something I don't agree with. My job as moderator is not to enforce my personal views, it's to enforce the community's consensus. If I disagree with that consensus, I get to argue my point on chat and on meta like everyone else.
There are some cases that have come up on Stack Overflow where moderators have had to go against consensus, but those are few and far between, and mainly apply to SO.
As Stack Exchange sites go, let alone communities on the Internet in general, U&L is pretty low on strife. This might be surprising considering how people will go to war over editor choices, init systems or kernel design. Why do you think that is, and most importantly, how would you cope if this changed?
Strife on the Site
I think it's not actually that weird for smaller, technically-focused Stack Exchange sites. Even Stack Overflow is pretty low on strife, compared to the Internet in general. By discouraging conversation threads and instead focusing on answers to specific technical questions, it's something the SE model does very well. We don't allow the kinds of questions that could turn into a flame war ("what's the best init system?" "what's the best editor?").
And if someone asks an emacs question, any answer trying to start an editor war will surely be downvoted to oblivion and deleted.
So, I think moderators play some role in preventing strife by getting rid of trolling, basically. Ultimately, that of course extends to suspending the users performing said trolling. The site has had trolls before, and I (and several other of the candidates) helped flagging and VtC the questions the troll was posting. We coordinated with the existing moderators over chat, and that worked fairly well. Eventually, the troll gave up.
Strife in Chat
Since I've been asked about chat, I've seen those flags before (for a while, high-rep users got flags from all channels). There are a few situations where its obvious to anyone that a message is a problem; but mostly its important to understand the rules & customs of the room before attempting to moderate it.
But let's say something happened in our site's chat room. First, I'd make sure not to be drawn in to it. A heated, abusive argument isn't improved by another person joining in. Nor is it helped by arguing over authority (e.g., if someone says I can't tell them to stop, etc.) The proper response depends on the situation, but (in escalating order), its something like:
- general reminder to the channel to keep it civil, etc.
- specific reminder about particular messages, to the person to made them. A reminder, not a threat ("that's not cool", etc.)
- warning to cut it out or face suspension
- chat suspension
I'd skip or repeat steps as appropriate; e.g., someone who shows up and just starts filling the channel with profanity is a troll, and just gets suspended.
Of course, in addition, I'd delete or edit offensive messages.
What is your view of help vampirism? Is it an existential threat to the community, or just another term for the elite to use to exclude newcomers? How would you translate this view into your moderation practice?
It exists, but it is a pretty small problem here. I believe we ought to downvote questions which, as the tooltip says, "do not show any research effort".
But I think our first assumption for most cases should be that the asker doesn't know how to do the research, and focus our efforts on helping with that problem as well. We can kindly point them to some search results, ask if those helped, etc. And of course answers can explain how the knowledge to answer was obtained, or where to go for further information (e.g., cite man pages).
A moderator only needs to step in for the few very bad cases, for example to close a question quickly.
Closing & Deleting
How will you participate in closing & deleting? As a moderator, the action of closing a question, opening a closed one, deleting an answer, etc, takes immediate effect, and does not require consensus from multiple users. How will this affect your closing & deleting behavior? Would you act as if you made normal votes? Wait for the consensus of others? Abstain entirely outside of special circumstances? Some other approach?
I don't think I'll handling it that differently than I do now. I currently only vote to close a question that I'm pretty sure should be closed, etc. I don't consider the n-vote requirement a license to be sloppy in my voting.
Giv' me teh Codez
What would you do with "GIV' ME TEH CODEZ" kind of questions? Close them, edit them, anything else?
I think it depends on the question. Strictly speaking, a lot of the fairly simple "I want to extract this bit of data and sort by it" questions are "give me the code" questions. But they're also fairly atomic; you can't really break them down further. I think they're OK.
Then there are other questions that ask for a solution to some complicated task. I think we ought to ask the OP to split it down into smaller, more focused questions, and close the overly broad one. Some of those are also likely off-topic, as they're fully programming questions.
That said, at present, the above is not the consensus here. The consensus requires there be a pattern of it from the user, so I will only close questions when there is.
Some candidates are apparently so bad at using their editor that they left bits of editor commands in their nomination post. If you're one of them, do you think that despite your poor computer usage skills, you'll be able to master the moderator tools? If you aren't one of them, would you be able to work with a colleague who is, or do you think they should be kept out at all costs?
Well, I'm not one of them (possibly just because I hit the character limit in my nomination—I take the 5th on that), so I'd encourage my colleagues to ask a question on a very nice site I heard about that deals with Unix text editors, among other things.
Answers v. Problems
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?
Well, I'll assume for answering this that the flags are legitimate; if they're not, it's not that user's problem that some random jerk on the Internet is flagging all of his/her stuff. Also, I assume this is a new problem, not a long-running one; if it's a long-running one, presumably the existing moderation team already has a plan.
First, I'd need to decide if the user is doing it on purpose or not—it could be, for example, due to limited English proficiency.
If the user is doing it on purpose, I'd give him/her a warning to cut it out. Otherwise, I'd try to help the user with phrasing, etc. that is less abrasive. I'd also, in either case, if its comments, ask the other users involved to please refrain, and just flag material instead. I'm not sure exactly how the moderator tools work (not currently being one), but I'd make sure this gets communicated to the rest of the team.
Ultimately, if its proves unmanageable, and after discussion with the rest of the moderation team, I'd suspend the user; there are plenty of people who can provide answers without causing problems. Pretty much no user is that special to be worth constant trouble.
Disagreements with other mods
How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
Obviously, I'll chat-ping them with
@user +++ATH and hope they're on (well, were on) modem connections (fallback: schedule backhoes to work in their neighborhoods). While they're waiting for their modems to redial and reconnect, I'll change their residences into truck stops on Google Maps, and laugh as the 18-wheelers pull up and demand burgers.
On a serious note, I'll talk to the other mod. I'm available in chat, as are most of the other candidates, and the current moderation team. Even as a non-moderator, when I came across a review queue item, closed question, etc. where I felt that one of the other chat regulars cast an incorrect vote, I asked them about it in chat. Or I asked about it on meta.
If anyone (mod or not) believes I've made a mistake, I want them to tell me. I'm willing to discuss it, and I know I do indeed make mistakes.