- A common issue with volunteer posts like moderators is for the volunteer to simply not have enough time to devote to his or her mod duties. This isn't a theoretical question. It's not restricted to SE, either. It's a common issue with volunteer work. And I've seen situations in SE (and indeed elsewhere) where most of the work fell to a subset of moderators/volunteers because the remaining ones were not very active. In this situation, there are at least a couple of ways to go. (I can't think of any other alternatives, but there might be.) [A] Do nothing. Carry on being a mod to the extent of ones diminished capacity [B] Resign, citing lack of time, other commitments, whatever. In your opinion, what is the better choice, [A] or [B], and if [B], what is the level of threshold activity that would make you think that it was time to give up the post? How would you quantify activity for this?
At this moment in time, and for the last few years, I do not volunteer
any significant amounts of my time to any other project.
If circumstances change in such a way that I (or others) feel that my
effectiveness as a U&L moderator starts to suffer severely, then I would
consult with the other moderators in the team to see whether it would
be better if I resigned (option B) or whether they thought it would be
okay for me to carry on (option A) with the view that circumstances may
change again later. At that point, it would presumably depend on the
general health of the U&L community and the workload on the moderator
team (and on how much hassle it would be to replace me).
- While it says on the tin, at the Stack Overflow blog: A Theory of Moderation, that the moderators should do as little as possible, we're having an election because the site has "grown and it would be nice to have a larger team" (paraphrasing terdon from chat), so I assume that there'll be moderator tasks for you to do. If you plan on spending about the same amount of time on U&L, what other U&L activities (such as Asking, Answering, Editing, or Reviewing) that you currently do today do you see yourself doing less of when as a moderator? How much time do you think you'll spend here at U&L?
I'm likely to spend about the same amount of time on the site as before
(this varies from day to day, but I will be available almost every day; I currently have a 436 consecutive days on the site).
My time here has been mostly been taken up by looking for interesting
questions to answer, answering them, and reading other people's answers
and questions. If elected, I would answer less questions, and I would have to look at topics that usually does not interest me. I'm hoping
that I would let the moderation tasks take the time they need.
I've been a bit caught up in the excitement of finding interesting new
questions and answering them quickly, but I want to move towards a more
relaxed approach. This may mean improving existing answers, and answering fewer questions myself.
- Do you have any visions or plans to enhance the U&L community? Specifically around community guidelines such as welcoming new users, as slm commented in their answer at "What’s it like being a Unix & Linux moderator?", but it could be around voting or tags or any other area where you see room for improvement.
slm clarified his "item #1" as
My comment around new users was more in people that are new to Unix &
Linux technologies, not so much to our site. But there's def. room for
improvement in how we as a site deal w/ people that are new to all of
Being able to look for information in manuals and on-line, and having
the ability to (more or less) formulate what in effect constitutes a bug report (an U&L question),
are things that new users to the site and users of Unix in general would
be helped by having or learning. I've asked 30 questions on U&L, and
answered over 4000. Part of the reason for that discrepancy is that I
seem to be good at finding answers (which means I usually resolve my own
issues). Some of my actual questions have later turned into bug reports
Anything that guides or helps a user to ask good questions would
be nice to have, and I'd go as far as saying that this would be
good even if that makes it "harder" to ask questions (it signals
the level of engagement that we expect from someone who asks a
question). StackOverflow have, for example, tested question
templates, and some
variation of this may be interesting to try, or at least discuss.
I simply want to raise the quality of questions, so that we get less of
the type of questions that says "I did something, but it didn't work".
Note that I never said anything about simple questions. In fact, I
love some of the simpler questions, because once you start looking at
the failure conditions (the assumptions that you need to make), you'll
notice that it may not be so simple after all. They also usually make
it easy to explain both fundamental and tricky concepts, which helps
everyone, including oneself.
I would also want to do something about "silent downvotes". In my
mind, a downvote on a question or answer should ideally be followed up
with a comment, especially if it's clear that some effort went into
the question or answer. I don't really know what to do about this.
- Have you ever identified questions from people attempting to cheat on school/university tests or coursework? What actions did you take? What actions do you think should be taken? How would having the extra voting weight of being a diamond moderator influence your actions in such circumstances? (See: 1 2)
Yes, a few times. I'm not consistent in my response.
The thing is, sometimes these questions are interesting. The
professor (or whatever) sometimes obviously want them to solve the
question using a particular set of tools. These tools are sometimes
obviously the wrong tools (e.g. "use
ls to identify the five newest
directories and print their names out"). I would answer these questions
as if a professional had asked it and as if it would be implemented on a live
I sometimes ask with a comment what the issue is that they actually
need help with (see my answer above about wanting to improve question
quality), and if they don't return, I would downvote and/or vote to
close as "unclear" (I've done this to non-homework questions too when
the user don't give enough info, and doesn't seem to care). I believe
that I've given, not a complete script, but all the separate components
of a script (all the pieces they should need to complete the puzzle), as
an answer at some point. I personally think this is okay as it should be
available in their course work already.
I'm pretty sure I've answered homework questions as if they were any
other question too.
Duplicates gets closed as duplicates, as any other duplicate.
I definitely don't want to ban homework questions on the site. What I
would want to see is a careful handling of these, possibly through being
stricter with the formulations of the questions ("use your own words",
"tell us what issue you have with this assignment"). That would enable
a totally different type of answer.
In general, I'd like to also somehow discourage "Try this:"-answers
(not just on homework-like questions; "Try this" implies "I haven't
really spent enough time on this to know whether it would work or not,
and I don't know under what conditions it would fail."). The point of
a homework assignment is to learn something (or to prove that one has
learnt something), and we should be able to help with this.
What would that mean for me if I was a moderator? Hmm... I would
probably be more interested in the formulation of the question, of what
the person has difficulty understanding, and what the answers to the
question looks like. I would possibly still answer the first type of
questions mentioned above (the wrong tool for the job questions).
- 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?
Being a brand new moderator, I would talk to the other moderators
about it first. They would give their opinions, and I would go with
something like what they propose I'd do. Honestly, that's the most
likely scenario the first time this happens. Or I'll let one of them
handle it! Yeah, that's the non-conflict way out...
Now, what might they suggest? If it's a comment thread that gone
haywire, delete it if it doesn't result in an improvement of the
answer or question, or at least clean it up by deleting the useless
argumentation. That has happened a few times. Call the user(s) into a
private chat to talk about it? I could do that if the user was willing
to. As a moderator I would be able to suspend a user temporarily. That
would rather unfortunate I think, but if they kept on being extremely
toxic it may hurt the community more than what their answers would "make
up for". I really hope I have to wait a long time before suspending
anyone, and I would never do that without the support of the other
I don't know really... I would just learn on the job I guess. I also
suspect that every case would be different. There is no "user", there's
"bob" and he's having issues with having his facts questioned, or with
having his answers edited, or whatever it may be.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
Hmm... How to resolve conflicts within the team of moderators? Why
would you want to know about that? Oh, the old moderators are voting,
We also have to assume that I somehow felt strongly about this
particular question. Or maybe it was something else, like the
suspension of "bob" from the previous question (which I felt was
unfair)? Or the fact that homework questions suddenly starts being
closed as "off-topic" by some moderators as soon as they appear?
As far as I've seen, the existing moderators are both mature and
reasonable. There are bound to be difference of opinions, and these
may be discussed if needed. I would not undo the actions of another
moderator (if that was possible) just because I would have handled it
differently. If it was something I felt strongly about, I would talk to
them about it. This would go for things that may have been errors too.
If something can and should be undone, it's better if it's undone by the
person who did it, depending on the situation.
- Given that a diamond moderator can close a question with a single vote, how will you be construing the "Request for learning materials" closure reason?
The full reason is:
Requests for learning materials (tutorials, how-tos etc.) are
off topic. The only exception is questions about where to find
official documentation (e.g. POSIX specifications). See the Help
Center and our
Community Meta for more
I have had a few flags declined in the past when I've used this reason
the wrong way. Each time, terdon has pointed to the literal wording of
the close reason to me (in the chat). I now think I've learnt it and I
find that I don't use it very often at all.
If I'm unclear on how to handle these, I will ask the other moderators,
until such time that I don't need to any longer.
- On some other StackExchange WWW sites, question comments and answer comments are regularly deleted by diamond moderators for straying from the purpose of clarifying/improving the relevant question or answer. On Politics, for example, diamond moderators regularly step in when comments are abused to argue people's personal political opinions (example). Does this WWW site have an analogous problem needing diamond moderators to do the same, in your view? Where would the line be drawn, if there is a line at all?
I don't think we have too much of the opinion-arguing type of comments
on U&L. What we do have is occasional long threads with users asking
follow-up questions or doing the "it doesn't work" thing. I tend to try
to halt these with a request for a new question as soon as I discover
that the user is trying to do a "tutorial session" with me.
I do use the "no longer needed" flag on comments. It's a good addition.
We also have the-answer-is-in-the-comments issues, and I fully
understand why we have that. Our questions can sometimes be
answered with short pieces of code, or some terse advice. I've
done this myself, even though I did complain about this exact
thing on Meta
a while back. This comes back to having high quality answers. I
sometimes see other users pick up on such comments and turn them into
answers. This is a good thing.
- Suppose a user expresses disagreement with you over a closed/deleted question or an edit to their post that you've made. How would you handle it? Do you think you always need to explain your moderation decisions to ordinary users and if not, where would you draw the line?
Yes, I do think that I should explain my decisions to users, especially
when removing something that a user spent time and effort on, and when
there are disagreements. Dialogue is important in these cases and if
I've done something wrong I need to fix it. If a comment (in whatever
form) is not enough, a private chat will do. Again, this will be
dependent on situation and the people involved.
- On some other StackExchange WWW sites, it is routine practice to protect questions that come up on the Hot Network Questions list (a list that is, to put it mildly, controversial). Given that diamond moderators can protect a question with a single vote, will you be doing this for Hot Network Questions here? Please give your reasons for whatever your answer is.
I don't think I've seen a real issue with HNQs on U&L. Moderators
can nowadays remove questions from the HNQ list, which is nice, but I
suspect that would be rarely needed on U&L.
I would probably protect questions that start to gather an unusual
amount of very low-quality answers, regardless of the reason this is
happening (it sometimes also happens for very popular questions, or when
a question has been tweeted or in some other way been advertised).