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In connection with the Stack Overflow moderator elections, we will be holding a Q&A with the candidates. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to pose questions to the candidates on the topic of moderation. Participation is completely voluntary.

The purpose of this thread was to collect questions for the questionnaire. The questionnaire is now live, and you may find it here.

Here's how it'll work:

  • During the nomination phase, (so, until Monday, February 17th at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 3:00 pm EST on the same day, give or take time to arrive for closure), this question will be open to collect potential questions from the users of the site. Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer.

  • We, the Community Team, will be providing a small selection of generic questions. The first two will be guaranteed to be included, the latter ones are if the community doesn't supply enough questions. This will be done in a single post, unlike the prior instruction.

  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into at current.

  • At the end of the phase, the Community Team will select up to 8 of the top voted questions submitted by the community provided in this thread, to use in addition to the aforementioned 2 guaranteed questions. We reserve some editorial control in the selection of the questions and may opt not to select a question that is tangential or irrelevant to moderation or the election. That said, if I have concerns about any questions in this fashion, I will be sure to point this out in comments before the decision making time.

  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, containing 10 questions in total.

  • This is not the only option that users have for gathering information on candidates. As a community, you are still free to, for example, hold a live chat session with your candidates to ask further questions, or perhaps clarifications from what is provided in the Q&A.

If you have any questions or feedback about this new process, feel free to post as a comment here.

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Is this in lieu of the town hall events of previous elections? –  Pëkka Feb 10 at 20:11
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@Pekka Yep, though that's not to stop people from organizing a chat session. –  Grace Note Feb 10 at 20:13
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"Did somebody ask you to run?" –  Uphill Luge Feb 11 at 0:23
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Chris Hansen walks in... - 'Why don't you have a seat over there?' –  PW Kad Feb 11 at 2:13
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Do I have a better chance to win if I smoke crack? –  Rob Ford Feb 11 at 22:52
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Why yes, @RobFord! Your willingness to stand against narcotics oppression is a sure strength in this candidacy. –  remus Feb 12 at 7:27
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@Andomar One could ask a question about what the candidate is inwardly enthusiastic about. Quite a few of the runs of this Q&A on others sites on the network feature questions like "What is the one big thing you wish you could change?" or "What do you feel is the most pressing topic?". –  Grace Note Feb 13 at 18:22
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Can we not do this again? Next time, let's just create an "ask-the-candidates" tag and let folks post genuine questions, instead of abusing the platform like this. The candidates could actually post genuine answers then. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 at 23:38
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brb, flagging every answer as not an answer. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 17 at 1:46
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Ah, then I misunderstood. Yeah, then I'm in favour of having a tag (maybe a mod-only tag that only questions with +5 votes can get?) –  Pëkka Feb 17 at 2:02
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So if you're using Meta to host the election for SO, I guess that means the MSO/MSE split is postponed till after the election? –  TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Feb 17 at 11:26
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76 Answers 76

How would you deal with SO users with a revenge oriented mentality? (Down voting questions and/or answers of others, those down voted or commented on them)

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There isn't much that they can do, even if they wanted to, at least in almost all situations. Even mods don't have enough visibility into who voted for whom to take guesses at this, nor can they know why someone voted any more than you or I can. There are cases of serial voting that can be addressed, but the script handles almost all of that. –  Servy Feb 11 at 14:25
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Stack Overflow supposedly already has algorithms in place to deal with serial downvoting –  Michael Dautermann Feb 13 at 20:57
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In order to give voters more insight into candidates' moderating styles, what specific set of additions/changes should be made to the metrics on each candidate?

In particular: During an election we see all sorts of claims being thrown around by and against candidates about people's historical actions. To the majority of us users who don't devote a large part of their life to the daily drama on SO, this is a useless and aggravating insider debate with unverifiable claims. Certainly it provides no insight. So what (aggregated) metrics should be added/changed in order to gives users a quick and objective picture of a candidate's behavior? e.g.

  • aggregated % of time you vote-to-close, vote-to-keep-open, etc.
  • aggregated % of time you uphold flags (broken out by category)
  • what % of a mod's votes-to-close were overturned/rejected?
  • your recommendations here?

Note: any such metrics would be aggregated (and thresholded) to preserve individual anonymity.

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How would you deal with new users who follow posting habits mandated by other sites but which are unacceptable here? For example, many fora like official PrimeFaces forum require user to post complete classes and JSF pages, because their users like to be able to copy the whole code into IDE and launch; whereas SO likes the code to be as minimalistic as possible.

So we have a user that posts the whole assignment (from uni, workplace etc., it doesn't matter here), post the whole code they have written, in effect his post is a big wall of code taking multiple browser pages to read. At the end or in comments he specifies what he really doesn't understand/what is the problem here, so it's not a help vampire, but someone who doesn't know how to post.

The question: how do you deal with it?

As a moderator you could simply delete the question to prevent heart attack/browser collapse by other users. You could immediately close the question, providing comment what is wrong here, or expecting user to find out himself why question was closed, if he cares enough. You could also edit the question yourself or write a comment you will reopen the question when the edit would make that question more readable. Or you could do something else.

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I think I get your point here, but we like "complete classes" here too, just small complete classes –  Richard Tingle Feb 11 at 10:37
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Do you help those users who are struggling to articulate their questions?

Meaning English language is not native for most of the users, how do you help them? and have you improved any post before ?

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Frequently it is noticed that some users who are active in the review queues on Stack Overflow are merely clicking "No Action" or "Accept". As a moderator, what action is appropriate to take against these so-called "robo-reviewers", and would you be willing to investigate instances such as these and take that action?

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I think this could be more useful if rephrased. Currently, the answer is "Yes" or "No." While most candidates would probably expand on that, it could be more revealing to ask how they would do so, or why they wouldn't (if applicable in each case). –  Trojan Feb 11 at 5:35
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  • Which of the least-moderated but still popular tags would you bring experience to?

I tried to create a query using this start point: http://data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/148022/moderator-downvotes-this-month , but got stuck on splitting the tags in a post. Could someone help if this is a popular question?

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Moderators aren't elected to bring domain knowledge to the table. Moderators tasks are specifically designed to not require domain knowledge. –  Servy Feb 17 at 18:17
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What makes you think you can be a good moderate, I mean any thing other than reputation, helpful flags, etc. What if you lose your interest at some point; How will you deal with that situation.

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Please don't use code formatting for non-code. –  ThiefMaster Feb 17 at 9:13
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If you make a mistake, everybody can, or misunderstand something and take an action. Will you act like nothing happened and cover it or will you try to fix it somehow?

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A moderator's job is not easy, how do you expect to balance moderating two (or more) StackExchange sites efficiently? Wouldn't it be better to only allow a user to moderate one site?

If you aren't already a moderator, what are your thoughts on the statement below.

A user should not be allowed to moderate more than one stack exchange site.

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To put this in perspective, Stack Overflow probably raises more flags every day than all other SE sites combined. –  Robert Harvey Feb 17 at 1:54
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Moderators and the Stack Exchange team are the only people who can judge meaningfully whether being a mod on multiple sites is doable or not. I don't see the point in everyone else discussing it. –  Pëkka Feb 17 at 2:03
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What would be the first thing you would do if a user, who has just recently gained the tag edit privilege, had been mass removing a tag from questions, and most of time without any justification?

  • Would you review all the edits one by one?
  • Find a way to remove him this privilege?
  • Contact someone from SO to help you rollback all of his edits with a script?
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A user calls you out on Meta, screaming bloody murder over an action you felt was completely justified. They probably get some responses from the folks on Meta before you even learn there is an issue, but even if the community agrees your decision was perfectly fine, the user will sometimes be disgruntled and move on to other places (their blog, Reddit, Twitter) calling you all sorts of terrible things, and by your full name. (And if you were actually mistaken in your decision, then may God have mercy on your soul.)

It will most likely happen to you. There is no way to avoid it, no matter how carefully you moderate.

This aspect of moderation takes a certain amount of thick skin. Do you have it? What would you do if a conflict with a user "gets to you"?

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What would you do if someone flagged your question or posted a partly offensive (you think it is offensive, but generally it isn't) comment about you?

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Do you think giving permanent bans is okay? Maybe you think everybody has to have always one more chance?

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What will you not do when you will be Moderator?

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Incredibly vague question. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 at 23:37
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Would you spend some of your reputation on bounties to encourage others to provide good solutions, or to reward existing answers?

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This is not part of a moderator's duties. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 at 5:25
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@RobertHarvey I know it isn't, it's just for personality analysis purposes. –  Omar Feb 16 at 8:14
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Here's a situation:

A person sees a comment (from another person) that offers a (sort of) correct answer for the question. He doesn't understand it well, yet he posts it as answer in the hopes of gaining a lot of +10's.

Now, that answer is partially right (it's been copied!). What would you do to that answer? Removing it means leaving the question answerless. Keeping it would mean a low quality answer and unfair to the one who posted the right comment. I've seen such situations, even though I haven't been on SE for long.

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You are not elected as a moderator. How will this influence your participation on Stack Overflow?

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Based on my experiences and observations as a mod, I believe that a new mod should prepare to commit to devoting one hour per day, 5 days per week to handling flags in the flag queue, for the first year. Here's why:

  1. Stack Overflow raises somewhere between 1000 and 2000 flags per day
  2. During any given time, only about 25% of the mods on Stack Overflow are actively moderating (we currently have sixteen mods, which means our active base is four).
  3. The period of maximum productivity for new mods seems to be the first year. After that, a certain degree of burnout sets in (let's be honest).
  4. It takes about an hour to handle 100 flags, once you gain some experience. The top performers handle 200 to 300 flags per day. Currently, we need to be processing about 200 more flags per day, and there are three open moderator slots.

Would you be able to make such a commitment?

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If you became a moderator, would your actions be more like an Exception Handler or a Janitor?

To put it in other terms, do you think your moderation style will be more focused on allowing the community to run the site and you will only step in to handle exceptions, or do you think your style will be more focused on aggressively trying to "clean up" the site?

I realize a moderator's duties involve both roles, and that there is no right answer to this question. Identifying with either role is valid, and will appeal to different people.

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This is an insightful distinction to make, although I think I'd be hard-pressed to judge where each current mod would fall. I'm not sure how the difference plays itself out publicly. Still, it's a question sure to get an interesting answer. –  Josh Caswell Feb 10 at 22:08
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@JoshCaswell I hope it gets enough votes to get asked. I think both are perfectly valid moderation styles, and it gives voters a good idea of the person's moderation style. Also for me, the answer will greatly influence who I decide to vote for :) –  Rachel Feb 10 at 22:18
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FWIW, personally I serve both roles, but am far more interested in the passive equine exception handler approach. Some cleanup roles are very straightforward - delete 100 non-answers in a single minute. Others, not so much, especially in cases where people just don't seem to know how to flag. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 11 at 3:56
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I feel like this question is too leading. The tone leads the reader to want to answer this as "of course im a janitor" mostly because "going out of the way" is tied to it. –  Shawn Feb 11 at 17:50
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Do you see yourself more as a person who specializes in one (or a few) specific topics, and will spend the majority of your time there, or someone who consistently moves around different topics, and offers help and guidance (be it programming, or SE use) across the board?

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You Found a Funny Question by a new user , Just in hope to get upvoted and get some reputation , as a moderator what will be your first Action?

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Does the question make a reasonable question in a funny way, or is it fully a joke question –  Richard Tingle Feb 13 at 16:06
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That is a joke, just for up votes from tense programmers to make them laugh and in pleasure click up vote button –  Adnan Ahmad Khan Feb 13 at 16:19
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How many Close Vote reviews have you done?

 

screen shot: 116.4k (hat tip to Pëkka)


Update: over 100 upvotes, not bad for a question accused of being "not relevant to a mod's duties". Thanks to all who share concerns expressed here!

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Keep in mind that moderators are going to have very little influence on changes made to the CV queue. That's a matter for the Community Managers, developers, and other SE employees. –  Servy Feb 10 at 20:31
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@Servy I am rather interested to see their thought process, and their ideas about scale of question closures / reviews –  gnat Feb 10 at 20:35
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-1, this is not a subject I think we should use to judge our moderator candidates by. I'm much more interested in learning their moderation style and what kind of actions they will be taking, instead of just learning their opinions on various topics that are popular with the meta culture. –  Rachel Feb 10 at 21:07
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This question reminds me of the people who ask things like "Whats your opinion on God" in politics and basing their vote on something like that. It's a popular topic, but has no bearing on how the person will act once in office or what steps they can/will take. The Close Queue is not a topic that moderators are expected to address in order to do their job. That's for the community and dev team. Sure mods can help out if they want to and/or have time to (don't forget, they have the flag queue to deal with), but it's not something I would expect mods to do,. –  Rachel Feb 10 at 21:18
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The CVQ issue has the potential to reveal the topics @Rachel mentions, if asked correctly; e.g., "the community considers this a problem, how would you respond to its concerns?" If a candidate's answer is, "I won't have any review limits and I cast binding votes, so I'll review 500 questions a day until the queue is empty", that's very indicative of moderation style and something I'd want to know about before casting votes. Agreed that a simple "is it a problem" is not probing enough; it needs an "and why or why not" at a minimum (though most of us probably take that as implicitly included). –  Esoteric Screen Name Feb 10 at 21:22
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This question is not relevant to a mod's duties. –  Robert Harvey Feb 10 at 21:33
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Personally I think a perfectly valid answer to your edited question is "Give them the appropriate links to the relevant questions, and encourage them to raise any new ideas and/or concerns that aren't already addressed on meta". It's the same generic answer I would expect from a wide range of subjects. Once again, this is not relevant to a moderators duties, and they have no more say than the rest of the community about how the CVQ gets handled. Also, 100 votes doesn't mean a real lot on Meta :) –  Rachel Feb 10 at 21:49
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@gnat How is recognizing that a given user's opinion on this issue isn't relevant to whether or not they are qualified to moderate the site an indication that the entire problem should be ignored? The statement is simply that this is something to discuss through meta discussions, not through moderator screening, quite simply because moderators are no different from regular users when it comes to decisions on how to manage this problem. –  Servy Feb 10 at 22:01
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@gnat Have you considered nominating yourself? You would have my vote. –  apaul34208 Feb 11 at 1:30
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@RobertHarvey hope newly elected moderators will be those who believe that reviewing and making decisions on closing / leaving open are relevant. Indifference may be one of the reasons why this very problem exists for so long –  gnat Feb 11 at 6:51
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I'm not sure why this is a question; it's already public information, linked to from each candidate's nomination. –  Shog9 Feb 11 at 17:33
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-1 for the hand drawn circle. +1 for the stick figure. +1 for asking for information about participation in the janitorial aspects of the site. Handling close votes quickly is important as it provides useful information to people asking questions on the site. Net: +1. –  GlenH7 Feb 12 at 14:52
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As the moderator queue for questions seems to pile up, much like the closed vote questions queue, I think this is a great test. A moderator of the site will be handling things that have been brought to someone's attention already, and the stats on the closed question queue seem to be a good indicator of their ability to process a large queue. –  PearsonArtPhoto Feb 12 at 18:21
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Re: "Update: over 100 upvotes, not bad for a question accused of being not relevant to a mod's duties " questions about politicians’ religions are pretty popular too –  Richard Tingle Feb 13 at 9:52
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@RobertHarvey: Even though the question isn't concerned with the specific duties of a mod, I think it's a great question for measuring a person's work ethic - so-to-speak. After thinking about it, I decided if any candidate answered with a skimpy #, it'd be a sure no-vote. I mean, how lazy and truly uninterested are you? IMHO, seeing that number makes me think there are a whole lot of people who need to spend more time making worthy contributions to the site, and less time voting to close. Honestly, what's the point of the vote if it never gets reviewed? –  Chief Two Pencils Feb 14 at 1:26
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You see a Meta post calling out a user for spamming the site with edits containing referral links. After checking the details, you notice that this is not your typical spammer. Instead, the user has more than 2000 reputation (and thus also able to edit posts directly).

Because of the rather nasty kind of spamming - adding his spam to posts from reputable users - people call for the user to be deleted immediately. How will you deal with this situation?

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@StephanBranczyk: this is a potential question for nominees to answer (much like how we have example questions in Area 51 proposal definitions), not an actual question posed to everyone. –  Qantas 94 Heavy Feb 15 at 4:41
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When some user randomly comments on a question, completely unrelated to his skill set, and which is not really useful, we usually flag the same. But when it gets into an argument with OP, intruder and the answerer, how would you handle this?

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Whatever country you are from, you will be expected to moderate a site with global reach. While all operations might be conducted in English, its user base includes people with different cultural norms and values from your own. How do you expect to deal with different kinds of reactions to moderator actions and how will you determine the best way to communicate this site's values to those whose background is different than your own? What equips you for this task?

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  • What is your goal as a moderator?
  • Why do you require special privileges to attain it?
  • What is lacking in your current status?

The above can be combined in the following loaded question:

Assuming that each moderator wannabe expects to produce positive effect to SO community, what will your contribution be and why can't you do the same in your current status without additional privileges?

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Split these up. Otherwise which one are we voting for? –  random Feb 11 at 21:57
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@random - I actually consider my post as a single (obviously loaded) question. In my mind these questions are inter-dependent. I will post the clarification. –  PM 77-1 Feb 12 at 18:50
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How would you handle situations involving less than warm welcomes given to new users?

For example, a new user posts a well written first question consisting of clearly defined requirements, admission of a high level of domain ignorance, and a request for the proper solution methodology, but no actual code attempts to tackle the problem.

Said question receives many downvotes and impolite comments. The asker gets upset about the situation and complains to you directly on chat and/or meta.

What would you do?

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This happens often, and users will immediately leave the website if they're not treated with humility. –  Marco A. Feb 11 at 15:42
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THIS f***king this is so important. –  JGallardo Feb 11 at 19:18
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How do you show a level of effort in attempt to answer the question prior to asking it on SO? Because the well written question might be not OP's effort (interview questions and homework comes to mind). –  kukido Feb 11 at 20:31
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I have never seen a question treated that way if it asked for methodology and not code. –  DVK Feb 11 at 20:35
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I don't think moderators are very well suited to address this issue, apart from removing really abrasive comments. They won't be able to hold hands individually due to sheer volume –  Pëkka Feb 12 at 1:16
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I'm not sure about that but I'm sure that when you post a question and, for one reason or another, it gets downvoted without even a comment.. well that just feels bad if you wrote that in good faith. It should almost be mandatory to write a comment if you downvoted. –  Marco A. Feb 12 at 15:24
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@Pëkka That's why I included "complains to you" in the question. It's unreasonable to expect moderators to give a tour the site to new users, but if an upset user seeks out and addresses a moderator directly, then the mod must offer some sort of response. Even total silence will be interpreted as commentary by the user (and none too positively in that case). I've added some explicit emphasis to that phrase. –  Esoteric Screen Name Feb 12 at 17:30
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@DVK Perhaps we have different definitions of methodology, because I see this with some regularity. My goal for the hypothetical is to describe a clear, well defined question which has no code, might be answerable without any, might be off topic, and is not "give the codez". A gray area question. The ambiguity is intentional, so we can get a glimpse of where a candidate's mind goes first - insight in to their temperament and moderation instincts. If you think the wording could be made clearer (I think so, but I'm not sure how to improve while keeping it succinct), please do edit. –  Esoteric Screen Name Feb 12 at 17:42
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I really feel bad about the new users who just signs up and posts his problem. Though ver less read the FAQ. And I think in this case we the users should be responsible to treat new users politely and nicely and tell them to add more info in their question. Before downvoting any question we should check the history of the user whether s/he is new or not. –  Inder Kumar Rathore Feb 12 at 18:00
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This one is right on the spot question. for newbie like me, asking question while there is always some bad person going to down vote my question. I think, stackoverflow is a place for some of arrogant down voter. –  user3213703 Feb 14 at 9:02
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This is not only for questions, it is also true for answers, and it is bad. Sometime i feel like those professionals dont have any humanity :( –  altafhussain Feb 16 at 10:08
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A longtime user (20k+ rep trusted) and a relatively new user (say 1k rep) get into a disagreement over an answer. The veteran clearly feels that the new user's answer is wrong (think of the difference as pot-ay-to vs po-tah-to). The thread ends with the new user's answer being accepted, even though the veteran's answer was also correct.

Later the new user complains about mysterious downvotes and notes the veteran seems to be shadowing them in threads. There's nothing overtly wrong being done here but, as a moderator you look into it and see that there seems to be a distinct pattern of downvotes going on, even on answers that don't seem to warrant it.

How do you handle it?

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You start handling a flag which you tend to agree with (e.g. NAA, low quality etc) and right before you click the delete button (or even worse) you notice the offender is a friend of yours in real life.

What are you going to do? Delete action is public and he/she will see what you did and might be upset... in the real life. What takes precedence?

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Pull hand off mouse. Pick up phone. Call friend in real life. Ask "Guess what I'm doing right now?" Put hand back on mouse. Then answer "Cleaning up your mess!" Click delete and say "Check your SO notifications, biatch!?" –  Code Maverick Feb 12 at 1:33
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A user asks a question that seems relatively off-topic with the Stack Overflow questioning context(not a mainly coding question), but is a question that concerns many members and receives many upvotes and even more, many good answers (measured by upvotes too). As a new moderator, What do you do and how do you react?

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