The following is a "digest" version of the June 2012 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.

To view the digest chronologically, please sort the answers by "oldest".

If you have questions or comments about this, please do not answer this question as the answers are designed to be used for the questions from the Town hall itself. Instead, please ask on the parent question or in the Town Hall Discussion Room.

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 @GraceNote or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!

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    Great job Tim, and it's presented well. Due to timing (at the time of that chat it was 0700 here and I was busy getting my kids prepared for school), will there be another? Is it even worth having another given that we have several candidates leading by a big margin? – slugster Jun 14 '12 at 23:14
  • Thanks, I hope that people find the information helpful in making their decision. As far as I know, there will not be an addition chat session, but you do still have an opportunity to respond to the existing set of questions. – Tim Stone Jun 15 '12 at 0:13
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    @TimStone I found this information very useful. There were several candidates that I had not yet up-or-down-voted in the nomination process, and I was able to get a vote on everyone now. Thank you very much for this great format. – Erick Robertson Jun 15 '12 at 17:37
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    Yeah, this is great, thanks for the huge effort that must have gone into this! – Pekka Jun 15 '12 at 18:00
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    Agreed, thanks Tim! Really appreciate you taking this task over. – The Unhandled Exception Jun 15 '12 at 19:57

36 Answers 36


Gilles Gilles asked: Two answers, both posted a few minutes after the question was asked, have substantially the same content. No edit history. The answerers accuse each other of plagiarism. You are alterted by a flag on the ensuing dispute in comments. What do you do?

Andrew Barber Andrew Barber answered: Inform the users that evidence suggests there was no plagiarism, and trust them to leave it be.

jcolebrand jcolebrand answered: I step in, show how the timestamps are barely moments apart so could not have been plagiarized, and encourage users to differentiate their posts with further links and examples, to show that theirs is the better answer for the situation. If one answer is more than five minutes after the earlier, I'll probably just encourage the users to downvote the latest content.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I do like somebody else did, in the past. I delete both the answers, and see who says "rather than not having any answer, it's better to leave his/her answer." ;)

Sathya Sathya answered: Put a temporary lock; ask the users to calm down & point that it's a coincidence

Dennis Dennis answered: If there's no tangible evidence from the time stamps or the users' recent history, tell both users to leave it alone. There's not much more you can do.

ThiefMaster ThiefMaster answered: If the answers were posted almost at the same time and are possibly rather simple chances are good it was just coincidence. I'd mention this to both users and hope that the issue is resolved with that. If not it depends on factors like the behaviour of the users what to do.

awoodland awoodland answered: if the edits come in the grace period it's hard to prove anything as a moderator. I think developers have access to more detailed information (like POST requests from clients) which would reveal that information. It's not really something worth pursuing to that level though unless the users have a history of doing things like this. There might be other side evidence tough, e.g. unedited comments which reveal something. Annotations on the accounts might be worth looking at.

Lix Lix answered: clean up the comments, tell the offending users not to use the comment threads as a platform for arguments and depending on the escalation of the incident suspensions might be in order.

George Stocker George Stocker answered: Happens all the time (two answers with similar content). Let the community sort it out through votes. If the answerers are smart, they'll do things to differentiate their answers from one another (solving the problem themselves). There's really no way to say what is plagiarized unless it's a word for word replica. If it is, I'll talk to the user involved, but otherwise -- let the community handle it.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Do you see your role as primarily dealing with issues other users bring to you, or will you be "out on the streets" so to speak, actively policing posts? Describe what makes the difference for you between letting the users guide the site, and you taking unilateral action on items not yet flagged.

Andrew Barber Andrew Barber answered: My understanding is that Diamonds are meant to use their powers 'organically' (my own characterization); Deal with flags, and deal with things we come across ourselves in our normal usage. But we should certainly not be seeking posts to cast the first-and-last Close vote on all the time, for example.

jcolebrand jcolebrand answered: I would primarily be letting users "bring the problems to me" and just dealing with the ones I came across by nature. I wouldn't be out looking for things to be resolved, and as moderators, are we obligated to go looking for issues? We already have community moderation tools for those without diamonds to edit, close, migrate and the like. I can't see a need to pursue problems, except to handle them as I normally come across them.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: In a site like Stack Overflow, my role is primarily to deal with issues reported by the users. If a flag catch my attention on a blatantly off-topic question, for example, I close it.

Sathya Sathya answered: It'll be a mix of both - over at Super User it's me looking at what can be done as a Diamond + looking at the flag queue; but considering the size of Stack Overflow I believe I will focus more on dealing with issues users bring to me

Dennis Dennis answered: I think the time of a SO moderator is better spent by dealing with flags. We have thousands of users that can go through our millions of posts, but we only have a handful of moderator to act on the flags they raise.

Brad Larson Brad Larson answered: It'll be a little harder to take the time to search out problematic content with the volume of flags that need to be handled, but I do see myself performing tasks like running quick searches for non-answers or spam, as well as actively policing some of the more problematic areas of the site like [facebook].

ThiefMaster ThiefMaster answered: I'd check flags and handle anything which I'd notice as a regular user, too. I'd keep "using" SO after all and when noticing something that should be dealt with there'd be no reason to wait for someone to flag it. Before becoming moderator I'd have flagged it anyway and from a look on my "helpful/declined flag" count my flags usually fit with what the mods think is correct.

awoodland awoodland answered: Largely dealing with things people bring to moderators attention. Letting users guide the site involves allowing close/reopen/delete/undelete to occur "organically" in borderline cases to my mind. Unilateral action on unflagged content has to be reserved for only rare, completely unambiguous cases.

Lix Lix answered: If I see a post in need of moderation there is no need to wait - I'll take action right then and there - I'm already looking at the post. I think the bulk of the work will be dealing with issues brought to the moderators.

George Stocker George Stocker answered: The role of a moderator is to make decisions in cases where the community can't (or doesn't have a consensus) and to remove actively harmful content from the site. As part of that, it's my 'job' to go through the flag queue, but I'm also there to see things as they occur. As a moderator, I'll follow the same process I do now: Try to salvage bad [but potentially good] questions, close blatantly bad questions, and ask other moderators about the borderline issues.

minitech minitech answered: "Primarily" both :) I browse the questions regularly, and I wouldn't stop doing that. Obvious offenders are obvious.

Jeremy Banks Jeremy Banks answered: My primary role would be to undelete posts, as that would be the reason for my election. I would search undeleted posts on my own and I would also respond to requests for undeletion from users. I would generally avoid proactively casting cast binding close votes unless the situation was extremely unambiguous or I thought the post would receive too little traffic for community moderation to be effective.


Robert Harvey Robert Harvey asked: On any given day, there might be 100 to 200 or so flags in the flag queue. I spent the last 15 minutes or so deleting about 30 non-answers, closing six to eight questions, and destroying one spam user. Does this level of activity intimidate you?

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: It doesn't.

Andrew Barber Andrew Barber answered: No. Not in the least. I relish it. Perhaps a little too much! (You've been one of the aforementioned mods who left comments on a post I commented on, informing me of my mistake in flagging as spam)

jcolebrand jcolebrand answered: This level of activity excites me. >.> I'm quite ready to pitch in on this sort of task and help out.

Sathya Sathya answered: Nope.

Dennis Dennis answered: Not at all. 100 to 200 was far less than I expected.

Brad Larson Brad Larson answered: Not at all. Given that I might have been one to throw a pile of those non-answers on the queue, and it takes longer to track them down than deal with them, I have no problem working through that regularly.

ThiefMaster ThiefMaster answered: Nope. Especially spam and non-answers are incredibly quick anyway. And since I booted a few hundred spam drones from IRC a few hours ago those numbers don't really intimidate me. Even though you probably can't really compare a single command to get rid of easy-to-spot infected clients and checking 30 answers if they are really non-answers.

awoodland awoodland answered: not particularly intimidating. I'm more limited by my 15 delete votes (and lack of other options in some cases) in terms of the number of flags I look at in the flag queue than anything else.

Lix Lix answered: Not in the slightest. If anything we'll be able to take that with a pinch of salt becuase 3 more users are on their way up to help :)

George Stocker George Stocker answered: No.

minitech minitech answered: Nope! (Although all of that in 15 minutes is a little... wow. Not in an intimidated way, though.)


Kalamane Kalamane asked: What will you do if on Friday afternoon you come across something that isn't exactly on topic but is highly entertaining and why?

jcolebrand jcolebrand answered: I'll close it if it's off-topic and can't be migrated. Unless it's on Meta Stack Overflow. Then I'll probably let it ride for a bit but ask the other mods in the TL if that's cool ;-)

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I don't live In Iceland, and here is not always Friday. I will leave the decision to the other moderators.

Andrew Barber Andrew Barber answered: I would expect the community will deal with it via DV/CV/MV if necessary. "Entertaining" would have absolutely no effect on what I would do with it if it came across the mod queue, personally. If it's off-topic, it's off-topic.

Sathya Sathya answered: Close it as offtopic; 'entertaining' questions are nice but they really don't serve much of a purpose.

Dennis Dennis answered: On SO, I'd delete it at sight. We hate fun here. On Meta, the community should probably deal with it. If it's extremely entertaining, it might stay for a while. Even Jeff Atwood posted entertaining off topic questions on Meta. But if the amount of fun gets overwhelming, a Moderator should step in. It stops being fun when Meta loses its functionality.

awoodland awoodland answered: Assuming it's a joke of some sort I'm inclined to view it with a smile, but once the joke has run its course the joke becomes just like any other noise on the site.

ThiefMaster ThiefMaster answered: Feel bad for being the "party pooper" - we all smiled on funny questions that occurred in the past on SO - but do what needs to be done, i.e. cast the close vote if necessary.

George Stocker George Stocker answered: define 'isn't exactly on topic'. If it's a "What's your favorite programmable [thing]", then that's a question that is really off topic. (Both as a list of X question, as a not constructive question, and as a question that's better posed on Reddit).


Jeremy Holovacs Jeremy Holovacs asked: Question: What qualifies you beyond your peers to be a moderator? What difference would you make compared to your "competitors", for lack of a better term?

Sathya Sathya answered: My experience as a trilogy moderator; keen observation of how Stack Overflow mods work (being in the Mod chat) & patience to deal with users.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I think my way of viewing things can help in moderating. I don't think I am better than the others, but I can surely contribute.

jcolebrand jcolebrand answered: I can't imagine that anything here makes me more qualified except my other moderation experience, on Database Administrators and on reddit. Otherwise I would have to say that I'm probably just as qualified as most of the other moderator candidates. I do know that I have age and age-related maturity on my side, but so do most of the candidates.

Brad Larson Brad Larson answered: As can be seen from the number of flags that I've cast over the years, and the comments on my nomination by the current moderators, I already have significant experience with moderation-related tasks and am perfectly willing to be a janitor here. I know full well what I'm getting into and won't give up on this after a month.

awoodland awoodland answered: (Awkward question! I think most of the candidates would be great moderators). I'm more active in chat than quite a few of the others which I think is helpful. I've flagged more than most (all?) which puts me in a position where I've seen a lot of abusive actions and seen how they're handled (at least the bits you can infer from public info) by the current moderators. I think I have a level of professionalism which matches the best of the other candidates.

ThiefMaster ThiefMaster answered: I think we are all well-qualified. I think one of my advantages is my enormous amount of time - as a CS student and "computers guy" I'm spending most of the day on the computer anyway. Besides that I already have quite some experience in moderation-related tasks (not on SO but from other big communities). Oh, and I'm nice. But then again - all of us probably are. ;)

Lix Lix answered: Time zone - Most of the moderators are grouped in +- same time zones - some one outside would be able to lend a hand by doing kind of alternating shifts :)

George Stocker George Stocker answered: I've taken a different tack than others here. I've spent a lot of time editing questions, and only flagging when I was either out of close votes for the day, or when I wasn't sure I was making the right call (or I thought the question was egregious enough that it needed moderator attention). Most people flag and move on (I explain the reasons why I think that happens here: meta.stackoverflow.com/…


Ben Ben asked jcolebrand: Why is someone of low rep less than 30k? They account for less than 0.1% of the user base and as the current moderator candidates show there is no need to have anywhere near this much to be an active and productive member of the community. How would you treat people of less than 30k rep differently to those above?

jcolebrand jcolebrand answered: I answered that already, actually. My point was "highly respected members of the community", and that usually implies being in that "0.1%" you mentioned.


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