I'm a moderator on Chemistry.SE, a beta site.

I often see a new question appear--which is within my capabilities of answering--and I am faced with the following dilemma:

Should I answer it, or wait for the rest of the community?

  • If I answer it, well, the question gets answered quickly, which is good for the site and the OP. But--people are more reluctant to answer questions which already have an answer, especially if its accepted. After all, we expect new answers to have "extra" info; they shouldn't have the same (or less) information as a preexisting answer. It's not always possible to do this.
  • If I don't answer, then the question is left open for the rest of the community. This does two things:

    1. It injects more rep into the system--more privileged users, which helps increase community participation. I don't need privileges, thus I don't really need rep.

    2. Unanswered questions tend to attract new users to the site when they try to answer it. Not all question-askers join the community, but a lot of those who join the site to answer a question stay on.

    The downside (for me) is this:

    1. No reps! :( Then again, like I said, I don't really need the rep.

    2. I am left itching to answer the question. I'm sort of obsessive-compulsive when it comes to stuff like this.

So, my question is, how does the community think beta mods should behave in such situations? Should we answer all the questions that we can? Or should we wait for others to answer?

Yeah, the question is sort of silly, but this has been bothering me for a while now. I generally feel guilty every time I answer a question immediately after it's asked :S I do leave quite a few questions unanswered and wait for others to answer, though.

  • 7
    If you have a good answer, go for it. You're overthinking this. :|
    – yannis
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:42
  • 1
    This makes me think of the CPR procedures for 911 operators. They're required to go through training on giving instructions for CPR over the phone, and get certified for that. If they encountered a scenario in person where they needed to administer CPR, they can't do it, but they can instruct someone else on how to give CPR, because that's what they're certified to do.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:51
  • 3
    I have to admit I understand the concept of voting on Meta well, and I am not shy to down vote, but WTF with the down votes on this question? I think it's a reasonable question and one I struggled with initially as well. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:55
  • @Diago: Probably because it looks a bit silly to a non-mod. I reread the question after writing it and realized the dilemma was a bit silly from the outside perspective... Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 10:45
  • Given your track record of extremely well-researched, thorough answers from well before you were a mod on the site, I say absolutely answer whatever you can! Just leave some apples on low branches for me ;)
    – jonsca
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 11:40
  • 1
    @jonsca: You can have all the apples. I'm allergic. Now, oranges--that's a different matter entirely. None for you! :P Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 11:46
  • 1
    I foresee a "Citrus" proposal coming up on Area 51.
    – jonsca
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 11:47

3 Answers 3

  1. Answer the question. Answer it good. Answer it real good.

  2. Get into long tangential discussion with asker wherein he raises several other questions that you can't answer.

  3. Convince him to post them as new questions.

  4. Profit! Let other people answer them.

  • 2
    Dammit. I can handle getting beaten to answer, but being beaten by you just hurts. Hurts I tell you!!!! Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:50
  • 3
    Rubbish, it's proof positive that a FGITW diamond answer doesn't discourage further answers...
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:51
  • 1
    @Diago No, he posted this because he's psychic and knew that I was probably going to post a long winded answer at the same time that mentioned FGITW. The guy has powers.
    – user50049
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:52
  • Looking at the list of diamond in this answer I miss mine... We really need a special character for retried moderators :P Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:52
  • 1
    @Diago: Getting beaten by Tim Stone is much worse.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:52
  • @TimPost I feel totally embarrassed by my short answer. Since I hardly ever get to answer questions these days. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:53
  • @animuson That is a point I did not consider. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 6:53

I can speak from my experience as a user, and a pro-tem moderator on Webmasters.

One of the chief goals of your beta is to make sure that questions receive great answers in a short amount of time. That's what keeps people coming back with questions and spreading the word about your site. While having your content picked up in search engines will help draw people, you want as many evangelists out promoting you as possible. That's what will draw the users that stick around and contribute positively on a consistent basis.

Answering questions as a moderator is perfectly fine during your beta period. Just remember that you're also setting an example, a bar for quality that needs to be set as high as you can set it. Obviously, you want to focus on unanswered questions and refrain from being the fastest gun in the west. If a question is a few hours old and doesn't have a good answer, provide one if you can. You are a member of the community, don't forget that.

As you continue to attract users that enjoy answering questions, you'll naturally start to shift your focus more to moderation, janitorial and promotional concerns. When your community finally takes root and 'kicks', your meta site will probably be more interesting to you than the main site, as far as answering questions goes.

  • 2
    Great point about "bar of quality", I didn't think of that. Yeah, I try to answer questions to their fullest--If I can only give a tiny answer, I let someone else go. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 10:49

Moderators are normal users too. You answers will be weighed on quality, not whether you have diamond next to your name. In fact you should also be asking questions, especially in beta to ensure the site is seeded properly. The diamond doesn't mean your a content or topic expert, it means you are trusted by the community and understand and know the Q&A engine, how it works, and how to enforce the FAQ of the actual site your moderating.

On the original trilogy we found that due to the amount of time required to moderate often moderators don't get to answer questions as often as they did initially, but that's based on how much time can be allocated to moderating vs. answering.

  • ` The diamond doesn't mean your a content or topic expert,` -- In this case, I have an andvanced high school level understanding of chem-- I am definitely not the topic expert. (I may be the chaos monkey, though :P). In this question, though, I'm really only talking about those questions which I know I can answer to the fullest extent. And I do ask questions :) Here, there is no time issue--moderating takes a few minutes and then I get bored.. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 10:48

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