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? – Pekka Feb 10 '14 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 '14 at 20:13
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    "Did somebody ask you to run?" – Uphill Luge Feb 11 '14 at 0:23
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    Chris Hansen walks in... - 'Why don't you have a seat over there?' – PW Kad Feb 11 '14 at 2:13
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    Do I have a better chance to win if I smoke crack? – Rob Ford Feb 11 '14 at 22:52
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    Why yes, @RobFord! Your willingness to stand against narcotics oppression is a sure strength in this candidacy. – brandonscript Feb 12 '14 at 7:27
  • Judging from the top 20 answers this looks like a pretty bad idea. The candidates' own proposals would be more interesting (as opposed to their reaction to other people's proposals.) – Andomar Feb 13 '14 at 17:36
  • @Andomar I'm not sure what you mean by "The candidates' own proposals". As in, questions submitted by the candidates to each other? – Grace Note Feb 13 '14 at 17:47
  • @GraceNote: I mean, what is the candidate inwardly enthousiastic about, as opposed to foreign ideas that he is forced to respond to. – Andomar Feb 13 '14 at 17:51
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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 '14 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. – user102937 Feb 16 '14 at 23:38
  • I like this format - it's much more organic in its asynchronous nature than the town hall meetings. But the idea of, say, a ask-the-candidates-2014 tag sounds interesting as well (although it would likely cause much more unrest than this one question, @Robert? You'd have to put down every bad question individually) – Pekka Feb 17 '14 at 1:24
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    brb, flagging every answer as not an answer. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 17 '14 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?) – Pekka Feb 17 '14 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 Feb 17 '14 at 11:26

75 Answers 75

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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 ?


What strategies would you recommend for creating canonical FAQs / wiki answers to mitigate the ever-present problem of people asking similar-but-not-identical questions, where the poster may not see the similarity with other potential duplicates (or not find it with a cursory search)?

I'm talking about cases where people ask a specific question about a generalised problem, but we don't have a good candidate to merge to which the OP will understand is a generalisation of their problem

This is something I see a lot of on tags i'm active in, including facebook-* where many first-time programmers are trying to hack together examples using sample code or documentation and are encountering problems because they don't understand the code they're working with

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    This is generally a problem that users within a given tag community need to resolve, rather than an issue for moderators. It is up to the users to provide high quality canonical answers (and high quality canonical questions to go with them, if they don't come up naturally) rather than site moderators. – Servy Feb 10 '14 at 21:49
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    Fair point, but I think moderators taking an interest in such strategies and initiatives improves the overall site quality significantly – Igy Feb 10 '14 at 21:57
  • +1 This is an excellent suggestion which would both improve the site and reduce mod workload and reduce the close-queue. And mods should certainly take leadership where noone else is. @Servy, there are instances where tag communities don't do this, and they need a serious boot up the ass. Why should moderator workload be needlessly increased due to community activity around some nuisance tags being a mess? Taking this further, why not compile a nuisance index of tags in terms of average-moderator-workload-generated-per-question, and list the top-ten offenders? – smci Feb 18 '14 at 1:22
  • @smci Quite simply if the users within a tag aren't interested in doing this, a mod isn't going to be capable of doing much. The mods are unlikely to be the most qualified to be writing most of the canonical posts in a given tag, they aren't going to be able to keep the list of questions up to date on their own, nor are they going to be able to close all of the duplicate questions if the tag community encourages re-answering such questions rather than closing as a duplicate of a canonical. A mod just isn't capable of solving this problem without enthusiastic community involvement. – Servy Feb 18 '14 at 1:28
  • @Servy you're not aware of communities around specific tags that cause needless drama and don't clean their own messes? Why not draw up a list of nuisance tags and give those communities an ultimatum to either start doing the business, or those topics will be banned (instant-close) until such time as they do? – smci Feb 18 '14 at 2:39
  • @smci Because even the tags that have such reputations still do generate lots of quality content. Perhaps not as much as could be desired, and there may be a higher ratio of noise along with it, but there still is helpful content in there that would be lost, and that would be a significant loss to have it all banned. That's also a very, very good way to drive away basically all of the experts in those areas, pushing them to other sites. I can't think of an easier way to kill the communities entirely. That wouldn't help anything. – Servy Feb 18 '14 at 13:39
  • @Servy: no, like I said, it's only an extreme measure you take in extremis to tag communities that are generating too much moderator workload by failing to set down basic standards, answer wikis, FAQs etc. – smci Feb 19 '14 at 11:42

In your opinion is it more important for a moderator to have:

  • a broader shallower knowledge and try to spread their time across more categories of questions
  • a deeper narrower knowledge and spending most of their time in that domain only.
  • This shouldn't matter. Moderators are not expected to have detailed knowledge of the subject matter. – user102937 Feb 16 '14 at 5:27
  • @Robert Harvey but how did they get the reputation initially that made them a moderator? By being a moderator, I think that there is an implication that they are skilled in some area of the site. – demongolem Feb 16 '14 at 23:35
  • Certainly they would have enough skill to obtain the necessary reputation, yes. – user102937 Feb 16 '14 at 23:36
  • @RobertHarvey I would argue that MOST moderator duties do not require domain knowledge, but some things such as approving code edits for low rep users should need some domain knowledge to ensure the quality of the answer (from a technical viewpoint) is not going backwards. – SeeMoreGain Feb 17 '14 at 3:04
  • @m2o2r2g2 Reviewing suggested edits isn't a task for moderators. Non-moderators review suggested edits. For those rare suggested edits requiring domain knowledge, it is up to the non-moderator domain experts to evaluate those suggested edits. – Servy Feb 17 '14 at 18:17

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

  • Permanent (or extremely long) bans aren't a thing anymore. The maximum suspension length a moderator can set is one year. – Adam Lear Feb 17 '14 at 5:07

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.

  • If they aren't already a moderator, then what relevance is this question to them? – user102937 Feb 17 '14 at 1:19
  • So, because you claim a moderator's job isn't easy, there's no way someone can moderator more than one site effectively? Tell that to this person. – Jamal Feb 17 '14 at 1:23
  • By stretching a moderator's resources across two sites you are effectively halving their efficiency. How can they do the job better than someone who can dedicate ALL their resources to the job? Won't they be decreasing their effectiveness on the site they already moderate? – TryHarder Feb 17 '14 at 1:42
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    To put this in perspective, Stack Overflow probably raises more flags every day than all other SE sites combined. – user102937 Feb 17 '14 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. – Pekka Feb 17 '14 at 2:03
  • @Servy: Yeah, I know about that. I was this was referring to non-SE people. – Jamal Feb 18 '14 at 1:39

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 '14 at 9:13

How would you propose improving the question system to better promote quality answers and reduce the number of 'white noise' questions?

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    You don't need to be a mod to make such a proposal. If any of the candidates knew of some magic bullet to effectively promote quality answers and reduce the number of low quality questions I would seriously hope they'd suggest it on meta regardless of whether they become a mod or not. Of course, such magic bullets are very hard to come up with, so them not having an answer would generally be expected, in my mind. – Servy Feb 11 '14 at 14:29
  • And perhaps that would be a good answer from a potential moderator if you hadn't posted it here : / – PW Kad Feb 11 '14 at 14:38
  • My point remains that you're very unlikely to get any really useful answers, nor much in the way of insight from the candidates from this question. They'll all be dodging the question in some way or another, you'll just be judging how effectively they dodge it. There are so many more constructive questions about how they would actually moderate the site that would be more useful to voters. – Servy Feb 11 '14 at 14:40
  • That's why this is a site that utilizes voting to decide on the best questions to ask the moderators... Everyone has an opinion that they should be able to share, and if it isn't seen as popular by others it gets brushed under the carpet... – PW Kad Feb 11 '14 at 14:41
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    Yes, and that's why I'm posting a comment explaining the problems with the question; to help inform future readers of why they shouldn't upvote this post. Saying that the community will vote on posts doesn't mean we aren't allowed to discuss our opinions of the question, or how useful it is. – Servy Feb 11 '14 at 14:43
  • 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 '14 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 '14 at 18:50

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?


What will you not do when you will be Moderator?

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    Incredibly vague question. – user102937 Feb 16 '14 at 23:37

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. – user102937 Feb 16 '14 at 5:25
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    @RobertHarvey I know it isn't, it's just for personality analysis purposes. – Omar Feb 16 '14 at 8:14

Someone whom you did not like in the past or who might have opposed to your comments/answers earlier, would that by any means influence his profile - deleting posts, flags, down votes?

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    Anyone who answered "revenge!" or similar should be disqualified on sheer stupidity – Richard Tingle Feb 11 '14 at 12:55
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    Yea but it would be interesting to know what answer does one give to this. Anyways this is gonna be diplomatic! – Janak Feb 12 '14 at 6:17

If you were given the position of moderating Stack Overflow, what would your short, long, and stretch goals be for yourself as a person, yourself as a moderator, and Stack Overflow as a community?

To rephrase,

You will most likely find yourself learning as you go. How will you measure (from the experience of being a moderator) your personal development, your community contributions, and community development in the future?


What is the Goal of “Hot Network Questions”?

what the heck we are actually trying to achieve...

The list of questions from a variety of sites is in a great location screen-wise, it is readily accessible and does get a lot of eyes on it. But as with any marketing, the goal isn't just to grab eyes, it's to grab the right eyes...

So what are the right eyes? What type of people do we want to attract to our site? What would we determine as 'success'? How can we measure that success?

Please do not limit yourself to the very narrowly scoped topic above. Think outside the box if you'd like. On every page across the network we have a nice piece of real estate for showing off the rest of the network. How can that space best be used if not on a list of questions picked by an arbitrary algorithm?

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    Is this really something that matters on SO? – ben is uǝq backwards Feb 10 '14 at 20:26
  • @benisuǝqbackwards nice piece of "screen real estate"? you bet – gnat Feb 10 '14 at 20:28
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    But is it really something that should matter to a moderator? They have no say in "political" decisions concerning the site (Edit: ah, I guess they may be able to influence the formula.) – Pekka Feb 10 '14 at 20:28
  • @Pëkka per my reading of The Anatomy of a Hot Question, it sure does – gnat Feb 10 '14 at 20:29
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    On any other site I'd agree @gnat, but SO has 6.7 million visits a day... a hundred thousand people arriving from the rest of the network would barely be noticed. – ben is uǝq backwards Feb 10 '14 at 20:31
  • @benisuǝqbackwards do you think that SO questions in the hot list are "immune" (to lemmings coming from SO itself)? last time I checked, it wasn't so – gnat Feb 10 '14 at 20:33
  • Fair point @gnat; and you're right this means a couple of questions a week get "ruined". But I still don't believe that this causes the problems jmac's describing in that question. – ben is uǝq backwards Feb 10 '14 at 20:36
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    @benisuǝqbackwards But those 6.7 million visits are spread out over many millions of questions, leaving the views per question (over the span of a day or so) reasonably low. It's the concentration of so many views in such a short span of time on a single question that causes problems. – Servy Feb 10 '14 at 20:37
  • See my last comment @Servy. It impacts a few questions, yes. But it's highly unlikely it can impact the site; it's too big. – ben is uǝq backwards Feb 10 '14 at 20:37
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    @benisuǝqbackwards I would agree that it only really "ruins" a few questions, but how many really benefit? (And by how much?) If the feature as a whole has a net harmful effect, even if it's only a little bit harmful, it's still harmful. – Servy Feb 10 '14 at 20:39
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    The truth is the SO Guys think they are more important than the rest of the SE and that our problems over there are irrelevant and SE is wasting resources that could be better spent on SO. – Chad Feb 10 '14 at 21:55

How well do you know Stack Overflow:

  • How many questions are on SO?
  • How many would you estimate have you read?
  • How many questions has an experienced SO user read?
  • How does this influence your moderation style?
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    Could you break this up into separate answers please? Lets folks vote on the ones they like. – Shog9 Feb 11 '14 at 3:34
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    @Shog9 none of those fits in my opinion. It's not meant as a quiz for the future moderators. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Feb 11 '14 at 15:12
  • @Shog9, I would be happy to do so but seeing as it's the lowest-voted question of batch it doesn't seem worth the bother! – Mark Harrison Feb 12 '14 at 0:01
  • Heh, well, it wasn't that low when I left that first comment! – Shog9 Feb 12 '14 at 0:01
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    The trivia test is pointless, but I don't think the tail end is a bad question...as it gets to "how much are you biased by statistics in your handling of moderation issues; where are your bias points, if they exist?". Kind of makes me wonder if there's a place for moderators who have less information; like they have to make calls on issues without being able to see the names, avatars, previous questions, or rep scores... – HostileFork says dont trust SE Feb 12 '14 at 6:25
  • The thing that interest me (and only me, apparently!!) is how little any single person can "know" the site. For example, if you've read 60,000 questions (which seems like an impressive amount of reading), you've only read less than 1% of the questions on the site. I'm interested in how this affects someone's approach to moderation. I would be very attracted to a moderator who acknowledged this interesting issue and explained how it affects that moderator's approach to the job. – Mark Harrison Feb 12 '14 at 21:50
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