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


How would you handle the balance between moderator enforcements and community self-moderation? What would you do in case of community disagreement with the moderator's actions and vice versa - how would you handle situations when the community is consistently doing something against the guidelines? In your opinion, should the rules be imposed on the community or community should form the rules? All in all, what is the right balance for it?


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

  • Have there historically been any issues along these lines? If not, this isn't a biggie is it? – smci Feb 17 '14 at 22:51
  • I certainly see users now pop-up out of nowhere and I've seen them disappear as well. This question (if it was selected) would have had the potential to reveal who really is a true member of the community. – rene Feb 17 '14 at 22:58
  • Uhuh but I think participation is just one of many useful metrics on candidates which could be added - see my question. – smci Feb 17 '14 at 23:00
  • I wasn't referring to 'participation' as a metric more as a behaviour/attitude thingy. – rene Feb 18 '14 at 8:10
  • Indeed, but since it can be measured, and is somewhat illuminating, why not? – smci Feb 18 '14 at 8:17

What is your philosophy regarding when a moderator should take action, versus allowing the community to moderate itself? And how would you handle a situation when you personally think a question should be reopened after the community has closed it?


I see a lot of duplicate answers pop up. Some at the same time, but some are a long time after the first answer.

What are your views on answers, that are just copies of answers provided 10's of minutes before?

  • Kind of curious actually. My understanding was that non-mods could flag them for moderator attention; it'd be nice to see what'll probably happen if it's thrown over and said candidate sees the flag. – Dennis Meng Feb 15 '14 at 19:23

As a moderator, What is your take on People behaving somewhat rude on the newbies asking for help ?

I see a lot of new users don't post about their effort, existing code. People (including me sometimes) ask "What have you tried ?". It may appear rude to OP. It is in the rule book of SE that you should do your homework first before asking question on stackoverflow or other stack exchange sites but new users may not be aware about that.


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.

  • +1 for the same thing what I was thinking. But this is not only reputation hungry newbie. There are too many members who ask a question and accept an answer which is completely different from the question or answer given by his friend to increase his points. Some time I asked the reason (because I have given the answer also), and got reply as this was perfect for me :). – Pankaj Kumar Feb 13 '14 at 8:48

You finally made it and got elected as a moderator! But just barely, with a couple of votes over the needed limit, and there are many people that are against you being a moderator. There are even comments like "If that guy gets a diamond, I will leave SO forever".

How will this influence your actions as a moderator?

In particular, what are you going to do (if anything) to try to prevent "That guy deleted my question just because I didn't want him to be a moderator. Now see how right I was with that!" reactions; how do you deal with such reactions?


Have you ever been banned (temporaryily) from SO?

Some naughty behavior on SO can lead to a temporary ban for a user. For instance, failing too many review audits may cause a user to be banned frrom reviewing for a short time.
Also fiddling with the voting system, like serial up/down voting can put a user on a temporary suspension.

Have you ever been banned? if so, why?

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    This is somewhat problematic. Is this information puplic? If not theres nothing to stop people lying, if so theres no point asking – Richard Tingle Feb 11 '14 at 15:37
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    @RichardTingle I don't think we can stop people from lying. But I think we can give them a chance to come clean with some misconduct that happened in the past. – Shai Feb 11 '14 at 15:42
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    I don't think being banned for failed review audits (especially at the beginning on SO) really means much. What's more important is whether a person learnt from that. – Szymon Feb 15 '14 at 3:47

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?

  • What sort if question would it be? I ask because many non coding questions are still on topic. Such as usage of tools commonly used by programmers – Richard Tingle Feb 11 '14 at 22:43
  • Take a small example. This question can be considered as of non-coding, asking for opinions. But it has many good answers and upvotes on them, even on the question: stackoverflow.com/questions/107019/… – Nick L. Feb 11 '14 at 22:48
  • @NickL. I don't think that is a good example. That question, regardless of the votes, is incredibly out of scope. It's just seeking opinions, so I hope the response from the potential mod is "close, lock, and delete" – psubsee2003 Feb 12 '14 at 8:32
  • That exactly is my point, that this one is out of scope, but has many positive votes and therefore, some liked by community, answers. – Nick L. Feb 12 '14 at 16:21

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 '14 at 1:33
  • Does it depend on whether that user (or their friends) have >3K rep and will know it was you or not? – smci Feb 18 '14 at 8:18

How would you deal with a user that gets upset on your comments to his question (poking to improve) and flags your comments for moderator attention ?


How much percentage of time which you currently devote for Q & A will be reserved for moderation.

If you are selected, Will you be contributing in Q & A with same efficiency as you are doing currently?

  • Why should this be a criterion for the election? It's just background information. Would you ever not vote for a good candidate primarily because you feared they would contribute less Q&A as a result? – smci Feb 17 '14 at 22:57

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?

  • Is this currently autodetected? Or not if they keep the serial downvoting below some threshold? – smci Feb 17 '14 at 22:58

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?

  • I'd add to this - what if the question had only just been asked and has no votes or answers, compared to what if it's been open for hours and had a lot of votes and answers. – JonW Feb 13 '14 at 15:43
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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 '14 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 '14 at 16:19

I have seen many legitimate first posts flagged for various reasons, and there can be a fine line between setting the filter too tight for legitimate new users vs too lax for spam or troll users.

What actions do you think best separate out these two groups, and what should moderators do better in order to encourage new, unfamiliar users while discouraging trolls and spam?


There are a lot of sites with similar subject matter to Stack Overflow, perhaps with overlapping user bases and questions - Computer Science, Software Quality Assurance & Testing, Programming Puzzles & Code Golf, Code Review, Database Administrators, Information Security, Programmers, Game Development, and more. Cross-posting and poor migrations are a problem, especially for the communities still in Beta. What do you plan on doing to help educate users who cross-post? What about users who suggest that questions be cross-posted, especially without understanding the expectations about the other communities? And finally, as a moderator, understanding these other communities yourself so that you can migrate (or not migrate) effectively?


Sometimes there will be edits which have the below case.

A reviewer thinks it should be rejected and clicks reject. But to his surprise he will get a message saying this edit already approved.

How would you handle such cases. because useless edits take place and will be approved.

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    I'm not really clear on how this involves a moderator to be honest. – Dennis Meng Feb 15 '14 at 19:26
  • This is not regarding the honesty of moderators but the fruit fullness and validity of reviews done. – Strikers Feb 15 '14 at 19:40
  • I mean like what would be done once a moderator is involved that wouldn't happen if a moderator wasn't involved? – Dennis Meng Feb 15 '14 at 19:42

(Based on some questions on meta and my opinion too)

There is an issue with voting system in SO. The supposed problem is that voting isn't working well in answers/questions that:

  • Already have many upvotes/downvotes. That means: if user is visiting question with 20+ voted answer - good chances are that he'll upvote that answer just because it already has high rate. Same goes with downvote
  • Were posted "too late". There are many questions, answers to which may be done with short explanation and 1-2 links to manual pages (but still that answers may be good) - but, in the same time, answer may involve explanation of CS theory, some deep research e.t.c. - i.e. definitely better than short answers, but takes much longer time to be written. Obviously, good chances are - "fast answer" will get more upvotes, just because it's fast

Since you'll be a moderator, I want to ask - do you think that this supposed problem is actually a problem? How do you feel about this and what may be your suggestions?

Not to be included in question to moderator

It's obvious, that points above may not be treated as problem. And they are not related to moderation directly. But since moderators are supposed to be "leaders of the community" - I want to know their feelings about issues above. So it's my point to ask them about that - because it's very important for me (even in this thread we can see samples of "fastest answers in the West" or "upvoted just because" - in my opinion)

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    I know you've already said it but this has nothing to do with moderation. In fact a moderator should not have any view (in their official capacity) as to how people should be voting (obviously they're users too; in which capacity they can have whatever view they like) – Richard Tingle Feb 11 '14 at 10:29
  • @RichardTingle - yes, you're right in that. I'm relying on the fact, that this thread is intended to be collection of question to moderators - from wide range of viewpoints. That is why I think that general SO questions (i.e. community management or organization of system itself) is connected to goals of moderators, among which I see "development & improving of SO". Thank you for your feedback - so, while I totally agree, I think moderator should have clear vision in which direction SO should move and be developed. That's why I've posted this question. I see it's important for me. – Alma Do Feb 11 '14 at 10:34

How will you handle a flagged or closed question that is about a topic way out of your knowledge. For example, if the question is kind of technical and regarding to some weird esotheric programming language (like Brainfuck), and you don't know anything about it. What will you do?


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?


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.


How do you balance your time between Stack Overflow and your other commitments? How will becoming a community moderator change that balance and do you have any changes coming in the foreseeable future (for example new job, baby on the way, etc) that will change that?


What action(s) would you take if it was brought to your attention or you saw that a particular user was trolling every answer on a question leaving what most would consider to be rude, non-constructive comments, where they just wanted to point out that everyone was wrong to be antagonistic in drawing out arguments for argument's sake?

  • Surely this is basic stuff that would be automatically dealt with by flagging, and ultimately some sanction against the user if they do this on many Q&A. – smci Feb 17 '14 at 22:53

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?

  • Mind if you elaborate? What situation do you have in mind? – Dennis Meng Feb 15 '14 at 19:28
  • E.g. somebody wrote partly offensive (you think it is offensive, but generally it isn't) comment about you. Or someone's flag of your own question. – TN888 Feb 15 '14 at 19:32
  • FYI: only another mod can able to review it. – Bala Feb 16 '14 at 9:50

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?


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 '14 at 10:37
  • Why is this a question for a moderator? And why isn't there an answer "D. None of the above". As users, we should be commenting on those kind of posts ourselves, and often times, the user does correct his own post when he's pointed out his mistake. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 15 '14 at 4:54
  • @Stephan-Branczyk: because many SO users in fact don't make helpful comment, they start flaming/downvoting/flagging/voting-to-close/dissing the poster. In cases of abuse, beating up on newbies for sport is a consequence-free environment; some tag categories are worse than others. There are some very prominent repeat offenders. It's a site problem and moderators have a role in fixing it. It's about leadership, not just the very narrow question of whether the mod helps edit the post or not. – smci Feb 18 '14 at 1:08
  • @Smci, We can all make mistakes, but it's important to reference concrete examples of the mistakes we make. Let's try to agree on what we consider to be the problems first, because we don't all hang around the same tag categories and we obviously don't have the same reference points. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 18 '14 at 5:44

In your eyes, what are the tasks of a Moderator? Which, if any, tasks do you see as more important than others? And, given access to the moderation tools, which parts/tasks do you plan on accomplishing? How do you plan on accomplishing these tasks? Be specific.

  • This is similar to one of the [generic question set][1] questions, but I am suggesting this to not just cover what a moderator does, but to incite more detailed responses, allowing the community to understand how a moderator sees their job and goals, instead of getting a job description as an answer. [1]: meta.stackexchange.com/a/220315/188638 – Azulflame Feb 10 '14 at 22:59
  • Full markdown isn't supported in comments to include a link you need to use mini markdown, it can also get upset if the http:// is missing. You include a link in the following way: [generic question set](http://meta.stackexchange.com/a/220315/188638) which gives generic question set – Richard Tingle Feb 12 '14 at 15:57
  • @RichardTingle, thank you. It's been too long to edit my comment, but I'll keep this in mind. – Azulflame Feb 13 '14 at 17:46

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?

In your opinion what is the single most important function of Moderators?

  • Which of the least-moderated but still popular tags would you bring experience to?

I tried to create a query using this start point: https://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 '14 at 18:17
  • @Servy Agreed that this is the case for the most part. But I do think domain knowledge in tags is relevant when trying to quickly arbitrate conflicts. Further, many mods specifically speak to a desire to improve specific tags or have a passion for topics which has driven their participation on the site. – Matthew Feb 17 '14 at 18:21
  • Part of evaluating a mod is determining if they're qualified to arbitrate conflicts when they don't have domain knowledge. As for improving specific tags, that's certainly fine, but generally that's not going to be something they're doing as a moderator. Tag cleanup actions are generally non-moderator actions. Mods can certainly do them, but it's not one of their duties, and one doesn't need to be a mod to do them. – Servy Feb 17 '14 at 18:25

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