The following is a "digest" version of the 2011 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 @Rebecca or @TimStone in the comments or in the chat room and let us know!

  • Would "accepting" an answer here stop the user Community from bumping this thread? Dec 18, 2011 at 21:52
  • It bumps unanswered questions - anything without an accepted answer or without an upvoted answer. So just upvote one of the answers. Dec 18, 2011 at 21:57
  • Did it. Thanks. Dec 18, 2011 at 21:57

10 Answers 10


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Candidates: Final thoughts?

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: Thanks for the opportunity to be a Pro Tem Moderator. I wish those who get elected the best of luck and hope for huge increases in members and traffic to this site in the future.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: I don't think I have anywhere near as much cycling knowledge as the other candidates, but have had a fair bit of moderating on a site that may have had some more challenges and I think that experience is transferable.

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: I am up for another chat sometime - I would like to know what direction people here see the site going, who are eventual audience hopefully is and how we are going to get there. Also, what are we going to do about the blog and what we can do with the se platform to improve the home landing page for newbies (that are coming from outside of 'overflow').

  • Rory Alsop Rory Alsop remarked: Hope to help drive growth anyway - marketing is something I do a fair bit of in various guises

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ continued: After today's chat I feel that it would be good if new moderators can be mentored by those that have put their free time into making this the great site that it is with moderating duties - it is quite a commitment, thanks folks!

  • freiheit freiheit noted: The Teacher's Lounge is available to new mods for mentoring. And regardless of whether or not I win, I'd be happy to help the new mods.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: I think that the current set of mods have laid down some excellent practices and that there's a lot more to this mod game than us mortals realise, but that the answers here show that all the candidates are thinking about what's good for the site. Good luck to all and thanks to the (possibly) outgoing crew.


Rebecca Chernoff http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/d8c43bb4c449d8054aebdd4ad98c6f6c?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rebecca Chernoff asked: What is an example of a leadership contribution you've made to the site that shows you can be a good moderator? (If you can link to it cool, but I recognize finding a link on the spot isn't the easiest)

Gary.Ray http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/d5c4824911dc6bd2a75e4d5f9ed12bd3?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Gary.Ray answered: Other than posting links to twitter and facebook, as well as the occasional edits to questions I don't have much. However, I am active in local bike advocacy and sort of spammed a couple of local mailing list with info about joining the site.

Rory Alsop http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/af1ed0816ed5a2164a4e343ad09309ad?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rory Alsop answered: I can't provide one for bicycles, I'm afraid - I'm relatively new here. I have spent a fair amount of time on other sites providing comments for improvement and on security I have been pro-tem mod since December helping to mediate in arguments, and steer discussions away from abuse towards constructive output. Even today, a mod from another site asked for a bit of guidance on a particular individual (some info on Teacher's from 3 or so hours ago)

Unsliced http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/04798ecdf07745e8ac28c72b9c90d54a?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Unsliced answered: Hard to dredge up specifics, but there was this recent question - How to estimate how long a tour will take? (UK to Greece) - which was a kind of close/not-close in its original form. I jumped in to make a suggestion as to how to mould it into something more useful.

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/c734b97b5d0947bcb2f4bf1578568498?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: I answered that question with what I know from having done most of that route - the point of my answer was that no online calculator could help but experience can be shared. I felt that my (and other contributions) shaped the Q+A into what is useful.

Gary.Ray http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/d5c4824911dc6bd2a75e4d5f9ed12bd3?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Gary.Ray answered: Are runners or pedestrians allowed to use the bike lane? was a question that in its original form was pretty offensive and was getting snarky answers - chatted with @freiheit about it. It got closed, revised and ended up with better answers.

freiheit http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/0e68b82b2d7a20eba36c9fbe4350dd0d?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG freiheit answered: Probably my best leadership examples other than being a pro-tem mod are reflected in meta where I've always been involved. On or off topic: watching racing for instance (and while I disagree with the consensus, you can also find examples of me helping out "watching racing" questions)


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ requested clarification: Not wishing to name names, but are there any examples of this on bikes.se?

  • Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff clarified: Just a general question, not bicycles.se specific (:

    ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ responded: I think that it takes time for someone to learn and understand the community, we can gently encourage people into line, focusing on the positive they bring and suggesting how they can be more diplomatic. If they get such 'help' from someone they respect then there should be no problems - they have been listened to. Clearly this may not always work and some editing of their stuff/writing to them/banning them will be what happens next.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Encourage the good, and advise on the bad - initially through specific comments, and by removing the bad bits of comments, but if it continued then through direct communication - possibly even leading up to suspension.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop continued: We have had one or two I have had to deal with personally elsewhere

  • Unsliced Unsliced remarked: Editing (of comments) by the mod should be a last resort, though.

    Rory Alsop Rory Alsop responded: Actually, if a comment is "you should do this, you *" I would have no compunction in editing out the last two words, and leaving an "edited by mod" comment

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: I think the best way to handle a user like that is to contact directly through email and have a discussion offline. Usually a "try to knock such and such off" is effective.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: That's an unusual sounding situation, but you'd need to start by making the disquiet public. Reply to comments, pointing it out, but threatening escalation, taking it offline to email if it continues. Valuable answers are important, they're why we're here, but not at the expense of driving people away.

  • Gary.Ray Gary.Ray countered: I disagree with you a little. First - pointing out issues in the comments may add fuel to the fire. Second - when there are personal attacks or flaming/trolling, I think it's important to remove them so that new users don't get the idea that it's accepted.

    Unsliced Unsliced responded: We are here to be "thought leaders", I guess I tend toward being a diplomat rather than a cop. I'd rather point out a problem and have the user fix it than instantly jump on it. If it's less blatant than @RoryAlsop's foul language (although who is the arbiter on foul?) then you're opening yourself up to being a censor and I'm less comfortable with that.

freiheit freiheit answered: I'd be inclined to contact a user like that privately (via the mod private message tool). Some comments on the argumentative comment-threads along the lines of "Keep it civil folks!" might be appropriate, too. Deleting the argument comments, too.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to reaching high rep / 10k?

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: Well, the key issue in bicycles.SE is that the rep gains have slowed, and none of us are within several 1000 of 10K. So there are tools available as a mod that aren't available to the community yet. I'd love to get to 10k, but even as one of the more active users I'm less than half-way there.

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: I very much feel that we need to get involvement from people within the cycling industry and also within advocacy groups. If I had the 'moderator' badge I would feel better able to write to them.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: The Teacher's lounge is an excellent place to ask for guidance on new issues or difficult decisions. This is not available to non-mods. So much of moderation is around the community, so the only specific mod tools that are really important are these sort of things - to help with exceptions.

freiheit freiheit answered: Well, I don't have 10k rep to get to those tools yet, and not enough users do. The reality right now with close votes is that there's few enough people with the rep to vote to close that waiting for high rep users will take too long.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: Now we're a full-blown site, the mods are the only ones with the tools to get the real work done. But as @mathew says, the mod star gives you some formal authority outwith the network, an ambassador, which could be very useful with the PR side of things.


Neil Fein Neil Fein asked: Let's say a question is bad enough to need fixes but not bad enough to be closed while it's edited. How do you deal with the bad answers that are popping up in the interim? (While you give the question author time to edit.)

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Bad answers should be dealt with by community in most cases, by downvoting, or by flagging. Mods should be available to deal with the very bad etc., but the community is the important bit here.

freiheit freiheit answered: That's a tough one we've run into a few times and don't always manage to handle well. I'm strongly inclined to go with "comment how to fix, close, wait for fix, open"

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: This is a problem that you wouldn't know existed unless you had been moderator, however, if it was going to take me a little while to edit the question I would consider closing it with some polite note explaining that it is being formatted for the Q+A format and will be open to answers soon.

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: I was going to post a link, but then I remembered that the non-mods can't see it. If there is not a lot of action then I'd just leave it and check back. If it's getting a lot of traffic then I think the right thing to do is close the question. Finally, after the revision, you have to watch the old answers. Remove the answer if it's getting downvotes (to protect their rep) and comment to the user to revise the answer now the question is changed.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: Let them stand. The community will deal with them and, if after editing and a little time they're still poor, then consider deletion/merge or heavy edits. Quite a few of the high rep users already try to answer the better form I feel - answering the question that should have been asked in the first place. If it's a fast moving question then consider closing.

  • freiheit freiheit countered: The problem with letting them stand is sometimes those "bad" questions are on a topic everybody's interested in (but asked in a forumy chatty way), so you get a bunch of vague answers, then the questioner finally fixes their question to be more of a solid Q&A style question, all the existing answers are plain wrong

    freiheit freiheit continued: (but those now-wrong/irrelevant answers already have a couple upvotes from when they were relevant to the chatty question)

    Unsliced Unsliced responded: And I guess it's the chatty questions that get the quick answers. That's where the mod's judgement comes in. I think closing to allow time to think, especially to a new user, might provoke a little too much us-and-them, mods-and-users, that the mods know better and, besides, it's our site.


Neil Fein Neil Fein asked: How is Stack Exchange different from a web forum?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: The aim is to provide specific answers to specific questions that will be valuable to future visitors who have the same question - to be a site providing 'expert' advice. Web forums inspire subjective discussion (explicitly discouraged here - except in chat) - which doesn't necessarily encourage well thought out, intelligent, 'expert' answers

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: Of course, the primary difference is the expectation that questions asked will have an objectively correct answer. I know there is a range of what is allowed as questions, but the absence of the typical rants, shopping and pure opinion/speculation questions is what makes this site a gem.

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray continued: The voting/reputation action tends to weed out the trolls and flamers, which is fantastic. The best feature is that the best questions and answers bubble up to the top.

freiheit freiheit answered: Forums tend to be very chatty. Post a question, get some answers, some comments, some more answers. A later person with the same question basically has to read the whole thread, because the best answer is hidden as the 4th from last in the thread. SE is very focused on questions and answers. Not chatty, not too talky. The best answer gets voted and/or accepted and shows up first for future visitors with the same question.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: It's Q-and-A first and foremost, it's about providing answers that will continue to be true, to shy away from chatty topics and to allow someone to give THE answer to a question, there for all to see and be found.

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: 'Bikes.se' should be the same as 'overflow' - best answers at the top. Really I see it as the site being a body of expert knowledge with 'wisdom of crowds' making it so, rather than on a forum where the first answers may not be the right ones.


Neil Fein Neil Fein asked: What do you feel is the best use of Community Wiki, and should CW be used for borderline questions?

freiheit freiheit answered: Our "terminology index" and our "translate between US and UK english" index.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Difficult one. And very contentious. I think for certain categories it works - generally where there are many answers which are right

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop requested clarification: Borderline in what way?

  • Neil Fein Neil Fein clarified: Where a question has no single good answer.

    Rory Alsop Rory Alsop responded: I think - if there are valuable answers that are worth keeping (and possibly answers that may keep being added to over time) then it can be used. But overuse does encourage a non-SE way of thinking

Unsliced Unsliced answered: The FAQ type questions (as @freiheit has said) are the obvious best cases. Generally I think it should be shied away from. Questions like the recent one about charity rides, for example. I'm undecided on whether it's a good question, but it is probably a borderline case for being CW if it is allowed to stand.

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: I think the best use is for terminology or reference/FAQ type posts. Things where there are a lot of links but no real answer can fit sometimes, but I think their use should be strongly monitored.

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: Personally I think that CW goes against the 'don't make me think' principle, visitors don't really need to know what it is particularly. However, from a site point of view I see how it makes sense for things that don't fit Q+A format too well but are worth keeping. We are trying to build up a useful body of information here after all...


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: For current mods, what is the toughest part about moderating?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Knowing that sometimes you will upset someone, no matter how hard you try not to. All you can do is try your best to be fair and listen to the community.

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: Finding and walking the line on borderline questions. The community is small and not everything that is borderline gets flagged. I tend to leave questions alone until someone flags them.

freiheit freiheit answered: Toughest part about moderating is needing to be "the bad guy" sometimes. Closing a popular off-topic/forumy/"bad" question seems to be perceived to be the same thing as killing a puppy or something.


Neil Fein Neil Fein asked: What's your position on when we should close bad questions? Do it early or late or not at all?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Will depend on what "bad" is. If blatantly bad then I think it is fair to consult (in chat etc) and close, but otherwise it should be down to the community flagging for close.

freiheit freiheit answered: It depends. If it's a question lacking key details that will likely result in a lot of non-answer answers, I'd like to see us closing quickly to prevent lots of bad answers coming in and try to get the questioner to fix things up so that it's more answerable.

freiheit freiheit continued: But if it's borderline maybe leave it open. I see a lot of community resistance to closing questions, fixing them and reopening them, but I think it's really the right way to go in a lot of cases.

  • Gary.Ray Gary.Ray noted: I think part of the reason for the resistance is that it can be shocking to a new user to have a question closed - especially without any explanation. It's a valid point.

    Rory Alsop Rory Alsop added: Often a comment in addition to the close can help with that.

    freiheit freiheit responded: Yes, it is important to leave a friendly comment gently guiding the user into how to fix their question before closing

    Unsliced Unsliced added: New users do need education into the SE ways, certainly closing and allowing apparently harsh edits to change a question might seem harsh to n00bs.

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: I think we should lean toward closing early, and give the person who asked it message about why it's closed and what to do about it. This helps prevent bad questions getting answers that later aren't relevant to the revised question.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: All three. You can't be too dogmatic - some questions should be closed early - obvious dupes or trolls. Some might need a little work - a little generalisation and less specificity (e.g. the touring ones from the last week or so). But not at all would be the most common situation. Let the question stand and tweak it - very few are without any merit.

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: Rory pretty much says it. However, I think a decision has to be made in light of what the site is here for (which I hope has something to do with facilitating cycling).


Neil Fein Neil Fein asked: Can you give an example of a kind problem it's best to deal with quickly and firmly? When should a moderator use the stick and not the carrot?

ʍǝɥʇɐɯ ʍǝɥʇɐɯ answered: I think most of my questions are 'instant nip in the bud'...! But I am learning...

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Abuse would be an obvious one - foul language or targeting another user personally rather than answering the question.

Unsliced Unsliced answered: Dupes don't need a stick. The obvious trolls, personal abuse and such would definitely need a quick hit with the clue stick.

Gary.Ray Gary.Ray answered: I tend to be a 'carrot' guy, and the community tends to catch a lot of problems. Obviously offensive, fowl or corrosive behavior in questions or comments needs to be dealt with quickly. Duplicates sometimes aren't, there are nuances - so that's usually a carrot situation.

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