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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Due to the lack of submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as our back up questions for a total of 9 questions.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes.

Once all the answers have been compiled, this will serve as a transcript for voters to view the thoughts of their candidates, and will be appropriately linked in the Election page.

Good luck to all of the candidates!


How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

a) What is, in your opinion as a potential future moderator, the biggest problem that bicycles.SE currently faces? b) If you were to get elected, what actions would you take towards resolving these issues?

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?

How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

What's your take on link-only answers that get flagged for not being answers? Should they be removed when flagged, or are they worth keeping around if they answer the question? See also: Avoiding 'Just Buy A New One' or 'Here's A Link' Answers

Do you think bicycles has too many unanswered questions? Why not? If so, what would you do about it?

  • 2
    I hope to see the nominees' answers to these questions before election's end! – Carrie Kendall Mar 11 '14 at 17:31
  • @CarrieKendall ask and ye shall receive :) – nhinkle Mar 12 '14 at 7:01
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I apologize for taking my sweet time getting to this. I won't bother with making excuses, so here goes.

How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would first contact the other moderator to find out their opinion on the matter and, conversely, express mine. Hopefully, that would clear up the issue and we could agree on whether to retract the original decision or leave it in place. If not, we would naturally bring in the other moderators and hopefully reach a consensus. Barring a consensus, my thought would be to leave the question open (regardless of whether I wanted it closed or open) so that the community could then vote.

a) What is, in your opinion as a potential future moderator, the biggest problem that bicycles.SE currently faces? b) If you were to get elected, what actions would you take towards resolving these issues?

I think our biggest problem right now is similar to what nhinkle said: too few members. However, I have a different take on that problem.

Right now, because of our relatively small numbers, we have a problem reaching a consensus on issues relevant to the future of the site, and even when we do reach a consensus, we have a problem enforcing it. For example, we've reached a consensus on what type of shopping questions we allow, but we regularly see shopping questions that don't fit our criteria sit open because we don't have enough people voting to close them.

Now, I don't have the insider track that Nathan has, so I'm not sure if this is within the realm of power that a mod has, but I'd like to see either the vote thresholds lowered for smaller SE sites like ours, or the length of time that a vote remains active made longer. Lowering the threshold would be my preference between the two. I think three votes represents a consensus for our community. And if that's too aggressive for a question or two once in a while, we can always vote to reopen. I've actually had to do that with a question I posted on AskUbuntu and it's a relatively painless process. (Incidentally, that question has been super popular.)

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?

I would first make the assumption that the user wasn't being intentionally argumentative/hostile/rude/whatever the problem is and that it was all unintentional. Under that assumption, I would contact the user and let them know that we had received a number of flags and illustrate that the perceived problems with his/her posts. I think that with most users, this would solve the problem. If it did not solve the problem, I would ask the other mods for their opinions on how to proceed.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Delete spam. Delete lots and lots of spam. Seriously though...

Most of what they do, as I understand it, is getting rid of stuff that obviously doesn't fit the site, obviously off-topic questions, "I'm having this problem too" type answers that don't actually provide an answer, etc. They also handle the problems that users with less rep (less than 10k) bring to their attention, i.e., flags.

Beyond that, I really can't say it better than A Theory of Moderation: Moderators are human exception handlers." 99% of the time, the site chugs along under its own steam and the community takes care of problems. Every once in a while, something weird pops up that is so borderline that the community can't come to a consensus. This is when the moderators would have to step in (as a group, of course) and make a decision.

A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I'm fine with that. I make a conscious effort to be civil and polite in my writing style. I'm aware that my posts will be seen as more authoritative with the moderator diamond next to them, and I'm sure I've made mistakes in the past, but I also make a conscious effort to admit when I'm wrong (in life, as well as on this site), which I think would alleviate any of those errors.

In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

This is probably not the right thing to say when I'm running for a moderator position, but I think I would actually be less effective as a mod than I would as a regular user with 10k+ rep. As I mentioned in my nomination, I'm the most active reviewer on the site. I review with reckless abandon right now, comfortable in the knowledge that all of my decisions will be checked and double checked by other users and are ultimately just a drop in the bucket of community consensus. I will have to tone myself back some as a mod, leaving fringe cases open to the community. And as I mentioned above, this means that some edge cases that the community probably, but not obviously, wants closed could remain open. Soooo...yeah. Don't...vote...for...me?

But seriously, do. And then hit the review queue hard if you have the rep.

What's your take on link-only answers that get flagged for not being answers? Should they be removed when flagged, or are they worth keeping around if they answer the question? See also: Avoiding 'Just Buy A New One' or 'Here's A Link' Answers

Assuming that the link does, in fact, answer the question, I think they should be edited into a workable answer. Preferably, someone would comment and the person who posted it would do it. Barring that, I would hope that a community member would do it. I realize that's not necessarily realistic. I would still tend to think that as long as it offers something valuable, it should be left up. If the link dies, then it's time to take it down.

Do you think bicycles has too many unanswered questions? Why not? If so, what would you do about it?

Nope. As nhinkle mentioned, only 1.5% of our questions are "unanswered." I put that in quotes, because only 1% are actually without answers, the other 0.5% have answers without votes. Compared to a lot of SE sites (including the big dogs like Stack Overflow) that have 15-30% unanswered questions, a 99% answer rate is pretty darn good.

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How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

This has happened from time to time as a moderator on Super User. The first step is to ping the mod in the private site mod chatroom, and get clarification. 99% of the time that resolves it – usually one or the other mod either misread the post or had a different interpretation; once you see eye to eye it's easy to make a decision. If there's still disagreement, I ping the other mods on the site to get a variety of opinions, and a decision is made on consensus. This hardly ever happens though; talking to the mod who took the action almost always resolves the situation.

The most important thing is to never drag it out in public. Moderators have their own styles, but shouldn't second-guess each other in public. Never get the author of the post involved; it's not their fault if moderators disagree, and provides unwanted fodder for unproductive conversations like "well the mods can't even decide what's on topic, so why should my post be closed!"

a) What is, in your opinion as a potential future moderator, the biggest problem that bicycles.SE currently faces? b) If you were to get elected, what actions would you take towards resolving these issues?

I think the biggest issue is increasing participation. This site is a great resource, and there are some very knowledgeable participants, but it can be kind of slow sometimes. Only the first page of users can even vote to close questions, and fewer than two pages of users can edit freely.

Encouraging more voting is important, but it's also necessary to bring in new traffic. I've been very active in promoting the site already:

As a moderator I will continue these activities to increase participation. I also have experience working with Stack Exchange's marketing team and community managers to organize promotional events, both online and in the physical world. I will build on these relationships to make the community's ideas for promotion come true.

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?

Sadly, I've had to deal with this several times as a Super User moderator. The following is all from actual interactions with actual users, not hypothetical.

The key is to be polite, but firm, and to not make a public spectacle. The first step is a private mod message, emphasizing the value of their contributions, but warning them of Stack Exchange's behavior policies. In some cases the user doesn't realize they're causing a problem, and adjusts their behavior. In others, the user escalates the situation in a variety of ways.

It's important to use private mod messages judiciously, and not enter into an argument. Sticking to objective facts and specific behavior that needs to change, rather than attacking the individual, is key. I generally limit myself to 2 replies asking for "clarification" or redemption.

In cases where the user's behavior still hasn't improved, I next discuss with the other moderators. Especially with "high profile" users it's important to be on the same page and have a unified plan for resolution. Sometimes a more sternly worded mod message from a second moderator emphasizes that the issue is breaking the community's policies, and they're not being picked on by a single "rogue moderator" (their words, not mine!). If that still doesn't work, a brief suspension can be carefully considered, but does have the potential to backfire.

In the very worst case scenario, a user has quit the site completely after deciding they were unable to align with the community's standards. While this is a very disappointing outcome when it happens (which is very rarely), the integrity of the community cannot be sacrificed for the answers of one user. While I always pursue all possibilities to retain a user with valuable answers and contentious comments, the overall health of the community is paramount, and I'm not afraid to let a user go if it becomes necessary.

How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

marked as duplicate by nhinkle♦
This question has been asked before and already has an answer.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

In my experience, it's mostly maintenance. Handling flags, keeping an eye on the review queue, destroying spam, etc. It's also caring for the overall health and direction of the site: answering questions on meta, organizing community promotions, and keeping abreast of new developments with the Stack Exchange platform and network-wide policies.

The other important thing moderators do is serve as a role model: welcoming new users by editing their posts and showing them the ropes, being courteous in comments, and advocating on behalf of the users when inter-site issues occur.

A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I don't have many questions and answers to begin with, because I'm not the foremost expert on bike questions. I just love bikes, and I love Stack Exchange. For the questions, answers, and comments I do have, it won't make much a difference. My posts are already professional. The only difference will be carrying more authority when making comments critiquing other users, but again, I have plenty of experience with doing this tactfully and writing appropriately with a diamond.

Everybody claims that after they become a moderator they'll do the same thing they did before, just help out more with the stuff they didn't have access to. It's not entirely true – I've seen it happen in dozens of moderators. You're always checking the queue and keeping an eye out for posts with problems, and it leaves less time to ask and answer. Fortunately, because I already ask and answer infrequently, you wouldn't be losing post-writing time by electing me.

In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

Considering there are only 6 users with >10k and only one with >20k, this question is a bit of a moot point for this election. I won't get to 10k on Bikes.SE any time soon, if ever, so being a moderator would make me immensely more effective. Moderation is perhaps the most effective way I can support this community, because I'm not equipped with the knowledge to answer most of the questions that come through.

On a small site like this, there also benefits to the unilateral abilities of a moderator. It can take quite a while to accumulate 5 close votes, but a moderator can close a question immediately. Moderators also have access to more nuanced tools like mod messages, suspensions, etc.

What's your take on link-only answers that get flagged for not being answers? Should they be removed when flagged, or are they worth keeping around if they answer the question? See also: Avoiding 'Just Buy A New One' or 'Here's A Link' Answers

Step 1: Comment, asking them to expand their answer. Step 2: If they did, great, upvotes! If they didn't... Step 3: If the content behind the link could form the basis for a truly good answer that's currently not posted on the question, edit the answer into a good answer with the link as a reference. Then comment and let the user know, "this is how you can turn a link into a good answer. Now you know how, and can do that yourself in the future". Teach a person to fish. Step 3, alternate: If the content is crap, delete the post.

"Just buy a new one" is kind of nuanced... if your bike got run over by a semi truck, then it's probably a valid answer (although the question, "how can I fix my bike" might not be valid). In general though, I don't think "just buy a new one" is a useful response, and I would lean towards deleting it unless the answer provides other useful insights.

Do you think bicycles has too many unanswered questions? Why not? If so, what would you do about it?

Not really. There are currently 65/4203 questions unanswered. That's 1.5%; not too shabby. More answers would be great, but there's not a whole lot moderators can do about that, besides trying to recruit more members, which I've discussed.

  • Thanks for taking the time to provide thorough answers on the questionnaire. Good luck :) – Carrie Kendall Mar 12 '14 at 15:07

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