The following is a "digest" version of the 2012 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 @GraceNote or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!


31 Answers 31


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: What is your subjective assessment of how ELU's been progressing in terms of popularity and quality? Do we get more questions than a year ago? Better questions? What about answers? Do we attract new great users? Or is it all Eternal September? What is your recency illusion?

simchona simchona answered: In terms of question quality, it seems as if the balance has shifted towards more "English as a second language" questions. However, there have been new users recently who have provided great answers, so I think that the user base is improving in terms of answers, but there is some work to be done on questions. I think more questions should be closed, and those question-askers should be helped to ask better questions if possible

J.R. J.R. answered: I've only been on the site for six months, so my personal history is scant. However, I've noticed a lot of questions coming from non-native speakers, but that problem is already being addressed with the new site in Area 51 for Language Learners.

  • Evan Carroll Evan Carroll remarked: So long as they're interested in English I see no reason to differentiate on nebulous qualifiers. I speak English naively, and I'm still learning it! That's why I'm here.

KitFox KitFox answered: I think the site has been growing in leaps and bounds, which means we will have more questions, both good and bad, and we will have more users, both good and bad. This means we need more moderators and more diligence so that we make sure that the content of the site represents what we want our community to grow into.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I think we have got our fair share of good new users, along with the bad. Over the last year, we don't seem to have increased the number of questions, it seems to have held steady, as has the quality.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен continued: I think the same can be said of answers

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: The number of 10k users is a subjective measure. Without good questions, and good answers, users could not reach that reputation level.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: I see the interesting questions getting fewer and farther between, coupled with a tendency to close questions rather than improving them. But I may just be having a bad day at work.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Do you feel like a representative percentage of the community participates in your site's meta? Based on that, how strongly do you think feedback presented on meta should factor into your decision making as a moderator?

simchona simchona answered: I think that there are the same few users who use Meta, but I would encourage more users to do so. However, whatever the representative percentage on Meta, I think feedback is extremely important. I have seen mods pay attention to users on both Meta.SO and Meta.ELU, and I think that's a good approach to take

KitFox KitFox answered: Representative? It's hard to say, but there is a core of users who I respect who put their opinions out on the Meta questions. I would look to Meta first if I were trying to make a decision based on what I thought the community wanted.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: No, because meta's on StackExchange all suffer from aura of extreme elitism. If I'm elected moderator, I'll propound a request to Jeff Atwood to make a splash page for EL&U that informs those that our meta is different. It's for the users, and not merely a playground for StackExchange employees.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I see new people asking question, but the number of questions is quite low. The people who answer questions tend to be the more active users of the site, which is hopefully the people who the site is catered to. In that light I would take meta in consideration when it comes to moderation. It's the best place to hear what the community thinks. It is not the only thing I would take into account, as I have my own impression of how the community is from the main site.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I feel that there is enough participation on the meta site: Questions are asked, answers are given from different users (not just three/four users), and posts are voted. Community's thought is important when community can give its contribution, for example when asking what to do with questions asked from users who should not ask questions because they are blocked, but create new accounts to be able to ask questions.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Since meta is where we ask for feedback, I think we ought to take it into consideration. In other words, it doesn't really matter whether meta participation is representative. Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This is a fact of life. Don't like it? Start squeaking.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: Excluding dupes, our number one close reason is "general reference"; a reason most other SE sites don't even have. 3% of all questions — and 35% of closed questions — are closed as gen-ref. Are we too strict? Too lax? Isn't every question too basic if you know the answer, or where to look? Where do you personally draw the line?

KitFox KitFox answered: Gen ref is dictionary reference to me. Or basic grammar (which should be migrated to ELL). I think it is necessary to go on a case by case basis, and some days I think we are a little trigger happy with the gen ref reason. There are so many other happy reasons for closing, after all.

simchona simchona answered: If the answer is in a dictionary (phrasal verbs, definitions) that is easily accessible, I would consider it general reference. For most etymology, I think it's hard to say "I'll look in a dictionary" unless you happen to have the OED. I think my bottom line is that General Reference questions are those found in a dictionary, or occasionally in a quick Google search if it seems like no research has been done.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Closing questions is a horrible idea anyway: if people want to answer questions that are of "general reference" let them. If we get a good answer, the platform has served to move valuable content into the CC-BY-SA domain, that's a great thing in and of itself!

J.R. J.R. answered: If I can find the answer in less than two minutes using standard search tools (Google, dictionary, thesaurus), then my opinion is it's general ref. However, that's a tricky one ~ sometimes what seems like general ref actually has some pretty deep conversation underneath it (good example lately is the 'adj form of primate' question), so I wouldn't want to pull the close trigger prematurely

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I am unsure about the Gen Ref close reason. I do not want basic question on the site - people should check dictionaries before asking here and provide explanations as to what they don't understand. I'm happy to close those question. We could even start to consider them off topic. Normally I judge Gen Ref by checking a dictionary, or by the answers. If the answers are just dictionary quotes, then really what are we adding to the web?

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Yes, I think the general reference close reason is way overused. To be general reference, the answer must be found in a source that is (1) generally available (so the OED doesn't qualify), and (2) is specifically designed to answer that type of question. In practice, this means a dictionary or thesaurus, and in certain limited cases, an encyclopedia. It emphatically does not mean Google. A question that shows no research should be downvoted, not closed as general reference.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Why do you want to be a moderator (i.e., as opposed to a user with privs via high rep?)

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: So I'm privy to that which goes on in the upper closed echelons of the managing junta, and so I can empower all of the people, democratically, with the powers of a moderator.

simchona simchona answered: I've been doing a lot of work recently in rooting out our newest persistent troll. Being a mod would help me do that work better, taking care of the problem more quickly--5 heads are better than one. I can delete the user's questions if they're closed, but I can't deduce whether the user is a new one, or just a sock.

KitFox KitFox answered: We need more mods, and I think I am a good candidate for it. I would like to be able to help keep abuse off the site, help new users get comfy, and set the tone for the community here.

J.R. J.R. answered: For the same reason I visit this site daily - to help make it a better place. Truth be told, the privs aren't a motivational factor for me.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Because I know where I want the site to go (towards a higher academic standard) and I think I can help steer it there.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Mods have tools that make it much easier to moderate the site. Or so I gather. Also, mods can undo community actions, which sounds like a terrible thing to do, but is sometimes necessary.


Shog9 Shog9 asked: You see a very poor question posted. No evidence of research, vague criteria for what answers should address, some evidence that it was passed through Google Translate at least once prior to posting... Obviously it needs attention; what sort of attention do you give it?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: You answer the question if you can, and tag it "probable-homework" so others looking for homework answers can find it.

KitFox KitFox answered: I leave a comment specifying what needs to be fixed. I allow the community to close it if they wish.

simchona simchona answered: If the user really cannot speak English, I would first direct him to support the proposal for English Language Learners. I would try to edit the question so it were in a more readable form, and leave comments to tease out the true purpose. If the user is unable to understand the comments, then I might close the question as Very Low Quality as it is unlikely to help future users.

J.R. J.R. answered: As a new moderator, I'd want to spend some time learning about how such situations are best handled.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: first step is to comment asking for clarification and explaining what I don't understand. The next step is patience, because askers take a while to respond. In the mean time the community will have probably acted. If they have then I would let the asker know that their question can still be edited and that that might lead to reopening. If a question remains in a poor state for a prolonged period then I'd close it. If it's already been closed for a while then I'd delete it.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Depends. If I see a salvageable question somewhere underneath the muck, and if I have the time, I'll edit it. If I vote to close, I do my best to post a helpful comment about why. As a mod, I imagine I'd do less of the former (for lack of time) and more of the latter.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: New users often are not accustomed to the Stack Exchange system, and sometimes struggle to present themselves properly, either in the way they use the site or their attitude. How willing are you to work with "problematic" users, and at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth the effort?

KitFox KitFox answered: I am very willing to work with new users to help them learn the ropes. If they continue to struggle, I would continue to help. I would only give up on a user if they became abusive and caused an issue on the site for other community members. Then I would involve the other mods for help in dealing with the situation.

simchona simchona answered: I've found that there are some "problematic" users like our new troll, who I have taken aside in a private chat (along with Mahnax) in order to try to help them use the site better. This happened after this troll had posted porn, spam, and exact duplicates of his own question under multiple sock puppets. I am willing to go quite far in helping new users, but I stop at the point where they continue to go forward with bad behaviors.

J.R. J.R. answered: I think there's a difference between new users and "problematic" users. Users don't become problematic until after they've been guided, and subsequently spurned the correction. I'd be very patient with new users, but, eventually a line can be crossed.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: There is no such thing as someone "that is not worth the effort." The platform should modified so that it is self-correcting. All people are worth the effort they're willing to put forward, and shy of that all social problems can be handled with technology.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll continued: So in essence, I'd advocate for welcoming everyone to the site: unban and expire all suspensions. And, find a way to mitigate any social problems through technological tools that don't involve limiting the ability to participate.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: For new users I'd try to push them in the right direction. I would explain that closing a question isn't a mark against them and that down votes aren't punishment. They need to understand that there is every chance to adapt to the system in place here, and get a lot from the site.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен continued: For problem users it depends on the nature of the problem and the user. If the problem is just a misunderstanding then most issues can be resolved in meta or chat, quite amicably. Obviously there will be problem users who are detrimental to the site and they will be dealt with the same way they are dealt with now.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I am willing to help new users, but I cannot say when they are not worth anymore being helped; that depends from each singular case. If somebody doesn't show any willingness of being helped, the limit is probably very low; vice versa, if the user is willing to be helped, but there is a language barrier, then the limit is probably higher.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: It really depends, both on the user (how willing they seem to be to adjust their interactions) and on me (how busy I am at the moment). On a good day, I make sure to post a helpful comment on any question I vote to close, and if I see a good question underneath the crud, I will ruthlessly edit it into shape. But if the user starts getting personal, I will drop him like a hot potato and let community votes take care of it.


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

KitFox KitFox answered: Reg and I (and others) just had a discussion today over whether to reopen a question about math symbols. It progressed just the way I thought it should. We discussed the pros and cons and we came to an agreement as a community. If it didn't work like that, I would progress to a private chat if I felt strongly about it, then discuss it in mediation with mods in the TL if necessary. But I can't imagine I would ever feel that strongly.

simchona simchona answered: I don't think mods should act alone, nor act without being open to modifying unilateral decisions. I would talk to the other mod and see why they had closed it. There's no reason to get into an open/close/deletion fight.

J.R. J.R. answered: I don't expect to agree with the decisions of every moderator. Ideally, we should function as a team with different strengths and weaknesses, not as clones. If a question is closed by another moderator, and I don't agree with that, I might speak with the moderator off-line about it - particularly if this happens frequently - but I'd enter into that conversation ready to learn why I might be mistaken, rather than convinced I'm right.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I'd bring it up with them, and try to come to an understanding of their actions. If I still disagree I'd bring it up in meta and abide by the community's feeling

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I would ask him why it was closed, or I would re-open it if there are user who gives a good explanation about why they think it was closed for the wrong reason, and I agree with it.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: I would thwack him, naturally.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: English vs American; how do you feel about it?

KitFox KitFox answered: Americans are cool. Brits are posh.

simchona simchona answered: English is a language, and American isn't.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: British English is always better.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: British accents can be sexy, but their food sucks.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: What is the one thing you'd like to be remembered for during your time here?

KitFox KitFox answered: Although I'd very much like members to remember what a wonderful and funny person I am, I would rather be known for being judicious and fair.

simchona simchona answered: I would like to be remembered for my wonderful coffee cake, biting wit, and ability to spot a troll at 100 paces.

J.R. J.R. answered: That I was helpful and courteous; that I helped make ELU more interesting, informative, and enjoyable.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Raising the standard of questions.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I would like to be remembered for doing my task, and being helpful.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Thwacking.


Cerberus Cerberus asked: Do you adhere to Marxism?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Adhere to it? It's a system that certainly makes for a better world.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll continued: You can't be a Marxist in the closet.. BTW, that is an excellent question. Thanks for asking.

KitFox KitFox answered: No.

simchona simchona answered: No

J.R. J.R. answered: Groucho Marxism, yes. (Those are my principles, and if you don't like 'em, well, I have others.)

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I don't know the philosophy of it. Sharing is nice. Centralised government is silly.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Hell no.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: What is your native language?

simchona simchona answered: American English

KitFox KitFox answered: English and Basic. (I don't think it is relevant though.)

J.R. J.R. answered: Unfortunately, I only speak one language. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to be bilingual.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: English.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: My native language is English. British English, from The Cotswolds.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: My native languages are Italian, and Eastern Lombard.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: English, in terms of what language I use the most and have the most education in. Hungarian, in terms of what language I learned first.


Shog9 Shog9 asked: How comfortable are you with using the tools for moderation made available to normal (non-diamond-moderator) users? (such as editing, closing, re-opening, flagging, and brass knuckles)

KitFox KitFox answered: Brass knuckles? Damn. I didn't know we had those.

KitFox KitFox answered: I feel pretty comfortable with these tools. I have used what has been accessible to me for as long as it has been accessible to me.

simchona simchona answered: I've been using the normal mod tools quite a bit, especially to delete unanswered questions by trolls. It is simply another part of the community voting system.

J.R. J.R. answered: I'm very comfortable with those tools – so much so, that I think I might miss them in the unlikely event that I get elected.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I haven't used the brass knuckles yet. I prefer the feeling of flesh on flesh. I enjoy editing, strange as that may seem, because I like to get the questions looking smart. I've not cast a lot of reopen votes, but I know how to do it. I cast close, down votes and flags whenever I see fit.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I am already a moderator on a different Stack Exchange site. I am used to the new tool since the times I was a temporary moderator.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Brass knuckles? There are brass knuckles? Where? Sheesh, nobody tells me anything. I use the other tools fairly extensively.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: There are ongoing efforts to create a spin-off site targeted specifically at English language learners. Regardless of the fate of that proposal, is it a step in the right direction at all? Can such a split help make ELU a better place? Or would it mean our demise?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Friendly forking is great

KitFox KitFox answered: I understand trepidation about the ELL site, but I think it could be very beneficial to EL&U. Moving basic questions there would give some users the answers they need and help maintain a pleasant atmosphere. I think the two sites would complement each other.

simchona simchona answered: I personally support the proposal, as it will hopefully encourage English learners to ask their questions but also carve out a space for "English enthusiasts" to ask more questions.

J.R. J.R. answered: I'm completely in favor of that proposal. I think non-natives should have a place to ask basic questions without fear of retribution or closure.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I believe it is a step in the right direction. There are a lot of questions here that someone who is knowledgeable in English would not ask. I think they are detrimental to the site because they give the impression that we deal with really basic questions and other more interesting questions are unlikely. If we remove the basic question to their own space then we open up EL&U and give space for the interesting questions.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: It's too early to say if it has been good creating that proposal; it still a proposal, and it could not even graduate. I find difficult make users understand when a question should be asked on EL&U, or on the other site, but I think the intentions behind that site are good. If the proposal graduates, and it doesn't have the "general reference" closing reason, it will be good for those questions asked because the definition found on the dictionary is not clear enough for the OP.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: It's definitely a step in the right direction. It will probably reduce ELU's traffic, but I don't think it will kill us.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: What is your favorite word in the English language?

KitFox KitFox answered: Vexatious. I have a preference for words that start with v. This one also has an x and ends like salacious. It doesn't get much better than that.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: proletariat. Easy.

simchona simchona answered: Bubble.

J.R. J.R. answered: Hmmm... one word? Out of so many? Perhaps pin. (I like multi-use words).

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: factoid

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен continued: Only joking. I don't have a favourite single word. It's the sentences I like.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: It is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It reminds me of Italian supercalifragilistichespiralidoso.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Thwack.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: How do you decide if an answer is "very low quality", and what do you do with it?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: I vote it down, just like any other user. Why would I abuse my status to handle something that, we're told, the platform handles find natively?

KitFox KitFox answered: If the answer doesn't actually answer the question, it gets moved to a comment or deleted. If it's spam or abusive, it gets deleted. Otherwise, what I said before: In general, I ignore these flags if the question is answered. I let the community handle it through downvoting or ignoring poor answers. If it's not spam or abuse, I'd let it ride.

simchona simchona answered: If the issue can be edited, I would do so. I would also downvote. I would reserve deletion for answers which were possibly just "yes" or "no", without anything else to support it.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: something that's low quality is something that doesn't answer the question or add to the existing answers. I'll comment on such answers and potentially delete them if they don't get improved.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: The VLQ flag is given for a post, but it means every post from that user are like that. In the other cases, the VLQ flag is just a synonym of "not an answer," or "not a real question." If I take it as synonym, then I take the same action I would take for those flags.

Just to make an example, if a user keeps writing answers similar to "sfsdf wefwefwe wefwsg," then the VLQ flag is appropriate, and I would take action on that user's account.


Carlo_R. http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3cf28f47b22be69e07e8371a3639a5cf?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Carlo_R. asked: Why do you think that this question get closed? It seems to me a vendetta against Barrie, due to his idea on this other question

simchona http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/44592a65e6b858989d8c55e0b0a0b5e2?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG simchona answered: The close reason is "not constructive", which means the question seems like it's asking for a poll or discussion. It was interesting, but it touched on topics that were far too numerous for one question. However, on your point that it's a vendetta: if you truly believed that, I would hope you posted on Meta or flagged it, to bring it to the attention of the acting mods

KitFox http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/ce89ed919eb7af45d0745ab68c74a2b3?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG KitFox answered: Without looking through it, the question title sounds like peeving. We close that sort of question quickly.

J.R. http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/9e8ba424a9c85f3a92847efef8095025?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG J.R. answered: I have a hard time believing this community has a vendetta against Barrie. I think he's one of the more esteemed users on the site.

Matt Эллен http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/ea5fb0bda281e5ddab057950eb17882a?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Matt Эллен answered: Barrie's question is closed because it is subjective and argumentative. It is not a constructive question.

kiamlaluno http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/f5ef1b81e1aeb3b921a3034d460ce6af?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG kiamlaluno answered: It has been closed because 5 users voted to close it, and I guess they closed it because the question has been asked basing on something that is not objectively noted.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: Is there anything you would want to change about the way the site is being run at present?

KitFox KitFox answered: I don't see any particular glaring issue with the site. I'd like to encourage our high rep users to continue their participation in the site, especially with closing/deleting questions, and setting guidelines through the Meta site.

simchona simchona answered: I would want to empower more high-reputation users to take initiative in cleaning up the site. There are a handful of users who vote to close, or edit questions, but I think that there are more who might be encouraged to take part. I think it's less about changing how the site is run, and more about changing the perception of who "runs" the site

J.R. J.R. answered: There is very little I'd like to change about the way the site is run at present. I'm not coming into this with an agenda.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I want to be moderator! ;) Seriously though, I want to improve the interestingness of the questions, as I've explained above.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I cannot think to anything I would change, so far. It seems the community knows well how to handle bad questions, and we had an "call from TPTB" just once.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: I don't think I know enough about how the site is run to go around changing it, willy-nilly. I mean, there must be more thwacking of puns, but that kind of goes without saying.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: A very popular reason for flagging is "very low quality". Everyone seems to have their own notion of what that's supposed to mean; what is yours? How will you handle such flags?

KitFox KitFox answered: In general, I ignore these flags if the question is answered. I let the community handle it through downvoting or ignoring poor answers. If it's not spam or abuse, I'd let it ride.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Who am I to decide what is "very low quality"? We have algorithms and users that can do that -- no one should have an amplified voice. This isn't chaos, it's discourse: no one needs a megaphone.

simchona simchona answered: I think some VLQ questions can be expanded on, if the user is willing to do so. My definition of low quality is a question which has little effort, and little effort to change. If there were good answers, like with some NS questions as current mods have done, I would leave it. However, poor questions which detract from the site may need to be removed

J.R. J.R. answered: It depends on several factors. Is the question truly of low quality? And can it be improved? If possible, I'd try to salvage the question before deleting or closing it.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: It's tough. I know it when I see it. If I think an answer is low quality then it's either a comment or irrelevant. Comments can be made into comments, with an explanation to the user about commenting, and irrelevant things can be deleted, again with an explanation (e.g. explaining about asking questions vs answering questions.)

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: To me the VLQ flag means the post is not understandable, and it cannot be edited to make it clear (which means only who wrote it knows what s/he meant to say), and the user's contributions are very low quality (not just one, or two posts). It is not just about the post, but also the user who should be probably blocked.

If the flag means "this is not an answer," or "this is not a real question," then I would probably decline it.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: My definition of "very low quality" is something that doesn't belong on this site - doesn't answer the question, doesn't even acknowledge that there's a question being asked, just posting for the sake of posting. That said, if the flag brings something to my attention that I would not have otherwise noticed - an answer that should be a comment, for instance - I'd probably mark the flag as helpful.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: You strongly disagree with an action taken by a fellow moderator. How do you proceed?

KitFox KitFox answered: I'd talk to the moderator in private chat. If that didn't resolve the issue, I would bring it to the Teacher's Lounge.

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: I prod him to reveal whatever information I think I can get out of him -- keeping in the back of my mind that my allegiance is to the users. When he has revealed all he's willing to reveal, I turn it over to Wikileaks and make it available on a third party site, and welcome all users to review that moderator's actions.

J.R. J.R. answered: I think I kind of alluded to this before - I don't expect to agree with every decision made by other moderators, and I certainly woudn't rock the boat.

simchona simchona answered: I would start by talking to them about it. I've seen several good discussions in chat, and so I would definitely feel comfortable bringing it up there and working through it. It can be escalated, if need be, to talk to more mods. However, I think most issues could be solved easily between ELU mods.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Discuss it and try to come to an understanding as to why it's been taken. We'll not always agree on everything.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I ask him/her the reasons behind his/her decision.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: First, I'd go find something else to do. If I still felt strongly about it the next day, I'd post a meta topic.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: What is your favorite book(or rather, Author)?

simchona simchona answered: Diana Wynne Jones

KitFox KitFox answered: I like so many, but Umberto Eco is my standard answer.

J.R. J.R. answered: I heard Alex Trebek once say, "My favorite book is often the one I'm currently reading." I've read so many good books that I'd have trouble narrowing it down to 5 much less one. I prefer non-fiction for my pleasure reading. I'm currently reading Blue Moon Rising to my teenage daughters (best adventure novel you've probably never heard of). One non-fiction book I've read recently that I very much enjoyed was GO TO by Steve Lohr.

J.R. J.R. continued: (The story of the math majors, bridge players, engineers, chess wizards, maverick scientists and iconoclasts - the programmers who created the software revolution - that's the subtitle - please forgive the sentence case.)

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Douglas Adams (The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy)

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: My preferred author is Isaac Asimov.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Oh, that's too easy. Book = The Curse of Chalion, author = Lois McMaster Bujold.


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: Do you have any hopes, ideas or plans for improving, involving, or enlarging the EL&U community?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Yes, I do. I think we could potentially expand to take on other vernaculars and dialects, like Creole.

simchona simchona answered: I would love to see the blog grow. I think that, if it were updated regularly, it could bring in a new audience of users. This could, however, be difficult as it is hard to find new writers. A more attainable goal would be to enrich the current community by encouraging users to come back. Asking one question, then leaving, does not a community make.

KitFox KitFox answered: I would like to see EL&U grow. I think keeping the site tidy and having a welcoming atmosphere and accessible mods will do that.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Not really. I haven't thought about it. I think cleaning up the basic questions should help help improve the site's profile and encourage the members to recommend it to their learned friends.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: More thwacking.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: There have been repeated complaints that our front page is chock-full of closed questions. Obviously we can't control what kinds of questions we get. Or can we? Do you have any strategy for making the front page more tidy and welcoming?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Stop electing moderators that close questions, especially for stupid things like being "general references." The more material on EL&U the better, and perhaps if General References are fun, it'll engage more people.

KitFox KitFox answered: If we had some method of helping new users find the FAQ before posting questions...but aside from that, I think responding to new users and helping them frame their questions appropriately as soon as possible will help keep questions from being closed (or staying closed).

J.R. J.R. answered: I've thought about doing something like that for some time, maybe creating a web page that says something along the lines of "So, your question got closed...." But I wouldn't do anything unilaterally. I might propose something, but it would have to be adopted by others.

J.R. J.R. continued: I do think some more guidance could be offered, but it's a difficult balance to strike. Too little guidance doesn't convey enough information, but too much is overwhelming, and unlikely to be studied thoroughly by the average new users.

simchona simchona answered: Questions are often closed as General Reference or Exact Duplicates. I think improving the quality of questions by helping users (in chat, in comments, etc) will reduce the number of closed questions. In addition, having an actual list of common questions might help reduce the duplicates. I think there is a misconception that all closed questions are bad, however--they may simply be a less eloquent way of asking a previously asked question.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I'm afraid I don't. We get a number of poor questions a day. These get closed. I agree it can seem intimidating, but that doesn't seem to stop people asking poor questions, so it can't be that off putting. If we had somewhere to migrate some of the poor questions - poor as in asked by a learner rather than someone who understand the language, and so wouldn't ask - then the front page wouldn't look so intimidating.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: The only way would be deleting the closed answers, but that should be done if the question is not duplicate of another question. In the other cases, I think the OP should notice his question has been closed, which means I would keep a closed question for at least a day, except the question is blatantly a very bad question such as rants, attacks to the community behind the site, etc.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: My strengths are definitely not in the evangelism arena, but for the immediate problem of closed questions cluttering up the front page, perhaps that ought to be solved on the engine level by hiding closed questions on the active questions list (the page you get if you just go to english.stackexchange.com). Naturally, such questions should still appear on the Newest Questions list. The root problem will hopefully be reduced if the ELL site goes live.


Evan Carroll Evan Carroll asked: What would you do if you found out that StackExchange was involved in a massive cover up and conspiracy, and you had the smoking gun?

KitFox KitFox answered: It depends on the nature of what I uncovered.

J.R. J.R. answered: I thought that, as candidates, we were supposed to be answering the questions, not asking them. Are you withdrawing from the race?

simchona simchona answered: It depends on the "conspiracy". Stack Exchange is a private company, and to some extent they have the rights to govern what goes on within the site. If it were, however, along the lines of the mafia, I would act.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Depends on what I had uncovered. I probably wouldn't blow things out of all proportion or harass the founders or users of Stack Exchange. I mean, what likely conspiracy is there going to be found here? I don't think there's any blood diamond trading.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I would write a book about a spy story. Maybe I could involve aliens too, and write something similar to X-files. I was a fan of X-files.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: I'm really having trouble imagining what sort of worthwhile conspiracy Stackexchange could possibly be involved in. "Oh my god, this answer on ELU says 'already' is an adverb when it's clearly an adjective! And when I try to correct it, they revert the answer! Clearly, the world is going to end!"


Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic The Hedgehog asked: What do you plan to do to assist the site outside of responding to flags and standard close/delete maintenance?

KitFox KitFox answered: I would continue to hang out in chat daily in order to be available for help. I would spend extra time leaving comments on new questions and answers to help new people feel more welcomed. I would also increase my involvement in Meta, to help make that a more helpful and welcoming complement to our main site.

simchona simchona answered: I would continue to be available in chat in case users had questions about how to use the site. Recently, some users have been coming to chat with more basic questions, and I think helping them will cultivate a strong community.

J.R. J.R. answered: I would like to remain an active user. I would like to spend more time explaining why I closed questions, if I closed them - that seems to be something that is perceived as callous sometimes. But, as I've answered in other questions, I don't have an agenda, and I'm not looking to make big changes. I believe the community does a good job policing itself overall, and I'd like to moderate in a delicate fashion.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I want to get meta working harder to define the direction the community wants to take the site, regardless of the direction I'm interested in. I want to present questions there I find dubious and get the community to discuss their merits. Of course, I'm in chat a lot and I will continue to be there a lot to help with immediate queries, and generally keep the incomprehensibility or the room at the high standard we expect.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: I think the best way to help this site along is to ask good questions and give good answers. I'm sure the added workload of site moderation can make this difficult, but it's what I plan to try to do.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: Are you aware of the Summer of Love? If yes, have you noticed any changes in your behavior or that of others?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: I'm reading it now, Kicking off the Summer of Love

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll continued: I think with regard to the Summer of Love problem, that can be solved with a Reputation Reset, or a Reputation Decay algorithm. That's how Ubuntu solved this anyway. Reputation there is constantly decaying. And, personally I think giving your StackExchange character a lifespan of five years and just resetting his EXP is probably an easy system to implement and quite effective. Just strip him of his reputation and require a name change.

KitFox KitFox answered: Yes. No.

simchona simchona answered: I knew that the Summer of Love was going on, and I have noticed a change in my own behavior. I've seen more changes on Stack Overflow, seeing as the Summer of Love has been posted on MSO. I've tried to be more patient and understanding, but I haven't noticed a marked change on ELU. I think ELU tends to be pretty helpful, for the most part.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: Yes, I am aware. I think I'm trying to be less snippy, and I think other are too, but that might be confirmation bias talking.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: mu?


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: Does it even make sense for us to have a blog anymore?

KitFox KitFox answered: It doesn't seem like we have a strong enough core group of people to maintain the blog. Good idea, but not feasible right now. So no, the blog has pretty much been abandoned and I don't see any motivation from the membership to get it going again.

simchona simchona answered: I think that, as a tool to get more people into the site, it might be worth another shot. There are also some questions, like Barrie's, which might be better answered within the blog. However, if the community isn't interested in the idea, I wouldn't push very hard at reviving it.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: There is no reason to delete it. It has useful information in it. I want people to get excited about the site again and want to blog about EL&U. We should keep it. Hopefully we'll be able to rouse people's interest in it again.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: Yes, it makes sense to have a blog. I have read some posts in the past, and I found them interesting. The blog is a perfect complement to the main site, and the chat.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Gah, the blog. I tried, I really did. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. In fact, it still seems like such a good idea - on paper. In practice, I really don't know whether it's worth the effort to try to continue it.


Evan Carroll Evan Carroll asked: Do you think a Democracy online where every user had the ability to vote on everything by way of referendum could be more successful than a representative democracy that required us to form a hierarchy and classes?

  • Cerberus Cerberus remarked: I don't know: populism is a very serious danger. The only experiment in history that I am aware of damaged society in bad ways, in ancient Athens.

    Evan Carroll Evan Carroll responded: That was never populism, Athens was notoriously restrictive in who got voting rights.

    Cerberus Cerberus replied: But it was direct democracy. Even with 1/4 of the population voting, the effects were at times disastrous. It was strong populism.

    Evan Carroll Evan Carroll responded: So you believe in a ruling class? That's a prime difference between me and you.

    (...continue following the conversation)

J.R. J.R. answered: If every user was a responsible user, that would work just fine.

KitFox KitFox answered: No. It is difficult to rule by committee, and nearly impossible to rule by simple majority. Of course, if you are talking about answering questions on SE, then sure.

  • Evan Carroll Evan Carroll remarked: Who said anything about committee? And, why can't people rule by simple majority? That's who rules on what questions appear on the front page. And, everything on Reddit is decided the way.

simchona simchona answered: No--I feel that there are some users who won't know what they're voting on. StackExchange has very low voting restrictions, and I feel that it isn't as hierarchical as one might think

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: No. I think both are faulty. What people want is not the same as what is good for them. And most people don't even know what they want, let alone what's good for them. Also voting on everything is time consuming. The hierarchy present in e.g. UK government is also a problem. What would be better is for people to trust each other and treat each other with respect, working autonomously and co-operatively. Voting should only be used when there is no other way of deciding.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: History proves that a representative democracy has an infinitely higher chance of actually working.


Shog9 Shog9 asked: You opt to close a poor question, and at 3AM the next morning get a phone call from the author, who has tracked you down and is now loudly damning your terrorist soul to hades. How do you respond?

KitFox KitFox answered: I hang up. I notify SE administration.

simchona simchona answered: Roll over and go back to sleep. A rested mod is a patient mod.

RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA answered: call Cerberus, duh. Hades is his specialty.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: tell them not to phone me again and hang up. record the time and date of the phone call. If they call again, inform them that I am recording their call and will use it as evidence in an harassment suit. I will record each call until I believe I can take them to court for harassment.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I just hang up.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: Hang up, note the caller ID info, and notify SE in the morning.


RegDwight АΑA RegDwight АΑA asked: What's the most recent book you've read, and how long ago did you read it?

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Conversations through Consensus. About 2 days at a bar.

simchona simchona answered: I'm currently in the middle of Freakonomics, and I just finished Talent is Overrated

KitFox KitFox answered: I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems. About 3 hours ago.

KitFox KitFox continued: For my personal reading, it was Pale Fire by Nabokov and I finished it last week.

J.R. J.R. answered: Leaving the Ivory Tower by Lovitts. Finished it earlier this year.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I read some of chapter 2 of Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring last night.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: I assume this doesn't include books I've read to the niece? Timeless by Gail Carriger, finished oh, about three weeks ago.


Shog9 Shog9 asked: You receive multiple complaints about an active user, alleging he is waging a personal vendetta against those who've disagreed with him by indiscriminately down-voting their posts, going so far as to create sockpuppet accounts to amplify his voting power. Upon examining the user's history, this suspicion appears plausible. What do you do?

KitFox KitFox answered: I ask an experienced mod to look at the evidence I've assembled, ask if there is anything else I should look for, and then ask what to do next.

simchona simchona answered: If there is an active user who is making trouble, the first thing I would do is come to him with facts. If there is a plausible explanation for the results, I would listen. However, if it seems like there is still some doubt I would go to the other current mods. No suspension should be a unilateral decision

Evan Carroll Evan Carroll answered: Wow, great question. I would turn over all of user history immediately to a third party for examination to make sure that wasn't just a frame up by Stack Exchange. But, if all pans out I would request a meeting with the user to discuss his behavior. If, that was not satisfactory I would defer the decision to the community at large, assuming his behavior posed no immediate threat.

J.R. J.R. answered: To be honest, I'd first confer with other mods who have been doing this for a long time. I'd let them train me on standard procedures for handling such abuses in the system. After I felt sufficiently trained, I'd be able to take some of the load off their shoulders.

  • Evan Carroll Evan Carroll remarked: Why not ask the users what they want, rather than the moderators. The users are the community that elects you. You serve them!

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен answered: I'm not sure what tools are available. My first step would be to present the evidence to the user in question (via email or private chat). I would explain that the evidence suggests that the accounts in question are being used in an unfair manner, that is against the rules of the site. I would ask them to explain. If they cop to it then I would offer them the opportunity to prove they understand the rules.

Matt Эллен Matt Эллен continued: If they deny it I would explain that if we see the behaviour continue then all involved accounts would be terminated and the user would be banned from the site.

kiamlaluno kiamlaluno answered: I consult the other moderators. It's something a single moderator can decide alone.

Marthaª Marthaª answered: What @KitFox said.

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