In connection with the 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, June 16th at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 4:00 pm EDT 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.

20 Answers 20


I'd be interested to hear how candidates feel about the existence of English Language Learners, and whether/how they intend to preserve/promote the distinct identities of the two sites.

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    I'd like anybody at all -- moderator or visitor -- to distinguish between them with actual precision. I can see no difference, frankly. – John Lawler Jun 10 '14 at 0:33
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    @John: Which is a view held by many, as evidenced by upvotes for your comment. I personally think that they are (just about) distinguishable already, and I'd like to see a clearer demarcation. By implication, I'd favour ELU mod candidates who endorse the existence of ELL and would seek to define/maintain a clear boundary. But it seems quite reasonable for a mod to say he has no opinion on ELL (or even a negative one), that ELU is an autonomous site which independently defines its own scope, and that the concept of a distinct identity for ELL is thus irrelevant. We all want to know, though. – FumbleFingers Jun 10 '14 at 11:45
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    Well, then, why stop at one extra English SE? Why not start three more, and let them all define their own "distinct identity"? This is basically why I asked the question about opinions; it seems to me that opinions are what we are all about, and there are certainly lots of them about English. – John Lawler Jun 10 '14 at 17:52
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    @John: I haven't had chance to read your "essay on Unix language" yet, though I'm certainly looking forward to it. At the risk of anticipating what it'll be saying, surely you wouldn't cite the significance of such perspectives as evidence that ELU should be merged with SE's Unix site? I agree SE site boundaries (indeed, boundaries between all "spheres of knowledge") are somewhat arbitrary. But I think the difference between learning to use English and learning about English is often useful, and worth embodying in an ELL/ELU split. (That's just my opinion, obviously! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 10 '14 at 18:09
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    I have no views whatsoever on merging ELU with any computer site; I've never even contemplated the idea, and I hereby do not contemplate it now. That essay was written almost 20 years ago to showcase Unix to linguists. – John Lawler Jun 10 '14 at 18:11
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    @JohnL - Perhaps there's not a hint of difference, but maybe that's because many folks are posting in one place when it would be a better question in the other. I'd say many questions are intuitive for a native speaker, but puzzling for a learner (like, "What is the difference between a good person and a nice person?" or, "Shouldn't cherry pick be cheerily pick?" or, "What does it mean when someone says, 'I was hoping to catch you'?" If we'd collectively welcome dozens of such questions on ELU, then merge the sites; if not, keep them separate, because they're fair questions. – J.R. Jun 11 '14 at 16:14
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    (cont.) A key difference I’ve detected is the kind of answer typically sought. On ELL, OPs often ask for some confusion to be cleared up, or for confirmation about something they are unsure of ("Which preposition do I use? Do native speakers really say this?"). On ELU, OPs are looking for something richer ("Why do we use this preposition? How did this phrase come about?") Exceptions may abound, but comments like “Factive predicates presuppose their complements” might be a bit of overkill on ELL, yet much appreciated on ELU. We could cater to both audiences here, but is that what ELU wants? – J.R. Jun 11 '14 at 16:14

Here is a set of general questions, gathered as very common questions asked every election. As mentioned in the instructions, the first two questions are guaranteed to show up in the Q&A, while the others are if there aren't enough questions (or, if you like one enough, you may split it off as a separate answer for review within the community's 8).

  • 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?
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    I would suggest that two mods need to agree on whether to close a question as being duplicate, off-topic, or POB. All too often this decision appears to be unilateral, and at times, taken in haste. The consensus of two mods would guarantee greater objectivity and hopefully, limit those instances where a question is put on hold based on a question's title and not on its content. – Mari-Lou A Jun 9 '14 at 22:47
  • @Mari-Lou: But SE itself seems to be heading in the opposite direction! Five of us have just been granted the ability to unilaterally close certain duplicate questions, even though we're not mods. Whatever - if you think the mods are too autocratic (I don't), it's not obvious to me how forcing them to back each other up would change things. Besides which, they normally leave closevoting to us "ordinary" users anyway - we're the ones you should be moaning at. – FumbleFingers Jun 9 '14 at 23:38
  • @FumbleFingers five votes for closing, and/or re-opening questions seems more than fair to me. A mod can make mistakes, however competent he or she may be; an extra pair of eyes is always a bonus. And why is one vote enough to close, but five always necessary to reopen? I don't think I've ever seen a mod reopening a question that is on hold. I believe there are two mods whose voices we never hear; both of whom were once active and whose contributions I greatly admire, but I feel their "silence" do not help the remaining three mods who bear the brunt of the work. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '14 at 3:15
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    @Mari-LouA I think you do the mute moderators an injustice; they do an enormous amount of essential cleanup work behind the scene. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 10 '14 at 17:41
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    @Mari There are five mods. Two of us are often in chat. The others communicate with the community as needed. If you haven't heard from them, you haven't needed to hear from them. Don't mistake silence for inaction. – Kit Z. Fox Jun 10 '14 at 18:26
  • @KitFox I have limited myself to observing the mods' activity on ELU, which includes posting answers, closing answers, warning and suspending users etc. I did ask in a previous question if the mod(s) was more active in chat, and never got a direct reply. Am I allowed to name names? I don't want to embarrass or point an accusatory finger at anyone, nor am I interested in becoming a mod myself, but I'm not one to make rash assumptions, I usually do a minimum amount of research to check that my impression has some foundation. – Mari-Lou A Jun 11 '14 at 6:40
  • @Mari-LouA: I turned your first comment into a question since it seems to be well received and I think it makes an interesting topic of discussion for the election. If you want me to remove it, let me know. Also, feel free to edit or improve it. – MrHen Jun 11 '14 at 15:07
  • @MrHen OK by me :) – Mari-Lou A Jun 11 '14 at 15:12

A lot of questions get asked. Many users find that these undermine the quality of the site.

What is your stance on single word requests?


Do you believe EL&U is sufficiently welcoming and friendly to new users? If not, what do you think should be done to change that?

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    Please don't interpret my downvote as an "unfriendly" gesture. I'm simply expressing my opinion that I don't see this as a particularly important quality that might help us choose between candidates. Apart from anything else, if they're actually asked this question, every candidate is going to be in favour of a friendly site. And realistically, is anyone who finds the current situation unfriendly likely to stay around long enough to become a credible candidate for moderator? I would also just add that ELU is a Q&A site, not a social networking site. – FumbleFingers Jun 9 '14 at 22:39
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    ...and yet, every SE election I've seen this year has had a question about the tone of the reception that new users receive. Are we alone so wonderful that we don't need such a question? – phenry Jun 9 '14 at 23:09
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    @Fumble I'm pretty sure we were asked this question in the last election. Also, I think it is useful to ask candidates what their strategy is for interacting with new users, etc. – Kit Z. Fox Jun 9 '14 at 23:09
  • @KitFox: I'm pretty sure I voted for you last time, and that one of the factors was that I thought you would be relatively "welcoming" (specifically, I think "tolerant" was the exact quality). I don't want to make a big deal of my position on this matter though - all I mean is I don't see the site as particularly unfriendly, so I don't see any real reason to ask candidates about their position, which kinda suggests there might be some problem that needs "fixing". – FumbleFingers Jun 9 '14 at 23:27
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    @FumbleFingers: EL&U is widely seen as very unfriendly, or such is my impression. Even yesterday I witnessed a rant of that sort in the Frying Pan (I can give you a link if you want), where those present agreed that EL&U was very unwelcoming and inaccessible to outsiders, without my prompting or asking them. I have to say I mostly agree with them, as I have done since approximately mid-2011. As to your "realistically, is anyone who finds the current situation unfriendly likely to stay around long enough to become a credible candidate for moderator?", inspice et iudica. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 10 '14 at 21:42
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    I don't know how credible I am, but the less-than-overwhelming response to the prospect of this question even being asked at all has convinced me, much to my own chagrin, to throw my own hat into the ring. – phenry Jun 10 '14 at 21:46
  • @Cerberus, phenry: I'm aware this is something of a "polarising" issue for ELU - but it's worth noting that this question actually has more votes in total than many others, so it's not that people simply don't have opinions about it. It's also worth considering whether what you see as "unfriendliness" might often be nothing more than the fact that some ELU users tend to be rather curt when addressing questions that should be asked on ELL. I see that often enough (and I admit that to my shame, I do it myself sometimes). But I mostly put that down to lack of a "Migrate to ELL" button. – FumbleFingers Jun 10 '14 at 22:11
  • @Cerberus: What's "the Frying Pan"? If it's ELU chat, I'm not sure that counts as representative of "ELU is unfriendly". The only substantial "unpleasantness" I can remember in recent months on the main site involves one of the mod candidates on this page, who I won't name because the matter is dead and buried (would be more so if I hadn't brought it up here! :). I'll just say it's not phenry, who I always find civil and tactful at the individual level (though understandably, he sometimes rants against the site as a collective entity! :). – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '14 at 12:26
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    @FumbleFingers: It is the chat room for cooking.stackexchange.com. // I think I know which candidate you mean. Or, actually, there are at least two who were involved in such episodes. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 12 '14 at 18:52
  • @Cerberus, thanks for pointing that exchange out. Searching for references to this site in network-wide chat transcripts is very educational. Few people outside our own chat rooms have anything good to say about the prevailing culture here. – phenry Jun 12 '14 at 21:19
  • @phenry: Yeah, and you and I are a small minority within EL&U. But of course people are quick to criticise close-knit groups, so perhaps the criticism should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I think there is at least some truth in it. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 13 '14 at 4:58
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    @Cerberus - I'm not sure how small a minority you're in. The Bring Back the Summer of Love question got plenty of attention. – anongoodnurse Jun 15 '14 at 3:20
  • As a quiet lurker that asks the occassional question and will be voting I have two points to make: 1. Yes, you all are unwelcoming which is why I don't participate here more. 2. The irony of @Cerberus acknowledging how unfriendly this place is viewed while closing his/her statement with latin, for what? Added pompousness? – Ryan Jun 16 '14 at 20:38
  • @Ryan: I am unfriendly because I choose to communicate with a friend in Latin? I see no reason to lower the bar of my own scribblings. When have I ever been unfriendly to newcomers or to you, except in this comment? – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 16 '14 at 20:42
  • @Cerberus I don't find your reply unfriendly. I do find the use of Latin to be unnecessary. You say, "lower the bar of my own scribblings." Except this is the Q&A, and while Meta is a bit more lenient it does little to help the cause of this site if a new member, potentially non-English speaker has to not only try to figure out English comments but whatever "inspice et iudica" means. If you want to chat in other languages with friends there are better places to do it, such as Chat. If you don't agree with me, fine. I'm offering my perspective on the friendliness of this site as a non-regular. – Ryan Jun 16 '14 at 20:58

How do you resolve differences of opinion between yourself and the general community? For example, if you have strong opinions about what questions should remain open or closed but there is a significant portion of the community that disagrees, what would you do about it? Would you ever override the community opinion and act as you think is best? Would you ever defer to the community entirely?


How can we distinguish native from non-native participants?
Should we?

The reason it's important is that non-natives need facts; native speakers can tell whether something sounds good or not. And native speakers are largely ignorant of the facts about their language -- because where are they going to learn them? not in grammar school, that's for sure -- and frequently misrepresent things. Non-native speakers are subject to very different linguistic forces, and sometimes take this nonsense seriously. As a former ESL teacher, I'd hesitate to recommend either site to English learners.

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    Sidenote (//obligatory sorry for being off-topic): John, I just read your piece on The Unix Language Family. Wonderful work! Cheers. – njboot Jun 10 '14 at 7:43
  • I split up the questions into two posts. Hope you don't mind. – MrHen Jun 10 '14 at 14:43
  • I doubt whether many of us were born in EL&U. All non-bots are no doubt native to physical countries. (But could you explain why you think moderators should or should not be concerned with distinguishing between native and non-native speakers?) – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 10 '14 at 21:47
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    I'm not specific to moderators; this is just an opportunity to raise the question. The reason it's important is that non-natives need facts; native speakers can tell whether something sounds good or not. And native speakers are largely ignorant of the facts about their language -- because where are they going to learn them? not in grammar school, that's for sure -- and frequently misrepresent things. Non-native speakers are subject to very different linguistic forces, and sometimes take this nonsense seriously. As a former ESL teacher, I'd hesitate to recommend either site to English learners. – John Lawler Jun 10 '14 at 23:35
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    @JonhLawer - the issue is an interesting and you are right in your comments. My take is that an official distinction between native and non native may create a sort of 'prejudice' in those who read the answers. Though a native speaker may be more aware of some specific word or expression usage in everyday life, especially local and slag usage, that doesn't necessarily mean that he/she can give a better answer than a non native speaker. Would an average native speaker be able to deal with a site like this? Plus, there are non-native speakers that have degrees or qualified courses of study ./. – user66974 Jun 11 '14 at 7:05
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    ./. in "native" Schools or Universities. How could we classify them ? Class A non-native to distinguish them from class B non-native? I think that answers can speak for themselves, and any error or inaccuracy can be easily corrected by users. Thanks – user66974 Jun 11 '14 at 7:06
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    @JohnLawler: I've edited in your reasoning as I think it's an important part of the question. Feel free to remove! – Hugo Jun 13 '14 at 12:08

What is the most convincing reason we shouldn't make you a moderator?


(This question was copied from John Lawler's post in order to split the questions up.)

How much of "English Language and Usage" is, or should be, opinions?
Whose opinions?


Will you be available in chat for questions related to the site? What topics are you willing or not willing to discuss?


What should moderators do about edit wars? Specifically, instances where two or more users rapidly edit the same post in an attempt to undo or override the other's edits.

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    This question is focused on a specific example of resolving drama but the point is to listen to how candidates approach problems like this in general. – MrHen Jun 9 '14 at 23:09

Do you intend to use your moderator vote to close questions* before the general EL&U community have had the opportunity to review them ?

*that are not obviously spam, but may be considered off-topic, primarily opinion-based or unclear what you're asking


Do you think mods should take a backseat or use a hands-on approach? Why/why not?


As a moderator is there anything you could do to encourage users (old and new) to provide more detailed and comprehensive questions and answers?

Related to the above; what is your opinion about edits? Are users doing enough to improve the legibility and quality of posts? What would be your policy or primary concern when faced with a post written in poor English?

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    ...and hopefully discourage the practice of providing short, incomplete answers as comments. – long Jun 16 '14 at 1:47

(This question was based on Mari-Lou A's comment since I thought it was a particularly interesting topic.)

How do you feel about a rule of needing two mods to agree before closing a question as being duplicate, off-topic, or POB? Should such a rule be a "soft" rule or strict?

All too often this decision appears to be unilateral, and at times, taken in haste. The consensus of two mods would guarantee greater objectivity and hopefully, limit those instances where a question is put on hold based on a question's title and not on its content.


(This question was copied from a question asked during the 2012 election.)

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?


This is a bit of an extension of John/FF's questions... If ELU stays as a separate entity as ELL, how do we ensure that the people answering the questions don't belong on the ELL?

It is pretty easy to moderate questions and close them off. But I find that the biggest issue with the site is the users answering. Being a long-time SE user and one that uses many SE sites I get that you will have people answering questions without the "right background".

What happens is you get really bad answers. Those answers get downvoted and the user flails. But that doesn't work here because of the ELL/ELU issue (as pointed out by FF's question).

We have several users that are obviously not native speakers (John points this out) that answer a high volume of questions. Some of these users have been near the top of the leaderboard lately. They answer everything, seemingly using reverse dictionaries. They edit their answers 20 times based on comments and after finding out the first 10 things they put were incorrect. Often the 20th thing isn't much better or isn't explained with the right context.

Often they take answers from other users or simply take another answer and use a thesaurus to answer a question. This isn't rocket science. We all know who these users are.

So my question is what do the candidates think about these users? What can we do about this situation?

Personally I come to the site to learn. I find some of the accepted answers and highly upvoted answers ridiculous at times - so much so that I am not learning, I am doubting my own knowledge. I feel that these "answers" detract from the site and also halt good answers/discussion. These answers usually come with some sort of "proof" that taken by itself might answer the question but put in context they are absolutely incorrect.

Not sure how other people feel - but I just get tired of reading a half page of "research" from a non-native speaker doing a reverse dictionary on stuff that just doesn't make sense. I can downvote these things and I do. And I can upvote the good answers buried underneath and I do. But that doesn't make up for the 20 nonnative speakers that already upvoted the wrong answer, which goes back to FF's question.

  • This is a great question but unfortunately didn't make the cut for the official questionnaire. I'll think about this topic and post something relevant in the election chat when I get a chance. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/14995/… – MrHen Jun 17 '14 at 19:31

Would you continue to post answers and questions on EL&U while being a mod? Why/why not?


What's your favourite English word, and why?

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    Or most and least favorite, which are presumably two distinct terms. :) – tchrist Jun 13 '14 at 15:45
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    Right...at least one question about caring about content. – Mitch Jun 13 '14 at 15:48
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    This is a superb question. – RyeɃreḁd Jun 16 '14 at 20:15

Too late to propose a new question, I know, but it just occurred to me that nobody has asked about downvoting.

Very often users (especially new ones) are mystified as to why their questions are downvoted in such a brief period of time. Many perceive this feature as being hostile and unfriendly, afterall they came to ELU in the hope of getting a response not to feel "ridiculed" or criticized.

What is your position/opinion on downvotes that are not accompanied by any comments? When would you intervene? How would you handle a newcomer who complains?

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    You can stop by the election chat room and ask us there. A few candidates are hanging out answering extra questions. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/14995/… – MrHen Jun 17 '14 at 19:27
  • It's obvious that different people cast downvotes for different reasons, but they are not very helpful without at least a little comment which explains how a question can be improved. – Elberich Schneider Jun 17 '14 at 21:56

Would you continue to oppose to proofreading questions which are an essential part of the language learning. Why/Why?

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    I'm not running, but I can offer an explanation as to why this practice is discouraged across the Stack Exchange: As soon as the cat gets out of the bag that we are free proofreading service, we'll start getting a ton of draft resumés and such on the site. Moreover, most of these probably wouldn't be posted by people genuinely interested in "language learning"; rather, they'd be posted by one-and-done members simply wanting to get their prose improved, in order to improve their chances of landing a job, or getting their paper accepted. – J.R. Jun 12 '14 at 9:53

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