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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. It was decided that we would take the top 9 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us, for a total of 11 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!


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.

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?

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?

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

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?

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?

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

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.

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    Since these answers are so long and the signature block is way at the bottom, may I suggest putting your name at the start of your answer? – mmyers Jun 16 '14 at 22:23
  • @mmyers: That worked well. – Robusto Jun 17 '14 at 0:03
  • @GraceNote: How can they all have good luck? – Robusto Jun 17 '14 at 0:04
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    @mmyers It's more fun if they read the whole thing first and then try to guess who wrote it, but I'll add my name. – user11550 Jun 17 '14 at 1:36
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    I'd like to inform members that there is an ELU Election Chat which was specially created for the numerous questions people may have, which is visited regularly by mod candidates. Come by, please, and ask all the questions you want. It allows for discussion, not just short answers. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jun 19 '14 at 4:44
  • @Yoichi Oishi are you withdrawing from the election? You haven't filled the questionnaire and I'm wondering if that's because you are having second thoughts. – Mari-Lou A Jun 19 '14 at 22:04
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This is Mahnax, by the way—per a comment I have added my username to save you the trouble of scrolling all the way down to see who wrote this.

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.

Personally, I think that we have a tough problem on our hands with regards to ELL and ELU. There is overlap between them. I am currently not in favour of a direct migration path to ELL because I don't wish to see questions migrated there willy-nilly. The many different opinions on the matter convolute the issue, but at present, I think the best option is to continue upholding high standards and dealing with questions as they come to us, and recommending ELL to users as appropriate. Further, I believe that community discussion regarding the direction of ELU is necessary to determine what standards we wish to uphold. This is necessary because of late, I have seen so many comments lamenting the harsh standards we hold, or points of view like the one expressed by phenry in this very thread. If a discussion on our standards takes place and some sort of agreement can be reached, then I believe the next step is to wait for ELL to exit Beta. Following that, discussions with the moderators there can take place to determine whether they even want questions migrated from us at all. It's long-term, and I recognize that my views don't provide a quick fix. In my opinion, that's necessary.

As for migration in the here and now: if I were to be elected moderator, I would most certainly become more familiar with not only ELL itself but also its moderators, and I would engage in discussion with them before allowing any migration. As representatives of ELL, they could provide insight as to whether questions are or aren't a good fit better than I could as a visitor. ELL has its own rules and regulations, and since a migration path is not currently in place, I believe it is best to allow it to function as an entity that is largely separate from ELU, with few exceptions. There is too much disagreement at present—and not enough input from ELL—to mandate any action on our end at the current time (with specific reference to migrations).

To summarize: A true discussion about our standards must take place, which brings up other issues (like those that will be addressed later in this answer). For now, I am happy to treat ELL and ELU as separate.

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?

If this user was regularly hostile to others, I believe a private discussion about respect and following the guidelines that are currently in place would be in order. Failing an improvement in conduct, I would consult other moderators about the situation before taking any specific action myself, given the user's helpful contributions. I would like to note that I do not think I would issue any sort of punitive measures towards anyone without consulting other mods, especially in the beginning stages of my time as moderator.

At the end of the day, though, if you are disrespectful to other users, I don't care how good your contributions are. Everyone is subject to the same rules about conduct, and I see no problems with issuing a temporary ban/suspension/etc. if it is truly warranted.

Of course, if the arguments in question are simply a little hotheaded and not so disrespectful, a discussion of a different kind would be necessary—essentially, a reminder that civility is important. Longer discussions may take place in chat with fewer restrictions, but the same rules regarding respect would apply.

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

The obvious answer is to discuss it with that moderator. Failing any sort of agreement there, I might bring it up in chat and ask for the opinions of other users, or ask a question on meta about it. If I am in the minority, I will defer to the community. If the community supports my views, I would discuss once more with the other moderator, and then I imagine that their actions would likely be reversed.

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?

I agree with many members here about SWRs: if they are poorly researched (or ridiculous) I see no issue with closing them. Good SWRs, examples of which can be found in the numerous threads on this subject, are perfectly fine, in my opinion. My views on this topic are not particularly revolutionary.

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

I disagree with the notion of distinguishing native from non-native speakers. Anyone, regardless of ability, is technically capable of producing quality content. If the content is weak, it will be treated as such regardless of its source. If it is strong, the same applies. I do not see any reason to paint native and non-native speakers with broad strokes. Being an avid enthusiast of English does not require fluency.

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?

I would not override the community. In the case that there is a major disagreement between myself and the community, I might raise the issue on Meta to provide further explanation of my point of view and to encourage others to do the same. Otherwise, I will only act unilaterally in cases of spam or abuse, or in situations where question closure, etc. is very obviously the right choice. If I overstep those boundaries, I am willing to reverse my actions and apologize. I tend to have strong opinions about questions, but I am always willing to hear what the community has to say and to act accordingly. As a moderator, I believe that I would owe them nothing less.

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?

Historically, I have noticed that many are offended by the lack of explanation for the closure or downvoting of their questions. If this is the case, Meta is available for objections, and the Help Center and comments are available for clarification. If experienced users were to be openly rude to new users—which is something I rarely see–then that would require action.

The other side of that coin is that many new users do feel unwelcome here regardless of our standards. The best response to this is to simply be as kind as possible when explaining why things are the way they are, and to treat them as human beings—not annoyances. We can always improve on how new users are treated, especially in cases where they are upset about our actions.

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

English is frequently subjective, and many questions require opinions to be answered. The best response I can think of is that voting will determine the extent to which the community agrees with any opinions presented as answers, which is a vital component of how ELU and SE as a whole both work. Anyone can present their opinions, which is fine as long as we are careful not to assert them as fact, and to be ready to accept those of others.

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

I have posted over thirty thousand messages in our main chat room alone. I am perfectly willing to discuss anything site-related there, as well as many things beyond that. When in doubt, ping: find out!

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

I don't have a lot of actual English expertise. While I am a native speaker with a reasonable command of the language, I am not an expert. I am an enthusiast. In this regard, I am not particularly useful when it comes to issues involving tags, as well as other things which require expertise beyond my own.

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.

At present, I trust our mods to do their jobs and remain within the bounds of reason when they act. I would hold myself to those very standards were I elected. As for necessitating two mod-votes to close a question, I hesitate to see the point. If a moderator does something with which the community disagrees, it can almost always be reversed. This is a key feature of how SE works. We have many users with various privileges and lots of them use them. I say we trust our moderators and our community to work things out, as they have for years. Altogether, the checks and balances in place are sufficient, in my opinion.

Thanks for grinding through all these answers. As always, I am available for clarification on any issue both here or in Chat. Thank you.

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    I don't doubt that to reopen a question is possible but it is true that by the time it does get open, that question's shelf-life has already expired. And I have seen questions be closed by one mod after only two hours (or less?), which surely is too rash. Don't you agree? – Mari-Lou A Jun 17 '14 at 5:27
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    Well, without knowing the specific situation, I hesitate to just say "I agree". But in many cases, especially those where there is room for debate on whether the question should remain open, a swift closure is likely not appropriate. In cases where the question is utterly unintelligible, spam, or a really obvious duplicate (think of "a vs an"), though, I think that a moderator is acting within their right to close. Personally, as a moderator, I would let the community do much of the closure and instead utilize comments and do my work elsewhere—flags, etc. – user11550 Jun 17 '14 at 13:32
  • @Mari-LouA: Why do you think ELU questions have a shelf life? Some related thoughts: (a) We have one of the best answered rates across the entire StackExchange network and our Unanswered queue is currently under 200 questions. (b) At any point they feel it is appropriate, high-rep can view the most recently reopened questions to help provide answers (c) AFAIK, reopening a question bumps it on the recent/active list which would somewhat "renew" the shelf life anyway. – MrHen Jun 17 '14 at 14:26
  • @Mari-LouA - I'd like to inform members that there is an ELU Election Chat which was specially created for the numerous questions people may have, which is visited regularly bu mod candidates. Come by, please, and ask all the questions you want. It allows for discussion, not just short answers. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jun 19 '14 at 4:45
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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.

My relationship with ELL would be to work with their moderator team to understand which questions they feel are appropriate merge candidates. I would not support merging questions that would also be on-topic for ELU but I would much rather see a question merged and answered than simply closed and forgotten.

I don't have any particular interest in helping define ELL's purpose -- I think that is a question more suited for their community and their moderator team to figure out. But I would do my best to fully support them in their decision and I am comfortable working as a liaison between their community and ours.

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 do not feel that "arguments" are inherently bad as long as they don't impede the function of the site, don't clutter up the comments too much and don't cause ill will or uneasiness among the community. Ideally, any lengthy arguments would take place in chat -- and would take place with mutual respect between participants.

Therefore, my first action would be to understand whether the behavior truly is negative in nature or simply an overly zealous user who cannot contain their passion for debate. I would also discuss the user's actions and behavior with the full moderator team in order to get as much information about the situation as possible.

If I felt further action was necessary, I would then attempt to resolve the situation by contacting the user privately and discussing the issue. I would want to know whether they are aware of the controversy and whether they would be willing to help lessen any negativity during the arguments.

If the behavior of the user does not improve I would then warn them kindly but sternly that ELU needs to keep an eye on negativity during arguments. Long comment chains that are flagged may be deleted or pruned as necessary.

If they still did not improve their behavior, I would discuss further action with the moderator team and look to the past to see what actions have been taken in similar situations. I would not progress further without strong support and advice from the moderator team.

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

I would contact them and ask them to help me understand the whys behind the action. I don't see a particular reason why my perspective would be more correct than theirs and I assume they would have a good reason for acting the way they did. I would not undo the action unless I had support from other moderators.

If there is constant debate about a particular topic than I would urge the moderator team to post a question to the community on Meta.ELU and would volunteer to write up the post.

If I felt that the moderator's actions were truly unjust or unbecoming I would still contact them first and then escalate the issue to the full moderator team and, if necessary, the admins.

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?

I have actually written many posts on Meta about single-word-requests (the most recent suggesting that we merge single-word-requests and phrase-requests tags) but I can summarize my opinion as such:

  • Some of these questions are interesting, valid questions but a great many of them are poorly disguised thesaurus questions.
  • I don't have an inherent problem with the tag but I don't think the tag is a valid excuse for writing poor quality questions or answers.
  • I think that users who have a distaste for the tag should:
    • Vote to close if they feel it is appropriate
    • Feel free to downvote questions they think are unhelpful or not useful for the site
    • Ignore the tag entirely and choose to leave the questions unanswered

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

I am not convinced that questions from native participants and non-native participants should be treated differently. Answers to questions should certainly take the asker's context into consideration but we should always remember that our purpose as a site is to answer questions for all users who visit. A non-native participant can ask questions that native participants find interesting or helpful and I welcome the alternative perspective non-native users bring.

Non-native users, however, absolutely should not be ostracized or ridiculed for their lack of knowledge. There is no excuse to berate someone for lack of knowledge while they are asking for assistance on that very topic.

That being said, I have no special way to identify such users. If I was curious, I would simply choose to ask them if they are a non-native speaker.

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?

As a user, I was very vocal about my opinions and fought hard to win others to my side of the debate. But as a moderator, I do not see that behavior as completely appropriate. My job as a moderator is to represent the community -- not decide things for them unilaterally.

As such, I would resolve the differences by engaging the community directly in order to understand their perspective, their wishes and their reasoning. I imagine most of this discussion would occur on Meta or in Chat. If the differences are not resolved, I will act in accordance with the community's wishes even if I personally disagree with them.

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?

I think that we can always be more welcoming and friendlier to new users. New users have a handful of extremely unique challenges and it is sometimes hard to remember how these users see the site.

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult problem to solve. My job as a moderator would be to calmly remind regular contributors that their actions are not always perceived in the manner intended -- new users visit from many different internet cultures. We need to go the extra mile and not assume that new users understand us.

The flip side is that we do need to protect our contributors from burnout. This means that we will act in ways that new users will find inherently unfriendly. Part of welcoming new users will be to help them understand why we took the actions we did and how they can avoid the issues in the future.

It is a difficult balance but one I take very seriously.

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

I don't have a direct answer to this question. ELU is an interesting topic for a question and answer site because there is a lot of subjectivity to a language's correctness. I am not actually that interested in debating how much of ELU should be opinions. I am more interested in expressing opinions honestly and sourcing evidence or experts when you can.

If a handful of opinions to an answer disagree, I expect the community to help resolve the issue with upvotes, downvotes, comments and by helping edit sources and evidence into answers.

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

I will be available in chat periodically and anyone should feel free to ping my username if they have topics they want to discuss.

I would be willing to discuss anything about the site, the English language in general, any questions about my particular actions as moderator or concerns about something that has occurred on the site itself.

I would not be willing to discuss the actions of any of the other moderators, general gossip about users or anything not directly related to the site. (You can still ask about these things; I just probably won't discuss them.)

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

I have a limited availability due to responsibilities in my career and to my family.

The second most convincing reason is that I tend to be very opinionated and fight very strongly for things I believe in. These opinions are not always in line with the core group of posters on Meta. My promise to you, however, is that I will tone down my argumentative side significantly if I were to become a moderator. I do not see moderators as "super users" -- I see them as representatives of the community and it is more appropriate for me to listen than it would be for me to dictate.

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.

I am of the opinion that moderators should only be closing questions they feel (a) are unambiguously closable as per the guidelines or (b) extremely low quality in order to "pause" the question for editing or clarification.

Therefore, I see a rule about needing two mods as counterproductive. In both of the above cases, the post should be closed as quickly as possible in order to avoid confusing askers or wasting contributor's time.

If a question is successfully edited and reopened by regular users, then the system is working properly. If the moderator feels that the reason the closed the question has been resolved and chooses to reopen the question, then the system is working properly.

If, on the other hand, the community reopens the question without any editing having taken place, I would urge the moderator to update their "insta-close" parameters to avoid closing similar questions in the future. As a moderator, this is the approach I would take.

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medica here (to save you the trouble of scrolling down to find out.)

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.

I believe ELL is a great resource and wholeheartedly support it. I would like to be able to migrate questions to ELL in a timely manner. There would be a reward in migration (a speedy answer) and less misunderstanding of how the two sites differ (I would comment on why I took an action so it hopefully wouldn't be perceived as a negative.) Finally, I think I would become more involved in ELL to get a better feeling for the types of questions that are actually better there, instead of just assuming. I was active earlier but stopped because I found I didn’t have the astuteness of getting to the heart of the OP’s question. I think that by looking at answers by higher rep users, and being amenable to advice, I could better understand the different approach to those, and be a better migrator.

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?

It depends; I imagine each situation is unique. I believe that most people are reasonable and don’t like controversy on their threads. With the flaggers' objections in mind, I would communicate privately with that user to try to get to the issues that result in the user posting answers or making comments which tend to attract flags. It might be as simple as asking the user to edit his posts if new information comes up, rather than argue his point in comments, or encouraging him to let his post stand on it’s own. Maybe the user has issues - e.g. former perceived mistreatment - that need to be addressed in a fair manner. I think I can do this. In any case, I think communication and willingness to resolve an issue on both sides are key. If the user wasn’t responding at all to repeated attempts at intervention, I would seek the participation of the other mods.

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

First I would communicate with that mod to discuss it. I'd like to learn their reasons for closing (I am still relatively new here). I’d support the mod, and also the guidelines proposed by the site. If I had good reasons to continue to disagree, I'd discuss it with all the mods. That's as far as I'd take it, though.

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?

Though some are fun, challenging, and produce very interesting answers, mostly I find they are often poorly researched, don’t provide enough context to avoid a guessing game. Sometimes that's annoying (and at worst, they can be demoralizing). Some seem to be posted for shock value or to generate a lot of traffic and hopefully(?) rep. I've offered my opinion in meta. But they are allowed, so we (who aren’t too fond of them and/or what they do to the site) are left with trying to improve their quality.

If we consistently asked (and expected) OPs to show their work (chip away at the EL&U as dictionary/thesaurus/personal platform), some of the posters would find their own answers. Asking for context would help make them better questions. If those who don’t like them down voted, that would be helpful as well. What can I do as a mod? Not much more than any user: make sure to comment, try finding/closing if dupes, link to How to ask. Maybe see if we can make the FAQ clearer, and closing of truly poor examples easier.

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

I see no reason to distinguish native from non-native participants. Native speakers often don’t understand well how the language works, and have valid questions. Many non-native users have more understanding than native speakers and have very interesting questions. Questions should be allowed to stand, be moved, be closed, or be down voted on their own merits. Low quality answers can be commented on, down voted and deleted as it stands now.

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?

I would defer to the community. I’m interested in serving it, not manhandling it. I've reopened questions I had close voted before; I had no problem doing so. If I really felt strongly, I’d assume first that it was me who was mistaken. I'd learn from the mods already in place. I'd refer to the site guidelines carefully to see where I went wrong. I might change a really offensive word or phrase from the title. But that's pretty much all I can imagine doing.

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?

No, I don’t. A lot of comments to new users are snarkier than they need to be (at the OP’s expense). I understand the frustration, though, when members repeatedly see poorly worded questions. I'm not above bad days, or annoyance at the thousandth newbie who wants his homework handed to him on a platter. My goal is to get potentially good new members to stick around and participate by making sure their reception is friendly.

What I could do as a mod is to migrate appropriately; what we can all do is be a little more patient and welcoming of new users; find duplicates which might answer the question; explain (educate) why the question is currently a poor fit for our current model; edit a question to make it better (an option I’ve used only sparingly, but with more comfort than initially). Also communicate with new users. Many new users agree with a comment if it concerns migration, and ask to be migrated or make an attempt to better their question. I’ve seen this also with other users’ constructive comments. Some are insulted no matter what. This meta post helps me.

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

Who doesn't have opinions about language? I don’t have a problem with opinions, as long as they relate to English language and usage. Some very interesting questions are POB. But if it’s got little to do with language, or is really bizarre, I would vote to close them quickly. A question like "What are the overarching themes in book X", or this one, though, are too broad and are better answered on another site.

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

Yes. I’d be willing to discuss pretty much anything related to the site, maybe privately, without violating any privacy issues, etc. Not saying I can resolve everything, though. I think the site works pretty well. But to have easy access to a mod's ear is nice. I know when I've had questions and mods were around, it was very helpful.

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

Hmm. I was hoping this question wouldn't be picked, because to be honest, there are more than one. First, I haven't earned the trust of a lot of the people here. I've done things I'm not proud of. Though I've participated a lot, I was new, didn't know some of the rules, and didn't take the advice I'd give myself now. I think I'll leave it at that.

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.

I think it would make more work for the moderators, and would delay the closing of questions that really should be closed. But if that's what everyone wants, I'm fine with it. I think what the present mods have to say about this is a lot more valuable than my input. I'm here, though, expecting to work, whatever that looks like.

Thanks.

  • Hi medica, I appreciate the fact that you choose to run for the moderator elections. As you pointed out you are a "young" member in the community, but very active also and that, I think, may compensate. Reading the comments about the propositions of most candidates I can see that there are no big differences in what most of you would like to do to improve the site. I'd like to ask you if you have a priority or an issue that according to you needs more immediate attention than others and should be dealt with soon. Cheers and Gook Luck! – user66974 Jun 20 '14 at 8:08
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This is P. Henry, or as you may know me, phenry.

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.

English Language Learners as it exists today is fatally flawed and should not be allowed out of beta in its current state. If it is recast specifically as an ESL site, I believe it will provide a service of great value to thousands of people.

Some history: ELL was proposed in June 2012 as "English as a Second Language," as a site that would be geared specifically to the needs of ESL/EFL students and people who were not native speakers of English. Almost immediately, this restriction was challenged by people who wanted it to be a site for "questions which are too basic for ELU." The restriction was removed, and the name of the proposal was changed to "English Language Learners." In October, Area 51 closed the ELL proposal on the grounds that there was no clear difference between ELL and ELU, then reopened it two days later after a tremendous backlash, mostly from high-rep ELU users. The ELL public beta finally opened in January 2013 after one final plea from the Area 51 moderator to restore some kind of coherence to the ELU/ELL distinction by returning ELL to its original vision as an ESL site. This, too, was rejected. And so we have the mess we find ourselves in today.

What I find incredibly striking is that many or most of the people who complained the loudest about the ELL proposal being shuttered currently have less than 600 reputation on ELL itself. ELL was shepherded to creation in part by people who, from all appearances, never had any intention of using it themselves as anything other than a garbage disposal. Is it any wonder its mission remains incoherent to this day?

So: Restore ELL's original name and mission, and move it to esl.stackexchange.com. Designate it as a migration target for ELU, and encourage ELU members to (kindly!) direct non-native speakers there. Tolerate questions from native and fluent English speakers at ELU, even ones that we might think are "too basic." And happiness will reign across the land.

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 reach out to the user in an effort to help them understand that they are being disruptive. If the user doesn't respond to outreach, I would not hesitate to support disciplinary action up to and including suspension and banning. We have a large number of very knowledgeable answerers here, any number of whom would quickly fill any vacuum left by a departing problem user. No single one of us is so valuable that the community can't afford to lose us if we begin to create more problems than we solve.

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

Ideally, moderators at this site should only use their unilateral close power in cases where a question is very clearly useless and unsalvageable. Everything else should be handled by the close queue. We don't have the kinds of close queue problems that other sites have: I work the queue almost every day and I don't remember the last time there were questions still remaining in the queue after I had run through my 20 daily votes. So when a moderator unilaterally closes a question that's a legitimate judgment call, that's a real problem.

If it's an isolated case I would want to contact the other moderator and inquire about their reasons before taking any action myself. If the moderator in question is someone who routinely closes questions that would have had a reasonable chance of surviving a close vote, judging by the results of past votes on similar questions, I'd feel a lot more comfortable just reopening it and saying "Let's let the voters decide."

A lot of single-word-requests questions get asked. Many users find that these undermine the quality of the site. What is your stance on single word requests?

Single word requests that get answered quickly and definitively are fine: someone wants to know what you call the person who draws blood at the blood bank, someone else says they're called phlebotomists, the answer gets accepted, and everyone is happy. Let's not pretend that those of us with high reputations haven't made them on the backs of such questions. The problem is with the "Is there a word for…" questions that may not even have an answer, yet no one is really comfortable answering "No, there is no word for that," because it's conceivable that somewhere in the OED there lurks the perfect answer, a word that hasn't been used in 400 years.

While I don't favor shooting SWRs on sight, if a SWR sits around for a few hours without any answers other than stupid wild guesses, I favor closing it as Too Broad. I would be willing to decrease that waiting period for those "Is there a word for that feeling you get when you stub your toe on a Thursday when there's snow on the ground and…" questions that are never going to have any decent answers and everyone with voting privileges knows it immediately. Whatever criteria we use should be explained in the help center so that closings don't appear arbitrary and people can learn how to write better questions.

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

I think it's reasonable to make a distinction between fluent and non-fluent speakers, if not native and non-native. Non-fluent speakers ask different kinds of questions than fluent speakers, and benefit from different kinds of answers. I would prefer not to frame it as a distinction between native and non-native speakers, in part because I think that skates close to some really ugly territory, but also because I don't think it's either necessary or appropriate—surely none of us would ever wish to tell my fellow moderator candidate Yoichi Oishi that he's not welcome here, for example. But saying that ELU is the place for fluent speakers of English and ELL (if recast as an ESL site, as I recommend) is the place for non-fluent speakers would be both entirely appropriate and helpful to both populations.

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?

This is an interesting question. On the one hand, I'm running pretty explicitly as a reform candidate, so my election would be a pretty strong indicator of a mandate for change. On the other hand, I don't believe that change is best accomplished by upsetting the apple cart. I would be extremely reluctant to unilaterally override a community-voted closure except in very clear-cut cases. I would prefer to use my bully pulpit to help drive a change in attitudes so that dubious closures don't happen in the first place. (From what I can tell, currently about half of the close votes fail anyway, so I don't believe it's either inappropriate or particularly unlikely to expect that this change can be brought about.)

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?

It should be noted that this question—variations on which are practically standard at SE elections—nearly wasn't asked here. Despite receiving the third highest number of upvotes among potential moderator questions, it received so many downvotes that it almost didn't make the cut. That so many people were opposed to this question even being asked here is striking evidence of the need for it.

Obviously I believe we're not nearly as friendly and welcoming as we could and should be, but you don't have to take my word for it. Bring back the Summer of Love (aka Make new users feel more welcome) is the 17th highest-rated question on our meta site, and it's less than 3 months old. It's rare for such a new meta question to have accumulated that many votes. Only 3 other questions from 2014 are in the top 20. So, are non-native speakers not welcome any more? is less than a year old and it's ranked 15th. Few people at other SE sites have anything good to say about the culture here, if chat transcripts are any indication: We're negative. We're stuffy and haughty. Dismissive. Unwelcoming. Snobbish. Elitist. It keeps coming.

As I wrote when I announced my candidacy, I don't actually want this job. There's a huge part of me that absolutely dreads the (highly unlikely) possibility that I will win. The only reason I am running is because I feel ashamed to be associated with a site that has this kind of reputation. I don't see enough being done to change it, and I don’t see how I could continue going along with it without at least trying to change it myself.

The most controversial post ever made to our meta site, with 17 upvotes and 11 downvotes, is a post I wrote in January titled This is not a site for “serious English language enthusiasts,” and it never will be. If you're at all interested in my vision for this site, you should go read that, as it's the closest thing to a manifesto I've written. The most important thing to take away from that post is that the title isn't a statement of my position—it's a simple fact. There are two factors that ensure that ELU will always be seen as a general English site rather than an advanced site: our size (we're the 6th largest SE site in terms of overall traffic), and the fact that we live at english.stackexchange.com. Our poor reputation stems from the fact that a small number of high-rep users who hold power here refuse to accept this fact, and continue to cling to the illusion that ELU could ever truly be a site for "serious English language enthusiasts" only. It can't. It won't. Not at this URL and with this user base. Not ever. I challenge anyone to put forth a reasonable argument that this is not the case.

It is only by accepting what this site is and treating it as such that we will solve this problem.

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

In one sense, all of English is about opinions. English has no official language institute comparable to L'Académie Française. Consequently, English is what the people who speak it say it is. This is true even of basic grammar and orthography, which can vary significantly from dialect to dialect. When people ask "Is it proper English to say X," what they're really asking (whether they realize it or not) is whether X is perceived as orthodox in particular contexts, settings, and registers—in the absence of elaboration, this typically means educated middle-class white people in the US (except the South) and the UK (except the North). To our credit, we mostly get this right, preferring to talk about what is "appropriate" rather than what is "correct," and warning that certain things "will be perceived as poor English" by whatever group the questioner is hoping to make an impression with.

The upshot of this is that we have a different relationship with opinion than do the math and science SE sites, where π has the same value everywhere in the universe and has for all time, and nobody's opinions about it matter. As I wrote here, not every question that involves opinions should be closed as "primarily opinion-based." Sometimes citing opinions—for example, the opinions of usage panels employed by dictionaries or universities—is the only way to answer a question.

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

I'm not a big fan of online chat in general, but I would be willing to put in the time as I am able. I can't think of any topics I would not be willing to discuss, as long as they're relevant.

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

If you disagree with my vision for this site, you absolutely should not vote for me.

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.

I agree with this rule for the reasons I outlined above for the "How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been" question. Moderators should not be using their unilateral close votes on judgment calls. It's disrespectful to the close voters and to the community at large.

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    So, wait. You want to not just encourage, but require, fastest-gun-in-the-west answers to SWR questions? How does that make any sense? – Marthaª Jun 17 '14 at 4:51
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    Connected to Martha's criticism, remember also that not everyone shares the same time zone, European users may see a SWR several hours later than an American user. To close a question after, (what?) three hours because there are no answers smacks of intolerance and impatience. I don't believe you are either but your answer seems to imply otherwise. – Mari-Lou A Jun 17 '14 at 5:21
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    I'm a bit confused about your answer to the ELL question. You start out by calling it "fatally flawed" and then go on to say it's not much more than an "incoherent garbage disposal." Yet, in order for "happiness to reign across the land," it seems like you're not asking for much more than a rename. So, it's all mucked up as-is, but if we just renamed it, we'd all be in utopia? Your history is well-researched, but your solution seems a bit idealistic. (BTW, I believe ESL was a floated name early on, but was shot down because, for many learners, English is a 3rd or 4th language, not 2nd.) – J.R. Jun 18 '14 at 20:22
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    @J.R. I'd like to inform members that there is an ELU Election Chat which was specially created for the numerous questions people may have, which is visited regularly bu mod candidates. Come by, please, and ask all the questions you want. It allows for discussion, not just short answers. phenry is pretty easy to reach there. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jun 19 '14 at 4:43
  • @Marthaª - That's more of a description of the situation we have now. SWRs that have clear answers get answered quickly. SWRs that seek words that don't exist sit around collecting bad answers and random guesses. I'm not married to any particular time frame; my main desire is that voters hold off on closing SWRs until it's clear that they're unlikely to get any good answers. – phenry Jun 19 '14 at 18:57
  • @Mari-LouA - Same as I said above: if a SWR sits around for most of a day and hasn't got any good answers yet, what's the likelihood that's going to change? Nevertheless, I don't have any objection to keeping them open longer, if that will help. My answer is mainly aimed at keeping SWRs from getting closed too soon, not too late. – phenry Jun 19 '14 at 19:02
  • @J.R. - I'm less concerned about the name than about the fact that ELL has been set up to fail by ELU users who only ever wanted a place to throw their garbage. For ELL to succeed, it must be carefully scoped as a place for speakers of other languages who are not yet fluent in English, and ELU must tolerate questions from fluent English speakers that are currently being rejected as "too basic." – phenry Jun 19 '14 at 19:06
  • @J.R. During the runup KitFox provided a further very cogent explanation of why EFL/ESL is unsuitable here (and now I see you advanced the L3,L4...Ln argument on the same occasion). – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 19 '14 at 22:22
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This is Andrew’s answer...

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.

ELL provides a forum for those learning English — those who need to be able to express themselves in terms of “Third Forms” and the like. Having learned English in a different way, I find the sort of didactic answer which learners need rather difficult, so I haven't participated much.

I do believe that ELL has a use. It is clear, though, that that use is not as a dumping-ground for poor questions asked on ELU. A poor question is a poor question and shouldn’t be migrated anywhere. One definite use is in providing answers to questions where the question is obviously based on a grammar book, as answers there are likely to be in a form which is useful to the asker.

As I wrote in a Meta answer, there may be a case for the english.SE url to point to ELL rather than ELU.

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?

Flags need to dealt with, as a community can take only so much disruption. Comments would need to be removed, and the standard warning added about comments being intended to request clarification. Continued misuse of comments would need to be handled via private channels. I would hope that it wouldn't be necessary to proceed to suspension, but limited suspensions or an indefinite suspension as a last resort may be needed to enforce a period of reflection.

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

Privately! Firstly in a private chatroom, probably, or via the Teachers’ Lounge (I think that’s what it’s called) so that other moderators might express an opinion. I may not have noticed something; there may be some history I’m not aware of; I am open to persuasion. Equally, the other moderator may not have recognised something worthy which I saw in the post.

A lot of single-word-requests questions get asked. Many users find that these undermine the quality of the site. What is your stance on single word requests?

I have no issues with well-written questions. I do have issues with poor questions, where there is no evidence of research, no context, a ridiculous request or any combination of the above. I’ve tried to use comments to get the authors to improve their questions, but if they haven’t done that reasonably quickly then I’m not averse to seeing the question put on hold.

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

We can’t, and we shouldn’t. One of the candidates in the current election is not a native-speaker, and at least one existing mod is not either, but it’s very difficult to tell. Questions and answers should stand or fall (or be migrated) on their own merits, never forgetting that any post can be edited to improve its chances.

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?

As I said in my nomination text, these days I comment in a bid to assist users in formulating a better question and wait. If other community members feel that the question should be closed, then fine. I do find duplicates quite well, but even there I’d be prepared to re-open (or not object to another mod re-opening unilaterally) if it was shown that the duplicate didn't in fact match.

The community must always trump moderators. As it only takes five votes to close or re-open a question, it doesn’t even need to be a “significant portion of the community” which disagrees. And where a moderator acts in a way which doesn’t have that sort of recourse, there are comments (which can be voted on) or Meta to raise a voice.

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?

I think that the site is sufficiently welcoming; or at least, it’s as welcoming as other Stack Exchange sites. I don't think people should simply rock up and post a one-line question. I do believe that the site is better for better questions, and I believe that better questions get better answers. People who want a good answer come to Stack Exchange, but should be prepared to put a bit of effort in themselves to help the community provide that. Those are the basic ground rules across the network.

There is probably scope for comments to be less brusque within the space available; but comments are just that — comments, to elicit clarification or explain something which can’t go in an answer. “Welcome to ELU” is succinct, and Stack Exchange sites are not forums or message boards.

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

There isn’t an Académie Anglaise, so every answer is an opinion. A good answer can justify that opinion, however, either with references or with concrete examples. Even references are just opinions at the end of the day though, and it does appear that one or two published authors are trying to push their own agenda with how the language should develop. I have no problem with answers expressing contrary opinions, providing they can be substantiated: it’s up to voters to choose between them (and the asker to accept one).

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

Yes; I’m logged in a lot of the time and can be pinged for questions relating to the site. I’m not willing to discuss topics not related to the site unless I instigate my participation.

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

I don’t suffer fools gladly. Of course, sometimes that’s a virtue: I stamp on spam and rule-breaking sockpuppets ruthlessly.

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.

I can’t say I’m in favour of the idea. By definition a moderator’s decision is unilateral, as they have a binding vote, even if another one agrees with the decision. If a question is put on hold because of its title and the content points to something different, then it’s a poor question because it’s unclear, and something needs to be sorted. Edit the question or its title, put a comment on it explaining matters and flag for moderator attention — or preferably cast a vote — to get it re-opened.

3

Matt Эллен's answers

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.

I like ELL. It provides a great platform for questions that ask about the parts of English that most people (native and non-native alike) take for granted but don't require deep understanding of English to understand. That's not saying a deep understanding of English wouldn't help in answering the questions.

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?

Evaluate the situation. Maybe it's not the user but the flagger that is at fault. If it is the user then I would ask them about their behaviour and try and clarify their point of view. If they continue to be disruptive I would confer with other mods and come to a consensus about whether keeping their good content is worth the hassle.

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

First step I would talk to the mod. If what they did makes sense after that I'd leave it. If I disagreed strongly enough I'd ask the community what they thought and leave it to them to decide. We have plenty of people with reopen votes within the community, one unilateral decision should not trump another.

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?

I do not mind single word requests that follow the guidelines that we already have. Ones that fall outside those guidelines should be closed.

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

I do not believe we should. What we should be doing is distinguishing between questions suitable for here and ones suitable for ELL.

People who ask questions may not know how to differentiate between ELL and EL&U. That's fine. Mods are able to migrate for a reason.

ELL is a great site. Having a question migrated there is not a punishment, or a mark saying "you ain't no good at you're english", or anything negative at all. Migration is a good thing that will put your question among questions of the same type.

Questions at ELL are for people looking for rules to follow about how to use English, it's for teaching people how to communicate in English. EL&U is about describing how the language is, how it came to be, it's about intricacies and nuances and discovery.

Neither site is just for beginners or just for native speakers.

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?

If there is a polarising situation and the whole community disagreed with me I'd have to reëvaluate my point of view, but the fact that I am part of this community means that I tend to be part of the majority.

I'm not inflexible. I change my mind when I see compelling evidence to do so. I have voted to reopen questions I have previously voted to close. I undo downvotes and retract closevotes.

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?

Yes, I think we are sufficiently welcoming.

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

I don't know. I prefer as little unqualified opinion as possible. I prefer stats and citations to anecdotes in answers. I don't like questions that ask for unqualified opinions.

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

I'm in chat for a large portion of most days. I'm not willing to discuss my personal life. I tend to shy away from topics I don't know anything about.

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

If you want big sweeping reforms and major changes to the way the site is run, don't vote for me.

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.

I think that often overstates things drastically. People make mistakes. These mistakes can be undone. These mistakes don't happen often enough for it to be a problem.

3

oerkelens' answers:

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.

I feel absolutely, positively great about the existence of ELL. From day one of my activity on ELU, I have been active on ELL, sharing my time between both. As I got to know ELU better, I found out there was and is quite some controversy, but most of it surprised me. Having arrived around the end of last year, I actually found it just a very sensible thing to have a separate site for the specific kind of questions that people run into when they are learning the language - and I never had a big problem seeing a clear distinction.
There is a good raison d'etre for both sites, and what distinguishes them may not so much be the questions as the expected answers.

I feel that cooperation between the sites should be encouraged. A question that obviously arises from a text-book exercise or language course should gently but firmly be moved to ELL, but on the other hand, questions that dive deeper into the intricacies of the language should be brought home to ELU if they are asked at ELL. And sometimes questions can very well be asked and answered on both sites - albeit from a different angle.

Defining the scope of both ELU and ELL is not something that one community can do without the other. I think that in cooperating with the moderator team from ELL, defining a clearer scopes and identities will help clear up the grey area that exists today and seems to annoy too many users.

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?

If the user does not show any willingness and/or ability to improve the commenting behaviour I would not hesitate to sanction them. Yes, there is a risk of losing a valuable source of good answers, but in a healthy community there are more of those sources. The important thing is that someone who is a source of disruption can do much more damage to a community than a "steady stream of valuable answers" can do good.

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

I would probably contact the other moderator to (possibly strongly) suggest to reconsider their decision, providing arguments for my point of view. It is likely I would look for a way to improve the content of the question, to clarify why the specific question deserves to stay open.
If we do not agree and I feel strongly enough about the question staying open I would probably ask a third party (moderator) for their opinion.
More interesting is the situation where I would develop a tendency to disagree with a specific moderator's (closing) action, but I cannot easily imagine a situation where a good talk about moderation guidelines would not bring solace. And I certainly do not intend that to mean the other moderator has to agree with me - I have been enjoying ELU because it helps me learn, and I have no intention to stop learning.

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?

They have started to bother me a bit lately as well, especially when the focus seems to eb on the fact that no multiple word expression should be considered as an answer. If someone is looking for an expression for a cold, delicious snack often enjoyed in summer, I feel ice cream is a good answer.
The tag might be broadened to encompass concise expressions. I feel most often, if the question is legitimate, the point is to find a concise way to express an idea. That, I feel, is certainly something that has a place on ELU.

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

I don't think we have to distinguish them, even if we could. The distinction is often only artificial, and the assumption that a native speaker can "feel" if something sounds right and a non-native cannot certainly doesn't hold water in many cases. Differences in syntax, vocabulary and idiom between different dialects are so distinct that one could argue that to apply "nativity", one should include the dialect - making the subject non-native in all other dialects.
More important is, if we want to make a distinction, the fluency in the language. As for answers to be tailored to the needs of the asker, I don't think they should be. Answers should be tailored to the question. We are a Q&A site, and if I am looking for an answer to a question, I do not, as a non-native speaker, want to feel the need to ask the same question again because the original question was asked by a native speaker. Ideally, any good answer is useful to native and non-native speakers alike, as long as they are linguists, etymologists, or serious English language enthusiasts.

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?

The community is leading - if I do not understand what the community wants, I will try to find out the reasons. Meta is a perfect place to raise such issues. Overriding community opinion is not something I would see myself do. That also questions whether I would defer to the community; yes, I would. I probably will look for clarification, and probably bring arguments for my point of view on meta, though.

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?

I think it could be worse.
That said, it is not great. I remember when I started having the feeling that ELL was the more welcoming site of the two and in order to get started at ELU I had to test the water. Still, I lurked enough not to experience anything bad when I started posting. I do notice, however, that sometimes new users are quite rudely made aware that their question is not up to par. It wouldn't hurt if the community in general would take the time to explain in a bit more detail what is wrong with a question or what could be improved. To kindly steer someone to ELL if needed (instead of "sending them off") and maybe to use the edit-button a bit more often. I do realise however, that even when one starts on this with vigour, after the first day and ten new users, it gets tiresome. In that case, sometimes it is better not to make any remark at all, instead of telling off the new user in some short sentence.
I would like to encourage people who notice that behaviour in other community members to give an example of how it could be done, and if the comments are really negative towards a new user, please flag them as inappropriate. I believe that unwelcoming behaviour is inappropriate.

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

All of it should be. Mine of course! Well, there are very few matters in language about which everyone agrees, and certainly the English language, with its lack of a central authoritative language institute that German, Dutch and French have, its very wide geographical spread and its countless dialects and regional idioms, has its more than fair share of arguable issues.
I would always value any opinion based on it's argumentation, credibility and possibly source. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", so while I do not discourage someone to give a well-formed opinion, even when he does not have five grammar-books to back it up, when the opinion leaves the realm of the generally accepted and recognizable, I would insist on the owner of the opinion providing strong and convincing evidence of its validity. I do trust that the community plays an important role in deciding which opinions they value and which not.

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

Yes, I am normally available on chat during the evenings (at GMT+1) and I am always looking forward to feedback. As long as the topic is ELU-related, there is absolutely no topic barred, and when it is not, very little is. I will not respond to dating-proposals though.

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

You are actually looking for someone with a completely different opinion and outlook on ELU and / or its relationship to ELL, and you prefer someone more authoritarian.

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.

The idea is similar to the appointment of two consuls in Rome, to circumvent the risks of tyranny. A great idea, and I can see the merits of it.
However, I am not sure that this is the right way to deal with a moderator's hasty decisions. A moderator should be able to react quickly and decisively, without having to wait for a second opinion. An instant close-vote carries a responsibility, and a moderator should carry that, well, responsibly. If a decision gets counter-acted by the community (a closed question gets reopened, for instance), a responsible moderator would see that as an opportunity to learn and avoid closing similar questions in the future. They might raise a question about it on meta. That is what I think a responsible moderator should do. Therefore a two-vote-close rule does not seem necessary, unless there is an overwhelmingly good reason to accept moderators who do consistently not handle their one-vote-close responsibility to the satisfaction of the community. As a moderator-moderation tool, I think it is worth looking back at Rome: the two consuls became three. Then only one remained... and I am not sure that that one had the community spirit on his agenda.

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