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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Due to the lack of submission count, we have selected all qualifying provided questions as well as 2 of our back up questions for a total of 10 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. Oh, and please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written.

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

Good luck to all of the candidates!


How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

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?

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

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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    $\begingroup$ I wish biology.se were a more welcoming place for non-scientists and the public. reddit is often just as good a place to find experts with answers but i don't see them telling the public they need to go elsewhere. the moderators can set that tone with patient rewriting and encouragements not the 'close' link. $\endgroup$ – shigeta Jun 20 '15 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @shigeta - I agree. I think it is the tension between keeping quality and investing time in questions. I really enjoy upgrading mediocre questions to great ones. I have seen poor, downvoted questions being lifted to well-received questions with great answers by providing a little guidance. It might not give rep, but it does feel great ^__^ $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jun 21 '15 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ @shigeta after a point trivial questions are just unbearable.. That is just my feeling. Why can't people learn to put in some effort? $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 21 '15 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG imho the moderators should be more people oriented and tolerant than average because we are a public forum. Helping people actively as opposed to quick-flagging them seems preferable to me. Where that line is drawn is depends on each candidate's temperament. That's just one of the questions i wish to be considered here is all. $\endgroup$ – shigeta Jun 22 '15 at 14:47
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AliceD

(1) How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

A good question based on an incorrect presupposition constitutes one of the best opportunities to write a fine answer, because one can explain what is wrong, and explain what the real question is and answer it. However, when the question is controversial and leads to dispute and debate, mod intervention may be needed to end it. The mod can comment to indicate that the discussion is fueled by a faulty presupposition. If this does not lead to clarification by OP and the debate rages on, the question can be mod-closed based on “unclear what you are asking”, if not done so already by the commmunity.

(2) 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 start with placing a comment under the answers that generated most controversy. If that doesn’t help, I would invite the user into chat and talk it out. I would stress the value of the answers, but point to the shortcomings. Often, the user should be urged to base answers on primary literature, as most comments and flags are generated from answers based on opinion, or unsupported/anecdotal evidence. Also, pointing the user to linked good answers may help as well. If all is in vain the mod may need to start deleting answers to urge the user to improve the quality, and ultimately email contact may be needed.

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

Place a comment and go to the chatroom and work it out.

(4) What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

I am patient in general, forgiving to newcomers, yet critical to established users. I have a PhD and I am a parent, so I have proven I can handle complex situations of all sorts and deal with people in a wide age range under many different circumstances.

(5) Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

I haven’t had a previous position as a mod. However, I do know what I find the most challenging situations so far at Biology.SE. First, there are users that generate many well-researched questions, but they are simply unintelligible, or too specific. Although they may meet most criteria, these questions often stay unanswered without intervention. The other challenge are users that generate well-written, well-researched answers that touch on the question, but do not answer them. Converting them to a comment is impossible due to their length, closing them based on ‘not an answer’ is not justified, as it touches on the question. However, leaving it in place basically deters other users from answering or results in clutter and controversy.

(6) There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

The homework close reason is used as a tool to close poorly researched questions. In fact, few questions closed as homework are homework. I think the homework close reason should be used only for homework. A new reason could be generated such as poorly researched. I see many active users being frustrated by questions that can be answered by copy-pasting the question in Google – the dreaded lmgtfy questions. A lmgtfy close reason would be justified in addition to the homework reason, keeping the homework closure for those cases where it is dead-obvious they want you to do their homework. Lastly, trivial questions, e.g. “Why do we have two hands?”, are not homework either. No professor will be stupid enough to ask that as an assignment. Closing it as homework feels almost like an insult to our site, because it makes us look unprofessional. Instead, a trivia close reason is justified.

(7) What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

Many questions hold potential, but do not find fertile ground because of language barriers, jargon conflicts, not knowing the site's rules, poor knowledge of Biology and so on. In these cases, I as a mod would try to edit the questions and place comments. The downvotes should not come from me, the community will handle that. In case of lazy ‘please-do-my-homework’ questions downvoting will not help too much either, because those folks don’t care anyway– those questions should be closed, preferably by the community through voting. In case of potentially interesting questions, but that needs polishing, downvoting is a great way to urge people to improve their question, but only with a decent comment accompanying it.

(8) Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

Broad questions can be commented upon. If not edited, the community has proven to do an excellent job in keeping the site clean of poorly defined questions without the need of mod interventions.

(9) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Apart from generating great answers and asking good questions, a mod should be mostly invisible when it comes to moderating the site. The community can handle 99.9% of the issues by voting. A mod should not start discussions- a mod should only end them when they escalate. A mod should not mod-close marginal questions, only close those that are outright offensive, rude or truly deliberately nonsensical.

An area where mods can be actively participating is to guide new users. For example by attempting to rescue questions by making careful edits and placing comments quick and promptly. Many questions, especially those by newbies hold great potential, but they just need some help. Rescuing a question from closure prevents scaring off new users away. Placing a comment after edits to explain what you did helps them to use the site better in the future. This site is built on questions. We should cherish those questions. In my opinion, formulating good questions is where the challenge is - answering it is the easy part.

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

My view is that newbies or folks from other disciplines deserve guidance. A substantial part of the questions that are being closed could have survived as valuable posts with a little attention. This view has been countered with skepticism now and then. Indeed, I have received the verdict of being too gentle and of spoon-feeding users. As a mod, I hope this view may not have to be defended anymore. My views can always be put to the test and modified, but it should be respected with a diamond added.

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How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

That really depends on the question. In cases of common misunderstandings of biology, correcting the misunderstanding in the question is a perfectly fine answer. But there are certainly cases where the incorrect presupposition makes the question meaningless, and where closure is the best option.

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?

The goal in such a case is to convince the user to change their problematic behaviour, if possible. A few warnings in comments and/or mod messages would be the first step. In cases where someone is just a tiny bit too argumentative in comments, I might decide that it's worth it to just clean them up periodically, even if we can't convince the user to change. In more serious cases, suspensions are inevitable if the user doesn't change their behaviour.

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

Ask for their reasoning in private chat. If that doesn't convince me, it's probably time to start a discussion on meta about this type of questions and get the community involved.

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

My experience as a moderator on Stack Exchange sites, and my experience with the moderator tools.

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

I've been a moderator since the beginning on Skeptics SE. Finding a way for this unusual site to work inside the Stack Exchange system wasn't all that easy. It helped a lot there that the initial moderator team had pretty much the same idea for the site, and we managed to convince the community to adopt strong rules about references and notability.

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

This topic need much more space than a short answer here. I think our policy here needs some work, but finding a balance is tricky. I don't like the focus on effort, as it doesn't necessarily correlate with question quality. I'd think about making the actual homework policy a bit stricter, it's still easy to evade e.g. by just throwing out a few guesses on a multiple choice question. I'd like to require users to ask more conceptual questions about assignments, instead of just asking for the solution with their own guesses thrown in.

Low effort often leads to bad questions, those can be closed for many different reasons. This issue really needs more discussion in the community, it's far from simple. Closing questions that are "too simple" is also a problematic idea, this has been done with the "general reference" close reason on other sites, and it turned out to be problematic on most sites.

While I'm generally skeptical about explicit close reasons for questions that are low effort or too simple, this is not a fundamental disagreement with the users that want these reasons, even though it might look like this. Most of the questions that could be closed with these reasons are bad in other ways as well. I think we need better rules for these questions, but we have to be careful with it.

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

Question quality is something the moderators alone can't influence much. The community needs to actively participate by closing and downvoting low quality questions. Voting is important, both upvoting and downvoting.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

Many broad questions can only be made more specific by the asker, we can't read minds and know what they're actually interested in. In those cases they need to be closed until the asker can edit them. Some questions can be made less broad by other users, then editing is a good course of action.

Leaving broad questions open is even more problematic than for many other close reasons. If the question is made more specific after answers are already present, those answer might not be valid anymore. And that just leads to annoyed users and sometimes even more trouble.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Handle situations on a user-level, and not per post. These are situations where the community doesn't have the necessary tools. Moderators handle exceptional situations, and anything that needs differnt tools than the ones available to the community.

Moderators also clean up the site, deleting non-answers is probably the most common mod action.

Guiding the community on meta, and participating or starting discussions about rules and scope is important as well.

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

Moderators do a bit more than 10k users. The difference in the parts 10k users can also moderate is the binding vote. While this means that as a moderator I'm generally more careful about using my close and delete votes, it also enables me to act more decisively. Quicker actions are sometimes very useful.

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Chris


How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

This is something that really depends on the question. Some of these questions can be re-directed to the sceptics site.

Others come from an incorrect understanding of the biology behind it. As our goal is to help people learn, I think for these the best way would be to write an answer and to explain the points which come from the incorrect presupposition. It may also help to edit the question to prevent it from being closed.

Questions containing vague or grossly unscientific claims should be closed as they cannot be answered in a good way.

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 think deleting questionable comments and giving the user a warning is the only way to deal with this. As we are a community there is no person more important than another and thus no one should be allowed to mess up with the others. It might also help to argue with this person using the chat function.

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

The way to handle this would always be to discuss this in the mods team (and the mods should act like one). In the case of a closed question editing and nominating it for re-opening (as a user, not a mod) is also a way to have other people involved in the decision of re-opening it.

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

I think my most important skills are being calm and patient, so I am not going to overreact and act without thinking. I also like to make decisions in a team.

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

Yes, I have been a mod in another community (actually two) and still am. There the most challenging aspect is always to find the balance between letting things run (which is ok 95% of the time) and to identify the topic which need help or intervention by a mod.

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

First I think we should get rid of the term "homework" and find a better explanation like "shows no effort in solving the problem yourself". I think the person asking should be at least show some effort to solve the question by themselves. This is difficult, as the background of the people asking question is rather different. So what we have to do is to:

  • identify questions which are simple homework questions close these
  • comment on low-effort questions and downvote them to show the person asking that there is something missing.

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

I think downvoting can be a useful tool, but it needs to be accompanied by a comment explaining the reason for it. It also needs to be reversed when the critique has been addressed.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

I don't think the mods should outright decide for all questions what to do. There is a good reason that the community on stackexchange.com has relatively wide permissions to flag, vote and decide on questions and answers and I think this needs to be respected.

As a user I would say:

  • close questions that are really to broad
  • leave a comment and ask them to be narrowed down
  • if these questions are a bit to broad, I would let them ferment for some time.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

I think a moderator should function as someone who oversees the community and who is present to solve problems and identify them before they get serious.

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

For me this difference will not be very great, since I already got over the 20k barrier. So it would allow me to moderate more efficiently, basically not by raising flags and let other people do the work, but by doing it myself. It comes with the responsibility to makle thoughtful decisions.

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Rory M

Hi everyone - there's already quite a lot to read through here so I'll try and keep my answers brief!

How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

I think that as long as questions are asked in good faith they shouldn't face any moderator action. Answers can point out the flaw and askers can hopefully be helped in understanding where they went wrong. Certainly I don't think these questions should be closed, with the only exception being where we are being trolled.

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?

This would largely depend on what the flags were being raised for. Obviously we want to keep users around who are producing high quality content, but rules such as 'be nice' apply to high reputation users just as much as anyone else. If a problem became a pattern options would include discussing the issue in a private chat session, sending a moderator message or even opting for a timed suspension.

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

This is a tricky one because there is no way for moderators to cast a non-binding vote that would put the question in the reopening queue. It is a real situation that has arisen a few times in the past, however I think we have to acknowledge that there is some degree of subjectivity in moderation and that we will have differing opinions occasionally. As the other moderators view is just as valid as mine I can't think of many situations where I would be the only vote-to-reopen cast, although once there were three community votes I have tended to add mine in the past.

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

I am a good communicator and have already have experience of moderating a Stack Exchange community - indeed this community!

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

I have previously had moderator roles on a few online forums as well as Biology Stack Exchange. On other platforms discussion can often turn much more personal than it tends to on SE and sometimes it can be difficult to take a step back from 'flaming' directed at you. This is easier to deal with on Stack Exchange as moderators are still allowed to raise their own flags - allowing a colleague to deal with the situation impartially.

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

I understand fully why homework questions (or general reference) questions are not included within the scope of the site. Lately I have been concerned that users are receiving a negative response to the questions they have asked, with them being closed without any real explanation in comments or attempts to help the user formulate the question better. This isn't a great experience for someone who may be new to Stack Exchange. Whilst I'm not saying that we should immediately review our policy on homework questions I think we need to revisit our FAQ here on Meta and ensure that we have a good resource to refer people to explaining the rationale behind the decision.

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

Downvoting is a tool like any other and I think can definitely be used to encourage question quality. I think we need to be careful to leave comments and revisit any question we have downvoted to see if improvements have been made and the vote can be reversed as positive reinforcement. I feel downvoting is less effective for new 1 rep users as they don't understand the system as well, referring to help pages and asking for an edit is more appropriate in these cases.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

Closure isn't the end of a question and since the introduction of the on-hold system can be used as a way to educate users. I would vote to close these questions (alongside the community if relevant) but leave comments trying to help the original poster and encouraging them to [edit] their posts for reopening.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Largely handle flags on comments and negatively voted answers - as most of the rest of moderation is taken care of by the reputation system. As our group of 20k users grows in the future moderators can take a further step back and deal with the edge cases as they arise as well as promoting debate on site policy.

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

Being a moderator for the last three years has led me to have a good idea of which content requires moderator action and also which way the community is likely to view an issue. The main advantage gained by moderator powers over that of high reputation moderation powers is the speed of resolution of problems given by the binding vote system.

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How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

This largely depends on the context of the presupposition being made. I do not expect a user to know everything about biology, otherwise they would not be here asking questions. Smaller errors where the OP has tried to ask a sensible and logical question are generally ok, and will often be dealt (telling the person it is wrong) with by the community in the form of comments or answers, after which the question can be edited, and if it becomes an invalid question then it should probably (and normally will be) be closed by the community. However, the problem of a false premise could suggest that the question has been poorly researched, if this is the case it will likely lead to rapid closure. I think this community on BioSE is generally quite forgiving of genuine mistakes (vs. false presuppositions that come from laziness), a false premise should not necessary lead to closure - it is still an opportunity to give a useful answer.

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?

Whether a user provides ten good quality answers a day, or posts an answer once a year, they are still potentially valuable members of the community. It is almost inevitable that a regular user will, at some point, have a disagreement. If this seems to become a frequent problem then it is worth having a discussion in the chat, or by private message, but this must be done delicately - firstly I would add a comment suggesting that the discussion should stop, then I would allow both (or all) users involved in the discussion some time to cool off before entering in to a discussion about the frequency of such problems. While we should value our regular users, we should also be wary that one aggressive regular user may prevent many more becoming regular users.

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

The first step for me would be to chat/comment with the other mod to see exactly why they closed the question, hopefully we can reach an agreed stance over the question, if not I would respect their decision (unless I felt very strongly that they were wrong) and try to appreciate why they might feel the question should be closed. The community also has the power to comment on closed posts, and reopen posts, and these would be important sources of information before taking action.

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

I think I am good at coming to reasonable and considered judgements, rather than getting hot headed. Generally I am good at seeing when a disagreement is escalating and able to diffuse the situation.

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

No, but hopefully soon :)

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

Often it is made clear in the comments to such questions that the homework closure is being used because of poor research effort. While most homework questions get closed because of poor research effort (i.e. lack of attempt to problem solve first), sometimes users get confused as to why their question is closed as homework and this can lead to conflict. It may be better to (re-)introduce a poorly researched closure vote, or redefine the homework closure reason to make it more broad to cover all poorly researched questions, with a specific reference to homework help being problematic.

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

Over the last few months it seems the biology community has become better at using their votes, but I think more can still be done, and often downvotes are cast without any kind of feedback to the OP - feedback is really important otherwise they will not understand why the downvote occurred, and won't improve in the future. We need to encourage feedback, while also having active discussion on Meta about standards of quality.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

This crosses over somewhat with the previous question. Because most questions come from non-biologisits, while the site is aimed at students of biology, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the site properly focussed in terms of quality. Questions should be welcome as long as they are relevant (have some biological concept at their core) and well considered - broad and poor questions are often difficult to give good answers to, however, many of the best answers come from basic level questions. Generalising whether I would close such questions is impossible and these would have to be done on a case by case basis.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Personally I think the main role of the moderator should be to keep the peace and promote a welcoming and productive atmosphere, forums/Q&A sites are a hotspot for heated debate. Discussion should not be quashed but the moderator has a responsibility to allow all users to be treated equally, we should try to approach each situation fairly, regardless of the status of users involved, otherwise new users will be discouraged from becoming active members. I also think the moderator has to step back a little from roles such as answering questions, if the moderators are involved in every post and then it could feel that the site is being run in a less democratic way, that it is their site, rather than the community having ownership.

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

Becoming a moderator will not only allow me greater access to moderation tools (which are currently off limits to all but a few users over the rep threshold), but offer the opportunity to help push the site in the right direction, and I would generally base my decisions on the community more often, e.g. in situations where I may as a regular user be borderline about voting to close, I would allow time for the community to vote first, because as a moderator I don't think it would be fair to get the power to close borderline cases.

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fileunderwater


How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

It partly depends on the exact nature of the question. If the question is challenging basic biological concepts, based on no or blatantly incorrect information I think closing is a reasonable action. If the poster seems to be misunderstanding biological concepts, a suitable answer would explain the misunderstandings and point the OP in the right direction. Such situations can be excellent opportunities for explaining common misunderstandings.

The approach and tone of the poster can also be important, where you can often spot the difference between honest misunderstandings and trolling by e.g. questioning basic evolutionary theory.

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 problem is arguments and/or disrespectful comments, the best way to handle this would probably be to first discuss this in chat or by messages directly to the user, and later directly in comments. If the user doesn't respond to this and the behaviour continues over a long period of time, a short-term suspension can be reasonable, to show the seriousness of the situation. If the problem is flags due to e.g. poorly referenced answers I would probably post comments under the relevant answers.

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

I would discuss this in chat to try to find a consensus. If this doesn't solve the situation, and the issue is more general and/or fundamentally dealing with the scope of the site, an open discussion in Meta might be suitable.

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

During the last 2 years I've become quite familiar with the site, and I have been rather active in the Meta site. I also want to believe that I'm level-headed and fair.

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

No, I haven't.

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

Personally, I think the homework close reason should be expanded to cover more general cases of no-effort questions, without targetting homework specifically. Well formed homework questions, that includes an attempt to solve them, are defintely on-topic and should use the tag. To be clear, I'm not asking for an extensive background to every single question, but posters should provide context, background and initial ideas. I also think that it is useful to know the level of knowledge of the poster and what fields/concepts the poster thinks that the question is related to, as well as what they have tried/researched (if anything). A longer explanation can be found in my answer here. However, this is my personal opinion, and the issue should be discussion further within the community.

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

I think voting (both up and down) can be a good way to encourage and discourage behaviours, as well as clear and constructive comments.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

I think broad and unclear questions should be closed by the community, then edited and clarified, and then reopened. Some have argued for a "grace period" for closing questions, especially broad ones, which I feel is an unefficient way to handle the problem. The quality of the site will increase if we close unclear and broad (or generally poor) content, so that it can be edited, and later reopened. If the poster is of the hit-and-run kind, the question will probably be left unedited and later deleted, unless another user wants to "adopt" it and edit it into shape.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

They try to dissolve small problems before they become large problems, monitor the site for and deal with flags. If possible they should allow the community to handle as much as possible, but should step in to quickly solve some problems.

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

Mainly by being able to act quickly by using binding votes, but also by being able to guide new users with more authority, for instance when posting comments. Overall, the difference between an active high-rep user and a moderator shouldn't be that large.

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    $\begingroup$ Why is this downvoted? If you have an issue with a specific candidate's answer, ask them about it in a comment $\endgroup$ – Luigi Jun 22 '15 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Luigi Why are you complaining? If people don't like the answers or the candidate, they can downvote as they see fit and are not required to say word. $\endgroup$ – dustin Jun 23 '15 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ @dustin it's not a complaint, its a request for further information/clarification - in this case if someone disagrees with the answers given it could be worth pointing out why, that way fileunderwater can get a better sense of what the community are expecting from their moderators and actually end up being a better moderator for it. (Yes, you are not required to justify a down vote, but often it is good to offer and explanation, otherwise its quite pointless because its uninformative) $\endgroup$ – rg255 Jun 23 '15 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin I know it isn't required, but I feel like especially in this election setting we should comment on our reasons for disagreement. These are some of our most trusted users and we should be able to trust our mod candidates not to revenge downvote if we express disagreement with one of their answers $\endgroup$ – Luigi Jun 23 '15 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Luigi my reason is simple, I don't want this person as a moderator. Fileunderwater can clarify till the world ends but my stance will be the same. Happy? $\endgroup$ – dustin Jun 23 '15 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ The point of voting on answers is arguably to vote (and comment) on the actual answers, and not on the person writing the post (as is the case for all other answers as well). Everyone will get their chance to vote (or not vote) for the candidates during the election. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 23 '15 at 18:16
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WYSIWYG


How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

In my opinion an incorrect presupposition invalidates the actual question. A question should be based on a proven fact or if the question is speculative then it should be based on reasonable postulates. These kind of questions can be categorized into:

  • Myth vs truth questions: If the content is good then the question can be migrated to Skeptics-SE
  • Questions that stem from not being aware of certain not-so-well-known facts. These are acceptable and answerable. The answer can begin with "Your reason is not entirely correct because ....."
  • Questions based on vague unreferenced claims and incorrect unresearched hypotheses. These should be closed.

When the community is small it is still possible to edit these kind of posts and help the OP with reasoning out the actual problem. However, as the site grows this would start getting exponentially difficult. Therefore I believe a firm policy should be created which IMO should be based on how much research effort has the OP put in their question.

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 just warn that user and delete the objectionable comments/posts. Chat is usually a good place to settle disputes. At least it worked here on a few occasions.

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

I would present my opinion to that mod and start a meta post to discuss with other users if the question deserved closure/deletion. If most users disagree with the closure then the closure/deletion can be undone.

What skills do you have that would make you a good moderator, independent of your knowledge of biology?

I am systematic with my work and do not have swaying opinions. However, I am receptive to any suggestion/argument.

Have you previously held a moderator-like position for another community, and if so, what aspect did you find most challenging?

When I held such a position the forum died out because of lack of activity and I had to keep it up by posting stuff myself. I do not think that is the case here.

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

At present calling a question homework is synonymous with asking "have you done your part in finding an answer to the question". Surely this synonym is misleading and a better definition has to be given. However, the classification - "homework" for actually non-homework questions are usually reserved for questions whose answers are just a few clicks away. But my modus operandi for dealing with these questions (as a user) has been like this:

  • See if the question can be categorized as broad. If so then close it for being broad.
  • If not so then see if the answer could be easily found.
  • If not then let the question be (downvote if there is absolutely no effort). If yes then see if there is any effort by the OP.
  • If not then close the question along with a downvote. If yes then let the question be.
  • Actual homeworks: Simply close them if they show no effort.

The entire community should agree on a policy and this has to be done using meta. This has happened several times but no solid consensus could be reached because, IMO we have not really asked precise questions about fixing the issue. I would try to address this.

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

I do think downvoting is a good way to tell people to improve quality. However, unless a post is blatantly bad, a downvote should be accompanied by an explanation and a possible suggestion for improvisation. High rep users and mods should definitely practice this. Many quality posts are overshadowed by not-so-high-quality but "popular" topics (based on upvotes and views). IMO one of the best ways to bring attention to such posts is to share them. This would also encourage more experts/researchers to join the community.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

IMO very broad questions cannot be encouraged. If a specific point is interesting then one can suggest the OP to focus on that point only. However I feel that people should do some groundwork before showing up with a question; be it non-biologists in a biology forum or biologists in a programming forum. Some would think that this would discourage users but I have this opinion that interested users will remain persistent and would respond to suggestions (and they do). It is usually the passersby who get offended and discouraged. The choice between letting the question ferment and closing it depends on its quality and research effort.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

I don't want to summarize the theory of moderation here but there are some additional points that I should highlight. There are a very few perfect moderators. I think moderators are situationally perfect just like presidents and prime ministers. Moderator should identify what the community needs at that moment and react accordingly (being fair, for example, can be dilemmatic).

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

In this community the non-mod high rep users have contributed greatly and effectively in moderating the community. So, there should not be a great difference. The only difference to me is that I have not yet reached 20K.

A moderator has binding votes and therefore they should vote carefully and responsibly. This in general makes a person think carefully before acting.

This point is based on my assumption related to human psychology. When users see a ◆ next to your name, they tend to pay more attention. This is just a theory :P

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How would you deal with a controversial question based on an incorrect biological presupposition? (inspired by this question on Meta)

I believe these questions are definitely on-topic as misconceptions people have and their false presuppositions can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for someone new to a field of science (and even sometimes those with more experience). Therefore I believe the correct way for the community to address such questions is to highlight where the incorrect presupposition was made, and explain why it was incorrect.

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?

For such a user I would treat each comment on its own merits and delete comments that are offensive or inappropriate. I would also politely request that the user try to be a bit more diplomatic in his approach.

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

All moderators have been elected by the community and their decision must be respected to a degree. However I would discuss with the particular moderator to understand why he/she believed it should be closed, and the merits of leaving the question open. If we cannot reach an agreement, I will suggest bringing in a 3rd moderator to assist in the decision and possibly bringing up the issue in meta.

There has been a fair amount of discussion relating to our policy on "homework" questions and those with little/no independent effort. (1, 2). What do you think the best course of action should be for Biology SE regarding these related but separate issues?

I believe asking questions that are often asked as homework is appropriate for our site. However I agree that questions that show little or no independent effort are not appropriate. My justification is that when you are eager to learn a science, you often might get stuck on homework questions (or homework like questions) that you genuinely want to know (not just to complete the homework) and maybe you can't find an answer to anywhere else. I think this site can be a great place in helping such people expand their knowledge. This site however is not for completing people's assignments that are designed to test their abilities (although professors who assume their students will not look to the peer network online are deluded).

What would you do in your position as moderator, to correct and encourage more quality questions, and do you think downvoting can be a good way to achieve these goals?

Down-voting can be a way of showing the community what questions are of low quality and do not belong to the site. I definitely would encourage such action from the community, as I believe ultimately the community should be involved in stamping what they do and do not want on this site, and the moderators role is only secondary to this. However that said, I believe what is even more important is up-voting answers and questions that are of good quality. In my experience on the stack exchange network as a whole, I have identified that users are often very quick to down-vote, but slow to up-vote. While it is OK to be cautious, I think up-voting good quality answers/questions encourages those users far more to continue to participate and feel welcomed by site than the absence of a down-vote.

Considering that biology is such a vast field, and most questions are from non biologists, Would you prefer to close a question if it appears too broad, or would you rather let the question ferment, and let the community edit and/or vote to close the question?

I believe the community should the run the site first and foremost, and the role of a moderator is secondary to this. I would at first allow the community to express their feelings on the question through the voting and commenting system. If a valuable answer is provided that addresses the principles of the asker was concerned about, I would leave the question open. If however it becomes apparent the question is simply unanswerable given how broad it is, I will close - letting the asker know the reasons and suggesting he/she try with a more specific question.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators ensure the stack exchange network continues to be a site with high quality questions and answers whilst being a site run by the community. If we let the community run the site without moderator intervention however, we run the risk of losing quality. Moderators are thus there to keep this balance and to moderate disputes between community members.

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

As I have outlined, my philosophy of moderation is to largely allow the community to define the direction of this site. As a moderator I will be in a better position to do this, as 10k or 20k rep user has no power to override a bind decision from another moderator and may thus have less power in a discussion with other moderators as to the future direction of this site.

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