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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 submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as our back up questions for a total of 7 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.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, and also including a link to your answer on your nomination post.

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!

Oh, and when you've completed your answer, please provide a link to it after this blurb here, before that set of three dashes. Please leave the list of links in the order of submission.

To save scrolling here are links to the submissions from each candidate (in order of submission):

  1. theforestecologist

  2. AliceD

  3. James


  1. Several posts in meta have raised the possibility that our closing policy is inconsistent and applied too often. However, no clear consensus seems to exist. Do you think this is an issue on this site and, if so, what role should a moderator have in resolving it, if any?

  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?

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

  4. What are the things about you that can make you a good moderator and those that will prevent you from being one?

  5. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

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

  7. 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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  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause - why oh why? It was such a nice formatting earlier ;-) $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 23 '17 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD You'll have to offer even bigger bounties next time to..motivate me to...overlook...these inequities. ;) $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Mar 23 '17 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause - 500 is the max haha $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 23 '17 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD Aww shucks, I guess my loyalty just can't be bought! I'm more ethical than I thought... $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Mar 23 '17 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause please let me bribe you - vote for me! ;-) $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 23 '17 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause - On that note - don't you consider nominating? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 23 '17 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD I feel like I haven't been here long enough and would prefer to offer my input on the sidelines for now - also that way I can be grumpier when I want to be; besides, I am happy with the current nominee pool as well as folks who have publicly mentioned some interest. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Mar 23 '17 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause - all makes perfect sense. Just wish to let you know you're doing a great job here. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 23 '17 at 20:45
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AliceD

Question 1

Several posts in meta have raised the possibility that our closing policy is inconsistent and applied too often. However, no clear consensus seems to exist. Do you think this is an issue on this site and, if so, what role should a moderator have in resolving it, if any?

Answer
Over the years the closing policy has actually been improving quite a bit. There is always doubt about close-voting and I have posted several meta posts of my own when I thought we were being too harsh to newbies. These are interesting discussions and help to keep us aware what the convention is. But I still am of the opinion we should be vigilant and urge users to improve on their posts.
We graduated by improving the site statistics, which involved hundreds of questions to be put on hold. This was important and I still support our efforts back then. CogSci for example is really lenient in terms of closing questions and that has resulted in the infamous Garbage Valley (also here in meta); a big pile of resilient, dusted old questions that no one will ever answer pulling down the stats of that beta site. Closing poor questions that do not match our site conventions is a good thing. Note that closed questions are not gone; they are just put on hold. Further, I often bring up borderline questions in meta asking for re-opening (e.g., here).

Where my concern really is, in fact, is that our community votes too little. We should vote early and often. This includes upvotes as I think a good guideline is "give what you get" (see meta), but perhaps even more importantly, we downvote very little. If users are hesitant to close-vote then why not simply downvote and leave a comment? This is a mild push to OP instead of giving them the big hammer. Especially to newbies a downvote and a kind comment is more than great and will help them more than a closure in seconds. This is especially helpful in borderline questions. Also, hi-rep users can very easily edit a question and make it a good one. Further, mediocre questions can be shaped by well-thought answers. Be inventive in answering, not harsh in closing.

Question 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?

Answer
It depends - In all honestly, I cannot envision a lot of situations where a user generates a steady stream of valuable answers that needs flagging or ignites many discussions in the comments. But suppose the situation where a knowledgeable user generates many answers of high quality but refuses to cite appropriate papers or even mention any sources. That does happen quite a bit. If the answers are valuable, they are useful. As a mod I would not step in right away. If flags appear I would start stepping in and support the community view that sources are important (mandatory imo) and need mentioning. If the problem persists I would invite that user to chat and try to work it out. Also, again, downvoting from the community really helps here too. Mods can turn the worst answers into comments as another means of urging OP to change their behavior.

Question 3

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

Answer
In principle, mods are a team, and should support each other's choices. By default, I would not go against other mods decisions. If I would strongly disagree at some point, I would go to chat and work things out, preferably with the third mod present. A democratic worked out decision can then safely be made.

Question 4

What are the things about you that can make you a good moderator and those that will prevent you from being one?

Answer
I will make a good mod because I am already one. I have reached the 20k cap and have access to all moderation tools available to the common ground troops. I have performed nearly 4k reviews at this time, which sets me apart from the other candidates. I am a dedicated reviewer and will continue to be one. In fact, I will spend more time on it than now as I will also start reviewing posts outside the review queue. To do this, I will have to shift my attention even more from answering to voting, commenting and responding to flags and comments. However, I am aware that I have to take a step back and let the community handle things and act only when necessary.

Perhaps even more importantly, I have attempted to adopt a consistent and exemplary way of posting answers from the very beginning here at this site. I try to include a short answer, a background and most importantly, a list of citations when available and stuffing posts with non-wikipedia links centered around key-terms. I hope I have served an exemplary role in this and I believe I have. Both here and from CogSci I have received many comments from other hi-rep users that my answers are, in general, of good quality and well-sourced. What may hold me back from being a good mod is my work load. I have a busy postdoc life during the day and two small kids keeping me awake at night :-) However, given that I will complement the existing two experienced mods I am sure that things will work out perfectly fine.

Question 5

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Answer
In short: the least possible. Mods should be there in the background guiding and supporting the community and step in only when necessary. Basically, mods should be erased from the general review history from the moment they start, and in particular the close-vote queue. Mod-closing questions means breaching the democratic design of this site. Even waiting until 4 votes are in and making 'the last vote' is a brake in democracy, as other users cannot vote-to-leave-open anymore. Stepping up in this site and become a hi-rep active user is the start of any respected user; to become a respected mod means stepping back - and that may be difficult, but it is necessary.

Question 6

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

Answer
Bring it on. I have always been nice, and I have even been accused of being too nice in the past - being blamed for 'spoon-feeding' answers to under-researched questions. Over time I have tried to become a bit more stringent in answering questions and becoming more critical in my comments, but never to the point of being offensive.

Question 7

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

Answer
As a mod, my role on this site may shift quite dramatically. Since I am 30k+ and having written 500+ answers I am more than keen to shift my focus from answering questions to a more guiding role. My focus at this time is already not so much on rep-farming (anymore :-). Instead, I wish to bring this site to a great scientific standard, with many references and well-sourced answers. Having been actively involved in our efforts during graduation I am still a very proud user and wish to keep the level up. As a mod, I will spend more time on commenting and guiding new users. I am more than ready to go for that.

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    $\begingroup$ I like that you put your name in big bold letters in the OP next to theforestecologist ;) $\endgroup$ – canadianer Mar 23 '17 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ Alice, looking at your answer for question 2, I'm interested in what your actions would be in the same situation but with a new user who doesn't have significant reputation. Do you think the consequences for negative behaviour should depend on reputation or should they be consistent for all users? $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Mar 24 '17 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Kenshin - thanks for asking. If you are referring to my example scenario, then I do not expect a hi-rep user would make that kind of mistake in the first place. Referencing has become quite important over time. Apart from that, I still point hi-rep users to under-resourced answers, but admittedly with more reluctance. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 24 '17 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD Thanks Alice, I guess for example I was wondering if you would also invite a lower reputation user to the chat also, or is this courtesy only extended to higher reputation users? $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Mar 24 '17 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Kenshin oh my goodness no. Chat is for everyone. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 24 '17 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not one of the downvoters, but I'd be very curious to hear their specific reasons on why they didn't like this post. From what I can tell it's a great Q&A in line with the Q&As of the other nominees but from a much more highly reputable user. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 28 '17 at 4:27
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theforestecologist

  1. Several posts in meta have raised the possibility that our closing policy is inconsistent and applied too often. However, no clear consensus seems to exist. Do you think this is an issue on this site and, if so, what role should a moderator have in resolving it, if any?

Yes, I think many questions are being closed too often and, more importantly, without providing comments to the users.

  • I understand that there are a lot of low quality questions coming in, but that's no excuse to not provide the same constructive, friendly and welcoming response/guidance to each user.
  • Although this is primarily a community-wide issue that will require a serious discussion among top-users (which a moderator could choose to coordinate), I think the main role of moderators moving forward with this issue are to scan closed questions (or those with active votes to close) that did not receive constructive comments and to add comments about what was wrong with the OP's post or how they could improve it.

I also believe that closing questions is inconsistent.

  • This inconsistency occurs, in my opinion, most often with questions on the fringe of being on topic, which to a degree is fair, but we could do better to vet these questions more open-mindedly.

  • I also have noticed that high-rep users get away with asking "worse" questions (e.g., those that are relatively off-topic) than new users. I get that we respect and know higher-rep users, but judging question quality (i.e., voting to close) should be objective and decisions should be made regardless of the user asking.

Overall, however, this issue is a community "problem", and I don't believe moderators need to play any major role in "policy change". Conversations occurring in a number of fairly recent Meta posts demonstrate that the community as a whole is not in agreement about how to approach this issues (e.g., see here, here, here, here, here, and here), so at most, mods could try to create focused meta posts to bring folks together to discuss these topics further.

  1. 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 talk directly with the problem user and explain to them that yes, they are a valuable resource/user in our community, but they need to remember this site's model: "Be nice."

  • "Be welcoming and patient, especially with those who may not know everything you do."

More specifically, I would explain to the user that we have received multiple complaints/flags regarding their comments and that they need to change their behavior. I would inform them that they will likely be somewhat more heavily scrutinized by the mods, and that if they fail to be nice, they risk having their account suspended.

  • Mind you, suspension is a last resort. I assume that most high-rep users "get it" and would heed any warnings they were given. Regardless, if a user failed to change their behavior, I would think that a brief discussion would occur among 2+ mods to discuss the user, the user would be warned an additional time, and failure to adhere to our model following that warning would unfortunately have to result in "disciplinary" action such as a suspension.
  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would first ping that mod to have a brief discussion about why he/she believed it should be closed and about why I believed it should not have been. If we cannot come to agreement, I would respectively suggest that community input should be sought, and I would post to Meta discussing my argument for reopening.

  • My argument would likely provide some major points made by the other mod if they are pertinent to the discussion, but overall the meta post would have no reference to mod "disagreement" and would stand on it's own as a community discussion on that specific question and/or closing topic.
  1. What are the things about you that can make you a good moderator and those that will prevent you from being one?

Good

  1. I am an active user on Bio.SE and typically visit the site 2-3+ times per day.
  2. I actively perform review tasks, and, more importantly, I make sure that I typically try to provide constructive comments when reviewing posts.
  3. I have a diverse background (bio, ecology, env. sci., chem, philosophy, etc.) regarding many organisms/systems, which would allow me to objectively and effectively judge diverse subjects/questions.
  4. I'm relatively new (<2 years) on Bio.SE (and constantly becoming a new member on the growing list of other SE sites), so I haven't yet forgotten how discouraged/disgruntled new users can feel at times. As a result, I would want to provide useful/constructive feedback/comments to new user posts to help them assimilate into our community and our structure. I would also watch for strictly insulting/abusive/bullying type comments and address those swiftly and appropriately (i.e., removing them and letting repeat offenders known that's not what we do here).
  5. I believe mods should be "model" users, so I always try to make sure that my posts serve as strong examples of what we'd expect based on our help page. My answers are well thought out and heavily referenced, and my comments are typically constructive and nice.
  6. I try to approach all situations on this site objectively (whether it's judging a to close/open a question, discussing topics in meta, etc.). I am always open to discussion to make sure that we optimize our interactions on this site and to improve as a community.
  7. I'm all about optimizing,organizing and improving our community.

    • I'm a fairly active user on Bio.Meta, and I like to propose questions/answers regarding "best practices".

    • I'm active on a handful of other SE sites, so I can take experiences from those sites to help share with our community best practices other communities already employ.

Cons

  1. I have never served in a moderator role on any SE site, so I have a bit of a learning curve to get over once mod tools/responsibilities get handed to me. However, there's a Meta.SE post about just that! And we already have some well-experienced mods to help me adjust to new tools/responsibilities.
  2. I'm only slowly becoming more active on Meta and chat, but this obviously could change fairly easily (and is already changing as I've already increased time spent there the last few months).
  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators essentially play the role of any high-rep user, except they are expected (vs. simply encouraged) to perform moderation and review duties. In addition, they keep the site functioning "smoothly." This includes maintenance actions (e.g., tag synonyms/merges), deleting/regulating spam posts, deleting low-quality closed posts, intervening with problem users (e.g., warnings, suspensions, deletions), migrating questions as appropriate, etc. I also feel that mods should be active on Meta -- both through support tags as well as through community discussion (see below). Importantly, I believe moderators should be very active, and I think at least daily visits from moderators are expected.

Although I don't think it's an absolute responsibility of moderators, I think that moderators could and should play a role in encouraging conversation and consensus: whether this be through meta posts, responses to meta posts, chat, etc. I don't think that mods should necessarily employ any binding power in these instances, but rather use their diamond status as an indication that a voted (and well-respected) user finds a certain topic to be pertinent for discussion.

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

I feel that mods should exemplify "model" user behavior and etiquette. I feel confident that I've tried to approach my interactions on this site in a fair, objective, thorough and friendly manner* since I started here (mostly as a result of being poorly treated by high-rep users when I originally join(ed) a number of other SE sites). So I think that I've tried (and will continue to strive) to act in accordance with this expectation regardless of my status. As a result, I feel perfectly fine with the diamond after my name. I would hope that the diamond would help put a bit more spotlight on my approach/behavior for others to use as example.

*Disclaimer: like everyone, I've not been perfect in this regard, but I do regularly try to exemplify "be nice"/constructive behavior and provide "model" (i.e., well thought out and well-cited) answers :)

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

Well, I tend to answer questions with somewhat less popular tags and my answers are usually well thought out and heavily cited. As a result, I gain rep fairly slowly and likely will not reach 20+k rep for a couple more years. Becoming a moderator will allow me to access the full suite of mod tools sooner so that I can better perform tasks such as site "clean-up."

I would feel an obligation to spend more time moderating/reviewing than I already do, and a mod position will likely make me even more active on the site.

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    $\begingroup$ You've got my vote! $\endgroup$ – canadianer Mar 21 '17 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ I'm glad that you nominated yourself for modship. :) $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Mar 21 '17 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ Very nice Q&A, I will be voting for you! $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Mar 29 '17 at 2:56
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Question 1

1) Several posts in meta have raised the possibility that our closing policy is inconsistent and applied too often. However, no clear consensus seems to exist. Do you think this is an issue on this site and, if so, what role should a moderator have in resolving it, if any?

We are still finding out what we should expect a good question on the topic of biology to look like. Particularly, where do we draw the lines for trivial questions and "homework" questions? That's a general line for the community to decide, not a moderator.

Question 2

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?

We don't necessarily want to lose high-quality users at this point, especially if the dispute is the best kind of animal/quadrat/pipette/bio-stats package is. But equally, if comments become rude or abusive, that should not become a burden the community should bear. If the comments seem deliberately inflammatory/rude/abusive, directly emailing the user/s and telling them that this is an issue may be enough.

Our own "be nice" and Albion.com's Rule 1 "remember the human" phrases are good values to a community like this.

Question 3

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

If it appeared to be a one-off embarrassing factual mistake, I would privately clarify with them. It's, of course, possible that I have made the mistake so this would at least save the dignity of one of us!

I don't think this is standard SE practice, but I have seen it work here. If the issue was a little more complicated, initially, I would discuss it in Biosphere with the other mod. The mods here are very open about their decisions and are happy to roll-back a decision if a decent challenge is made. That should be encouraged and continued. If we do not reach a consensus by ourselves, opening a meta on the issue is an option for a contentious question so that we can see what the community expect us to do, else, another option is to initiate a community re-open process.

Question 4

4) What are the things about you that can make you a good moderator and those that will prevent you from being one?

Why I'd be good.

I enjoy moderation and review as much as the 6k tools allow. I have the Steward gold badge and the Electorate gold badge. I am an active reviewer, I raise a lot of helpful flags, and I comment often, especially if I initiate a close vote. I routinely clear the review queues available to me. Indeed, I'm far more involved than my reputation suggests. Being a moderator would allow me to extend this enthusiasm beyond my reputation.

Also, I've been here a while (>3k mod privileges in beta, 3 years and 10 months since joining). I'm aware of how the community and mods have handled issues in the past, which solutions worked, and which issues are an ongoing challenge.

I'm on both sides of the Q&A fence. I have ~53 questions which is unusual for top contributors. I sympathise with the challenges involved in doing either well and can offer effective guidance on both Q&A. Often, redirecting to the "how to ask a good question" page isn't enough.

For more of the good reasons see the nomination page on why each of us candidates thinks that we'd be a good choice.

Challenges.

Lot's has changed since the beta graduation. I understand that the heavy closure moderation that was needed from me then is not what we need now.

We're now maturing to the point where the site's purpose is emerging from the community and mods should spend their time handling flags and community review exceptions rather than strategising about the site's direction.

I'm in a niche. I'm only ranked #21 overall with >6k rep. Whilst this in itself isn't clearly a problem, the reason why might be. My field of expertise receives less activity compared with topics like evolution. Within my niche I'm the top scored user. People asking questions on the topics I contribute to usually have a fundamental grasp of biology and even the general topic. I see from meta that more popular topics face very different issues to what I am used to (like the need for an evolutionary "why not X" catch-all question here), and I would have to catch up on these sort of exceptions quickly.

Question 5

5) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

As little as possible.

Moderators have a duty to simply maintain the quality of the site with light pruning. They generally should avoid steering the community in one direction or the other.

Moderators handle exceptions to the community moderation procedures. This mainly manifests as flag handling in addition to other review tasks accessed from the privilege track.

The ideal moderator does as little as possible. But those little actions may be powerful and highly concentrated. Judiciously limiting your use of moderator powers to selectively prune and guide the community — now that’s the true art of moderation. -A theory of moderation.-

Question 6

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

I've been friendly, constructive, and enthusiastic about the site since the start. My contributions are in-line with what people expect from the diamond moderators.

Question 7

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

Moderation is about more than being involved in the community review process that comes from 10k and 20k. It goes beyond what reputation does and isn't really a comparable task to regular reviewing. It's about the exceptions and adhering to what the community expects of you. I believe that that attitude can count for more than the reputation gap between me and other candidates.

Another less obvious and more objective point is that I'm able to maintain the site in a different time zone. I'm based in Singapore. This will reduce the average flag response time metrics. I can also handle routine clean-up and flag handling even when other mods are unavailable.

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