2017 Moderator Election Q&A - Question Collection

Puzzling is scheduled for an election next week, May 8th.In connection with that, we will be holding a Q&A with the candidates. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to pose questions to the candidates on the topic of moderation. Participation is completely voluntary.

The purpose of this thread was to collect questions for the questionnaire. The questionnaire is now live, and you may find it here.

Here's how it'll work:

• Until the nomination phase, (so, until Monday, May 8th at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 4:00 pm EDT on the same day, give or take time to arrive for closure), this question will be open to collect potential questions from the users of the site. Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer.

• We, the Community Team, will be providing a small selection of generic questions. The first two will be guaranteed to be included, the latter ones are if the community doesn't supply enough questions. This will be done in a single post, unlike the prior instruction.

• If your question contains a link, please use the syntax of [text](link), as that will make it easier for transcribing for the finished questionnaire.

• This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into at current.

• At the start of the nomination phase, the Community Team will select up to 8 of the top voted questions submitted by the community provided in this thread, to use in addition to the aforementioned 2 guaranteed questions. We reserve some editorial control in the selection of the questions and may opt not to select a question that is tangential or irrelevant to moderation or the election. That said, if I have concerns about any questions in this fashion, I will be sure to point this out in comments before the decision making time.

• Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, typically containing 10 questions in total.

• This is not the only option that users have for gathering information on candidates. As a community, you are still free to, for example, hold a live chat session with your candidates to ask further questions, or perhaps clarifications from what is provided in the Q&A.

If you have any questions or feedback about this process, feel free to post as a comment here.

• "issues that you are running into at current" ?? – Rand al'Thor May 1 '17 at 20:25
• The question collection from last mod election, if anyone needs inspiration... – Alconja May 1 '17 at 23:25

Situation: A puzzle becomes tremendously popular, spawning many similar, easily-reproduceable variations. New users flock to the site, eager to post their own version of the puzzle, but some regulars feel that the new wave of puzzles are too simple and of low quality.

How do you react and how do you respond?

• ...wouldn't it be closed as 'too broad' by the community? – Mithical May 2 '17 at 5:11
• @Mithrandir Not necessarily. To give a more concrete example, imagine if we were getting 10 of these a day, some better than others. It could be that none of them are too broad, but it's evident for many of the newer ones that the poster didn't put in much thought/effort when constructing them. – Sp3000 May 2 '17 at 10:57
• Oh, whoops, I misread and thought that we were talking about answers :P – Mithical May 2 '17 at 10:59
• +1 I wanna know what new mods would do in this situation but I'm also curious what current mods think of that too. – n_plum May 2 '17 at 13:03
• To be clear, this exact situation broke the site in its early days, causing growth by a factor of 25 over the course of two weeks. The minimal existing user base lacked the capacity to handle the situation. Even despite that, I'm not sure how I'd handle this situation if it came up again today, which makes this a very good question to ask. – user20 May 2 '17 at 17:19
• We've had this situation before, although not to the extreme mentioned above. It's generally been managed mostly by the community. When people get tired of low-quality copycat puzzles, they downvote aggressively, and the low-quality copycat puzzles fizzle out. Sometimes it takes a week or two, but the upvote/downvote system eventually sorts it out, for the most part. – GentlePurpleRain May 2 '17 at 20:32
• @Emrakul I deleted a previous comment I had, but that "early days" situation was exactly what I was hoping to capture with this question :) – Sp3000 May 2 '17 at 21:57

As a moderator, your votes are binding - close, delete, tag synonyms, etc. How will this change how you usually VTC/VTD?

A more general version of this question, and inspired by this one from last year.

Puzzling is very different from most sites on the network. What do you think should change to reflect this difference in the way the site actually works, rather than just the way we use the system that's already there? (E.g. the ability to reward questions more than answers, changes to the wording of the help centre, etc.) As a moderator, with an improved level of access to Stack Exchange employees, how would you seek to bring about such changes?

• 'Changes to more than just the wording in help centre', yes please :) – n_plum May 2 '17 at 13:05
• I think this is a good question to ask, but I know in last year's election, I found it hard to answer. I can say what I would like to do, but -- especially when I'm not fully aware of the resources available to me as a mod -- it's very hard to know what I actually can do. I find the responses end up promising lots of things that are not within the power of mods (or perhaps even community managers). – GentlePurpleRain May 2 '17 at 20:36
• @GentlePurpleRain You might find this thread interesting then. – Rand al'Thor May 5 '17 at 9:05
• @randal'thor If what it claims is true, that is interesting. But it's also been a feature-request since early 2016, and doesn't appear to have effected any change as of yet... – GentlePurpleRain May 8 '17 at 15:10

How much time do you think that you will be able to spend actively moderating every day? What is your usual activity pattern over the week?

Suppose someone posts a puzzle that you, and maybe a couple other users, don't think has a solution. But you also can't prove the absence of an answer, by definition.

(Assume that, if you comment, the user isn't responsive or helpful. But please do mention if you would comment.)

• What do you do in this situation?
• Suppose the user is a new account, and this is their first question. Does your action change?

Suppose you observe a new user post their first attempt at creating a puzzle. The response is lukewarm, and the comments are helpful and posted in good faith. However, they're a little naive to the tone of constructive criticism, and as a result, come across... a little bit degrading and dismissive. (And maybe in your fair judgement, the commenters really are right: it's not bad, but it's not a great puzzle, and needs a bit of work.)

There are a couple questions:

• How do you react to this situation? Do you respond to this situation at all?
• Suppose you see this becoming a problematic and frequent pattern. What do you do?

I ask this question, because I do see this happen, and it's a situation that's always made me a little bit uncomfortable. I now know what I'd do, but it's taken me a while to figure it out, and it's definitely a personal stylistic decision.

I like the question provided of "A diamond will now be attached etc", but more specifically/reworded, I would like to ask:

With the diamond attached to everything you've said in the past, do you think you have represented the ideals of this community? And will you continue to do so in the future as you are held to a slightly higher/different standard?

Not every user is well-informed about site policy, and many things on this site are not policy, but rather convention.

What would you do if an established user began telling newer users (in comments or in chat) that they need to follow certain "rules" that are not in fact rules (either contrary to policy or simply convention)? Keep in mind that the established user probably believes (for whatever reason) that these are in fact "the rules".

• Do you have any examples of this problem arising? To be fair, we do have a lot of "rules" which are simply convention (not established by a meta policy) but which are routinely followed even by mods. For example, the policy of deleting answers which don't include explanations, or deleting lateral-thinking answers to non-lateral-thinking questions, both of which have been enforced for years and yet didn't (AFAIR) spring from any meta discussion or community consensus. – Rand al'Thor May 2 '17 at 22:26
• @randal'thor I have seen mild cases of this happening (can't think of a concrete example right now). For a manufactured example, suppose someone posted an answer to their own question, and someone else posted a comment saying that you may not answer your own question. This is not in fact true, and will give the "newbie" a false impression of what is/is not allowed. With your examples, we may have "de facto" rules which work well, but if someone came along and said, "You must delete any lateral-thinking answers to a non-LT question," I suspect it may not go over well. – GentlePurpleRain May 3 '17 at 2:06
• Maybe I'm overthinking it. – GentlePurpleRain May 3 '17 at 2:06

The mods have already tried getting +10 for an up vote on question

1. Will you be working towards getting this feature introduced?
2. How will you approach towards getting this done?
• I'd like to see this as an option not just every up is a +10, so you can upvote ones you like, and give more to one that is exceptional. – n_plum May 2 '17 at 13:04
• @n_palum Or this – Techidiot May 2 '17 at 13:06
• Also an idea that could work - just in general something that could help up reward excellent questions/puzzles. – n_plum May 2 '17 at 13:09

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

• How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
• How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

• In your opinion, what do moderators do?
• A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?
• In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

What do you feel are the biggest strengths of Puzzling.SE? ... the biggest weaknesses?
As a moderator, what role do you think you would take in helping the Community play to its strengths and improve on its weaknesses?

Are there any existing policies or rules which you think should be changed/amended or removed? Also, are there any new policies you would like to see added to PSE?

How much experience do you have with the meta site? Do you feel you know and understand the site's policies (and the history behind them) well enough to enforce them?

Have you ever been suspended on the network, either on the main site or chat?

• Maybe an and why addition to that to give them an opportunity to explain why it happened and what they learned from it perhaps? – n_plum May 1 '17 at 21:06
• Well, I would definitely expect more than just a 'yes' or 'no' answer! – Mithical May 1 '17 at 21:08
• +1, but I would add "banned from review". – wythagoras May 5 '17 at 8:41

How will your moderation differ based on the person? Would you act differently towards a newbie than towards a long standing member of the community?

A general but quite important couple of questions in my opinion:

What would your first action be?

What thing to do would you put first in a list of priorities?

Moderator candidates, through these questions and through their historical track record, may give a discernable idea of the style of moderation they'd follow and/or changes they would propose or promote — a de facto "platform" they're running on.

If elected, to what extent do you think that your election serves as Community endorsement of your "platform", and how would that endorsement affect how you moderate?

How did you (initially) find your way to this site and do you think PuzzlingSE should be promoted outside the SE network?

Do you think the site is (still) appealing to people who are coming "new", and what actions do you think should/could be done to improve the site for newbies ?

The age-old question: What do you consider as the difference between a genuine mathematical puzzle and a mathematical problem/homework help?

How would you deal with low-quality questions on the site? Last year, a string of low-quality riddles were seen. The sandbox didn't quite work out the way it was hoped to be.

How would you deal with something similar this time around?

• This has already been asked (more or less) by SP – n_plum May 2 '17 at 16:18

How do you feel your history, both on the main site and in meta discussions, builds or detracts from the case you are building; that you will be a competent and just diamond.

I hear questions are closed but apparently I missed the memo. Feel free to ask it again next year and revise it if anyone likes it.

How would you deal with a situation where a user is claiming that another user is stealing puzzles from their private work and posting them here without credit? Would you go by which user has a higher reputation or would you seek out evidence as to whether or not the puzzles are 'stolen'. If they were stolen, how would you react?

How will you handle a user who you think is a Sock?

1. You will be aggressive and will delete the user
2. You will be aggressive and will ban the user
3. You will discuss it with community before taking any action
4. You will discuss it with other mod's before taking any action
5. You will investigate further to validate if its really a sock using proper tools, discuss it with other mod's and then take the action
• #3 isn't really an option. Sockpuppetry is one of the things mods can discuss least with the community: the moderator agreement bans us from revealing anything about PII, and "this user seems to be the same as this other user" could potentially be a PII issue. We shouldn't even talk publicly about what tools we use to detect socks (for obvious reasons - if the socks know how to avoid detection, our job becomes harder). And isn't it obvious that #1 and #2 aren't options if you only think someone is a sock, without further investigation? – Rand al'Thor May 2 '17 at 11:18
• @randal'thor We have good and bad options for every question to test how a person answers it. Don't we? That's it. – Techidiot May 2 '17 at 11:34
• I suppose. Personally I tend to see this process as a way of getting a feel for candidates' views on policy issues and other things where it's perfectly fine for different mods to have different approaches, rather than to test whether people say the 'right' thing or the 'wrong' thing. Every candidate who stands a chance of winning will probably know what's the 'right' thing to say, and if they don't, they'll be educated on the matter after they get their diamond. – Rand al'Thor May 2 '17 at 11:51
• @randal'thor It's just a simple question. Relax. :) If its not good, it won't live long and won't make it to the questionnaire. – Techidiot May 2 '17 at 11:54
• I personally like this question in the sense that it is quite imaginative and probably is a good thing for mods to know. However this seems more like a knowledge exam question than a question for mods to voice their opinions on. So while I will downvote please understand it's the context that prompts the vote and not the content. – user64742 May 9 '17 at 4:00