Once again, in connection with the moderator elections, we will be holding a Q&A with the candidates. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to pose questions to the candidates on the topic of moderation. Participation is completely voluntary.

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

Here's how it'll work:

  • During the nomination phase, (so, until 2016-01-25 at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 3:00 pm EST on the same day, give or take time to arrive for closure), this question will be open to collect potential questions from the users of the site. Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer.

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

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

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

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

  • Feel free to check previous runs of the thread (or even things predating this Q&A style) for questions you may want to ask the new candidate base: 2013 2015

  • 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.

  • 1
    What's the point of the "Primary" stage? It would allow a collective effort by a group of CMs (or any other voters) to ruin a particular candidate's chances, in a way that would not be possible in the "Election" stage, where there is no facility to vote against a candidate. The word "Primary" is confusing. It would be more accurate to call it the "For or Against?" stage, or the "Blackballing and Whiteballing" stage. – user56895 Jan 24 '16 at 11:24

22 Answers 22


How will your moderator practices be shaped by the person in question? Will you change the way you moderate for another moderator, high reputation user, or newbie?

  • 5
    I really like this question: not only does it have implications of how you will behave towards high/low rep users, but how you will behave towards your "friends" as well! – Möoz Jan 19 '16 at 3:26
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    I will say, on another site where I am a moderator, we keep each other in check, and I think it does well for the site in general. – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 19 '16 at 3:27

How will you handle highly visible, controversial incidents?

The last year has seen suspensions of high rep users, freezing of our main chat room, and a moderator being asked to resign.

I do not want to rehash those incidents, but one thing that stood out to me was the decision by both the community managers and the moderators to keep as silent as possible, asking us to do the same — most notably to not discuss it in the chat room.

I do appreciate the need to prevent escalation, but on the other hand, as I remember one user remarking (thanks to alexwlchan for finding the quote, which was part of a deleted post):

Users are not mushrooms, nor are they stupid. Keeping them in the dark never, ever helps.

How will you handle incidents like the suspension of a high rep user or a chat regular?
How will you balance the need for privacy, the need to prevent escalation, and the need of the community for information?

  • 11
    Tip: When answering this, please keep the moderator agreement in mind. – user1027 Jan 19 '16 at 18:41
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    Like @keen gave a nod to, there are some hard, fast rules which have been set forward by staff on not airing user's dirty laundry as an SE mod because public shaming never ends well; Good to discuss how one walks this line. – Ana Jan 20 '16 at 21:09

How often, and for how long, are you willing to be on the site each day/week?

Our current mods are fantastic, but it is sometimes difficult to find one when you need one. What are your normal usage patterns here?

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    Is it also relevant to add time zone details? It would be good to have moderators spread over time zones for a faster response time. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Jan 19 '16 at 10:17
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    As a rider, you might want to address the minimum amount you feel needs to be put in before you'd consider stepping down to create another moderator vacancy. – Valorum Jan 20 '16 at 17:09

One of the complaints we see often is that many users are not aware of current meta policies. Additionally, some of the policy decisions conflict with each other. What do you suggest we do to make these policies more definitive and more accessible to the average user?

  • 1
    Meta policies are what make this site run smoothly, and a moderator's job is to guide that, I think this question is extremely important. – Möoz Jan 23 '16 at 0:44

The questions and answers on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange have a tendency to attract many comments that would be considered “too chatty” or “not constructive” on most other Stack Exchange sites.

How do you intend to handle such comments (e.g. with regard to deletion or comment flags)?


According to A Theory of Moderation, a moderator should be a "human exception handler", one who steps in when the system needs occasional intervention.

How will you best separate your own opinions and your responsibilities for being an ambassador for the site?

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    This seems highly relevant in light of the actual reasons for this election in the first place. – TARS says Reinstate Monica Jan 18 '16 at 23:23

One of the most important aspects of moderators in Stack Exchange communities is that they come from the community itself. They are normally well respected within that community before being elected to a moderator role.

So my question is bipartite:

  • Do you think it's possible to remain both a part of the community and as a moderator who also must police it?
  • How do you, as a member of the community, actively engage as a part of the community, yet balance that with the extra weight carried by the diamond on everything you do and have done?

Have you ever been suspended (from any Stack Exchange main site or chat), and if so for what? Are you willing to release existing moderators from the moderator agreement to confirm or rectify your answer?

  • 4
    I know that posted this late, this question probably won't be on the official questionnaire. Nonetheless I encourage all candidates to answer it and accept to have their truthfulness reviewed, in the interest of honesty and transparency. – user56 Jan 25 '16 at 8:28
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    Formulation adapted from Michael Greinecker in the 2013 Math elections, by the way. – user56 Jan 25 '16 at 8:31
  • 3
    Gosh, this question garnered an unexpectedly large number of upvotes in a very short period of time. – Valorum Jan 25 '16 at 20:20
  • 1
    @Richard Why unexpected? After all, moderatorship is a position of responsibility. Surely you'd expect that a request for moderators to be open about past misbehavior would gather broad support. It's even been proposed as an automatic thing in every election. – user56 Jan 25 '16 at 20:34
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    Unexpected in the sense that it came out of nowhere, becoming the third most popular question in a matter of hours, after the other questions which have been up for days. It's also almost a mirror image of another question which was up for slightly longer and didn't get nearly as many votes. – Valorum Jan 25 '16 at 20:38
  • For some reason this election has caught the attention of users across the network. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them voted on this question. Don't forget: 1. Only users who have sufficient reputation may vote (even CMs are forbidden from voting unless they earn the privilege the old-fashioned way), 2. One of the candidates is actively serving a suspension on another site, and 3. There's been a bunch of chat suspensions lately. Personally, I don't think this question will sway many votes one way or another. – Jon Ericson Jan 26 '16 at 2:39
  • @Minestrone: I mean you can't vote in the moderator election (or even the primary) if you don't have the needed reputation. So if you are concerned about a nominee having a suspension on another site and haven't participated there, you either need to work to earn the privilege or convince people who can vote that it's an important point to consider. – Jon Ericson Jan 26 '16 at 5:48
  • @Richard - Don't be surprised. See my comment on the question itself above. The "primary" stage seems to be unfit for purpose. Participation on the questionnaire page has been less, so concerted blackballing has a greater weight here. I find it hard to "be nice" about Jon Ericson's attempt to blame you for this (link text saying "for some reason"). "An important point to consider" indeed. Those who can't vote in the election shouldn't try to influence it. Remember that the company doesn't have to accept the result anyway. – user56895 Jan 26 '16 at 10:39

What do you do now to build the community, rather than your own prestige in the community?


Will you be able to separate yourself from relationships made in chat in order to fulfill your role as a moderator dealing with people you are chat friendly with on the main site?

  • That essentially boils down to the question of PearsonArtPhoto (higest voted as of writing this comment). – clem steredenn Jan 25 '16 at 8:56

As a corollary to Richard's question about high rep users:

What will be your approach to low rep (<1k rep) users in general?

Low rep users are the vast majority of the users, and the ones who frequently need some gentle guidance. As a low rep user I've felt like my opinion was discounted because it is assumed that low rep users "just don't understand XYZ" about the community.

How will you handle an issue raised by a low rep user so they don't feel like they're being discounted due to their rep?

  • An excellent question and you have my +1 – Valorum Jan 22 '16 at 17:47

As a moderator, your votes become binding. Actions you used to take like flagging, reviewing, closing, and deleting will take effect immediately without any input from any other users or moderators.

How will you adapt the way you currently flag and vote to deal with this change?


What current policies do you believe are too strictly enforced (either by mods or the community)? Which do you believe are not enforced strictly enough?


Over the past 18 months, a sizeable number of the site's top 10 users (by rep) seem to have stopped actively participating in the site (e.g. in terms of their questions/answers dropping below one action per week).

Is this something that concerns you and, if so, what action would you take to address the situation?

  • 5
    Let's consider the question here people, not the user that posted it. However you may feel, this is a valid question. Without a stable core of users that put out highly valued content the site looses a lot of its attractiveness as a place you can have an "expert" potentially answer your question. – Ryan Jan 20 '16 at 18:26
  • 5
    @ryan The question has at least one flaw though. 1-2 users isn't much of a trend. – user1027 Jan 20 '16 at 21:03
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    @Keen - Well, Slytherincess, Tango and Thaddeus certainly fit the criteria. DVK has just quit the site, Jeff hasn't been around for a while either. That's certainly more than "1-2 users". – Valorum Jan 20 '16 at 21:11
  • See How do we move past the absence of our top contributor? – user1807 Jan 21 '16 at 21:31
  • 2
    @Richard Don't forget Darth Melkor! – Rand al'Thor Jan 22 '16 at 0:50
  • 2
    @hamlet - It seems that users are more interested in how our new mod/s will deal with chatty comments than with the flight of our top talent. – Valorum Jan 22 '16 at 17:14
  • 1
    @MikeEdenfield - I think my mistake was in assuming that more than a handful of people cared. I think it's a very serious problem, but evidently that view isn't shared by the populace. I also should have asked it through a proxy account, to avoid people downvoting because of who asked it. – Valorum Jan 24 '16 at 15:43
  • 3
    @Richard the link I posted above contains an answer from a community manager (i.e. it's canonical) essentially says: people come and go for all sorts of reasons, whether it's because they have kids or want to spend time with their family, or because they don't like the direction a community is heading. If the community is healthy, new users will step up and become the experts. I agree with the community manager. The community (or the mods, or Stack Exchange, or whoever) has implemented some policies that, assuming you're answer is right, have caused 2-4 high-rep users to leave... – user1807 Jan 24 '16 at 18:06
  • 2
    ...It would be nice to avoid having users leave. But if the community feels that these policy changes are necessary (which seems to be the case here), then the loss of a few community members is the price the community has to pay. The point the community manager makes in the linked answer is that the lose isn't irreparable: new users will step up and replace the old users who left. – user1807 Jan 24 '16 at 18:07
  • 2
    What this answer essentially asks is: can we rehash policy decisions that were made months ago now that 2-4 high-rep users have left. And the answer is no: the policy decisions were decided to be necessary 2-4 months ago, and the loss of a few (admittedly valuable members of the community) doesn't change that. – user1807 Jan 24 '16 at 18:07
  • 1
    @Hamlet - As I said, it would have been nice to hear what our would-be mods think on this, rather than hearing what those that were responsible think. – Valorum Jan 24 '16 at 18:21
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    @Richard I'm not quite sure why their answer would be any different. The policy changes that you don't like are policy changes the community felt were necessary. The policy changes are still necessary even though 2-4 respected community members left. You're issue is with the policy changes, but you can't ask a question about the policy changes because that debate has been resolved, so you are asking questions about the 2-4 users who have left. The answer to this question is that the debate about the policy changes is over, and it's counterproductive to keep bringing it up. – user1807 Jan 24 '16 at 18:50
  • 1
    @Hamlet - My concern is that we have a situation where high-rep members are going dark (leaving/not contributing to the main site in any meaningful sense) with alarming regularity. I was hoping to determine whether our new mods feel this is a problem at all, and if so, what they felt should be done about it or, if not, why not. – Valorum Jan 24 '16 at 19:00
  • Some of our moderator candidates have been kind enough to answer in chat; chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/27144045#27144045 – Valorum Jan 27 '16 at 20:48
  • Some of our moderator candidates have been kind enough to answer in chat; chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/27143469#27143469 – Valorum Jan 27 '16 at 20:49

This site's chatrooms, while only a "third place" and not too relevant for the main site content, are nevertheless an important part of its community building efforts. And especially last year has seen a few incidents that also seeped into larger-scale consequences for the site and its meta discussions.

Without rehashing past incidents and on a more general note, what is your stance towards chat? Are you active in the site's chatrooms? How important do you think they are for the site as a whole? Is it important for moderators to also be chat regulars? Should the chatrooms be frequented more (or even less?) by the site's moderators?

  • For the record, I can't think of a single time when explaining a moderation decision in chat didn't then lead to a bunch of other users immediately diving in with their "helpful" comments. On the flipside, Thaddeus seems a popular moderator, yet visits the chatroom very very (very) rarely. – Valorum Jan 22 '16 at 17:18

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?

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


Given hypothetical absolute authority, what current community policy/policies would you reverse or otherwise change (regardless of community consensus)?

Clarification: The intent of this question is to understand what policy you most strongly disagree with or object to, it is not meant to focus on what sort of dictator you would be.


What is, in your own words, the purpose of this stack?

Of course, there are all kinds of opinions and even consensuses to be found on meta, but I'd like to here what you think this stack should be, and how you will work to achieve that.


What, if any, previous moderator (or similar) experience do you have from a different Stack Exchange site, a different website, and/or the real world (e.g. arbitration)?


A considerable number of candidates were criticised for their past actions – rather than their lack of activity in certain areas. While we all make mistakes at times and being criticised is an inevitable part of moderation, I consider the way we handle such events a crucial indicator for good moderator candidates.

Was any past activity of yours particularly badly received (when in doubt, choose the worst or what was mentioned in the course of this election) and why do you think that this does not affect your suitability as a moderator?

  • Half-serious sidenote: A candidate who was never criticised was evidently not active enough in community moderation. – Wrzlprmft Jan 23 '16 at 21:12

How will you handle controversial topics?

In the past, this site has had some issues when discussing controversial issues (e.g. politics, social issues, etc).

As a moderator, how will you handle these controversial topics?

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