12
votes

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. Not every question was compiled - I have elected to select the top 9 questions as submitted by the community (rather than flip a coin for the tie on the last choice), plus 2 pre-set questions from us, for a total of 11 questions.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes.

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

Good luck to all of the candidates!


Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

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?

New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

locked by El'endia Starman Jun 3 '16 at 1:12

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

Read more about locked posts here.

10
votes

David Stratton ⇘

Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

I'll stick to just one that stands out in my memory.

We have one user, who previously went under a different name, who was struggling with understanding how to keep his questions/answers on the safe side of "Truthiness". He was a very knowledgeable user, but didn't quite seem to "get" that particular issue. At one point, one of my comments was a bit too harsh. I said something along the lines of "You've been on this site long enough that you should know better by now." (Those weren't the words, but the tone was that bad.) I let my frustration come out and it was wrong of me, and I feel bad about it to this day.

Shortly after.. Maybe even that same day, he posted this Meta post:

Why not have new members go through a general introduction page?

My response on that question is the example I'd like to use as to how I've tried to help a new user...Not only by attempting to explain the issue to him, but also making a plea for more experienced users to be more active in welcoming new visitors. That was also a point where I decided redouble my efforts to welcome each new visitor if possible, and direct the to the two most helpful links available:

A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

I'd explain the reason for the deletion - Pastoral advice questions are off-topic, and answering them is not a good idea. In order to back up my decision, I'd direct him/her back to But can't I just say one thing?.

I also have some comments I typically use in the case of new users asking patoral advice questions, which go like this:

Hi and welcome to our community. To clarify a common misconception about this site, we're a fairly academic question and answer site run by a secular company. We have numerous members who are Christians, but because of the nature of this site, we don't answer "advice" questions. It's not that we don't want to help, but on the contrary, we don't feel that it's in anyone's best interest to try to do so on this site. For more info, please see this post: Pastoral Advice Questions

I'd also offer that if they would wish to edit their answer and/or the question to make them scoped, doctrinal questions that can be definitively answered, the question/answer could be un-deleted. Probably with a link back to Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening.

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

Honestly, if I thought for a moment the site standards were going to be at odds with my own personal standards, I wouldn't have thrown my name in the hat. Should some standard come around that I have a hard time with, I'd most likely make my best possible argument, backed with post after post for precedent, to try to make my case. Such a standard would have to be one that I honestly think would be harmful to the site, not one in conflict with my religious views.

If site standards changed enough that I really had a hard time with them, I'd probably keep my mouth shut while letting the other mods handle those questions, and eventually step down. I simply don't want the diamond bad enough to compromise what I think is right.

How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

Importance?
On one hand, as a Christian, I think it's more important to preach the Word and to seek and to save those who are lost.

However, that said, a StackExchange site is no place for that sort of activity. I don't know if I think that it's important that a site like this exists, so much as it is that I see the value in such a site existing. For me, personally, the value of this site focusing on explaining what's taught and avoiding "who's right" is threefold:

  • I can honestly see how other groups think, and what they teach, rather than what my denomination says they teach.
    • Example, I can see what Catholics actually teach about transubstantiation rather than what Baptists say Catholics teach about it.
  • I can see questions and answers that challenge my own beliefs, which makes me re-examine them, and re-examine the Scriptures in a new light
  • In those cases where I think some other view is heretical, I can understand the reasoning behind it, and use that to debunk it in my personal witnessing.

Also, one other benefit: There's at least one site out there without infighting and bickering over who's a heretic and who has the TRUTH.

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?

First, I'd have to look at what's causing the flags. Are the flags valid? Is the user the problem, or the people raising the flags?

Next, assuming it's this user's issue, I'd clean up the offending posts, with comments linking back to the appropriate section of the help, Meta post, etc.

At the same time, I'd be using whatever tools I have to work with the current moderators for further guidance. I don't have their experience, and before I presume to do something as drastic as suspend a user, I'd be sure that the other mods were in agreement that this was the right action. Somehow I doubt any of them act unilaterally in such cases, and I wouldn't want to do so myself. That's why there is more than one moderator.

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

Probably ping them privately. I assume the mods have ways of communicating not visible to regular users. Such things should be handled privately. If the question was borderline, I'd just let it go, but if I felt strongly, or really didn't understand the reasoning, and wanted to know why it was closed/deleted, I'd use whatever tools allow me to talk to them privately.

New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

Comments and posts back to the appropriate sections of the Help or Meta are the only really effective tools. Fortunately, there's no shortage of posts explaining that particular guideline.

How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

Typically I refer them back to one of these posts, depending on their concern:

Or some other post. If I couldn't find a suitable one, I'd probably post one for that specific situation. that's what I've done in the past, anyway.

How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

That's typically fairly obvious. Someone impassioned but attempting to participate honestly may argue, but typically they won't resort to name-calling, cursing other participants, telling them they're going to rot in Hell for their unbelief, etc. A troll will.

There have been a few we've seen who are right on the line, and I honestly think were trying to participate but came off as trollish due to their unique beliefs, and inability to comprehend that not everyone sees things the way they do. Those users, I'd try patience and explanation until I can see it's not going anywhere. After that, as long as the the other mods concur and also feel they've exhausted other options, it's time to start looking at suspensions, bans, etc. just like you would with a troll.

Bottom line, if someone refuses to abide by site guidelines, they need to be removed from participation until they agree. It doesn't matter if they're an intentional troll or a misguided user. failure to adhere to standards needs to be addressed. In either case, use the least amount of force possible to get the desired outcome.

A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

Generally, I won't just edit a user's post. My goal is to help new users become familiarized with the site guidelines.

My normal mode is to evaluate and see if the question is even capable of being brought into scope, and if so, to leave a comment and a link back to Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening.

Right now, to be honest, sometimes I wish I had the mod hammer so I could close questions like that before a bunch of people post answers to it. A prime example is this one. I ended up having to make comments on the question and the first two answers, at which point I eel like a nag. I'd just rather close the thing and explain the guidelines to the OP. But maybe that's just me being lazy.

If the question is not likely to be salvageable, I typically vote to close and explain why, usually with a link back to one of the Meta posts that explains the reason. (Most likely that meta post is a combination of one or more of the following:

If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

I've gotten there. I think I've done pretty well participating and trying to do my best to help newcomers, and to try to keep the site healthy.

The biggest change for me will be not being the first person to vote to close or delete. I'll need to exercise restraint and let others do it first.

Next, I'm going to have to keep an even tighter rein on my frustration. I don't let my temper show often, but when I do, I'm a jerk. I really am. I need to be more careful with a diamond.

Finally, I expect I'll need to spend less time in the review queues because that's where I run across the most problematic posts.

9
votes

fredsbend ⇘

Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

Comments like this are commonplace on the activity-comments tab on my profile. That is the most recent one. Here's others: 1 2 3 4 Rather than only posting the one time like this, however, I have intentionally followed new users that continue to have trouble to help guide them into a role that the rest of the community will appreciate. I am hesitant to mention the ones I have in mind, because it unfortunately didn't work. Some people are simply difficult and will not come around.

A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

Generally, the moderators have only deleted pastoral advice answers if they could be harmful. For example, I remember a few "my wife is cheating" and "I'm unmarried and I masturbate and have sex" questions which were answered and also deleted in short order along with the question itself. With such sensitive subjects, we cannot let these vulnerable people trust us with their major life decisions. So we direct them to talk with their priest, pastor, parents, mentors, etc. That is the spirit of the Pastoral Advice Policy. If I thought it was necessary to delete Saul's answer but not the question then have me committed because I just cannot imagine a scenario where I would do that. But Saul might likely question deleting the question post as well, at which point, the spirit of the policy would be explained as I have just now, by me and plenty of others. Hopefully Saul would see the reasoning and abide by the policy.

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

I disagree with the relatively new and marginally supported site policy to avoid "christian culture" questions. Though I am cautious to allow Christian Fiction, despite the similarities. In the past, when I have happened upon a "christian culture" question, I have posted in the comments that I like the question, though some of the community thinks it is off-topic, so they may vote to close it. My actions as a moderator would be roughly the same. Unless there are serious, obvious issues with the question, I will let the community decide to use their close votes if they want, and I will not use my mod status to open it back up. We need to remember that moderators are users too. We all have opinions and we all have equal footing to vote and post on meta as we see fit. Moderators are only bound to keep current site policy. They are not bound to avoid campaigning for changes.

How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

I hate coming across a good forum post somewhere where I can learn facts about something interesting that then dissolves into "Christians" spewing hate at each other because they disagree on what is actually true. The sad truth is that most low moderation forums do dissolve into this and their user retention is low because it is simply not fun to be compared to Hitler, as is inevitable given enough time. It might be more important to this user that they use SE to evangelize and proselytize, but it is just simply not going to happen. We have a volume of meta posts filled with the logic that we can quickly point to, volumes of "Truth seeking" questions that are closed or deleted with nothing but crummy answers, and area 51 where they can propose a new SE site if they are stubborn enough about this. Further, we have three years of history and experience making this site successful, and the number one reason I would list for its success is the banning of Truth questions early in the site beta.

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?

Obstinate, rude, abrupt, mean, and otherwise angry users are commonplace on the internet. It just happens. If it's a continued problem, like the user keeps calling people homos or some other name calling. He will get stern warnings from me in the form "If you do x one more time you will be suspended." And I have a very good memory, so he better keep clean.

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

As a user new to moderation on SE, I would defer to the more experienced. Say, a few years down the lane, where we are basically equal in experience, I would approach him privately to discuss it. If there was no resolution, then I would discuss it with the him and the other mods. If there is still no resolution (I would probably just drop it because no single post is this important), we should post the situation on meta and judge the community response. No mod can neglect the community wishes in good conscience. I can't take personal credit for these wise words.

New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

I have written a meta post that analyzes on-topic questions and grouped them into six distinct types with a seventh miscellaneous/high-risk-for-closure type. I wrote that post for exactly this purpose.

How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

Sort of a repeat question here. Here's what I would do:

  1. Show and, if necessary, explain the volume of meta posts filled with the logic that already address this.
  2. Show, as a case study, how any given "Truth seeking" question leads to garbage answers and comment wars.
  3. Point out that the site is successful as it is because of the banning of Truth questions in early beta. Had they been allowed, the site would be a mess of arguing, angry, obstinate, posts without any factual dogmatic content where trolls would live fat a healthy.
  4. If they remain unconvinced, I will have to be blunt and tell them it is not going to ever be allowed and if they don't want to put up with it they can pound sand or hit up Area 51 where they can propose a new SE site or just go to Yahoo Answers or some other forum.

How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

The end result for unchanged, continually disruptive users is the same: suspension. Obvious trolls have their content deleted, are sternly warned, suspended, and/or account deleted. I am much more patient with people who are "too emotionally vested", but I have my limits. If the problems continue they will receiving warnings and suspensions.

A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

Absolutely. I would close it upon seeing it. Closure is not permanent, hence, the wording today is "on-hold." It's simple really. "Welcome to the site. We are happy that you decided to participate. Unfortunately, I've had to put your question on-hold because [off-topic reason]. This is not a permanent state. I can open it back up to receive answers, but we/you will need to bring it into site guidelines. [proceed into suggestions and clarification.]"

If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

I think I will stand out among the other mods as more willing to use that hammer sooner. I will close questions that are obviously off-topic without regard to any existing close votes. Like closure, suspensions are also not permanent, so I will more readily use that to shape up problematic users. My involvement in the meta process, helping new users, performing review tasks, and asking and answering questions will generally remain the same.

8
votes

Daи ⇘

Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

This is difficult to do, not least because it would involve looking through years of comments to find good examples. Not to mention, once advice is heeded and the user is headed in the right direction, the comments are often deleted (and I can no longer see them). I've edited lots of posts to help improve content and to show users what we're looking for by example. I use templated comments to give feedback to users and find them in the review queue quite often. David Stratton usually beats me to it, though, because he's awesome (a good reason to vote for him before me).


A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

The quality of the advice is irrelevant—it's a matter of topicality. If we allow good advice, we must also allow bad advice. And even what appears to be good advice could actually be bad if the context of OP were fully understood, which is why it's best to let spiritual leaders (pastors, priests, etc.) handle people's pastoral issues rather than trusting random people on the Internet. I would explain this to Saul and point him to the meta post for further information. Hopefully he'd see the wisdom in the policy.


As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

This is actually something I can relate to from my experience as a moderator at BH.SE. Another moderator and I don't see eye-to-eye on a few site guidelines. Some of them have been upvoted highly by the community and we seem to interpret them differently, others have no clear meta consensus and we simply disagree. On those where this is meta consensus, I act in accordance with this. When it comes to guidelines I would like to see better defined or modified, I initially set out to function as any other user would to influence the site, but learned that folks tend to interpret the actions of a moderator differently than they would from non-moderator users. I've learned (and am still learning) that posting on meta, being patient in building community consensus, and simply voting can have a significant impact over time. As a moderator, while I am still a user of the site, I am not free to act in some ways I was when not a moderator. I found this frustrating at first (you are required to be more 'hands off' in areas you would have acted before - especially with votes that are binding as a moderator), but I have come to appreciate it more.


How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

We face this same challenge at BH.SE. In a meta post inspired by its precursor here at C.SE, I quoted Indiana Jones:

Archaeology is the search for fact... not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall.

Millions of Christian Internet forums have demonstrated what attempts to determine Truth on the Internet become: A SHOUTING MATCH!!! No one can agree on who is right (we wouldn't have 25,000+ different types of churches in the USA alone if we all agreed), and determining what answers are 'helpful' would devolve into a popularity content where folks voted by their beliefs rather than the quality and usefulness of the answer. It is essential to ask for specific perspectives in order to have these criteria to apply to answers and to prevent losing all the signal for noise.


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?

Comments are not intended to be used for extended discussion; the nature of SE is that comments are largely temporary. In addition to this, if a user consistently posts non-constructive and/or offensive comments, this needs to be addressed directly with the user. There are a variety of reasons why the person may be commenting, perhaps to argue the Truth of answers, to disagree with the sources used by a poster, or simply to be antagonistic or chatty. These each require specific responses to be dealt with, which I will not detail here. Suffice it to say that the user would need to be warned and have the reasoning explained to them, then posts could be locked and comments deleted to show them this will not be tolerated, and contacting the user privately (possibly with an accompanying suspension) may be necessary for users who refuse to heed the guidelines over an extended period of time and after numerous warnings.


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

There are venues to discuss this privately with that mod if this is a rare occasion; if it happens a lot, it may be good to bring it up in chat and on meta (and possibly to a CM if need be). To some extent, there are judgment calls involved in such things, and I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt unless I think it's a glaring error (which is extremely rare I would imagine—most mods are doing what they believe is best for the site, and they've been appointed/elected because the community trusts them to make the right decisions).


New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

There's a big yellow banner inviting new users to take the site tour and read the help page(s). I don't know the statistics, but I imagine that few users actually do this. The reality is that most new users are going to learn heuristically—by trial and error. Helpful comments explaining actions and linking to relevant site guidelines will encourage these users to learn the ropes. Those who are interested will stick around. Those who only wanted a soap box may leave.


How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

Again, we have this same problem at BH.SE. The distinction can be subtle at times and is lost on some users. The main metric I've found that can be helpful is the descriptive vs. prescriptive test. Am I describing what a certain group believes or what I as a representative member of that group believes, or am I prescribing my beliefs to readers (regardless of their perspective)? Descriptive language tends to use first and third person ("I believe X," "The LCMS teaches Y"), while prescriptive language tends to use second person language ("You should believe Z").


How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

This distinction is important and can be difficult to discern. In general here's how I handle each: 'trolls' must be starved, while sincere-but-misguided users need to be firmly encouraged.

Don't feed the trolls. Trolls thrive on the drama and trouble they stir up. They like to cause a frenzy. The best thing that can be done is to ignore them once you realize they're a troll. It's no fun to troll when you're merely DV'd, deleted, and/or ignored.

Firmly encourage sincere-but-misguided users. These users sometimes don't realize how they're impacting the community because of their actions. Trying to get them to see that can be helpful. Even so, some of these users seem incapable of seeing past the edges of their own noses. These users need boundaries. They need consistent feedback (possibly disciplinary) when they cross those boundaries, and help realizing when they're skirting the borders. With that said, I will bend over backwards to help sincere-but-misguided users.


A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

It should be closed immediately to prevent users from providing answers that may need to to be deleted once the question is properly scoped (or that are poor quality because the question is poorly scoped).


If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

I'm not at that reputation level currently, but did enjoy many of these tools when the site was in beta. Becoming a moderator would actually require me to become less involved in casting binding votes (VTC, delete, etc.) until the community has first acted (at which time I can support those votes, with the obvious exception of egregious cases where immediate action is required). While becoming less involved (or perhaps 'more restrained' is a better choice of words) with these actions, I would become much more involved with other actions such as flag handling, communicating with users and other mods about potential issues and/or concerns, and serving as a liaison between the C.SE community and SE staff.

7
votes

AJ Henderson ⇘

Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

The most recent example is actually right here. If you look at my history on this, or any of the SE sites I participate on, you can see examples of how I help users. I also frequently answer questions posted by users on Meta that are looking for clarification and explanation such as this one.

A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

The only difference between good advice and bad advice on the deleted answer would be that I would be willing to comment that while I thought the advice was good, it still does not a position we can take as a site since we don't have sufficient detail and can't deal with what is "True".

If I disagreed, I wouldn't say I disagreed with the advice, I would simply avoid stating that I thought it was good advice and focus on the policy. I would patiently address any concerns that he had with the policy and try to help him understand why it isn't something we can handle as an academic, secular, Internet site.

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

As a moderator, you are setting aside your own will in your moderation actions. You are no longer voting to close or delete based on how you feel the site should be run, but rather on how the community wishes it to be run. It also raises the bar for the level of professionalism and patience in comments.

It does not, however, mean you completely stop being a member of the community. Meta is the place for discussion of site policies and you are able to propose suggestions and offer your input on suggestions same as any other user. If there are policies in force that you disagree with, you have to live with and uphold them as if they were your own, but you can still suggest alterations and see if you can convince the community to go along with it.

If another user or moderator suggests something in meta you disagree with, you are free to offer alternatives and counter-arguments, you just have to live by whatever the community decides.

How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

I would explain that while understanding what is "True" is important, what is True is not threatened by information. If your beliefs are true, knowing what false beliefs are does not detract any from how True your view is. If the user is highly outreach oriented, I would point out that if you don't really understand what someone you disagree with believes, you can't tell how you disagree with them.

If they don't believe at all, I would point out that understanding the differences and variety of beliefs that are out there illustrate that Christianity is not the reasonless faith that many think it is.

I would point out that having a resource that lets seekers, researchers or interested parties discover what it is that different Christian groups believe and that having one resource for all that information is not possible if we also try to address what is "True" at the same time since the site would then tear itself apart.

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 really depends on the situation. The key would be to try to identify why the user is getting in to arguments and flags and attempt to work out with them ways to better fit within the site. High reputation should increase responsibility to be a productive member of the site rather than decrease it as you should be more familiar with the way the site works.

This isn't a discussion board and an experienced user should know about taking discussions off-line to chat. I would make sure they are aware of this as an option and work with them to find a solution that can reduce the disruptions while also ensuring that they can continue to participate.

In extreme cases or if the user is unwilling to stop causing extended discussions, other actions, such as removing comments or even leading up to short suspensions, may be needed to prevent disruptions if the user is unwilling to work towards fixing the problem. One "good" author isn't worth driving other users away or causing excessive drama.

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

Take it to chat and discuss it with the other moderators. If there is not a clear consensus there, take it to meta (assuming there are no non-public details involved) for further discussion with the community.

In general, moderator action should only be taken when there is a clear problem, so this should occur fairly infrequently. Mistakes happen and generally a quick chat in the moderator chat room will clear those up.

If it is a genuine disagreement, then it probably wasn't as clear cut as it should have been and getting community input is the surest way to determine what the community wants in such a case. Moderators are, after all, representatives of the community as a whole. If there are private details involved, it then becomes a situation to bring to the CMs' attention if the diamond moderators can't reach a consensus among themselves.

New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

Certainly closing questions as soon as possible to limit the scope of the problem is the first step. If a user has only responded to one or two, I don't think it is necessary to talk with them beyond a brief comment to their answer before deleting it. They are just being helpful and will likely figure out how the site works from seeing which questions are closed and which remain open.

If they continue to answer pastoral advice questions as the majority of their answers though, then it becomes increasingly important to try to open a dialog with them and try to help them understand why we avoid pastoral advice questions as we are not well equipped to handle them over the Internet when we aren't in a position to determine what is "True".

How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

I would explain that "Truth" question is a question that is concerned not with what a group thinks, but rather what is actually true reality. I would explain that Christianity.SE is a secular, academic site dedicated to documenting information and knowledge about groups that consider themselves Christian.

I would point out that while questions about what is "True" are very important, it is also valuable to have a repository of information about the views of different religious groups. I would point out that there are many sites out there that are dedicated to discussing what is or isn't "True", but also point out that unless such sites take a site, they tend to be filled with debate and arguing.

I would point out that by limiting our scope to documenting views, we are able to avoid those issues while still being a great informational resource, which is the primary goal of the site.

How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

The biggest thing in cases like this is to try to understand where someone is coming from. At the end of the day, limiting disruptions is important, but so is helping newcomers understand the site.

If you can establish where someone is coming from, it often helps to determine if they have a real concern or if they are just trying to cause trouble. Reducing audience is a great way to help rule out trolls. If the user is insistent on making a scene rather than talking about the issue quietly, then they are likely a troll or at least a disruptive user. If they are legitimately concerned, then they should be ok with taking it to the side and talking it out.

If they are being overly disruptive, it should be dealt with to keep the peace, but as long as they are willing to discuss it civilly, they should be treated with patience and every effort should be made to help them understand the site's policies and why they are necessary.

A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

As long as it clear that a question is not tightly enough scoped, then it should be closed as too broad, but only after commenting to explain why it is being closed, explaining what is needed for it to be a good fit and making sure it is clear that the question can easily be re-opened after being fixed.

Almost no actions are irreversible and leaving the question open with too broad of a scope puts the question at risk of unproductive discussion or getting answers which may not fit well after the scope is reduced. (Generally, one of the guidelines for re-scoping a question is that it shouldn't rule out existing answers, since this wastes the time someone took to make a potentially valuable contribution.)

If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

While I still have fairly low reputation on Christianity.SE, I am a 20k user on IT Security and Photography and a Pro Temp Moderator on Video Production and Sound Design. From these sites, I know the value of review queues to be able to quickly find posts that may require attention and enjoy not only dealing with any issues they expose, but also trying to help users that may just need some guidance to better understand how to use the site.

With diamond powers comes diamond responsibilities. It is important to only take action when you know it is clearly in the interest of the community. When things are less clear, comments are a great way to suggest improvements or prompt the community to consider taking action one way or another on their own.

6
votes

Flimzy ⇘

  1. Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

    This is something I do quite frequently, not only here, but on other sites. Let me offer as a recent example this question, which originally stated:

    This question is for all flavors of Christians.

    After myself (and others) encouraged the OP to narrow the focus, the question was sufficiently narrowed to Catholicism.

  2. A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

    I would not let my agreement or disagreement with a pastoral advice question alter my behavior. I would close the question unless/until it can be changed to be an on-topic doctrinal question, rather than pastoral advice, and as such any existing answers would no longer apply to the question, and should thus be deleted--agreement is irrelevant at that point.

  3. As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

    I think this question is too hypothetical to be answered meaningfully. I agree with the fundamental site standards--otherwise I wouldn't participate here, let alone nominate myself as a moderator.

  4. How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

    I will point them to our various meta posts on the topic, including the one I authored, We Can't Handle the Truth. I also think it's important to add a new close reason for truth questions to make the way we approach new users on this topic more consistent.

  5. 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 believe the best way to handle this situation--and indeed most situations involving a particular individual, is on an individual basis. The user can be approached via comments, chat, and the various moderator tools, to help the user focus their effort in constructive ways.

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

    I would discuss it with them, and see if an agreement can be reached regarding why it should or should not be closed. I would not blindly re-open/undelete/etc the question without first coming to a consensus with the other mod(s).

  7. New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

    I believe in closing (well, putting on old) weak/confusing/broad questions as soon as possible. Training all users--new and seasoned alike--to always vote to close immediately is important to the success of this site.

    Especially now with the "on hold" verbiage (versus the old "closed"), it's more apparent that closing a question is not a death sentence (it never was anyway).

    On a related note, I believe that when a question's nature changes sufficiently, all existing answers ought to be deleted--also not a death sentence. Answers ought to answer the question. A perfectly formulated answer may exist to a question that is no longer being asked. This problem plagues many SE sites, and the easiest way to solve it is to nip it in the bud.

  8. How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

    Refer to my answer to question #4 above.

    But specifically, it's not difficult to come up with a (non-threatening/attacking) example of where "The Truth" is viewed differently by different groups of Christians. It generally takes only a short conversation to get the point across that we cannot be Truth Police, and therefore that we simply cannot address these issues. We can only address the study of these issues.

  9. How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

    The distinction does matter in a sense, because a true troll generally cannot be reconciled (although I have actually seen it happen once or twice on this site). Someone who is simply too emotionally involved has a greater hope of providing a meaningful contribution.

    However, from a moderation perspective, I think we must assume that everyone has good intentions, and need guidance in expressing themselves. Only when someone proves that hand-holding is ineffective should harsher methods (suspension) be considered.

  10. A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

    Close the question immediately, then ask for clarification and help to edit the question to re-open it.

    Ambiguous questions are the worst type of question, because they solicit answers which are likely to be irrelevant once the question is narrowed. See my comments to #7 above for more.

  11. If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

    I already have 10k, and honestly find that most of what I did here was possible even before 10k. The activities which I find myself doing the most include:

    • Editing questions for clarity/scope
    • Editing for typographical or grammatical errors
    • Commenting to encourage clarifying scope
    • Voting to close or to re-open

    I suspect the biggest difference a diamond would make is that my VTCs would take effect sooner. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and I find myself not VTCing on Spanish.SE (where I am a mod) on certain questions where I might otherwise VTC. I still believe in the form of democracy we have here, and if a question is border-line, I will at least let 2-4 other community members vote before I cast a final VTC. My "bigger hammer" doesn't go to my head.

5
votes

Warren

Give an example of how you have helped a new user whose questions or answers were originally not up to site standards.

While I try to avoid direct editing of user's questions/answers (unless for grammar/readability), there have been times wherein I have cautiously done so, as I do not want to put my own presuppositions and biases into another's place unnecessarily. I try to leave (and/or upvote) helpful comments so that users can improve themselves without it being done for them.

A promising new user (let's call him Saul) who has already demonstrated a knack for answering questions wisely decides to answer a pastoral advice question. Another user flags the answer for deletion because of the Pastoral Advice Questions policy. Even though you agree with the advice Saul gave, you delete his answer. Now Saul is questioning your decision in chat. What do you do? Would you do anything differently if you thought the advice bad?

Given the site policies, regardless of my personal opinion of the biblicality/wisdom of his advice, I would point him to the site policy that indicates we do not handle "advice" questions - even though his answer may be quite good. We would more than happily suggest the question be rewritten in a non-advice format, and any required rerendering of the answer to match the new quesiton, but simply it's outside the purview of the system, and we do not want to be held responsible for dispensing [potentially] poor advice semi-anonymously over the internet. The questioner really needs to seek the counsel of his/her local church's leadership in whatever the matter may be.

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have. Sometimes the policies that the community has agreed upon in meta are at odds with our own personal standards. If that's the case for you, which policies do you disagree with and how would you go about changing them? If you agree with all of the policies, what would you do if another moderator set out to change one of the site's accepted standards?

Policies and procedures should [almost] always be up for reconsideration - but change needs to come only when appropriate. I work in a profession where the technology I deploy for customers routinely makes them rethink their previous practices. Change merely for the sake of change, or change merely because a vocal few wish to impose their views is typically unhealthy.

Change that addresses the evolving needs and expectations of the community, however, can often be good. I blogged about this recently. There needs to be a willingness on the part of the community to both say "no" to potential members (or changes, etc), AND the community MUST regularly

- review its own guidelines
- change / modify rules
- find new admins
- welcome new members who aren’t yet versed in the ways of the group

How would you explain the importance of having a site that documents the beliefs and views of Christian religions from a secular perspective to a user who believes it is more important that we try to address "Truth"?

The best analog I can see to the way Christianity.SE is run, given that it is run by a secular company and not a "Christian" company, is that we are documenters - not preachers. We are the court reporters and steganographers of the Christian world: likely versed in the theological nuances of different denominations, but not the ones responsible for presenting the arguments tot he judge - merely responsible for ensuring the transcript is accurate.

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?

Ideally, they would respond to a private chat explaining what they are doing to be unhelpful/wrong. Escalating from there would be a process whereby other mods would be brought int to look at their history and likewise address the issue(s) at hand. If they still aren't responding helpfully, after an extended period of time, there may be a need to [eventually] use the "Penalty Box".

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

There are a few actions that can take place - voting to reopen (ie allowing the community time to consider whether or not it was a good idea (and presuming it wasn't deleted)), talking to him/her in a private chat over why they closed it, and, potentially, involving the other mods in a group discussion over why a particular decision was made.

New users frequently post broad/opinion-based/pastoral questions. This isn't a big problem, except that new users also frequently answer those questions before they can be closed or put on hold. What can be done to help new users know what kinds of questions should be answered?

This seems to be a place where the underlying technology that runs the SE universe could be improved. While, of course, never fool-proof, highlighting specifically-disalloed types of questions while someone is asking would be intensely helpful. There are already dynamic text regions that give helpful information along the side of an in-progress question: why not add this to it?

Likewise, there needs to be a similarly-helpful addition to the answer segment of the Q&A. Maybe these could be eliminated once you hit a certain reputational threshold?

Possibly, too, could be a loose "requirement" to have to go through the FAQ/Help pages before asking questions if you're new to the SE network?

How would you explain the idea of a "Truth" question to a user who seems to be having trouble understanding the distinction and purpose of the site? How do you explain the problems that trying to tackle "Truth" questions would cause?

"Truth" questions, as used hereon, are about absolutes of religious philosophy - and tend to be different between at least major branches of Christianity (eg LDS and Catholic), but sometimes also between even closely-related-but-different denominations (eg PCA and OPC). "Truth" questions in the vein of, "what did Martin Luther say about <something>?" are very different from this closed question, or, "is the Millenial Kingdom literal or figurative?"

Just like Skeptics.SE has specific rules, this community has rules, and users need to be taught how to recognize whether what they want to ask is inside the guidelines for the community. Just as important is the need to show users that they may be able to reword their inquiry into a form that doesn't demand a "truth" answer.

How would you differentiate between someone who is trolling the site and someone who is attempting to participate but getting too emotionally vested in what they feel to be "True"? Does this distinction matter in how you would handle the situation? How would you handle each situation?

Trolls tend, in my experience, to repeat the same tropes over and over - often with little variation in wording. They tend towards the ad hominem method of argumentation, they tend to ignore any form of fact-based rebuttal, and they tend to always "need" the last word in an argument/debate.

Emotionally-invested folks, on the other hand, while sometimes appearing trollish, can [generally] be brought to realize they might not be "right" by the use of well-sourced and -worded responses.

Trolls need to be shown the door as quickly as possible, while the merely emotionally-invested should be given the opportunity to

  • learn how to respond less emotionally,
  • learn how to ask less-charged questions / answer in less-charged manners , or
  • allowed to leave the community of their own volition

A fresh question hits the home page that clearly does not have a narrow enough scope according to our guidelines to garner high quality specific answers. There are not enough clues for you to just edit and fix the question. Do you think it should be closed and why? When would you close it?

My first response is to leave a comment for the asker that it is of questionable viability, and let them know it is highly likely to be closed in short order. If they don't reply with clarifications and/or make the edits themselves in a reasonable window of time, I'll close it.

Ideally, I think the community would be voting to close by this point and/or have been able to make better heads-or-tails of the question than could I, and it will not appear as if one person is on a vendetta against all bad questions - but instead that the mods are guiding the community towards self-improvement.

If you already have 10k or 20k rep you will no doubt have found all the tools you have at your disposal to participate in moderating this community. How have you found yourself suited to those activities and how do you think your participation would change as a diamond mod with a bigger hammer? If you haven't gotten there yet, in what way do you expect the role to be unique and not just a shortcut to cool gizmos?

I had the mod-level tools when the site was in beta, and used them in as sparing and judicious a manner as I could muster. I will do the same when elected moderator now: this isn't a personal site or service - it is a community. And the community will come first - even if it's against my personal views.

1
vote

I apologize but I need to resign from the election, I know I was everyone's first pick, but I don't think I am fully ready for moderation responsibilities here.

Thank you for your support!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .