6

In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers.

Due to the submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as our back up questions for a total of 10 questions.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes. Please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written, and also including a link to your answer on your nomination post.

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

Good luck to all of the candidates!

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

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


  1. 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?

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

  3. As Parenting has a fairly small community of regular answerers, it is common for moderators to answer questions that they then have to moderate. How would you address moderating a question you answered?
    In particular, you may want to consider other answers that are clearly not answers; other answers that are aggreesive or rude; comments on your own answer; comments on the question; and edits to other answers, in answering this question.

  4. If someone answers an off-topic question before you see it, would you still close the question?

  5. how do you envision good or even acceptable answers? Should specific claims (e.g. every child needs their mother at home) be backed up? How would you handle opinion only as an answer?

  6. Parenting is way less objective than other topics. Different users follow different parenting styles and have different sets of values. Disagreements have the potential for flaring up, especially if they are based on cultural or philosophical differences.
    How would you deal with such a conflict? How do you ensure your own objectivity?

  7. Parenting brings, among other things, a lot of questions that come near to being medical questions. While some are clearly off-topic (this one, for example), many others are on the border - whether asking for symptoms of an illness their child may have, for help getting medical attention, asking whether it is safe to do something, or asking whether they should vaccinate their child1.
    How would you address moderating questions that are potentially medical in nature? Would you wait for community action (such as close votes) prior to acting? Do you prefer to leave questions open if it is questionable? What do you consider the definition of a medical question that is off topic, versus a question that relates to a health issue but is on topic?
    While answering this, keep in mind that Parenting rarely attracts five close votes to a question within a 24 hour period except in the most extreme of circumstances, so some action will certainly be necessary (or a choice not to act) from the moderation team.
    1 The questions selected above are nearly all of an age where these questions were treated differently than they are now, so take care not to assume these should be considered on-topic today; they are simply examples of questions a reasonable person might disagree on.

  8. We have a problem here, occasionally, when a new user will ask a question that doesn't quite fit our format, and thus gets put on hold very quickly. This often leads to the new user feeling unfairly targeted and leaving the stack soon after. As a mod, what would you do to help improve these new users' questions while still encouraging them to stay on the site?

  9. Leadership in any realm stands on the fine line between humility and assertiveness. As we are all fallible there is a high chance that you will make a wrong decision when dealing with a patron of the site. In the realization of making an incorrect decision, how would you, as a moderator, approach that individual to correct the situation?

  10. 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?

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  • As a parent, I find that the former (non-parent) me knew less than he thought he did of the theory and that I now know much more of the application of parenting. I find that to be a surprise to my former self and obvious to my current self. This goes along with the idiom: Never trust a skinny cook. Can I learn more about the personal parenting experience of the parenting moderators? Are they good parents, or crappy ones? How do they measure good/crap? How are they are learning? Teaching? There should be an open space for #11. – EngrStudent May 26 at 12:35
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    @EngrStudent should we take this topic to the election chat room? That would be the best place to have some kind of discussion and to get to know the candidates better. I am pingable there and we could invite the other candidates as well. – Stephie May 26 at 13:39
  • I have invited @EngrStudent to the election chat room – Rory Alsop May 26 at 19:36
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    @EngrStudent Just for your information for the future - there was a question in [meta] a week or so ago where we collected the above questions. Next time you see an election please feel free to add questions there! It's generally open for a week before the election. – Joe May 28 at 22:41
6

Rory Alsop's answers:

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

Having had to do this a couple of times on other sites (and I think once on here already) my approach is to first have a quick word with them to let them know the impact they have and that positive behaviour can be equally as important as being able to write good answers. Then, if that doesn't help, a short suspension - again, outlining behaviours. If that doesn't work, longer suspensions follow. Because at the end of the day, the community providing answers is much more important than one individual whose behaviours drive others away.

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

This happens more than you'd think. Moderators are human too, so we make mistakes. They are usually sorted in a quick chat. If not, we can always request input from other moderators, but generally, because we follow the community, a disagreement over a particular post isn't that challenging. If the community is fine with the status, we shouldn't worry about it too much either.

  1. As Parenting has a fairly small community of regular answerers, it is common for moderators to answer questions that they then have to moderate. How would you address moderating a question you answered?
    In particular, you may want to consider other answers that are clearly not answers; other answers that are aggressive or rude; comments on your own answer; comments on the question; and edits to other answers, in answering this question.

The best option here is to defer to one of the other mods if at all possible. For a few months now, there have only been two mods here, and we have made it work - just quickly requesting the other mod takes a look so we can avoid perception of bias.

  1. If someone answers an off-topic question before you see it, would you still close the question?

Yes. This one is reasonably strictly enforced across the SE network as a whole, because letting off topic questions stay means search algorithms send more folks our way for questions like that and it escalates. And if the answerer regularly answers off topic posts I usually point them at the site scope and ask them to desist.

  1. how do you envision good or even acceptable answers? Should specific claims (e.g. every child needs their mother at home) be backed up? How would you handle opinion only as an answer?

A lot of this is covered in our site scope and How to Answer pages, as well as meta questions on scope amendments over time. SE doesn't like opinion only answers, however we are much more subjective than, say, Stack Overflow, so while we strive for well-researched answers, there is an element of objectivity that we will probably never lose. We have specific close reasons and post-notices that allow us to request the poster improves their content, so I do use these where necessary, and of course I follow flags raised by the community.

  1. Parenting is way less objective than other topics. Different users follow different parenting styles and have different sets of values. Disagreements have the potential for flaring up, especially if they are based on cultural or philosophical differences.
    How would you deal with such a conflict? How do you ensure your own objectivity?

The main tenet I adhere to here is that barring wild exceptions, I don't let answerers frame challenge. For example, if a question is asked on how to raise a child within certain religious constraints, I won't allow posts that tell the OP to stop being religious. I also clamp down quickly on argumentative comments - either moving them to a chat if they are just noise, or deleting altogether if they degenerate to abuse or bullying. From an objectivity perspective, it's reasonably easy to avoid bringing personal values into it - but if I have an answer post involved, I will ask another mod to step in, as I mentioned before.

  1. Parenting brings, among other things, a lot of questions that come near to being medical questions. While some are clearly off-topic (this one, for example), many others are on the border - whether asking for symptoms of an illness their child may have, for help getting medical attention, asking whether it is safe to do something, or asking whether they should vaccinate their child1.
    How would you address moderating questions that are potentially medical in nature? Would you wait for community action (such as close votes) prior to acting? Do you prefer to leave questions open if it is questionable? What do you consider the definition of a medical question that is off topic, versus a question that relates to a health issue but is on topic?
    While answering this, keep in mind that Parenting rarely attracts five close votes to a question within a 24 hour period except in the most extreme of circumstances, so some action will certainly be necessary (or a choice not to act) from the moderation team.
    1 The questions selected above are nearly all of an age where these questions were treated differently than they are now, so take care not to assume these should be considered on-topic today; they are simply examples of questions a reasonable person might disagree on.

Unless the scope is changed again by further meta discussion, I will follow the community view that medical questions are rarely a good fit here, as the internet is not a good diagnosis tool, and I am not a medical practitioner (although I am married to one) so I will always recommend the OP speaks to their doctor or health practitioner.

  1. We have a problem here, occasionally, when a new user will ask a question that doesn't quite fit our format, and thus gets put on hold very quickly. This often leads to the new user feeling unfairly targeted and leaving the stack soon after. As a mod, what would you do to help improve these new users' questions while still encouraging them to stay on the site?

I encourage everyone to not just vote to close a post by new folks, but to explain what needs to be done to let us reopen it, or providing an edit which improves it if you can. In fact just mentioning that reopening is possible seems to have a great positive impact. When I have time I do try to edit wall of text posts, ones with bad grammar or spelling, etc.

  1. Leadership in any realm stands on the fine line between humility and assertiveness. As we are all fallible there is a high chance that you will make a wrong decision when dealing with a patron of the site. In the realization of making an incorrect decision, how would you, as a moderator, approach that individual to correct the situation?

When I do this I apologise, explain how I made my mistake, and rectify it. I have done that when other moderators have explained my mistake, when members of the community have told me, or when I have realised it myself. I'm not too precious about actions - I am human. I do my best, but sometimes mistakes happen.

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

Having been a mod for 10 years now on various SE sites, I assume that what I write, and my actions will be held to a high standard, even on the sites I don't moderate. I act accordingly

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  • 2
    Sounds good to me. You should just be grandfathered in my opinion. – SomeShinyObject May 26 at 7:25
4

Stephie's answers:

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

This site has over 23,000 registered users, even if many of them aren't actively participating. We value each and everyone of them and coming here, even as an unregistered drive-by-user, should be a positive experience (see also question 8). Some of our more active users work hard and dedicate their time and energy to making this site as useful and as welcoming as possible for everyone. If the actions of one have the potential of alienating many and poisoning the atmosphere, I would rather lose one user than many. The tools are there, from private messages to suspensions, to be used as a united mod team.
You will occasionally hear that sometimes a user is not a good fit for the site. But we also need to look at it the other way around: Sometimes we are not what a user needs or wants.

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

I have two rules about interacting with others: “Don’t assume, ask!” and “Praise in public, criticize in private.”. So if another moderator does something that I don’t understand or feel is plain wrong, I’d ask for the reasons. In private, in the moderator-only chatroom. There we can try to find an agreement - and I welcome the (probably few) cases where we don’t: This is likely a corner case where a Meta discussion is in order. Many decisions can be challenged and reversed, not only by moderators, but by the community, which is a great thing.

  1. As Parenting has a fairly small community of regular answerers, it is common for moderators to answer questions that they then have to moderate. How would you address moderating a question you answered?

The common approach on SE sites is that it's preferable when another moderator deals with anything that comes up in the context of a Q/A where I am involved as a poster. But for very straightforward cases, like contributions from new users that need converting from answer to comment or answers that clearly aren't answers at all, I would probably deal with them myself. But the moment there's even the slightest risk that any action of mine may be seen as biased, it's time to step back and let the other team members deal with it. In the very rare case where immediate action is mandatory - for example a flare-up on another post in the same Q/A - and the others are unavailable, I would act as required and immediately ping the others privately to inform them about the case.

  1. If someone answers an off-topic question before you see it, would you still close the question?

Absolutely, yes.
Even questions that are off-topic can get good answers, which doesn't make the question on-topic. I may read the question especially carefuly, though, just in case I misunderstood something and to be triple sure befor casting a binding vote.

  1. how do you envision good or even acceptable answers? Should specific claims (e.g. every child needs their mother at home) be backed up? How would you handle opinion only as an answer?

"It's a truth universally acknowledged..." is fine to start a novel, but can't be the sole basis of a good answer. Yes, we do allow a degree of subjectivity, also due to the topic we're dealing with, but when answers consist of opinions only, they won't work here. As the fine line of how much opinion and how much hard facts is quite well defined on our Meta, I intend to enforce it where necessary.

  1. Parenting is way less objective than other topics. Different users follow different parenting styles and have different sets of values. Disagreements have the potential for flaring up, especially if they are based on cultural or philosophical differences.
    How would you deal with such a conflict? How do you ensure your own objectivity?

This is a situation that requires active moderation, deleting contents, commenting on the situation and explaining the expected behaviour to the involved parties. We don't allow frame challenges - let everyone live as they choose or their values dictate. If I should ever find myself in a situation where I struggle between my personal beliefs and the mandatory neutrality as a mod, I would take a step back and let the other moderators deal with the situation. Like "not answering" a question one fundamentally disagrees with is an option, "not moderating" such a Q/A is also an option. This is generally advisable for all situations where one can't guarantee neutrality or is too much emotionally involved.

  1. Parenting brings, among other things, a lot of questions that come near to being medical questions. While some are clearly off-topic (this one, for example), many others are on the border - whether asking for symptoms of an illness their child may have, for help getting medical attention, asking whether it is safe to do something, or asking whether they should vaccinate their child1.
    How would you address moderating questions that are potentially medical in nature? Would you wait for community action (such as close votes) prior to acting? Do you prefer to leave questions open if it is questionable? What do you consider the definition of a medical question that is off topic, versus a question that relates to a health issue but is on topic?
    While answering this, keep in mind that Parenting rarely attracts five close votes to a question within a 24 hour period except in the most extreme of circumstances, so some action will certainly be necessary (or a choice not to act) from the moderation team.
    1 The questions selected above are nearly all of an age where these questions were treated differently than they are now, so take care not to assume these should be considered on-topic today; they are simply examples of questions a reasonable person might disagree on.

We do have a community agreement - medical questions are off-topic, questions dealing with non-medical aspects in the context of a medical situation are ok - and as long as this agreement stands, I will follow it.

General side note, not referring to the topic of medical questions: Even where I as a user disagree with a community decision, as a moderator I will nevertheless enforce it.

  1. We have a problem here, occasionally, when a new user will ask a question that doesn't quite fit our format, and thus gets put on hold very quickly. This often leads to the new user feeling unfairly targeted and leaving the stack soon after. As a mod, what would you do to help improve these new users' questions while still encouraging them to stay on the site?

I believe no new user2 should be left alone in such a situation. I can't count how many comments I have written to explain why their post will be removed, what the rules for posts are, or that getting a question closed as duplicate has the upside of having answers already available without a wait. I may not be the user trying an "heroic edit" all the time, but if a post is salvageable, it's better to fix than to close. The bare minimum for me is to at least explain why something is hapening and where they can find more information.

  1. Leadership in any realm stands on the fine line between humility and assertiveness. As we are all fallible there is a high chance that you will make a wrong decision when dealing with a patron of the site. In the realization of making an incorrect decision, how would you, as a moderator, approach that individual to correct the situation?

That's a situation especially we as parents should be familiar with - making mistakes and admitting it. Saying sorry isn't a sign of weakness, it's non-negotiable when making a mistake that hurts others in any way. The good thing about mistakes in the context of the SE world, is that at least technically almost all of them are reversible. Fix it or have it fixed, apologize clearly, move on.

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

Calm. I have always tried to be nice. As a non-native speaker I know how easily communication can go wrong across language and cultural barriers and via a written medium alone, so I try to tread lightly. I have no reason to change my behaviour.


2 assuming good faith, obvious trolls are exempt from this rule

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3

SomeShinyObject's answers

Before I begin answering these, I'd like to preface some of my answers. Even within leadership there is following. Becoming a moderator to me just means an extra set of tools to do what I've already done on this site. The majority of my responses will be to consult with other moderators and focus on precedence for the site and StackExchange as a whole.

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?

After consulting with other moderators and with an appropriate plan in place, I imagine we would open a dialog with that user. We would tell them that their passion for the topic is understood but valuable content does not trump common decency. If there is some sort of escalatable warning procedure, implement that, and as with parenting, any stated consequences of the user's actions will be followed through on.

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

Consult with that moderator internally! And I can't stress internally enough. Airing dirty laundry out in the public eye leads to all sorts of issues. Ask them to explain why to get an understanding of the reasoning. If I question their reasoning, make it known respectfully. I would hope that, as a team, we would be able to eventually see eye-to-eye on these issues but as we are all human, conflict arises. If we disagree, we disagree but hopefully we can find common ground and move on.

As Parenting has a fairly small community of regular answerers, it is common for moderators to answer questions that they then have to moderate. How would you address moderating a question you answered? In particular, you may want to consider other answers that are clearly not answers; other answers that are aggressive or rude; comments on your own answer; comments on the question; and edits to other answers, in answering this question.

Bad answers are bad answers. Bad comments are bad comments. While it is very difficult to infer tone over text alone, overt aggressive or rude comments are quickly identified. Bad answers would ask for clarifications. Off-topic or conversational commenting would get removed or moved to chat. Aggressive or rude behavior would swiftly be deleted. Whether or not I answered on the same question would have no bearing on the decision. Doing the right thing is paramount regardless of the flak one may get. I think this leads into the question I posted for this questionnaire which I will address next.

Leadership in any realm stands on the fine line between humility and assertiveness. As we are all fallible there is a high chance that you will make a wrong decision when dealing with a patron of the site. In the realization of making an incorrect decision, how would you, as a moderator, approach that individual to correct the situation?

Apologies are a lost art. Humility is also. When you're wrong and you have multiple people at different levels telling you so, you must meet that rebuke, identify its source, whether it's bias, frustration, stress, and learn to overcome it. Once that is done, admit that you've made a mistake to the individual and unbegrudgingly apologize. We would expect the same behavior of our children, would we not?

If someone answers an off-topic question before you see it, would you still close the question?

Yes.

How do you envision good or even acceptable answers? Should specific claims (e.g. every child needs their mother at home) be backed up? How would you handle opinion only as an answer?

Consulting with other moderators is key here. Specific claims should be backed up. Parenting is subjective but false claims are false claims and they don't do anything to advance the topic at hand. Using whatever tools at the disposal of the moderator. Is there not a "This answer is based on opinion alone" warning? Correct me if I am wrong but I believe there is. Off topic and incoherent answers get removed, bad answers get downvoted.

Parenting is way less objective than other topics. Different users follow different parenting styles and have different sets of values. Disagreements have the potential for flaring up, especially if they are based on cultural or philosophical differences. How would you deal with such a conflict? How do you ensure your own objectivity?

Questions can be locked to users of a certain reputation. This removes the majority of the bickering from my experience. Once that is done, monitor closely, remove rude behavior, move overflowing comments to chat, and encourage everyone to be respectful. For a question like that, I'd leave the answering to the community and simply be an overseer of the content being generated.

Parenting brings, among other things, a lot of questions that come near to being medical questions. While some are clearly off-topic (this one, for example), many others are on the border - whether asking for symptoms of an illness their child may have, for help getting medical attention, asking whether it is safe to do something, or asking whether they should vaccinate their child. How would you address moderating questions that are potentially medical in nature? Would you wait for community action (such as close votes) prior to acting? Do you prefer to leave questions open if it is questionable? What do you consider the definition of a medical question that is off topic, versus a question that relates to a health issue but is on topic? While answering this, keep in mind that Parenting rarely attracts five close votes to a question within a 24 hour period except in the most extreme of circumstances, so some action will certainly be necessary (or a choice not to act) from the moderation team. The questions selected above are nearly all of an age where these questions were treated differently than they are now, so take care not to assume these should be considered on-topic today; they are simply examples of questions a reasonable person might disagree on.

I think there is a good litmus test for medical questions on this site. If you can take the question being asked as a whole, give it to a pediatrician, and immediately get a response as either a diagnosis or whether or not to do something for your child's health, that question is off-topic. Take it to your pediatrician. Everything else should be closely monitored. If a question is on the fence, before the swift hand of moderator power comes down, I would probably wait for two or three close votes to stack. If after a few hours nothing else seems to happen, perhaps a flex of the moderator ability needs to come in to play. I've been a member of Parenting for 7 years and have witnessed the shifting acceptance of medical questions. I have been on board for all of the changes.

We have a problem here, occasionally, when a new user will ask a question that doesn't quite fit our format, and thus gets put on hold very quickly. This often leads to the new user feeling unfairly targeted and leaving the stack soon after. As a mod, what would you do to help improve these new users' questions while still encouraging them to stay on the site?

I have witnessed this problem frequently. Edit! Edit! Edit! We have the ability to edit questions and the discernment of parents to understand what is being asked. Our 4-year-olds don't always form coherent questions yet we still interpret and answer them. The same should I apply here. If, after careful reading and consideration, a question still doesn't make sense, put it on hold. Before that happens though, a concerted effort by the community should be made to redeem the question and then explain the edits in our commentary.

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?

When the diamond becomes a badge of absolute power rather than as a symbol of honorable servitude to the community, I will be first to call for its removal.

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