4

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 insufficient submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as our back up questions for a total of 8 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. Oh, and 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.

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!


  1. What do you think are the biggest issues Raspberry Pi SE could face in the future - and how as a moderator would you go about solving them?

  2. The products made by the Raspberry Pi foundation are aimed at all ages and skill levels, including children and beginners with technology. As such, many of those who use this site for the first time may not be familiar with the ethics of our site (and the internet in general). In the past this has brought many low quality questions and answers with problems. We have a huge backlog of these questions and answers, and while some of these have been fixed, most of them have not. As a moderator, what can you do to help clean up this site, and keep it clean in the future?

  3. 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?

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

  5. As a Moderator it is conceivable that the users of your Stack Exchange Community will ask you about a desirable feature for your Community that the parent SE organisation either does not currently provide, or can never provide. How would you work out the difference and what would you aim to do for each?

  6. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

  7. 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?

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

3

Steve Robillard

  1. What do you think are the biggest issues Raspberry Pi SE could face in the future - and how as a moderator would you go about solving them?

I think the biggest problems going forward will be building/maintaining a welcoming community, and converting our new users (often noobs/first time SE users) into more actively engaged community members.

The Need for the first of these can be seen in this question raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/39218/…, While this is a reference to behavior from another site(s), it is clear what a bad experience the OP had. As a moderator Keeping, interchanges civil and quickly addressing users concerns over tone, language and content (i.e. flags and comments) can go along way to addressing this, especially if done quickly. so that animosity does not fester. As a moderator sometimes a well timed/placed comment can make a big difference and smooth the waters between people - especially since we are inherently a somewhat impersonal written medium with many members for whom English is a second language. Some parts of communication are lost or can be misconstrued in written form). A simple example of how a small change can make a big difference is presenting a search result back to a user. saying have you seen this is far better than using "let me google that for you". The latter basically says go away don't bother me.

As for converting noobs into active community members I think two things can help here: first, taking advantage of the teachable moment, by which I mean helping them learn to help themselves. This includes teaching them where to find help (e.g. man pages, reading an error message) how to ask better questions (see my comments here raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/39187/…), second, taking advantage of the gamification system baked into SE by encouraging them (after determining the problem) to answer their own question, vote or ask a new question. This gives them a little boost of self confidence (to stick with the Pi and this site), a reputation bump, and a badge or two. It also affords them the opportunity to pay it forward (see the comments to my answer here for an example - raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/2059/…).

As a moderator I should be held to a higher standard then the rest and lead by example (something I am sure I do not always achieve but that I do strive for). Though one thing that has helped is conferring with the other mods about a users behavior so as not to allow my own bias/annoyance etc. become an issue. Moderation should be seen as a team sport.

  1. The products made by the Raspberry Pi foundation are aimed at all ages and skill levels, including children and beginners with technology. As such, many of those who use this site for the first time may not be familiar with the ethics of our site (and the internet in general). In the past this has brought many low quality questions and answers with problems. We have a huge backlog of these questions and answers, and while some of these have been fixed, most of them have not. As a moderator, what can you do to help clean up this site, and keep it clean in the future?

First there is no way that moderators can address these issues alone. It takes the whole community. The moderators need users to flag posts, help work through the review queues, add comments requesting clarification and providing guidance into how things work here. Moderators can however, provide a united consistent voice and policy, handle the flags that other users have raised and lead by example (posting comments that help turn poor/weak questions into good ones, voting up good questions and answers). @goldilocks and I have both stated that we feel a bit heavy handed when unilaterally closing a question. As moderators it only takes our one vote to close a question as opposed to five community member votes. In the few cases where I have done this it was clearly off topic etc.

  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?

In past we have chatted about the best way of handling individual user issues (we actually have a private mod chat room that we use for this). Sometimes this has been handled in comments, private chat with the user, user annotations and even the occasional suspension. We have always started these conversations by noting the good and encouraging that behavior, and then pointing out the negative aspects of their actions and their effects on the wider community. We have also swapped roles (good cop bad cop), when a user has raised an issue with one of us personally. This collaborative approach to managing negative user behavior has been one of the most rewarding parts of being a moderator.

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

We have had this come up a few times and we have chatted about it and come to a consensus that we felt was best for the site, and that we could all agree on or support. Occasionally it led one of us to a change of opinion and the question being reopened, sometimes we convinced the other of our point of view and the decision stood.

  1. As a Moderator it is conceivable that the users of your Stack Exchange Community will ask you about a desirable feature for your Community that the parent SE organisation either does not currently provide, or can never provide. How would you work out the difference and what would you aim to do for each?

I would try to determine what the OP really wanted - this is not always clear, nor always aligned with what they are asking for, what benefit they thought would be achieved by the new feature, how existing features could not meet this need etc. Next I would try to determine why SE could/would not provide the requested functionality, via chat or meta and if they had any workarounds or similar requests. If they had similar requests perhaps we could follow up with the mods from these other communities with a similar request/dilemma. This would allow us (the mod team) to understand and articulate the differences and any potential solutions to both parties. I would also remind the user that not every want needs a feature, and somethings are inevitably not ideal in a one size fits all world. They may be no entirely satisfactory answer, but at least you can help both parties understand the other's perspective.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators maintain community standards, first among these is the edict to always be nice, but this also includes making sure the questions are in line with the site's scope as described in the FAQ and eliminate bad behavior and violations of the standards (spam etc.). They model proper user behavior. They handle flags, monitor and manage user behavior. They are also the point of communication between various groups (other mods, sister SE sites, SE staff and the site's users. In short they are part cop, part publicist, part coach and part teacher.

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

I don't mind this. I use my real name on this site and most places on the web. It is a small way that I hold myself responsible for what I say and do. As mods we should be proud to have the diamond and strive daily to live up to the standards it implies.

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

As a moderator your focus is less on reputation (after all you are given all the privileges, and responsibility of a high rep user). The moderator role is different from a high rep user, instead of answering questions, you spend more of your time keeping the site tidy, welcoming and working to grow the community. You may not see your reputation grow as fast, but moderation provides its own rewards and sense of satisfaction - seeing the site graduate and hold elections chief among them.

  • My apologies to Ghanima and Jacobm001 I should have given them the opportunity to answer the questions first - as I have the advantage of experience. – Steve Robillard Dec 14 '15 at 23:50
  • Steve the good cop bad cop thing is supposed to be secret... – goldilocks Dec 15 '15 at 10:30
2

It's Ghanima.

Preface

I believe in the power of the crowd and cooperation. Therefore it is my firm hope that a mod only has to step in in the rare cases where self-regulation fails. I see the work of moderators as part of the work the community does as a whole - after all Stack Exchange is community moderated and moderators are also just users.

It is my understanding that the community members should define the goals and policies of the site together (e.g. in meta), with the mods aiding to focus this process and helping to implement the agreed upon procedures. As a moderator I would like to act as part of a team on behalf of and to the benefit of the community.

  1. What do you think are the biggest issues Raspberry Pi SE could face in the future - and how as a moderator would you go about solving them?

As a follower of the Mr. Robillard school of moderation I find it hard to come up with an answer better than his. My previous experience as a user of RPi.SE suggests that neither troublemakers nor technical issues are a big problem of our site - but this view might be somewhat limited if those issues just did not surface due to the good work of the pro-tem moderators.

So as of now I concur with the assessment that nurturing a helpful and welcoming community is key for a successful growth of our site. The advantage of SE is its high quality answers. To keep it that way new users will have to be turned into active community members who are eager to share their knowledge. Fishing for enthusiastic new users will also help to broaden our base of knowledgeable experts for the evergrowing family of models of the Pi. I very much like the idea of the teachable moment and pledge myself to take greater care of it - regardless of being elected mod or not.

Being welcoming is also where I see the whole community in charge with the obvious fact that a moderator should be held to the highest standards in leading by example (to use the well-worn phrase). I completely agree that the moderator should quickly step in to arbitrate disputes. Respecting the user and with fair and impartial actions I hope to live up to your expectations. I consider clear and open communication key to resolve conflict. As stated above I firmly believe in cooperation and think that the feedback of the fellow community members as well as the team of mods shall keep those good faith in line.

  1. The products made by the Raspberry Pi foundation are aimed at all ages and skill levels, including children and beginners with technology. As such, many of those who use this site for the first time may not be familiar with the ethics of our site (and the internet in general). In the past this has brought many low quality questions and answers with problems. We have a huge backlog of these questions and answers, and while some of these have been fixed, most of them have not. As a moderator, what can you do to help clean up this site, and keep it clean in the future?

My history of flagging, commenting, voting, and editing should speak for itself. I will continue to do the housekeeping work at leisure (mod or not, any case), including commenting and editing to guide new users. Besides that I take it that this a task to be carried out by the whole community (as it is today). As is pointed out the tools of the moderators are quite powerful when it comes to closing, and have to be used with care.

How to handle the backlog and the huge stack of unanswered/no-accepted answer questions is a question of future policy that I would like to have determined by the community (e.g. in meta).

  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?

Again it's clear and open communication to be named as key. Addressing the user directly (as per a-theory-of-moderation) should help to mediate and resolve disputes or "diversities in interpretation" if you will. I strongly hope that the teamwork of moderators (as Steven mentions it) will be kept up to address such issues.

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

Communication again. A team a three moderators should discuss the issue (which I expect to show up only rarely) and decide what serves best the goals and the development of RPi.SE.

  1. As a Moderator it is conceivable that the users of your Stack Exchange Community will ask you about a desirable feature for your Community that the parent SE organisation either does not currently provide, or can never provide. How would you work out the difference and what would you aim to do for each?

From my experience in the work place I know that it's worth to double check and figure out whether what the customer tells that he wants is really what he wants. If that issue is settled, the community should back the wish of an individual user considering the potential benefit to the site. I have brought up a feature request on meta that will have to stand up to the community opinion whether it is worth the effort or not - the same thing I would expect for any request.

With this concensus the issue could be brought up to meta.SE and/or discussed at other sibbling sites that had similar requests. In time this might lead to either a solution to the wish or an understanding that (and why) it is not possible to implement it. The outcome would need to be communicated through meta.RPi and in the hope of the understanding of the initiator.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

I like the phrase Moderators are human exception handlers very much. So I take it that a mod has to step in in the rare cases where self-regulation fails, those exceptional conditions that could otherwise disrupt the community. The answer to most of those situations boils down to communication - with the attributes we expect from our moderators: patient and fair, respectful and polite. Besides that I understand that a fair share of the housekeeping is part of the moderators work, e.g. processing the flagging queue and maintaining .

As this is my first nomination I have no experience with it, but I acknowledge that the communication between the community and SE both in terms of escalated moderation and with respect to administrative or technical tasks is part of the job, too.

  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?

Despite using a pseudonym here, I am pretty confident that my previous posts reflect well - save issues of the language barrier or the fact that a nerd's mode of expression might sometime come off as a little rude. If you ever find me cross the line, just give me a hint. I am not above reconsidering and apologizing. I take responsibility for what posted in the past and what I will post in the future, so in fact, the potential diamond does not make me feel dizzy.

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

Reaching 10k rep could be a matter of years. Gaining mod powers now is therefore not a question of being more effective but earlier. In meta and chat we lately discussed the issue of the sudden rise of reputation levels to access numerous moderation privileges due to the sites graduation. With a comparably small base of active high-rep users this could lead to a larger backlog in review and flagging queues. Being a mod will allow me now to be of greater use.

(Disclaimer: English is not my native language, so please excuse my bumpy phrasing.)

  • I would not have have known English was not your native language -so don't see an issue here. – Steve Robillard Dec 14 '15 at 23:33
  • @SteveRobillard, you'll have to leave me my clumsy excuse ;) – Ghanima Dec 14 '15 at 23:34
  • What bumpy phrasing? – angussidney Dec 15 '15 at 5:40
  • 1
    @angussidney, well I cannot know for sure ;) If I knew, I could change it. It just might be that one uses phrases somewhat different than the native speaker, e.g. using false friends or phrases that carry a hidden meaning without even noticing. So I am just saying if you find something that seems strange, assume good faith but poor wording, and just point it out. I like to improve and might take the advice :) Thanks for your comment and hope to see you around. – Ghanima Dec 15 '15 at 7:54
  • 2
    To be fair, your writing is significantly better than that of many native English speakers I know (even among some college graduates). – Jacobm001 Dec 16 '15 at 17:48
  • Thanks, I guess I stopp whining now ;) – Ghanima Dec 16 '15 at 20:06
2
  1. What do you think are the biggest issues Raspberry Pi SE could face in the future - and how as a moderator would you go about solving them?

Our material can be highly specialized across a diverse range whose unifying factor (the Raspberry Pi) is arbitrary. For a smaller SE site, particularly one which overlaps a number of larger ones, this presents a challenge to participation, which in turn affects the number of users with sufficient reputation to cast close/open votes, edit without approval, etc.

However, these are not insurmountable obstacles. A moderator gets to make a lot of little decisions involving scope, something we have some leeway with. By remaining attuned to what's going on and making judgements about what is possible, we can exploit this flexibility to grow and/or focus the site. It will take time to accumulate more committed high rep users, but as we do so we will become more defined and tightly knit as a community.

  1. The products made by the Raspberry Pi foundation are aimed at all ages and skill levels, including children and beginners with technology. As such, many of those who use this site for the first time may not be familiar with the ethics of our site (and the internet in general). In the past this has brought many low quality questions and answers with problems. We have a huge backlog of these questions and answers, and while some of these have been fixed, most of them have not. As a moderator, what can you do to help clean up this site, and keep it clean in the future?

I've spent more than a few hours with the data explorer going through a large backlog of questions with certain characteristics (no accepted or upvoted answer) and reviewing them. I've closed hundreds of very stale, hopeless questions this way.

I've also been rigorous about insisting new questions meet certain standards, while trying to avoid scaring too many people off. We are an intersection of widely varying skill sets, levels, etc. and this requires a degree of sensitivity. One of the things I have shied away from that I intend to pursue more going forward is radically editing questions rather than closing them -- not just spelling and formatting, etc., but taking something that is too broad or unclear and turning it into something clear and specific and still useful to the original author. Where feasible, this could be a more productive demonstration than, "Sorry, please try again."

  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?

That would depend a bit upon the exact nature of the flags, etc. Someone who contributes positively more than negatively deserves consideration, but not a license to commit murder. We have very few problems of this sort.

People who are very aggressive, annoyed, or annoying are best dealt with in private chat, where perceived audience is not a factor. A one-on-one padded room dynamic can be conducive to coming to a mutual understanding. I am very happy when I can achieve that and believe it is almost always possible, particularly with people who demonstrate a desire and ability to produce good content.

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

Having multiple mods ensures there is a degree of oversight, but it is primarily about sharing the workload. That is negated if we are constantly second guessing each other -- it should not take three people to screw in a lightbulb.

I am comfortable with other people having perspectives which are not identical to mine. Closing questions is sometimes a nuanced judgement call. If another moderator makes a different call than I would have, I would have to feel strongly about it in order to contradict them, in which case I would first discuss it with them privately.

Steve and I are mostly copacetic, but on occasion one or the other of us has asked "Do you mind if I reopen this question you closed?" and that's fine. I think the most important thing there is to actually communicate via chat before acting and diminish the chance for any misunderstanding.

  1. As a Moderator it is conceivable that the users of your Stack Exchange Community will ask you about a desirable feature for your Community that the parent SE organisation either does not currently provide, or can never provide. How would you work out the difference and what would you aim to do for each?

The first thing I would do would be to dig around Meta SE and see if this has already been proposed and discussed in the past. The "Teacher's Lounge"1 is also a good place to investigate this kind of thing. I'd then pass that information on, and explain a purpose of Meta SE (open to everyone) is exactly this kind of proposal. If I thought the proposal viable and worthwhile, I might offer to help them with it. This is not strictly necessary, however, and I'd prefer to see people get involved themselves rather than me taking the ball.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

As I wrote in my self-nomination, moderators are the most privileged members of a system which allows users to play a significant role in how the "limited supply and demand economy" of Q&A is regulated.

I've put in thousands of hours answering questions here and on other SE sites, and before that, other technical forums. I benefit from the work of others doing much the same thing. I am a believer in the power of knowledge, information, and communication. The internet is an important tool, and "crowdsourced" conduits of information such as this are one of its most impressive aspects. What moderators do is try to keep it impressive. More specifically, I wrote that while providing answers is obviously fundamental to the existence of a Q&A site,

...being a moderator is not about answering questions. It is more often about deciding which questions can be asked. This helps to define the community and keep it sustainable.

Moderators by and large are people who have provided a lot of helpful answers. Having done so doesn't just mean "you are good at this stuff so you should be moderator" -- we represent the supply side of the equation. That the site and answers are free does not mean this supply is infinite or without value. First and foremost, moderators are here to ensure that attitudes and misconceptions on the demand side do not squander the supply. We're also here to nurture that supply by helping other people who want to help. Hopefully this adds up to everyone finding the help they need, even if sometimes they need to put in a little work to get it.

My analogy is not intended to imply a sharp distinction between a Q group and an A group or an S group and a D group so much as illustrate that sites like this are resources which can function and be used more and less efficiently. What moderators do is make decisions about, and try to focus other user's attention upon, the details that make the difference between "more" and "less".

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

I stand behind what I write. This does not mean I never make mistakes, but when I do I make an effort to rectify and own up to it. I do think that the role of moderator places an extra burden upon you to exemplify a model of behaviour, but I don't think that needs to mean sacrificing one's individuality or idiosyncrasies.

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

Mostly in the obvious sense that being able to do simple things like close/reopen questions by fiat makes it easier to do more complex things like those mentioned in my answer to #6. Being able to edit (my own) comments without a 5 minute time limit is also useful; I communicate a lot with comments and often put as much thought into them as I might an answer. Comments on questions are a key place for providing insight and guidance to people new to the system and/or confused by a particular problem.

Being a moderator probably also helps in being taken seriously when someone is frustrated and might prefer to ignore something they don't want to hear. There's a lot of frustration to find in technology such as the Raspberry Pi, and often there is no quick and easy way out of it.


1. An SE network mods only chat room, hotbed of conspiracy, controversy, and unbridled keenness.

2

Jacobm001

Question 1:

We've recently had several discussions about how we lack a significant number of high reputation users. I believe that over time this issue will probably solve itself, but in the mean time, we'll need a significant amount of effort from our moderators. If the moderators are too light handed, we could easily see quality of the site slip, but holding the reins too will certainly produce the same result.

The second risk I see is how our site tends to see surges in new users. When the Raspberry Pi Foundation releases a new device, there's always an influx of new users. These users are often completely new to the RPi and Linux as a whole. Sometimes I believe that our official scope is too narrow and our response scares away new users. We often bend/flex/break those rules on a case by case basis, but as our discussion here on Meta has been leaning, it may be prudent to widen the scope, at least by a little bit.

Question 2:

At the time of this writing, we have 29 items in the close queue. While we were in the beta phase, we were often able to keep that number much lower, often at 0. To help clean the site, and to keep it clean moving forward, I think the moderators are going to need to take more decisive action.

In the past our moderators have been more hesitant to act in the queues because they wield a hammer rather than a vote. I respect that position, but I think we're going to need to wield the hammers a little more strongly in the coming year. The challenge will be for the moderators to be open and honest about their actions, in a system that wasn't really designed for it.

Question 3

I would try to be upfront with the user about their behavior. I would try to address that while their contributions are valuable to the community, their behavior is not. If one and one communication doesn't work, I would bring at least one of the other moderators. If they agree, I would give the user a warning that clearly states the consequences of not abiding the sites rules. If the warning is not heeded, I would suspend the account.

Question 4

It's fairly likely that moderators will disagree, at least on occasion. My first course of action would be to message the other moderator. They may have more information than I do, which would obscure their reasoning. If we could not come to an agreement, the best course of action would be to bring in the third moderator. We would need to work as a team, and even if we can't all agree on a course of action, my hope is that the third moderator could break the tie, and we could come to a reasoned course of action.

Question 5

As a moderator, part of my responsibilities would be to act as a go between for the users and the greater StackExchange community. If the users would like to see a feature provided by StackExchange that doesn't yet exist, I would first try to see if there was a solution that we could implement ourselves. After that, I would discuss the the request with other moderators. I'm sure many of our sister communities have already gone through many of the problems/requests we will face, and may have come up with a solution.

Exhausting those options, I would bring the request to the StackExchange team themselves (I'm assuming mods have some kind of avenue for this...). If they implement the request, the users and I can call it a job well done and celebrate. If they decide not to for whatever reason, I will forward the information they give their response to the users.

Question 7

I don't mind the limelight. I will try to be as cognizant of that diamond as I can be, as I realize that it will mean that I represent this site to a far greater degree than I already do.

Question 8

Currently, I have a reputation of a little over 2,100. Reaching 10,000 or even 20,000 could take a very long time, let alone 20,000. Being a moderator would allow me to start participating to a greater degree much more effectively, and more quickly.

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