11

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. As stated, we took the 8 highest ranked questions, plus two of our default 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):

Daniel: https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4200/

Isaac Moses: https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4201/

Scimonster: https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4202/


  1. What is something about the character or policy of the Mi Yodeya that you'd like to work to improve as a mod, and how would you work on it?

  2. What is something new and/or unique that you can bring to the moderator team and/or to the site? (eg. active at unusual times, familiarity with a certain topic, past applicable work experience, extreme love of waffles, etc.)

  3. Why do you want to be a moderator?

  4. Purim Torah season is a time when moderators here end up having to use personal judgement a little more than they usually do. As a moderator, how would you tend to steer the direction of our annual Purim silliness (compared to how it's been in the past, I suppose): keep more of it around since it's just two weeks or cull mediocre or borderline jokes to keep things somewhat focused? Something else?

  5. Tell us about a time (here or elsewhere) when you managed to successfully spur a group of people to positive action that wasn't required of them.

  6. Mi Yodeya sometimes struggles with posts that are not from a mainstream Orthodox perspective. We generally follow the approach we worked out here for questions and answers from other movements, and we tend to delete posts that ascribe authority to non-Jewish sources/ideas. That said, there's still a lot of room for interpretation, and sometimes discussions get heated and flags build up quickly. As a moderator you'll be called on to adjudicate. Please describe your approach to these challenges and your comfort with enforcing the existing policies.

  7. I have frequently found that a number of new users are intimidated and discouraged to continue on this site because of moderators closing questions or putting them on hold. While we do publish our policy in the guide, the language there may be too wordy or ambiguous to many new users. Even with carefully reading the policy, the decision to close or put a question on hold is often voted on by several users often without adequate explanation. Sometimes, moderators take action without waiting for the vote. Comments sometimes help clarify things, but, I sense that often, it has discouraged new users to persevere and stay with our site. They may get intimdated and leave. What actions would you do as moderator to encourage users to stay?

  8. Comments: bane of any site that wants to maintain a good signal:noise ratio, harmless, something in between? What do you think about comments and the moderation thereof on Mi Yodeya, and what would you like to change about it?

  9. 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?

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

10

These are the answers corresponding to Isaac Moses' nomination.

  1. What is something about the character or policy of the Mi Yodeya that you'd like to work to improve as a mod, and how would you work on it?

I think that the comment streams on Mi Yodeya contain too much inside jargon, arguments about general policy, and old conversations, such that they distract from the main Q&A content and probably come off as intimidating to newcomers. It would be good to move toward more usage of Meta posts under the and tags for extended evaluation of the fitness of particular posts, to relegating discussion of general site policy to more general Meta posts, and to moving chat, including serious chat about Judaism, to chatrooms.

As a mod, I would work on this by engaging in public Meta discussion of whether and how to change how we relate to comments and then by using comment-moderation powers and persuasion backed up by those powers to move and clear up comment streams, guided by communal consensus about how to move forward as well as established best practices in the incumbent mod team.

  1. What is something new and/or unique that you can bring to the moderator team and/or to the site? (eg. active at unusual times, familiarity with a certain topic, past applicable work experience, extreme love of waffles, etc.)

The main relevant unique trait that I have is literally more history than anyone else with Mi Yodeya. I founded and built the progenitor of this community, mi.yodeya, on the Stack Exchange 1.0 network, which allowed individuals to create and administer communities at will. When mi.yodeya's content and membership were migrated to a public beta on the Stack Exchange 2.0 model, I was appointed as one of the moderators pro tempore. I served in that role until the community developed to the point that it was ready to become a full-fledged member of the Stack Exchange network, and we elected the permanent mod team we have now.

I have also been following and contributing to discussions about the Stack Overflow Q&A model since its only public manifestation was a podcast.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator?

I care a great deal about Mi Yodeya being a healthy and productive community, and to that end, I participate a great deal in meta-activities such as editing, reviewing, voting, discussions on Meta, and raising flags. As a mod, I would be able to take care of various maintenance activities more rapidly and directly, allowing me to do more to help maintain the community and site.

  1. Purim Torah season is a time when moderators here end up having to use personal judgement a little more than they usually do. As a moderator, how would you tend to steer the direction of our annual Purim silliness (compared to how it's been in the past, I suppose): keep more of it around since it's just two weeks or cull mediocre or borderline jokes to keep things somewhat focused? Something else?

I think we probably need yet more Meta discussion about this as a community (probably pretty soon, actually; it's already Shevat!). I think we do need to find ways to increase the signal/noise ratio. The more we can do so through norms rather than through mod labor, the better. There was talk last year of instituting some kind of velocity cap per user, and I think that's worth exploring for this year.

  1. Tell us about a time (here or elsewhere) when you managed to successfully spur a group of people to positive action that wasn't required of them.

I have started or helped lead various initiatives here at Mi Yodeya that, as this is a volunteer community, required volunteer labor. These include the site itself, Mi Yodeya Publications, and the Alt Text Fix.

An initiative I'm particularly proud of is the practice of welcoming new users with a warm message, useful information, and an invitation to keep participating. I started doing this myself at the very beginnings of the community, and eventually wrote up a Meta post to encourage others to do it, too. I have been very pleased to see more and more community members taking on this practice and improving upon it. I think these welcomes go a long way to giving new users a feeling that they're joining a community of people and not just posting something on a bulletin board.

  1. Mi Yodeya sometimes struggles with posts that are not from a mainstream Orthodox perspective. We generally follow the approach we worked out here for questions and answers from other movements, and we tend to delete posts that ascribe authority to non-Jewish sources/ideas. That said, there's still a lot of room for interpretation, and sometimes discussions get heated and flags build up quickly. As a moderator you'll be called on to adjudicate. Please describe your approach to these challenges and your comfort with enforcing the existing policies.

Frankly, I would describe what we have with respect to this issue is more of a modus vivendi than a clear consensus policy, which may indeed be for the best. Here are some principles I would apply as a moderator in approaching such a conflict situation:

  • Enforce the "Be Nice!" rule by deleting or editing comments or even posts that focus on people rather than content or are rude, and by providing reminders of this rule under official mod imprimatur.

  • In terms of closure or deletion of posts for scope reasons, where there isn't community consensus on how to treat this post, err on the side of not intervening using mod powers.

  • In cases of significant intervention or difficulty, alert the other moderators before, during, or after to consult on best practices and/or get peer feedback.

  1. I have frequently found that a number of new users are intimidated and discouraged to continue on this site because of moderators closing questions or putting them on hold. While we do publish our policy in the guide, the language there may be too wordy or ambiguous to many new users. Even with carefully reading the policy, the decision to close or put a question on hold is often voted on by several users often without adequate explanation. Sometimes, moderators take action without waiting for the vote. Comments sometimes help clarify things, but, I sense that often, it has discouraged new users to persevere and stay with our site. They may get intimdated and leave. What actions would you do as moderator to encourage users to stay?

The first thing we all have to do is internalize the notion that posting [non-egregious] closure-worthy questions is not a sin, and voting to close a question is not a condemnation of it or the person who posted it. Then, each time we vote to close a question posted by anyone, but especially one posted by a new user, we should think whether we ought to leave a comment that conveys this notion as clearly as possible. The auto-generated "I'm voting to close this question because ..." is not very friendly and doesn't offer suggestions for fixing.

As a moderator, I'd apply this consideration extra-carefully whenever I use my mod powers to put a question on hold and most likely, leave a friendly explanatory comment. I would also (well, currently do, but without a diamond on my name), leave explanatory and constructive comments on posts that others have voted to close, where such comments are lacking. These actions will make the process friendlier to the directly-impacted askers and will also provide an example for other community members.

  1. Comments: bane of any site that wants to maintain a good signal:noise ratio, harmless, something in between? What do you think about comments and the moderation thereof on Mi Yodeya, and what would you like to change about it?

Please refer to my answer to Question 1.

  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?

Valuable answers do not justify or excuse behavior that damages the community.

The first recourse for damaging behaviors is to address the behaviors when and where they happen, on a case-by-case basis. That would include leaving "please keep it civil" comments, deleting or editing comments, moving comments to Chat, etc.

From the way the question is phrased, I assume that the pattern of behavior is extensive and persistent enough that it potentially warrants action targeting the community member. I think that the first step in all such cases is likely to consult with the other mods in private and agree on whether such intervention is necessary and what form it should take. Most likely, the first step would be to invite the community member into a mods-only chatroom for a conversation. If necessary, the other escalating mod tools for intervening with a user - special User Notice messages and account suspension, if I recall correctly - could be used subsequently.

In any such intervention, it is important to remember:

  • That the goal is to get the community member to move away from the pattern of damaging behavior.

  • To focus all communication on the behavior and not on the (necessarily, assumed) intent or personal qualities of the community member, even if the community member tries to move the conversation to the latter.

  • To stay calm, even if that requires taking a break and delaying communication.

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

Unless there's some reason the issue can't be discussed in public, the first thing I would do, generally, would be to raise my disagreement in public, just like I would do as a user or mod to challenge any public action by another user or mod. Depending on the circumstances, this disagreement could be expressed in comments ad locum, in a Meta post, or in Chat. If the ensuing conversation results in a consensus of its participants (including non-mods) one way or the other, then the other mod or I would generally implement that consensus. If not, I would usually tend toward leaving the post alone.

9

Here are Scimonster's answers to the questionnaire.

  1. What is something about the character or policy of the Mi Yodeya that you'd like to work to improve as a mod, and how would you work on it?

I feel that sometimes we can be a little harsh on questioners, especially when they're new users. Sometimes people will post a question without providing any rationale as to what prompted it, or assumptions they're making. Seasoned Mi Yodeya users who know what belongs in a question will then comment, "why do you think x?". This can come off as a little harsh to new users; i know i saw it that way when i joined. We've had discussions about it in the past, but i would like to be better about enforcing the Be nice rule. This would be by alerting offending users to prior meta discussion, and leading by example.

  1. What is something new and/or unique that you can bring to the moderator team and/or to the site? (eg. active at unusual times, familiarity with a certain topic, past applicable work experience, extreme love of waffles, etc.)

Up until recently, we had no moderators in Israel. IIRC, last time we had a Yom Tov on Thursday, we got spam that sat until Shabbat ended in America and the mods could take care of it. I flagged it Thursday night.

I have never been a moderator on Stack Exchange, but i did serve as a moderator on http://scratch.mit.edu for a couple years.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator?

I think Stack Exchange in general, and Mi Yodeya in particular, is a great place on the internet with people freely sharing information. I have learned a lot from everyone, and have been fortunate enough to be able to contribute. Being a moderator would be a great way to give back to this wonderful community.

  1. Purim Torah season is a time when moderators here end up having to use personal judgement a little more than they usually do. As a moderator, how would you tend to steer the direction of our annual Purim silliness (compared to how it's been in the past, I suppose): keep more of it around since it's just two weeks or cull mediocre or borderline jokes to keep things somewhat focused? Something else?

I agree with Isaac that we need to have some more community discussion on it (and now it actually is Shevat). את חטאי אני מזכיר היום: I have been responsible for posting some low-quality but highly-voted (thanks HNQ) Purim Torah questions. We should try to better educate users about what qualifies as high-quality Purim Torah, but when it comes down to it, just let the community react by voting. I don't think the mods have to be "funny-police".

  1. Tell us about a time (here or elsewhere) when you managed to successfully spur a group of people to positive action that wasn't required of them.

I led our Haggadah update last year. That involved encouraging a bunch of busy people to take some time to volunteer for this, and personally picking up some of the slack. In the end we got it out before the deadline. :)

  1. Mi Yodeya sometimes struggles with posts that are not from a mainstream Orthodox perspective. We generally follow the approach we worked out here for questions and answers from other movements, and we tend to delete posts that ascribe authority to non-Jewish sources/ideas. That said, there's still a lot of room for interpretation, and sometimes discussions get heated and flags build up quickly. As a moderator you'll be called on to adjudicate. Please describe your approach to these challenges and your comfort with enforcing the existing policies.

I agree with the current policy, or the accepted answer that seems to pass for policy. The most important thing to remember when something like this comes up is to keep it civil, and i won't hesitate to delete posts and/or comments that are rude, and give a reminder to those involved about our policies. Each case really has to be dealt with individually, but i definitely prefer to let the community do its thing, and only step in where necessary.

  1. I have frequently found that a number of new users are intimidated and discouraged to continue on this site because of moderators closing questions or putting them on hold. While we do publish our policy in the guide, the language there may be too wordy or ambiguous to many new users. Even with carefully reading the policy, the decision to close or put a question on hold is often voted on by several users often without adequate explanation. Sometimes, moderators take action without waiting for the vote. Comments sometimes help clarify things, but, I sense that often, it has discouraged new users to persevere and stay with our site. They may get intimdated and leave. What actions would you do as moderator to encourage users to stay?

See #1. Any mod-closure, especially one to a new user's question, should have an explanatory, encouraging comment associated. I'm not so in favor of unilateral closings where not strictly necessary -- if a question isn't black and white, i won't use mod powers on it. I hope it's not becoming cliche in this post, but new users deserve an extra helping of Be niceness.

  1. Comments: bane of any site that wants to maintain a good signal:noise ratio, harmless, something in between? What do you think about comments and the moderation thereof on Mi Yodeya, and what would you like to change about it?

I've heard that Mi Yodeya generates the highest number of comments per post on the network, or something like that. We need to do some trimming. Policy decisions should be moved to meta, and long discussions on content would be better in chat. I am personally partial to good jokes, however.
I also sometimes see comments pointing out superficial issues in posts that would be better resolved with an edit. We should encourage people to just edit when we come across something like that.

  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?

It's really cliche now: Be nice takes priority. First step is to delete the offending content and have a word with them. If they still aren't getting it after a warning or two, it's time to bring in the bans. People who cause arguments can end up making others feel uncomfortable, and then we lose their potential valuable contributions. I just hope to be able to nip the issue in the bud before it causes both other people to leave and the offender to get banned, as that's a real big loss.

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

Nothing that a mod did can't be undone, and nothing that can be undone has an expiration date. The first step is to simply discuss it with them and possibly also the community at large, and hopefully reach a consensus. After consensus is reached we can take action. Unilaterally reopening/undeleting just looks very bad, and is unproductive.

The opposite holds true as well by the way. If i see a mod has actively taken part in a post (posting, commenting, answering), i won't unilaterally close/delete it.

8

These are the answers corresponding to Daniel's nomination.

  1. What is something about the character or policy of the Mi Yodeya that you'd like to work to improve as a mod, and how would you work on it?

This is an interesting question. I think one thing I'd like to work on as a mod is encouraging users to make posts more comprehensible to non-experts in Judaism. This includes translating non-English terms in questions and answers as well as explaining key concepts in simple terms.

Our canonical post about jargon suggests that we try to make posts comprehensible to everybody. There's something to be said for tailoring answers' language to their corresponding questions as this post suggests, but the readership of Mi Yodeya is far larger than the number of people posting questions and we want our answers to be helpful to as many of those people as possible.

There's a fine line to walk between making a post accessible and spending way more space explaining basic concepts than actually answering the question. I think at this time we (often including myself) are erring a little too much on the side of saving space. I'd like to work on improving the details a bit for less-knowledgeable readers.

  1. What is something new and/or unique that you can bring to the moderator team and/or to the site? (eg. active at unusual times, familiarity with a certain topic, past applicable work experience, extreme love of waffles, etc.)

Well, I don't know for a fact that this experience is unique to the moderator team as I don't know their professions, but I currently work in a customer-facing support role professionally. I spend a good part of my day trying to make people happy and educate them about how to use my company's software. This has given me a lot of practice in empathizing with others who may not be as familiar with a particular topic as I am (in this case, perhaps site policy) and helping them learn this topic without making them feel bad about not having known it before.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator?

This is kind of related to my answer to the previous question. I really enjoy working with other people and helping make sure things run smoothly. Stack Exchange is a collaborative effort all-around, but the moderators work as a team in a way that can't really exist for normal users. I'm interested in being a part of that team.

  1. Purim Torah season is a time when moderators here end up having to use personal judgement a little more than they usually do. As a moderator, how would you tend to steer the direction of our annual Purim silliness (compared to how it's been in the past, I suppose): keep more of it around since it's just two weeks or cull mediocre or borderline jokes to keep things somewhat focused? Something else?

I wrote up an answer to a post about a refresh of the Purim Torah policy as well as commented on some of the other answers. In general, I am in favor of allowing people to post Purim Torah as they see fit. I would encourage people to be active in voting up and especially down when they feel appropriate. That will help keep the good content visible. I'm not opposed to a rate limit on Purim Torah questions, but if there is one, I feel that it should be somewhat high. We don't limit the number of low-quality posts a user can make during the rest of the year until they are blacklisted by the automagical systems running SE, so I don't think PTIJ should really be any different.

  1. Tell us about a time (here or elsewhere) when you managed to successfully spur a group of people to positive action that wasn't required of them.

This was a hard question for me. I wouldn't consider myself a "leader" in the traditional sense of someone who suggests what specific actions others should take. I try to lead by example and take positive action myself even when it's not required of me, so hopefully that encourages others to do the same.

One time that does come to mind was when I encouraged the company where I worked at the time to participate in an event where we taught high-school-aged kids how to write computer code. Participating in such an event was certainly not required for the people who volunteered, but I think my enthusiasm definitely encouraged some people to participate.

  1. Mi Yodeya sometimes struggles with posts that are not from a mainstream Orthodox perspective. We generally follow the approach we worked out here for questions and answers from other movements, and we tend to delete posts that ascribe authority to non-Jewish sources/ideas. That said, there's still a lot of room for interpretation, and sometimes discussions get heated and flags build up quickly. As a moderator you'll be called on to adjudicate. Please describe your approach to these challenges and your comfort with enforcing the existing policies.

I very much agree with the existing policy and I am completely comfortable enforcing it. When it comes to offensive content I will not hesitate to use my deletion powers on comments and/or posts. This is a site intended for everybody: not just Orthodox Jews and not even just Jews. My approach will be to encourage civility, remove content that violates that principle, and make sure that on-topic questions are treated fairly despite being about non-traditional Judaism.

  1. I have frequently found that a number of new users are intimidated and discouraged to continue on this site because of moderators closing questions or putting them on hold. While we do publish our policy in the guide, the language there may be too wordy or ambiguous to many new users. Even with carefully reading the policy, the decision to close or put a question on hold is often voted on by several users often without adequate explanation. Sometimes, moderators take action without waiting for the vote. Comments sometimes help clarify things, but, I sense that often, it has discouraged new users to persevere and stay with our site. They may get intimdated and leave. What actions would you do as moderator to encourage users to stay?

I'm not entirely sure I understand this question. Based on this comment by the author of this question, I understand that you are looking for mod-specific actions that I will do to keep users to stay (as opposed to actions available to everybody such as commenting). To be honest, I don't think I would use my moderator privileges significantly differently from how I perceive the current moderators use theirs.

The fact of the matter is we have posting policies in order to keep our site relevant. It doesn't matter if the person who asks an off-topic question is brand-new; that question needs to be closed. The reason is because (as I mentioned earlier), the intended audience of this site is far larger than just the people posting questions. In order to keep our site useful for everybody, we need to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio.

This doesn't mean that closing has to be a negative thing. The idea is to allow the OP some time to edit and improve the question for potentially being reopened. That's why questions are now labeled "On Hold" rather than "Closed" for the first 5 days after "closure" (see the help page). A constructive comment can go a long way here, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a moderator action. Anybody who votes to close can do that.

  1. Comments: bane of any site that wants to maintain a good signal:noise ratio, harmless, something in between? What do you think about comments and the moderation thereof on Mi Yodeya, and what would you like to change about it?

Comments are useful for suggesting improvements to posts. As such, they should be considered temporary and subject to deletion once the suggestion has been addressed. When they start being used as a medium for a conversation (guilty; sorry), they start to hurt the signal-to-noise ratio and should be moved to chat. I don't think a one-off joke hurts (as long as it's a good one!) and IMO can even be counted as "signal" rather than "noise".

  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?

We need valuable content. Picking fights does not lead to the generation of valuable content. It may be that this user is producing good stuff but if he/she causes multiple other good content producers to reduce their production because they don't want to deal with abusive comments it's a net loss. Of course the proper protocols should be followed (deleting comments, warning the offender, etc.) but if this user continues to behave badly, their good content won't give them a free pass. Users with lots of positive contributions have been suspended on Mi Yodeya before and I think that's fair.

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

I'd be very hesitant to take unilateral action to reverse an already-made decision whether that decision was made by another mod or by voters. It's one thing to unilaterally close an off-topic question before anybody else sees it but it's quite another to undo the decision once it's been made. I believe that the reason mods have the ability to take unilateral action isn't so they can override the community's consensus; it's because the community trusts that their unilateral actions will reflect the community's consensus. And I believe it is the responsibility of the moderators to act in such a way.

So when I see something that indicates that my opinion doesn't match up with the consensus, I will be proactive about determining what the consensus really is. Depending on the scenario this could be in chat, in comments, or in meta. I understand that it is possible for moderators to communicate privately, though I would probably not use that ability in this case unless I sensed that the discussion could somehow unearth some sensitive information which should not be shared widely. Once I know what the community thinks, I will respect that decision even if I disagree.

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