These are the answers corresponding to Isaac Moses' nomination.
- 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 specific-question and specific-answer 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.