Russell McMahon's responses.
I have not raised this formally, but I feel I may be able to be more useful role in targeting low quality questions by working with posters to improve their questions rather than treating them as we do now. What I mean by that will be clear from my comments below.
I suggest that if I receive among the top three vote totals that I would benefit the community most by being given a 3rd mod position which I use largely to pursue this area.
This could be for a trial period.
My other 78 SE sites :-)
First - an "essay" :-). This relates in large part to site quality and the treatment of newcomers. I'd hope that a look at my (about 3000) answers and the amount of effort I put into assisting posters via comments and question editing will give an indication of my commitment to site quality and usefulness
My desire is to have a high quality site that
Meets the owners aims*.
*While it's not commonly cited the perhaps major aim of the site, as stated by one of the original creators, is to create a set of high quality questions and answers, with persistent value that cause search engines to drive traffic to the site." The owners aim is ultimately revenue - but satisfying this also serves the next two aims.
Provides an excellent technical resource both for people with 'original questions' and through the existing Q&A base
Encourages newcomers to feel welcome and to want to stay, to learn how the site works and use it properly, and to grow to become members both of the SE community and the international EE community
I consider that we meet the first and second aims reasonably well, but that we fail reasonably badly at the last. I consider that in our attempts to maintain quality we too closely adhere to tight interpretations of what were intended to be guidelines towards an end, and that we are unreasonably hasty in the manner in which we 'get rid of' newcomers when alternative approaches which could be more effective are available.
I'm aware that the idea of "allowing newcomers a little more time to 'get their act together' and to understand what is required of them in order to use the site properly" is not universally popular and is in fact violently opposed by some. The opinion of those who wish to rapidly close or delete very low quality newcomer's questions is that this improves overall quality (which is true in a simplistic sense), and that newcomers whose questions have been closed have simple and easily understood means of improving their questions and having them reopened - which is far from the case in reality.
Even technically competent newcomers can be completely blindsided by the sites requirements, can and do struggle to meet the minimum requirements, and their efforts to have their questions reopened are frequently unsuccessful. We have lost many people who could have easily enough become functioning members and a few of world class technical capabilities who have been essentially "driven off" through misunderstandings.
I note that, for whatever reason, those with English as a second language and women seem to be at a special disadvantage. I don't expect all readers to be in agreement with that assessment. eg
A French expert in CCD imaging astronomy was driven off by a series of increasingly acrimonious exchanges solely because he used the word "demand" [Fr: Demande - ask] meaning it to convey the sense of "ask" and was misunderstood.
An Indian newcomer whose products had been used in an LEO satellite was 'rough handled' enough over several questions that she also never returned. [She was fluent in 6 languages, but her English was non-standard enough to stand out].
Add to the above the fact that we are an international site and that not everyone is able to check for responses as soon as they are provided - So that a person in a "foreign" timezone may ask a question and then not be able to return for a day or few, only to find that a question has been closed long before they have any chance to react to comments.
- If you look at the front page and see a question from a new user that clearly cannot be satisfactorily answered in its current form without additional information would you instantly close it or leave it be for a while? Can you explain why you'd take that particular course of action?
My usual approach (which has evolved over time) is to point out why the question should be improved, and to ask a series of numbered questions relating to what needs to be provided. The point of numbered and targeted questions is that people (not just in this context) tend to not address all points raised. The numbering allows them to provide related answers and allows me to efficiently point out areas they have not addressed. "Can you please answer questions 2,3 & 7."
Closing a questions is often "the kiss of death" for a newcomer.
Far superior is giving them time to show that they are serious about interacting with us by addressing comments and input and making an effort.
Where a question is closed and it looks potentially redeemable, comments are a very poor way of interacting with the OP. In saveable cases I like to provide an "answer" that gives as much information as possible and which also provides guidance re what is required. This may well result in material in the answer which will be deleted in due course - it's still a legitimate part of the answer initially.
One site user (who I'll not identify - they may self identify if they wish) stated that my practice of opening interim answers was a major abuse of site practice and would be a major issue if I was a moderator. I, of course, disagree with their basic premise. While what results initially is not "High quality Q&A that will drive search engine traffic to the site" it is a far better way of ending up with this than the alternatives.
Once a "working answer" has been opened the question can be closed if necessary as a much more structured form of dialogue can take place.
NOTE: If the above is anathema to your ideas of how newcomers should be treated I may not be the moderator you want :-).
- 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?
Talk to them privately - as much as possible as a friend. While I have occasionally encountered people who do not wish to engage, it's not the norm if a polite and private approach can be taken.
In a few cases it is evident or possible that users have mental health issues. Such people can be valuable contributors. Learning their strong points and establishing a respectful relationship can be useful. (This sounds like 'manipulation', but is not meant to be. Finding ways to get on optimally with people is part of life.) (Most of use find that some people take a disliking to us for reasons that we can't understand, and which they may not either - so be it. A mod has to try to ensure that's a one way thing)
- An excellent example of differing with a person without disliking them, is my friend (which may surprise some :-) ) Olin - who sadly no longer contributes. We have known each other for decades - long before either of use joined SE. We both respect the other (he's said as much re me, and I respect him in many ways) - our differences do not prevent appreciation. His and my ideas on treatment of newcomers are diametrically opposed - we both want the same thing from the site and both want newcomers to become valuable site members. How that is achieved we disagree on. I am a moderator 'elsewhere'.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
As above, talk to them. Mods must be able to work as a team. 'A house divided against itself cannot stand'. IF my concept of being able to add a working answer is acceptable then that could be achieved by a reopen, add answer close action.
If that is in fact diametrically opposed to the site ethos then I may not belong.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
As little as possible.
Ensure that medium to long term the prime directive is met
- "Quality Q&A sets that persist and drive search engine traffic to the site".
Short term: stop utter rubbish happening, attempt to assist people to convert initial rubbish into pearls, close what shows no sign of making progress, burn spam off the face of the site relentlessly, watch for interpersonal interactions that are liable to impact on community quality. Discuss with other mods how various 'rules' are interpreted.
- 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?
Not concerned - or, no more concerned than I am already. I try to remember that everything I commit to the internet may turn up at some later dare against my account - and not always in the correct context or interpreted as intended. I've been an EE for 50+ years - so I'd been one for 40+ years when I joined stack exchange.I learn ongoingly but doubt if I'd present too too differently then than I do now.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
Having (checks) ~= 130k rep means that I find rep a largely meaningless concept - it gives my answers and comments technical credibility (usually :-) ) but otherwise doesn't count for much. The moderator capabilities would allow me to help others more effectively.
- If a large part of the community disagrees with a particular action you took (migration, closing, ...), but you still feel, deep in your heart, that you made the right decision, how are you going to address this? Corollary: If the community clearly says (e.g. by a poll on meta with a clear vote result) that it wants to interpret some rules differently than what you wish, what position would you take?
I don't see migration as liable to be a major issue. I have occasionally been surprised at migration decisions but very seldom enough to be inclined to dispute them.
I'd generally be more inclined to attempt to assist and hold off closing - and if differences on that met with significant ongoing community complaint I'd have to look more closely at where I fitted in. BUT I'd hope that any impact I had on such areas would be seen by most to be productive - even if that was not initially their inclination.
Other: I am often surprised at what people consider to be "shopping questions". Designing a system may (but rarely does) involve assembling a cpu with discrete transistors, and equally may consist of linking together commercial modules. Design is more fundamental than the level of integration of the components. But often, questions which involve high level components require as much engineering as one which deals with eg transistors and resistors - but the former often gets classified as "shopping" and closed.
I'd hope to have some discussions with other mods on where the boundaries are and why.
I also feel that questions involving which specific components to use are liable to be seen as inappropriate. In all the above cases I feel a key is "what engineering is involved, what EE aspects can be learned from this and how relevant and valuable is this liable to be to others. I'd hope that this sort of yopic could be discussed amicably between mods and/or in meta.
- What sort of time per week would you be able to dedicate to moderation and would it be something where you'd be in a position to keep your eye on things for a large portion of the day or would you be limited to after work / school / weekends etc? It might also be useful to know your timezone and any other information about your availability.
I check in often during most days (too often :-) ).
I spend too much time on the 'net and on SE.
I'm in GMT +12 for Northern spring & summer and GMT+13 for Northern Autumn & Winter
- Stack Exchange sites can largely be moderated by regular users with sufficient reputation. If you've performed a relatively low amount of work handling review queues and voting to close / reopen questions in the past it can make it hard for the community to evaluate your moderation style. If you fall into that category can you explain why you'd like to be a diamond moderator when you haven't performed much community moderation in the past? Otherwise if you feel that you have done your fair share of moderation either here or on other SE sites feel free to highlight the work you've done.
I spend less time on review queues than many, but non-zero.
I'm more likely to see low quality or VTC questions and improve them and/or interact with the OP. I tend to place 'useful' technical comments on questions. If answers appear good but missing in some component I may add a "complementary" answer - one which is not aimed to be complete but which is useful. I'll suggest answer additions or changes in comments on existing answers. This approach does not optimise attaining 'rep' - what would I do with it? :-) . This may not be seen as formal moderation but the aim is to improve site quality and both querant and answerer satisfaction.