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In connection with the moderator elections, we will be holding a Town Hall Chat session with the candidates. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to pose questions to the candidates on the topic of moderation. Participation is completely voluntary. I am working with the candidates to find a time that allows the most participation.

The Town Hall Chat will take place Wednesday the 2nd at 11pm UTC, or 6pm EST.

click here to join

(view in other timezones)

Here are the details so far:

  • I have coordinated with the candidates and done the best I could with a best fit match. I would like to schedule this towards the beginning of the election phase, so I am looking at the 1st-3rd. As soon as I coordinate with the existing moderators and candidates, I will edit this post with details on the "when".
  • The Town Hall Chat will be a one-hour event using our chat platform. You can register for the event here.
  • The format will be an open discussion. Users are encouraged to pose questions to the candidate regarding their thoughts on moderation.
  • After the chat session, the transcript of the event will be permanently linked here.
  • Rebecca, thanks for organizing this. But midnight for me (and most europeans) was really too late to attend. I tried but fell asleep in the sofa. Sorry about that. I read the transcript and all the questions I had were asked by the users present. – user2567 Feb 3 '11 at 7:38
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I will make every effort to attend - but as the time is towards the end of my availability "window" I may have to leave early.

If you address any questions you have to me directly (using @ChrisF) I will check the transcript and respond either in this answer or in chat if you are still around.

  • Hmm, did I screw up? The time seems to fit in the availability you gave me... |: – Rebecca Chernoff Feb 2 '11 at 0:11
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    @Rebecca - no you didn't screw up. I should have allowed some leeway in my availability times ;) – ChrisF Feb 3 '11 at 17:02
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Unfortunately I'm with Chris, this is right on the edge of my availability due to a rescheduled meetup that I'm running. In fact this is right in the middle of my transit, so I most likely will be late and have to leave early.


How will you work to bring new users to the site? Or is this not the job of a moderator?

Of course it's part of the job. While I don't employ the normal methods of social networking I do often link to P.SE questions when relevant. Migrating questions more appropriate here from other sites also leads users to Programmers.


How will you handle having a vote that is binding?

Carefully. A binding vote should only be case when you have a clear decision. "Grey" questions should be left up to the rest of the voting community.


I have a question. What are your thoughts on the new "Everyone can edit" feature which was recently introduced and is still under development?

It's a great feature and will promote more user involvement in the site. It does rather limit the number of rep levels available, but overall I believe it's a positive change. Does this mean there will be more useless edits? Sure, but they can be reviewed and discarded.


We all know Programmers had a bit of a rough start. In your opinion, are things good now? Better? Still a lot of things to figure out?

Rough starts (like bad dress rehearsals) give you some good karma. I think it has gotten a lot better. I would like to see more genuinely useful questions on Programming instead of general business / office questions. I think steering Programmers in that direction will be the most beneficial.


If anyone minds, I was stagnant on Programmers for a while. What was the challenge initially?

The challenge was removing the "dumping ground" mentality. Everything that's Off Topic on SO is not on topic on Programmers. The "good subjective" question template wasn't clearly defined.


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?

Comments are comments, they can be abrasive, rude, and even ignorant. If it get's six flags it's removed. If someone flags a comment I find offensive I'll add a flag to it. A steady stream of those comments, along with a steady stream of valuable answers, would maybe call for an email to the user. It would be completely dependent on the context of the answers and comments.


When should questions be closed and just left alone vs. when should they be closed and deleted? That is, when do you believe in deleting content?

Delete content that is not, and will not, be useful.


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 feel fine. I try to act as I would in person at all times, whether or not I have a diamond next to my name wouldn't change that.


Do you prefer a moderator that is quick to make decisions and may make a few mistakes, or a moderator that is slow to act, but doesn't make mistakes? (These mistakes may be reversed)

Quicker and reversible mistakes. You can be too quick to close or delete, especially with a binding vote.


I believe that's all the questions I missed, if I didn't just edit them in here and I'll try my best to provide answers.

  • Hmm, did I screw up? The time seems to fit in the availability you gave me... |: – Rebecca Chernoff Feb 2 '11 at 0:10
  • @Rebecca: It fits but right at the beginning. Plus I have the rescheduled meetup (2nd Feb). I can probably still make it, if I miss a few I'll simply reply like Chris after the event in this post. – Josh K Feb 2 '11 at 1:15
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Thanks Rebecca for putting the chat together, it was fun and informative both as a candidate and member of the site.

Here are my answers to questions I missed either prior to arrival or as the chat went along.

  • How will you handle having a vote that is binding?

    This is, to me, an interesting part of the SO system. I'm not 100% sure why it is chosen to work this way, but I believe it is because a moderator should be both more careful/accurate and more trusted with their decisions. So, I will take it that way. I will make sure I understand the comments or discussion and have explained my actions and responded to any valid concerns. In addition, I will make sure that I have provided links for more help if the user is new or uniformed.

  • I have a question. What are your thoughts on the new "Everyone can edit" feature which was recently introduced and is still under development?

    I really believe the statement that one of the key differentiators of SE to other Q&A sites is the edit. I don't think that having 2000 rep is necessary for any other reason than to prevent abuse of the system. Many well-meaning users become informed of how the site works very quickly, and so I think this is a good step in the right direction.

  • We all know Programmers had a bit of a rough start. In your opinion, are things good now? Better? Still a lot of things to figure out?

    Absolutely better now, though there are a lot of things to still figure out. The real questions have answers blog post was a great step. That doesn't mean there aren't still things to figure out. For one, the interpretation of the "6 guidelines for subjective questions" is itself subjective. It's good guidance, but it makes enforcement difficult when one user's interpretation is different from another's. The best we have to deal with that situation now is the voting system, which is the core reason that the binding moderator vote has caused problems in the past.

  • If anyone minds, I was stagnant on Programmers for a while. What was the challenge initially?

    If I am remembering correctly the original SE proposal for Programmers was "NPR - Not programming related". The emphasis there is on programing. However, there was some connotation, partly due to SO history, that it would be !StackOverflow, or the site for things programmers wanted to talk about that didn't fit on SO; in other words, a dumping ground. Since the site was born, it's become apparent that it has a much better purpose than that, which I think is summed up nicely by the SE tagline: "Programmers is for expert programmers who are interested in subjective questions on software development.

  • 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?

    As a hypothetical, it's hard to answer this really well without full information on a real scenario. However, I'd hope that well-thought-out and voted-up responses in comments could effectively deal with this situation.

  • Question, what do you think is more important: A moderator that interacts well with the community, or one that is willing to put in lots of hard work cleaning flags?

    If you are saying the moderator who puts in a lot of hard work cleaning flags is not interacting well with the community, then what is the point? The same could be said vice-versa. So, I think the best that can be said is, a moderator should learn how to interact well and then get to work.

  • When should questions be closed and just left alone vs. when should they be closed and deleted? That is, when do you believe in deleting content?

    Delete should be used for content that has no value. The only difference between a closed question and an open one is that of adding answers. To me that indicates that the tool is used to indicate that the question is not appropriate for receiving new answers, but existing answers and discussion may still have value of some kind. The closed question may also serve as a type of marker for previous off-topic precedent, for commonly-revisited questions.

  • 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 hope this means I will act with increased prudence and care, something I would look forward to!

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Answers to Questions I missed

@moshe RE: Good and Bad Questions

Bad Question: What is your experience programming Algol in Tuscany in the dark? This is an amalgamation of every bad and pointless question. It asks for opinion without context, places it in a particular locale, about an awfully old language, and adding an extra variable (in the dark) that few would find applicable to their daily lives. A question is going to have to be about that bad for me to consider closing it.
@moshe

Good Question: Who should be the patron saint of programmers? I asked this question because there are other questions about unions, and one said something about guilds and that a guild would be a better way to organize programmers. And since programmers are often organized under a patron, I thought it was an applicable question. It got closed as off topic and in my opinion, it would be the most topical sort of thing possible

@Michael RE: things you wouldn't want a diamond next to

I regret a few of the things I've said and done on the website. They'd certainly paint the site in an unfavorable light, assuming someone was going to pay for ads on the site. But I'm not sure anyone is too concerned about that. I'd certainly be more apt to bite my tongue, but this still oughta be a fun place and I wouldn't change who I am!

@Justin RE: Speed and thought in moderation

I would be slow and methodical in my actions, it is my experience that messing with a question in the first 10 minutes of it's existence can seriously jeopardize or enhance it's ability to get good answers. I'd never blame the asker for getting awful answers. The problem with this site is that we're really more peers than experts and good answers on this site are a lot more like good answers in an interview than good answers in an encyclopedia.

@instanceoftom RE: what's your favorite... questions

I don't really see the harm in what is your favorite being asked. Just substitute 'favorite' for 'best' or 'most award winning' in your mind and get over it

@rebecca Re: mods closing questions.

Other mods would know that I'm in favor of nearly all cheese and mirth questions, so if they unilaterally close questions as off topic / not constructive then they can pretty much expect me to have a problem with that. Any other close reasons, spam, rants, etc... if they get there first, that's OK. I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the harmony of the site.

@Justin RE: Low turnout.

I'm not surprised, most people don't want to get into the politics. I've posted a lot of stuff on meta that individually a lot of people on the parent site would have agreed with had they actually read it - but on the meta site, I'm like the biggest bonehead possible.

@Justin RE: Bringing users to the site.

I'm not really a popular social networker, so I wouldn't do too much of that. The one thing I would try to do is not drive new users off the site.

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