2021 Moderator Election

nomination began
Aug 9 at 20:00
election began
Aug 16 at 20:00
election ended
Aug 24 at 20:00
candidates
2
positions
1

On Stack Exchange, we believe the core moderators should come from the community, and be elected by the community itself through popular vote. We hold regular elections to determine who these community moderators will be.

Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.

Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

Every election has three phases:

  1. Nomination
  2. Primary
  3. Election

Please participate in the moderator elections by voting, and perhaps even by nominating yourself to be a community moderator!

Additional Links

Questionnaire
The community team has compiled questions from meta for the candidates to answer.
  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?

[Answer 1 here]

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

[Answer 2 here]

  1. As a moderator, I find that comments are a tricky thing to deal with. Under what circumstances will you delete comments? Note that there are lots of flags that comments are obsolete/no longer needed.

[Answer 3 here]

  1. What is your stance about the current scope of Academia Stack Exchange and how this is enforced? Should we close any question that does not strictly comply with the current scope? Should we be lenient and keep open questions that can potentially generate good answers even if borderline off-topic? Should we narrow or broaden the scope?

[Answer 4 here]

  1. Academia.SE frequently has questions rise high on the Hot Network Questions (HNQ); often these questions are on more controversial topics than the mean question here and attract visitors from across the SE community who otherwise don't participate here. What do you think the moderators' role should be with respect to HNQ list questions? How do you think presence on the HNQ list should affect moderation decisions?

[Answer 5 here]

  1. What question or answer of yours on meta best exemplifies your philosophy on moderation? Why do you feel this is the best example?

[Answer 6 here]

  1. How do you view the balance between "trying to be helpful to an OP" and "strict adherence to the stated rules"?

[Answer 7 here]

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

[Answer 8 here]

  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?

[Answer 9 here]

  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?

[Answer 10 here]

GoodDeeds

I have been very active on this site for the past 1.5 years (member for 4.5 years), and consider myself to be well versed in the site's working, policies, and culture. I have spent most of my time here on site maintenance tasks: I have completed 2600+ reviews, 400+ edits, and have raised 800+ helpful flags. I have also contributed to improving tag wikis, re-tagging questions, and finding redundant tags. In addition, I have been an active member of various Stack Exchange sites since 2016, including Math SE and Stack Overflow, and have a good general understanding of the network.

I have been visiting this site since before I created an account, and it has greatly helped me in my academic life, right from when I was an undergraduate student. I am keenly interested in the upkeep of this site and being a moderator would improve my effectiveness for doing so.

Questionnaire
  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 principle, the usefulness of an answer should not be used as a justification for improper behaviour. That is, such users should be treated just as any other user, and depending on the nature of their actions, receive warnings, suspensions, or bans as applicable. While it might be a loss for the site to lose a valuable contributor, it is far more harmful as a whole if the site allows toxic behaviour to go unchecked.

That said, it is difficult to be completely objective, and I do think high rep users would inevitably get treated slightly more leniently than others, particularly in borderline cases, and I do not think this is a very serious issue. When in doubt, I would consult with the other moderators.

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

I would first check with that moderator for their reasoning and present my own, and in case of disagreement, I would bring it up for discussion among the entire group of moderators, and accept whatever is decided as a group.

  1. As a moderator, I find that comments are a tricky thing to deal with. Under what circumstances will you delete comments? Note that there are lots of flags that comments are obsolete/no longer needed.

The following are my views. Note that this does not mean I will act as per this without some level of agreement with other moderators and the community:

  • Rude, abusive, and spam comments should always be deleted.

  • If a comment requests for clarification and such a clarification has been clearly provided by editing the original post, such that it is clear that the comment is no longer important, then it should be deleted if flagged, but I would probably not try to be very proactive in searching for them and deleting them in other cases.

  • Comments that provide valuable critique, add value to a post, or request clarification that has not yet been provided should be left up whenever possible.

  • Comments that are tangentially related or those that are intended to be (harmlessly) funny can be left up, as long as they are not very numerous, and do not receive a lot of flags.

  • If a comment thread gets very long, it should be moved to chat if:

    • A long comment thread emerges between a small group of users that makes it hard to find useful comments.

    • Several interleaving discussions take place. It is also easier to follow such discussions in chat, since the users being replied to are highlighted there.

  • Completely off-topic and unrelated comments should be removed.

  1. What is your stance about the current scope of Academia Stack Exchange and how this is enforced? Should we close any question that does not strictly comply with the current scope? Should we be lenient and keep open questions that can potentially generate good answers even if borderline off-topic? Should we narrow or broaden the scope?

As a community member, I think questions that are borderline off-topic and that could potentially receive good answers should be kept open. The OP could also be encouraged to edit their question to make it clearly on-topic. Unlike some other SE sites, Academia SE does not receive a very high traffic of questions, so the risk of not closing a borderline question is minimal. Moreover, any good answers it could potentially receive could be valuable to the community and future visitors.

As a moderator, I would refrain from casting any close or reopen votes on borderline cases and let the community decide.

I believe the current scope is reasonable and does not require significant narrowing or broadening at present. However, the site keeps evolving, so we should be open to discussions on changing specific aspects if and when necessary.

  1. Academia.SE frequently has questions rise high on the Hot Network Questions (HNQ); often these questions are on more controversial topics than the mean question here and attract visitors from across the SE community who otherwise don't participate here. What do you think the moderators' role should be with respect to HNQ list questions? How do you think presence on the HNQ list should affect moderation decisions?

Questions on the HNQ would require more moderator attention due to them being much more active than typical questions. A question that receives several low-quality answers should be protected, and very long comment discussions should be moved to chat (but see Q3). I do not think the presence of a question in HNQ should change the standards by which interactions with it are treated, in either direction.

That said, the site already has well-reasoned policies on when a question should be removed from HNQ, so the guidelines should be followed and updated from time to time as necessary.

In general, I think HNQs have a net positive impact on the site and have often resulted in excellent answers from new members who were active in other SE communities.

  1. What question or answer of yours on meta best exemplifies your philosophy on moderation? Why do you feel this is the best example?

I only have two questions on Meta so far, both of similar nature, e.g. Should [coauthors] be a synonym of [authorship]?

Though it is not much, I would still consider to be a (small) example of my philosophy on moderation: be alert towards issues and avenues for improvement of the site, be active in discussion with the community, and take decisions (to the extent possible) with community consensus.

While I have not posted very often on Meta, this has generally been due to the relatively low traffic of our Meta site, and the fact that questions quickly get authoritative answers. I have however been an active reader of Meta, of both recent posts and older posts that define current site policies (and have also voted on them). As a moderator, I would expect to have a more active role on Meta.

  1. How do you view the balance between "trying to be helpful to an OP" and "strict adherence to the stated rules"?

The following are my views on this:

  • If a question is very clearly off-topic and unsalvageable, then it should be closed. However, assuming it is in good faith:

    • I would encourage the OP to ask a new question if I feel a topically adjacent but significantly different question might be on-topic.

    • If I have any advice to give, I might leave it as a comment.

  • If a question is a clear duplicate, then it should be closed, but if the OP disagrees, I would advise them to edit clearly pointing out the differences. Based on the merits of the edits, I would either reopen myself or leave it to the community to vote.

  • For less clear cases, I would let community votes decide. However, if I notice significant inconsistencies, e.g., questions of similar nature that are sometimes well received and sometimes closed, I would consider posting on Meta. The same if a question ends up with a close-reopen war (but that seems to be quite rare on this site).

  • In all cases, as long it is asked in good faith, I do not see any issue with users posting additional advice in the comments of a closed question, which helps the OP as well as adheres to the site’s rules.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators help enforce standards agreed upon by the community. They resolve flags that indicate potentially problematic content. They help guide the maintenance of the site’s policies themselves, by helping to identify when a policy might need to be updated, and encourage discussion within the community. They ensure that the code of conduct is adhered to, and help in maintaining a positive environment for all users. They also act (to some extent) as the liaison between the community and the Stack Exchange community managers.

  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?

With regards to behaviour, I understand that a diamond comes with responsibility, and I believe that my conduct on the site so far has not involved any conduct unbecoming of a moderator. However, moderators are not infallible, and I trust the community members to take this into account if they have any issues with my previous posts and comments. I will of course also be open to constructive criticism to improve any aspect of my conduct.

With regards to post quality, I believe votes on each individual post are a much better indicator of validity than the presence or absence of a diamond.

  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?

I currently have 3.3k rep accumulated over the past 1.5 years, and do not foresee it to suddenly increase at a rapid pace. I spend most of my time on the site reading posts, voting, editing, flagging, and reviewing; and post occasionally when I feel I can answer a particular question well. Since most of my presence on this site is in helping with site maintenance, becoming a moderator will help me be more effective at this and enable me to perform actions which I otherwise could not have due to my relatively low rep.

Bryan Krause

Hi, I'm Bryan. I'm an academic scientist post- my post-doc years but not a professor. In research I try to understand how brains change across states of consciousness, using anesthetics, psychedelics, and sleep as tools. My side gig is as a statistician, helping clinically-trained researchers with varied levels of experience in science.

On Academia.SE I try to help others navigate the byzantine academic bureaucracy from admissions to publishing, stubborn interpersonal barriers to success, and all those little things that have a really simple answer yet seem so impossible when it feels like your entire career rests on the next move.

On the broader SE I'm a moderator and regular contributor at Biology.SE, and also answer and curate on Psych&Neuro.SE and MedicalSciences.SE. Moderators may know me from the "Teachers' Lounge" and the private moderator Team where we discuss mod policies, tools, and interactions between SE the company and our communities.

I'm comfortable with the tools and ethos of moderation on SE, I'm familiar with the culture of Academia.SE as a unique, specific community within the SE network, and I'm ready to help if you'll have me.

Questionnaire
  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?

These are some of the hardest cases for moderators to intervene in, though not all flags are created equal. I don't see chattiness in comments ("no longer needed" flags), for example, as a reason to escalate things unless it hits truly immense levels. Personal attacks, bigotry, harassment, etc, on the other hand, cannot be diluted to "acceptable" by otherwise good contributions.

I'd expect to discuss things with the rest of the moderator team in questionable circumstances, especially when there are patterns of behavior that just barely toe the line. Sometimes a cautioning message may be all that is needed; other times it may be necessary to escalate to suspension just like with any other user.

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

Usually these cases are best discussed in private moderator chat; sometimes the other moderator made a mistake, sometimes they have other information that guided their decision that isn't obvious. I think on my time moderating Biology.SE the past couple of years this has come up at most once or twice and we quickly came to consensus. I don't think it's good for the site or the moderators themselves to start a ping-pong war over a closed question without having a conversation about it. If I made an edit to rescue a question that another moderator closed I'd want community votes or another moderator to make the decision to reopen.

  1. As a moderator, I find that comments are a tricky thing to deal with. Under what circumstances will you delete comments? Note that there are lots of flags that comments are obsolete/no longer needed.

I believe in the idea that comments are ephemeral in that removing comments has a far lower bar than removing questions and answers. That said, I don't feel there is any need to go on a hunt to purge comments, and I think there's a clear culture that users comment for more reasons than is strictly intended in the SO model. Ideally, constructive discussions are moved to chat rather than deleted entirely, but I'd remove comments that have served their purpose (asking for clarification and the post has been clarified, for example) and comments that are pushing further discussion that leaves the scope of the specific question asked. My impression as a user here is that the mods are more controlling of comments on HNQ questions, and I think that's a good policy whether that's intentional or merely because those posts attract more flags. Of course comments that are against the CoC should be removed. I've made my case about certain types of "answers in comments" here which I probably summarized better in a comment there than the actual answer (oops); in short, I think comments that explain a close vote like "this is a question you need to ask your advisor" are useful and should remain, though answers-in-comments to answerable questions should be removed or the commenter encouraged to make an answer. I'll defer to community guidance on that, though.

  1. What is your stance about the current scope of Academia Stack Exchange and how this is enforced? Should we close any question that does not strictly comply with the current scope? Should we be lenient and keep open questions that can potentially generate good answers even if borderline off-topic? Should we narrow or broaden the scope?

I think the Academia.SE community has done a good job of having meta discussions when scope issues arise, some recent examples:

Is a question about a specific web service, relating to academic integrity, a shopping question?

What are the limits of "shopping" questions when it comes to software?

I really think Meta is usually the best place for these conversations to happen. Academia has a robust close/reopen voting community, so there isn't as much emphasis on the moderators here to police scope on anything borderline as on some other sites. Instead, if there is movement to change scope, we'll have to do it as a community.

  1. Academia.SE frequently has questions rise high on the Hot Network Questions (HNQ); often these questions are on more controversial topics than the mean question here and attract visitors from across the SE community who otherwise don't participate here. What do you think the moderators' role should be with respect to HNQ list questions? How do you think presence on the HNQ list should affect moderation decisions?

As I mentioned in answering question (3), I think the increased visibility of HNQ posts means that a more active role is needed in monitoring comments. Users from around the network tend to start tangential conversations based on something that grabbed their attention rather than contributing to the specific question asked. When a related question was posed on Meta the consensus seemed to be that questions around sexual discrimination/misconduct and severe psychological issues should be removed from HNQ, and I agree with that.

  1. What question or answer of yours on meta best exemplifies your philosophy on moderation? Why do you feel this is the best example?

https://academia.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4752/63475

I think there is a tendency for people to see content they disagree with and get upset. Someone is wrong on the internet and we need a moderator to remove this terrible content! However, the design of StackExchange is for moderators to be exception handlers. Other community members have their own tools to use when they find themselves in disagreement with an answer. Anyone can post an answer, many can vote and comment. In addition to using the tools that moderators have through the SE software, I think moderators are useful as guides to others in how they can use the software here. Surely other users can help with that, too, but the extra weight of the diamond is helpful.

  1. How do you view the balance between "trying to be helpful to an OP" and "strict adherence to the stated rules"?

I think it's important to think about the purpose of rules rather than just how they are written. That said, I think a lot of thought has been put into the written rules here, too. For Academia.SE-specific policies, we have a great collection of resources to point people to that explain not just what the rules are but also why the rules are:

Why was my question put on hold for shopping?

Why was my question put on hold for depending on individual factors?

Policy against questions making allegations against named individuals or organisations

Why do the moderators move comments to chat and how should I behave afterwards?

I think the best way to address the line between adhering to rules and being helpful to people in need of help is to consider those "why"s.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

I'll copy my answer from when I ran on Biology.SE:

"Moderators support the goals of the community. Moderators don't own or dictate to the community, they are ambassadors elected from the community to itself. Most of the actual day-to-day work they do is janitorial: mostly underappreciated when done well, but also a vitally important part of the infrastructure of the community and strongly missed when absent."

  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 am comfortable with it. I won't always even agree with myself when reading something I've posted long ago, but I feel that everything I've said here has been with the goal of helping someone else somehow. I use my own name here because I feel my participation on this site is part of my professional life. I'm keenly aware of the weight the diamond puts on what a moderator writes, and I would be careful to delineate when I am speaking as a user with an opinion of no higher value to any other versus conveying policies of the site or decisions made by the community.

  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?

I don't think the 10k/20k tools really compare to the role of a moderator. The existing team has asked for an election to add one more to their numbers to help cover moderation tasks particularly when some of the team is occupied with other things (who could imagine an academic ever being too busy for one of the hats they wear?). There are some time-consuming tasks that only diamond moderators have the tools to deal with, particularly around trolls and sockpuppetry. There is also the day-to-day handling of common flags.

This election is over.