G'day, everyone. I would like to nominate myself for moderator. Thank you in advance for considering me.
I chose this handle when I was a teenager (at some point in the 1980s) after reading Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.
I have been a mostly-active member for over 10 years. I still have my launch t-shirt, although it never really fit me. The mouse mat is long worn out.
Over the years, I've worked in disparate areas of CS-heavy programming, including but not limited to: compilers, visual effects (the teapot avatar is a giveaway), database servers, bioinformatics, urban planning, scientific fluid simulation, and most recently GIS. The intersection of these is, surely, the null set.
I live in AE[SD]T. My h-index is 7, and my Erdős number is 3.
- 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?
Thankfully, cs.SE is not the sort of community where this happens often!
We highly discourage comment discussions, preferring that they move to chat. I would be aggressive in doing this, especially in this situation. I wouldn't want to discourage healthy disagreement if it was on-topic, even if it digressed into a different (still CS) topic, but there's a time and a place, and the comment area is not it.
Of course, one possible cause is that nobody caught that the question would generate opinion-based answers, in which case putting a pause on the question and asking for a rephrase is an option.
Dealing with flags is, of course, the main day-to-day job of a moderator. Reasonable flagging represents a problem with the answer or the user's conduct. Unreasonable flagging represents a problem with the users who are flagging. Either way, this is where the power of the diamond steps in.
Although I have never moderated a SE site before, I have moderated other communities, and I am a firm believer that if it's a troll/spammer the banhammer may be the first response, but if it's not, then it's the last resort. A "ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour" (to paraphrase Sir Robert Peel) goes further.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
As noted earlier, I've never been a SE moderator before, but I assume there's a discussion area where moderators communicate. If there isn't, there is a chat. That would be the proper venue to seek clarification from the mod who did the action.
Unless the reason why the mod took action is no longer relevant (e.g. the question/answer has been edited), I would never reverse a fellow mod's action without getting some kind of consensus first.
In the highly-unlikely event that I genuinely believed that a moderator's action was wrong, and I didn't get an explanation that satisfied me, I would seek the consensus of the other moderators and follow that. I have interacted with the current moderators here enough that I can't envisage this ever happening.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
A moderator is the servant of the community, not the boss of the community. Moderators are given special tools, to be sure, but their job is to give fuller attention to what is incumbent on every member. SE gives moderation tools to all users of sufficiently high reputation for a reason.
Of course, the main day-to-day part of the job is dealing with flags. But flagging things, dear community, is what we all do. Alongside asking great questions and giving great answers, of course...
- 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 doesn't mean that my bad jokes are now taken more seriously! The thing I probably feel worst about is that I'm sure there are promises I made to edit an answer in response to feedback, that I never got around to doing.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching enough reputation to access moderator tools or become a trusted user?
This is a good question; see my answer to question 3. The main thing that being a moderator buys you is immediacy. A moderator can act more quickly if there's a problem.
Questions from Paul Uszak
- What is your opinion regarding the conflict of interest in that moderators can answer and vote for the same questions they are meant to be impartially moderating?
As I noted earlier, the biggest difference between a moderator and a trusted user is immediacy. All sufficiently trusted users play a part in SE moderation, and thus have a similar "conflict of interest". Moderators, like all trusted users, should lead by example, and there's no reason why that shouldn't include giving high quality answers to questions.
Also as noted earlier, we are relatively fortunate here in not having very many genuine disputes that require moderator intervention; most of it the job is removing spam, and encouraging community members to improve the quality of their questions and answers.
Interestingly, there have been a couple of times when I have tried to give a real CS answer to a question that would normally be considered low-quality, and moderators at the time have already taken some action on, if I could think of a way to do it. I did not feel that the moderators had a conflict of interest here, merely a difference of opinion.
Having said all that, the best way to ensure that conflicts of interest don't happen in the first place is transparency. All sufficiently trusted users can see almost all moderator activity.
Incidentally, is it even possible for a moderator to use their tools to boost their own reputation points? SE is full of very clever hackers, and I'm sure that if a way had been found, it would have been patched by now.
- What are you going to do to encourage more women to participate on this forum?
A forum like this could, of course, do with a wider representation of all kinds of demographics among its members and regular contributors. There are long-time members for whom I do not know their gender, or sexual orientation, or self-identity.
Being a moderator does not provide you with tools that especially help in this area, beyond reacting to behaviour which is, or could be seen as, hostile or otherwise unwelcoming. So, really, this is a question about community building.
Learning about how to build and maintain a community that is welcoming to all is one of those things that takes a lifetime to master, and I'm nowhere near there yet. The computer science community has, to put it politely, a mixed history on this. I do believe that at least half the battle is the willingness to listen, which is something that we also don't have a perfect record on.
If anyone has any experiences they wish to share, I'm all ears.
- Since stackexchange.com is incorporated in the US, will you champion 1st Amendment rights regarding all free speech?
If this is about a certain high-profile incident from a few years ago, I'm not going to re-litigate that particular episode. Suffice to say that punishing people (and even worse, publicly outing them) because you believe they might violate a rule at some point in the future, is absolutely not on, and SE knows this.
I am not from the US (I've spent a grand total of one week there), and I do not claim any expertise on US Constitutional law. But that's never stopped anyone on the Internet, so let's go for it.
Let's get the usual disclaimer out of the way: The US Constitution sets the rules for how the US government operates, not private companies like SE.
We as a community decide what is "on topic" by consensus, and moderators, as servants of the community, moderate accordingly. There is plenty of speech where I would actively support your right not to be arrested for saying it, but would have no hesitation in removing it from the question/answer/comment section of cs.SE.
This is related to your previous question of how we can encourage more women in our community, isn't it? I assume that's part of why you asked it.
All this, of course, doesn't mean that SE as a business and we as a community (both cs.SE and the computer science/software community as a whole) have no responsibility here.
Being part of a quasi-engineering discipline, we have professional responsibilities to uphold, one of which is social responsibility. Many US software businesses claim to uphold free speech while grossly violating personal privacy, which is a kind of personal security, and one of the specifically enumerated rights in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Having said that, I do and will support freedom speech. As an example, some SE community members live in a country whose government would try to expose a user's real identity (yes, I am aware of the irony of my own username) to prosecute them for speaking against the government's actions and policies. If it came to that, I would hope and advocate that SE would protect its users to the best of its ability. To the extent that anyone will listen to me, anyway.