- What do you think this site's biggest challenge is? (E.g. post quality or quantity, too many/few closures, bad tools/guidance, etc.) What do you think should be done about it (whether it's by moderators, users in general, Stack Exchange staff, etc.)?
Although I can think of several challenges, I think that the
biggest one is keeping people engaged with the site and active on
it. We were never going to maintain the enthusiasm of the early
beta days when people were posting lots of interesting
questions/answers and voting heavily. However, I, and others,
have noticed a gradual drop-off in
and a harder-to-measure decline in the "interestingness" of
Voting is a public good because it keeps people enthusiastic about
the site and rewards them for asking/answering interesting
questions. Interesting questions keep people coming back. As
such, everybody has to take part, but high-rep users, in
particular, need to lead by example. It's not because they're
high-rep per se, but because they got to be high-rep by being
active and knowledgeable. One can share knowledge by answering
questions, and that's great. But one can/should also share
knowledge by asking questions from which a lot of people can learn.
- The community may benefit from having you as a moderator, but what do you hope to gain? Why would you choose subjecting yourself to the additional responsibility?
I learn a lot about Emacs from this site, and I want it to
continue for that very selfish reason. To be honest, I'm tempted
to free-ride and let other people put in the work to keep it going.
However, I look at moderating this site as my way to contribute to
the wider Emacs community. It's wonderful software with great
documentation, and I haven't paid a cent for it. I couldn't
begin to quantify how I've benefited from it, and, implicitly,
from the countless volunteer-hours that went into it. I dabble in
programming, but I'm no programmer. Moderating this site is my
way of contributing my time to the collective hat.
- This site occasionally gets new users who do not yet understand the Stack Exchange norms. How do you propose to educate them on best practices (when and how to ask questions/post comments/post answers)? Sometimes new users simply will not respond to suggestions, though. At what point (if ever) is it reasonable for you as a moderator to cut your losses and start downvoting, closing, or even deleting their posts without explaining yourself?
We need to be welcoming to new users, and careful how we interact
with them: I'd like them to stay and post good
questions/answers. A friendly "Welcome to Emacs.SE!..." comment
that offers constructive advice (clarify what you'd like to know,
one question per post, so break yours up into multiple posts) is
probably the most useful way to go.
There are occasions when new users don't respond to suggestions.
Happily, it's not very often. I think we need to be especially
forgiving of people whose first language is not English: smart
people who speak the site's language imperfectly should not be
penalized or made to feel stupid for it.
For those that really don't respond to suggestions -- the rare
users who treat the site as their free, personal tech support -- I
think it's fine to downvote and/or close after making a reasonable
effort to get them up to speed on the site's norms.
- 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?
There are plenty of users on this site that generate great
answers, so I don't think we need to tolerate abrasive behavior
for fear of losing an irreplaceable resource.
Most people are reasonable, and most will recognize when they've
allowed themselves to slip into an internet spat. A polite,
"let's keep it friendly" intervention in the comments is usually
plenty (along with a reminder that posts/comments should be kept
on topic). For repeated problems, a private chat would be the
next step, along the lines of "you contribute a lot of good stuff
here, but some people are finding your tone off-putting." If it
ever came to the point where we'd seriously consider suspending
someone, it would need to be after consultation among all of the
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
Discuss it privately. In general, I'd prefer to err on the side
of leaving things open if anyone can make a reasonable case to do
so. That also means that I'm happy to be overruled by fellow
- Users occasionally get into spats in comment sections. What is your role as a moderator in policing civility? What about in managing content (preventing substantive content from being drowned out by commentary)?
See answer (4). I think mods need to keep the site a reasonably
friendly place. I don't think it means coddling anyone, and I
don't think it means constant affirmation. But I do think it
means that users should have a reasonable expectation that their
posts will get constructive responses.
An aside on managing content: some of our posts get long-running
comments sections, some of which is ephemeral. We've adopted a
loose norm to allow chattiness, but I think mods can perform a
useful service by waiting for the chatter to die down, and then
curate the post by removing superfluous commentary. Doing so
makes the post useful to the user who finds it a year later and
doesn't want to wade through the babel in the comments section.
- This site sometimes gets low-quality questions and answers (idiosyncratic, poorly researched, poorly explained, riddled with typos, etc.). What do you think the moderator's role is in dealing with these types of posts? Should moderators be interventionist or laissez-faire in dealing with these posts? If interventionist, how should moderators intervene?
See answer (3). I do not think mods have a specific
responsibility to clean up posts; I think it falls on everyone,
but particularly high-rep users. However, given
collective action problems,
I think mods will end up doing a big chunk of it in practice.
I think our value-added here is not copy-editing. As part of
moderating, we get an expansive view of the site that transcends
specific questions. Our real value-added, when we do intervene,
is to recast questions in more general terms that will be relevant
to a much wider range of users than the original post was.
I think we should use reasonable discretion before choosing to
edit posts in this way, and when we do, we should leave a comment
for the original author to explain why we did it, and to offer to
role back the changes if they conflict with the author's intent.
- Stack Exchange for Emacs: cute? nice? neat? awesome? how-dare-anyone-use-anything-else?
To be honest, I still use the browser for most of my SE work (cue
irony). I like the idea of
sx.el and it's on my list of things
to do. However, I use
evil with a very
idiosyncratic keymap, and I just haven't worked up the gumption to
set up the
sx specifics so that my fingers will DWIM.
- 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?
Honestly, I find this part to be a bigger burden than the actual
time I spend moderating. By "burden," I mean that I spend more
time thinking about what I'm doing on the site, and, more
specifically, how I can justify it. By "justify," I don't mean
"how can I get away with X," but rather, "will reasonable users
agree that X is a reasonable thing to do?" It imposes a
responsibility to be more constructive and patient than I
otherwise might be.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
We facilitate sharing. That means we help to keep the site
running smoothly by taking care of administrative tasks. It also
means that we encourage people to teach each other things through
their questions, answers, and comments.