The following is a "digest" version of the 2012 Moderator Election Town Hall Chat. The format, as described on Meta Stack Overflow, is one answer to this question for every question asked in the Town Hall, containing all the candidate's answers to that question.

To view the digest chronologically, please sort the answers by "oldest".

If you have questions or comments about this, please do not answer this question as the answers are designed to be used for the questions from the Town hall itself. Instead, please ask on the parent question or in the Town Hall Discussion Room.

If you see any corrections which need to be made to this digest, or if you were a candidate who was unable to attend the town hall and would like your answers included, please @Rebecca or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!

  • Thank you for this post. It contributed to my decision making in the election significantly, and this was a great format to read it under! (I hope you don't get flagged for my upvotes here, this was an awesome effort on your part.)
    – JasonR
    May 7, 2012 at 14:20

13 Answers 13


jozzas http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/db0002d9fbb098a7182b43e9c01ce6e8?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG jozzas asked: What do you think will be the biggest challenges facing the site in the coming year or so? Do you forsee growing pains? Lack of growth? Difficulty attracting/retaining quality users? Something else?

Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz answered: The biggest challenge so far has been the question per day metric, plus communicating the site vision to new users. (And the yellow template). I expect both challenges to stay for some more time. Then there's the political fact checking initiative as well. That's going to be a tough initiative for the mods, but it will put skeptics on the map!

Fabian http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/66c66c4d97a7bc3859a85253f003e1fb?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Fabian answered: Enforcing the citation rules is very mod-dependent at the moment, in the long run that probably needs to be done mostly by the community (might need tools support, as the citation-needed banner is mod-only) to be able to scale to higher traffic. Scaling Skeptics up significantly is likely to be pretty challenging.

Rory Alsop http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/af1ed0816ed5a2164a4e343ad09309ad?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rory Alsop answered: All being well, growth will continue and accelerate. The main issue with that is at various points in a sites lifecycle you seem to get an influx of new users who either don't read the faq or are just not interested in the rules. These do cause growing pains, but as mentioned above, that is where community and mods need to pull together to educate them in a way that makes them want to stay and improve.

Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz answered: If you asked my before graduation I would have said "growth" by the way, but we've since doubled our traffic without much pain... so I am not so sure anymore!

Sam I Am http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/a55dc555216662401021ec93648e3d70?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sam I Am answered: I don't foresee many growing pains. I think as we get more high rep users, we will see the community doing more of the moderation. Though people still do post off topic questions because they don't know the scope of what is on topic here.

Larian LeQuella http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/08f2eeded9d67d89d14a1939b11a9557?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Larian LeQuella answered: I think that the biggest challenge with be the lack of sustainable growth, as well as perhaps getting a reputation of being a closed and somewhat isolated community. I see this on a lot of skeptical groups and forums that I am a part of. Skeptics sometimes do have a reputation for being snobby or even mean. I tend to be a bit of an effervescent person, so I am hoping that my personality will come through and show people that this is a fun place to come and stay.


Tim Stone http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3981cd271c302f5cba628c6b6d2b32ee?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Tim Stone asked: Two highly respected members of the community get in a comment war on a question. They both flag each other's comments and are cussing and it is clear that this is beyond a heated argument. What do you do, what don't you do?

Rory Alsop http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/af1ed0816ed5a2164a4e343ad09309ad?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rory Alsop answered: Ooh, good one! Firstly ask them to move it to chat (along with the whole comment thread if necessary) - followed by a conversation in chat to understand why and to see if the situation can be defused. If it can't, and the argument simmers into other questions, a short suspension is an option - for both - as high rep users should know better.

Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz answered: I will stop the flame straight away, moving it to chat or meta (as appropriate). I will intervene on any valid flags (e.g. insults). Finally I will clean up the thread if necessary (eg. is it off topic?) Typically the result is a comment similar to this.

Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz continued: I will not take sides or lengthen the flame war at all (and this is very tricky sometimes)

Fabian http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/66c66c4d97a7bc3859a85253f003e1fb?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Fabian answered: Probably nuking all the comments and telling the users to stop attacking each other. That should be enough in most cases. A suspension is only necessary if they still won't stop.

Sam I Am http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/a55dc555216662401021ec93648e3d70?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sam I Am answered: I would remove the comments in question which are inflammatory and insulting by nature and telling each user to stop.

Larian LeQuella http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/08f2eeded9d67d89d14a1939b11a9557?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Larian LeQuella answered: Gotta realize that I can't control people and that no matter what I do, they will act the way the intend to. That said, I would use the tools of moving the discussion to chat or meta. If it is truly out of control, I would summon the SE professional mods like Rebecca. If it gets totally out of control, I would see about putting the users in a time out, and request help to solve the issue.


Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz asked: What are your strongest tags on skeptics?

Sam I Am http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/a55dc555216662401021ec93648e3d70?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sam I Am answered: Probably environment

Fabian http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/66c66c4d97a7bc3859a85253f003e1fb?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Fabian answered: , probably a bit skewed as it's the most popular tag on our site and there's just so much bad science in that field that needs to be debunked.

Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz answered: as well for me, for the same reasons (also: generally it's easy to answer), followed by

Rory Alsop http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/af1ed0816ed5a2164a4e343ad09309ad?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rory Alsop answered: Oh, and the one I missed at the start: medical-science and then history (which is odd, as they aren't the ones I thought I would have...)

Larian LeQuella http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/08f2eeded9d67d89d14a1939b11a9557?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Larian LeQuella answered: Surprisingly, History. I also enjoy answering questions on aviation (duh), biology, and any of the hard sciences.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: What is the main problem (including problems on how users use the site) that you actually see in the site you would be moderating, if you are elected moderator?

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: I see a lot of "non-answer" answers, which I currently flag, I have over 100 helpful flags

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: I think that this site is quite healthy to be honest. However, the community has decided to adopt a number of rules which are a challenge for moderators. The scope is determined in a non-obvious way, and explaining this to new users is challenging (i.e. notability rules). Also, we require references, which is unexpected to our first time users and not really supported well by the system.

Fabian Fabian answered: Not scaring away the new users due to our rules, which are not exactly obvious and also different from every other SE site. Our scope is not obvious, so getting users to actually ask questions that are on-topic, and getting users to back up answers with references without scaring them away is pretty important.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: The real challenge is keeping the balance of staying in the background letting the community police itself, but being available when needed to support the community

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: I think the main problem is that new users may feel overwhelmed by the rigor required. Although they may also be turned off by some of the limits imposed on them by the current reputation system. I don't expect that as a moderator I can actually change any of the rep system mechanics, but I do want to make sure that new users don't get chased off or feel the site is cliquey.


Shog9 Shog9 asked: When you see a question with major issues (poorly-written, argumentative, no indication of relevance to a notable claim, etc.), what tool do you reach for first?

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: Google for notability, comment and edit is my first choice, always. If the question can't be salvaged (or we really need to understand what the OP meant) I sometimes close, sometimes comment. It depends how much risk there is that the question starts to get bad answers. Of course, more and more, I see the community taking care of it, in which case - do nothing! :-)

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: the comment button first - a little bit of guidance can help the questioner rearrange their post - if they can come back with a couple of refs themselves, all the better

Fabian Fabian answered: If the question is easily salvageable I might edit it myself, if it is salvageable but e.g. contains multiple questions, I'll comment on the problem and let the user edit themselves as I don't know what exactly the user is after. If the current issues are likely to lead to bad answers, I'll close the question and explain how they'll get it reopened once it is edited. For questions that are not salvageable, I'll just close them directly.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: Edit if I can grasp what they meant and just needs (for example) a link for notability, or some copy editing but comment if it is unclear what the questioner was asking.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: At first, I tend to flag. I feel that a collaborative approach is better than just going in with the edit stick. I do make suggestions in the flag though (most of my flags get tagged other for that reason). Then I may go in and edit. However I try to get in touch with the original asker to see if I manage to preserve the intent of their question.


Oddthinking Oddthinking asked: While there are signs of improvement, the community itself is still reluctant to Vote to Close/Delete - and even comment and downvote - instead they rely on flags. Have you any ideas on how to encourage the community to be more directly involved in self-policing the site?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: From experience on Sec SE, I found the best way was in chat. I found a critical mass in chat made communicating actions and options much easier. Although in the early days mods need to do a lot of closing, discussing the powers that the community have in chat is valuable.

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: Hopefully high rep users will lead by example (hint, hint, wink, wink)? I think we need a bit more high rep users now that the levels required have changed. I think the bottom line is, we have few questions per day and we can dedicate our time to them at the moment. However, there are strong, strong signs that the community is quite active in policing the answers which, IMHO, is more important and difficult. I rarely need to intervene lately on them.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: Probably Meta would be a good start. Also, we might just need to wait for some more users to (re)gain the ability to close/delete.

Fabian Fabian answered: I see comments very regularly on problematic posts here, community closing is certainly rarer than I'd like, but not at a problematic level I think. This is just something that should automatically happen over time, as more users have the tools available and feel comfortable using them.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: No idea if there is a way to change that mechanism. I actually think that flags are a great tool if used because they will give people an opportunity to collaborate. And as you said, it appears that the community is coming around to downvoting, although perhaps not closing. Given the tools available, flags here are actually much stronger than I have seen at other communities and forums.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Is there an example you can describe/point-to that shows you taking initiative or showing leadership on the site in past actions?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Not on this site - here I am only a 2k user so flagging/commenting has been the extent of my activity here. However, initiatives I have undertaken on behalf of StackExchange in general have included contacting my local practice rooms to get them hooked into Music SE, arrange sponsorship for high profile events for Security SE, and leading the Sec SE blog from its inception.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop continued: These are all transferable activities

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: I have over 154 answers and 53 questions on meta. More or less 150 and 50 on main too. Mostly, I've run the topic of the week, worked on a few FAQs, found a bunch of bugs in the design (and voiced community complaints a lot, publicly and privately). I've promoted our community to various prominent skeptics and on various sites. You could say I've lead by example extensively.

Fabian Fabian answered: I'll point to the sum of all my meta posts, not any specific instance. A lot of steering the site I was involved in also happened together with the other pro-tem mods, so it's not attributable to a single person.

  • Sklivvz Sklivvz agreed: Our private mod room has almost 10k messages. This gives you an idea of how much time we spend coordinating and helping each other in leading the site.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: I always try to act when I can on "bad" posts. I've edited, flagged. commented, voted to close (when I could), etc. I try to always welcome new users and point them to the rules here.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: I lead by example. Again, I have a large number of answers on the site. I admit that I am not as involved on Meta as I should be. Perhaps something I will need to work on.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: To conclude: final thoughts from the candidates?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: Honestly, I think the current pro-tem mods are doing an awesome job, so they should be voted for. I'm a fallback plan, but either way will keep supporting an excellent site that deeply interests me.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: Skeptics is a place where I feel using my time to contribute to is valuable. The current mods do a good job too.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: Nothing in particular. I am enjoying my time here, and will continue to be here no matter what.


Shog9 http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/4f0af2dc52e6ff228e4d69f7e1e8aa5a?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Shog9 asked: How much experience do you currently have using the moderation tools (particularly those available to non-moderators) on Skeptics?

Sam I Am http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/a55dc555216662401021ec93648e3d70?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sam I Am answered: I've flagged a lot and edited and retagged. When we were in beta I could vote to close, which I've done.

Sklivvz http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/3fd9e5b2c59170ec3d74dde30d233fa4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Sklivvz answered: I use the tools daily, for obvious reasons, especially close votes, flags and I am particularly fond of the review pages. I also use them on StackOverflow, where I am a 10k user.

Fabian http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/66c66c4d97a7bc3859a85253f003e1fb?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Fabian answered: I've used them for over a year now here on Skeptics (also the diamond-mod-only features), so I'm pretty familiar with them. I've also used them on sites where I'm not a moderator, e.g. Gaming.

Rory Alsop http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/af1ed0816ed5a2164a4e343ad09309ad?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rory Alsop answered: A fair bit from my time as mod over on Security. Even had to use some of the suspicious voting tools

Larian LeQuella http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/08f2eeded9d67d89d14a1939b11a9557?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Larian LeQuella answered: I use these tools on a regular basis. I also have experience with the tools available to a mod from my time at Astronomy. As a daily visitor, I am often here to catch the notifications.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: New users often are not accustomed to the Stack Exchange system, and sometimes struggle to present themselves properly, either in the way they use the site or their attitude. How willing are you to work with "problematic" users, and at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth the effort?

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: I have only had this a handful of times, and my approach is: try to educate through comments first, then through private messaging; then suspension. One of those users did supply good content, but was very argumentative, so I just remained patient and tried to escalate through those steps slowly. The other had very average content, so I was probably a bit less polite. But he too was worth the effort. If people want to contribute, I want to support them at being better contributors.

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: Oddthinking prepared a wonderful Welcome to New Users page, that's the first step. For more problematic users there are different steps, contacting them in chat, via mod mail and finally successive levels of suspension. Fortunately we've had to use these tools a limited number of times since the site's beginning.

Fabian Fabian answered: I don't expect new users to immediately know our rules, but I expect them to be able to learn and accept them. There's a huge difference between a user adjusting to the Q&A format and our very specific rules, and a user just causing trouble. If there is no change in behaviour after explaining the problem to them, there's not much more moderators can do except to clean up and suspend if necessary.

Fabian Fabian continued: I'll add that very, very few trouble users are responsible for a completely disproportional amount of moderator time spent.This amount is completely unsustainable if we get more of those users, so we have to limit ourselves there as we don't have unlimited time.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: I think comments are best in that case. I try to be welcoming but explain our rules are a little different. Most people are posting in good faith and they just need a nudge. What point is it not worth it? If it is clear they are not in good faith.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: Hmm, I've never "given up" on a user (although I will freely admit human bias on some). Again, edit is a powerful tool, and that can be used to salvage questions and answers. Again, I try to make it a collaborative effort as opposed to my unilateral view on the situation.


jozzas jozzas asked: How much time are you willing/able to spend moderating per week, and how much do you expect is required for successful moderation? (I ask because I would have gone for nomination but can't afford to spend enough time here)

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: I probably spend about 30 to 45 minutes a day actually moderating - scanning the review pages, following up flags and responding to chat messages. I spend almost the same again doing what I can only class as marketing - publicising the value of the place, sharing URL's of useful questions and generally supporting growth.

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: I think a minimum of 2/3 hours per day is necessary for being an effective mod on skeptics. I think that all the current mods give at least that amount of time.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: I already spend a lot of my time "moderating" here by commenting, flagging, and editing and voting to close when I had that ability. I'm usually here every day (unless I'm away from home and work)

Fabian Fabian answered: There isn't all that much time required for stuff that only moderators can do if all the mods are active, but you can certainly spend much more time on editing and posting content. I'm using the SE network a lot, and more of that time is moderating nowadays.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: I visit the site daily, and am on it for extended periods in the US Eastern timezone in the evenings. As you may be able to tell from answers that I post, I spend a great deal of time on them, and I do the same in moderation.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Do you tend to live inside a (set of) tag(s) or do you interact with the site as a whole?

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: Whole site (main and meta, all chats, all tags, no filters) :-)

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: The whole site, definitely!!!

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: I tend to go whole site on all my core sites except for a couple of SE sites (like gaming - where there is just too much I know nothing about)

Fabian Fabian answered: Our tagging scheme isn't exactly optimal, the site is broad enough that stuffing the questions into neat categories is often problematic. While I have a preference for science questions I tend to look at pretty much everything.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: I have a specific set that are my favorites because they are the ones I am most knowledgeable on as well as know where to find references, but when I go to the site, I visit the main page without any tag filters. I have 118 tags on my profile apparently.


jozzas jozzas asked: Why do you want to be a moderator?

Sklivvz Sklivvz answered: Because I love the site to a fault. I know we make the Internet a better place. Quite literally.

Rory Alsop Rory Alsop answered: I enjoy experiencing a community growing together. I like to be able to give something back. And I really am a scientific skeptic in so many disciplines - seeing the quality of answers here impresses me immensely. I have put great passion into growing the Security site, and watching its development does feel good. I think the same can be true here.

Fabian Fabian answered: I'm interested in seeing this site succeed and try to do my part to help with that. That was my initial motivation to accept the pro-tem nomination, and while I think Skeptics has succeeded so far, it could go quite a bit further.

Sam I Am Sam I Am answered: I want to be a mod because I want to keep the quality of the site high. I really like the community we have here and we are a GREAT resource.

Larian LeQuella Larian LeQuella answered: I care about this community! That's about it. :)

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