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The purpose of this thread was to collect questions for the questionnaire. The questionnaire is now live, and you may find it here.

Skeptics is scheduled for an election next week, June 22, 2020. In connection with that, we will be holding a Q&A 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.

Here's how it'll work:

  • Until the nomination phase, (so, until June 22, 2020 at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 4:00 pm EDT on the same day, give or take time to arrive for closure), this question will be open to collect potential questions from the users of the site. Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer.

  • We, the Community Team, will be providing a small selection of generic questions. The first two will be guaranteed to be included, the latter ones are if the community doesn't supply enough questions. This will be done in a single post, unlike the prior instruction.

  • If your question contains a link, please use the syntax of [text](link), as that will make it easier for transcribing for the finished questionnaire.

  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into currently.

  • At the start of the nomination phase, the Community Team will select up to 8 of the top voted questions submitted by the community provided in this thread, to use in addition to the aforementioned 2 guaranteed questions. We reserve some editorial control in the selection of the questions and may opt not to select a question that is tangential or irrelevant to moderation or the election.

  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, typically containing 10 questions in total.

  • This is not the only option that users have for gathering information on candidates. As a community, you are still free to, for example, hold a live chat session with your candidates to ask further questions, or perhaps clarifications from what is provided in the Q&A.

If you have any questions or feedback about this process, feel free to post as a comment here.

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12 Answers 12

9

The elected Moderators on Skeptics have been accused on many occasions of over moderation, what steps would you take to increase the level of community moderation?

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    The reason I ask this is I often despair that there are multiple comments pointing out the deficiencies of Q's and A's but nary a "Not an answer" flag, nor a close/delete vote. It's like the community understand what is not up to standard but do not bother to do anything about it, which leads to Oddthinking or myself having to unilaterally clean up. – Jamiec Jun 16 at 14:43
  • Does overmoderation refer to moderating too quickly, or moderating something that doesn’t need moderating? – Andrew Grimm Jun 24 at 4:51
  • @AndrewGrimm perhaps both. I'll leave the interpretation to the reader. – Jamiec Jun 24 at 7:35
7

There are a raft of policies on Skeptics.SE that often prove a challenge for new users.

I think the main ones are:

  • Questions

    • The claim must come from someone else, not personal speculation or curiousity.
    • The claim should be widely-believed (which we describe as "notable").
    • The claim should generally be clearly referenced.
    • The claim must be answerable with empirical evidence.
    • The question should accept answers for or against (e.g. not "What's the best evidence for homeopathy?")
  • Answers:

    • References must be given.
    • Personal opinions aren't answers.
    • Empirical beats theoretical.
    • Personal experiments and conjectures aren't of interest.
    • Back-of-the-envelope calculations are considered highly unreliable (and are rarely adequately referenced)
  • Comments:

    • Pseudo-answers in comments aren't permitted.
    • Political posturing isn't permitted.
    • Chattiness is pushed into chat.

Are there any of these rules you would like to see the community change? Are there any of these rules that you feel you would not be able to enforce as a moderator?

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  • I think you should just copy/paste this wholesale into a "New users, read this" post. That is the most clear and near-complete definition of Skeptics SE I've ever seen. You should nominate yourself. – fredsbend Jun 19 at 1:44
  • I would consider this question of yours basically a duplicate of mine. I'm going to delete mine. – fredsbend Jun 19 at 1:48
6

Skeptics has a high ratio of post deletion when compared to other SE sites. Is this a natural result of the site topic, or can/should certain things be done differently?

Naturally, answers must first actually answer the question as asked. There's very little argument otherwise, except over whether specific posts have done this. After that, however, Skeptics has a few site specific guidelines that if not met often result in answer deletion. Guidelines such as prohibition of "back-of-envelope" calculations and "theoretical" or "logic-only" answers often are used as reason for post deletion. Do you think that is currently done necessarily, or can/should it be different.

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5

Community participation on skeptics meta is quite light, what would you do to improve community participation in meta discussions?

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  • Maybe there wasn’t a big need for activity on meta because things are going more or less fine? – Andrew Grimm Jun 24 at 4:53
  • That is a good thing. It means that the operation of the site works and that nobody does not understand or objet to how it works Also this site is a collection of questions and answers not a community iethe Q and A results matter who wrote them doesn't – mmmmmm Jun 24 at 15:11
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    @mmmmmm I'm not sure I agree. – Jamiec Jun 24 at 15:45
4

What is the most important issue facing the site's future success today? What do you plan to do about it as a moderator?

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3

Here is a set of general questions, gathered as very common questions asked every election. As mentioned in the instructions, the first two questions are guaranteed to show up in the Q&A, while the others are if there aren't enough questions (or, if you like one enough, you may split it off as a separate answer for review within the community's 8).

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

  • In your opinion, what do moderators do?
  • 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?
  • In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
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3

How do you feel about the Hot Network Questions effect?

Skeptics questions seem to really hit the sweet spot for the HNQ formula. Skeptics questions are regularly featured all across the network, attracting users that may or may not be familiar with the site guidelines. On one hand, this exposure may help the Skeptic site grow and gain new positive contributors, but on the other hand, such questions often are understood as a difficult place for moderation, and blamed for producing low-quality content. Does this matter? If yes, in what ways and how could it be made better?

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2

When should comments be deleted and when should they remain?

Some topics on Skeptics collect a lot of comments, thus many comments are deleted. The current moderation team regularly defends against charges of selective deletion and preservation of comments and total thread nuking. What is your policy preference for deleting and preserving comments, and how would you answer charges that you've wrongly or unfairly applied it?

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    "Noise" is jargon. +Comments are not 'all noise'. More interesting might be to ask how comments in general will be handled. When to delete (isolated ones), nuke (the thread lot), mv2chat. An easily deleted joke is different from substantial objections or important aditions/offerings. More important than anything: when should comments stay? (Some criticisms, caveats etc that per 'our theory' really have to be part of that A (or another A), but OP refuses them… ) – LangLаngС Jun 17 at 14:20
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    @LаngLаngС I was hoping for that kind of nuanced reply from nominees. Are you suggesting I edit this to make the question more clear? "When should comments stay?" maybe should be added? – fredsbend Jun 17 at 16:12
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    To avoid that jargon being left unexplained in answers & read too literally as 'comments are noise, noise is nuisance and never good', yep, clear that up, probably not just as 'stay' but ~ 'your policy preference for when, which and for how long are comments useful'? – LangLаngС Jun 17 at 16:59
  • This. So much this. This problem has seemed uniquely severe on Skeptics SE, and it's about time that some thought goes into addressing it. – probably_someone Jun 23 at 5:02
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    @LаngLаngС I updated this question. Is it better? – fredsbend Jun 24 at 23:33
  • Yep, it is. Although the comparison with 'current mods' might still read a bit like 'accusation' (or dissatisfaction?) and might invite ppl to read this as a bit too much 'position yourself in relation to current mods' (whether pos or neg). I think it might be better to just ask for their kind of personal policy vision/ 'plan' for decision heuristics? (Ppl eligible to vote will then be able to compare with current practices anyway?) – LangLаngС Jun 25 at 10:49
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    @LаngLаngС Yes, I also did not like that tone. I've edited. – fredsbend Jun 25 at 14:33
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    @LаngLаngС Well, apparently that doesn't matter anyway. The official questionnaire has already been published. – fredsbend Jun 25 at 14:39
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How do you balance a skeptic's need to reveal the truth with the simple fact-checking nature of this Q&A site?

There are perhaps many instances where a good answer on this site may be factually correct, but perhaps not complete in revealing the truth surrounding the circumstances. However, such "complete" answers can verge into subjective territory and take a longer amount of time to craft, while sometimes a simple fact-check is "good enough". In what ways do you balance this? What would you like to see, if anything, to better this.

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Questions can be closed (and opened) either by moderators, or by the community.

Under what circumstances is it beneficial to let the closure process be done by the community, and when is it better for moderators to do it?

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  • I find this question rather odd, and contrary to the spirit of SE. IMO there is no good reason to leave this sort of action to an elected moderator, you're all moderators in the sense of having close/reopen votes. – Jamiec Jun 23 at 12:28
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    @Jamiec I think Andrew is referring to when a mod closes before anyone has voted to close. – fredsbend Jun 23 at 14:41
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    I yearn for the day when I see 5x community close votes on a bad question. See my suggested question – Jamiec Jun 23 at 16:38
1

Skeptics.SE, along with some other stack exchanges, have attracted persistent trolls posting hate speech, primarily as question posts. How do you deal with hate speech, and how do you determine if something is legitimate content or not?

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  • I was gonna ask the same question. I have seen questions (with examples of notability) being closed or even deleted with the remark that it was asked "in bad faith", which usually strikes me as odd seeing that "we don't deal with motivations". How would you as a moderator deal with a question that some might find offensive, while the question itself follows the FAQ as to what constitutes a good question? – Jordy Jun 25 at 13:36
-4

How will you diversify the makeup of the mod team? If you yourself will not significantly diversify the team, how will you actively make sure that diverse voices are included and treated as equal?


Why I believe this is a critical question for any mod candidate

In a comment on the election interest check, current mod @Oddthinking♦ opined:

Over the past 20 years, the skepticism movement has been slowly - oh so slowly - moving away from being represented by old, white men with beards. I want to encourage anyone who doesn't fit that profile to consider putting their name forward. Similarly, you don't have to agree down the line with the current mods on policies and approaches. Having a diversity of viewpoints amongst the mods - and amongst the user community - is valuable, and I hope this election can inject some more into the mod team.

For myself (an American) and others, Skeptics has been a valuable source for identifying and investigating suspect claims by politicians, public servants, and our increasingly polarized news media.

With the current turmoil over systemic racism, the lack of diverse representation in institutions public and private in all areas of our society is increasingly being recognized as a contributing factor to the harm experienced by minorities. Working to diversity all of our institutions is one important step (among others) to heal past harm and stop present and future harm.

Looking at the list of Hot Network Questions from Sketpics (admittedly not the best metric, but readily available), of 27 HNQs this month, 10 have been questions specifically about race or gender issues, or the protests over racial disparities. People are clearly interested in these issues of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. Having moderators who are more diverse (or clearly value and encourage more diverse perspectives) will improve the quality of discussion around these topics.

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    What exactly does "How will you diversify the makeup of the mod team?" mean? It sounds like a roundabout way of asking whether a candidate is white/male/old/bearded. – fredsbend Jun 16 at 22:41
  • @fredsbend I'm not aware of specific data on facial hair patterns, and age seems to skew to the 20's and 30's, but otherwise, yes. Assuming Skeptics users are a subset of Stack Overflow survey respondents, they are overwhelmingly white and male (like myself). If the mods valued and possibly even embodied a more diverse perspective, we could both broaden and deepen the conversation here. – LShaver Jun 17 at 13:47
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    If that'd be my Q: "do you actively make sure that diverse voices are included and treated as equal?" is all I'm interested in, maybe a bit re-phrased? // The stuff preceding it is going by idea/belief & focusses on real-life disclosure, to name a few distractions. Going by token for advertisement in elections is a net-negative in my books (diff between barred from candidacy and reason to be elected: not stopping you for being mauve-green-tempered, but no reason to choose you either). Methinks: cutting all before first 'how' in bold might improve the Q? – LangLаngС Jun 17 at 23:47
  • @LаngLаngС it's always hard to strike the balance between too much explanation and not enough. I put the question up at the top -- those who care to read why I believe this is important can read further. – LShaver Jun 18 at 14:38

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