In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Not every question was compiled - as noted, we only selected the top 8 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the three dashes.

Once all the answers have been compiled, this will serve as a transcript for voters to view the thoughts of their candidates, and will be appropriately linked in the Election page.

Good luck to all of the candidates!


Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

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?

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

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7 Answers

Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

I agree on the whole with the summary that there is a steady stream of "simple" questions on the site, but that's largely a product of improved growth based around other sites' users joining Serverfault. Notably, StackOverflow, and as Iain pointed out, there are a lot of SF new users who are high-rep on SO.

I believe that the ultimate resolution for a lot of these simple questions is to edit them to allow us as high reputation SF users, and also as moderators, to produce more canonical question/answers, which we can link to, either as a related-to link, or Vote to Close, Duplicate.

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?

I do this frequently, and I know that I'm seen as arrogant, or abrasive, but the truth is that my experience and knowledge is how I'm able to produce valuable insight and answers, but it's also that experience that makes me cynical and perceived to be arrogant, about what I call "short-term cheapskatery" where it's seen that a dodgy hack for a short period is better than a long-term, more expensive investment fix.

In terms of the comment flags, I think the best solution is to drop all users into a chat room, and allow them to discuss it in a more structured environment. I struggle to express my feelings in a tweet, for example, and similarly, it feels like a comment isn't enough to get across most points and feelings, forcing the poster to be more terse than they would perhaps be, in a chat room environment.

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

I don't feel too concerned about this, generally, because nothing is ever really truely deleted, and can be recovered from the brink of destruction. I'd approach the moderator who closed/deleted the question in the Chatroom, get some further insight and background, and then either undelete or reopen as needed.

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic)

This is probably the most difficult to deal with, but I feel that the best mechanism for dealing with it is to leave comments on the user's questions, whilst migrating them to other StackExchange sites where the question is a better on-topic fit.

A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism)

These questions bug me a little bit, as a high-rep user, but I'll frequently answer a "do my work for me" question, and find that the OP never comes back. It would probably be more useful for the site's health in general to treat the "fire and forget" attitude of drive-by question posting. I don't mind editing poorly phrased questions, where English might not be the OP's original language. I'll even attempt to translate from some languages, either through my own knowledge, or a drop through Google Translate.

A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision

This is irritating, but best dealt with in chat, or on meta. I personally don't agree with the phrase "and the moderator's decision is final", as we're all human, and humans aren't infallible. If a clear case can be made that a moderator acted in a manner that's malicious, or just needlessly final with regard to making decisions, then I think it should be up to a group moderator discussion to revisit the instance, on a case-by-case basis.

A user (new or established) harassing other users

Luckily, this doesn't happen that often on SF. In the instance that it does, I think it should be possible to take measures as outlined in Jeff Atwood's blog, about Slowbanning or Hellbanning troublesome users (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/06/suspension-ban-or-hellban.html). It's probably the least disruptive way of dealing with a user who's up to no good.

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

Personally, I think it's a shame that the current incarnation of the FAQ is so strictly prohibitive of both high-level architecture questions (either as a whole, or once broken down, they can be frowned upon too). To some extent, I agree with the "Q&A is hard, let's go shopping" rules, but on the other hand, if we allowed more high-level, long-running questions as Community Wikis, or otherwise, perhaps we'd create a place for high-rep, old-timer users, such as MDMarra, Chopper3 and myself included to put in our $0.02 about our experiences when designing system architecture.

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

A few things commonly flag my personal "off-topic radar", these are typically things like the mention of the words "Linksys", "belkin", "WEP", "Home Server", and so on. It seems pretty clear that if you're using consumer-grade hardware in a business environment, then you're doing it wrong, or cutting costs to such an extent that it'll only ever be suitable for a short term solution, won't scale with users and business growth, and will only ever lead to the OP requiring a larger investment at a later date.
As far as the words "in a professional capacity" goes, I'd say if you're getting any kind of monetary compensation for your efforts, and you're willing to utilise business-grade products in this thing you're doing, then it belongs here. It is however, a pretty thin line, that. If you were setting up WiFi for your Church (or other local community), and you were using a Linksys WRT54G, you post it on Superuser. If you're using Cisco Aironet, or Meraki, or Ubiquiti, then your question belongs here on Serverfault.

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

I'd like the fix the drive-by posting problem, and encourage users to return, comment, learn and accept their answers. I'd like to see more high-level architecture design questions, and participate in the answering of these, including contributing novel R&D where needed to help investigate this kind of support. I'd like to help SF users to create more canonical questions to answer some more of the frequently asked questions by new users.

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

The only questions that I envisage myself closing without community votes are those in the case of blatant spam, or unacceptable content, including abuse, excessive linking, sock-puppetry and so on. Whilst perusing the review queue, I suspect I'll try to allow Votes to Close to gather under community power first, before bringing the "mod hammer" down. If a question gets posted into the chatroom demanding prompt-critical response, then I'll review these on a case-by-case basis.

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

I tend to hang out in The Comms Room even without being a moderator. Whilst I can see why current mods hang out there, I do think that perhaps a Mods-only chatroom would be a valuable asset to the site, not from the point of view of live support, because that's not what The Comms Room is, and certainly not a way to get on-call moderation, because that's not what it's for either, but a mods-only chatroom would allow some more discreet discussion in the event that the moderators disagree about the decisions taken by other mods.

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

Even as a high-rep user, I still tend to read through the Tools queues, while I'm reading through the /review queues. Mostly to see if there's anything significant that I've missed. I don't see any reason that I won't still review the /review queues if I do get elected as a moderator.

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Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

Different people would probably describe the problem differently, but I think his assessment is largely correct: there is a disconnect between new users of the site and those that have been around longer. I think the core of the problem is not so much easy questions, but bad ones: unclear, incomplete, questions that are starting with an unprofessional premise (how can I tune my cPanel server to run my Facebook-killer website?)... That's the problem the new users cause, the other side of the coin is that the problem with the longer-term members is the tendency to respond harshly to those types of bad question.

I think that implementing some of the ideas here will help: if we can come up with some standardized, constructive comments to explain why questions are closed, maybe* we can get away from comments that are seen as mean, while still quickly shutting the door on bad questions.

(*I know we'll never get rid of all the accusations of meanness - you see them all the time on meta.SO from people who've been question-banned and are sure that they don't deserve it.)

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?

I can think of a couple people on SF who might fit this description... and I think the usual tool for dealing with this - a temporary ban - is the right way to go. OTOH, there was a recent case here of an active user here who was banned and hasn't come back yet. Or the more extreme case of the very active contributor to Physics.SE (who was also pretty obnoxious) who was banned and has said he'll never come back. I'm still in favour of temporary bans to give people a chance to cool off, but I'd be sure to discuss them beforehand.

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

In order: talk to that mod and try to come to an understanding, discuss it with other SF mods, and finally bring it up in the mod-only discussion room if necessary. Somewhere along that path, I'm sure there'd be an understanding of how it should/shouldn't have been dealt with.

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

Problematic users of all these types would likely be talked about among the SF mods, and if additional advice was needed there's the all SE mods chat room. A user harassing others would be the simplest: that's not tolerated on SE sites, so they either have to stop or they'll get banned. Another truly automatic response is that a user posting many bad or off-topic questions would likely be hit with an automatic question ban.

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

I've been in favor of allowing questions that are more subjective (open-ended, discussion-y...) since 2009 (!) I'd love to see more questions like How should an IT department choose a Linux distribution: Technical reasons I think that SF would be better if we had some more broad questions like this, but they'd have to be held to a very high standard to keep them from becoming "I like xxx because the colour scheme is pretty!"

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

We all know professional when we see it... We have a few things in the FAQ that are defined as being on- or off-topic, and many people vote to close when it's clear a question is about someone's home network. I think it's more a matter of doing things in a professional way: lots of us have had to do flaky things over the years, but we've generally found it works better to do things right: use real servers, don't run your company web site on XP, etc...

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

I think moderators have a small amount of "moral authority" to use to ask people to behave a certain way... Whatever amount it is, I'd use it to try to convince people to use nice ways of saying "this is a bad question because..."

I'd really like to see more voting so that good questions and answers are recognized (bad ones too), but frankly, leading by example doesn't seem to have done anything on that front. So my top priority would be to work with SE staff to devise a way to deliver a 10,000 V shock to anyone who answers a question without voting on it. (Is anyone reading all these huge walls of text?)

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

I'd have to be a bit more careful about voting to close... In the past I've been pretty quick to VtC (since "closed" doesn't mean a question is dead, it needs some work), but if I were a mod I'd be more likely to wait for other votes or flags.

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

Many of the people in chat are very active on the site, so being there is a good way to keep in touch with "the community." There are also people who go to chat instead of meta when they have a question about the site (or a complaint) so it's good if mods are around to respond to those issues.

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

This is going to put a bit of a cramp in my style... I do a lot of close and re-open reviewing, but I'd have to cut back if I were a mod. For close votes, whether in /review or not, I think it's ok for a mod to hammer a question that's had some other votes or flags. Similarly for re-opens, although I find that there aren't too many in the queue that deserve reopening.

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10kv might be a bit extreme :) –  Dennis Kaarsemaker May 22 '13 at 14:50
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Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

I don't entirely agree, and I don't entirely disagree.

While it's true that we have a significant number of low-quality HALP HALP and gimme teh codez questions on any given day, I think it's important to differentiate between well-constructed basic questions and poorly constructed questions. None of us began as subject matter experts, after all.

There's also a difference between basic questions and questions which were plainly answered in the product documentation. It's one thing if you read the documentation and don't understand it; it's quite another if you never even attempted to look for the documentation! One of these is correlated with good answerable questions, and the other is correlated with crap questions.

So I think it's important to not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. I've proposed one idea for dealing with such questions (though it seems most people misunderstood the proposal) and I'll probably have more in the future.

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?

Having seen one such user in the recent past, my thoughts are:

I would certainly encourage him to choose his words more carefully - this is a site for professionals, after all - and if he really can't say anything nice, to use an alternate means for expressing his disapproval with the questions, such as downvoting or voting to close.

I would probably encourage him to take a vacation - not from SF, but in "real life" - because he's probably very burned out and needs it desperately.

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

I would talk with the other moderator in private chat with an eye toward reaching some sort of consensus on the status of the post. If we could not reach agreement, I'd consider asking other moderators to look at the situation as well.

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

No fair, that's really four questions!

In the first case, I would advise the user to read our FAQ, About page, and perhaps meta to learn about what sorts of questions we do and do not allow. Users who don't take the hints and post too many off-topic questions, though, will hit the automatic question ban.

In the second case, I would close the questions as appropriate and point the user toward resources here on meta where they can learn what we mean by professional capacity and how to write better questions. Again, users who don't take the hints will hit the automatic question ban.

In the third case, we see such questions on meta from time to time. Often they're pretty obvious, and only need a clear explanation of how Server Fault (or SE in general) works. Sometimes they're not so obvious, for instance the user who provided the critical information for his SF question in his meta question about it being closed.

Finally, it says in the FAQ of every site: "Rudeness will not be tolerated." How much less should harassment be tolerated! It should be made abundantly clear to the user that such behavior is not wanted on Stack Exchange; while I don't know what the exact penalties are I am aware that there are some existing guidelines for setting penalties in such cases.

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

I have always thought some of Server Fault's most interesting questions were ones from the very early days which would be closed or locked as historic now, precisely because they led to discussion, were subjective, or were shopping questions. Some of these are actually in our list of canonical answers.

Stack Overflow had a similar problem, that being that some of the questions we really need to ask and answer are subjective, and its solution was to spin off the sister site Programmers. I'm not quite ready to spin off a new site What Would Limoncelli Do? but I think some of these questions do need to be able to be asked and answered.

For the moment I think the first thing that needs to happen is for everyone to remember that "subjective" does not always mean "not constructive." When I see such a question, I prefer to edit it to improve it, when possible.

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

The canonical answer to "what does professional capacity mean" is sysadmin1138's excellent answer, with which I agree in its entirety and will refer you to.

One point I want to stress here is that this is a line being drawn for the questions, not for the users. If a new sysadmin, or a developer, or even a CEO can write a good professional quality question, then that's no problem, if the question is actually about professional system/network administration.

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

I've consistently heard two criticisms of Server Fault: First, that it's hostile to newcomers, and second, that it has too many wrong answers.

The latter seems rather absurd given the ability to downvote, and indeed, I've only heard of this complaint, rather than hearing it myself, so it's something I'll keep an ear open for, in case I actually run across someone making this complaint.

Hostility is a difficult problem, since so many of us truly are surly curmudgeons who have to put up with twelve hours of stupidity in a typical eight hour work day, and are ill disposed to "suffering fools gladly" in our free time.

As I said above, I would encourage people having issues remaining civil and polite to take a vacation, at least from SF and possibly to Cancun. I voluntarily took a week off from Server Fault myself not too long ago, since I saw in myself that I was beginning to get a bit less friendly in my replies than I would like. I feel much better now.

People who consistently have issues with remaining civil and polite may need to have a brief vacation imposed on them, but I would hope to avoid that if possible.

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

Closing a question is often a signal that it needs to be improved in some way. (Though both new and established users often don't understand this...) So as a member of the community, I vote to close enough that I consistently run out of votes on any given day.

That won't work as a moderator. Close votes also help define who we are as a community and what we do and do not answer, so I prefer to have the community's agreement on most questions. I will close very little, things like blatant spam, absurdly off-topic questions, things not written in English, questions that are truly indecipherable.

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

For those who don't know, The Comms Room is Server Fault's main (and usually only) chat channel.

Participating in chat has been valuable for me. As an open ended format, it really helps to cement the community connections I have with people here in a way that Q&A cannot. Also it provides a venue for open ended discussions which don't work in the Q&A format. It thus acts as a complement to the main site.

I think moderator participation in chat makes it more apparent that moderators are people too, just like you, and makes them seem more friendly and approachable. Perhaps two or three times a week we'll have someone drop in to chat to ask about improving a closed question or a potential question they haven't asked yet. Both moderators and others in the community participate in helping these people.

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

Some of the review queues, such as Low Quality Posts, First Posts and Late Answers, only require one person anyway, so I won't change much what I do in those queues, except to avoid closing questions. I probably won't ever touch the close review queue again, unless we get another huge backlog.

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Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

I don't think it's an unreasonable conclusion to come to, but I don't feel like I have good enough data to really say one way or another. There seems to be some kind of natural ebb and flow to the question quality and content. We certainly have the weekly changes, there seem to be very few good questions over the weekend. More likely the quantity of less desirable questions remains consistent, but the more desirable questions drop off making the noise floor more visible. Over a longer time frame we'll see specific topics ebb and flow. I recall a time period where a significant number of, largely low quality, web server questions related to mod_rewrite seemed to be taking over. This resulted in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mod_Rewrite Rules but Were Afraid to Ask?. Before that a long series of networking questions that were all answered by How does IPv4 Subnetting Work?.

Granted, those are cycles specifically related to topics, as opposed to overall quality. At this time, lacking good data, my gut is telling me something more cyclical is at play. To really be convinced I would need to see historic trends and some fancy graphs involving datapoints such as questions per day, close rates, close reasons, and overall voting trends. My hope is that the quantitative, for some definition of quantitative, analysis demonstrates that the overall quality has remained consistent. Given that the site appears to be increasing in volume that would definitely result in a larger amount of low quality posts, which are poor broken primate brains are more likely to remember.

If there does exist a problem fixing it is, without question, the hard part. Internally we can try to identify those users who have potential then guide and nurture them. In theory this could operate similarly to a mentorship, though in practice I'm not entirely sure on how to go about accomplishing it. What we definitely don't want to do is VtC, pile on the downvotes, and have a snarkgasm in the comments. I'm all for VtCing bad content, I am after all 3rd place in the Close Votes reviewer rankings. I just find that closing a question is generally insulting enough, there's typically no reason to spew vitriol in the comments as well.

The other option is to recruit contributors. Whether from your circle of friends, workplace, or other professional organizations. This way we can hand pick the community by selecting people who can type a novel from memory, such as EvanAnderson, or the junior members of our team who have the raw talent to do well. Personally I have learned a significant amount from from this site. Hell, I have quite frequently seen a question that I thought looked interesting, spent an hour or more researching it, testing/validating my answer, and then writing it up. All too often it seems like we get stuck in the "Oh, I know this!" mentality and forget that this site can be an excellent research project self-study program.

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?

This is definitely a difficult question to address. Since if they actually are providing good content we want to keep them around, but if the overall culture of the community diminishes, or they are pushing away members, then something must be done. At the end of the day this is, after all, about communities not individuals.

The first step has to be to let the user know that while they are making a valuable contribution they are also generating a reasonable amount of tension within the community. If, after a discussion, and a warning or two, then temporary bans seem to be the most reasonable next step.

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

Talk it out with the moderator in question. I don't think we need to present a unified Wall of Mod front, but I do think we need to generally be in agreement on how to handle situations.

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

  1. If the user is posting good quality questions then they're clearly someone the site should try to keep. If the issue presents as a pattern then we should probably discuss with the user about the FAQ and what other sites exist. It may be as simple as a misunderstanding on the nature of the StackExchange network, VtC Migrating the user as it were. Or discovering that the specific questions they want to ask are simply a poor fit for our format. In that case we should encourage them to stick around, maybe as an answerer, but it is better that someone leave here for Quora with a handshake rather than a kick.
  2. The question as asked implies that this person doesn't fit into the audience we want to attract. This is without question an appropriate time to pull out the closes and comments. If they don't respond to that then short bans would be the next step.
  3. Moderators are only human, and as such, make mistakes. Every moderator, or every user for that matter, should be willing to accept that any decision they make could be called into question and be found wanting. As such I would welcome any user to call me on an action. Just like at the office my only requirement is that any conversations start from a position of mutual respect. Alternatively, if the complaints were found in comment threads or similar on the site, and not directed to me, then I would ask another moderator to review it. Since it would be about me specifically then it would leave me in a conflict of interest so I would have to recuse myself. I may break that stricture if it was painfully obviously offensive.

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

I think of chat as an extension of the main site. ServerFault, chat.SE, and mSF are all separate but related. There have been times where a discussion in chat started out as a design or architectural review and resulted in a concrete on-topic question. I also recall several times where a new user asked a question on main that was closed as off-topic and somehow found themselves in chat to get a clarification on why. These then turn into the discussion that answers their original question.

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

The "in a professional capacity" line in there is definitely an interesting one. The last time the Great FAQ Rewrite came up there was significant discussion on how to restrict our audience based on job classification. I was quite interested in how that turned out because I am not a professional systems administrator, nor have I been one for nearly 10 years. I was, quite frankly, interested in that phrasing because I didn't want to find myself excluded from ServerFault because I am a full time Information Security Analyst and not a Systems or Network professional.

As it stands the language allows for non-professional administrators to ask questions so long as the environment their asking about would be relevant to a profesional administrator. I feel as though that accomplishes the goal quite nicely because it focuses on the content and not the contributor.

The other half is demonstrating professionalism. To me this really boils down to respecting your audience (in this case other contributors). Recognize that they're here for a whole smattering of personal reasons. They're not being paid to provide support and they're not being paid to spend their time on the site. As such we need to be respectful of their time and whatever effort gets expended. So don't ask questions that are clearly against the FAQ. Do some basic research on your own before asking, demonstrate that you're willing to expend your own effort answering your question. You are not entitled to an answer and you should appreciate the efforts other people are putting in on your behalf.

Similarly the other users need to be respectful of the person asking questions. If we assume they are here to be polite and have demonstrated willingness to learn, and this really should be our base assumption, then we should treat them as a colleague. No matter how matter how many times somebody stops by my office to ask the same question I will not tell them, "Go read the gorram documentation you fucking n00b!". While I am probably being paid to answer those questions, it is also a level of condescension and bile that is inappropriate in the workplace and makes you look like an unreasonable grumpus. We all laugh while reading the BOFH journals, but honestly he's a world class dick that deserve to be fired.

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

ServerFault has already situated itself as a fantastic resource for information and, by way of chat, a wonderful place to network with other professionals. At this point getting the word out and attracting other bright contributors is the way to go. I encourage people that I know to visit the StackExchange family of sites as a resource for what ails them. I also tend to include references to ServerFault, and Security.SE, in talks that I give. It's all about the evangelism at this point.

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

I've been an extremely active close voter so I definitely feel like I have a reasonable feel for when things should get closed. As a mod, I would probably hang back a little further. In most situations, I think a mod's close vote should be at least 3rd. I know some users will throw a flag on a question, if they don't have close vote privs, so I also thing that should be taken into account. Definitely a hard hypothetical to answer, but very important to think about.

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

The chat environment is the only way, that I've seen, for users to actually talk to each other. While conversations do sometimes happen in comment threads it is strongly discouraged and just doesn't feel as fulfilling as an actual chat room. Chat also allows for users to ask for clarification, or dispute, an action in a much conducive manner than writing a mSF question. This is important for any community member that participates in moderation activities, but most important for election mods as they are the final arbiters.

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

I didn't realize, or don't remember learning, that this was the case. Lately I have been spending the majority of my involvement on /review so it will definitely change the way I monitor the site. I'll have to think about how I would go about modifying my workflow. This is definitely a good piece of information I'll have to consider.

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Sorry about the slow response. I had an unusually busy weekend and start of the week.

I'm not reading the other answer until I write my first draft, to avoid an unfair advantage of answering last.

Also, I'd make a good mod, but there are at least a couple candidates that are better choices than me. I'm maybe the 3rd, 4th or 5th best candidate here, not the 1st or 2nd. If I'm elected without somebody else pulling out, something has gone horribly wrong.

Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

I see both a problem with the "gruffness" that edges into rudeness too often, and with the site getting watered down. My own usage of the site isn't what it used to be because there's just so many questions that don't interest me flowing in that it's hard to find the interesting questions. Even questions that are in areas I might like to write up an answer in, are often fairly borderline poor questions.

I don't have any good ideas about how moderators can help with the watering down problem, though. It's a really difficult problem. I don't think that excluding beginning sysadmins is a good idea, though trying to encourage them to do a bit of homework before bringing their question over could help. Tweaking our site scope to more clearly exclude questions that are trivially answered by looking at the documentation might help... Mostly, I think answers to this problem need to come from the community discussing the issues, and achieving consensus, not from the action of a couple moderators.

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's a bit of ambiguity in this question whether you mean arguments over correctness, or things that cross into rudeness...

Disagreements about whether or not an answer is right are fine, as long as

Rude and insulting behavior from users can be like a slow poison. Sure, the user is contributing some valuable answers, but they're also slowly destroying the site by making things unpleasant for everybody.

Assuming rudeness, personal insults, etc, in addition to deleting all the rude comments, the general escalation path is:

  1. Some gentle comments on their posts asking them to tone it down.
  2. Some firmer comments on their posts warning them that rudeness won't be tolerated.
  3. Privately contacting the user with a private moderator-on-user chat
  4. Send them a message using the "Contact user privately" moderator tool. Probably use the "abusive to others" template as a starting point.
  5. Short suspension
  6. Longer suspension

There's only escalation if a given step doesn't seem to have worked. If a user does appear to be trying to correct the behavior but not quite getting it right, that step may be repeated instead of going to the next step. If things are particularly egregious, the escalation can go faster. There's a certain amount of judgement involved. For something bad enough it's certainly possible to jump straight into suspension. Users with many valuable contributions might get a slower escalation.

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

I think I'd start with contacting the other mod privately and asking. If I was unable to reach that mod, I would ask the other mods. In the unlikely circumstance that I'm unable to reach any other mods, I'd examine the question very carefully. For a borderline question, I'd leave it alone, I might just go ahead and re-open or undelete something that looked like it might have been a mistake by the other mod to close. Everybody makes mistakes, and most moderator actions are reversible.

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

Most of these I would follow the same basic escalation path I outlined in the second question. Gentle guidance followed by progressively firmer guidance. First case: "Please read our faq carefully and make sure you're posting on the right site", with migrations to the correct site and a slow escalation. Second case: "Your posts are getting a poor response (downvotes, etc) here on SF, and I believe they'd do better (and get you better answers) if you did a bit more initial research and put just a bit more effort into writing really good questions". Fourth case: "Rude and harassing behavior will not be tolerated. [insert relevant faq link]", and escalation might be quick.

The third case (user disagreeing with moderation decision) would be guided towards using meta instead of comments on the question. If it was my moderator decision, I'd try to have another moderator deal with it to minimize the appearance of moderator power abuse. Users have every right to disagree with moderator decisions. Sometimes users that disagree with moderator decisions are even right.

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

I don't know. I have to think about it more. I like chat. This seems like something the whole community needs to be involved in with grassroots efforts, not just a couple moderators with top-down changes.

Is this really a significant problem? I see a handful of expert-level questions in chat, and a lot of idle banter and

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

At a minimum "professional capacity" means to me "your primary job is taking care of these systems". I get the impression that a lot of higher rep users would like to see only experienced sysadmins asking questions on the site, but I think we need to be very cautious with any slippery slope like that. I'd love to be able to close questions as "you obviously didn't even try to read the docs", though.

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

If I'm a moderator, I'll handle flags based on my best understanding of the community consensus and how SE sites work.

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

If something is borderline, I wouldn't close it unless there are already several close votes on it and/or a decent number of flags.

Yes, that means that some things that I've previously voted to close before, I wouldn't vote to close if I were moderator (unless there were sufficient agreeing votes or flags).

For something that it's obvious community consensus would be to close, I would go ahead and close it.

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

I'm often in chat. I do think there's a lot of value to having one or two moderators available in the Comms Room, but you don't really need to have all the mods in there. Chat is also a useful tool for some moderation things.

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

If the flag queue were empty, I'd delve into the /review queue now and then, and treat items in there pretty much like they're flagged items.

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Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

I personally think everyone starts of somewhere. Considering the breadth of the SE ecosystem, and the target audience of the site, I do think that SF is likely to be more useful as a top shelf, quality site, rather than accepting anything that has server on it.

On the other hand, sometimes 'easy' questions occationally bring up points we miss.

Quality control is important, but it goes beyond just closing questions and showeling out the garbage. Commenting on what's wrong is often a useful step in retaining folk who're here by mistake but could contribute and benefit from that.

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?

I'd probably look at it in two ways. Firstly, whether its someone a quiet word would work on, and the risk/severity/potential drama level of said user. The best way would be to have a chat with the user and try to defuse it. If this fails, well, treat the user as I would any other problem user.

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

Moderation isn't a single player game. I'd have a word with the moderator, check the rationale behind the situation, and then keep that in mind. If its an obviously wrong decision I would privately let him know I felt so, but keep mod-team squabbles within the mod team. What happens in vegas, stays in vegas

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

Good off topic questions - comment that they are off topic, talk to the mod team on a suitable site, and migrate if possible

I CAN HAZ answer - comment to why, cleanse with fire, and let the question ban do its work

Moderation decisions - explain the rationale, point out the relevant rules, but if the user keeps at it, insist politely and firmly that its the rules

Harrassment - a quiet word, with a warning that he should knock it off, or get treated as a troll. This should be followed up by a suitable suspencion, after consultation with the other mods

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

I consider chat to be a necessary extension of the site. Community is important, and while the Q&A format is awesome, it dosen't lend itself to interaction. I myself am on chat more than the main site, least unless I find something to fix or answer. If these users see something that interests them, they're likely to answer.

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

The community culture is for sysadmins, by sysadmins. I personally find that Q&A works best when its used to solve hard problems, rather than things that are easy to find in the documentation. I believe the professional capacity really does mean someone who is doing this for a living (as opposed to questions related to even the most crazyass home lab), and knows roughly what he's doing.

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

Serverfault is the people on it, and I believe the right direction is the direction the community wants to take. I think the main change I would make would be to make it more clear to folk what isn't welcome here. I'd comment on any questions I can that have been closed and guide folk towards more suitable sites for their questions if need be. I'd like a kinder gentler SF without compromising on quality in any way.

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

At the moment, I only have flagging rights here. I do believe tho, as moderators being able to see what have been VTCed and flagged, this would be a big factor. I would take the responsibility of being able to close a question directly very seriously

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7... Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

Absolutely. Its the only way for users to directly address a moderator and allows for immediate feedback. Being accessible to users who've put in the minimal effort of getting 20 rep anyway means they can direct their concerns to mods. In addition to meta, its the way to be heard

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

If something needs to be dealt with, it does. I'd be slightly more cautious than I otherwise would be for things that I'm not totally sure on, and see how the community acts. Things like first post spam tho - shoot first, ask questions later.

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Do you agree with MDMarra's linked assessment here, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

I am hoping that with more user education (via more comments by everybody to users), we can reverse the trend of SeverFault losing its identity and uniqueness and being fragmented by all the other SE groups in operation.

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?

One question here is that is the flagging good or bad. Presumming bad, then you should start slowly and ramp up your responses to a user. In many cases, it is simply user education that is needed and once understanding happens things turn out ok. You do not use the hammer as the first thing.

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

It depends on the question. However, this is a community and unless the community has acted in some grossly bad manner, I'd tend to let things stand no matter what my personal opinion is.

How would you deal with each of the following cases: A new user who is posting many off-topic questions (good quality, just not on-topic) | A new user who is posting many poor-quality questions (poorly researched, "do my work for me", or generally not up to the minimum standard of professionalism) | A user (new or established) arguing about a moderation decision | A user (new or established) harassing other users

Again, what you do is to educate the user where possible. Start slowly and ramp up the responses and add moderator actions only as necessary.

What can we do to keep people like MDMarra engaged in the main site and not just chat? It seems like after a certain point, Q&A isn't enough for expert-level people. There needs to be design and architecture discussions to keep people at a high-level interested, but we all know that discussion is not allowed on main. Is chat part of the natural "evolution" here, or can something be done to the main site to bring people like me back to it?

I think that we have let a number of lower quality questions slip into this SE site. Trying to improve the quality of the questions by both using moderation, and continued user education will help keep everybody involved and interested.

Server Fault has long held itself to be "a site for professionals" - our FAQ specifically calls this out: "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." How do you define "in a professional capacity" in the context of this site? What minimum standards of effort/professionalism do you intend to encourage as a moderator?

Some minimum standards, is that you are doing this not for educational and home use but for some business use. Also, I am hoping that users posting the questions will attempt to use the large research base that is present on our SE groups. Finally, users should be encouraged to try to do some debugging and report the results. Too often, users submit questions like "this is broke -- help me" which are not helpful to either the user or the community. We need to help them become professional by providing them with a process to help themselves not necessarily answering the question specifically.

In the nominations, every candidate has focused on what would make him a good moderator, but one thing I'd really like to know is: Where do you want ServerFault to go and how do you plan to help make it go there?

I'd like to keep up the high standards that the ServerFault group is trying to maintain. As a moderator my job is to help the community move in that direction by pursuasion and not by the force of a hammer (which everybody resents). Moderators stimulate discussion into areas and suggest ideas but it the community that ultimately makes the decision on what is wanted. That is the beauty (and bane) of the SE system.

Moderators have the ability to close questions without the concurring votes of other community members. In light of this, how (if at all) will you change the way you evaluate questions that might need to be closed?

I will tend to use the community results unless there is something that is obviously egrious in the question. Moderators should gently help the community toward the right action not necessarily be an evil force. They have to defer to the SE community for the most part.

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email. While doing so is not explicitly required and nobody can expect a moderator to be available 24x7...Do you (as a potential moderator) think that this is a valuable way for a moderator to participate on the site, and why?

This is simply a tool that is at the disposal of the individual moderator. There should be many tools available and not necessarily requirements that it be used. In a chat situation, the problem is that somebody would have to be present in the room at all times, perhaps not readily tending to the tasks involved. I see no problem with scheduling moderator events or attentions in the event of an important issue that needs resolution. I'm not sure "office hours" are necessarily the most efficient way for things to happen however.

What is not well known is that Moderators also have final authority in the /review queues. Once a moderator has picked something, it's out of the queue one way or the other. The vasty closed-queue was emptied in large part because our existing mod-staff stepped in and helped muck out the stables; otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now that the glut is passed, what is your policy for delving into the /review queues as a moderator?

Moderators should be pitching in and addressing unusual problems as they arise. The excessive number of entries in the /review queue is just one example however of a larger issue on the duty of a moderator towards SE group.

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