In connection with the moderator elections, 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.

This is an alternative form of the Town Hall Chat system we've done in previous elections, we're trying some new things to test out how a different approach works.

This thread existed to collect questions. I'm happy to say that I'm very proud of the turnout. You can find the questionnare here.

Here's how it'll work.

  • During the nomination phase, (so, until May 20th 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.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into at current.
  • At the end of the 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. That said, if I have concerns about any questions in this fashion, I will be sure to point this out in comments before the decision making time.
  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, 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 new process, feel free to post as a comment here.

12 Answers 12

There has been a growing disconnect between long-time (usually high-rep) users and newer users. New users feel that the old timers are gruff and unfriendly. Long time users feel that the new users haven't put enough effort into solving their own problems before turning to Server Fault and that it's watering down the site. Obviously these are generalities and not all users fall into these two buckets, but the schism exists, nonetheless.

I, personally, feel that the abundance of "easy" questions by new users is ruining the site. It makes it seem that there's no knowledge to gain here for the high-rep users, or that the new knowledge is very hard to find in the sea of garbage. This seems to be causing less and less participation on the main site by these users and seems to be slowly bringing Server Fault down to the lowest common denominator. If this site can't keep the interest of current users who are subject matter experts, it won't easily be able to attract new ones to replace them. High quality content attracts high quality users and low quality users. Low quality content attracts only low quality users.

Do you agree with my assessment, and do you think that anything can or should be done about it? If so, what?

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    Fantastic. I love it. – Scott Pack May 14 '13 at 19:33
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    Stop sucking up for my vote, Scotty. You have three choices: send me cash, send me alcohol, or win it the old fashioned way (take me out to lunch). – MDMarra May 14 '13 at 19:34
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    You missed your chance to drink with me kiddo. – Scott Pack May 14 '13 at 19:41
  • I think it is a problem and it's made worse by SE's willingness to create overlapping sites. I'm not sure there's much that moderators can do about it, but it's worth thinking about. – Ward May 14 '13 at 19:45
  • @TheCleaner: I think the question is fantastic. – Scott Pack May 14 '13 at 20:05
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    I think we miss some opportunities on product recommendations. People end up finding their own paths to solutions, but sometimes having experienced users chime in and say, use X, it works make sense. – ewwhite May 14 '13 at 20:20
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    Also, high-rep users don't ask enough questions!! I go out of my way to ask detailed and potentially helpful questions. It's giving back to the community and the type of thing that can attract great answers from infrequent visitors. Hmmm, but how do we retain users like that? – ewwhite May 14 '13 at 20:28
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    Humble brag alert – MDMarra May 14 '13 at 20:35
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    It's not just the old timers, some of our rising stars see it too meta.serverfault.com/questions/5337/… meta.serverfault.com/questions/5337/… meta.serverfault.com/questions/5337/… – Iain May 14 '13 at 21:23
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    @ewwhite: stop the front page from being a river of HALP! – Iain May 14 '13 at 21:38
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    Given the circumstances, this is probably the single most important question for new mod candidates that I can think of. – MadHatter May 15 '13 at 9:39
  • Maybe it's the fact that the standards for new users are too high that reduces participation. Not the other way around. IMO what's really ruining the site is the constant confrontation between new users who are trying to ask questions and old timers hammering them down with RTFF (my twist on RTFM but for FAQ). – Alex May 15 '13 at 16:51
  • @Alex Sorry, but this question really wasn't supposed to drum up that discussion. If you take a look at what this thread is, this is a question that will (hopefully) be posed to moderator candidates. There are other existing meta threads where this kind of comment would be appropriate. I assume that the downvote on this question is yours. Is that because you disagree with my opinion, or you don't think a potential moderator should be asked this question? If you disagree with my stance but think a mod should be asked this, you used your downvote incorrectly. – MDMarra May 15 '13 at 17:17
  • @MDMarra I did use the down vote incorrectly then. But I would add that giving your opinion on the matter and ask a potential moderator to confirm if they agree with you or not could be problematic. Unfortunately, because of the high rep you rightfully have, it might be seen as confronting influential members to disagree with one of them :). I would have tried to be as neutral as possible when submitting questions to potential moderators. – Alex May 15 '13 at 19:28
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    Luckily the reputation threshold for voting is very low (200 I believe). Having almost 60k rep still only gives me a single vote. :) – MDMarra May 15 '13 at 19:42

Server Fault moderators are occasionally greeted by the wretched underbelly of the internet - this includes your usual villains (spammers), but also occasionally less malicious types.

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
  • "Wretched underbelly" ...I like that phrase. – Nathan C May 17 '13 at 12:01

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?

  • 1
    Same question was asked back in 2011. Apparently times stay the same in the political world :) meta.serverfault.com/questions/1108/… – TheCleaner May 15 '13 at 19:29
  • IMO This site does not do what I would want in exactly the above sense. I feel the chance of a good question exists far more on SO than here. So, as you can tell from my rep, I'm seldom active here. I'd love to see good questions on page 1. Do not know how to make it happen. – jim mcnamara May 20 '13 at 23:27

As shown by the other questions, discussions in the comms room, and the reason why one of the current moderators is resigning, the mood of the site is in flux and some people seem to be unsure/uncomfortable about where the site is going. As a moderator, your actions can have a lot of influence in the "mood" of the site and where the community is going.

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?

Most of the moderator candidates are participants in chat. I find that chat is actually the place on the site that holds the most value to me. I've started (been tricked into?!) a side consulting gig there. It is a place where meaningful discussions happen, as opposed to the main site, which I now feel holds little value to me short of a place to keep feeding my rep addiction. It feels like after you hit a certain level, the quality of the content on the main site doesn't add a lot to my professional knowledge. Chat is what keeps me coming back and keeps me learning new things.

What can we do to keep people like me 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?

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    For me (as someone who isn't sharp enough to contribute too many answers), the value of the main site is in reading your answers (and ewwwwww's and Evan's and Iain's and ...) – Ward May 16 '13 at 18:36
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    @Ward Thanks! It's flattering to be put in the same group as Evan and the others, but that's part of my point! Evan doesn't contribute much. Iain is stepping down and losing interest. I'm really only active in chat any more. Ed is a madman motivated by filthy precious rep points. :) But how do we keep people like Iain and Evan interested in the main site? I used to contribute a lot when I would read interesting questions and then contribute to ones I knew the answer to. Lately there are far fewer things worth clicking on (in my opinion) which leads to me participating less. – MDMarra May 16 '13 at 18:39
  • @MDMarra - I have seen the same thing. Wonder if there are just only so many "good" questions. – mdpc May 20 '13 at 19:31

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?
  • It seems to me that mandatory question 2 is hard to answer for people who don't know what additional tools mods have behind the scenes, which group I suspect includes all non-moderators, including the candidates. Does the site give them a private chat space? An IM or stored messaging facility? Do they all have each others email addresses? If I were standing (God forbid) my answer to your question would depend very strongly on what mechanisms were available to me for contacting that other mod in a timely manner. If you agree, could you shed a little light on those, to help the answers? – MadHatter May 15 '13 at 15:54
  • @MadHatter Moderators can create chatrooms for their sites that have private level access. This is pretty much the only moderator-only tool we provide that can be used in this direction, if one goes in that direction. – Grace Note May 15 '13 at 16:07
  • Thank you for the clarification! – MadHatter May 15 '13 at 16:13
  • Sf is essentially 4 years old, I think it's reasonable to expect mod candidates to be familiar with some of the tools that would be available. 5/6 candidates have been here from the beginning and even if they don't have access to mod-only chats and tools, have heard about them, and candidate 1/6 who hasn't been around as long is more than smart enough to have figured out what they are as well. – Ward May 15 '13 at 23:08
  • @ward Yes, it's true, I figured out private chatrooms. I've just never had a need for one (yet). – Michael Hampton May 19 '13 at 18:51

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?

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    I think this is a good question, but it's an issue that's been around for long enough that I think there's a standard answer: for borderline questions, a mod should generally wait until there's some community indication (flags, close votes) of what to do before hammering a question. – Ward May 15 '13 at 18:49
  • True, the issue is perennial, but nobody had yet explicitly asked the question, that I saw here. – Michael Hampton May 15 '13 at 18:51
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    This actually comes up perennially in the Town Hall chats -- it's probably worth it being one of the "standard survey" questions just to save bandwidth during that event :-) – voretaq7 May 15 '13 at 21:43

One thing I really like about this site is that a lot of the moderators tend to hang out in the Comms Room. Answering questions, including historical knowledge of the site, or commenting on various questions to either illicit opinion on whether it is a good question for the site or to help clarify issues to users on the site. This sort of "live support" is a lot more receptive in today's "instant" world versus email.

While doing so is not explicitly required here: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation/ 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?

Moderators have final authority for several things. Some of these are well known:

  • Close votes
  • Deletes
  • Tag synonym suggestions

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?

Per here: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation/

what provisions have you made to deter/correct when you get a rogue moderator?

Logging, primarily.. I am fairly anti-log, but in the case of moderator actions they are heavily logged.

Do you (as a moderator) think that your actions should be logged and metrics collected to evaluate your effectiveness and participation as a moderator?

As an analogy...think about teachers and "performance based pay". Should you as a moderator be considered a good moderator based on your performance or based on your tenure and likeability?

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    Absolutely ..... – Iain May 14 '13 at 16:26
  • This already exists, we already log activity and periodically check in on moderator duties done on each site on the network. So this question feels moot, unless you have a different motive behind it that I'm not seeing. – Grace Note May 14 '13 at 18:45
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    @GraceNote - my question wasn't whether it was done...I cited it was done...it's based on the potential moderator's opinion of whether or not they agree it should be done at all. I'll update the question with an analogy to help clarify. – TheCleaner May 14 '13 at 18:52
  • That works for me. Thanks for the clarification! – Grace Note May 14 '13 at 19:19

Fairly new to this site, so please bear with me if this is not quite adequate, or has been already answered elsewhere.

Given the rate of duplication in questions for some topics, canonical questions seems like the way to go, but, how would it be implemented? I'm asking about specifics here, like:

  • (probably high-rep) users spot a canonical question opportunity
  • a meta question is raised regarding that topic
  • a (canonical) question is asked, trying to cover that frequently asked topic
  • future questions are flagged as "canonicalisable", and the OP is pointed to the CQ

This is something I would invest time into, and some candidates have included it in their agenda.

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    Take a look at, meta.serverfault.com/questions/1986/…. It doesn't really require high rep or a diamond to do this. You can always flag something as a duplicate too. – Iain May 16 '13 at 10:53
  • Thanks, will do. – dawud May 16 '13 at 12:15
  • Along the same lines, the debate about whether or not a canonical tag on the main site is worth having has come up a few times -- we've generally decided it's "Too Meta" but if enough people have a different opinion we may break with general network policy on that... – voretaq7 May 16 '13 at 15:25

Is there an administrative requirement to post on Server Fault? Do you need to be in control of policy, or is it enough to know your job (as a sysadmin)?

To give a concrete example, if a question asks how to bypass a firewall, does that automatically make it off-topic?

  • 2
    Re: Your concrete example, this is a bad one. (Per the FAQ, circumvention of security or policy are OFF TOPIC). If your question is How do I write firewall rules that allow me to do X? then you are acting as the network or firewall administrator making a presumably-authorized configuration change. If your question is I'm behind a firewall that blocks X, how do I bypass it? you are pretty clearly NOT the administrator of the network involved, and are trying to circumvent the restrictions imposed by the administrator - that's not cool. – voretaq7 May 20 '13 at 21:07
  • You asked this question last time and left in a huff when we said our policy was to not answer questions about policy circumvention - what do you think has changed in the intervening time ? – Iain May 20 '13 at 21:09
  • @voretaq7 I'm well aware that the FAQ declares this off-topic; I argued against it at the time. – Gilles May 20 '13 at 21:09
  • @Iain “Left in a huff” is a rather grandiose way of putting it — I didn't particularly expect anyone to notice. I guess I'm an optimist, I hope that people will come to their senses. Evidently you haven't. – Gilles May 20 '13 at 21:10
  • @Gilles: I only noticed because you mentioned it in TL. – Iain May 20 '13 at 21:11
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    @Gilles and the majority of the site's regulars involved in the great FAQ rewrite decided that much like an LAPD officer isn't going to help bank robbers put one over on the NYPD, Server Fault is not going to help users circumvent policy/security on other people's networks. If you really feel this really needs to be rehashed that's fine, but frankly if this site becomes "OHAI PLZ 2 HELPS ME HAX?" I don't imagine it has much of a future... – voretaq7 May 20 '13 at 21:22
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    @voretaq7 One, two strawmen… We both know we aren't going to change each other's mind, so let's end this right here: Hitler bypassed a firewall!!!!! – Gilles May 20 '13 at 21:27
  • ...While jumping over a shark on waterskis! (The shark was wearing the skis, not Hitler. Hitler on waterskis would just be silly!) – voretaq7 May 20 '13 at 21:30

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