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.

Here's how it'll work:

  • During the nomination phase, (so, until Monday, November 24th at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 3:00 pm EST 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.


8 Answers 8


The number of active users has dropped nearly monthly since Server Fault started:

Active posters

Server Fault has developed a reputation across the network of being full of BOFHs who yell at people asking dumb questions. (That's not my experience, by the way.) Reading the nominations, I see a lot of burnout and frustration that stems from a steady stream of questions handled by fewer and fewer experts.

What have you personally done to make Server Fault a more enjoyable place for professional system administrators?

  • 1
    Now I need to find an SEDE query that shows who's cast the most close votes, including those on questions that were eventually deleted... Nov 21, 2014 at 3:18
  • That would be genuinely interesting, Ward, if it's not too painful; one way of quantifying both close vote activity and close vote accuracy.
    – MadHatter
    Nov 21, 2014 at 7:45
  • To add to your "steady stream of questions" they've been steady since inception it would seem i.imgur.com/suVMdei.png -- but I think the BOFH reputation is forced upon us based on the site requirement that it is "by sysadmins for sysadmins". If we were all inclusive I could see how that reputation would be perceived, but we aren't. SO users that come here asking about their dev environment or because they're the accidental sysadmin isn't taken well. If the site wants to change this...fine by me...but then we might as well roll SU and SF together as well.
    – TheCleaner
    Nov 21, 2014 at 13:51
  • Aren't those last two data points pretty alarming, though? Looks like half the site's active users went away in that last week in July. Nov 22, 2014 at 1:58
  • 2
    @HopelessN00b: Each dot on the graph represents a month of activity. (Click on the image for a larger version.) The last data point can be ignored since we don't yet have data for the complete month of November. The more alarming aspect of the timeline is that it shows a slow, but steady drop in participation from mid-2011. I suspect that it's not been so noticeable as a regular on the site like boiling a frog (metaphorically). I also think it's a self-perpetuating cycle: the more people who leave, the more crap the remaining users handle. Nov 22, 2014 at 2:11

Note: I personally have found Server Fault to be a very friendly site, but am fully aware that this is not necessarily the experience of others.

There is a lot of discussion about the quality of questions on SF; this is a topic that comes up regularly in meta. In fact, meta sometimes feels like the same two questions over and over again: "Our site is dying! How can we encourage better questions?" and "Why are you guys so mean?" Do you believe that site quality is really a problem? Do you believe the two questions are related? If so, where do you stand on how to encourage better questions? and is it your opinion that our site is "too nice," "too mean," or "just right"?

  • -1 Sorry, but the nomination speeches have been fairly polarizing already and this seems to be asking the candidates to put themselves into buckets of "with us" or "against us".
    – Chris S
    Nov 23, 2014 at 5:21
  • @ChrisS Fair enough. That wasn't really the intent; I was trying to phrase the question in a neutral way despite having a strong opinion. And I totally agree that the nomination speeches have generated too much heat (in both speeches and comments) already. Nov 23, 2014 at 11:31
  • 1
    I'm quite keen to see who ends up in which bucket. I agree things have been quite polarizing already, but this will happen whenever a group contemplates a pressing issue that supports only two answers. To my mind, this election is about whether the SF community or the wider SE community gets to decide how SF is run, and I view Katherine's as an excellent proxy question for that (and Katherine, I apologise in advance for any imputation that you intended it to be such).
    – MadHatter
    Nov 23, 2014 at 21:44
  • 4
    Yikes, no, not my intent. I consider myself, for lack of a better term, "Team Nice," and think my meta history backs that up. That said, I resented an outsider taking what I saw as cheap shots at a mod candidate. HopelessN00b may be a snarky #*(@&, but he's our snarky #*(@&. Lastly, I personally think that the emphasis on "scaring off" the clueless is misplaced and frightens the competent more than the clueless. Hence, the "Do you think the two questions are related?" Nov 23, 2014 at 23:13
  • 3
    @MadHatter To my mind, this election is about whether the SF community or the wider SE community gets to decide how SF is run I think this is a bad way to look at the situation. The people who want the community to build stronger locks and higher fences might be the people who are yelling the loudest within the community, but they aren't the whole community. An "us vs them" mentality, where "them" is outsiders but people inside the community are on the "them" side, is pretty self-defeating. Nov 23, 2014 at 23:20
  • 2
    @KatherineVillyard the emphasis on "scaring off" the clueless is misplaced and frightens the competent more than the clueless Yes, a thousand times this. Well said! Nov 23, 2014 at 23:20
  • 2
    Agree wholly with "frightens the competent more than the clueless", @Katherine - this has been my experience on other forums for many years. As a result, I've come to view that behavior as a sickness, a social autoimmune disease if you will. Eventually, rudeness becomes institutionalized, to the point where members start to drive away everyone – including each other.
    – Shog9
    Nov 23, 2014 at 23:31
  • @ShaneMadden "The people who want the community to build stronger locks and higher fences might be the people who are yelling the loudest within the community, but they aren't the whole community" I had not said that they were. You know I think better fences (which make good neighbours!) are needed, because I've said so, but you don't know if I think the SF community as a weighted whole believes that. What I see is a lot of interference from SE-powers-that-be who are concerned that the community might make up its mind in a way that doesn't please them, before it has made it up at all.
    – MadHatter
    Nov 24, 2014 at 8:10
  • @MadHatter I think we can all agree that things are on the wrong track as they stand, right? It's part of the community team's job to help communities that are on the wrong track. I get that you're upset at what you see as outside interference, but that's clearly a tough balance to strike, as Iain has commented elsewhere that in his opinion, there should have been action from the community team sooner. Nov 24, 2014 at 8:44
  • While I see your point, @ChrisS, about this being a delicate question, I think its a very valid one too. I think it is obvious this site has a problem at the moment whatever you think that problem is, and I think its quite reasonable to address it.
    – Rob Moir
    Nov 24, 2014 at 13:07
  • @Shog9 Your link makes me want to shout out who are really the nicest people on the site. (Which are, obviously, the people who have been nicest to me personally.) ;) I'm not sure the Mod Election Q&A is the best place, though. Nov 24, 2014 at 13:41

I still believe the consensus here: Inactive mods on SF - Or are they?

I see the same 2-3 moderators all day long on SF. Granted that's my timezone and perspective, but it's the only perspective I can speak from. The link above that Pauska asked shows that it really hasn't changed over the years.

2 moderators were appointed back in 2009 and are rarely active on SF at least from what I can see. I'm sure they are great people...that's not the point here.

There's also this procedure to remove an existing moderator: Handling Calls to Remove a Moderator

SO...do you as a nominee feel that moderators should have term limits or be required to be re-elected? Do you feel there should be a way to formally ask a moderator to "step down" for inactivity based on a vote of the users or is this something that should only be handled by other moderators and/or SE staff?

  • Is it better to have many mods who do less work, or just a few who do more (or from who more is expected) ? From what i can see, the burn out rate (in terms of poor attitudes from otherwise likely good people) on the few active ones seems pretty high to me. I do wonder how much harm does a large set of less active mods create ? It seems the current "chosen few" system isn't working, anyhow.
    – Sirex
    Nov 20, 2014 at 19:30
  • Just as an aside, the vast, vast majority of flags come in when North America is awake and working. As someone from the Pacific side of the globe, I literally only see maybe 5% of the flags being raised, because I'm fast asleep when the rest come through. This sort of thing leads to a very single-sided view of who is perceived as active. Nov 21, 2014 at 2:25
  • @MarkHenderson - I don't see you as inactive at all fwiw.
    – TheCleaner
    Nov 21, 2014 at 13:54
  • 1
    @Sirex - The vast majority of moderation is to be done by the members by voting. It SHOULD be rare that a moderator has to get involved. I'm simply stating that having moderators that aren't actively involved on the site anymore (as judged by their profiles) seems contrary to the role.
    – TheCleaner
    Nov 21, 2014 at 13:56

The impression new users get of the site is mostly defined by what they see when they get here, in terms of its usefulness, purpose, and community norms.

What is your strategy for improving the quality and professionalism of questions users first encounter when visiting Server Fault?

  • 2
    Without coming across critical, your question "What is your strategy for improving the quality and professionalism of questions users first encounter when visiting Server Fault?" IMO isn't an issue for first time users. I'd venture that 9/10 first time visitors aren't here to answer questions, but to ask a new question. SO I think your question to the candidates might be better worded as "What is your strategy for improving the purpose and usefulness of the site users first encounter when visiting Server Fault?" - just my opinion.
    – TheCleaner
    Nov 21, 2014 at 21:45
  • I think the questions they see before finding the ask question button are a very important example for those who are thinking about participating in the community, and they are certainly important for someone wondering if there question might find an answer here. Nov 22, 2014 at 5:57
  • 2
    True, I was thinking more of the drive-by users...you seem better focused on the ones we want around.
    – TheCleaner
    Nov 22, 2014 at 6:15

I notice that several of our top review-queue users have put themselves up for a mod-bit.

  • Since mod-decisions remove questions and answers from the review-queue which can become later audit-items to trip up other reviewers, will you continue to delve the review-queues at your current rate?
  • As a moderator you can see how other people are reviewing content. What would it take for you to consider a review-ban on someone for persistent over/under reviews?

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?

There is an initiative going on to be less limiting on who should be allowed to ask questions on Serverfault.

In short words:

  • Do you agree with this proposal? Would you believe it to help us?
  • Would you still want to be a moderator if this became effective?

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?


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