What have you personally done to make Server Fault a more enjoyable place for professional system administrators?
I answer questions, and when I have a question I can't easily answer myself or something useful to share with the community, I ask questions. This is one of the most important things there is to do.
I also review a lot, and vote a good bit. This helps people use the site, and helps preserve the site's focus. It also helps me keep an eye on potential problem areas or trends.
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"?
The quality is a bit of a problem at the moment, and it has been a problem for the past 1-2 years. That we hear so much about it on meta supports that there is a problem. I wish we didn't hear quite so much about it, which was the idea behind the doomed tag. You'll see me involved in a few meta Q&As in that tag.
There are several facets to this complex problem, and there isn't one easy or simple solution.
Obviously, we need to have a quick reaction time when it comes to absolute garbage finding its way to the front page. A lot of things that are absolute garbage here are decent questions elsewhere:
- Abstract or basic UNIX questions
- Non-admin webmaster questions (cpanel et. al., shared hosting)
- User or home questions
- Very niche database questions
We want to migrate those ASAP. They will get more attention on other sites, and they will only attract negative attention here.
Other types of questions merit immediate closure:
- Questions with no research effort and no problem statement
- Questions asking clearly and only for product recommendations or tutorials
- Questions requesting one-on-one help and with no other content
- Questions that are clear and exact duplicates of canonical questions
Others merely require editing to remove lightning rods:
- Questions that include superfluous things that people zero in on and ignore the rest of the question
- Questions full of broken English
- Questions with an implicit and slightly unclear problem statement
If we made use of these user moderation tools more, we would have less trouble in general, and we would set a good example. Migration would help show people which site is right for them, without being mean.
That would help get us all out of the ornery mentality the river of terrible Q&A has put our high-rep users into. There are a lot of mediocre but alright questions getting closed too.
On the other hand, we also need a better way to close duplicates. Closing questions as duplicates is another usually-positive closure that helps prevent us from always seeing the same questions, and gets the asker an answer, but it's hard because the search is so bad. This could stand some development action and should be a higher priority.
Continually adjusting the close reasons is also helpful. I appreciate the removal of "minimal understanding"; there are better, less overbroad reasons. That one in particular had an unfortunate flavour and use of calling people idiots.
I don't think the site is dying, and I think that we can encourage better questions by encouraging user involvement. Moderators lead that by example. If we stopped being mean in the few ways we are actually mean, we could also create a positive and more attractive environment for the kind of people we do actually want here.
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?
I don't see a clear problem right now that this solves, besides perhaps the general issue of equity and fairness. However, it's probably the case that people elected moderator should be removed from the post if they don't even visit the site for a year or so. You have to remain in touch with the community to represent it.
I think re-elections would create a lot of election fatigue for very little gain. If there were a moderator who was causing strife and refused to step down, that would be a problem that should be dealt with individually, and prompted by discussion in meta.
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?
Absolutely not. There are a lot more reviewers than just me. I intend to assist in clearing out the queues when the community can't keep up, and review with a very light hand otherwise.
Another consequence that isn't mentioned here is that a moderator acting alone has less appearance (and form!) of community consensus than several high-reputation users acting in concert. You can expect to see me accelerate inevitable and correct reviews by "signing off" on them, I suppose, but I'd prefer to act with the community rather than instead of it wherever I can.
On the other hand, you can expect to see me taking an active role in the front page.
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?
A great deal of wrong. One thing about the review queues is that just one person acting badly, or acting in the interest of their review stats without contributing to the site, has very limited impact. Closing, for instance, takes 5.
There is a balance here. Robotic reviewing, or gaming the review queue for stats, does paradoxically indicate that the reviewer places some value in the community. On the other hand, bad reviews are slightly harmful, and annoy people who are actually contributing.
It might just be best to talk to the reviewer, using a review ban only to provide weight to the discussion so it cannot be ignored.
What is your strategy for improving the quality and professionalism of questions users first encounter when visiting Server Fault?
To answer that, one needs to start with a detailed understanding of what users are seeing when they first visit us. I don't think most of them first visit the front page. I'd imagine it goes something like this:
- Search google
- See a slightly related SF Q&A
- Read it; see that there is/isn't an answer
If there is an answer, this person will probably use it, and might click on other things and see the front page. They already have the right impression, probably.
If there isn't an answer, this person will probably ask a new question. Their impression will have been the question they landed at.
This is why it's important to deal with the front page rapidly, but it's also why we need to close and delete old low-quality content.
What often happens right now is that the person asks a mediocre question after not reading the FAQ-like material they are presented, and gets dogpiled. This is a pretty bad first impression that prevents the community from growing. Slow question closure makes that dogpiling worse.
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?
Talk to them! Also, deleting comments that are merely flapping is appropriate. They give people a bad impression and are useless to people reading the Q&A.
I would want that user to stay on the site.
How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
Again, talk to them! I think this situation is rare, but if the diamonds are incapable of speaking with one voice it just discredits them all.
I'm very loathe to engage in reversion wars with people. I prefer to address patterns, and in this case, the only way to address the pattern is to sync up.
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?
I've been thinking and saying this for a long time. I've answered a lot of easy questions. Sometimes I go in the close queue, and pull things out of it to answer. I wish that were less of a thing.
I don't think easy questions are inherently bad.
What is bad then?
- Repetitive questions. Close them as a duplicate, especially of a canonical question.
- "Do my job for me" questions. It's better to have questions that other people can learn from.
- Questions about things that aren't really system administration: info systems homework, home questions (even with a complex home setup), questions about media servers for personal use, questions about how to stand up an email server for sending spam, etc.
If it isn't like that, and it's just a simple question with a simple answer, we should write the answer! The beauty of it is that lots of people can answer these questions. If you're bored by it, don't, and someone newer and fresher or maybe just someone else will do it.
Not all our questions need to require extremely specialized knowledge to solve. In fact, our field will be better if we answer simple questions that help newer or less skilled sysadmins build foundational skills.
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)?
I think that you need to have enough access to your environment that it doesn't create artificial constraints. Working around other people isn't a feature of our profession, it's a failing of an organization. And, it's a very thin gray line between circumventing another department's complacency and circumventing policy or breaching security.
I don't think a lot of the highly skilled sysadmins we want to keep around here are very interested in countenancing that kind of thing. I know I don't like answering those questions.
You don't need to be the director of IT to post here, but you do need to accept an answer that has components you'll need to work with someone else (support; other people in your organization) to implement. If the asker comes back in a comment and angrily complains that we need to give them another answer because they "can't" do something the right way, they are in the wrong.
We've had that discussion a lot in meta, and generally come up with this answer. Here's one such meta Q&A: http://meta.serverfault.com/q/6259/126699.
I addressed basically this exact issue here: http://meta.serverfault.com/a/5932/126699.
I said this, among other things:
A question is thoughtless if the asker is mindlessly doing inadvisable things and is not open to alternatives that follow BCP. This is the "My boss told me to bathe all our servers in water; how?" type of question, or the "We will be using windows for workgroups until 2038; how do I secure it?" type of question.
Thanks for staying with me for these complex responses to the deceptively complex questions! I'd be happy to answer more of them, if anyone wants.