11

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. There were some concerns about hosting this with almost no questions, but then additional questions were supplied. Some questions have been split into multiple questions for the purposes here. We have 8 questions in total.

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 first set of three dashes. Oh, and please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written.

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!


  1. We had an election last year that ended with some parting and drama.
    And I can't help but think of Ryan Ries` comment: "I don't know why anyone would want to be a moderator, now." Let's be honest here, things went wrong after the last election. Communication was a major issue, and there were some divisive opinions on what should or shouldn't have been done. What do you think went wrong last year, and what would you do differently if put in the same situation?

  2. Last year, we voted on someone who was running on a platform of extreme, desperate measures, we voted for someone who put up the following campaign slogan: "A vote for me is a vote to put my cruelty and viciousness to work for the site, against the horde of stupidity that threatens it." And while it definitely wasn't a landslide victory, talks of stupidity dealt with through cruelty did garner enough votes to win a second place. Do you think the extreme rhetoric used last year is still viable today?
    Would you consider picking up some of the work that helped win last year, and if so will you take a different approach?

  3. Do you agree with the statement "ServerFault needs professional-quality questions, not just questions from professionals"? What does the word "professional" mean to you, within the context of the phrase, "professional-quality questions"? Do you believe that in addition to professional-quality questions, ServerFault also needs professional-quality answers and comments? What are "professional quality questions" to you?

  4. I'm drunk/not reading carefully/don't hang out here much. Why should I vote for you instead of some other person?

  5. What problems does Server Fault face that are unique to Server Fault?

  6. Briefly explain the role of a moderator, and what you plan to do to fill that role. What is awesome about your approach?

  7. 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?

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

  • possible duplicate of 2014 Moderator Election Q&A - Questionnaire - at least for the canned questions and the returning candidates ;) – HBruijn Sep 4 '15 at 22:25
  • 4
    It's telling only four candidates answered. The others, I'm afraid, don't give a flying d*mn about the election. It's sad we have only 4 real candidates for 3 moderator positions. – Deer Hunter Sep 5 '15 at 8:00
  • 3
    Better than only having 2 real candidates for 3 moderator positions... – womble Sep 6 '15 at 3:53
  • Coincidentally (or not), the three doomed candidates all provided responses. – womble Sep 8 '15 at 20:40
17

I am Falcon! Here are my answers! I also still stand by my answers last year.

  1. We had an election last year that ended with some parting and drama.
    And I can't help but think of Ryan Ries` comment: "I don't know why anyone would want to be a moderator, now." Let's be honest here, things went wrong after the last election. Communication was a major issue, and there were some divisive opinions on what should or shouldn't have been done. What do you think went wrong last year, and what would you do differently if put in the same situation?

I think the most important thing about moderation is consensus. Moderators don't have the power to act independently of everyone else in the community even though no technical control exists to prevent them. I see the moderation tools primarily as a powerful means to effect the community's decision (as it is expressed on meta for example). No problem is too urgent to take a moment to consider what the community really wants done.

We have standing consensus on spam, obviously, and now we have it on web control panels. An effective moderator does not embark on great initiatives alone, but does so after understanding where the community stands and ensuring it is embarking on that initiative too.

  1. Last year, we voted on someone who was running on a platform of extreme, desperate measures, we voted for someone who put up the following campaign slogan: "A vote for me is a vote to put my cruelty and viciousness to work for the site, against the horde of stupidity that threatens it." And while it definitely wasn't a landslide victory, talks of stupidity dealt with through cruelty did garner enough votes to win a second place. Do you think the extreme rhetoric used last year is still viable today?
    Would you consider picking up some of the work that helped win last year, and if so will you take a different approach?

I don't think that rhetoric is ever viable! A vote for me is a vote for consensus-building, level-headed decision making, and courtesy. It is incredibly important to assume good faith in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

We're playing the long game here. We can afford to give people a few strikes, as it were, before they are out. Moderators can afford the time it takes to do things right and ensure decisions are well-supported.

That said, we do have a problem with a constant influx of off-topic questions. We have always struggled with topicality, but that's OK - we have consensus, and we have shown that when that consensus needs updating we as a community are more than capable of making that happen.

For as long as the community needs to remove off-topic content, I plan to do that, but only with consensus that it is in fact off-topic. I haven't been doing much of that lately because as a non-moderator my doing that does nothing but fill the close-queue and spend people's time on tedium. However, as a moderator I could do it effectively.

I have a long track record of asking for consensus on that matter, participating in discussions about it, and standing by it. For example:

On reflection, it's probably not a bad idea to also ask the community whether or not some current initiative or practice still reflects consensus.

  1. Do you agree with the statement "ServerFault needs professional-quality questions, not just questions from professionals"? What does the word "professional" mean to you, within the context of the phrase, "professional-quality questions"? Do you believe that in addition to professional-quality questions, ServerFault also needs professional-quality answers and comments? What are "professional quality questions" to you?

Professionalism is a tricky thing to pin down, but it has some fundamental characteristics:

  • Acting in the long-term interests of your client and employer
  • Behaving as though you care about the results of your work
  • Following best practices (and not making ugly, unmaintainable hacks)
  • Doing your job (and not expecting others to do it for you)
  • Putting in some effort to educate yourself
  • Speaking up when procedure is wrongheaded or ineffective
  • Using the right tools for the task at hand

A professional might be getting paid for what they do, but I'm not even sure this is a fundamentally necessary quality. It's more about what you are doing and how you are doing it. If you are using the wrong tools (like a home internet connection), or you refuse to challenge wrong procedure, or you otherwise don't do the things in the list above, you're not being a professional. We are interested in questions from professionals here.

It does not mean you always use the best of everything and that all your procedures are perfect and flawless, but it does mean you have a reasonable amount of knowledge, approach your task with thought, and make some effort to figure things out. It also means you're receptive to being told your methodology isn't right, and that when this happens you're ready to change tack (instead of being stubborn).

So, yes. I do agree with that. I think the community agrees with that too, and I think it's important to the usefulness and survival of this site that we engage in normative behaviours (closing unprofessional questions) to preserve it.

If I can't tell whether a person is professional from the question, I don't care whether they are at work or not. The question and answers are the legacy we live with and they are all that really matter. If a question is not professional-quality and not from a professional, this will be apparent from the text of the question and comments.

  1. I'm drunk/not reading carefully/don't hang out here much. Why should I vote for you instead of some other person?

I'll keep this one short.

  • Predictable, fair, no-surprises moderation.
  • Rapid and effective enactment of community consensus.
  • A track record of consistently high-quality content submission.
  1. What problems does Server Fault face that are unique to Server Fault?

The field is constantly changing in material ways, and the field is full of pretenders! Also, we have a field, not just a topic.

We have shifts to and from centralization and decentralization of networks, constantly changing best practices, and cultural and core skill shifts. A good example of that last one is the evolving meaning of "devops".

For Server Fault, this means we need to keep on top of these kinds of changes and make sure we neither ignore nor too enthusiastically embrace changes in the field. We have to accept questions about emerging technologies without accidentally allowing unprofessional questions to take over. We need to recognize that, for example, some people are both developers and sysops at the same time.

We also have the unique quality that we filter for questions related to professional environments, so that these questions and answers will reflect professionalism and be broadly useful. Many or even most new users to the site seem to feel that basically anything goes, including questions about how to build enterprise networks out of garbage, run ancient software long past EOL, and implement extremely inadvisable requirements. I think these things are given broader acceptance elsewhere, but we are taking the approach that is right for us.

I don't think slackening that approach is a necessary part of acknowledging devops or other changes, and I don't think it would do anything other than drive off high-quality professional contributors with boredom.

  1. Briefly explain the role of a moderator, and what you plan to do to fill that role. What is awesome about your approach?

Ooh, my question!

A moderator is a consensus-builder and consensus-implementer. My approach is awesome because I intend to avoid governing or crusading, and just act as a force multiplier for community consensus.

I bring my energy and enthusiasm to the table, and if you elect me I will be very energetic and enthusiastic thanks to the vote of confidence!

  1. 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 do the same thing I would have done last year, and talk to them. Moderator actions are for de-escalation. Using them to beat someone up isn't an effective way to de-escalate. The user has demonstrated a commitment to the community by contributing high-quality content, and that commitment is worthy of respect that should be returned in kind.

Most of the time, users who create unhealthy conflict are simply unaware that their behaviour is counterproductive, antinormative, escalatory, or abusive. Alternatively, they are unaware that they are harming the community.

If the arguments and flags are significant and demonstrate recalcitrance, sometimes it's important to put weight behind your words with moderator actions, but personally I'd feel much better if the problematic user stopped, deleted their own abuse, and perhaps even apologized as a result of talking with a moderator.

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

No matter who you are, the right answer is to talk to them. As a moderator, this is doubly true, since moderators who do not act with hegemony and are in open conflict bring the whole site and its moderation into contempt.

When talking to them, I'd most likely talk about creating a meta question to resolve the controversy with consensus.

There are several moderators. No single moderator can consider themselves the sole arbiter of anything. The whole network is based on community moderation, and it's unbelievably important to uphold that.

  • I couldn't agree with you more on your answer/viewpoint on question 2. Thanks for saying what I think a lot of people feel; or felt in regard to last year's election. – Brad Bouchard Sep 1 '15 at 19:59
14

EEAA reporting in...

  1. We had an election last year that ended with some parting and drama.
    And I can't help but think of Ryan Ries` comment: "I don't know why anyone would want to be a moderator, now." Let's be honest here, things went wrong after the last election. Communication was a major issue, and there were some divisive opinions on what should or shouldn't have been done. What do you think went wrong last year, and what would you do differently if put in the same situation?

The #1 thing that went wrong: communication. From both sides. SE was too heavy-handed in enacting actions with no prior warning nor communication. N00b could have (not should have) communicated better about his cleansing campaign.

My default when dealing with people is to not presume that they have bad motivations for doing whatever they're doing. I apply this not only to work interactions but also to how I interact with my wife as well as my two boys. Yes, by starting out from this perspective, I may get burned from time to time, but overall, things tend to just plain go better when you start from the assumption that people are acting in good faith.

Before taking any action and making any assumptions, SE staff should have communicated individually with HopelessN00b to see what was he was up to.

Additionally, accusations of lying were made by SE staff, and to my knowledge, were never substantiated nor apologized for. This was inappropriate. I hope that the SE Community team learned an important lesson through that experience. I'm certain that any future mods will also be more careful when undertaking similar actions. I know I will be.

  1. Last year, we voted on someone who was running on a platform of extreme, desperate measures, we voted for someone who put up the following campaign slogan: "A vote for me is a vote to put my cruelty and viciousness to work for the site, against the horde of stupidity that threatens it." And while it definitely wasn't a landslide victory, talks of stupidity dealt with through cruelty did garner enough votes to win a second place. Do you think the extreme rhetoric used last year is still viable today?
    Would you consider picking up some of the work that helped win last year, and if so will you take a different approach?

Maintaining a reasonable set of tags is critical to the organization of questions on all SE sites. Serverfault is no exception. Looking through the list of tags that HopelessN00b wanted to burnitate, I agree with most of them. Many of the tags are either too broad or too narrow to be of any use.

  1. Do you agree with the statement "ServerFault needs professional-quality questions, not just questions from professionals"? What does the word "professional" mean to you, within the context of the phrase, "professional-quality questions"? Do you believe that in addition to professional-quality questions, ServerFault also needs professional-quality answers and comments? What are "professional quality questions" to you?

I 100% agree that SF needs "professional-quality" questions.

Professionalism means:

  • Writing an easily-understood question. It is fine if English is not your primary language. However, if I have to read your question through four times to even being understanding what is it you're asking about, it's probably getting closed.
  • Showing evidence that you've done some work on the issue yourself. As I mentioned in my nomination speech, we're not here to do your job for you. If it's clear that you're clueless about the topic at hand, are unwilling to provide details required to answer the question, or are asking for a handout, the question will be closed.
  • Interacting with peers in a respectful manner. If a user shows disrespect, they'll be temp-banned. I won't tolerate it. This applies even to high-rep users. Systems Administrators are often lumped into a "jerk" category, and if my work with SF can sway that stereotype even just a little bit, I would call it a success.
  • All of the above applies not only to questions, but also to all other interactions on the site.
  1. I'm drunk/not reading carefully/don't hang out here much. Why should I vote for you instead of some other person?

Maybe you should vote for me, maybe you should vote for one of many other immensely-qualified candidates that are in the election. Honestly, I'd love to be elected moderator, but if I don't get a diamond, I will gladly continue using the site as I have been, and will happily work alongside whomever is elected.

  1. What problems does Server Fault face that are unique to Server Fault?

Being a helpdesk. We get all manner of people here, from Joe business owner that can't figure out his Linksys router, to Jane web developer, who is having problems "connecting" her DNS to her shared GoDaddy account, and everything in between. At the moment, I don't have any concrete ideas on how to solve this, but it needs to be made more clear (I'm not even sure this is possible) that we are not a helpdesk. If your service provider/software vendor/ISP/hardware manufacturer has a support mechanism, it should be used first. Yes, even if you need to pay for the support.

  1. Briefly explain the role of a moderator, and what you plan to do to fill that role. What is awesome about your approach?

The role of a moderator is to make sure that site activity (both questions and answers) align with the site's mission and intended audience.

  1. 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?

They would be temp-banned, and if the behavior continued, perma-banned. Let me explain. My views on this are heavily-influenced by a policy we have at my day job. We have a strict no-jerk policy. This applies not only to employees, but also to vendors, contractors, and even investors. We don't care if you're the most talented software dev in the world - if you're a jerk and are difficult to work with, we don't want to employ you.

This is how I view un-professional behavior on Server Fault. Sure, you may provide some positive value. That's great. The ramifications of your negative actions, though, far outweigh the positives and thus, for the good of the site, the user should be banned.

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

I'd speak individually to that mod to hear their rationale. As mentioned above, I always try and presume people are trying to put their best foot forward. In discussion with the other mod, I'd try and argue my reasons for why the question should have been left open. If I'm able to convince the other mod, we'll re-open it. If not, let it be. It's not worth the effort and hard feelings to turn it into a conflict.

5

I am Womble.

  1. We had an election last year that ended with some parting and drama.
    And I can't help but think of Ryan Ries` comment: "I don't know why anyone would want to be a moderator, now." Let's be honest here, things went wrong after the last election. Communication was a major issue, and there were some divisive opinions on what should or shouldn't have been done. What do you think went wrong last year, and what would you do differently if put in the same situation?

I think the situation came about because of a lack of effective communication and some feelings of resentment that made it difficult for the moderator involved and SE staff to continue working together.

The best way to "do it differently" would be to avoid being in the situation in the first place. I agree with something Shog9 said, that SF isn't a welcoming community -- for some good reasons, and some not-so-good ones. I'm actually curious to know what the SE community team has in the way of useful suggestions for how we can improve that situation.

  1. Last year, we voted on someone who was running on a platform of extreme, desperate measures, we voted for someone who put up the following campaign slogan: "A vote for me is a vote to put my cruelty and viciousness to work for the site, against the horde of stupidity that threatens it." And while it definitely wasn't a landslide victory, talks of stupidity dealt with through cruelty did garner enough votes to win a second place. Do you think the extreme rhetoric used last year is still viable today?
    Would you consider picking up some of the work that helped win last year, and if so will you take a different approach?

Burninating bad tags is a good idea, and there should be more of it. It would appear that SE staff took a dislike to a perceived lack of detailed "community consensus" around each action that was taken, and so I will make sure that any major work is done in accordance with an appropriate meta thread. I'll also seek to keep SE staff proactively informed of what's going on, so there's no need for them to to freak the hell out.

  1. Do you agree with the statement "ServerFault needs professional-quality questions, not just questions from professionals"? What does the word "professional" mean to you, within the context of the phrase, "professional-quality questions"? Do you believe that in addition to professional-quality questions, ServerFault also needs professional-quality answers and comments? What are "professional quality questions" to you?

I do agree with the statement. "Professional" is a word that bugs me a bit, as it doesn't have a clear and universally-agreed definition, and the negative form, "unprofessional", is used far too often as a sloppy placeholder for "I don't like it". If you've ever been called "unprofessional" because you don't wear a suit, then you know what I'm talking about.

In the context of "professional quality questions", I take the word "professional" to mean that you would be proud to show any question you wrote to your current boss, or any future boss, as an example of the quality of work that you produce. Further, the question would be of a level that you would expect of a colleague, or perhaps a subordinate, in your workplace.

It is somewhat disengenuous of us, however, to demand professional-quality questions, but greet questions which don't meet our standards with answers and comments that don't also meet the same standards of professionalism. I know it's really tempting to dole out some nuclear-grade snark to some n00b (and I've delivered some absolute scorchers over the years, of which I am now not particularly proud), but I really think we're not doing ourselves any favours with this behaviour. It is a vicious circle which will inevitably end with the dissipation of the site.

  1. I'm drunk/not reading carefully/don't hang out here much. Why should I vote for you instead of some other person?

Because I, too, am drunk and don't read things carefully. I AM YOUR KIND OF PERSON.

  1. What problems does Server Fault face that are unique to Server Fault?

The amorphous nature of what it means to be "a sysadmin" is a big one. It creates challenges around defining topicality, and helping visitors to decide whether this is the right place for them. I've heard SF described as "ask-a-sysadmin.com", and that isn't too far off the mark, either -- there are a lot of good, smart people here to answer questions, and that makes it an attractive place to dump questions on all sorts of topics.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had a sysadmin job whose duties seemed to encompass "anything that uses electricity". That comes to bite us in the behind when it comes time to say, "this question is off-topic", because sysadmins do so very many things in different companies.

  1. Briefly explain the role of a moderator, and what you plan to do to fill that role. What is awesome about your approach?

I've heard it said that a moderator is an "exception handler", taking care of the things that the site users as a whole can't do themselves, for various reasons. I'd take it further than that: moderators are the executors of the community's wishes.

My intention is fairly simple: to be active on meta and maintain a good sense of the feelings of the community on various issues, and apply those to the content of the site in such a way as to encourage maximum participation from as many high-quality individuals as possible. I don't know if I'd call my approach "awesome", but it should at least be effective.

  1. 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. Explain the consequences of their behaviour in terms that they would see as important and useful -- not "stop that or you're banned", but instead "you're scaring the n00bs" or "you come off looking like an angry coot", perhaps.

If they persist in their behaviour, and it is disruptive to the point of discouraging others from participating, I'd end up bringing out the banhammer. No single person, no matter how valuable and voluminous their answers, is as valuable or productive as the community members that a single disruptive person discourages from participating.

That goes double (or more) for poor questions and argumentative question-askers, too. Wading through large quantities of poor questions is demoralising, and I fully intend to do my part to keep poor-quality questions from discouraging people who provide good, informative answers from participating.

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

Talk to them. (I'm seeing a pattern in these "stock" questions...) If I don't understand something, I'm more than willing to put my hand up and say, "what the?". I'll listen to their side of the story, put my own case, and we'll either come to an understanding about what the correct course of action is, or we'll agree to disagree and I'll let it go, because there's no point in antagonising someone else by duelling over something which is, at the end of it all, relatively inconsequential.

1

As I mentioned before: this is what I had to say last year and before a number of other serious contenders had nominated themselves such as Ward, EEAA, TheCleaner and Womble.
I don't plan to that much more than I'm already doing as an active community member, but moderator tools will make an active member that much more effective.

  1. We had an election last year that ended with some parting and drama.
    And I can't help but think of Ryan Ries` comment: "I don't know why anyone would want to be a moderator, now." Let's be honest here, things went wrong after the last election. Communication was a major issue, and there were some divisive opinions on what should or shouldn't have been done. What do you think went wrong last year, and what would you do differently if put in the same situation?

I'm inherently more lazy than N00b and will never end in exactly the same spat.

  1. Last year, we voted on someone who was running on a platform of extreme, desperate measures, we voted for someone who put up the following campaign slogan: "A vote for me is a vote to put my cruelty and viciousness to work for the site, against the horde of stupidity that threatens it." And while it definitely wasn't a landslide victory, talks of stupidity dealt with through cruelty did garner enough votes to win a second place. Do you think the extreme rhetoric used last year is still viable today?
    Would you consider picking up some of the work that helped win last year, and if so will you take a different approach?

Bad unsuitable questions are still baaaad.

We don't want to waste time on them and cleaning them up as they come in is valuable. I'm lazy enough not to care about ancient baaaaaad and similar questions and doing much more then what I already did.

Typically the OP is effectively nominating his/her own Question for our version of the Darwin Awards i.e. getting killed before propagating.

Old questions in the long in-active tail can sleep their quiet slumber and don't need to pulled out of that for a mercy killing.

  1. Do you agree with the statement "ServerFault needs professional-quality questions, not just questions from professionals"? What does the word "professional" mean to you, within the context of the phrase, "professional-quality questions"? Do you believe that in addition to professional-quality questions, ServerFault also needs professional-quality answers and comments? What are "professional quality questions" to you?

Professional varies from an all too common Pimply-Faced Youth not quite knowing the correct jargon and lacking a suitable mentor (whose possibly trivial question can be answered with a common such: "in jargon a 2x4 clue-bat is also called "a LART"") to true professionals who have investigated most common venues and who are genuinely stuck.

I, with a majority of our community, don't care for cargo cult programmers or their sysadmin equivalents and answering their questions or correcting their faulty assumptions is neither challenging nor rewarding.

  1. I'm drunk/not reading carefully/don't hang out here much. Why should I vote for you instead of some other person?

Because the right amount of alcohol gives you just that much more clarity of course!

  1. What problems does Server Fault face that are unique to Server Fault?

enter image description here

  1. Briefly explain the role of a moderator, and what you plan to do to fill that role. What is awesome about your approach?

Nothing at all.

  1. 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?

VtC & -1: Possible duplicate of 2014 Moderator Election Q&A - Questionnaire

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

VtC & -1: Possible duplicate of 2014 Moderator Election Q&A - Questionnaire

comment: please use the search facility before posting questions, this is the second duplicate in a row ;)

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