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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. Due to the lack of submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as two of our back up questions for a total of 10 questions.

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.

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) What is your take on the "software questions on CV" that come up very frequently and where do you draw the line and decide it should be migrated to SO or simply closed? Based on the review queue, it seems there is a lot of heterogeneity among the high-rep users in terms of what constitutes "off-topic" in this context and, with moderators having the ability to unilaterally close/migrate questions, this seems a natural question to ask.

(2) If you are elected moderator, what (specific, concrete!) changes would you like to see made to the way the site is currently administered and moderated? How do you view your role in effecting the proposed changes?

(3) How would you moderate situations where you find yourself disagreeing with official SE policy about something?

(4) 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?

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

(6) What are your opinions about casting the deciding "moderator" vote on closing/opening questions? For example, if five non-moderator users have closed a question that you think should be left open, would you consider unilaterally re-opening it? Similarly, if a majority of reviewers have recommended that a question be left open (say 1 close vote and 3 "stay open" votes) under what circumstances would you decide to use your deciding close vote to override the majority?

(7) What is your interpretation of the purpose of Cross Validated and how does this influence the way you choose to use the site as an ordinary user?

(8) What kind of moderatorial experience, if any, have you had before (online or offline)? Can you give an example of a moderatorial issue that came up, how you had handled it, and how the community that you moderated viewed your handling of the situation?

(9) 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?

(10) In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

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    $\begingroup$ Just a suggestion to the candidates (please feel free to ignore): I think it would enhance readability if you would give some indication of what the question is above your answer, similar to what cardinal has done. This makes it so we don't have to go split screen or scroll up and down repeatedly to clarify, e.g. what Q4 is. $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 24 '13 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro To wit, the entire point of the block I put in the body, with a link to the source of the post, is for an easy-input means that gives you spaces to write responses, which results in an answer with quotes of each question followed by normal text for each response to the question. A summary pointer will work, too, though, rather than manually tossing in the whole quote block in the existing answerers, but future answerers should perhaps consider that direction. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Sep 24 '13 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro Good point; now done for mine. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - G. Simpson Sep 25 '13 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ @GraceNote I decided against copying the entire question block as it would have led to an already lengthy Answer and if each user did it it would be highly repetitive. I was remiss in not summarising the Q in my post though. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - G. Simpson Sep 25 '13 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ Are my answers that tame that I am not spurring any commentary :)? $\endgroup$ – user25658 Sep 25 '13 at 4:00
  • $\begingroup$ What happened to the last candidate? $\endgroup$ – user30490 Sep 27 '13 at 5:29
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    $\begingroup$ @StatMan He asked that his account be deleted. $\endgroup$ – chl Sep 27 '13 at 9:15
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As stated in my nomination remarks, my ultimate goal as a moderator would be to be as invisible as possible. I want to help provide the atmosphere that allows the community to set the course for our site; my objective would be to be available to step in to aid where necessary, but otherwise to get out of the way and let the site develop as the community desires.

Q1 (Handling software questions). I think within the last year, the CV user base has reached enough of a critical mass where moderator intervention for closing and/or migrating should be (and, lately, seems to have been) pretty minimal. With this in mind, as a general practice, I would not plan on migrating/closing questions unless I was (a) in agreement with the decision to migrate/close and (b) was the fifth and final vote, thus reducing my participation to that of a "regular" user. This personal guideline would extend to all questions, not just software ones, with exceptions being if posts are obviously spam or contained some other content that was strongly against site norms or Terms of Service and required immediate intervention.

I think the direction of the site will continue to evolve and all community members are, and should feel like, stakeholders in what it becomes. That means consensus views on content are likely to change somewhat over time. On a personal note, I would like to see us be slightly more permissive regarding software-related questions in that, even if a question is ostensibly about how to get something done programmatically, if it requires or would benefit from statistical expertise in answering it, we should be willing to do so here. I think we already get that about right, but may have ever-so-slightly drifted towards being a little too quick to migrate.

Q2 (Specific, concrete changes). Much of the motivation for me suggesting this question in the first place was that I was having a difficult time identifying concrete changes I would want to make and so I wanted to see what was driving other candidates to run for moderator. One thing I think CV would particularly benefit from is a somewhat larger user base of active, high-quality answerers. To this end, one of my personal goals will be to try to make new users feel as welcome as possible and get them engaged with the site providing quality answers, yet with minimal emphasis on reputation accumulation.

Q3 (Disagreeing with official SE policy). My perception is that there are various "degrees" of "official SE policy". As regards Terms of Service and fair use, matters are black and white: I believe moderators need to uphold their obligations at all times. At the same time, each site should be allowed a modicum of freedom to develop its own personality and there are certain aspects of SE policy that (a) aren't so iron-clad and (b) don't necessarily make complete sense for our particular community. Those are items that, if they arise, I would be willing to be flexible about if there was a consensus among the moderators that this was alright and there was a similar broad consensus from the community. I believe in maintaining proper discretion; if I have any disagreements with SE policy, I will communicate them in private to SE staff, not air them publicly.

Q4 (Valuable answers, but difficult personalities). This site has been fortunate to experience very few instances of problematic behavior. That is not just luck, but great management from all three moderators (and their predecessors). I am not against some degree of public social correction (e.g., via comments) if it would help orient the user and provide clarity and a good example for others. Anything of a personal or particularly problematic nature should be handled in private, after consultation with all other moderators, and—if necessary–SE staff. The major problems I've seen on this site have mostly dealt with overzealous desire to rapidly accumulate reputation with quality suffering in the process; this is something I would like to see mitigated insofar as possible. Quality questions and answers should be our focus.

Q5 (Reversing another moderator's actions). I doubt there will be many instances of this where I feel so strongly that something must be done. Only in very rare instances have I ever disagreed with the judgment of CV moderators based on their public actions. My first step would be to engage the other moderator in private to obtain some details on the situation, especially if I didn't personally witness what transpired. I suspect that oftentimes this would already be enough, as a sensible explanation would then be evident. If the matter were still unresolved, I would request a group discussion among the moderators. If no agreement could be found, I would suggest posting a relevant question to meta. I would not unilaterally undo another moderator's actions except in the extremely unlikely scenario that the moderator had, for whatever reason, obviously "gone rogue". (In that circumstance, SE staff would immediately be notified.)

Q6 (Casting the deciding vote). This was addressed above in my response to Q1. My participation in close/migrate decisions would be as a "regular" user except in exceptional circumstances. I want the community to make these decisions and I think we have the user base to do so now. (That was not quite true even a year ago and certainly not when I joined.)

Q7 (Interpretation of the purpose of CV). I want CV to be the place where people bring their interesting, challenging, stimulating and deep questions (of all levels!) about data analysis, statistics, machine learning, data visualization and attendant topics. They will come because they know they'll get great answers and advice. I would rather see two or three very high-quality answers obtained through some community collaboration than, say, seven to ten mediocre answers from users "battling it out" for upvotes. My own site usage is somewhat unconventional and, as long as a user's mode of use is not disruptive, I think we should allow for such freedom.

Q8 (Prior moderator experience). I do not recall any previous online moderator experience in any formal capacity. I have fairly extensive experience in professional service organizations, international research and standards bodies and private industry where part of my activities have been in conflict resolution and facilitating communication between various parties involving difficult ethical issues like public release of study data. Participation on standards committees, in particular, involves navigating the many opinions of their members and requires a considerable degree of patience and empathy. I would hope to bring to bear some of what I've learned from those experiences.

Q9 (Diamonds!). I have no qualms with having a diamond attached to anything I've previously said or done. Before posting anything, I try to think carefully through whether I would be willing to say out loud to a colleague what I'm about to post online. That serves as a useful guide, for me, at least. If anything, I worry that the addition of a diamond next to a post that is years old may give it an undue air of authority to future readers and I would hope to avoid such potential misunderstandings.

Q10 (Additional effectiveness of being a moderator). I mostly seek to simply complement the existing moderator team in whatever way that I can. In the rare instances that obvious spam has been posted, I've flagged it, but if it happens to be during inactive times, it can go unresolved for a few hours. In these instances, it would be nice to be able to step in and take care of things. Based on usage patterns, some of the times that I'm often available are also times that current moderators happen to be inactive (though we have very active and pretty geographically distributed moderators as it is).

If there's anything that I've missed or you feel I haven't adequately addressed, please post a comment and I will reply, or make edits, as necessary.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, I can tell you would be a great moderator. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Sep 24 '13 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ On Q9 ... when I became more active, for some time (a couple of months at least), my brain attached the diamond beside your name anyway. It was quite a while before I realized you weren't already a moderator. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Sep 24 '13 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations, cardinal! $\endgroup$ – COOLSerdash Oct 1 '13 at 20:40
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Q1 Handling software questions

I've expressed my particular views recently on Meta and encapsulated them in some proposed changes to the Help Centre text on what in on topic for CV.

In summary (those threads are long) if a question is obviously simply about the use of a particular application of piece of software then it is off topic. Questions that enquire about how to fit particular statistical models in software or how to interpret output are on topic. General programming in languages such as R or Python is off-topic unless there is a clear data-analysis or statistical issue the OP requires help in implementing.

As to what should be migrated to SO, there needs to be an obvious programming element, and the question should have exhibited some background research, explained what has been tried, and a self-contained example or example output provided. Without these extra accoutrements, migrated questions are likely to attract the ire of the SO community. It would be helpful if the OP is asked to improve the Q before it is migrated for this reason.

Q2 What changes would you make to CV?

The main change I would like to see and work towards if elected moderator is to improve the consistency of close votes and flags for migration. As Q1 indicates, there is a degree of inconsistency in how various users view particular questions, especially those that are software-related. If we can agree on what these are, I'd like to see additional guidance to Askers and Answers to help guide decisions when closing, flagging, or commenting. I'd aim to increase the use of the SE Chat system for the curation of close votes etc where there are differences in opinion as to howto handle a question. This has worked well in the R tag on SO to which I contribute regularly.

In general I see CV as working well, a testament to the community of users and the existing mods. I don't see any need to shake things up; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Q3 How would you handle a difference of opinion with SE policy?

This is a tricky one --- CV is a SE site and part of the whole SE ecosystem with clear aims and policies. To some extent the individual sites have some flexibility regarding certain aspects of what they allow; questions that solicit opinion is one area where policy is allowed to and can vary between SE sites. If I found myself disagreeing with SE policy, I'd discuss this with the other moderators and on CV Meta if appropriate. Depending on the outcome of that discussion I'd raise the issue to the main Meta site (meta.stackoverflow.com).

In the main though, unless there was strong feeling here or on Meta.SO against current SE policy, that policy should guide our actions.

Q4 How would you handle a difficult personality on CV?

Another tough one. The harmony of the whole CV community is paramount. Regardless of the quality of their answers, if a user's other contributions are upsetting or alienating other CV users, or engendering (hostile) argument and flags, then that user's behaviour on the site needs to be tempered for the good of CV. I'd start off with the "we're all adults" approach and raise the issue with the user, say via an invited chat room, or comment in a relevant thread. If that didn't work, in consultation with the other moderators, a tougher sanction may be necessary, such as locking the user in question out from CV for a period of time. Ultimately, if the user didn't chose to change their approach then a complete ban may be in order.

Q5 How would you handle a difference of opinion with another moderator?

I'd discuss this with the moderator to understand their point of view, or discuss the issue on Meta. Unless the moderator had done something very much against the site or SE rules, you have to appreciate that not everyone will see eye to eye on every issue. If there is something that can be learned from a particular situation, great, but however difficult, one has to realise that your opinion may not be shared by others. That should be respected. Understanding why there was disagreement is probably more important than that there was disagreement. Understanding that will hopefully help with future similar situations. Also, as per an earlier comment above, I'd look to use Chat more to discuss issues that arise such as this.

Q6 How would you treat handling the casting/overriding vote?

This is a judgement call. I wouldn't want to overrule the community, but if I felt strongly that the non-moderator users were applying the wrong rule or criteria in a particular situation I'd be willing to use the moderator vote to "overrule" those users. It would be better to discuss this in Meta or Chat before that situation arose, but if all else fails, that is why there are moderators on SE sites.

Q7 What do you see as the purpose of CV?

I want CV to be a place that users can ask interesting question about statistics to help them answer their data analysis questions. Conversely, I see CV as the place where informed users want to hang out and share their expertise to help users solve their problems and learn more about statistical analysis.

CV should also be a place that interested people can come to learn more about the process of data analysis and come to appreciate statistical thinking. I want CV to continue to be the place on the internet where people can find answers to statistical problems or questions.

As more of a user of statistics I have an interest in the application of the theory and tools to answer interesting (in my case ecological) questions. I've learned a lot from reading the answers supplied to questions on CV and as a moderator I'd work to ensure that others can continue to benefit from the great community of experts here.

Q8 What moderation experience do you have?

Whilst not formal moderation, I've had a lot of experience on SO "moderating" the R tag and the group of regular contributors there has developed a nice model for curating issues in Chat to help keep our corner of SO clean and tidy and a pleasant place to ask questions about R.

As an academic I've been involved in mentoring and guiding students, which often involves being extremely patient as you help them learn for themselves to solve problems. I've also been involved in a number of large research projects with many partners; successfully navigating the various personalities and politics is essential to the smooth running of a successful project.

Q9 Are you happy to have a diamond attached to everything you've ever done on CV?

That's fine by me. I'm a scientist who does peer review and I'm open with my comments there, signing my reviews of other researchers papers. I'm happy to stand by my opinions there where arguably it could have impact upon future career opportunities, and I see my other contributions in the same light, here or elsewhere on-line. The key for me is to be honest in the way you approach anything, be critical where necessary though constructively so, respect the position you find yourself in, treat others courteously, just as you would in the real world.

Q10 How would you be more effective as a moderator than simply using the tools available to high-rep users?

An interesting question as many users many not realise that once you hit 20K you have almost all the same powers as a moderator on a given site. This reflects the ethos of SE of having users that have earned the trust of a community help moderate a site. I have experience of the privileges that such rep brings on SO, so I know what the additional tools and responsibilities they bring with them entail.

Essentially, I don't think how I approach voting and flagging would be very different as a trusted user compared to a moderator. Where I would see a difference would be perhaps allowing the community users to decide/vote on certain issues and respond to their consensus rather than wield the moderator vote immediately. Unless, of course, some immediate action were required to remove SPAM or offensive comments/posts etc.

Access to the extra moderator tools would allow me to act upon issues that the community raises, rather than relying on the small group of mods to action flags etc. The main difference in effectiveness is in being able to shoulder a portion of the workload that inevitably falls on the shoulders' of moderators as a result of the CV community's flagging, voting, and commenting.

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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b's caution seems very well-founded here. In general, I suggest that only candidates edit their own answers here. How clearly, how correctly and precisely how candidates express themselves is part of what voters may want to assess, it seems to me, so the rest of us should refrain from even trivial edits. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Sep 24 '13 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ @NickCox Indeed, that's why I chose to raise it as a comment (now deleted, since it's not relevant any longer); these are not normal circumstances and I think the only people who should touch the candidates' words are the candidates themselves (or in special situations, a moderator). On the other hand, I though it reasonable to mention an error so the candidate had the chance to make their intent quite clear. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Sep 24 '13 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Gavin, You say "if a question is obviously simply about the use of a particular application of piece of software then it is off topic. Questions that enquire about how to fit particular statistical models in software or how to interpret output are on topic." - I think two different people could choose either one of those two sentences to justify closing(or not) most of the "software questions". For example: "I have one predictor x and one response y - how do I fit an OLS model using R?" It seems that this could be on or off-topic under your rubric. Can you clarify? $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 25 '13 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro That Q is difficult to clearly articulate an Answer to, especially as a summary, which is attested to by the vigorous but constructive debate on Meta and the fact that there is inconsistency between users as to what constitutes on and off topic questions for CV. I see how my summary wasn't clear, but I would argue that, on face value, How to fit OLS to dependent variable y with independent variable x in R? is on topic (but I suspect this has been answered here in several forms already!). $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - G. Simpson Sep 25 '13 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro The example you give has a clear statistical element, no matter how elementary it may be. Given the maturity of CV I don't think I would keep that Q open, but instead look for similar questions already asked and use them to mark the latest question as a Duplicate. Fitting statistical models, even simple linear ones, in R requires more than just an appreciation for the language's syntax. For example, if x were categorical, the OP would need to know to code the data as a factor variable, possibly ordered, or how to chose particular contrasts. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - G. Simpson Sep 25 '13 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ @GavinSimpson, thanks for clarifying. You're right that this toy example certainly would be a duplicate at this point. I only fear that entertaining analogous questions could make this site a surrogate for, e.g. R help files and the R help message board, which I don't think is desirable. If it were something more like "How do I model the relationship between x and y using R?" we'd be on the same page. Despite our subtle difference of opinion on this, your history on this site assures me you'd be a shrewd and fair moderator whose judgment I'd have no problem trusting. Best of luck! $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 25 '13 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro Indeed & going from the title of the Q you suggested I was taking a broad interpretation. If the answer to the Q, as articulated in the body text, was read ?lm then I'd also be inclined to close; such a Q could also be closed for other reasons (poor Q, no research effort, etc). We're probably closer in opinion than some of our discussions might suggest. If the discussion on meta about this has taught me anything its that the nuance of how the Q is phrased will be critical on deciding if it is OT. Helping the OP phrase a better, more on-topic Q, will be a useful contribution. & Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - G. Simpson Sep 25 '13 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ Although I have recently disagreed on these meta pages and in comments with some of Gavin Simpson's proposals and criticism, not only are they principled, but they reflect a point of view that would be a valuable complement to that of the current moderators. Therefore I want to make it clear that any apparent differences of opinion should not be taken as a negative in this case, but rather should be viewed as a positive asset. $\endgroup$ – whuber Sep 25 '13 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @GavinSimpson Not that it's very important, but of the five candidates, I think you've done the best job of formatting and abbreviating the questions in your answer. $\endgroup$ – mark999 Sep 26 '13 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @mark999 If I am ultimately unsuccessful in the moderator election I can console myself with having the prettiest Town Hall Answer (IYHO) ;-) $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - G. Simpson Sep 26 '13 at 21:06
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(1) What is your take on the "software questions on CV" that come up very frequently and where do you draw the line and decide it should be migrated to SO or simply closed? Based on the review queue, it seems there is a lot of heterogeneity among the high-rep users in terms of what constitutes "off-topic" in this context and, with moderators having the ability to unilaterally close/migrate questions, this seems a natural question to ask.

I think some of the heterogeneity comes from my answer - that determining the "SO vs. CV" line for software questions is a bit of a gut feeling, "I know it when I see it", community standards-esq answer. For me, I draw the line at what I'd call "programming skills" vs "statistical skills". If its just getting a function written correctly, which arguments go where, etc. question, it's a programming question and belongs in SO. If it's a question that involves what's happening when the code is invoked, how it actually works or how to take the code and get meaningful results, it belongs in CV. And for the edge cases, I'd try to err on the side of "Where is the user more likely to get useful answers?"

(2) If you are elected moderator, what (specific, concrete!) changes would you like to see made to the way the site is currently administered and moderated? How do you view your role in effecting the proposed changes?

This is a tough one - I think CV is by and large a fairly functional community. As a moderator, the two things I would make a really active effort toward improving are encouraging users to accept answers when possible, and making CV welcoming to new users, especially people of intermediate skill but with a lot of subject matter expertise (like myself, a couple years ago) - I think they benefit from the site, and the site benefits from them, but it can sometimes seem like an odd fit.

(3) How would you moderate situations where you find yourself disagreeing with official SE policy about something?

Tempting as it is to growl "I am the Law" and move forward, CV exists within a large ecosystem, users move back and forth between sites, and I think we all benefit from playing nicely in the same sandbox. If it was a genuine, irreconcilable policy issue, I'd bring it to the other moderators or meta, as appropriate.

(4) 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 like to think of these users as a learning opportunity - they've clearly got the knowledge, but perhaps lack a little bit of an understanding of CV as a community, rather than as an intellectual exercise. I'd try to emulate some other communities I have been a part of in communicating that there are community rules and standards, and that CV is not the "Wild West" or "Other Sites" and a certain degree of hostility, etc. isn't productive.

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

"Why we did what we did" is a question that seems to lend itself well to meta, and clarifying what could be viewed by both users and mods as divergent understandings of what CV "should" be doing.

(6) What are your opinions about casting the deciding "moderator" vote on closing/opening questions? For example, if five non-moderator users have closed a question that you think should be left open, would you consider unilaterally re-opening it? Similarly, if a majority of reviewers have recommended that a question be left open (say 1 close vote and 3 "stay open" votes) under what circumstances would you decide to use your deciding close vote to override the majority?

I vote my conscience. If I think a question should stay open, I'm voting for it to stay open. If I think it should be closed, I'm voting for it to be closed. I view this as a fair way to handle questions - each is evaluated by me, and only me, and so gets as fair a shake as I can give it without considering the mix of whose on "my side", who isn't, etc. When in doubt, I err on the side of whether or not I think the user will get a useful and productive answer.

(7) What is your interpretation of the purpose of Cross Validated and how does this influence the way you choose to use the site as an ordinary user?

"Surely there is someone who has seen this before". Statistics, and data visualization, are wide open fields, full of people working with varying levels of expertise, perspectives, etc. But when it comes down to it, we're all in the same boat - how do I take my data, and understand what it means? That's also sometimes a lonely endeavor, and a burden best shared. I do my best to answer what I can as helpfully as possible, and ask the questions I have in a way where they're amendable to answering.

(8) What kind of moderatorial experience, if any, have you had before (online or offline)? Can you give an example of a moderatorial issue that came up, how you had handled it, and how the community that you moderated viewed your handling of the situation?

I've served on a number of boards and the like, but most of these have been either peer-review focused or making sure things were working smoothly on the back end. I have however served as an officer in an online gaming guild for some time with a similar feel to CV in some ways - a single purpose, a important set of community standards, and no clear hierarchy between mods. For the most part, the problems that arose from that were from people who didn't really fit with the community. I've tried to help them figure out what about it isn't working, gently nudged them in what I thought was a more productive direction, and made it clear when things were just Not Working. I have no idea what people thought of my moderating, but I know the tone and community of the guild was valued by its members.

(9) 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?

I do my best never to post anything on here I'd be embarrassed to have attached to my name. That remains true, diamond or no diamond.

(10) In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

Honestly, the answer is "I'd be useful sooner and more often". To me, having gained the whole Trusted User status on the Academia beta thanks to its lower threshold, I don't take the tools available any less seriously - but it's a much longer haul to that status here, and in my mind as a "Trusted User" I check in on the site when I'm using it. As a moderator, I view the responsibility as something that demands tending to whether or not I'm on CV for other reasons.

If I've forgotten anything, or you have anything else you'd like me to answer, please do leave a comment.

An answer to @Macro's question:

Hi EpiGrad, I wonder if you can clarify "...I would make a really active effort toward improving are encouraging users to accept answers when possible", which relates to a recent meta thread. What would you do to try to enact this change in the culture? I think many of us have asked an OP to accept an answer under various circumstances but, in that meta thread, there's a bit of variability in what active members consider acceptable (and, as @Gavin mentioned there, it's been outlawed on SO).

Certainly. I think there's not a particular use in the "Please accept an answer" comments - I can't think of one I've ever left that's actually manifested as progress. I do however think that for new users, its both a useful introduction to the community and the system, a helpful little bit of rep, and a chance to make sure we've actually answered their question. I know I have a couple questions with no accepted answer because there wasn't one I thought was an answer.

I do however think its useful to pop in and ask a new user who has several upvoted answers if there exists an answer that satisfies their question, explain the bounty system if there isn't on (or offer to make one for very low rep users), or possibly work on editing and clarifying their question to solve whatever misdirection is causing several answers to go awry. Basically, I see it as a chance for new user engagement, and any new user engagement helps retain those users. If it boosts the number of accepted answers, great. If it doesn't, but one person learns how to use the bounty system, or actually gets there question answered? Also worth it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi EpiGrad, I wonder if you can clarify "...I would make a really active effort toward improving are encouraging users to accept answers when possible", which relates to a recent meta thread. What would you do to try to enact this change in the culture? I think many of us have asked an OP to accept an answer under various circumstances but, in that meta thread, there's a bit of variability in what active members consider acceptable (and, as @Gavin mentioned there, it's been outlawed on SO). $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 24 '13 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro See my edit. $\endgroup$ – Fomite Sep 24 '13 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Hi EpiGrad, your response to Q6 brought to light a nuance in the wording of the question that I hadn't noticed before. I wanted to make sure we (all) were interpreting the question as in the same way. Since a moderator's vote to open/close/migrate is always immediately binding (e.g., suppose only one person has voted to close a question and you agree, your vote--as moderator--would then immediately cause the question to be closed), is your response saying that you would continue to vote as you do now in spite of this additional "power" or would your voting pattern change because of it? $\endgroup$ – cardinal Sep 25 '13 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @cardinal Probably good to clarify - I've always acted as if my close vote was immediately binding, even though it's not, so that behavior wouldn't change. I try not to weigh what other people have voted to close or open, because its a really coarse and opaque way to do that. If its a borderline case, I'd vote what I thought then hash it out in meta. $\endgroup$ – Fomite Sep 25 '13 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Epi! That's very helpful. As I reread the question yet again, the nuance/ambiguity I thought was maybe there really isn't. Sorry to cause you undue extra effort, but thanks again for the nice response. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Sep 25 '13 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal My pleasure - clarity is never a bad thing. $\endgroup$ – Fomite Sep 25 '13 at 16:36
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Sorry I am a bit late here. I was at a conference.

(1) What is your take on the "software questions on CV" that come up very frequently and where do you draw the line and decide it should be migrated to SO or simply closed? Based on the review queue, it seems there is a lot of heterogeneity among the high-rep users in terms of what constitutes "off-topic" in this context and, with moderators having the ability to unilaterally close/migrate questions, this seems a natural question to ask.

My idea is that we should try to base migration on which set of users can better answer the question, rather than whether the question mentions a statistical package. If the question demands statistical knowledge (even if it also involves knowledge of a package) then I think it belongs here. If it does not demand such knowledge I would vote to migrate.

(2) If you are elected moderator, what (specific, concrete!) changes would you like to see made to the way the site is currently administered and moderated? How do you view your role in effecting the proposed changes?

I think the site in general is good. I would like to see a better way of welcoming newcomers. One thing would be that, when a person posts a question for the first time, they are directed to the FAQ automatically. They could get a message such as "thank you for asking a question on our site. Here is a FAQ about the site".

(3) How would you moderate situations where you find yourself disagreeing with official SE policy about something?

I would discuss it with other moderators and perhaps other users in general in the meta.

(4) 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 don't think this is very likely, but I would take each person and each question separately. Useful answers should stay. However, if a person is generating flags (as opposed to arguments) and those flags are justified, then measures would have to be taken - first warning the person. But arguments can be good, if they are conducted civilly. Not all statistical questions are answerable in only one way.

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

If I felt it was serious I would discuss it with him/her.

(6) What are your opinions about casting the deciding "moderator" vote on closing/opening questions? For example, if five non-moderator users have closed a question that you think should be left open, would you consider unilaterally re-opening it? Similarly, if a majority of reviewers have recommended that a question be left open (say 1 close vote and 3 "stay open" votes) under what circumstances would you decide to use your deciding close vote to override the majority?

I'd be more willing to re-open a question than to close one against the majority of votes. I would only vote to close if the situation was pretty clear (e.g. a near exact duplicate). Having a "bad" question on the site (unless it is offensive or something like that) does less harm (in my view) than deleting a question that others will find useful. I would bear in mind that it can be hard to search for the right question in statistics, as the user may not know the right terms.

(7) What is your interpretation of the purpose of Cross Validated and how does this influence the way you choose to use the site as an ordinary user?

I think the primary purpose is to serve as a Q and A repository for all sorts of statistical and data analytic questions - from elementary to advanced, from purely data analytic to highly theoretical.

(8) What kind of moderatorial experience, if any, have you had before (online or offline)? Can you give an example of a moderatorial issue that came up, how you had handled it, and how the community that you moderated viewed your handling of the situation?

I have not had any such experience.

(9) 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?

I feel fine with it. When something of mine needs deletion (e.g. if someone else points out an error) I delete it. That would remain the same whether or not I become a moderator. I am not sure how different the light will be. I, personally, don't view statements from moderators differently, except in that all the moderators are clearly experienced people who consistently give good answers. But so do many non-moderators.

(10) In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

I am not sure. I ran for moderator not to be more effective exactly, but in order to give more back to this community and help more people ask good questions and get good answers.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your brevity. $\endgroup$ – mark999 Sep 25 '13 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ The idea expressed at (2) is a great one. Why don't you propose it on the SE meta site, or at least here on our meta site, to get the attention of the SE team? $\endgroup$ – whuber Sep 25 '13 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @whuber, I will do that. $\endgroup$ – Peter Flom - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 '13 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Congratulations, Peter! $\endgroup$ – COOLSerdash Oct 1 '13 at 20:39
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Good luck to all the potential candidates! It is an honor to compete with all of you.

(Q1) What is your take on the "software questions on CV" that come up very frequently and where do you draw the line and decide it should be migrated to SO or simply closed? Based on the review queue, it seems there is a lot of heterogeneity among the high-rep users in terms of what constitutes "off-topic" in this context and, with moderators having the ability to unilaterally close/migrate questions, this seems a natural question to ask.

(A1) Early on when I started using Cross Validated (4 months ago) I would say that this was one of my biggest complaints when I used the site. I come from a Bayesian statistics background and so the focus of my early questions tended to be on how could I achieve a computational result using R, and much to my chagrin, most of all of my questions were migrated to SO. having now gone through the pain of having a question migrated and/or closed I think I can fully understand why there is such a large debate on this topic.

For me, I believe that any question related to software questions should be allowed to stay on the site as long as it has statistical merit towards contributing to the overall CV community. Of course what warrants "statistical merit" is obviously open to debate but I do decisively know which software questions I would like to see migrated/closed. The questions that I do like to see closed (or have offense with) are ones that simply (although they are statistical in nature) ask how can I do this with software without giving a good/valid discussion of why they are trying to implement the software method or without at least writing out the mathematical formulas behind the software. I equate "how do I run this statistical model with software" to "how do I solve this homework problem," and so for me I want to see that the user knows why they are trying to use the software much like how I would like to see how a user has attempted to solve a homework problem they are working on.

Not to dwell on this question, but to me, there is a very big difference between "How do I fit the least square equations in R" and "How do I fit the least square equations $$\hat\beta=(X^TX)^{-1}X^Ty$$ in R so that I can show a linear association between my covariate $x$ and my response $y$." Questions like the former should be closed (or better improved upon so that they are not closed) where as question like the latter are right on topic for what a software question should be like.

(Q2) If you are elected moderator, what (specific, concrete!) changes would you like to see made to the way the site is currently administered and moderated? How do you view your role in effecting the proposed changes?

(A2) Having only been around for four months this is probably the hardest question on the list for me to answer. Honestly, everyday I am discovering new things about the CV website and community and so any proposed change I could think of probably already exist somewhere. With that said though, there does seem to be a clear issue with closing/migrating of certain types of questions that I think need to be addressed, however, a more concrete change I would like to see is a more strict answer posting guidelines/rules for self-study tags. I do not like seeing questions that are simply questions with no work or any indication that anything has been tried before an answer can be given. In fact, it would be nice if there was some way (perhaps a time limit) when questions get tagged with self-study that no one can post an answer for at least 1 hour (of course this time limit could be less) so only clues/hints could be given in the comments section to help avoid users from simply giving answers to receive reputation points. Hopefully my constant presence is now noticed within the CV community so I do believe that I would be effective in "policing" questions to make sure they are on-topic for the self-study tag and making sure that users abide by the suggested guidelines.

(Q3) How would you moderate situations where you find yourself disagreeing with official SE policy about something?

(A3) In my opinion I do not think that the title of moderator should allow oneself to be above official Stack Exchange (SE) policy, and so, just like any other user on SE I would use the meta Cross Validated (CV) site to address these concerns and turn the issue into a public forum so that everyone could weigh and voice their opinions. As a moderator I would want to work for the users of CV and put the best interest of the majority first rather than my own personal grievances. Additionally, after this election there will be 5 moderators on CV and I think that communication amongst the moderators (as well as the staff of SE) will be vital in resolving problems as well. Open dialogue will always be the key to success.

(Q4) 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?

(A4) Aren't I that user? But seriously, there is no place for arguments, flags, and or rude/mean behavior on Cross Validated (CV) (or the greater Stack Exchange (SE) network) regardless of the the value/worth that a user presents in their answers. I think it goes without saying that the Golden Rule should be in place just like anywhere else in life that we should treat others as we would like to treat ourselves. Having had my own personal experience with this on CV I do not think this will be an issue given that I have found this community to be one of the most supportive and friendliest people I have come to know in these short four months here.

(Q5) How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

(A5) Like I have expressed before, open dialogue is the key to solving most all problems. If I was to disagree with another moderator's action on CV I would definitely express my concern (in private) with said moderator and try to understand their point of view before taking any further action. Given the interactions I have had with the current moderators and the wonderful users of CV I think that expressing concerns over others actions will be an easy subject to broach with one another. Of course, if there are ever any problems with other moderators (and no other choices are left) then the topics/issues of concern could be raised on Meta CV and if still not resolved they would need be deferred to the greater gods of the SE -- the SE staff.

(Q6) What are your opinions about casting the deciding "moderator" vote on closing/opening questions? For example, if five non-moderator users have closed a question that you think should be left open, would you consider unilaterally re-opening it? Similarly, if a majority of reviewers have recommended that a question be left open (say 1 close vote and 3 "stay open" votes) under what circumstances would you decide to use your deciding close vote to override the majority?

(A6) I'll let you know when I get to 3000 reputation points...2 more days? :) Well I do not have the privilege yet to review opened/close votes yet so I am not to savvy on this topic. With that being said, I do feel strongly about moderators having unilateral power to reopen questions but perhaps erring on the side of group consensus when it comes to closing questions. I think this boils down to am I comfortable with making more type I errors or type II errors (oh stats humor, you've done it again) in that is worse to reopen a question when everyone agrees it should be closed, or is it worse to close a question when everyone agrees it should be reopened? I think the former is of less concern and that is why I think moderators should be able to reopen questions (hey if it gets shot down again after reopening then perhaps that is further evidence it should not have been open in the first place) but closing a question when it should have stayed opened (hmmm, insert all of those "software questions" here) seem like a bigger issue. At the end of the day we appoint moderators because we believe them to be ideal candidates to represent our beliefs and we should trust them with some unilateral power.

(Q7) What is your interpretation of the purpose of Cross Validated and how does this influence the way you choose to use the site as an ordinary user?

(A7) Like I said in my nomination statement, 2013 is the international year of statistics and I believe it is the duty of every statistician to help build a stronger more informed community for future statisticians. Cross Validated is my answer to this statement. Cross Validated helps bring together a great mishmash of people with different statistical backgrounds all with the common goal of providing excellent answers for helping advance the field of statistics. With this common goal in mind myself, I frequent Cross validated several times a day (it is 12:34 a.m. as I write this) in hopes of helping others figure out solutions to own statistical problems. Building a stronger statistics community through Cross Validated has now officially become an obsession of mine :)

(Q8) What kind of moderatorial experience, if any, have you had before (online or offline)? Can you give an example of a moderatorial issue that came up, how you had handled it, and how the community that you moderated viewed your handling of the situation?

(A8) I do not have any moderatorial experience as far as anything online other than the privileges that have been bestowed upon me by Cross Validated (CV) at each reputation milestone I have achieved. Outside of the online world, I have worked as a moderator (or perhaps more of a liaison) between clinicians and laboratory scientists. I worked as an applied statistician for 2 years at UCSF, and having been the only statistician in my department I was often times sole moderator on issues of statistical relevance for everybody in the department. I was responsible for helping lab techs design statistical studies, advised clinicians on interpretation of statistical models and results, and was overall the main source of statistical computing (in R). So as you can see I have a good amount of experience in the types of questions/topics that get presented on a day to day basis on CV.

(Q9) 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?

(A9) I am completely okay with having a diamond attached to everything I say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. I have the luxury of having only been around for 4 months so the diamond would not be attached to much past stuff, however, we elect our moderators knowing that they started from humble beginnings just like everyone else and so as long as a moderator makes progress day in and day out to contributing to the CV community I don't think a moderator's past will be something to dwell upon. For the record though, I do look much better in gold then diamonds...just saying.

(Q10) In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

(A10) I would assume that by the time anyone reaches 10k or (especially) 20k rep that they would essentially be contributing to Cross Validated at the same "standard" or "rate" as a moderator although without the official title. However, I think the title of moderator will make me a more effective user because it will keep me engaged in the CV community for the long haul. I would imagine that without the moderator status it could become easier to lose interest and/or disappear for extended periods of time but the status of moderator "guarantees" that the user should be held accountable for being a daily known presence in the CV community. Plus, a little recognition for all the hard work one puts in never hurt anybody :)

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    $\begingroup$ re (A4): You don't come even remotely close to the kind of behavior we are concerned about. (Moderators can see records of how many flags each user has received. The most memorable user has almost as many posts flagged as you have answers.) It's worth considering, too, that some of the most valuable and reputable members in a community (not just ours) have the most flagged posts: flags can indicate interest and controversy as well as bad things happening. $\endgroup$ – whuber Sep 24 '13 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Given you expressly call out self-study type questions, and we (understandably) don't have many meta answers of yours to go on, I'd be interested in your stance on a few of the self-study/homework related threads we have had. For example, meta.stats.stackexchange.com/questions/1556/… , which generated a fair amount of activity. $\endgroup$ – Fomite Sep 25 '13 at 16:43

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