2021 Moderator Election

nomination began
Oct 18 at 20:00
election began
Oct 25 at 20:00
election ended
Nov 2 at 20:00
candidates
6
positions
2

On Stack Exchange, we believe the core moderators should come from the community, and be elected by the community itself through popular vote. We hold regular elections to determine who these community moderators will be.

Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.

Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

Every election has three phases:

  1. Nomination
  2. Primary
  3. Election

Please participate in the moderator elections by voting, and perhaps even by nominating yourself to be a community moderator!

Additional Links

Questionnaire
The community team has compiled questions from meta for the candidates to answer.
  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?

[Answer 1 here]

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

[Answer 2 here]

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

[Answer 3 here]

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

[Answer 4 here]

  1. 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?

[Answer 5 here]

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

[Answer 6 here]

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

[Answer 7 here]

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

[Answer 8 here]

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

[Answer 9 here]

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site. Accepting moderator duties means doing less of the things you do daily. Many moderators don't feel like they have enough time to do their duties and still use the site like a normal user. That's fine - they are volunteers, after all; however, it does push moderator duties to the wayside. How do you feel about the fact that you will have less time to spend asking/answering questions, editing posts, commenting, etc.?

[Answer 10 here]

nitsua60

I have experience moderating the site, dealing fairly with users new and old, and representing rpgse users' concerns to our Stack Overlords. I think there's great people here creating something wonderful, and moderating the site is another way to contribute.

I have been notably quiet for the last ~18 mo., and I think that's worth explaining: when my day-job (teaching) became a sit-at-the-computer-all-day affair I couldn't spend any of my free/hobby time on a computer. I tried to play online spring 2020, but couldn't do it. Likewise with spending time in chat, taking time to compose thoughts on meta, or caring about the latest Q&A. "Get me away from this computer" was what my body and soul screamed at me, so I spent lots of time in the woods, on dirt roads, in dusty old churches' towers... anywhere there wasn't reception =)

Even a month ago (when I saw this election coming) I'd have said that I felt the same way. Then September came: I'm back in classrooms with students, I'm gaming on Friday nights with a group of friends and on Saturdays for my son and his friends and advising the school's rpg club, playing live music.... I'm back on an even keel.

Questionnaire
  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?

Arguments in comments can turn off other users, they set a bad example for how to interact here, they rarely (in my experience) revolve around improvements to their parent-post, and they lack the tooling that makes de-escalation and eventual understanding easier and likelier. {"Move all comments to chat" and then selectively undelete post-centric ones} is one of my favorite moderation-moves =)

That's an event: the larger pattern is a project to address. The first bit--noticing the pattern--is where the mod-room and other moderators come in handy. I habitually drop a line in the mod-room to say "hey all: user1234567 seemed to me to be bristly in [these comments], so I moved them along with [this admonition]. Sanity-check me?" It invites a second set of eyes to notice, to possibly correct my own read on things, and leaves bread crumbs for us to sift through later. (There are other mod-tools for this, but I'm a big fan of words-first techniques.)

When it comes to addressing something that multiple mods think is becoming a pattern of argumentation, the important thing I've learned is to "reset the clock." It's hard--but important--to remember that by the time it comes to asking a user to a private chat or mod-messaging them, we (moderators) have been digging back over flag-records, conversing in private chat, and even fielding general users' complaints for a while.

The user in question has, in all likelihood, just been living their life.

It's easy to come in hot saying "events 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 [all documented and linked] are causing us and other users concern, please modify behavior." But that's unfair to the user: that's when it's time to get back to their level of awareness of the problem and say "hey 1234567, it seems like you got annoyed when I moved your comments to chat the other day. Do you have a few minutes to chat about it some time?" Next level: "I'm concerned, because we're getting flags pretty frequently directed at you. Can we talk?" Next level (mod-message): "Here are some things that have the moderation team concerned (list some examples) for the following reasons (list reasons). Please stop doing X/start doing Y."

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

mod-chat> hey, other-mod: what was with question7654321? I'm not seeing whatever you saw.

That ^^ will solve 80% of those cases. The other 20% require "hey third-mod, other-mod and I aren't seeing eye-to-eye on this one. What do you think?" or "I'm still not feeling right about this one, can we throw it onto meta?"

The important thing, here, is that we moderators are seeing each other as people. I trust that the other moderator has some experience or interaction or perspective that I don't, and that they're acting to promote the users' and site's welfare. And I am, too. So, with time, we can sort it out. The question--as an artifact--isn't going anywhere, the action can be affirmed or reversed on another day.

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

Almost none of the closing/deleting on site has to be done by a moderator. (Sure, there's the occasional profane rant. We're happy to nuke those.) So the question of closure/deletion for moderators is generally one of making sure there's healthy conversation and consensus-building among privileged users around closure/deletion. This means being careful that Chat doesn't become a back-room cabal, but rather sometimes asking that chat-conversations about a question be taken to meta. It means keeping an eye on closures/deletions just in case there's a reason to comment-poke someone with "hey, can you let me in on what you were seeing here?" And--in what is sure to become a recurring theme--occasionally poking the other mods to say "sanity-check me: is closure causing problems, broadly?"

In the case that it is, Meta is the place to go. "We've noticed with close-reopen cycles. The trouble isn't the state of any particular question; it's the experience of a dozen (or more) reputable users disagreeing on how to use their votes, continuing to cast those votes in opposition to each other, and not coming to any sort of shared understanding about how to proceed. We need to see if there are any underlying features of principles that could-should guide votes in these cases...."

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

This is where my community-first, artifacts-second bias will rear its head: the first thing to do there is pump the brakes on the actions. Because edits or close-votes or re-tags... none of those are so urgent that they must proceed while there's community disagreement over what's going on. What's clearly evidenced by the situation described is incompatible understandings of site practices and rules; these take some time and conversation to sift through.

Meta, of course, is the place to sift through most of these things. I've got hundreds of posts on meta--from early ones that I'm almost embarrassed to see, now, all the way up to posts I wrote when a moderator asking for the community to help steer us. Take a look =)

(I'll mention that there's another resource that wise moderators learn to make good use of: the hundreds of other Network moderators, dozens of whom are (literally) always available in the cross-site mod room. While rpg.se may have local practices and customs that differ from other sites, it's super-helpful to have access to sanity-checks at any time of day from physics.se and bicycles.se and meta.se and ell.se and... and... and... mods.)

  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past.... How do you feel about that?

I'm alright with it. I had my chance to mod-abusively clean up my paper-trail, and I avoided the temptation. And having a diamond attached helps me remember to be cautious, patient, querulous, and kind: the long tail of eventual readers is the target audience, so my guiding principle is to always be presenting the sort of behavior I'd want users holding up as an example years from now.

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

mod-chat> hey, other-mod: user1234567 and I are bashing heads; I feel like I need to step away. Can you take this one over for me?

other-channel> user1234567: I don't feel like I'm getting something, here, and it's frustrating me and seems to be frustrating you. I've asked other-mod to tag in so that I can step back.

(And then: read on. Watch the new interaction. Ask questions of other-mod, privately. Reflect. Learn. Grow.)

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

I think my answer on the most recent Don't Guess the System go-around should give you a good sense of where I am. Or maybe a cursory sampling of times I've talked about 'policy' in chat. Basically: our few hard-and-fast policies are around harming people, and I've got no hesitation about stepping in to protect people. As for curating content, we've got practices. They've tended to serve us well, and they're always fair targets for re-thinking, re-explaining, re-considering.

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

Meta is where we talk for posterity. It should be the place where we can ask questions, explain practices, challenge assumptions, even express displeasure with moderation. I'm aware how few mainsite users ever visit meta (25K analytics: we're talking 0.5% the page-views of main); that's a good prompt for all of us to be better about linking metas in our comments and chat when we say "around here we tend to think it's better to do X...."

What meta does well? Hold the repository of discussions, allow for an extended discussion of a tricky issue, give users space and time to lay out reasoned positions. The flip-side of that is, of course, that it privileges those who're happy pontificating (he says, thousands of words into his nomination...). It's evidently low-traffic and small in active population. It can be a warren of conflicting-seeming layers of reconsiderations, at times. But it's the best we've been given.

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

Moderators qua moderators do the things that non-diamond users can't: they delete (lots of) comments, they handle abusive and profane posts/users swiftly (see "Why run in the first place?"), they investigate suspicious actions. They speak with authority when warning users that they're repeatedly violating site policies and norms, and they suspend users who don't respond to the site's progressively-less-gentle correction mechanisms.

But that ^^ is only about a third of the job. (And without all your comment-flags, it'd only be about 5% of the job.) Mostly, they spend time on "do you think user1234567's getting a little bossy in chat, or is that just me?" and on "these comment-quarrels over [your-tag-here] keep breaking out, let's draft a meta to air things out" and on "what do you mean, unprotected all the questions!?!?"

They represent the users and the small-site experience to the company. They keep abreast of company-workings and help keep the community informed of what's coming our way.

Honestly, I don't think I disagree with the SE Theory of Moderation. It's how I roll.

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site....

I would say that I'm currently not a power user. (Cf. introductory statement.) I won't be doing less of the things I do daily, I'd be committing to coming back to doing these things daily. I considered it a (happy) duty of my moderation to be commenting on posts and reading (and responding lots to) the entirety of General Chat and interacting with every meta post. (Protip: moderators get an inbox notification for every meta created, and it's a game-changer.)

Plus, I'm gaming again. In a new (to me) system. So I'll probably have questions, too =)

NationWidePants

I spend much of my time playing D&D and have a fair knowledge on the topic, but knowledge on topics is just as valid and necessary as temperance and an understanding that much of the job of a moderator is recognizing conflict within the platform and resolving said conflict. Moderators are a defense against the platform getting out of hand and ruining content, community, and continuity of truths held by the community.

Questionnaire
  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 attempt to maintain a fair and unbiased approach to any conflict, believing that any opinion has a point of view that may differ from my own. As such I believe the flags would require review and an understanding behind the motivation to identify the reasons. After discussing the issue with other moderators I would find a means by which to approach the situation to make the user aware of their actions as they concern others on the platform so that they might temper their actions to better suit the platform.

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

If an action has been taken by others to modify, close, or delete content I would discuss the motivation behind such action with the person that did it, identify the differences between my motivation to keep the content and their motivation to change or remove the content. If I still disagree with the motivation I would discuss potential changes to see if we might resolve the issues without hurting the platform. If other moderators need to get involved for consensus then I would bring them in to see if we could arrive at a viable conclusion to the discussion.

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

With more power comes more responsibility, not to go too Uncle Ben on the topic. I would temper my actions and try to view things from "what is best for the community", "would this have value to anyone even if I see no value in it", and "does that content meet other criteria for closing that goes beyond the contents value" meaning does the content contain offensive or approach in a more crass manner.

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

As stated before, I maintain a tempered approach. I believe people should express a freedom on the platform to benefit us all.

As John Stuart Mill stated in On Liberty:

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

  1. 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?

Before a diamond was attached to a post my name was attached to a post. Should I have more qualms with a symbol being added to a post than my own name already had? I do not feel uneasy as it isn't a change in who I am, merely a change in duty and temperance.

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

I will discuss the matter with the community and other moderators, but ultimately the moderators are the deciding factor and we should help the community develop in adherence with policy and our personal and professional ethics.

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

I interpret policy with fluidity. Policy is an outline of what ought be done in ideal circumstances, but does not require strict adherence.

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

Meta is very good at generating discussions related to policy, but can be muddied with unrelatrd emotional investments from various posts and content. I've seen all too often the toll of the emotional investment when users have posted to Meta, but as with everything else, a moderator must view all aspects of an argument to truly understand why a user, or group of users, hold a specific opinion.

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

Moderators are more than "human exceptions handlers". I believe in guiding the community, policy, and helping people on the platform directly, not merely moderating content. We aren't just moderators, we're also members so we should be enhancing content and aiding growth of the community, from the role of moderator.

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site. Accepting moderator duties means doing less of the things you do daily. Many moderators don't feel like they have enough time to do their duties and still use the site like a normal user. That's fine - they are volunteers, after all; however, it does push moderator duties to the wayside. How do you feel about the fact that you will have less time to spend asking/answering questions, editing posts, commenting, etc.?

The duty of a moderator is to enhance the community and aid in growth. Every member of a society has a role to play and moderating content is the role of a moderator.

I commit myself to maintaining the rpg.se's quality by janitorial cleaning - that is one of two reasons that inspired me to run for moderator.

Second, we need diverse experiences and perspectives to have constructive dialogues by diversifying our human/moose resources to understand where somebody else is coming from and complementing the internal and external dialogue. I enter here.

Before I answer your questions, let me share one of my guiding principles:

Whatever the situation, there are no right words. There are high-grade choices and less suitable ones. It is futile to think that everyone will understand you if, and only if you find the right words. In that sense, misunderstanding and hurt is a condition of communication and assuming good faith as a baseline keeps these misunderstandings conducive to learning.

Questionnaire
  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?

Generally, our community has a high standard of behaviour, we should assume good faith, and it is imperative that we keep it up. The code of conduct is our most important set of rules, and enforcing it to maintain a safe environment is our most important duty. The tools that I hope we will most often employ are small scale discussions that check-in with the user in question and sometimes with the users that raise the flags - these initially happen away from people. If these discussions do not work out, I will use all tools available to uphold our code of conduct. In other cases, flags and disagreements are bound to accrue for people who interface visibly and frequently with the site. Understanding if these are healthy differences or items that we must act on takes a lot of listening and evaluation over time and careful contemplation about actions on a case by case basis with tailored tool usage.

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

I start the process by reflecting. Asking myself whether I don't understand where they are coming from and if my stance is better for the site. If necessary, I approach them by an internal conversation, and these two steps should resolve the absolute majority of cases - especially after involving the rest of our team. I may consult with other community members, and in acute situations, I start a meta.

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

I'm aware of who participates to what degree in the review queues and what moderation actions come from our active moderation and review community of fewer than 25 (changing) members. I'm aware of the scope of the problem, and I have no clean-cut solution to it. So far, the kinds of discussions that we had were only partially successful and featured behaviour that violated the code of conduct directly or indirectly by dismissing issues raised. The interpretation of close and delete guidelines will be a continuous source of disagreement and necessary communication. I want to ensure that these community discussions continue - but happen with less antagonising - and that the community leads them as long as that is viable.

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

See my answer to 1. In addition:

Harassment from a group of users targeted at an active user whose actions are contributory is problematic. It is also telling that we encounter a disconnect that we will have to understand and discuss. Larger groups may rally around misconceptions or perceptions of issues that we have not yet crystallised as problematic. In either case, as diamond moderators, we have to inquire.

  1. 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?

Unhappy, but that is the kind of sacrifice that one makes to volunteer for this position. Community members, and their context of what the diamond moderator role entails, will recontextualise every meaning of my words and behaviour. But I'm confident in my words and actions that they entail significantly more good than the risk of my mistakes will cause injustice, and they surely will. I do not see myself as the lowest risk option or the best option among our user base for this position. However, my moderation actions as a non-diamond moderator have shown that my stance is not one of "sides" and one that takes input from others - which I actively seek out, often bluntly.

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

I will apply my best judgement, and if that conflict involves my actions and requires immediate resolution, different users will have to check my efforts, as I will always lack the necessary distance. Generally, I will have to take my time, listen, read between the lines and trust my gut. Sometimes I will fail to understand some things, but I have a community that backs me up and may outline my faults.

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

I have four terms that I will contextually define based on question three as an example in an unexhaustive manner. 1. Rules, 2. Policy, 3. Best practice guidelines, 4. Site practice.

Our rules (that we enforce with the threat of consequences) inform our entire userbase about what content requires immediate action and will occasionally lead to restrictions, suspensions, or account deletion.

Our rules entail (flagging and) deleting spam, malicious content, and rude/abusive content, gibberish, incorrect language and noise (questions/comments/thank you notes etc.) posted as answers. Generally, we have very few of these firmly enforced rules.

A policy is a statement of intent that we enforce with the threat of consequences. We create policies by deliberating them on meta. Functionally we enforce these site-specific policies like our rules but may re-deliberate and change them and adjust them as needed to handle complex and evolving issues where our best practice guidelines failed to deliver results that we could navigate as a community. We delete links to pirated material (and fix the answer consequently), and we delete homebrew-review question iterations that the querent posts before a 72-hour-interval concludes.

Best practice guidelines are the result of meta-discussions, whether on rpg.meta.se or meta.se. Generally, how we apply them is up to the users. Some guidelines come with strong community expectations. We should delete entirely incomprehensible answers or link-only answers that aren't worth editing because of redundant information that appears in a different answer, or the link rotted away, and the information is irretrievable. But we also expect community members to improve these posts when possible, such as adding information from behind the link or downvoting wrong answers and leaving a comment.

We have more or less complex snapshot (time, place, context) discussions on meta sites. Sometimes we form a strong consensus about how to act in certain situations, and other times we are in the realm of many nuanced intricacies. Sometimes something doesn't work, and we have to create policies as a stop-gap measure to address an issue that otherwise hinders our site from functioning.

Site practice is the total sum of all actions for a particular activity, including those that go against site policies and best practice guidelines. Site practice also creates a set of expectations about how to navigate situations by constantly applied actions. Many of these, often unspoken, expectations are even more firmly rooted in the decision-making of community members than our policies or best practice guidelines, and sometimes this clash of expectations creates conflict.

I assume if you align with these unexhaustive definitions and deem them appropriate - even if uncomplete, or unexhaustive -, then you share my stance that we need rules to limit our basic social interactions (be nice, or we will show you out), policies that keep our site running until we re-evaluate them (never guess the system), and best practice guidelines to help us understand and navigate complex situations from the perspective of various snapshots of discussions in their specific context.

I think this outline should somewhat illustrate the tl;dr:

The fewer policies we need, the better, but when we need them, we should have them, and when we can re-evaluate them, we should also do so.

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

Meta is where the minority of the core community, and rarely other members, has snapshot discussions and votes about features, site workings, moderation topics, bugs and a whole host of other matters we intend to stay for posteriority. Among many different issues, we also use it to host our faq. Meta practice differs from site practice, and we bring site issues to meta to hopefully resolve them. Meta is good at providing a library of matters that we discussed. Searching and navigating meta can be difficult. The meta-structure of copying the main-site voting system mirrors the general failings of the StackExchange model and amplifies these issues of gamified ranking and competition to impact the experience of the entire user base with its tremendous reach when it comes to enforcement and the consequences thereof.

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

My idea of moderation aligns with the theory of moderation and especially the re-visited 2018 essay "Our Theory of Moderation, Re-visited" except for a few expectations:

No one is capable of impartiality - we always require others to check our actions and ground our assessments. Moderators are not mentors in their role as moderators. They are mentors in their role as community members.

In this sense, I hope you will trust me and my judgement large scale, even when we disagree about specific issues.

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site. Accepting moderator duties means doing less of the things you do daily. Many moderators don't feel like they have enough time to do their duties and still use the site like a normal user. That's fine - they are volunteers, after all; however, it does push moderator duties to the wayside. How do you feel about the fact that you will have less time to spend asking/answering questions, editing posts, commenting, etc.?

I've been a power user of moderation activities (second most helpful flags site-wide - that would be eight marshall badges, highest participation in the new review queues, more than 1800 review-queue activities etc.). I assume I will leave more comments to communicate a transparent and accountable self. Due to binding votes, I will reduce my activity in edge cases where more than one person should vote. Some of the activities that I quietly do will be more visible.



Oblivious Sage

I'm Oblivious Sage. I am the top reviewer in most review queues. I go a full day without logging into the site about once every 18 months. I am in the top 20 for meta participation (disclaimer: I have no idea how this is calculated), and the top 10 for meta voting. You may not see me very often, but that is because I am largely content to lurk and do the background work of keeping the site running (voting, reviewing, etc). To my knowledge, nobody has beef with me regarding how the site is being, or should be, run.

Questionnaire
  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?

A repeated source of good answers is a valuable contributor to the community; the only thing better is repeated source of good questions. That said, we are a community and if someone is generating discord, that needs to be addressed.

First, just because the user's comments are being flagged does not necessarily mean they are at fault; it takes two to have an argument. Moderators should focus on defusing/preventing conflict, not on assigning blame.

Fortunately, people who repeatedly post are usually pretty easy to get hold of, so the first course of action is to discuss the matter with any problem users in a private chat. Ideally, the occasional warning like this will keep things from getting out of hand (a certain amount of arguing & flagging is inevitable in a community where we consider a topic as subjective as roleplaying games). If not, however, moderators should be willing to employ short-term suspensions to cool things down. Long-term suspensions or permanent bans should be used only when a user has become a net negative to the site.

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

I would discuss the matter with them in that question or on the Meta. My feeling is that mods should be willing to disagree publicly just like normal users. They merely need to act in unison, so one mod should pretty much never revert another mod's actions. If mod A closes a question and mod B disagrees, the appropriate resolution is for mod A & mod B to discuss the matter, ideally in the question so that other users can participate in the discussion, and if mod A changes their mind (or is overruled by all other mods), then they should be the one to re-open the question.

The only diamond mod discussion that needs to happen in private is discussion about matters that should be private to one of the parties involved.

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

In general, moderators should feel free to participate in discussions about these topics (mods are still users of the site, after all) but should avoid acting unless it is necessary to break up a heated discussion or end an edit war. If community members disagree about the guidelines, or their application to a specific question, the appropriate resolution for that is a discussion on Meta, not a moderator unilaterally settling the matter.

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

A moderator's first impulse should always be to get people to go discuss whatever they're up in arms about on Meta. Other action should only be taken when one or more parties refuse to discuss the matter or when said discussion turns into actual conflict.

  1. 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?

Haha, joke's on you: as a lurker, I have no past. *maniacal laughter* Seriously, though, I don't think this will have a big impact on me. I might be a bit less snarky, but overall I don't think my posts will bring shame on my diamond (or vice versa).

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

As mentioned above, mods should feel free to voice their opinion in discussions about how a given situation should be handled. They should only act when that discussion gets too heated or turns into an edit war.

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

I think there are benefits to having a clear set of guidelines; if nothing else, it's easier to turn new users into valuable contributors if we can point them to a clear set of rules describing what things are encouraged and what things are forbidden. If the community doesn't like one of those guidelines, we can change it. That's the beauty of the Stack Exchange system and Meta.

The recent revisit of the policy on guessing the system is an example of something we should be more willing to do (any specific topic should probably only be revisited once a year or so). That said, just because someone doesn't like a policy doesn't mean it doesn't apply to them; when Meta reaches a consensus, then that's the policy on that matter (until we change our minds).

One thing I think we should be more willing to do on Meta, however, is trust on-the-spot judgement. A Meta policy doesn't need to be a hard-and-fast rule that tries to cover all situations; it's OK for the policy to be "this type of thing is generally OK, and that type of thing is generally not OK, and if a particular question falls in a gray area then we can decide how to handle that question on its own without trying to shoehorn it into this policy".

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

Meta should be at the center of site governance and community moderation. If you've got 5 comments on a question/answer debating some site action on it (close/delete/etc) then take it to Meta instead of posting a 6th comment. I think our main problem with Meta is that we don't use it enough (that is, there are questions that get discussed where that discussion would benefit from a move to Meta, and policies that are contentious that would benefit from being revisited in Meta rather than repeatedly skirmished over in individual main-site questions). That said, the extended comment chains that Meta allows/encourages are more vulnerable than the main site to discussions turning to the Dark Side (anger -> hate -> suffering).

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

Honestly, SE's Theory of Moderation works pretty well; I might even go so far as to say that it's played as large a role in SE's success as the Q/A format has. RPG.SE actually might be small enough for a single power user, or a small group of them, to handle all site moderation, but 1) they have to sleep some time, and 2) that kind of active involvement can easily lead to the appearance (or reality) of a dictatorship/oligarchy, which can drive away members of the community. Spreading site moderation across all users with a track record of positive interactions with the site makes moderation faster, fairer, and visibly fairer. That in turn allows a small moderator team to simply focus on the occasional cases where the community moderation isn't resolving matters smoothly or where rapid unilateral action is appropriate (spam & abuse, primarily).

The one area where I maybe disagree, not so much with the theory of moderation as with the actual implementation of it, is that I feel diamond mods should be capable of casting "normal" (non-unilateral 1 of 5) close/reopen votes on questions. Unilateral action is needed when site moderation by normal members is not working correctly. Sometimes that moderation is working correctly and a moderator merely wishes to weigh in as a member of the community; if mods are, in fact, members of the community then they should retain that capability. I single out close/reopen here because in my experience that makes up the lion's share of discussion; discussions on the editing or deletion of a question/answer are less common.

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site. Accepting moderator duties means doing less of the things you do daily. Many moderators don't feel like they have enough time to do their duties and still use the site like a normal user. That's fine - they are volunteers, after all; however, it does push moderator duties to the wayside. How do you feel about the fact that you will have less time to spend asking/answering questions, editing posts, commenting, etc.?

Non-diamond moderation is already my primary interaction with the site, so...

Thomas Markov

Hello all, I am Thomas Markov. I've been visiting the site daily for nearly two years, and have been an active participant for about a year and a half. In that time, I've accumulated a respectable curriculum vitae which includes nearly 80,000 rep from over 1000 posts on the main site, as well as significant activity starting and participating in discussions on meta.

I care deeply about what we are doing here on RPG Stack Exchange. We have built a space unlike any other on the whole internet; a space where we can expect high quality answers to high quality questions, about the games that we love. Stack Exchange built the framework, sure, but we the people have given life to this place by talking to one another, by having open dialogue about what we're good at, what we're bad at, and what we need to change.

These are the things I want to work to preserve and improve as a moderator - high quality Q&A powered by lively community discussions about what works, and what doesn't. This is what I have been doing basically since I got here, and I think serving you as moderator will further equip me to pursue these goals together with all of you.

Questionnaire
  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 would first want to get the perspective of the other moderators: am I seeing something that isn't really there? And to double check myself, I would want to do a deeper dive into the flag history and the context of those flags, just to be sure there really is a meaningful trend, rather than just a few islands of conflict here and there viewed through the lens of selection bias.

Once we have determined there is something going on, the standard treatment we prescribe for GMs having problems at the table applies to moderation: talk to them. And this first conversation looks just like the first conversation with a problem player: talk to them without accusation, being prepared to do more listening than talking. From there, we'll just have to see how it goes. First principles are easy to put to paper here, but a specific course of action will be specific to the situation

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

Once again, the RPG.SE canned advice rings true: talk to them. What am I missing? This is the beauty of a plurality of moderators - we will all see things the others don't. And when we disagree, this is okay, we have others we can defer to, such as other moderators and community opinion. But the important thing here is that we communicate, and continue to communicate. This is a lesson I had to learn upon getting my first gold tag badge. I typically try to drop a line in chat asking other users to check behind me when I unilaterally close a question as a duplicate, because a back and forth series of dupe hammers without communication doesn't work.

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

I'm going to start sounding like a broken record here, and this isn't the last time in this questionnaire I'm going to recompile this answer: communicate with one another. And we should have this conversation on two different levels. The first, we must communicate about whatever specific situation has come up. And on this point, I must admit my failure. I contributed a delete vote to a post, the post deletion was reversed, and I contributed a delete vote a second time. My failure wasn't that I voted to delete the post, my failure was that I didn't communicate with anyone about it until after I had voted to delete it (twice!). Approaching this as a moderator, the work flow is essentially the same as my answer for (2) above. Communicate early and often.

The second level we need to communicate on is after a particular issue has been resolved. We need to be open to the idea our written guidance needs to be improved. Of course, we cannot account for every situation imaginable, but our experiences should inform how we move forward, both personally, and as a community through our written guidelines.

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

The general solution here is the same as the last three answers, talk about it. But this one hits differently. With any position of authority, there will come a time when you have to make a decision that people are going to disagree with. This is one of those times. Once I have checked and rechecked the necessary data (CoC, help center), and consulted with SE Staff, it's time to tell the people that I won't be taking any action here and that it is time to move on. As much as is permitted, explain the decision (not sure if the mod agreement would restrict mentioning the consultation with a CM), and kindly ask the users not to escalate the issue anymore unless there are new substantive developments that require further attention.

  1. 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?

Generally, I feel okay about this. I'm happy to admit when I was wrong or when I could have handled something better. I'm sure there are some things in my 2000+ comments that are currently up that I wish I hadn't said, and if you point them out I'll give apologies where apologies are due and delete the comments or edit the posts.

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

Welcome to Variations on a Theme, featuring Thomas Markov. Tonight's theme: communication. Being a moderator puts you into the position of having your votes be up to five times as powerful. Something that once required input from five users, now only requires your sole input. So get input from other users when taking action (or considering it)! Leave a comment and drop a line in chat, asking others to check your work. And if I find there is no clear direction given from consulting a few others, I'll do what I usually do and take it to meta. I like meta.

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

RPG.SE is like the human body. Our stack needs guidelines and policies in the same way the human body needs healthy lifestyle choices and medicine. The general approach to good health you want to aim for is minimizing the need for medicines and procedural interventions through maximizing healthy lifestyle choices. Medicine and surgery certainly have their place in healthcare - they are for when the body gets so out of order that healthy lifestyle choices alone present significant challenges for reordering homeostasis. The stack is the same way. We want to minimize our need for policy by maximizing the helpfulness of our written guidelines. We use policies where guidance fails to put things into good order.

I put this perspective into practice in my proposal to repeal the Don't Guess the System Policy. Garnering the support of the broader community, the policy was repealed, and replaced with robust guidance for navigating questions that were once handled according to a black and white policy: What should I do when a question does not specify the game system being used? The policy was medicine that treated a particular set of symptoms well. As those symptoms went away, and negative side effects of the medicine started to show up, the community opted to come off the medicine and institute some guidance for managing the sticky wicket that is underspecified questions.

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

The set of active users on meta (meta users) are a proper subset of the active users on main (main users), who are in turn a proper subset of the broader viewership of the main site. Meta serves sort of as the war room for the meta users. It is where we discuss ideas and strategies for engaging with users and content on the main site. The meta users come to a consensus on some guidance or policy, and then they take that to main to put into practice. From here, it's a matter of asking ourselves, "did what we came up with on meta actually work?" When it works, we keep doing it till it doesn't, and when it doesn't work we talk about it some more.

So what does meta do well? It tells us when the ideas on the table represent the consensus of the meta users. It also tells when we need new ideas because the ideas on the table have failed to garner consensus. It also preserves our ideas for future review. "Let's try this." "We tried it already five years ago, it didn't work." "Well the community is different in these ways now, so it might work this time." "Okay let's try it again."

Where might meta be harmful? Meta cannot actually tell us something will work on the main site, and pretending that it does puts the cart before the horse. And I'm guilty of this. "Meta says this, so I'm going with this", even though it is clear that this isn't working on main. Meta is not how we decide what works, it is how we decide what to try until we find something that actually works on main.

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

When it comes to the day-to-day work, I think "as little as possible" approach for moderators is on the right track. But there is something that is not mentioned in the Theory of Moderation article, at least, not explicitly mentioned, that fits into my personal ideal for a moderator.

The position of moderator is a position for giving direction and leadership to the community at large. And I don't mean telling people how things are going to be (except when you probably have to as in question 4). I mean things like facilitating high stakes meta discussions. And we see our mods doing this already in how they have handled all of the iterations of the Don't Guess the System policy discussion and various on and off topic discussions on meta. Such high stakes discussions benefit from a measured and calculated question framing that comes out of a moderator team working together to provide a controlled environment for those discussions. I don't think the Theory of Moderation article addresses this specifically, but maybe those high stakes meta discussions are the kinds of exceptions moderators are well equipped to handle.

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site. Accepting moderator duties means doing less of the things you do daily. Many moderators don't feel like they have enough time to do their duties and still use the site like a normal user. That's fine - they are volunteers, after all; however, it does push moderator duties to the wayside. How do you feel about the fact that you will have less time to spend asking/answering questions, editing posts, commenting, etc.?

I'll be honest here, there's a picture of me in the dictionary next to the entry for "rpg.se power user". There's enough Thomas on main that the site will do just fine with less Thomas on main, even a lot less. And I'm okay with this. There was a time when I cared much more about the game elements of the stack, but that was many tens of thousands of rep and many hundreds of badges ago. It will be easy to prioritize mod duties.

willuwontu

I'm willuwontu. Typically I stick to and as those are the systems I enjoy and have some knowledge of. I eat, I breathe, I live, and sometimes think. I've got my own set of opinions that I sometimes express. Sometimes they differ from others, sometimes they're the same. Life continues on.

I'm stepping up to the plate, simply because I don't feel the current candidates are the right ones for the job, and realized if I don't put myself out there, they might be the ones we end up with.


I originally rescinded my nomination due to thinking that there were other decent choices for nominators, that I in good conscience could vote for. I have since changed my mind and re-nominated myself again.

Questionnaire
  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 look into the situation for anything that may have been missed before talking to the user. If the problem persists, moderation actions would be performed. No matter how valuable their answers may be, a community member who causes issues should be dealt with if they continue to cause problems.

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

I'd talk to them off to the side and potentially see about fixing the question to address their concerns, but unless it was something I felt strongly about, or thought was particularly egregious, I'd leave it be. I trust my fellow mods to have good judgement, even if they may not share the same views as me, and I'd hope they feel likewise about my own judgements.

  1. One of our recurring stress points recently within the community has been over differences in how different community members interpret close and delete guidelines. As a diamond moderator, you'll be navigating this issue from a position of additional authority. How do you think you'd approach this situation?

Honestly, I think I'd have to watch what I say too much in this position, as the diamond provides extra weight to my words and I'd want to speak as a community member rather than a mod. I guess the best way to start would be to look into the situation and see what the issues are before deciding on my own opinion. I'd talk to my fellow mods to help build up our collective viewpoint, before letting whichever one of us had our view aligned most closely with our final decision be the one to talk to the community while the others back them up. Afterwards, I'd do my best to follow those guidelines when going forward.

  1. Recently we had a situation where one user was performing a series of actions that the community disagreed with; users regularly flagged these actions and complained to moderators to do something about it. However, based on the Code of Conduct, Help Center, and consultation with a CM, it was clear that the single user's actions were not the problem. As a moderator, how would you handle a situation where you receive repeated requests from a large group of users to take action on something that doesn't require moderator intervention? Or worse, a situation where the action they are requesting is the wrong one (as it was in this case)?

In this case, despite the user being in the right, I'd talk with the rest of the team before talking to the user and letting them know that they're causing issues. As I stated in #1, if they're causing friction within the community, the right step is still to take action to remove that friction so the community is better off as a whole. If that means losing a valuable member, then so be it.

  1. 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?

Shrugs Alright I guess? I stand by what I say. While my thoughts may change occasionally, if you bring up words from the past, I've said them and there's no denying that. Now if someone tries to twist what my words mean and brings them forward with intent of harm, that's a different story. But such is life.

  1. During moderation, you'll run into conflicts with community members over how to handle a situation. Unlike them, you'll have unlimited capacity to unilaterally close, reopen, delete, undelete, etc. In your view, what's the proper way to handle a situation like this as it escalates (though it hopefully doesn't)?

In my opinion, unless it's something that's viewed as necessary or obvious (like spam), as a moderator, I should not be casting votes at such a point that they would have a different outcome than normal. While I may disagree with community members over how something should be handled, I'll let it be unless it's something I particularly object to, and in that case I'll talk to my fellow mods before doing anything.

  1. In the past four years, the defense of "It's policy!" has been harmful to the user experience on this site. Do you believe RPGSE needs best practices and guidelines, or policies? Please explain.

I don't believe a blind fanaticism to the calls of policy and best practices is a good thing. Nor do I believe a stubborn opposition to them is a good thing either. A good policy is something that guides the user in what they do, but not blindly. Instead, I believe in the need for critical thinking by community members in how those policies are applied and where they're relevant.

However, these policies have been shaped by input from the community, so there is often good reason behind them. Therefore, I'd expect good reasons from users who ignore them or directly contradict them. If a user's actions are always in opposition of them, I'd make a note of them as a source of potential trouble.

  1. In your view, what role should Meta have in guiding and governing site practice and community moderation? What do you see Meta doing well, and where do you see that it may be harmful?

Meta is a platform that should be used to help highlight issues in the community, as well as facilitate discussion among community members to help solve them (means of solving them may involve guidelines or policies being laid out, but not necessarily). I think that Meta does a decent job of this, but the issue is that it requires the community involvement for such things to occur, and only a small portion of the community actually participates in Meta (or elections).

  1. What is your - personal - idea of ideal moderation and in what ways does it conflict with Stack Exchange's A Theory of Moderation?

The ideal moderator is one who knows all, sees all, and can act when needed while taking precisely the steps needed to resolve the situation. Obviously, this is not me. I feel that while the theory of moderation is good, and agree with most of it, it fails to understand that moderators are members of the community as well. While I may attempt to demonstrate impartiality and fairness, I will have biases at points in time. That's why I think it's important to have multiple moderators, so they can talk with each other and do their best to have an impartial view about things when they pull away.

  1. Often moderators are power users of the site. Accepting moderator duties means doing less of the things you do daily. Many moderators don't feel like they have enough time to do their duties and still use the site like a normal user. That's fine - they are volunteers, after all; however, it does push moderator duties to the wayside. How do you feel about the fact that you will have less time to spend asking/answering questions, editing posts, commenting, etc.?

If that's what occurs, then so be it. Despite how much I wish it to be true, I cannot duplicate myself, nor manipulate time at my leisure. I'll still find time to answer things, and I'll still take other time to relax and be away from the site even after becoming a moderator.


Replies to comments

"No matter how valuable their answers may be, a community member who causes issues should be dealt with if they continue to cause problems." Given that your stated moderation style seems to be I will do what I feel is right, what would you define as causing problems? is someone who posts controversial answers and gets a lot of flags/arguments as a result necessarily a target for moderation? If they aren't breaking any of the meta rules but are having those things leveraged against them will you follow what the rules say or will you go with your own bias?

-IT Alex

It wholly depends on the situation. If they're generating large numbers of flags wholly from controversial answers and frame challenges, then I'll clear the flags and ask people to stop flagging over what is actually an answer. If they're continually arguing with others though, that's a red flag and a point at which I'd look into the situation (maybe it's not just them who's causing the arguments but a core group of users who dislike them), before stepping in to talk to them about calming down and avoiding being baited into arguments. I'd also remind the others involved in the arguments that they should avoid causing or getting involved in them. Any further actions would come after discussion with my fellow mods if this continues to be an issue.

To be clear, having discussions about things is not an issue, discussions that escalate into arguments are an issue as they cause friction within the community and can lead to larger issues later on. That is why someone who generates a lot of arguments on a regular basis would be raising a red flag for me, and why I'd want to step in before the situation got more serious.

If the person is not breaking any meta rules, and is not someone who is causing troubles for the community in other ways (i.e. constantly being involved in arguments), then I'll wholly protect them, even if I may disagree with them over issues. If they're not, I'll talk with my fellow moderators before any action is taken against them.

This election is over.