The following is a "digest" version of the 2012 Moderator Election Town Hall Chat. The format, as described on Meta Stack Overflow, is one answer to this question for every question asked in the Town Hall, containing all the candidate's answers to that question.

To view the digest chronologically, please sort the answers by "oldest".

If you have questions or comments about this, please do not answer this question as the answers are designed to be used for the questions from the Town hall itself. Instead, please ask on the parent question or in the Town Hall Discussion Room.

If you see any corrections which need to be made to this digest, or if you were a candidate who was unable to attend the town hall and would like your answers included, please @Rebecca or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!

  • I completely forgot about this. I would have liked to have been there and asked a couple of questions. Oh well. I digest the answers and see if there's anything else I want to add.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 14:48

13 Answers 13


Roger Attrill http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/ad48679f7618bce2dde8d4e23403b1ef?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Roger Attrill asked: I'd like to ask what the candidates opinion on fun is in the context of fun questions - mindful of the fact that I saw Joel speaking in person here in Cambridge (UK) a couple of nights ago and he felt quite strongly on the topic. So - how should fun questions be handled?

Rahul http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/11b5be85d5d080e819a2531d4dd3f4fb?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rahul answered: Like I mentioned in my nomination text, I think we need more of them - the current set of questions on the site doesn't represent the profession very well because it's very "dry". Although we have a lot of interesting questions and answers, some of the best trafficked ones are the fun ones, like the rotating 3d cube question (and your answer) because it shows inventiveness, creativity and originality, which I think are important skills for UX designers.

Rahul http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/11b5be85d5d080e819a2531d4dd3f4fb?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rahul continued: So it's definitely something we should address by allowing such questions and actively encouraging more of them

Jon W http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/99fe25a522e50997d75b8ae95cea19a4?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Jon W answered: UX is a very subjective, and therefore personal subject. It's not all facts and figures and we all work in this field because we enjoy it. Provided it's fun in the correct context (i.e. at least related to UX) then I'm fine with it. I wouldn't want to encourage too much of it - it's a professional site after all, not a Subreddit - but fun questions and responses mean better chance or them being shared externally and therefore bringing in people from outside the site.

dnbrv http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/0299470f4dcad8b4d79fd01c5dc7be4a?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG dnbrv answered: If by fun you mean the infamous cube then they certainly have a place here. They are a great subject for conversations outside of the site, which means they can bring more traffic.


Roger Attrill Roger Attrill asked: For the current non-moderators: How much time do you expect to spend on the site as moderator, and will this affect the excellent participation so far in terms of your own questions and answers. ie is moderation an additional exercise or a replacement one - or somewhere in between?

Jon W Jon W answered: I have UX.SE open on my browser at work almost all the time, and when off-site I have access on my iphone. The same with at home. I'm there frequently even if i'm not posting. I review posts regularly, even if 99% of the time no changes need to be made. The moderation is just an extension of that. 3 moderators isn't a huge number, so I'd need to be available slightly more often than currently, but the means and motive to do this are both simple.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: I expect to spend as much time as I currently do or a little more; which is to say one-multiple daily visits. Since I already watch for problematic questions and raise the issue in chat, comments or flag problematic posts I don't expect moderation duties to significantly impact my contributions to the site.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: I might dedicate an hour or two specifically for moderation but other than that I'm not expecting significant changes in my participation because of the new duties (I vote & comment regularly already).


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What do you think the moderator's role is in community building? Should they stick to the janitorial duties, or be actively involved in the decision making process and promotion of the site?

dnbrv dnbrv answered: That's a part of my "platform": a moderator should promote the community whenever and wherever possible.

Jon W Jon W answered: For new posters I think that we need to be more lenient to the 'noob' questions, we need to get these people into the site. Encourage them to post, even let some dupes / woolly questions and answers through if it means we can get people into the site. However the longer these people are around the less we should let inappropriate questions/answers through.

Rahul Rahul answered: I don't think "janitorial duties" is a good way to describe what we do. Regardless of our intentions, what we effectively do is mould the site through our actions, so we should be aware of that and regard ourselves more as shepherds than just people who clean Q&A up. As such you can't help but be involved in every facet of the site, because it all contributes to the common goal of keeping the right shape.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: Moderators set the tone of discussion and should be a good, representative face for the community. I feel a moderator that participates actively in contributing good content to the site serves as a great example.


Christofian Christofian asked: What do you think is the most important rule that a moderator enforces?

Jon W Jon W answered: Respect each other. We're all here to learn about the subject, and we learn that primarily from each other, not textbooks. Keep arguments from boiling over into too many comments that everyone has to read, that's not appropriate. Move it to Chat instead.

Rahul Rahul answered: I don't think in terms of rules or enforcement - I don't see us as policing the community, but helping shepherd it, like I mentioned in reply to Rebecca's question. So I can't distinguish which is "most important" - I'd say that one of the most important things mods do is keep things on the right track as lieutenants of Stack Exchange Inc. I try to do what I think is best given a set of guidelines.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: Within the community, a moderator is foremost the "maintenance guy". I don't like the term "janitor" because that implies primarily clean up. A moderator is supposed to make sure that the conversations are civilized, on topic, and of quality. Thus, it's not only cleaning up bad content but also helping others improve bad content.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: When to close a controversial question (some thing it's on topic and some disagree), because that's really when the line in the sand is drawn for the tone or topic of a site


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What is the main problem (including problems on how users use the site) that you actually see in the site you would be moderating, if you are elected moderator?

Jon W Jon W answered: Now that it's out of beta there are lots more users coming in, many posting 'do my work for me' questions, many posting duplicates too. We need to convert these new users into regular ones, try not to scare them off by closing the questions off too abruptly, the more people we can get to be active contributors the better the content will be on the site in future.

Rahul Rahul answered: I don't think in terms of problems, but in terms of opportunities. (lol that was corny) Our biggest challenge right now is to get accepted by the larger UX community. There's a great opportunity there that we need to take ownership of and carry forward. One way is to start attending conferences more actively and spreading awareness around, and another is to try and draw on "famous" people in the community that some of us may know. Jin has been helping out here

dnbrv dnbrv answered: I think the biggest problem is keeping questions on topic. I've noticed many people here and on other UX-related sites ask broad hypothetical questions that are out of scope of this community. So, as a moderator, I'll be spending a lot of time helping those OPs understand the rules to make sure they aren't scared off by the limits.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Why do you want to be a moderator (as opposed to having high rep privs)?

Rahul Rahul answered: I didn't think I wanted to be a moderator until Shog asked me to be one and I started doing it. Then I realised it's like a new game within the site - the points/badges game had worn itself out for me already and the game of keeping up with flags and edits feels more compelling, while simultaneously contributing much more back to the community. I enjoy using the site more when I can also moderate - it motivates me to keep active and keep the quality of the site in check.

Jon W Jon W answered: I want to do my part in keeping the site growing. It's getting bigger, more people are using it, it appears highly in Google searches... If it's going to be a big resource for developers, designers and IAs then it needs to be looked after. I'm on the site almost daily, have been with both UX.SE and UXExchange for a while so feel I am in a good position to keep it heading in the right direction.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: I'm rather active on the site and sometimes I see content that requires moderator's attention quicker than a moderator is available. Although I try to comment as much as I can, I feel that at times having the diamond next to my name will make the OP take the comment more seriously.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: Some of the statistical tools helpful in knowing how the site needs to grow (visit stats ect) are not available regardless of rep level. These can be used to guide the site along (without directly sharing the sensitive information of course; just using it to identify rough problem areas)


Patrick McElhaney Patrick McElhaney asked: What I'm hearing from all of you is that a moderator should stick to "janitorial" duties (although you don't like that particular term). Does anyone think that moderators are obliged to be involved in "decision making process" and "promoting the site"?

Jon W Jon W answered: A lot of that can be done by anyone, it's not something limited to Moderators (sharing questions etc). However Mods should lead by example so for example I'd ressurect my dormant Twitter account to do just that.

Jon W Jon W continued: We can also pull people in from other sites (Yahoo Answers, Quora etc) and as a mod it would be a duty to represent the site there. Also monitoring some of the other SE sites to see what questions should be migrated over here.

Rahul Rahul answered: That's not what I said; I said we should be shepherds, not janitors. I think a shepherd is much more than a janitor. Janitors clean the bathrooms; shepherds guide the flock. Janitors interact directly with nastiness, shepherds can touch things subtly from a distance and obtain the desired outcome.

Rahul Rahul continued: I think we're more valuable guiding the site calmly by suggesting improvements, edits, and resolving disputes while maintaining the FAQ for accuracy, doing customer support, handling meta issues etc. than we are if we just view ourselves as people who close questions.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: As I've said before, moderators must be involved in decision-making and promotion. However, it shouldn't be "an oligarchy of the diamonds" - other members' concerns must be taken into consideration, too.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: I sort of answered that with my response about community building. I think mods are 100% part of the decision making process of the site and should start (but not dominate) the important discussions that the community needs to have. I don't feel a moderator has to promote the site actively but it's an activity I feel all engaged users should try and do, and mods are in a particularly good position to do so


Christofian Christofian asked: How would you handle a disagreement between you and another member(s)?

Rahul Rahul answered: 9 times out of 10, let the member have the right of it. In the remaining 10%, I'd involve the other moderators and probably jump into the mod chat to ask for advice. Based on what I hear there I'd take the next step. This hasn't happened before, though, and my 9/10 rule of thumb probably means it's very unlikely to ever happen at all

Jon W Jon W answered: That's up to the community to decide really. Everything is done in public here so it's easy to gauge public opinion on issues. I'm in Chat very often (pinned tab in Firefox) so would discuss stuff in there with whoever is available and come to a decision if possible. If I'm wrong then i'd just look like an arse if I stuck to my guns. In my role as IA i have to back down from my opinions, this is an extension of that.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: Let's hope I won't need to deal with such a situation during my tenure. =) Though if such a situation arises, I'll ask for other mods & power users to chime in - I already often ask for advice on voting to close unclear questions.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: If it was an issue that needed action (closing a question, punishing a user) I would try to get a sense of the community's feeling on the issue. If it were a personal disagreement I would concede if I felt the discussion was no longer productive


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Two highly respected members of the community get in a comment war on a question. They both flag each other's comments and are cussing and it is clear that this is beyond a heated argument. What do you do, what don't you do?

Rahul Rahul answered: Roger vs Patrick, fight! First of all, comments aren't the right place for that. I would tie off the comments and direct them to fight it out between themselves elsewhere. I'd also delete any comments that have language in them that doesn't belong on the site since it doesn't add any value for anyone browsing the site later on. After that it depends on what they do next.

Jon W Jon W answered: That depends on what options are available to a mod. I'd like to lock the question from further comments if possible and request them to discuss it in Chat instead. Possibly starting up a seperate room where it can be dealt with in slightly more privacy. I would then post a comment in the main question explaining to the community what has happened.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: First, post a warning & remove all name calling (edit comments or delete them). If both continue after the warning, I'll ban them for the minimum time to chill off. Top users must be held to the same high standards as mods.


Patrick McElhaney Patrick McElhaney asked: How do you deal with someone who seems to argue with you no matter what you do?

Jon W Jon W answered: Don't rise to the bait. Trolls are trolls, and we shouldn't feed them. I'd just make sure they're not disrupting other people as well as just myself.

Rahul Rahul answered: I know who you're talking about ;) and I've been largely ignoring him. But keep an eye on the person in question in case they get into it with someone else. You don't want their behaviour to dissuade someone from coming back - if that happens, then it's time to escalate things.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: Ignore the comments unless they're constructive and then ask fellow mods to deal with that person.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: If they are posting inflammatory/offensive posts with the intent to abuse, I would remove the offending posts. If the user is clearly trying to rile up myself/others I would ignore them, and instruct others to "not feed the trolls". If a repeated pattern emerges I would take it up directly with the offending user


Rahul Rahul asked: If you guys think mods should be involved in promotion, how would you go about attracting more female members to the community? Do you think it's necessary to do so?

dnbrv dnbrv answered: I think it's all about promoting the community in the right places. I'd work with IxDA and UPA to reach them.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: Pinterest seems to be an effective social space that's dominated by female users. A Pinterest account could share some of the more visual questions/answers to show off mock ups and problems in the community. I don't think it's necessary as I don't feel we have a significant problem (similar to the related discussion on Meta.SO about "do we need more female users"), but I do feel we need more promotion of the site and that women should be included

Jon W Jon W answered: Roughly covered in another response earlier; anyone can promote the site, that's not a special Mod privilege but as mod we should lead by example. Check sites outside of UX.SE, both in the other SE sites as well as more casual places (Quora, Yahoo Answers) Also use our own social networks to reach out to others.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: New users often are not accustomed to the Stack Exchange system, and sometimes struggle to present themselves properly, either in the way they use the site or their attitude. How willing are you to work with "problematic" users, and at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth the effort?

Rahul Rahul answered: I always try to go the extra mile for new users because I feel like the UX offered by SE sites currently isn't as good as it should be and I'm very sensitive to that. Often there's also no one else there for them, so as a mod I feel like it's my responsibility to at least make that effort.

Rahul Rahul continued: I usually stop making an effort if the user doesn't respond after a week (eg. they never came back - you can check on their profile) or if their language is incomprehensible, which unfortunately can happen with non-native English speakers.

dnbrv dnbrv answered: First, use the comments to explain what the problems are, and then invite them to chat or Meta to discuss the issues in more detail. Recently, there have been several new users who came in with overly broad questions that got closed. They complained, we tried to explain. In the end, the users left. We also had a couple of new users who were posting low-quality replies. After comments, some of them greatly improved their style & others left.

Jon W Jon W answered: That's the main role of the Mod at present, I believe. encouraging new users to become regular users the site and not just people who post-and-run, never to be seen again. New users need to be given more consideration than others so they're not scared off.

Jon W Jon W continued: ..That is hard though, if people are flagging and voting to close questions off. If we can keep these questions open, keep them involved and guide them into rewording it (or even letting them accept it may need to be closed, but as friendly as possibly) then so be it.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: I always try to help out these users by asking clarifying comments ("Are you asking X...To what ends do you want to know...") or editing their posts where appropriate and explaining how they can make their posts fit better with the Stack Exchange model.

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka continued: I like trying to help "problematic" users when they are learning to use the system, but if someone clearly has no respect for other users, the Stack Exchange Q&A model I would begin to consider them a lost cause to be dealt with punitively rather than a student to be encouraged


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Final thoughts from the candidates please?

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka answered: Is Rebecca a robot?

Ben Brocka Ben Brocka continued: Sorry I missed the start of the discussion; work duties called first. I'd be happy to answer and direct questions if anyone feels I missed/didn't get a chance to explain anything

dnbrv dnbrv answered: Vote for me! =)

dnbrv dnbrv continued: I got a goal for the next elections: make sure more people participate in nominations & in the town hall (although I do expect it to be a small percentage of the total population).

Rahul Rahul answered: Well, I never thought I would make it here today. I would make a great UX mod because I promise to put two new pop machines in the cafeteria, and I'm also gonna get a glitter Bonne Bell dispenser for all the girls' bathrooms. Oh, and we're gonna get new cheerleading uniforms. Anyway, I think I'd be a great UX mod. So, who wants to eat chiminichangas next year? Not me. See, with me it will be summer all year long. Vote for Rahul!

Jon W Jon W answered: I just feel that it's becoming a great community here, and as I'm passionate about the subject, am a regular and active contributor I can use that time and desire to do my part to a community that has helped me out numerous times in the past.

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