The following is a "digest" version of the 2011 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.

(A big THANK YOU TO REBECCA CHERNOFF for organizing these town halls and helping our communities grow!)

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 @Josh me and let me know!

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Thanks to everyone who participated, and especially to Josh for creating the digest! –  Gilles Mar 4 '11 at 23:35
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13 Answers 13

xenoterracide xenoterracide asked: How do you decide what is offtopic?


mattdm mattdm answered: @xenoterracide By following the FAQ and precedent. If there's a question, a discussion in Meta is appropriate.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @xenoterracide The site name and the FAQ. Other than that base on Meta

Tshepang Tshepang answered: @xenoterracide Anything that's hardware or code (bar shells), except the obvious (non Unix or Linux).

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @xenoterracide We've been pretty active on meta with discussing things; I think that works pretty well. When it comes to obvious overlap with other sites we usually talk with the other mods (cough AU). For things that tend to come up more often we've been adding them to the FAQ as well

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @me Obviously the FAQ, but in some cases we do have to make decisions, in which case I go with gut instinct, discuss with the other moderators of the site, and post to meta if necessary. It was actually one of the goals of mine to make sure that the site was ontopic in the right ways. So I try to voice my own opinion

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Tshepang Tshepang asked: A majority of the questions here would also be on-topic on Super User. What makes Unix SE different?


mattdm mattdm answered: @Tshepang I think the expert community is different. A lot of Linux users wouldn't describe themselves as "power users" at all — or even "computer enthusiasts".

mattdm mattdm expanded: @Tshepang Also, a little off the direct question, but in coming here from Server Fault, I've often noticed non-professional-admin Linux questions getting sent off to Super User basically to die. I think that's unfortunate, and I think we can be a better destination for those.

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: SU was an old site, newer stack 2.0 sites have much more focus, in fact it could be accurately said that Unix SE was entirely covered by either SO, SF, or SU. However, as a site with sharper focus, we take precedence over those sites for Unix/Linux questions. (or at least we should, I've no idea on the SF policy)

Tshepang Tshepang answered: It's a tough one. I personally felt alienated when I was on Super User. It was strange that my questions would be adequately answered on a site that also had a lotta Windows experts. I haven't used it much to really judge well, but many mentioned the poorer quality of the responses there (SU).

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Tshepang I continue to think (and Ivo would stab me for this) that SU is too all-encompassing; it was creating before SE sites exist to cover pretty much all computer stuff that didn't fit on SO/SF. Now the SE sites have a lot of overlap, and we've been dealing with it pretty well; AU is a subset of UL, which is a subset of SU along with Apple and probably a couple others

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @Tshepang I don't want to keep saying bad things about other sites and praise ours. I have been a frequent visitor on SU and I feel that things are so far apart. That is the key difference to me. In breaking the SE sites we have the advantage of fine-grained interest. So, when a *nix user visit UL he/she will always see familiar topics that are interesting to him/her. There can be quite some overlap between SU and UL, but in such cases I'd always prefer the post to be on UL if it is on topic.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Moderation requires decisive action. You may find yourself in a position where you're unsure of what action to take, but can't immediately discuss the situation with a fellow moderator. Are you more inclined to act swiftly or wait for additional input, and how would you decide where to draw the line?


Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @RebeccaChernoff Chat kind of eliminated "can't immediately discuss the situation with a fellow moderator" -- someone is always active in the general mod room. But in any case I don't think that problem actually comes up; if I'm undecided on something, it's something that can wait, and I just leave the flag in the queue. If it's something that has to happen now, it's pretty clear cut

mattdm mattdm answered: @RebeccaChernoff Spam is out. But other than that, we're not yet so active that for lesser problems we can't wait a little bit to get a consensus (not just from other moderators but from other community members). This is particularly true for actions which can't easily be undone.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @RebeccaChernoff I respect the validity of the question, but that's rare to happen on a Q&A site :)

Tshepang Tshepang answered: @RebeccaChernoff Not wanting to abuse power, I'd rather try be patient and wait. This is except in obvious cases of deliberate cases of abuse (e.g. there's one user who made fun of FLOSS users, ranting about how silly they are).

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @RebeccaChernoff if I am unsure of the action to take it is generally because it's a very borderline topic. In which case it can wait until I can discuss it. If I have an idea of where I want to go with the problem I may comment on it @user so that they can know what direction we're thinking about going. If I am very on the line, I'm likely to make a meta post of it, to see what the community thinks.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @RebeccaChernoff I'll wait, until something meaningful happens. If there is something wrong, there will be users flagging or commenting on it. There is a community, and it's best if the community can decide on its own.

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Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek asked: 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?


mattdm mattdm answered: @MichaelMrozek I try to conduct myself in a professional, grown-up manner on the internet regardless of whether there's a special symbol by my name. I don't think the moderator status changes that for me personally, although I appreciate the extra need to watch oneself as an official representative of the site.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @MichaelMrozek It's like "I'm the mighty one" :) I like @xenoterracide's approach: put a disclaimer where you feel the need.

Tshepang Tshepang answered: @MichaelMrozek No pressure I guess. Maybe a more relevant question is "how will you change when u r mod?"

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: I don't like it, but I'm used to it. I'd like a way to be a normal user most of the time (similar to how reddit handles things), since plenty of activity has nothing to do with being a mod, but lacking that it's not a big deal. I at least like the indication that people can ask me for help

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Josh Josh asked on behalf of Gilles: What is your policy on migrating questions to Ask Ubuntu? (Gilles)


Tshepang Tshepang answered: @Josh migrate only those which are very-ubuntu-specific, like questions about ubuntu policy, or Unity

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Josh This came up on meta a few times; we have something of an agreement with AU now that appears in the FAQ, so I intend to keep following that unless somebody revisits it: they migrate stuff that doesn't apply to Ubuntu here, we migrate stuff that only applies to Ubuntu there, and stuff that applies to both stays where it was posted unless the asker mod-flags it

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @Josh my personal policy for AU is to only migrate by request; or in the very rare event that the question really does apply only to Ubuntu. But I haven't really seen any questions like that yet. I'm not sure I'd know anyways.

mattdm mattdm answered: @Josh I think the Ubuntu segregation is unfortunate, and although I know there were earlier votes that came down against it, I'd like to work towards ultimately merging the sites again. I think questions where Ubuntu just happens to be the distro are perfectly on-topic here. Questions which are specifically about community issues or development under Canonical's toolset would be candidates for migration. And I'd like to see more general-Linux questions from Ask Ubuntu migrated here.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @Josh I don't feel good if there are question that won't be looked at by certain people who have the knowledge. I'm greedy for U&L and will only migrate (1) questions that are really specific to Ubuntu or (2) by request of the OP.


Tshepang Tshepang responded to @mattdm: This is going to be hard because many questions that are off-topic here are accepted there... things like distro development policies.

mattdm mattdm clarified: @Tshepang That's what I mean by "community issues".

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@Josh: please add the clarification to my answer given here: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/610782#610782 (In short, questions on Ubuntu distro development policies are an example of what I mean by "community issues"). –  mattdm Mar 4 '11 at 16:10
    
@mattdm Done, I think.. Is that what you wanted? –  Josh Mar 4 '11 at 16:25
    
@Josh: well, that leaves out what I was replying to, so it's not a complete clarification. :) –  mattdm Mar 4 '11 at 16:35
    
@mattdm better now? I normally leave out anything besides the first reply to a question, I figure that the "answered" links always allow people to dive into the transcript at that point and read more. But it is important to me that I represent you correctly so if you feel my digest did not get your point across just let me know (as you did) –  Josh Mar 4 '11 at 16:50
    
@Josh — yes, thanks. –  mattdm Mar 4 '11 at 16:51
    
@matt Maybe there was miscommunication. When I was making an example of Ubuntu's development policy, I was replying your wish to get both sites merged. These questions (e.g. when is X getting released OR why was this distro decision made) are allowed there, but not there. –  Tshepang Mar 4 '11 at 18:04
    
@Tshepang — oh, I see. Honestly, I think accepting questions like that would be a small price to pay for having the sites not split. (Or, just those questions could remain on the specific site. Or we could have one for distro policies in general — Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE, whatever.) –  mattdm Mar 4 '11 at 18:22
    
@matt I myself am a proponent of having such questions accepted here. See my argument meta.unix.stackexchange.com/questions/316/…. –  Tshepang Mar 4 '11 at 18:36
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Josh Josh asked: Candidates, what is your view on the new "Everyone Can Edit" functionality that has been added to the site? Does it make the job of a moderator easier? DO you like the system, or do you have concerns?


Tshepang Tshepang answered: @Josh It's perfect.

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Josh I'm iffy about it on some sites, people tend to post poor edits. It's worked great for us though; we've had 177 suggested edits, and only 10 were rejected; one user in particular went to town with them and wrote a ton of tag wikis that nobody else cared about creating

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @Josh I like it. I'm not sure it particularly affects my job, easier or harder. But it does allow more people to help clean things up, and make things better. Things I wouldn't have noticed

mattdm mattdm answered: @Josh I haven't seen what it looks like from the moderator side yet, but on the photo-SE site it's really helped some great new contributors make changes. Right now, accepted edits give reputation; if the system becomes problematic someday, it'd be easy enough to make rejected edits have a penalty. Or there could be a separate system like the new "flag score". But right now, I've only seen positives.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @Josh This is actually good, because once a site grows, there are many "little" improvements that new users can make. Having to wait until you earn enough reputation can be discouraging, and when you finally have enough reputation you would have missed a lot of things to edit already. It puts more tasks on moderators actually, but I think it is good. If a moderator is too busy he/she won't have enough time for small mistakes.

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Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek asked: How much time do you anticipate spending on the site? How much of that would be "moderating"?


Tshepang Tshepang answered: @MichaelMrozek Not being experienced at being a real SE mod, I have no idea, although you could say I've been moderating (in a sense) since I've done lots of commenting and editing. It's probably a >hour per day on average.

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @MichaelMrozek I try to look at the site every day, at least for moderation. I have all the site's questions in rss and review them, to see if I have interest in answering or moderating the question.

mattdm mattdm answered: @MichaelMrozek I'm on the site daily. It's a bit hard to count the wall-clock time, but I generally have it up in an extra tab all of the time.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @MichaelMrozek Right now I'm visiting the site everyday, spending around 3 hours in total. I guess being a mod will be very different, but I'm not sure if I can split the hours and say "This much time is mod time. This much time is answer time".

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Josh No, I kind of forgot :). I'm on the site pretty consistently; I'm up to 207 consecutive days, and it's mostly editing and other such things. I see most mod flags I think

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What can be done to bring more people to the community? Do you feel that's part of your responsibility as a moderator?


mattdm mattdm answered: @RebeccaChernoff I don't think that's a moderator-specific thing. It's part of being an active member of the community in general. I think moderators should be involved, but outreach is a different aspect which doesn't necessarily overlap.

mattdm mattdm continued: @mattdm But one thing that attracts users is simply having a well-moderated site. If questions are well organized and easy to search, and if the content is high quality, that means people who are directed here (or stumble upon the site) will have a good experience and will stay around. So, that's a key area in which moderators can have influence.

Tshepang Tshepang answered: @RebeccaChernoff Not really part of mod job, but I whenever relevant, I try to promo the site. I continuously mention it in my blog (i.e. link to great posts).

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @RebeccaChernoff I think it's important that moderator's do personal promotion, for example I link on my blog and I did mention at one point that I might end up being a moderator. But I believe it's more important for us to try to keep people from leaving. People leave when they have negative experiences, and it's our job to keep those at a minimum

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @RebeccaChernoff I posted oh so long ago about miscellaneous ideas for promoting the site, but I don't really view it as a mod task; there's virtually nothing mods can do promotionally that can't be done by anyone. Linking awesome questions/answers seems the best way to me; hopefully someday announcer/booster/publicist will help

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @RebeccaChernoff "Bring more people to the community" sounds like marketing, while I feel the role of a moderator is more like house keeping. Everyone can share links, talk to their friends, ask their friends' questions, not just moderators. What we can call responsibility is, how much do we want the site to grow. Being a moderator can add to my pride -> I love UL more -> I tell more people about it. That won't change my attitude towards advertising the site, though, I'm doing my best at that already :)

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Tshepang Tshepang asked: What do you intend to do to prevent users from leaving?


mattdm mattdm joked: @Tshepang handcuffs.

mattdm mattdm then answered: @Tshepang Keeping the site focused and organized will keep users interested. I don't think it's so much about preventing people from leaving as it is making them want to come back.

Tshepang Tshepang answered: my answer: instead of downvoting a rep1 user question (which tend to be problematic), I'd rather just comment to mention the problem

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Tshepang Depends why they're leaving I suppose; there isn't a great way to track that. I would assume the main reason is people being rude in comments/posts, and we delete those pretty fast. As long as people read a question and the top answer is good they're going to keep reading questions here; letting bad/rude/unhelpful posts stick around is a great way to start looking like any other forum out there.

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek continued: @Tshepang Spam/offensive/mod flags take care of that pretty well; we just started to have a spam problem yesterday, and users have been downvoting/spam flagging, which was encouraging

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @Tshepang There are 2 answer. First I don't want to interfere anyone who is leaving just because they don't see things they are interested in. Second, I really hate it when users choose to leave because they see things that should not be there. I particularly hate it when one of my friends tell me "I went there once, and they tell me to go look at the 1000 line manual".

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Tshepang Tshepang asked: What's your thoughts on outdated comments and what would you do when such comments are flagged for deletion?


mattdm mattdm answered: @Tshepang Outdated comments are generally noise, and if they don't apply anymore (including not applying to new users asking a similar question) they should simply be removed.

Tshepang Tshepang answered: my answer: I don't like keeping outdated comments around, but I'd like to avoid the commotion caused by people who think they are still useful. So I'm split on this one. I'd like to hear what others say.

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @Tshepang I generally don't worry about comments unless they are offensive, or harmful. I see no reason to take them down. If they are oudated because a url is wrong, it's better to update them than delete.

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Tshepang I agree with Gilles' answer here; I prefer seeing the complete conversation. Even if the post makes sense on its own, I rarely delete comments. On other sites, even the trilogy, comments are usually only deleted if a whole comment thread has devolved into a flame war

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I do want to add that I wouldn't plan to be heavy-handed with this. Only comments which clearly no longer contribute should go. –  mattdm Mar 4 '11 at 16:12
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Josh Josh asked: Candidates, what was the first site in the network you used? Is Unix.SE your first site and you branched off from there? Or have you been with us since the earlier days? (pre-superuser, etc)


mattdm mattdm answered: @Josh Server Fault, and then Photo-SE.

Tshepang Tshepang answered: @Josh I used Stack Overflow first, and drifted around before finally settling on unix-SE.

phunehehe phunehehe answered: @Josh The first site I joined was SO, when it was quite big already. After that I branched off to SU and finally found my place on UL

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Josh I started on SO, but not since the beginning (a little under a year ago now). I got on MSO a few months after that; I don't post much on SO anymore, it's mostly editing/voting, but I still post a lot on MSO. UL is the only other site I'm particularly active on besides those two, although I poke around the others and have way too many accounts in my profile

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @Josh probably stackoverflow though I don't think it was pre superuser. I think I started with it around the time SF and SU were created, in fact I think it was their announcement that got me on them.

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Tshepang Tshepang asked: What's your thoughts on too-localised? Do you think we are too strict here?


mattdm mattdm answered: @Tshepang I haven't noticed anything I've thought "wow, too strict". Can you give an example?


Tshepang Tshepang clarified: @mattdm I once asked a specific question regarding some Debian decision, regarding this or that version of a package, and it was closed as too localised.

Tshepang Tshepang continued: @mattdm I also asked some history-related question about some tool that wasn't famous enough.


phunehehe phunehehe answered: @Tshepang That happened to me (on another site) and I'm still feel bad about it. I don't think I have seen any such question here though. Generally if the question is on topic and the OP keeps updating information about the question (i.e when asked) then it should be kept.

xenoterracide xenoterracide answered: @Tshepang no, but then again I'm usually the one who has been making those kinds of rough decisions. Sometimes it's a hard call to say this is too localized or this is too broad, or this is offtopic. It's the responsibility of the moderator to do that to keep the site from getting offtopic or uninteresting

mattdm mattdm answered: @Tshepang I think I'd be slow on the too-localized call. I think "would this possibly be interesting to someone else any other time ever" is a good metric.

Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek answered: @Tshepang We currently have 0 posts closed as too localized, so I'd say no, we're not too strict here :)


There was more discussion on this topic; follow the “answered” links above to dive in and read more.

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Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Final thoughts?


but there was no unified response... If candidates would like to post final thoughts, please do so in chat and @Josh me so I know to include them in this answer. Otherwise, I will conclude with a thought of my own:

Josh Josh concluded: I would like to thank all the candidates for taking time to answer our questions and for volunteering their time! And even though she'll tell me not to I want to extend a huge thanks to @RebeccaChernoff for organizing these Town Halls and helping to build great communities! (And for being up so early ;-)

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