Quality over quantity is a principle I believe our community will strongly benefit from. As volunteers, I believe that whilst providing help is a rewarding activity, we must also consider whether it is always beneficial to the asker from an educational perspective, and to our community holistically. In tandem with that, as question askers, it is important that we can meaningfully show a willingness to learn.
Therefore, my primary focus is on site curation, especially as this site grows ever larger. For a number of years now, I have learnt and used several ways to do this, from contributing to our main and meta review queues to flagging and editing. As a moderator, I will be able to further assist with site management by reminding users of and enforcing existing policies, ensuring new users are respected and potentially proposing ways to alleviate the site's main issues.
- 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?
Any action taken must be proportionate to the relevance, validity and severity of the arguments and flags. If the dispute is irrelevant to the question or site policies the comments can be removed or moved to a chatroom. Assuming the flags are raised in good faith, these arguments would most commonly be due to a prolific answerer disputing the truth or validity of a certain post, where tensions become quickly inflamed, or their non-adherence to particular quality guidelines.
In the first case, I would ask both sides to remain calm and remind them of the Code of Conduct. Mathematical arguments, where relevant, are encouraged on this site so the discussions can stay as long as they are not excessive in length and non-insulting. In the second case, I would move the comments to a chatroom and explain the relevant guidelines to the answerer (and why they are there in the first place). Future violations of guidelines would be handled by warnings and penalties such as a temporary suspension. Indeed, our latest policy (see Question 3.) already addresses parts of this.
Evidently the list above is not exhaustive and working on a case-by-case basis is something that moderators are expected to be able to do well. In conclusion, while the answers of the user are very welcome and appreciated, their behaviour must be treated in the same way as any other user on this site.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
This is essentially Question 7. on the subject of disagreements. In this particular scenario, a compromise would not be applicable since the closure or deletion status of a question is binary, so it is especially important that viewpoints are communicated across clearly and supported by evidence (for instance, a similar question that had a different outcome, or quoting specific guidelines).
- Do you agree with the enforcement of quality standards? Do you think more or less is needed? What are your reasons? The linked meta announcement is a recent attempt to deal with the repeated behaviour of answering poor questions. This issue is important in light of the ease at which students can get full answers to questions on their assignment/test even when they show no effort, but more generally poor questions contribute to a poor-quality Q&A site and also a poor impression of the site to the wider mathematical community.
Yes. This policy is finally the realised action of very long-term discussions on meta and chat on methods to reduce the number of low-quality questions and answers. This is a framework I believe is vital if not necessary to bring about a real change in the quality of content on this site, with an ever increasing user pool and an ever more divided community between those who wish to answer any question they want, and those who wish to promote higher quality standards.
Since its enforcement I have left EoQS reminder comments on answers. However, for transparency it would be informative to the community if statistics specific to this policy are summarised, similar to our annual year of moderation meta posts. This would help alleviate concerns by some users who feel their participation in this space does not yield much substance.
- What do you think about the solution-verification tag? See this post for some context.
The primary use of this tag is to differentiate between a complete solution whose validity the asker is unsure of from a partial attempt. After reading the meta discussions I believe its intrinsic value of proof-checking has been lost over time due to a large accumulation of similar posts. Curation involves deduplication and this tag is an antithesis to the process, so I would advocate for its removal. This would not be too logistically challenging as most questions with that tag have other mathematically relevant tags.
- Do you have a cause that you would like to focus on as a moderator? Is there a special project that you would like to pursue?
Yes. Projects include promoting the idea of curation (such as the use of CURED) and incentivising users to participate, and assisting with resolving the large backlog of flags (including EoQS-related) as has been mentioned by current moderators.
For instance, other network sites including Code Golf and Puzzling have monthly meta announcements incentivising users to use a particular language and praising users for good puzzles respectively, and something similar here on the topic of curation would be good to experiment with.
Due to my studies, I am looking at around 45-60 minutes of activity every weekday with more time available on weekends. I will also note that I am a moderator for Operations Research Stack Exchange but (unfortunately) time spent there is minimal due to considerably less activity.
- Do you think that questions at an advanced level do not require as much context? There is disagreement over this within the current mod team.
No. I believe it is fairer to state the alternative proposition that questions at an advanced level often require a different type of context compared to more elementary questions. Comparing the level of context between two questions is often a subjective task, but there are three categories in which we can group context.
Motivation behind asking the question: This does not mean "this question is an assignment problem and my motivation is to get a good mark by asking for help online." It means describing in detail the mathematical background from where question arises, and this is something questions at an advanced level should almost always aim to include.
Attempts at the question: This is especially important for elementary questions as attempts are where most of the context is usually found. It helps us identify the level of study and the part where the asker cannot proceed. It also shows the asker has made a true effort to solve the problem. Sometimes, it is not possible to show very much of it in advanced questions and writing one or two of your own observations would be sufficient.
References related to the question: This is where the asker lists any relevant literature they have found and explains the parts that are relevant. This comes after a question has been formulated, as opposed to motivation, and is something the asker of a research-level question should try to do before posting their question. For more elementary questions, it is advised to search for site duplicates before posting as it is highly probable a similar question has already been asked.
In conclusion, there are some aspects of context that are easier to encompass depending on the level of a question but I believe advanced-level questions should not be given an easier pass.
- Moderators disagree with each other all the time on issues large and small. How will you deal with disagreement with other moderators? At what point do you reverse their actions?
Communication is key; if a moderator disagrees with me I will explain my viewpoints and try to understand theirs. I will then identify any commonalities we share towards the situation and where possible would propose a compromise for resolution. If this fails, a vote between both sides of the moderation team could resolve the situation. This also helps to prevent the risk of escalation of tensions. For small and insignificant disagreements this would of course be unnecessary.
As a case in point, the question above (Question 6.) is one that current moderators have conflicting answers on. In this instance, the generic points in the previous paragraph would apply and a panel vote would help decide on the majority opinion, since a middle-ground statement on the level of context that applies to all advanced questions would be quite difficult to achieve.
I will only reverse the actions of another moderator if there is strong consensus within the team for its necessity; if the moderator agrees with reversal, or if their actions break the Code of Conduct/guidelines.
- The CURED chatroom is extremely active and plays a large role in closing and deleting questions and answers, among other moderation activities. Are you aware of this chatroom? Do you think this chatroom is healthy for this site, unhealthy, or somewhere in between? Please justify your answer.
Yes, I was a room owner for about a year before taking a break from the site for some time (nowadays I help close/delete some of the posts raised in the chatroom). This platform is a very positive method of curation as it filters some low-quality posts that are picked up by members of the room and occasionally they are missed by the review queues due to lack of close votes. Discussions are generally respectful.
- What has your involvement in moderation issues looked like in the past? For example, have you helped maintain particular tags, been active in review queues, or provided help on meta? How do you see this changing as you step in to a more official role?
Yes — all of the above. I am very familiar with all of the review queues (both on main and meta) and have made several contributions through my meta posts. I have made a considerable number of tag wiki and/or excerpt edits which are mainly concerned with expanding on examples and correcting typos. I make frequent use of voting to reward well-written, contextual posts and to possibly deter users from posting low-quality content.
Moderators are in charge of site policies and direct management of site issues — sometimes involving community managers, so I would have a much greater contribution to meta. Note that tagging or editing mostly involve non-human interactions, whereas moderation in itself is a much more human process involving discussions with relevant users, sometimes with the entire community.
- Have you ever been rate-limited (blocked from posting questions or answers, without counting the standard limit of 6 questions per 24 hours, etc.) or banned from reviewing, editing, etc. either on this site or on a different site on the network? If so, please provide some details.