Mathematics Stack Exchange is scheduled for an election next week, October 2nd.In connection with that, we will be holding a Q&A with the candidates. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to pose questions to the candidates on the topic of moderation. Participation is completely voluntary.

The purpose of this thread was to collect questions for the questionnaire. The questionnaire is now live, and you may find it here.

Notice: Starting with this election, the minimum reputation requirement for nominating has been raised to 1000 reputation. If you plan on preparing your answers for questions collected in this thread in advance, keep in mind this change.

Here's how it'll work:

  • Until the nomination phase, (so, until Monday, October 2nd at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 4:00 pm EDT on the same day, give or take time to arrive for closure), this question will be open to collect potential questions from the users of the site. Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer.

  • We, the Community Team, will be providing a small selection of generic questions. The first two will be guaranteed to be included, the latter ones are if the community doesn't supply enough questions. This will be done in a single post, unlike the prior instruction.

  • If your question contains a link, please use the syntax of [text](link), as that will make it easier for transcribing for the finished questionnaire.

  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into at currently.

  • At the start of the nomination phase, the Community Team will select up to 8 of the top voted questions submitted by the community provided in this thread, to use in addition to the aforementioned 2 guaranteed questions.

  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, typically containing 10 questions in total.

  • This is not the only option that users have for gathering information on candidates. As a community, you are still free to, for example, hold a live chat session with your candidates to ask further questions, or perhaps clarifications from what is provided in the Q&A.

If you have any questions or feedback about this process, feel free to post as a comment here.

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    $\begingroup$ Lol, I find it silly that there are downvotes on this. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 25 '17 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ One, as far as I see, @SimplyBeautifulArt Best to ignore (the one downvote at this moment), probably, though it is rather confusing. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 25 '17 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I thought we used to have sufficient mod and thus do not have/need an election (at least that's my impression in the previous related meta post). Are some current mod(s) leaving for good? $\endgroup$ – user99914 Sep 25 '17 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnMa As a mod, it's good to hear you say that. But in fact it's been 3 years since the last election. In that time, the number of daily visitors to the site has doubled, and moderators tend to become a bit less active over time. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Sep 25 '17 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ It would have been nice to get a month heads up, and not just two weeks. But I guess that you have more experience as to running these elections. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 26 '17 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ I was wondering if the election process will be made "more visible" to users who did not visit Meta? Now I see this thread only appear in featured list, which is IMO not enough. $\endgroup$ – user99914 Sep 28 '17 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ INTRODUCING the $2017$ Moderator-Election Chat-room where users who'd like to contribute votes in the election may possibly meet with potential candidates, and ask a question in a comment, And in the context, it's a way to get informed, and it's informal the chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/66291/2017-moderator-election-chat $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 28 '17 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnMa at some point (when the process actually starts) there is usually an "inbox message" sent to every user. $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 28 '17 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Am I the only one who feels there is some fatigue on this topic, and not many people are aware or care about it? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 2 '17 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ On heads-ups - my priorities tend to work towards "Get the election out ASAP once all details are worked out". In this case, the details on our end were settled on around the 15th, and earliest opening being the 25th. While elections are important, we don't think they need to be time-dominant - so unless there's a pending ask within a communtiy for an election and there's a significant delay expected, we typically just package the announcement with election action elements. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Oct 2 '17 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ On visibility - when the nomination phase begins, there'll be a full election notice on the community bulletin, on its own separate section. That's not all too different from the visibility of just this thread, though - but I find that given the nature of moderation, it's important for would-be candidates to be paying attention to meta in the first place. During the actual voting process, there'll be inbox messages sent to all voting-capable users. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Oct 2 '17 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't mean about possible candidates when I mentioned the fatigue. I meant, look at this thread, and the one for suggesting possible nominees. It feels to me that only a small handful of people even care about these threads. It feels like there are less questions, less nominations... less attention. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 2 '17 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ The visibility was in response to JohnMa's comment. I didn't really have a response to your fatigue comment because I don't disagree with it in the first place (and past that, nothing to say on the matter from me either). $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Oct 2 '17 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Jens You can post suggestions here. Then people can think about whether they want to run. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Oct 2 '17 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ @GraceNote: Ah, I see. In any case, now that the Questionnaire is live, shouldn't this thread be at the very least closed, if not locked for posterity? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 2 '17 at 20:17

12 Answers 12


Unless this question has already taken its rightful place among the default ones:

Have you ever been suspended from this site or another StackExchange site? If so, please provide a description of the situation that led to the suspension, and how you have reacted to it.


This is an old one from Stack Overflow by Brad Larson, but still interesting for Mathematics:

A question is asked and receives some very good answers. The asker then flags this question and asks for it to be deleted because having it up will cause them trouble at school. Do you delete the question?

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    $\begingroup$ Why is this so highly voted? It's like asking "Please answer with a yes or no answer. Do you think genocide is bad?" on a presidential debate. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 29 '17 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ Well, @Asaf makes a good point; It seems rather obvious that the answer should be "Hell no!" $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 30 '17 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ Just to clarify, I think that "hell no" works in this case, as @amWhy suggests, but not in the genocide question. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 30 '17 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf Indeed. I was replying to Glorfindel's proposed question. Thanks for the clarification of my post! $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 30 '17 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with the criticism. Don't take it wrong @Glorfindel, this is something we could/should possibly better educate the noobs about. But as a question for moderator candidates I think this should be a no-brainer. May be as a lithmus test ... but I think this would be a waste of space in the short questionnaire. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 1 '17 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ Well, then think of it as the really easy question which every exam has, being there to not demotivate the students. And I have seen a wide variation in the answers given by candidates to this question. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Oct 2 '17 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but in electing moderators to this website, I expect there will be exactly zero easy questions to the candidates. And I mean that in all seriousness. Not even imaginary questions should be easy. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 2 '17 at 8:51

The following is basically a refinement of In your opinion, what do moderators do. I just feel like making it a bit more ... role oriented.

Do you see your (eventual) moderator role primarily as one of (assign weights, pick three, whatever):

  • Civil rights advocate
  • Senator/congressman leading the formulation of policies
  • Judge
  • UN Blue Beret, i.e. peace enforcement
  • Detective, police officer
  • Home plate umpire/ referee (depending on whether baseball or association football is your sport)
  • Janitor

There are no wrong answers here. But I do reserve the right to take the incoming moderators answers to this into account when deciding what kind of hazing the rookies will be given :-)

  • $\begingroup$ If you think it's inappropriate for a current mod to propose questions, please tell me. Otherwise, feel free to further finetune this. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 27 '17 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting way to put it. I am not sure the first point is clear: do you mean SE philosophy by constitution or something else? I feel there are two diametrically opposed readings of this. Also what is the intended difference between "judge" and "umpire." $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 27 '17 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ @quid We can scratch "constitution" if that's confusing (my experience with discussing such matters with Americans suggests that they see civil rights more or less defined in the constitution). The difference between Judge and Umpire might be (at least to me) that a functionary of the legal system is expected to give verdicts after possibly a prolonged deliberation whereas a sport referee is to make calls in real time. Both have a place in moderating a site. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 27 '17 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ But, I'm not necessarily seeking to define these roles very sharply. How a candidate sees their role is what I hope to elicit from them with this list. Or which role they associate themselves with. It is likely possible to formulate this better, but leaving it a bit vague may also work. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 27 '17 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Jyrki, I think it is not at all inappropriate for a current mod to propose questions. After all, you know what future mods will have to do. Also, they will be your future colleagues. $\endgroup$ – wythagoras Sep 27 '17 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ To me "civil rights" (especially in a US context, but I may well be off there) are mostly about anti-discrimination; which could be what you mean. But I somehow suspect you mean more "civil liberties." Maybe you could just include an example. $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 27 '17 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @wythagoras I think current mods know from first-hand-experience of the sorts of responsibilities a new mod will face, or that any would-be mod needs to know about themselves,and articulate to others, in advance, rather than having folks wanting to be a moderator, base on some sort of a "fairy tale" image of moderation-hood. I'd love to hear from more mods, too. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 27 '17 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, @JyrkiLahtonen, for dominating the comments. I just liked your analogy so much that I ran with it (and likely misinterpreted your answer). But despite all my years here at MSE, I'm still a "scared-y cat" wrt to posting questions, answering on meta.) You are welcome to delete any comment or two you think, and you'll not hear a peep out of me. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 27 '17 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Don't worry about that @amWhy. I really am looking for feedback here. Particularly from native speakers of English who can formulate this better. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 27 '17 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe $\bullet$ Advocate for the 'civil' rights of each user, (as granted under the SE theory of moderation), and/or commitment to "Equal protection under the 'law' (SE policy)"? $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 28 '17 at 16:40

One question I think is important to address is time-management.

Most users here have multiple commitments. And likely, those commitments aren't going to go away if you are elected to be a moderator on MSE.

Can you provide any assurance that you'll make the time, as needed, to moderate on MSE? This may only amount to an hour each day, consistently (perhaps more on some days, and less on others).

In any case, how can you assure us you're not biting off more than you can chew?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Given the comment here, mentioning a contiguous block of moderator-free time zones, it might be worthwhile to ask when they'll be able to perform their duties. That could also be a separate question, though. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Sep 30 '17 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ Clarifying that comment linked to by Glorfindel. Currently I guesstimate that more than 95% of the flags are handled by three moderators in three consecutive timezones from GMT to GMT+2. We could use a flag handler from North American and/or Asian time zones. Not a necessity obviously (the average time a flag waits is quite low I think), but certainly something that could be taken into account. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 30 '17 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ But related to amWhy's suggested question. Major life changes (starting a job, beginning at grad school, ...) may suddenly cause an otherwise excellent moderator to lose interest. Or, rather, make them realize that they cannot invest as much time here as they initially intended to. We do have a team of diamond bearers, so the site will survive, but anyway. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 30 '17 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy: Only seeing this now, but still: in what form should such guarantees have been given? No matter how much I think about it, I cannot see any practical and trustworthy way. After all, think of those sites that "guarantee" unlimited free storage for life, only to disappear few years later. What good such "guarantees", then, if they are not enforceable? $\endgroup$ – Alex M. Oct 19 '17 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexM. Pretty irrelevant comment at this point. It's been up for more than two weeks. If you had come by during the posting of possible questions to ask mod candidates, I would have seriously considered your concern then, and perhaps revised. It so happens that the question was selected to be included on the candidate questionnaire. Too late to undo or edit it, because you hadn't seen fit to follow the election process. So your criticism after the fact is pretty lame. And, of course, hindsight is 20/20. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 19 '17 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy: Have you ever considered the possibility that the person asking you a question is doing it in good faith, and not harassing you? My question was very serious, and I was expecting some equally serious answer given that I decided not to run precisely because I shall have a very rough year ahead, but also given that I intend to do it next time. So, if you really had something concrete in mind when formulating the question, why not say it here? $\endgroup$ – Alex M. Oct 19 '17 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex M My concern was to address, e.g. the 2013 and 2014 election of undergrads as mods, neither of which has contributed to this site in any significant way. One stops in when on holiday, the other signs in once every six months as a mod, to keep the position. So, in this election, I was trying to gauge how committed candidates are to not just get elected, but also to serve this site , as a mod. The question, was a prompt for candidates to write (some vague, some very specific) publicly posted answers, i.e., perhaps a tad more accountability. That's all. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 19 '17 at 19:54

What would you do if someone opposes a decision you've made?

For example, opposition to removing some comments, closing/reopening/deleting a post, etc. Such opposition may come from direct comments or votes to reopen a question closed by a mod, etc.


Here is a set of general questions, gathered as very common questions asked every election. As mentioned in the instructions, the first two questions are guaranteed to show up in the Q&A, while the others are if there aren't enough questions (or, if you like one enough, you may split it off as a separate answer for review within the community's 8).

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

  • In your opinion, what do moderators do?
  • 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?
  • In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
  • $\begingroup$ When does the nomination phase begin? Since we have essentially one week until the election, is there (or will there be) a nomination post, or is nominating a user, (one) per answer below this announcement, what you have in mind? $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 25 '17 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy The nomination should start on 10/2/17, as per the first bullet point. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 25 '17 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I'm sorry, @GraceNote. When I read the first sentence of the announcement, it seemed you were announcing the actual election for Oct 2. Or, perhaps you are saying nominations are to occur the same day as the election takes place? At any rate, it seems I asked here prematurely. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 25 '17 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SimplyBeautifulArt I was responding to the first sentence of the featured post, and should have commented there, trying to gauge the length of time between nominations and actual election day. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 25 '17 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ The first bulleted question is particularly apt at this given point in time. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Oct 2 '17 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy Nomination phase begins on October 2nd. Election phase progresses one week from then unless they're insufficient candidates (nomination phase is extended one week) or too many candidates (primary phase happens instead, and election phase happens 4 days after that) $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Oct 2 '17 at 17:11

I will repeat a question from last time.

This is a question to those candidates who do not have the Deputy badge (which is given for 80 helpful flags).

Dealing with flags is a big part of moderation. How do you think that your lack of experience is going to affect your handling of the flags? And how do you expect to compensate for it (at first, of course)?

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't the deputy badge given for raising flags as opposed to handling them? $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 29 '17 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ It is given for raising successful flags. It hints of the existence of some basic understanding of what content should be flagged. Would you think that someone who raises a custom flag over "the math here is wrong" understands how moderation is working on this site? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 29 '17 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'm fairly late, but do you think it'd be a good idea to add a "If you do have the Deputy badge, have you ever checked your flag summary..."? $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Oct 2 '17 at 22:55

Here is a question that I think would help us understand candidates' views about moderation:

Do you feel that moderators are obliged to be transparent about their actions whenever possible?


This question may sound a bit vague, but I think it can be a good way for understanding (part of) the point of view of the candidates towards our community.

What are, according to your opinion, the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of MSE?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think this is a valid, good question to ask. Even if a candidate needs to offer two great strengths, and two concerning problems (weaknesses), I think a lot of us would like to gauge candidates' leaning/emphasis, priorities and pet peeves. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 28 '17 at 16:07

I think I have seen this question before in the last election:

What difference do you think you can bring to the existing moderation team?

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    $\begingroup$ Or "What asset(s)/attribute(s) do you think you can bring ...". $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 28 '17 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if we need "difference" on the team. I think that the right word would be integration, specifically, into the existing team. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 29 '17 at 20:38

Aimed towards those who do not use the review queue often.

What sort of policy would you try to uphold in relation to flagged content?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not entirely sure, but I do believe we have one of the largest review queues out of all the sites. (like top 5 year-round or something like that) $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 25 '17 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, the mods have repeatedly and variously said that the biggest job of mods is handling flags. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Sep 25 '17 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Hm... I guess this one could be geared towards anyone, including those who use the review queue often. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 25 '17 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ This can become a good question. But my first instinct suggests that it might be better to make it more specific. After all, some flags (LQ) are usually better left for the reviewers to decide. Some others are mechanical (relocate comments to chat) or governed by site rules (closing cross posted stuff). OTOH "no longer needed" and "rude/abusive" leave a bit more room for differences of opinion. Also, "low quality" may come out of the review queue with a split vote, again leaving more elbow room for a moderator's own opinion. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 25 '17 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Unfortunately, I'm not really familiar with what sorts of flags may be most relevant here, so I didn't include such details. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 25 '17 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ If anyone feels they can improve this question, feel free to do so. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 25 '17 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, +5/-5, seems to be a controversial voting. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 29 '17 at 1:43

Would your moderation be "stickler for details" or would it be more laissez-faire?


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