- 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.
I was never suspended, on this site or anywhere in the SE network, including MathOverflow (where my account was deleted1 only due to my explicit request, and I was in good standing on the site).
- 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?
No, but depending on the nature of the problem I might be able to help them in other ways and would try to do so.
I do not at all intend to enable cheating, but there could be problems unrelated to cheating.
For example, if some frustrated student in addition to asking a reasonable math question went on a rant against their instructor and then had second thoughts about the rant, it should suffice to edit out the rant and remove the relevant revision. (The editing part should be done regardless the posters request, the extra step of removing the revision would be the help moderators can provide.)
Disassociating a post from a profile in certain scenarios may also be of help to users getting worried about how a post might reflect on them.
Merges can also be helpful at times, and I recall a precedent on this site where a judicious merge allowed to address conflicting concerns, the answers could be preserved while the question could be removed without much loss.
In short, I would strive to preserve the valuable content while still trying to address the concerns of the poster (within reasonable limits), via editing, redacting revisions, disassociating, or merging.
- 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?
The rules of conduct of the site apply to everybody. Being good at mathematics does not confer the liberty to behave poorly.
This notwithstanding I feel it is important to look at such things in a relative way, too. If a user is highly active each and every day and gets into a conflict once a months then this is not the same as a user posting twice a month and also getting into some conflict each months.
The type of activity the user engages in should also be factored in. A user that engages in community moderation is more likely to get into conflicts than a user that just answers questions.
By analogy, I am pretty certain that most waiters break more glasses than I. Of course not because they are more clumsy than I handling glasses, but just because they handle way more glasses than I and do this in more difficult situations.
The above maybe answers a different question than intended, so let me also so what I would do.
If I notice a pattern of behavior that I find problematic, I might first just inject a comment here or there, more low-profile just like some advice from one user to the other trying to diffuse the conflict and hoping they pick up they need to change.
If this fails, I'd start with an invite to a mod-only chat, first, trying to understand why the user even behaves in the way they do. The motives might not always the same, some might not be able to control their temper and even realize this, others might think in a misguided but rational way that their approach is efficient. Both are a problem, but very different and will require different types of help. Then, I would explain that and why their behavior is problematic and propose ways to improve the situation.
If this has no effect, I would escalate to a mod-message, repeating the points and making clear the behavior must change or a suspension will ensue.
If this still has no effect, I would go through with a suspension, making clear that they are still welcome but only if they address their behavior.
On the way, I would exchange with fellow moderators, especially while I am new to the job, to be up-to-date with any back-story and other relevant information.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
First, I think it is a terrible idea for moderators to get into public open-close wars and alike. It not only gives a poor impression, it is also pointless. They have the same power, no-one can win. In the end they need to find an agreement anyway (or have SE-staff force it upon them). It's way better to find some agreement beforehand.
Thus, I would try to find out why the other moderator took the action and explain why I disagree (if I still disagree after the explanation). Usually, we two should be able to find some common ground. If not we might involve other members of the team, and if all else fails maybe just do an internal vote to decide the course of action.
The above applies to situations where I believe the other moderator made an actual moderator decision. If it is just a dupe-closure that I am sure was incorrect and based on an oversight, I might as well just undo and leave an explanatory comment (as if the original action was taken by a non-mod).
- 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.
First, I firmly believe in explaining moderator decisions preemptively. This can avoid conflicts. If this failed at some point, I will try to understand the point of view of the other party and also try to make my point of view clear. A moderator is not always right. It is perfectly possible for a moderator to misjudge something and there is a reason why the software allows the community to undo moderator closures. Thus, it may well happen somebody convinces me, and I might even undo my vote. Or I just let the normal process play out, I close, five others reopen, moving on. It's not a big deal if it happens occasionally, but it should not happen frequently.
Let me be clear on this: for a site this large a well-working community-moderation by users is key. Being an activist moderator who is heavily involved in decisions the community can take for itself, such as open-close and alike, is detrimental to this. This is even the case when the moderators decisions have much community support and of course it is much worse if this is not the case.
I do not intend to cast many votes.
However, what I do not like is users objecting to moderators casting votes on principle. This goes too far. I am of the opinion that a moderator that is not willing to ever use the powers they got, is not quite fit for the job, either.
I do intend to cast a few votes.
- 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?
One never can be sure, but I do not expect any major changes in my life in the next few years to come. I have a tenured position and do not plan to change it. It is true that I have a variety of commitments but since several years SE activity fits in nicely, and I see no reason why this would change drastically. I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. I am the type of user that checks numerous times a day for shorter periods of time, which is I think useful for a moderator.
- Do you see your (eventual) moderator role primarily as one of the following? You can assign weights or only pick a few, however you'd like: Civil rights advocate, Senator/congressman, Judge, UN Blue Beret, Detective/ police officer, Home plate umpire/ referee, Janitor
Janitor, in the broader sense of facility manager, captures most of it quite well. The job is mostly to make sure that others (the users) can go about their business without problems and distractions. Whatever gets in the way of this or is detrimental to this needs to be addressed.
This also includes working out rules on how to use shared resources and conflict resolution (so the senator and peace keeping). At times it might also be needed to figure out who is at the root of some problem and this may require some detective skills, but that's not the main thing. And sometimes decisions need to be made, which touches upon the judge part. I prefer this over the umpire analogy, as the latter one suggests to me constant calls on minor issues, which I think is not what a moderator should mostly do.
I believe strongly that users, also or maybe even especially, new and transient ones, should be treated with respect. We should not accept every type of question and we cannot help with every type of problem, but there is no need to be rude, snide and condescending in communicating this.
In the other direction, I do not believe that we must tolerate every type of content or contribution, and if we don't this makes us oppressors, censors and what not.
In brief, I think it is mostly about facility management, making sure that users can do what they need to do without problems, sprinkled with numerous other tasks.
- 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)?
I have the badge on this site. Being a moderator on another site I am even familiar with all types of flags, and the mod-interface.
- What are, according to your opinion, the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of MSE?
The greatest strength is that this is by now a pretty huge and diverse gathering of people passionate about mathematics. I especially like the diversity of profiles, students, retired professors, professionals from other fields, independent researchers, etc.
The greatest weakness is that over some differences of opinion different groups of users can tend to forget that there is much more that unites than that separates us.
- Do you feel that moderators are obliged to be transparent about their actions whenever possible?
Yes. Uncertainty creates distrust and maybe even fear. To the extent possible, a moderator should be willing to explain and to justify their actions. I will try to do this, and it should come easy to me. This is the up-side of my penchant for discourse, if needed, I will go to great length to lay out my point of view.
But, maybe this post is now long enough, and I stop here.
Footnote 1: The question was raised on my nomination about the reasons and the context of my account deletion on MO. While I answered it in comments there let me also answer it here briefly.
The reason I asked for my account on MO to be deleted, after a rather long and active time there, which was overall a good time, is that I did not agree with certain parts of the site's policy and direction that are important to many users there. Over time I grew ever more frustrated about this, and since I felt there was no hope for change and the trend in part was rather in the opposite direction, I eventually decided to leave. (It is still a good and useful site, in my opinion, just not one I want to be part of.)
To leave in a clear yet clean and discreet way (at least this was my intent) I took some precautions (handing over a chat-room ownership and informing somebody about the action beforehand), and then simply asked SE to delete my account. Of course, as usual with account deletions, all my content there was kept in place, I did not delete anything (only some mostly spurious posts fell victim to the auto-delete script that is more aggressive to posts of deleted accounts).
Could this also happen here? The policies and direction that mostly frustrated me are essentially not present here. In that sense, no. Of course, I cannot exclude that at some point in the distant future something will make me want to quit this site, and I think realistically nobody could exclude this for them. What I can assure you though is that if ever I decide to leave or just to stop moderating I will try my best to organize a clean hand-over and try to avoid friction.