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In connection with the moderator elections, 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.

This is an alternative form of the Town Hall Chat system we've done in previous elections, we're trying some new things to test out how a different approach works.

Here's how it'll work.

  • During the nomination phase, (so, until May 13th at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 4:00 pm EDT on the same day), 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.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into at current.
  • At the end of the phase, the Community Team will select, in addition to our guaranteed two, up to 8 of the top voted questions provided in this thread. We reserve some editorial control in the selection of the questions and may opt not to select a question that is tangential or irrelevant to moderation or the election. That said, if I have concerns about any questions in this fashion, I will be sure to point this out in comments before the decision making time.
  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates.
  • 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 new process, feel free to post as a comment here.

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    $\begingroup$ You've seen plenty of elections. Is it normal that after two days only one person nominates themselves? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 8 '13 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf On a small site? I've seen it take 5 days for a single candidate to step up. On a site as big as Math? Not so expected. I am of the hope that this is merely all the to-be candidates taking their time to fully organize their platforms, given all the extra scrutiny this particular election is producing. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note May 8 '13 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ I feared that is the case. I fear that the capable people of this site have seen too much of what becomes of a moderator on meta... $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 8 '13 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: true. That's exactly what happened to me... ehmm... recently... What made me doubtful at most was the "emotional exhaustion" (of Quiaochu (?)) and the seemingly neverending and never pausing sound of the same type of discussion, justification, criticism... $\endgroup$ – Gottfried Helms May 13 '13 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ The nomination phase ended. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 14 '13 at 3:56

15 Answers 15

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Have you ever been suspended and if so for what? Would you allow existing moderators to check the veracity of your answer?

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    $\begingroup$ Even if a user says that he does not mind moderators verifying his claims, would it not be against site rules for moderators to disclose information about past suspensions? In that case, the user could just lie about both questions. $\endgroup$ – TMM May 7 '13 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ @TMM I'm pretty sure it is possible with the users consent. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 7 '13 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to add "when, and for how long" to the question. A one-day suspension two years ago is different from a 28-day suspension last February. $\endgroup$ – MJD May 13 '13 at 6:09
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    $\begingroup$ @MJD I agree that would be good to know, but I don't want to edit the question now, since that would not be what people have voted on. But I guess if someone has been suspended, people would get curious about the details anyways. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 13 '13 at 6:12
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How will you handle situations where the community consensus contradicts your personal opinion on specific moderation policies?

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    $\begingroup$ For purposes of this question, what is "community consensus"? (is +50/-25 consensus? How about(+60/-20) or (+100/-10)?) $\endgroup$ – apnorton May 7 '13 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton Community consensus is about more than just the number of votes, for the purposes of this questions I'm assuming an unambiguous case with a clear consensus. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist May 7 '13 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Well, in unambiguos cases, there is no ambiguity ... $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen May 8 '13 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ I’m all in favor of some question along these lines, but this, in its present form, isn’t it: the parenthetical comment is at best ambiguous. Perhaps where there is a clear community consensus that contradicts ... policies. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 9 '13 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott I've removed that part, it is more of a distraction from the main point. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist May 9 '13 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Much better now. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 9 '13 at 16:27
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What will be your policy on questions from various ongoing contests from math journals, contests which are not proctored such as the USAMTS(http://www.usamts.org/) and questions from national olympiads which are part of the process of selection of national teams for contests like the International Mathematical Olympiad posted against the rules of the contest on this particular website (there have been instances where questions of some mathematical contests have been posted before the date) ?

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  • $\begingroup$ An ok question, but I don't expect much variation between the candidates position on this. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 9 '13 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen You do not expect the history to repeat itself? (I think the question is an important one, though it could be worded in a more neutral way). $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 9 '13 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ "Illegally" is probably the wrong phrasing here. "Against contest rules"? $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder May 9 '13 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @NoahSnyder Snyder, I intend to use the term "illegal" here because when questions of a particular contest in my country were posted on artofproblemsolving.com, the authorities lodged a complaint with the police). $\endgroup$ – user75930 May 9 '13 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @75064 I hope the new version sounds more neutral. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – user75930 May 9 '13 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @75064: Thanks for the link. I rather expected us to be unanimous in thinking that posting ongoing contest problems is cheating. I was wrong. Then again, we also have a chance to learn from history here (if only the voters in all the elections around the globe would be striving to do the same). Adding my support to including this question. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 9 '13 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @SabyasachiMukherjee, that's very interesting about the police. Was there a discussion on AoPS (link if possible)? $\endgroup$ – zyx May 10 '13 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ I am unable to locate the thread at the moment. The talk about police was verbal communication to some of us on phoning the respective authorities. $\endgroup$ – user75930 May 11 '13 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen, I don't remember any differences of opinion about whether posting ongoing contest problems, exam problems, and some homework problems (assuming that is what they are), is generally a violation of the local rules of the contest or class. The disagreements were about whether it is a good idea for MSE to specially differentiate such questions, establish policies, involve moderators, or grant a large number of outside entities control over content that is rarely original. There is also disagreement over whether the rule violations represent a genuine ethical or practical problem. $\endgroup$ – zyx May 13 '13 at 6:47
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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)?

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    $\begingroup$ Besides the mere volume of helpful flags, I consider of importance the fraction of total flags that has been deemed helpful. Perhaps this could be incorporated in the question? $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin May 7 '13 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin: That is a bit of a problematic calculation. Disputed flags can either come from helpful flags that someone disputed their helpfulness, or unhelpful flags that someone pointed out their unhelpfulness, or from pointing out that other's flags are unhelpful (and as before, this is for better and worse). Not to mention that sometimes the moderators decline some flags on a post, which automatically declines all flags on that post -- even those acted upon. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 7 '13 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I forgot about those issues (probably inexperience). I guess I'll save it for the chat sessions when questions about this remain. Mainly I was bringing in the nuance that 80 out of 200 helpful is different from 45 out of 50. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin May 7 '13 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin: Yes, I agree. The flag handling system could use some tuning which are inherent in my comment above. If that was the case, it would have been easier to ask a better question. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 7 '13 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Also: It seems like all "invalid flags" are labelled as disputed. $\endgroup$ – Thomas May 7 '13 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Thomas: Yes, this was what I meant when I wrote that disputed flags can come from invalidating other's flags. But it doesn't tell you whether or not the original flag was valid, or was the invalidation valid. It just gets disputed. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 7 '13 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: And I think sometimes the system will raise a "low quality" flag that can be invalid. $\endgroup$ – Thomas May 7 '13 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ @user75064: And if I ran in the election, then I wouldn't have to answer it either. I knew that when I wrote the question, and I figured that 8 flags are not much at all and could be achieved in one day if one is wise enough and lucky enough to have an active day. But alas, the Deputy badge is a nice line that was drawn by others. Obviously one or two flags don't matter, but then there is a slippery slope which leads people with no helpful flags to believe they can handle others' flags themselves. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 9 '13 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ I’ve not changed my opinion on this from the last election: I still see little connection between raising helpful flags and being able to deal competently with flags raised by others. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 9 '13 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ I really don’t think that those problems had much to do with this question. They simply reinforced my view that activists shouldn’t be moderators and vice versa. // Why not simply ask all candidates whether they’ve read the FAQ on flagging and are familiar with how the system works? I have the Deputy badge, and I’d have to answer no and maybe 4 on a scale of 0 to 10. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 9 '13 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian, because I want a more general answer. I want them to tell me it, too. The Deputy badge simply says that to some degree the candidate knows what constitutes of a helpful flag. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 9 '13 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ Mine may be too specific, but I’m not at all sure that your question actually solicits the information that you mention in your comment, and I’d really prefer a wording that didn’t appear to equate raising helpful flags with understanding the flagging system. (No, I don’t think that you’re an activist.) $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 9 '13 at 4:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: Well, I do equate understanding the flagging system with at least having some experience in flagging. Much like watching dolphins and reading of sharks won't make you a good swimmer. If a candidate has no experience with the flagging system, I'd like to know whether or not they have compensated this somehow else. As I said before the Deputy badge is a very arbitrary line which was set by others before me, and I simply found fitting for this question. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 9 '13 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: I don't know about you, but when I got to a restaurant I prefer to have my meals prepare by a cook, and not by a waiter. However unbecoming of me, I did spend a lot of effort in making this site to feel like a place I want to belong to, and I won't lie - it is an extremely unusual thing for me to do. For that I prefer it being run by people who are slightly more experienced, and if possible... are not arrogant pricks. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 9 '13 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ But to me your question seems more like asking whether someone has experience as a waiter, and if not, how he expects to compensate for that when he’s asked to cook. I’ll drop it here. I don’t disagree with what you’re trying to do; I just think that this question is a poor way to try to do it. However, I have no quarrel at all with your last sentence! $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 9 '13 at 4:25
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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.

  • 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?
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    $\begingroup$ If there are going to be 8 questions, and you already assured that two are coming from this post, does that mean there are only six spots left, or are there 10 in general and eight spots left? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 7 '13 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Ah, I meant to make that clear in the opening post but I guess, as I reread it, it isn't. The final questionnaire will be up to 10 questions in total, 2 of ours plus up to 8 from the community here. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note May 7 '13 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, very good. Thank you! $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 7 '13 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Ooh, the second bonus question really has something in it! I wasn't even aware that the seal of mod-esty would be attached retroactively to all juvenile errands. $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen May 8 '13 at 19:00
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How involved are you with the meta site? Do you expect this to change if you are elected?

Are you participating in most of hot threads? Are you just reading them and participate from time to time? Are you reading meta threads regularly without participating? Do you even check the meta site?

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What, in your opinion, is the purpose of closing, as opposed to protection, locking, and deletion?

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    $\begingroup$ This could be improved by appending " as opposed to locking, deletion, [other options available to moderators]." (Side note: Hi Manishearth!) $\endgroup$ – apnorton May 9 '13 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @anorton: Good point, added. It slightly defeats the original purpose of the question (a LOT of folks don't know what closing is for -- a temporary on-hold state to let the post be improved) but it's better this way (Side note: Hey there! How's life? :)) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth May 9 '13 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @75064: Feel free to whack my face with your palm, I now feel too much of an idiot to do it myself :P Good catch, thanks :) Fixed now. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth May 9 '13 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ The question is insufficient: I want to know whether candidates think that closing in Math.SE actually has whatever effect they think that it’s supposed to have. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 14 '13 at 0:20
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Suppose you were to disagree with the other mods on the closing / deletion of a post; what action(s) would you take?

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    $\begingroup$ A good question, but it is very similar to one of the two that are pre-selected, per Grace Note's post. "How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?". Maybe it can be rephrased in a way that makes it more different? $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 10 '13 at 22:17
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Have you had any serious or acrimonious dispute with any other Math.SE user? How do you feel about the outcome?

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Under what (if any) circumstances should a moderator close a question that does not have 4 other votes to close?

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When casting your votes, what do you look for in a candidate?

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  • $\begingroup$ I find it weird that this has so many downvotes! $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 10 '13 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ Actually I am not sure to understand the question: each candidate is asked to explain what they look for in other candidates? $\endgroup$ – Did May 11 '13 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Did: Yep. It shows us what they think a good moderator should be like, and from that we can get insights on their view of moderation. I've seen it used before. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth May 11 '13 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the explanation. Such détours do not strike me as very useful, but maybe they are after all. $\endgroup$ – Did May 11 '13 at 10:39
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The subject of Mathematics borders or partially overlaps other SE sites: Physics, Statistics, Computational Science, Computer Science, Theoretical Computer Science. It is expected that MathOverflow will join the SE network as well.

Under what circumstances will you migrate a question to one of these sites?

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What is your position about on having term limits for moderators and having elections periodically, say once a year?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that moderators' opinions on this subject actually matter. SE community managers decide how elections happen; for example they decided that we should collect questions here instead of having "town hall" as in the past. $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 11 '13 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @75064: It could be done by tradition, though. For example, prior to F.D.R., presidents of the United States would self-impose (or maybe their party did) a limit of two terms and wouldn't run again, even though there was nothing in the constitution that said they couldn't. Similarly, moderators could resign a year after being elected. $\endgroup$ – user14972 May 11 '13 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ @75064: I agree that this question doesn't have much consequence in the way things are run. But it might help the voter understand better the moderators approach to his job. $\endgroup$ – Thomas May 11 '13 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomas If you are interested in their approach to the job, perhaps "How long do you expect to remain a moderator, if elected?" would be a better way to ask? $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 11 '13 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @75064: That is not a bad why of asking. But I would like to know if the candidate in general supports term limits. $\endgroup$ – Thomas May 11 '13 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomas: The idea simply didn't interest me. And the more I reflect on it in response to your question, the less interested I become. I don't think MSE is currently a site I'd feel any pride in moderating for, nor do I think acquiring a ♦ would help me change that. Being elected would simply mean more work and responsibility (and the ensuing stress) without any positive feelings to go with it. $\endgroup$ – user14972 May 11 '13 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: I understand. For what it is worth, I would have voted for you. $\endgroup$ – Thomas May 11 '13 at 19:43
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What do you think would be an optimal number of moderators for a site such as Math.SE (for example with regard to need and feasibility of consensus, time zone presences, individual work load, ...)?

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    $\begingroup$ Since the candidates have, for the most part, not been moderators of site such as M.SE, how would they know? $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 9 '13 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez I get your point, but come on: Virtually each question here is about the candidate's expectations about a future as moderator and their answers to all of them may pretty well be invalidated by unexpected need to sacrifice their ideals. $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen May 9 '13 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't mind seeing how a candidate answers this question, but I would not expect them to be able to give much of a concrete answer. I would think that a good candidate would admit that he/she doesn't have much experience to be able to answer the question in detail. $\endgroup$ – Thomas May 9 '13 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @HagenvonEitzen, I don't understand your comment, really — and I surely don't understand where «sacrificing ideals» came into this! This question should have been asked to current mods, not to people who are not mods. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 9 '13 at 22:11
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How do you plan to keep the "unanswered" questions list as low as possible?

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    $\begingroup$ I do not think this is a task of a moderator. $\endgroup$ – TMM May 12 '13 at 13:37

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