2021 Moderator Election

nomination began
Jul 26 at 20:00
election began
Aug 2 at 20:00
election ended
Aug 10 at 20:00
candidates
5
positions
2

On Stack Exchange, we believe the core moderators should come from the community, and be elected by the community itself through popular vote. We hold regular elections to determine who these community moderators will be.

Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.

Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

Every election has three phases:

  1. Nomination
  2. Primary
  3. Election

Please participate in the moderator elections by voting, and perhaps even by nominating yourself to be a community moderator!

Additional Links

Questionnaire
The community team has compiled questions from meta for the candidates to answer.
  1. 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?

[Answer 1 here]

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

[Answer 2 here]

  1. What are major challenges specific to PSE?

[Answer 3 here]

  1. Are there any PSE site policies that you find insufficient for the problem they try to solve, superfluous, or even actively harmful to the site? In the case where these policies cannot/will not be changed, how will you make sure to adhere to and promote these policies despite not agreeing with them?

[Answer 4 here]

  1. What, if anything, would you do with a user who posts a steady stream of polite answers that derail questions to talk about their own personal theories, while not technically breaking any rules?

[Answer 5 here]

  1. How well do you think your previous behavior and actions on PSE have aligned with current PSE site policies? Do you think this will change at all if you are a moderator, and if so, how?

[Answer 6 here]

  1. Site policies need interpretation and interpretation of rules is never like proving a mathematical theorem. Moderators could play an important role in maintaining coherence in the interpretation of the site policies. However, elected moderators should act as an expression of their community. Do you think discussions here in Physics Meta could help? In the case of a positive answer, do you think this mechanism could or should be improved? How? In the case of a negative answer, why?

[Answer 7 here]

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

[Answer 8 here]

  1. 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?

[Answer 9 here]

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

[Answer 10 here]

SuperCiocia

In real life, I am an experimental physicist working on cold atoms and specifically Bose-Einstein condensates. My undergraduate degree was in theoretical high-energy physics.

I made most of my points through questions (11 of my gold badges are from Famous Questions), though lately I have been doing more answering, mostly on questions with no other answers and on niche topics like Bose-Einstein condensation (so far the only user to receive a badge on that tag).

I don't necessary want to be a moderator, but someone has to do it and I would be available to volunteer my time. I visit the site every day (apart from the occasional week-end or week I am camping off the grid) but am not very active on meta -- I do read the questions and answers, I just don't get involved in the discussions. This is the main thing I feel I have to change, should I be elected.

Questionnaire
  1. 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?

Science is a method, an integral part of which is to engage with others in civil discourse and with mutual respect, in order to defend one's interpretation and to potentially change one's mind should better evidence arise.

Regardless of the value and excellence of the answer, if the user is not able to politely take part in the ensuing discussion then this site is not for them. Create a blog, post your thoughts, and disable comments. Moderators especially should be champions of civility and exemplary behaviour, and understand the line between humour and disrespect.

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

I would the most junior moderator, so I would turn to the more experienced moderator that closed the question and ask for their reasoning, not to question it but to learn from it. Should I still retain my earlier conviction about the closed question, I would voice my concerns and initiate a discussion. If a unanimous verdict is not reached, I would defer judgment to the more/most senior moderators.

  1. What are major challenges specific to PSE?

One thing.
Not that I have clever solutions to it, but just to share my way of thinking and looking at things.

Homework questions.
A lot of people (new users) treat this site like a Yahoo Answers of sort, which inundates the front page with questions that involve no discussion, no discourse, but just want a numerical answer, for that user to then disappear forever. A lot of these questions are closed in review queues, but it would lead to an overall nicer experience if some of them were not to get through to the main page altogether. I guess it would be an interesting ML/AI challenge to implement something like the 'this question has too much code' warning on StackOverflow that does not let you post a question if there's not some text as well.

  1. Are there any PSE site policies that you find insufficient for the problem they try to solve, superfluous, or even actively harmful to the site? In the case where these policies cannot/will not be changed, how will you make sure to adhere to and promote these policies despite not agreeing with them?

I guess see my answer to #3.

How will I make sure to adhere to them despite not agreeing with them?
Closing homework questions.

  1. What, if anything, would you do with a user who posts a steady stream of polite answers that derail questions to talk about their own personal theories, while not technically breaking any rules?

Downvoting, commenting explaining why (especially if a new user), closing the question.

  1. How well do you think your previous behavior and actions on PSE have aligned with current PSE site policies? Do you think this will change at all if you are a moderator, and if so, how?

Not to blow my own trumpet but I think I'm quite a rule abiding netizen, and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future, regardless of the authority invested in me.

The one thing I should do more often is commenting following a downvote, to explain why I did so. But then again I only cast 17 downvotes on 1391 total votes.

  1. Site policies need interpretation and interpretation of rules is never like proving a mathematical theorem. Moderators could play an important role in maintaining coherence in the interpretation of the site policies. However, elected moderators should act as an expression of their community. Do you think discussions here in Physics Meta could help? In the case of a positive answer, do you think this mechanism could or should be improved? How? In the case of a negative answer, why?

I think the current system of discussing things on Meta, including links to the specific post in question, is the best way to go.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

A silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight.

Moderators provide an authoritative figure to make decisions in conflict management and resolution, and rules enforcement. Either by actions, or by merely being involved in discussions on meta.

  1. 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?

While in real life I am quite the witty sarcastic guy, I am especially careful online where written speech is more prone to misinterpretation. As a moderator, if anything, I will hold myself to a higher standard.

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

Truth be told, it won't. As I said in the bio section of this nomination, someone's got to do it. I have quite a few users in mind that I would prefer to see as moderators instead of me, and would retract my nomination should any of them run. Otherwise, I am humbly making myself available.

10

akhmeteli

I tend to read rules as they are written and follow them. If elected, I intend to apply the rules without bias and avoid excessive moderation. Users who insist on their right to be rude here should not vote for me.

Questionnaire
  1. 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?

[As far as I understand, the principle of moderation here is management by exception, so "a steady stream of valuable answers" should not influence moderators' decisions. Arguments and flags should only influence the decisions if they indicate actual violations of the rules. ]

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

[I would avoid undermining other moderators, but I may discuss the issue privately.]

  1. What are major challenges specific to PSE?

[Users have different expectations depending on their knowledge and experience. I don't think we can do much about that.]

  1. Are there any PSE site policies that you find insufficient for the problem they try to solve, superfluous, or even actively harmful to the site? In the case where these policies cannot/will not be changed, how will you make sure to adhere to and promote these policies despite not agreeing with them?

[I am fine with the current PSE policies.]

  1. What, if anything, would you do with a user who posts a steady stream of polite answers that derail questions to talk about their own personal theories, while not technically breaking any rules?

[If the user is not technically breaking any rules, I am not going to do anything about it.]

  1. How well do you think your previous behavior and actions on PSE have aligned with current PSE site policies? Do you think this will change at all if you are a moderator, and if so, how?

[I believe my behavior and actions have been within the policies. I was often criticized for short answers, but I don't think such answers violated the policies. I don't feel I will need to change if elected, but maybe some corrections will be in order.]

  1. Site policies need interpretation and interpretation of rules is never like proving a mathematical theorem. Moderators could play an important role in maintaining coherence in the interpretation of the site policies. However, elected moderators should act as an expression of their community. Do you think discussions here in Physics Meta could help? In the case of a positive answer, do you think this mechanism could or should be improved? How? In the case of a negative answer, why?

[Discussions at Physics Meta definitely can and do help, but I don't have any proposals to improve the mechanism.]

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

[I believe this site would disintegrate without moderation, so moderators protect the site by enforcing the policies.]

  1. 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?

[I usually say that every success creates an opportunity to screw up, so I will try to avoid such trap, if elected.]

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

[I don't think being a moderator will make me more effective. Moderation and reputation seem to live in different planes. Does experience as an umpire make a soccer player more effective? Not directly. ]

8

Vincent Thacker

Hi, despite my low reputation, I would like to nominate myself as a moderator because I have a strong passion for this site and I care about it deeply. For many years, even before I created an account here, this site has played an indispensable role in broadening my knowledge, helping me see things from new perspectives I never would've thought of, and most importantly, strengthening my passion and love for physics. Therefore, I believe that it is only right that I give back to this site that has helped me so much throughout my journey in science, and it would be a great honor if I were to serve as a moderator to help maintain the site and ensure quality content for many more years to come.

I have a couple of years of experience moderating chat groups and an academic Q&A platform where a certain set of rules need to be adhered to. I am fairly active here and I expect that I will be able to spend two hours a day moderating, give or take.

As a side note, my time zone is GMT+8 (East Asia), which I feel will fit in nicely with the other moderators (whom I believe are primarily located in US and Europe).

Questionnaire
  1. 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?

I would first remind the user nicely through comments that their answers are great (and even upvote them) but their behavior in comments is not acceptable. If no improvement is shown, I will discuss with the rest of the moderation team whether it is appropriate to take further action such as contacting the user through email. As a final last resort, if this user continues to upset many other established users and is too disruptive to the community, suspension might be warranted.

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

The rules here are generally clear enough that such an occurrence would be relatively rare. I would first seek clarification from that mod and understand their point of view, as well as the views of the rest of the moderation team. As most of them have many more years of moderation experience on this site than myself, I would be naturally inclined to agree with and learn from their point of view rather than trying to push my own opinion.

  1. What are major challenges specific to PSE?

I feel that the major challenge is deciding whether questions are on-topic or not. The most obvious elephant in this room is the homework policy. The number of blatant homework questions seems to only have increased throughout my time on this site. On the other hand, perhaps the most difficult challenge is drawing the line between conceptual and homework questions, because certain concepts are hard to ask without invoking an example scenario, and certain homework-like questions are really just asking about an underlying concept. I've seen a fair share of these questions get downvoted/closed as homework even though they might be useful to future users/visitors encountering the same problem/confusion.

  1. Are there any PSE site policies that you find insufficient for the problem they try to solve, superfluous, or even actively harmful to the site? In the case where these policies cannot/will not be changed, how will you make sure to adhere to and promote these policies despite not agreeing with them?

Not at the moment. I feel that the policies here have done a good job so far. It is important to remember that policies are crafted for the benefit of the entire community and site, rather than that of a single user.

  1. What, if anything, would you do with a user who posts a steady stream of polite answers that derail questions to talk about their own personal theories, while not technically breaking any rules?

I believe that 99% of the time, the community is adequate for deciding (through voting and flagging) whether answers are appropriate or not. If such a user has too many posts flagged and deleted through review, the system might automatically refuse to accept answers from their account(s). If, in the unlikely case that that is still not enough, I will consider discussing with the rest of the moderation team whether to suspend this user for low-quality contributions. After all, answers are for answering the question and not for talking about personal theories.

  1. How well do you think your previous behavior and actions on PSE have aligned with current PSE site policies? Do you think this will change at all if you are a moderator, and if so, how?

I believe that my previous actions have aligned well with site policies. (However, I do admit that when I was new to this site, I gave complete answers to a couple of homework questions as I was not yet aware of the homework policy.) As a moderator, I will continue to uphold and enforce site policies.

  1. Site policies need interpretation and interpretation of rules is never like proving a mathematical theorem. Moderators could play an important role in maintaining coherence in the interpretation of the site policies. However, elected moderators should act as an expression of their community. Do you think discussions here in Physics Meta could help? In the case of a positive answer, do you think this mechanism could or should be improved? How? In the case of a negative answer, why?

Yes, Physics Meta is a vital part of this site where moderators can seek views/opinions from the community on certain issues/policies and also where other users can seek clarification on site policies. Ideally, moderators and established users should agree on a clear site policy that minimizes subjective/ambiguous wording.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

In my opinion, moderators primarily enforce site policies, deal with rude/abusive/spam posts and settle disputes between users. Since the community can already deal with most of the issues on its own, moderators are the ones who are there when a higher level of action (that the community does not have access to) is needed.

  1. 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?

I don't have much to say about this one. I guess it would serve as a constant reminder that I am a representative of the entire Physics.SE community and that I am held to a higher level of accountability and public scrutiny.

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

I would be able to access tools that are not accessible to even 20k users and this will make me more effective in helping the continued growth of this site, such as deleting spam and closing blatant homework right away instead of merely flagging.

14

Alfred Centauri

I don't know that I would be a good moderator but, were I to be asked, I do know that I would give it my best shot. I've learned a lot here and not just from reading answers. I've learned more from taking the time to research an interesting question and write an answer of my own in the way that I understand it at the time. This is the essence of the PSE experience that I would like to see encouraged and preserved.

No, I haven't been active much recently. My involvement at PSE ebbs and flows. That's a fact.

Yes, I've been suspended once for going a bit too far in the comments. The mods at the time got no argument from me. They got it right, I earned the suspension, and that's a fact.

Simply put, I'm not the ideal moderator candidate. But, volunteers are needed - someone has to do this work - and that's a fact too.

Questionnaire
  1. 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?

I've certainly generated a few flags from my own comments (often memorialized on my profile page), and I have experience with how the then current moderators (for which I have nothing but the utmost respect) approached those comments / flags. Generally speaking, I would remind the valuable contributor to make my life as a moderator less needlessly tedious than it needs to be.

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

I expect that to happen and, unless an egregious pattern develops, I wouldn't consider a one-off closed/deleted/etc. a situation to handled.

  1. What are major challenges specific to PSE?

Keeping the site interesting for old-timers and newbies alike.

  1. Are there any PSE site policies that you find insufficient for the problem they try to solve, superfluous, or even actively harmful to the site? In the case where these policies cannot/will not be changed, how will you make sure to adhere to and promote these policies despite not agreeing with them?

There are no perfect policies. Understanding that adhering to a non-perfect policy is something one essentially agrees to when one accepts the role of moderator is essential isn't it? Not that one can't work to change a policy while as a moderator but, while it is a policy, it is a policy to be upheld, right? The alternative is to resign.

  1. What, if anything, would you do with a user who posts a steady stream of polite answers that derail questions to talk about their own personal theories, while not technically breaking any rules?

If a user is not technically breaking the rules then, clearly, it is the community's job to find a solution.

  1. How well do you think your previous behavior and actions on PSE have aligned with current PSE site policies? Do you think this will change at all if you are a moderator, and if so, how?

It's been awhile since I've been active here, and maybe that is best aligned with current PSE policies.

  1. Site policies need interpretation and interpretation of rules is never like proving a mathematical theorem. Moderators could play an important role in maintaining coherence in the interpretation of the site policies. However, elected moderators should act as an expression of their community. Do you think discussions here in Physics Meta could help? In the case of a positive answer, do you think this mechanism could or should be improved? How? In the case of a negative answer, why?

I pretty sure one policy is to not ask too many questions in one post.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

In my opinion, moderators more or less continually ask why in the heck they asked for this job. I can't imagine why anyone would want the position.

  1. 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?

It's a sobering thought.

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

I don't think I'll be more effective. But honestly, someone's got to do this job and, I've learned so much here that I feel a debt that needs to be paid.

15

Buzz

I would be interested in becoming a moderator. Professionally, I am a professor of physics at an R1 institution in the United States. Most of my research is on symmetries in theoretical particle physics. However, I also do some work in astrophysics, atomic physics, and condensed matter physics, and I sometimes collaborate with experimenters in these areas.

I visit this site almost every day, and I try always check on the review queues when I log in. Compared to a the other Stack Exchange sites I visit, Physics gets a lot of off-topic questions—especially homework-like questions. I think that makes it important for knowledgeable users to contribute to moderation here.

While I have never been a moderator on Stack Exchange, my wife has been a moderator on several Stack Exchange sites, and I am fairly familiar with the practicalities of being a mod. I have worked as a moderator on several other forum sites and have run networks and bulletin boards going all the way back to the pre-Web era, and I also have some experience helping to lead volunteer communities, including working on resolving the disputes that occasionally arose between members.

Questionnaire
  1. 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?

For a user like this, who produces useful content for the site, yet who also generates an unusual degree of acrimony, I think the first step would be to have a conversation (in chat or via messages) about the the issue. After discussion among the moderators, one moderator can take the lead in contacting the user and letting them know that their contributions to the site are highly valued, but that some of their comments are not appreciated by other members of the community. I would hope that a mature user would take this constructive criticism in stride and make adjustments. However, if that doesn't happen, I think it becomes time for the moderation team to start enforcing sanctions on users whose out-of-bounds behavior is hurting the site. If the problems persist, the severity of the sanctions can be progressively increased

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

The moderators on Physics Stack Exchange appear to do good job of dealing with the issues that arise, so I expect this kind of disagreement would be a pretty uncommon occurrence. In tricky edge cases, I think it will usually be best to defer to the judgement of the mod who first dealt with the issue, even if I feel that things could have been handled slightly differently. However, if I felt particularly strongly that a closure or deletion decision was made in error, I would want to discuss it with the mod who made that decision, and I would also want to reach out to the other members of the mod team, to see whether they had perspectives the wanted to contribute.

  1. What are major challenges specific to PSE?

The biggest specific issue for the Physics site is the large number of off-topic homework and work-checking questions that the site gets. For many of these (e.g., questions that are just asking for the solution of a homework problem), the site does a good job of flagging and closing them. However, I think that there are also a fair number of questions that, while they may be concerned to some extent with specific homework problems of other calculations, are also related to underlying conceptual issues, and I think the site could sometimes do a better job of recasting these potentially interesting questions to make them on topic.

  1. Are there any PSE site policies that you find insufficient for the problem they try to solve, superfluous, or even actively harmful to the site? In the case where these policies cannot/will not be changed, how will you make sure to adhere to and promote these policies despite not agreeing with them?

I am not aware of any Physics-Stack-Exchange-specific policies that I think are problematic. However, if there were disagreements about a site policy, I would first want to make sure that there was clarity and agreement about what the policy actually is. (In the past, I have seen often seen disagreements—sometimes fairly heated disagreements—over group policies and rules that turned out to be illusive, because different people were interpreting the policies in quite different ways.) However, if everyone is on the same page about what the policy means, I don't think I would have a problem with adhering a policy that I might personally feel to be not optimal.

  1. What, if anything, would you do with a user who posts a steady stream of polite answers that derail questions to talk about their own personal theories, while not technically breaking any rules?

This is what downvotes are for. One of the fundamental ideas behind the Stack Exchange platform is that voting can be used to help identify the best answers. People offering up crackpot answers are still functioning within the parameters of the site, and it is one of the strengths of Stack Exchange that these kinds of poor answers should quickly garner enough downvotes to make it clear to other users that they are not good answers.

  1. How well do you think your previous behavior and actions on PSE have aligned with current PSE site policies? Do you think this will change at all if you are a moderator, and if so, how?

I try to follow the established policies of each Stack Exchange site that I frequent, and in borderline cases, I usually try to give questions and answers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to closing or deleting them. As a moderator I expect that I would continue to err slightly on the side of inclusiveness when it came to content of borderline topicality. However, on other issues than topicality—such as rude or abusive behavior—which regular users do not deal with except through flagging, I would be more aggressive about actively enforcing site policies.

On other Stack Exchange sites, where it can be trickier to decide whether things are or are not on topic, I try to raise these issues on Meta whenever I seem them arising—so that the site community can discuss them and make decision collectively. As a moderator on Physics, I would be more proactive about raising these kinds of question for discussion on Physics Meta as well.

  1. Site policies need interpretation and interpretation of rules is never like proving a mathematical theorem. Moderators could play an important role in maintaining coherence in the interpretation of the site policies. However, elected moderators should act as an expression of their community. Do you think discussions here in Physics Meta could help? In the case of a positive answer, do you think this mechanism could or should be improved? How? In the case of a negative answer, why?

As I indicated in the previous answer, I think Meta should be the primary venue for discussion of how our site policies should be implemented and how they many need to evolve over time. Moderators can play key roles in these discussions by raising these issues on Meta when they appear on the main site—and by providing informed answers, laying out current site policy, to Meta questions asked by other users.

If I become a moderator, I anticipate that I would post more on Meta that I have up to now. One reason is that part of a mod's job is to lay out and clarify the site policies for other users, so I would be more proactive about visiting the Physics Meta site and answering questions that other users had raised. Obviously, I would also be involved in any Meta discussions about actions that I might have taken as a mod—whether there was just curiosity about something I had done or, more unfortunately, disagreement from some user(s) with some action I had taken.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

I think the job of moderators is to keep the Physics Stack Exchange a convenient, useful, and welcoming place for users. This means heading off and dealing with problems that ordinary users are not equipped to deal with via flagging and moderation queues.

  1. 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?

I have always tried to avoid making combative comments (or even overly flippant comments, which might be misunderstood) on Stack Exchange. Moreover, compared with some of the other Stack Exchange sites that I frequent (such as Academia or Science Fiction & Fantasy), answers on Physics tend to be fairly factual, and I have not expressed many personal opinions in my answers on this site. So I am not particularly worried about anything I have posted in the past being intimidatingly associated with a moderator's diamond

  1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

As I said above, I think that the most important job of moderators is to keep the site in the best shape for the user base. A lot of moderation duties can be carried out by experienced users, but there are simply some things that these users cannot do, and somebody needs to be available to take care of these activities when action is called for. Moderation need not and should not be heavy handed, but when potential problems do appear, it is important to have a responsive team of moderators who can use the full toolkit available to them as the need arises.

15

This election is over.