Power to the independent webmasters!
After buying my first domain in 2014, I started filling it with code, music and opinion pieces. Shortly after starting my site, I stumbled across Webmasters SE while researching SEO.
Having already been a Stack Overflow user, I found myself quickly at home with the Webmasters SE format. A little over six years ago I submitted my first answer to Webmasters SE, and the rest is history. I’ve been periodically answering, voting, and flagging on Webmasters SE ever since. I recently celebrated crossing the 10k rep threshold.
I’m applying to be a moderator because I believe this community deserves mods who are fair, level-headed and tactful to help keep it in line with its Q&A mission. I’m prepared to help with the moderation effort in an egoless, emotionally intelligent way.
- 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?
My go-to in this case would be to consult privately with the other mods, so I'll answer as if the decision were in my own hands.
If the decision were put into my hands, it depends on how egregious their comments were. If they only got a little hot tempered from time to time, I would remind them in a private note to please keep it civil, in a respectful way that, if possible, validates their viewpoint while calling attention to their problematic presentation (“@HotTemperedUser While it’s true that Google’s customer service is hard to deal with on a good day, please keep the comment section civil.”)
On the other hand, there is the case that the user posts many excellent answers but is blatantly abusive of others on the site. It’s hard for me to imagine a user who would fit this profile. In such a case, I would give a short temp ban to let them cool down and give me time to consult with the other mods. If it were a pattern, I would want to personally engage the user by email, spelling out clear expectations and consequences in as friendly and diplomatic a way as possible, stating that if the pattern of abuse does not change I would not be afraid to hand out a permanent ban. In my communication, I would want to let them know explicitly that I value their answers and that they are welcome on Webmasters SE as long as the problem behavior does not continue.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
If a mod straight up deleted a question instead of closing it and letting the roomba do its job, there’s likely a good reason for that (spam, offensive, etc). It’s hard to think of a situation where I would disagree with a decision like that, but if so, I would reach out to the mod in private and try to learn their reasoning (the reason could help me learn the motivations behind the removal and become a more effective mod myself).
If a mod only closed a question though, I see two cases. If the question was borderline, I would state my case briefly in a public comment on the post, pinging the other mod about it just I would if I were a user trying to get a question opened again (for example, a post that doesn’t seem at first glance like it fits the asking guidelines, but I believe I have an argument that it does). There’s been at least one time in the past where I have swayed a mod and gotten a question re-opened, so this seems to be the most harmonious route.
If it were a bigger, more ideological question about whether similar questions should be closed or about what types of topics are allowed on the site, I would bring the discussion to meta.
- This site is not very active compared to other Stack Exchange sites. How would you, as a moderator, work to encourage more activity?
First and foremost, I want to maintain a welcoming space. I see every user who doesn’t have a pleasant first time experience here as a potential loss to the community, and this is especially critical for Webmasters SE because we are such a small site.
I wish I could say that I have a 1M+ social media following of webmasters who I’ll blast Webmasters SE to if I am elected, but the truth is that I don’t have a plan to try to scoop up more users from the greater web (if I did, I would already have the publicist badge!) Once they are here, though, I want them to feel like it is easy to be a part of this community, that their contributions are appreciated, and that they are being properly informed about SE’s strict content standards compared to other more free-form discussion forums (like Reddit, Facebook groups, etc). The last thing I want users to feel is like the rules are impossible to understand and applied arbitrarily by mods (a common outsider meme about SE and especially SO moderation).
- Moderators disagree with each other all the time on issues large and small. How will you deal with disagreement with other moderators? At what point do you reverse their actions? source
My go-to would be to ask the mod privately what their reasoning behind a particular mod action was. Since I would be a new diamond starting out, it’s likely that their explanation would give me a window into how to moderate more effectively. If I still disagreed with their reasoning, I would discuss my own reasoning while being respectful of their viewpoint.
If a mod action met every one of the following criteria, I would consider reversing it:
The mod action looked to me like an oversight, like a question being closed as a dupe but it really isn’t a dupe if you read more closely.
The question looked high-quality and genuinely worth saving to me. I don’t champion borderline content for the sake of ideology!
Reversing the action is somewhat time-sensitive. So if a user had a question about a specific problem they were currently struggling with, I would be more likely to reverse another mod’s closure than if it were a more general, speculative question about webmastering. For the latter, I would be more likely to wait until I got in contact with the mod that made the decision (either in private or by starting a Meta discussion about the question).
In any case, with my reversion I would always notify the mod whose action I reverted, along with a short blurb about my reasoning. The only thing worse imo than having your actions reversed is to have them reversed without being notified and for a reason that hasn’t been made clear to you. Both users and other mods deserve transparency!
In general, I want to respect the autonomy of each mod. There will be a lot of borderline cases where I may not have made the same mod decision and that’s fine. It should be relatively rare that I find a mod action that I disagree with so much that I feel the need to follow up on it with a discussion.
- What times of day would you typically be available to moderate? Would you be able to provide coverage during hours when the current moderators are not usually active?
I’m in the PST time zone. If elected, I plan to check in late morning and early evening.
- Imagine a time in which the site has become divided between two groups, each of whom desire a future which is anathema to the other. The status quo is unstable; it is all but guaranteed that one group will be seen as ascendant and the other will leave in frustration. And... You've been elected to serve both groups. How might you approach such a situation? If you would seek compromise, how could you hope to garner agreement from enough people to make it work? source
To be honest, it’s hard for me to imagine two significant groups having such conflicting views about Webmasters SE. But if such an ideological divide were to occur, the first thing I would do is to try to surface it on Meta to give it as much visibility as possible, if it weren’t there already. Users and mods could weigh in and debate, and we could use comments and votes as rough consensus on what everyone wants.
If there is no clear consensus, I do believe that the most active and senior users (and by extension moderators) should hold the tiebreak vote. They should do what they believe is best for the health of the community, always keeping in mind its mission to generate a free, open knowledge base.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
A moderator’s job is to keep a community focused on its goal, while addressing problematic user behavior that detracts from that goal. A Discord moderator’s goal may be to create an environment where everyone has fun chatting together; a Stack Exchange moderator’s goal is to create a respectful and welcoming environment for people to Q&A and build a valuable public knowledge base, then keep the knowledge base’s public-facing pages free from spam and off-topic discussion.
As a first line of moderation, I believe in nudging and watching problem users rather than handing out bans, even temporary bans. As I read some time ago in some theory of moderation, it doesn’t create a lot of extra work to let someone off the hook with a warning and forgive them once or twice - if the user changes their behavior then your job is done and you haven’t caused any hard feelings, but if they continue being a problem despite repeated warnings, then it doesn’t take much effort to clean up and ban them later. So, as a general rule I would want to warn the user and then watch them carefully to see if the problem behavior continues, rather than handing out a ban out of the gate.
That being said, there are cases where light touch moderation isn’t appropriate, and heavier tools like temp bans should be used. I’ll mention the user I saw the other day who, after their question was closed for being off-topic, said they “wish Steve a severe punishment in hell” on a now-deleted post as part of a long barrage of personal attacks. If I were the recipient of that instead of Steve, I would have likely issued a temp ban as well.
For a user wishing something less fiery on someone than eternal inferno, I would have wanted to post a clarifying comment saying that I don’t mean to be dismissive of his/her question, but that it’s more suited for and better categorized to SO and that he would likely get higher quality answers there. I would try to help the user understand that it’s in their best interest to not take the closure personally, but to repost on the other site. But this specific user kind of went off like a bombshell, so I likely would not have been able to establish rapport before the rant started - thus temp ban.
- 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 believe I have been pretty diplomatic about all my interactions so far on this site. As a 10k+ rep user on both Webmasters SE and Stack Overflow, I’m already used to doing some moderator-ish things on both sites, including explaining my close and delete votes and pointing new users in the right direction, so I see the diamond as a continuation of a role I’ve already taken on to a partial extent.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
In contrast to Stack Overflow, my impression is that Webmasters SE often doesn’t have enough active users to clear review queues in a timely way without mod involvement. Often something that really should be closed will get zero or one close vote, then a mod will swing by and cast the binding vote. So I would use my diamond to help keep the review queues clean.
One satisfying thing I plan to use the diamond for is to nuke bot blogspam posts from the front page and personally dish out bot account permabans. I'm running out of characters here, so I'll just leave it at that!
For the most part, my diamond would be a tool to take direct action instead of just flagging things. My only few disputed flags are flags of link-only answers which I’ve learned are treated a bit more leniently on Webmasters SE than Stack Overflow. Aside from those, I’ve only had a single declined flag out of my 99 flags.
Thanks for considering me for the mod position. It would be a great way for me to further give back to this community!