As our first graduation election approaches, I am once again asking for your support. I was elected as a pro-tem mod in 2020, and I would love to continue serving the community as a mod. Over the last two years, I feel the mod team has dealt capably in the face of high-profile events which brought new and increased traffic to the site, as well as the more routine duties.
If re-elected, I will continue to champion high-quality contributions, and ensure that new contributors understand the community's expectations and are encouraged to participate rather than put off. In general, I believe in a light-touch approach to moderation, and that quality standards should be set and enforced by the broader community through the tools already available to it as much as possible. On the other hand, when clear evidence of bad-faith participation exists, it's important to nip this in the bud so that it does not continue to negatively impact other community members.
I've only been around for the last few years of the site's decade of existence, but I've really enjoyed my time here so far, both as a user and a moderator, and with your support, I look forward to continuing!
- 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?
This one depends on the nature of the comments in question. If the user just has a habit of robustly - but politely - debating and defending their answers when constructive criticism is raised, then in my experience, a message encouraging them to make use of the chat facility rather than detract from their answers with long comment threads usually suffices.
On the other hand, if their comments veer into any rudeness or offensive behaviour, then the quality of their answers - in my opinion - should have no bearing on leniency. Quite the contrary, high-reputation users should be expected to not only be well aware of our rules regarding this behaviour, but also set an example for others.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc. a question that you feel shouldn’t have been?
If I felt very strongly that the question should not have been closed or deleted, I'd raise it with that moderator directly, allowing us both to present our point of view and hopefully come to an agreement. If that discussion proved unfruitful, I'd ask a third moderator to weigh in with their opinion and break a deadlock. Another option would be to create a meta post to solicit feedback from the wider community. I would not unilaterally re-open or undelete the question unless the issues which caused the initial deletion/closure had clearly been resolved.
This is especially important for deletions, as many community members will be unable to view the deleted question to scrutinise the moderator's actions, and moderator-deleted questions cannot be undeleted by the community. In the case of closed questions, however, borderline cases can generally be left up to the community to cast re-open votes if they disagree with the moderator's decision.
- What areas of moderator activity do you think require more attention/effort than currently given? Alternatively/additionally, if you think some aspects of Politics SE are over-moderated, which are those, in your view?
I generally think the current moderator team does a pretty good job, but I may be ever-so-slightly biased. One improvement that could be made would be the addition of a moderator residing outside of the European timezone. Generally the current moderator team is able to provide decent coverage, but the early hours of the morning (UTC) is a potential weak point.
Another issue that I'd like to be able to deal with more effectively is that of sock-puppeting and serial-down/upvoting. These investigations can take quite a long time to conclude if they're not caught by the automatic detection routines, and I think this can lead to frustration, especially from affected users in the case of serial-downvoting. Of course, in the case of serial-upvoting the whole community is affected, as it allows privileges to be undeservedly earned and contributions to be given undeserved prominence.
- How would you deal with flags that are not raised because of quality but because a question/answer contradicts a popular narrative?
I suppose this depends on what is meant by contradicting a popular narrative. If, as this question supposes, the contribution is technically and qualitatively without fault - but just happens to present a hard or unpopular truth in a fair and balanced way - the flag should be dismissed. Flags should not be used for this purpose. Furthermore, moderators are not expected to be subject experts able to evaluate the 'correctness' of every single answer - that is generally left to the community via up & downvoting.
On the other hand, answers which stray from the 'popular narrative' in the sense that they become ad hominems or rants against individuals should generally be edited to present information impassively, or deleted if they are totally unsalvageable. Incontrovertibly false claims (and I'm talking really incontrovertible, such as Boris Johnson secretly plotting to invade the moon) should also be removed to preserve the integrity of the site. The main takeaway should be that I would strive to treat all contributions with the same scrutiny, no matter the personal political viewpoints of the author.
The reason that I'm a little uncomfortable with the phrasing of this question is in the sense that contributions shouldn't really be presenting a 'narrative' at all. This is site for objective questions and answers, the aim of which is to foster an inclusive environment for learning together about politics and political processes. Political activism, which tends to be what I associate with narrative presentation, is fundamentally incompatible with this goal.
- As a moderator your actions such as close votes will be binding and take only you for the action to complete. Will this change the way you interact on the site and what actions you take?
Yes - I tend not to cast close votes on borderline cases, but instead leave comments presenting my view and potentially make edits where necessary. I think it's far more preferrable in terms of the health of the site if closure decisions in these cases are made by the wider community. In particular, now the site has graduated, I think it's important that the community is less reliant on moderators taking unilateral action.
However, I continue to cast closure votes on clear duplicate questions (especially in the case of united-states questions, where even as a regular user I have a gold tag badge dupe-hammer), questions which clearly call for speculation or guesswork, and questions which fit on other sites - as until we have defined question migration pathways this action cannot be taken by non-moderators.
- Because this site often attracts people who want to vent their political frustrations, the questions asked here are often designed to push political narratives. There is a certain balance to be struck between maintaining a collegiate environment in which genuine curiosity should be allowed, while obvious sealioning should be discouraged. Sometimes this balance must be maintained by the moderators. Do you think moderators should be involved in this? If you do, what methodology (if any) do you plan on using to achieve this goal as a moderator?
Generally yes - as I mentioned above, this site is not a place for political activism but for satisfying genuine curiosity and filling gaps in knowledge. While sealioning can often be dealt with using the community moderation tools, it can be necessary for moderators to intervene to protect the integrity of the site.
In the majority of these cases, there is often a diamond of a good question hidden in the rough, and it would be my goal to work with the user to edit the question so that it complies with the site guidelines. If the user is unnecessarily resistant to this, enforcement action in the form of an edit lock is usually effective in ensuring that genuine academic interest is not stifled by allowing the kernel of the question to be answered.
It is important in these cases that the fairness of the moderation team is as unimpeachable as possible, and I believe that moderators should always be prepared to explain their actions (to the greatest extent permissible under the moderator agreement) to the community in the form of a meta post.
- Invariably, users will want to debate where questions cross the community defined good-faith standard (which now has its own close reason). Do you think the standard is sufficient as-is or is there anything you would like to see added or removed?
I answered this question in 2020 - and I hope voters will forgive me if I refer to my previous answer, as it remains the same:
"I think that the standard is generally sufficient, but I agree that questions closed with this reason do seem to attract quite a few appeals to meta, often following the format of insisting that the user themselves is not seeking to promote/discredit, and that as a result the question should be re-opened.
If the wording were to be changed, I would support a proposal which altered the close reason to emphasise even further that the close reason is not a personal attack on the question author, but specific to the wording of the question.
Excluding the most egregious questions, often questions which appear to be asked in bad-faith can be improved to be appropriate for this site. It can be difficult to ask a non-partisan question about a controversial topic (as most topics in politics are), especially when one's personal opinion rests squarely on one side of the argument, and I think we should encourage and help users to achieve this."
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
Moderators are there to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of the site and to attempt to maintain a welcoming and positive experience for other users. Much of this is achieved by working through the flag queue and keeping an eye on chat and meta, as well as using moderator-only powers sparingly. They attempt to mitigate rule-breaking and abusive behaviour as much as possible, but as this inevitably proves impossible, may use enforcement measures such as suspension in order to protect the site and community as a whole.
Moderators also assist the Community Managers, acting not only as a point of contact for them with the community, but also through relaying issues or concerns to the team directly.
- 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?
Comfortable. At this point the vast majority of my time on the site has been spent as a moderator and I've become used to my actions being subject to increased scrutiny - as they should be.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
Being a moderator grants various privileges unavailable to those with access to the high-rep user tools. These allow unilateral action to be taken in egregious cases of rule-breaking, as well as permit the investigation of more widespread wrongdoing, such as persistant trolling, spam, or sock-puppetting - detection of which is often impossible or impractical for those without these privileges.