8

Due to the short election cycle we had an abbreviated question collection.

Not every question was selected. All positive scoring suggestions are included (since the bottom three were tied).

As a candidate, your job is simple—post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes.Please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written, and also including a link to your answer on your nomination post.

Once all the answers have been compiled, this will serve as a transcript for voters to view the thoughts of their candidates, and will be appropriately linked in the Election page.

Good luck to all of the candidates!

Oh, and when you've completed your answer, please provide a link to it after this blurb here, before that set of three dashes. Please leave the list of links in the order of submission.

To save scrolling here are links to the submissions from each candidate (in order of submission):


Candidate Answers:


Questions:

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?
  2. There's always a user or two who wants 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?
  3. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?
  4. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?
  5. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?
  6. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself. Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?
  7. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?
  8. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.
  9. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?
  10. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?
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    I'm not sure what up/down voting means on this stage of the election, but I noticed the agc's post appeared grayed-out because it got three downvotes. Does that means it doesn't show at all to people with lower reputation? I upvoted it just to kick it back into visibility, but you might want to disable that feature on this particular page so that everyone can see all of the responses. – Ted Wrigley Sep 27 at 16:50
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    @TedWrigley It doesn't remove visibility. Also this is just a run-of-the-mill Meta post. Downvotes carry no extra weight here and do not apply to the election (I had the top Meta on SO for the 2019 election and finished 8th. FWIW). And speaking as a mod, turning off votes involves locking, which is messy – Machavity Sep 27 at 17:06
  • Ah, ok. Then that 'grayed-out' thing is just a visual cue that everyone sees. I learn something new every day. 😊 – Ted Wrigley Sep 27 at 17:14
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    @TedWrigley Several people have asked for that feature to be removed from Metas over the years (eg 1, 2, 3). Unfortunately, SE has declined every time. – yannis Sep 28 at 9:28
  • Can we link them more prominently from the voting page? Currently only one candidate has a link in his "platform". – Martin Schröder Sep 28 at 21:24
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    @MartinSchröder That's something the candidates or a moderator will have to do. Comments don't show up in the voting phase and mere mortals can't edit them like normal posts. – Machavity Sep 28 at 21:25
  • @Machavity Fair enough. I've added comments to all answers not lined by the candidates. – Martin Schröder Sep 28 at 21:34
  • The candidates can not edit their platforms anymore (of course). – Martin Schröder Sep 28 at 21:41
9

Answers from CDJB

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge that our site faces, in my opinion, is something which I don't believe can be completely solved, only mitigated: attempts to use this platform to promote a particular political party, individual, or cause.

The community is already equipped with the curation tools to deal with the majority of these attempts appropriately, however often the HNQ effect leads to a glut of upvotes from users who are, presumably, unfamiliar with our contribution quality expectations, making these instances trickier to deal with. The influx of users to popular questions also inevitably leads to misuse of the commenting privilege to circumvent the community scrutiny and curation tools which can be applied to answers.

The most frustrating occasions for me are when a question/answer actually touches on an interesting topic that would be valuable for the site, but the post is diminished by an attempt to include personal opinion or to push a controversial narrative unsupported by evidence, and efforts to improve the contribution are rebuffed.

One way to attempt to mitigate this would be to remove controversial questions from the HNQ, or remove our site's questions from the list altogether. I would generally be opposed to this course of action - I believe the positive effects for our site far outweigh the negatives. In addition, as a site dedicated to politics, we will always have to deal with users who seek to push a particular point of view - cutting ourselves off from the rest of the SE community in this way would not change this.

The only way that I believe this can be dealt with is a strong community, supported by an active moderator team which can maintain a reputation of impartiality.

  1. There's always a user or two who wants 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 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.

  1. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?

I wrote a little bit above about how I believe that the HNQ effect provides a net benefit for our site above. The action I would take would depend on the circumstances.

I would only favour removing the question from the HNQ list if the question itself was a particularly bad representation of the quality of questions on our site. This action, once taken, cannot be undone, so I would only take this step if I felt that the question, while technically within the site's rules, was extremely poor, with no scope for improvement. If elected, I do not anticipate using this power often.

If it was clear that the question in its current form was unsuitable for the site, I would be much more likely to close the question (removing it from the HNQ while closed), giving the author and the community a chance to improve and reopen the question, hopefully in a form which attracts fewer ranty answers.

Thankfully, a question cannot reach the HNQ until eight hours have passed, allowing our community to have a chance to weigh in and improve questions. If a question had clear potential to attract controversial answers, I would apply the protected question notice, although this is not foolproof to any extent.

A lot of the time, however, the issue is not with the question, but the answers. Too often, I see answers which deal with the facts required to answer a question, but then snowball off into unsupported personal opinion, psycho-analysis of individual politicians, or just plain rants. In cases where the answer is salvageable, I would edit them to remove the offending portions - hopefully working with the author of the answer to ensure that they understand our community's standards and the purpose of the site. The use of the 'Needs citation' post notice may be helpful for this in certain cases, depending on the wording of a question.

Unsalvageable answers in clear violation of our rules should be deleted - ideally this should come from the community, but in (hopefully rare) clear-cut cases where the community's deletion tools have been stymied by a large quantity of upvotes, I would act in order to preserve the integrity of the site as a store of knowledge, especially when there are a large number of eyes on the post due to the HNQ.

  1. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?

On this point, I would ask that voters judge me on my record. I believe I have a good history of providing impartial answers to questions on controversial topics, which I think shows that I have the ability to put aside my own personal biases in order to fairly examine a topic - something which I believe can be applied to the task of moderation.

In my use of the curation tools available to high-rep users, I believe I have also acted impartially - I do not downvote/close/delete contributions for disagreeing with my personal preconceptions, nor vice-versa. In fact, part of the reason I value this site is that on multiple occasions my previously held understanding has been challenged, allowing me to develop my views as a result.

Hopefully a combination of these points reassures voters that I would be able to address their concerns fairly, and could take on the task of moderation from a politically impartial viewpoint.

  1. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?

The commenting privilege should generally be used to provide constructive criticism, or otherwise to seek clarification from the post author. Comments of this type are usually valuable, and should remain in place - unless they are outdated (delete) or the length of the comment chain has started to detract from other comments or the post itself, or has turned into a discussion (move to chat).

Long comment chains on this site in particular are often neither - they sometimes include attempts to answer a question while circumventing the curation tools available to the community, rants, or abusive accusations of bad-faith which are generally unhelpful. These comments, in particular, should generally be removed, along with an explanation and a link to the Help Center page for the commenting privilege.

  1. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself. Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?

I would try to evaluate impartially whether I agree with the moderator's decision on the post's deletion - if I agree with the removal, I would resolve the flag noting this, and suggesting to the user that if they wished to take the matter further, they should consider posting on our meta site.

If I disagreed with the removal, my course of action at this point would be to seek a third opinion from another moderator, as well as to discuss with the original moderator their reasons for deletion. Hopefully the matter could be resolved through this discussion, one way or the other.

If not, if I truly believed that a moderator was motivated by the opportunity to censor politically inconvenient responses rather than by a desire to improve the quality of the site, I would raise this with CMs - this behavior would clearly be unacceptable. I would like to emphasise, however, that I don't see this as a likely scenario.

  1. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?

Yes; I have nominated myself for the position due to a genuine interest in the site & community, and out of a desire to contribute further to both. My current employment is unrelated to politics, and I am not a member of any political party.

I can't commit never to consider employment opportunities related to politics in the future, however if I am elected and there is a material change in my circumstances with regard to this question I am happy to commit to informing the community of this, and abiding thereafter by the consensus of the community with regard to my continued tenure as moderator. If I was unable to inform the community due to any NDA, I would step down as moderator.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.

I have really enjoyed my time on the site so far; it's provided me an opportunity to expand my knowledge on a subject which is dear to my heart and which never fails to provide unpredictable twists and turns. Despite Politics at first glance perhaps not being a great fit for a Q&A format, I believe that the Stack Exchange model has so far proved fairly successful in providing a platform for exploring difficult questions, and has not been subject to the decay into an echo-chamber that I have observed in so many other politics-based sites.

As a result, I am invested in ensuring that the site continues to work well, and in particular, progresses over the hurdle of site graduation into a fully integrated part of the Stack Exchange community. I see the role of moderator as one way in which I can give back to this community.

  1. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?

Well ideally, I'd try not to let the situation get out of hand in the first place. This goes back to my response to the question about comments - Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum, it is a Q&A site. The removal of comments which attempt to turn it into one is often necessary to help prevent such a scenario.

Unfortunately, during my time on this site, I've seen this happen several times. The best approach seems to have been for a meta post to be created to focus discussion away from the question itself, and to allow all parties to present their views in a format which enables community scrutiny. In most cases, this seems to allow cooler heads to prevail.

  1. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?

This is a good question, but one that I am struggling to answer. I believe in a light-touch approach to moderation, and the pursuit of a policy which would go against the wishes of a majority of the community is hard to imagine. That said, however, I am often sympathetic towards the current moderator team when posts including, for example, unsupported personal opinion are removed, sparking a backlash on meta. Whether that backlash is the view of a majority of the community, or a vocal minority, I am unsure, however it is one that I generally find hard to relate to, especially when the reasons for the removal are patiently explained by the moderator team.

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    For #10, there is a history by SOME moderators to remove questions that actually answer the question on one side, while ignoring flags on non-answers that are basically rants for another side. Mostly, because one side flags more by sheer numbers, if you are willing to extend good will assumption, coupled with (perhaps unconsious) bias. – user4012 Sep 29 at 6:14
5

Answers from JJJ

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?

The biggest challenge lies with growing our userbase. The more active users we get, the more interesting questions we get. That makes it a more interesting place for us to be, but it will also be more interesting visitors who stumble across our site.

Achieving growth isn’t easy, but taking on the challenge is. Just by being active in any of the actions you can take as a user, you will help make it more pleasant to be on this site and you help attract new users.

  1. There's always a user or two who wants 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 think the standard evolves with the community. Posts on this site don’t follow some mathematical problem where we can say: ‘this is the line, and that’s over the line’. Sometimes a question is close to the line and arguments can be made for or against it.

I’ve always used my own judgement when it comes to closing questions. In many cases, especially when you get familiar with the site, that works well. When it comes to moderator actions, a bit more caution (compared to regular voters) around the line is warranted, I think. When the case is clearly over the line, a mod can step in. When it’s right around the line, there may be a case for letting it up to the community (either through the review queues or by sparking a discussion on meta).

  1. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?

We have considered this on Meta before. The consensus was that moderators should reserve the right to remove questions from HNQ, but nobody could up with a concrete example when the action was warranted.

My view remains that it's not necessary to take that action on this site. First of all, anyone can downvote the question and its answers at their own discretion. Second of all, if the question shouldn't be on this site, it can be closed. If it's not worth closing, then it's fine to go on HNQ as well.

  1. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?

That touches, again, on whether something is 'over the line or around the line'. If something is clear over the line then it's easy to act. When you get closer to it, then you'll have to pay attention as to whether you're too involved in whatever is going on.

As I said then, I think there's a slight distinction between regular users and moderators as regular users carry less weight. Therefore, I would say regular users are afforded slightly more leeway around the line. For moderators and the fact that most of their decisions are final, it's better to keep away from the line. I think there are two simple guides on this:

  • When you get personally involved: leave moderation up to other moderators.

  • When you are involved through your own political preferences: be aware of the line. When you aren't sure if a moderation action is taken because of your own bias or because of the standard we hold our community to: then it's time to take a step back. With four moderators, it shouldn't be a problem to leave some things for the others.

  1. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?

I'm a big fan of sending them to chat. Comments that are about improving the post should generally stay, but those rarely make up a very large discussion. In many of those large threads, there is some kind of debate or discussion. As long as the discussion is civil and compliant with the rules, I'm all for that, in chat.

  1. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself. Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?

First I would consider the flag by looking at the post in question. If I reach the same conclusion as the other mod, then I'd reply that I came to the same conclusion and that they could post their case on meta for everyone to consider. If it's closer to the line, then I would leave the flag open and talk about the case with the entire mod team.

If I think my fellow mod acted out of line, I would first bring the subject up with the mod in question in a private conversation. Unless I was satisfied they acted correctly or they rectified their mistake, I would insist we bring it up in the group (with the other moderators).

I think it's important to take such flags seriously when there is something there. By discussing them among fellow moderators, we should be better able to handle the task at hand, which is to serve in the best interest of the community.

  1. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?

Yes.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.

This site produces a lot of interesting content, which is provided by many volunteers who give up their free time to share their knowledge. I think we owe it to them to take the task of moderation seriously so that we can continue to provide interesting content for a long time.

I know this job doesn't pay any money, doesn't always make you friends, and that someone higher up may at some point decide it's time to pull the plug. Nevertheless, I think it's worth my time seeing how we can exchange information worldwide on an important subject: how people choose to govern themselves. I think that's a noble pursuit and it's certainly worthy of my time. :)

  1. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?

The steps will depend on the situation. In some cases it is necessary to suspend a user if they are repeatedly harassing other users or people (even outside of this site). In other cases it might be a specific question that that fuels the escalation in which case it may be appropriate to take steps (turn off comments, rephrase something) in that area. In more complicated cases it may be necessary to discuss it on meta.

It's hard to talk about a hypothetical situation without any pointers of what's going on. In general there a number of broad tools at our disposal: talk, impose a timeout from talking (aimed at a specific post or a specific user), and discuss. Choosing what fits the situation is something I guess I'll have to ease into. In that light, I think it's a good idea to discuss this situation with the moderator team, and maybe even broader with the entire community on meta. In the end, the moderation should be working to benefit the community. How we should we put those tools to use can be a difficult question, but with careful consideration and reflection we should be able to make it work for the community at large.

  1. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?

Hmm, turns out this really is one of the most difficult questions. I've scrolled a bit through the questions here on meta, and I don't really see many subjects where I'm feeling a very strong opinion one way or the other.

If I had to choose one, it's difficult moderation decisions in general. For example, we recently had a moderator decision by Philip where one post was deleted while another, which some argue was similar in some respects, wasn't. The parties involved in this discussion are all high reputation users. While I don't know any of them personally, we have crossed paths and they're not here to overthrow to community or anything like that.

In such cases, it may not be something that everyone (or even anyone) has an appetite for, but it may be an option to to start a discussion. As long as everyone comes from a good faith starting point, maybe there's a place to seek common ground, take off the sharp edges (in this case from one or more posts) and undelete it. I realize that many of those attempts could be futile, but it could also yield some newfound respect across the community which isn't normally what Stack Exchange as a software product is optimized for.

Now I'm certainly not running on a platform of pushing such discussions as it may seem like being called into the principal's office. On the other hand, if different sides of a particular meta dispute are willing to discuss an issue then I'm all for accommodating that, for example in chat.

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    Question: Why did you choose the slogan of the Washington Post as your avatar? – SurpriseDog Sep 26 at 2:02
  • @SurpriseDog I think it's an interesting play of words on the times we live in. Same for the two quotes in my profile. Just something to think about, maybe it inspires someone to watch the show (the first is quote from YPM, a show about UK politics in the 80s, it's very funny). – JJJ Sep 26 at 2:13
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    Re: #8. You've been very active last year posting, editing, doing review queues, and so on. But then in December 2019, your activity has considerably dropped. Question: do you feel that your today's schedule leaves enough time available to dedicate to the moderatorship? – bytebuster Sep 26 at 5:18
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    @bytebusterforLongUsernames yea I touched a bit on that in my introduction as well. I was on holiday in December and haven't really returned to answering questions at my previous rate since then. I'm definitely going to put in more time on the moderation side, but the answers come in waves. Once I dive deeper in a particular subject that coincides with the questions asked here, I foresee writing many more answers. With Brexit and US politics milestones in sight, I think it will be sooner rather than later. :) – JJJ Sep 26 at 5:30
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    @MartinSchröder I'm afraid I can't, the post is locked for comments and edits. I've edited it into my profile bio, so it should show up when voters hover over my name. :) – JJJ Sep 28 at 21:35
4

Thymine

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?

The fastest gun in the west problem, where answers that appear in the first few hours get all the upvotes and obscure more elaborate answers. This encourages hot takes rather than interesting discussion. I don't know how to solve it. If mods have the power to put questions into some sort of contest mode whereby answers are randomly sorted for the first 24 hours, then I would make that the default.

  1. There's always a user or two who wants 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 think that a question asked in bad faith will be one that pops up regularly in political discourse. By dismissing such a question as "obviously in bad faith" we're side-stepping an opportunity to take a question, improve it to its strongest form, and provide a coherent answer to it. I think that's a shame. I'd rather no question ever need to be closed for this reason.

  1. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?

I think the HNQ is a good way to attract new users. People will be engaged by ranty questions. Either because they strongly disagree and therefore want to post their rebuttal, and potentially want to contribute more often to speak their voice, or they will be engaged because they strongly agree and feel like they can enjoy a sense of community here. Ideally, this influx of HNQ users will then discover a more nuanced and interesting community that goes past the vitriol they were initially introduced to. So I wouldn't close an HNQ question simply because bad answers are highly rated. The purpose of HNQ is not quality, it's conversion.

  1. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?

My personal philosophy is that logic is the only compass in the universe. There is an objective reality, and there is a subjective one. Logic is only consistent with the objective reality. I therefore always try to identify when I say something without having any evidence, and I figure out the best way to test whether or not what I want to say is true. This means I listen and it means I practice self-doubt. I keep my biases in check through a relentless personal pursuit of objective reality.

  1. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?

I think all comment discussions are useful to keep, even if they go off-tangent. I don't see any real cost to moving them to chat instead of deleting them. People don't like having their comments deleted. I also would encourage long enough discussions to move into answer territory when appropriate. I would keep long comment discussions when it's relevant, for example if it helps explain why a specific example has been chosen in an answer, I consider it relevant to keep as part of the meta information around the answer.

  1. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself. Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?

If I agree I would have removed the post, I would simply respond with why it was removed, divorced of political affiliation. If the removal is part of a larger pattern on the part of the mod, I will talk to the mod to figure out what's going on before replying to the user. If the user has a larger pattern of crying wolf, I will give the user advice on how to write better posts and encourage them to see for themselves that they can write things that aren't removed if they apply themselves.

  1. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?

I didn't understand the question so I had read the answers of others for that. I think it's asking if I currently or in the future will have any sort of pressure to behave in a specific way, or refrain from behaving in a specific way, as a moderator. I am and will remain free of all kinds of pressure and outside influences. I have no and will never have any conflicts of interests here.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.

The world is on fire and I see this environment as one that helps educate people and helps them learn how to learn and how to answer questions for themselves. I want to nurture anything that helps develop and improve critical thinking with regards to political ideas so that people can make their own informed choices and decisions.

  1. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?

Strictly enforce rules of civil discourse and trust the community to help cooler heads prevail. People can disagree, and they can disagree very passionately, but they cannot allow a discussion to devolve into venom and vitriol. Tension and controversy are normal and not to be feared. I just want to provide an environment where people can learn and appreciate the value of listening and working together, especially when there is tension and controversy.

  1. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?

Allowing people to be partisan and put a ridiculous amount of effort into taking clearly bad faith questions, improving them to their strongest possible argument, and then answering that question. I think a lot of people might feel that it isn't worth the effort, and that it may even encourage bad questions or amount to helping people with untenable positions develop arguments that are maybe even reasonable. I stand by the belief that it is the purpose of this type of platform to engage in this type of behavior and provide reasonable, complete answers to these initially bad faith questions, when we find ways to salvage them.

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Answers from AGC

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?

THE biggest problem here might be that like the crew of Heinlein's Vanguard we may fail to remember that Politics.SE was practically born yesterday, and dogmatically treat an experimental computerized Q&A system as entirely proven, making an 11 year old system into a virtual AI boy king, in the vein of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, et al.

No moderator can solve that little problem... but they can do their part by not making it worse. It's better to respect the people and persons here more than the systems themselves, when these conflict.

  1. There's always a user or two who wants 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?

"Good Faith" as used here seems to be more of a ward against tendentious leading questions and planted axioms, which we should try to avoid.

But it's possible to go too far. The trouble with onion of politics is that there's sometimes another layer or two left to peel, so a question asked in "good faith" can be based on a false premise innocently held.

  1. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?

It would depend on the question, and the answers. This might really be a network latency issue in disguise... that is, a "ranty" answer might be useful, but need a bit of editorial pruning. Yet prior to the needed pruning, it might only be the "rant" that made answer popular. Once pruned, the answer is middling, yet it now has the highest rating. The window of latency is the time it took to improve a "ranty" answer, which evidently is too long to prevent undeserved upvotes.

(A kindred opposing latency problem exists where a correct "stub" answer is reflexively downvoted in a question's HNQ period, and later revised with good examples and cites. The good answer is in effect weighted down.)

Closing and removal only treat the symptoms, not the latency problem. None of the remedies (closing, HNQ remove, leave alone) address it.

  1. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?

Remember in history, perhaps more often than not, that all sides might be presently mistaken.

Try to put yourself in their shoes, and like a good actor, assume your character or role is in the right. Consider the likely moral and political premises, and information sources, that seem to most inspire a given side. Repeat for each side.

After thus hamming it up, take a seat in the audience and watch the players take their bows, and direct applause to whoever merits it.

  1. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?

Irrelevance should be deleted, but longer discussions of some relevant wrinkle can go to chat, or if it really diverges, to meta.

  1. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself. Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?

This question seems to waffle a bit between strongly implying the flag is just the user crying sour grapes, with a faint possibility of moderator error.

Either way however, it would mostly depend on the merits of the claim, and of the Moderator.

  1. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?

Yes. No NDAs.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.

My perhaps vain hope is that being a moderator might be less work than complaining about other moderators.

Relative to other pursuits: the enhancement of political clarity and understanding seems intrinsically worthwhile, whereas the diminution of same is the opposite of fun.

  1. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?

We benefit when controversy contrasts and throws light on our unexamined political prejudices. Political controversy isn't a bug to be squashed, it's a feature that can and should be profitably harnessed to improve the quality of questions and answers.

A moderator functions like a heat sink and cooling fan combo, and allows the CPU of controversy to compute without overheating. If the CPU quickly gets hotter than the heat sink can tolerate, then the fix is to get a bigger heat sink with a fan that throws off more hot air.

How to keep things cooler:

  • Respect the users. Maybe they're wrong, but they all deserve respect. Patronizing users needlessly turns up the heat.

  • Respect the issues. Some or all answers might be wrong, but there's probably something important they're trying to address. Belittling an issue needlessly turns up the heat.

  • Respect partisanship. If only as a secondary or tertiary civic virtue. If we're going to have promoters of Party_X here, we should value those that make the best case for it.

  • Explain plainly. Needless secrecy or even the illusion of secrecy turns up the heat.

Put another way, autocratic moderation resembles that Smokey Bear fire suppression school of forest management which has led to the severe and unmanageable wildfires in California. Just as forests need smaller controlled checkerboard fires to prevent greater conflagrations, the forest of political Q&A needs periodic instances of well managed burn-in, to prevent growth of too much rivalry and resentment. Our current moderation policies do the opposite.

As for what a managed burn-in would look like on Politics.SE, it might be to simply to let a contentious thread mostly alone, (but of course do prune threats, abuse and profanity), until it fizzles out. Afterwards harvest the remains for any data that might improve the Q&A.

Should that fail, we might seek some other method with the aim of reducing kindled partisan resentment, to foster community appreciation. Perhaps special "roast" discussions on meta; or voteless anonymous coward questions, or something else. The point isn't to advocate for one perfect method, it's to recognize that more and harder moderation isn't always the answer.

  1. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?

Troll control to reduce the influence of the Tomasz Giemzas of the world.

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Answers from SurpriseDog

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?

Too many answers on this site are nothing more than thinly disguised political rants and unsupported personal opinion. As moderator, I would ask that every answer does three things:

  • At the very least make an attempt to answer the question as stated, instead of going off on a tangent.
  • Back up any controversial facts with at least one source
  • Edit the answer to remove long winded personal rants and opinion and try to stick to the facts of the question with verifiable answers.
  1. There's always a user or two who wants 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?

The problem with the good faith standard is that it's far too open to subjective interpretation and bias. So long as the question asks an interesting that can be answered with facts and reason, then I lean towards keeping it open. On the other hand, if they don't attempt to ask a question and just want to rant about [insert political figure], then such questions should be deleted. In other words, it's okay for a questioner to ask a leading question, so long as they keep political rants and character assassinations out of the question body.

  1. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?

I don't believe in removing a HNQ, just because it attracts too much attention. Instead, I would hold these questions to a higher standard and edit them to remove political rants, and instead focus on what can be verifiably answered with sourced facts.

  1. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?

It's true that most people that are attracted to the political Stack Exchange have strong opinions about politics, which is why they are here instead of on a Math or Science related SE. As you can see by my record of Questions and Answers on this site, I try to avoid political rants and just focus on what facts can be verifiably asked and answered. The best approach is to take an analytical approach to politics instead of letting emotions and biases change this into a discussion forum.

  1. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?

I believe that comments are useful and can add more context to a discussion. However, if the back and forth between to users exceeds more than a dozen comments, then it can bury more useful question clarifications at the bottom of the page, so I would support moving these long winded discussions to the chat site.

  1. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself.Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?

As a mod, I would generally “Assume good faith” and not assume that the other mods are removing it for political reason. However, if there is not a clear rule breaking reason for the removal stated, then I would send question to the other mod so we can have a discussion about it.

  1. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?

I have no obligations to disclose.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.

I spend too much time here anyway clearing review queues, so I might as well start taking on moderator tasks as well, lol. To answer the question seriously, my main reason is seeing so many answers here which contain long winded political rants without actually attempting to answer the question in an analytical way. As a mod, I would attempt to clean up the site so that it becomes less of a political battleground and fits better into the Question/Answer model of other SE sites that will allow us to graduate to full site one day.

  1. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?

Since I'm on here so frequently, I would hope that I could see a situation spiraling out of control early before too many users get their feelings hurt. As a mod, I have zero tolerance for name calling and personal attacks and would stop those users immediately before it can turn into a political slapfight.

  1. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?

As I stated above, the most controversial policy I have been supporting on this site is enforcing the NotAnAnswer flag. I strongly believe that answers should at least attempt to answer the question as stated and should be deleted even if they are a detailed answer that answers a different question. It seems most other mods here disagree with this, because my NAA flags are consistently declined.

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    Do you have an example (or two) of answers that you feel should be deleted as NAA? – yannis Sep 28 at 20:15
  • @yannis - I'm also curious, but this (if answered) may reveal user's own bias, even if inadvertently. – user4012 Sep 29 at 6:08
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    What would you do if a well written factual answer was flagged because it didn't have a source? – ouflak Sep 29 at 6:14
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    Scenario: A question is asked regarding the opinions of a particular group. Two answers come in from posters who oppose each other politically and are not members of that group, but they agree on their opinion of this group and there 'answers' reflect that. Their posts site sources and have nice graphics in them. A third poster later answers from the perspective of actually being a member of that group. They site no sources, since they themself are the source for that information. Their post directly contradicts the previous two answers. It's flagged for not siting a source. What do you do? – ouflak Sep 29 at 6:20
  • @outflak If the facts are well agreed upon then I would just leave a comment. If the facts are controversial, then I would leave a comment and then vote to delete if not later sourced. – SurpriseDog Sep 29 at 17:10
  • The apolitical example I usually give as an example of this on lifehacks has been unfortunately deleted after I used it one too many times. Question: How can I change smoke detector battery with my short ladder. Answer: A long bullet pointed discussion on ladder safety that didn't attempt to answer the question of how to actually get up there - I will look for a better one. – SurpriseDog Sep 29 at 17:12
  • Looking through my past flags, I found this one which was declined, but is now deleted: "Are there polls why Germans dislike Trump so much and consider him so dangerous?" - The answer listed precisely zero polls and instead gave an opinion - The other answer are fine. They actually linked to a poll. – SurpriseDog Sep 29 at 17:51
  • @outflak: They site no sources, since they themself are the source for that information. - Anyone can claim anything on the internet. Without linking to a third party source it's not provable that they are who they say they are. – SurpriseDog Sep 29 at 17:56
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    @SurpriseDog Since you've put a lot of emphasis on the importance of sources, how would you distinguish between useful sources and inaccurate or misleading sources? – divibisan Sep 29 at 18:32
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    @divibisan In general determining what is a good answer or not is up to the voters. I just don't think long opinionated rants without any sources to back it up should be allowed as answers. – SurpriseDog Sep 29 at 18:52
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    @SurpriseDog I'm asking because the example you gave above is a case where a mod deleted several answers that were determined to be good by the community/voters due to a lack of proper citations. I don't necessarily disagree with what Philipp did there, but in that case, the presence or lack of a citation outweighed the quality (via votes) of the answers. So I think it's important to know how you'd determine if a citation was good (thus saving the question) or bad (in which case the question could be deleted, regardless of quality/votes) – divibisan Sep 29 at 19:31
  • In the example above, it's not about whether I personally feel that the citation or the poll is high quality or not. Its did he at least attempt to answer the question by including at least one poll as required by the question itself. – SurpriseDog Sep 29 at 21:53
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Answers from Ted Wrigley

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/challenge Politics Stack Exchange is currently facing? How would you propose to solve it?

It's an election season, so 'influencers' are out in force, and 'influencers' know the power of asking a leading question: e.g., Why are Democrats favoring unusually old presidential candidates lately?, which was locked in place by adding a bounty. The answers to such questions are largely irrelevant, even if they refute the premise of the question; the goal is to hang the idea out there for as long as possible to give the impression it is based on a valid assertion. A political site like this needs to pay more attention to the nature of questions asked. We can indulge a certain amount of bias in answers, because answers are implicitly contextualized. But when we indulge bias in a question we lend the full force of the site to that bias, to the extent that people skimming the questions will only see the bias.

Questions and titles need to be moderated more stringently for neutrality, or at least proper contextualization. My instinctive response would be to close this question temporarily until the OP can edit it, with a guarantee that I'll reopen it when it sounds less likely political spin.

  1. There's always a user or two who wants 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?

The 'good faith' standard is decent enough, though I'd quibble with some of the wording (e.g., I'd say 'Be earnest', not 'Be serious': it is the sincere effort to request or provide information that defines a good post). But — as someone who has gotten the short end of this particular stick — the opportunity for debate is essential. If we decide that someone is acting in bad faith without giving them the opportunity to justify their post, we are merely imposing our biases authoritatively. Sometimes the poster is in error; sometimes the moderator is in error. A good post can be marred by a bitter attitude or nasty moment of temper, and posters should be given the opportunity (pun intended) to 'drain the swamp' and draw out what's good. But doing that demands a certain amount of back-and-forth communication.

  1. A question quickly passes into the Hot Network Questions territory, but begins to gather answers that tend to contain rants about the politicians involved, rather than pure answers (i.e. the rantier answers get lots of upvotes). Would you close it, remove it from the HNQ list (mod power) or leave it alone?

If it's a well-constructed question, leave it alone and focus moderation on poorly written answers. If it's a poorly-constructed question, kick it off the HNQ list and request the poster to revise it for more balance (perhaps closing it temporarily, as I suggested in question #1).

  1. Most people have biases. It's human nature. To be a good moderator, it's important that you act fairly. That can be hard sometimes if you're biased towards one side or another in a particular conversation. How do you keep your biases in check when performing moderation tasks?

I think it's clear to anyone who reads my answers that I have (shall we say) a well defined perspective on the political world. But a well-considered post is a well-considered post, regardless of whether I agree with it. If I can loosely paraphrase Emerson, I stick by the principle that I can only properly win when I encourage my opponents to their best efforts, and that if I do that, I win even if I lose. That's the difference between moderation and censorship: moderators curate posts to make the collection better; censors remove posts to make the collection more in-line with their own beliefs. I have no use for censors.

  1. While these long arguments in comments are generally frowned upon on SE, some of them may be useful in weeding out fine detail. Do you differentiate between long comment discussions that may be potentially useful to someone and those that just go past some number of comments between two or more members? And what do you consider the best approach to dealing with long arguments/debates in comments? Should they be deleted or sent to chat or have you other ideas?

I think there are three cases here:

  1. Discussions around fruitful improvements to the question/answer. I'd allow these to continue for a bit, then suggest that they start editing the actual text to incorporate changes. Depending on length, I might move the discussion to chat.
  2. Discussions that are based mostly in venting. These I would just remove with the standard 'comments are not for extended discussion' blurb. People get annoyed and need to vent, but it's not something that needs to be enshrined in comments forever.
  3. Back-and-forth discussions that reflect incommensurate worldviews and will never progress anywhere. These I would remove, with the suggestion that one or both sides should write an answer reflecting their viewpoint. If there's no hope of consensus, then the best approach is to encourage side-by-side statements.
  1. Many of our users are affiliated with political parties. Their affiliations can be splashed into the public, deliberately or accidentally. This produces a suspicion that these users' actions as Moderators are biased, whether it is true or not. Say, you see another Moderator removed a post and you receive a flag claiming that the deletion has been caused by the Moderator's affiliation, not the post itself. Practically, what gauges would you consider for your response?

Generally I try to rely on arguments rather than any capacity to mind-read. I assume that posters and moderators are being earnest, and make any judgements based on what I can see: the nature of the post itself, patterns of behavior of the people involved, etc. If I can see a reason why the post was removed I'll try to explain that to the poster; if I can't, I'll have a discussion with the moderator.

  1. Are you now, and will you be, free from, and not under any obligations public or private, open or confidential, legal, occupational, or contractual, that motivate you to become a moderator, or which would otherwise alter your behavior as a moderator, and enjoin you from ever directly mentioning your participation in them?

(edited for clarity, per comments) I am free from, and not under any obligation to, any person, group, or organization in any way that would affect my behavior as a moderator.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator on this site? Seeing that there are so many more fun and / or lucrative pursuits out there, why commit to moderating this site? While this may seem like an odd question, I think it's good to know what motivates our leaders.

Meh, who knows? I'm here a lot; I'm bored; it's interesting material; I like the people I meet; I can probably do the job well, and the job needs to be done... Take your pick.

  1. For whatever reason politics seems to invoke strong reactions in people. Often times, this can lead to rising tensions, both in in-person conversations and on this site. Unfortunately, that means that it's not terribly uncommon for a question to spark controversy and raise tensions very quickly. What steps do you take to help deescalate a situation that has gotten out of hand?

There are only three methods I've found for defusing tensions on the internet:

  • Deflect tensions into something productive: e.g., get people to stop squabbling in comments by encouraging them to write answers.
  • Break tension by making it silly: e.g., a well-timed and extremely bad pun can sometimes put an argument off its stride long enough to convince people to cool off.
  • A good old-fashioned stop-thrust: e.g., deleting a string of pointless squabbling with a dark warning that this kind of nonsense won't be tolerated.

The internet is a restricted medium that lacks most of the social cues that help people moderate their behavior in person. One needs to be explicit about what the problem is and why it needs to stop, so that people have some guidance in moderating themselves. But that guidance can only come after a wedge of some sort is pushed between the squabblers.

  1. What policy, with respect to running and moderating the site, are you in favor of, that (you think) most of our users are against?

Ah, well... I'm an advocate of what might be called 'syntactic' moderation (as opposed to 'semantic' moderation). The only reason I think about the meaning of a post is so that I can evaluate whether it is structurally sound: logically self-coherent; consistent with some version of reality; complete, sincere, and well-expressed. It tends to hold people to a higher standard of writing and reasoning than they are accustomed to. Just in my normal interactions with people I often get accused of being a busybody or of interfering with free expression (usually because I've asked them to phrase things more neutrally and/or pleasantly). I expect those complaints will get worse if I have a diamond to back it up.

C'est la vie..!

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  • You raise an interesting point in your first question. While I agree that neutral questions are better in general, I wonder if it's always possible to make questions more neutral. In your example, there's a value judgement ('old age') but it's also contextualized by comparison. How can we draw the line between a biased value judgement and a valid assertion? My instinct says to accept that a political Q&A comes with questions from different perspectives with some biases. Do you think it's always possible to make a question neutral, or would some otherwise fruitful questions have to be closed? – JJJ Sep 26 at 19:33
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    @JJJ: The non-neutrality of this particular question lies in two dimensions: sample-space spin, and causal presumptions. If we expand our sample space even slightly (back to 2008, with a 40-something Obama and a 71 year old McCain) the premise falls apart. If we look at the array of 2020 democratic primary candidates, with a huge age range, we have to wonder whether 'age' is the only important category. We could make this more neutral by restricting it to 2020, or make it a question which asks whether age was an important factor, not presumes it already is. – Ted Wrigley Sep 26 at 19:49
  • @JJJ: e.g., "Was candidate age an important factor in the 2020 Democratic primaries?" would by much more neutral, and would hardly change the question at all. – Ted Wrigley Sep 26 at 19:50
  • Thanks, I think that's a good improvement. But going back to the hypothetical realm, do you think it's always possible to phrase questions more neutral that way? Aren't some questions inherently divisive yet worth asking and answering? After all, some political questions are inherently divisive because there are multiple viewpoints that can be talked about in good faith and they may also be interesting academically. – JJJ Sep 26 at 19:58
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    @JJJ: my view is that any sincere question can be asked well (clear, neutral, and open). When a question is asked poorly, it is either because (a) the asker isn't quite clear about what s'he wants to know, or doesn't quite know how to express it properly, or (b) the asker is trying to shade/spin the question to produce certain types of answers. – Ted Wrigley Sep 26 at 20:18
  • @JJJ: The first type can always be improved and made neutral by bringing out the (sincere) underlying concern. The second is hit or miss... trying to make the question neutral might violate the asker's intent (changing the inherent nature of the question itself), or might reveal that the question is intrinsically insincere (in which case it ought to be discarded). Does that make sense? – Ted Wrigley Sep 26 at 20:19
  • It definitely makes sense and I replied because I think it's an interesting point that hasn't really been discussed except in relation to specific questions. This probably isn't the right venue to discuss the topic in detail, but I think there's more too it. In your example, I agree with your improvement. In other cases, I can see some benefit to a slightly biased premise. Not necessarily as clickbait, but to introduce a subject, for example a less heated policy matter in geopolitics. If you want, I'm willing to talk about it more freely in chat. – JJJ Sep 26 at 20:39
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    I removed a few comments regarding Ted's involvement in this situation. I do agree that challenging a candidate's past behaviour (even if it's a single comment) here is perfectly acceptable, but I do not feel the way it was done and the discussion that followed was particularly constructive. Let's keep it civil everyone. – yannis Sep 28 at 10:05
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    Ted Wrigley, You posted a (now deleted) answer saying that: For [politician] and his supporters, the only thing that matters — and I cannot over-stress that it is the only thing that matters to them — is generating the sense or appearance of victory or superiority over opposition. They will violate or deny nearly any rule, any law, any fact, any science, or any institution to gain that pyrrhic sense of victory. – SurpriseDog Sep 28 at 13:39
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    Do you believe that applies to supporters of [politician] who post answers on this site? As a mod, how would you remain unbiased when they post answers to this site that you disagree with? – SurpriseDog Sep 28 at 13:39
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    @SurpriseDog: That comment was made as part of a philosophical analysis of a particular political group in the context of Orwell's understanding of Nationalism. It's worth noting that this group's observable behavior fits the theoretical framework near perfectly; I disagree with the deletion. At any rate, I have no doubt that people involved with that particular group post on this site. But keep in mind I was making an analysis, not a moral judgement. [cont...] – Ted Wrigley Sep 28 at 17:29
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    @SurpriseDog: I don't evaluate people on what they think or believe. I evaluate them on their behavior. If people comport themselves well on the site, they can ask or say what they think. Of course, there's gray areas. As you know, we sometimes see posts here that are based in wild conspiracy theory, outright slander, or irrational perspectives. These often get flagged and removed as offensive or absurd, and I'd clearly feel comfortable removing such. But I'd feel comfortable removing such no matter which side of the political fence they came from. [cont...] – Ted Wrigley Sep 28 at 17:41
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    This question contains your comment showing that you are unable to express yourself without profanity. Do you think it will help you as a moderator? politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4520/… And this part of one of your answers shows your clear political bias (in addition to profanity): "he [Barr] would rather back-channel decisions like this so they are out of the public eye then risk looking like a toady" There are many more such pieces of your answers and comments. – user33768 Sep 28 at 20:15
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    You did not answer my question about your statement (with "mild profanity") about Barr. Do you think he accomplished in life more than simply being kicked out of academia? – user33768 Sep 28 at 20:46
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    @MarkSapir: That comment about Barr was in response to him stating that he wished Trump would not talk so publicly about internal Justice Department matters. Barr has shown himself to be a determined advocate for Trump (I think you'll agree), but has a vested interest in maintaining the Justice Department's air of independence (I think you'll agree to that, as well). I haven't ever gotten into Barr's history or qualifications, and I don't know why that would matter to a discussion of his relationship to Trump. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on all that. – Ted Wrigley Sep 28 at 20:54
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Answers from Hack-R

  1. Like so many S.E. sites, especially those in Beta, Politics struggles with a digression into forum-like discussions, including opinions, biases, and chit-chat.

    I would help to solve this issue, by politely reminding users how to ask and answer objectively, concisely, and with detachment from any political biases. I would review existing and new questions, comments, and answers, cleaning them up wherever possible. I would be very patient with well-intentioned participants, and significantly less patient with vandalism or other purposeful abuse.

  2. This rule is clearly needed but has a lot of abuse potential itself. I have no issue with the wording of the close reason, but I do not think the standard is sufficiently well defined. I think it would be good to have a more clear definition (help recruit could be recruited for this from the Linguistic SE, accompanied with several examples of the violation, and additionally suggestions on how a question in violation could be rewritten in a compliant way.

  3. I would definitely not leave it alone, because then the anti-pattern of opinionated discussion would be shown to many readers with the implication that this is not only acceptable, but could lead to your content being featured as a HNQ (and generally makes Politics look bad). I would prefer not to close it or remove it from the HNQ list, because that punishes the question's author, who presumably was compliant with all rules. Instead, I would remove, edit, or comment on the poor answers, with the specific action depending on the extent of their deviation. If additional opinionated answers kept piling on even after my initial intervention, I would be forced to close the question. Hopefully, we could hold out for at least 1 quality answer before closing.

  4. Indeed, bias is a huge issue. I think we have to be constantly mindful of it and responsive to any criticism. I would be very transparent in my reasoning for any action, and very thoughtful and responsive to any objection.

  5. I have a unique perspective on this. I find that when users are actively working to refine a question or answer, it can be very useful in the short term. My opinion is that what's important is that after the discussion happens, the learnings from the comments get ported to the actual Q&A then the comments get cleaned up afterwards.

  6. Much as discussed in #4, bias can be a huge issue. If we succumb to it, then we lose the benefits of using Stack Exchange instead of a random forum. The best tools to overcome this are transparancy and responsiveness. If my affiliation (which I would not advertise) was opposite of the Mod in question and I agreed with their action, then I would be able to provide a transparent explaination of my reasoning to the user who raised the flag. If I did not agree or did not have opposite affiliation of the Mod in question, then I would ask them to provide their reasoning. This would best lead to an understanding of if the flag was valid or not.

  7. Absolutely. I work for myself in a scientific capacity and am beholden to no one.

  8. There are 3-4 reasons:

  • (a) This election needs more candidates

  • (b) I have a lot of experience on the S.E. network as a whole, though less on this community than on some others like Stack Overflow

  • (c) I believe strongly in the value of S.E. as the single most high-quality interactive knowledge store, thus I believe that the cultivation of communities like Politics is vital

    To be perfectly transparent, I also figure that (d) it may give me good experience that I could use in future years to run for a Stack Overflow Moderator election.

  1. Remind all users, that Stack Exchange has tremendous value as a knowledge store and a learning hub, but we cheat outselves out of all of the great potential benefits if we devolve into forum-like discussions, biases, opinions, and "battles" between users. There's a place for everything and your opinions and debates are highly vaulable - but this is just not the place for them, and you're doing a disservice to the entire Stack Exchange network if you pollute this site as such. Stack Exchange's ability to grow beyond purely technical applications rests on our ability to show restraint, be objective, and use this tool with responsible detachment from our opinions.

  2. There's been a debate for many years over whether or not down votes should be required to be explained (like with close votes). The current policy is that such an explanation is not required, as that seemed to be somewhat more popular when the policy was being decided. I personally would prefer that such explainations be required, but of course I will respect the policy as it stands.

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    Re: #5. The point looks good, but it contradicts to the stats. You have only 1 edit on this site. Once elected, will you edit other users' posts more often? – bytebuster Sep 26 at 5:33
  • @bytebuster Thanks for the question. I do have editor badges and somewhere over 1,000 edits network wide, just not on this site. I admit I’m not as heavy of a user of this site and entered primarily due to the lack of candidates. If elected I would regularly spend significant time here, yes. – Hack-R Sep 26 at 13:22

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