Answers from CDJB
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.