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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Due to the submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as our back up questions for a total of 9 questions.

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. Oh, and 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.

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!


  1. What do you think philosophy is or for the purposes of the SE? How do you think this SE should balance popular and technical uses of the term?

  2. In some respects, the word "philosophy" is a recipe for boat programming questions. What, if any, are good reasons for closing a question as off-topic as moderator of philosophy.SE (rather than waiting for users to vote)? What signals and/or internal rules do you plan to use to decide when to act unilaterly?

  3. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

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

  5. How do you propose to deal with popular philosophy and (new) users who want to participate in a low-level discussion themselves? Think, for example, about quantum mechanics. Related Meta questions: 1 2 3

  6. A lot of the philosophical landscape is plagued by the conflation of opposing philosophy and bad philosophy. Where and how do you draw the line, in those fields where you have personally held positions, between something you "merely" disagree with, and something you believe needs to be downvoted, edited, or even removed for poor quality?

  7. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

  8. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

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

  • 2
    No response from the other candidates? – Eliran Aug 5 '16 at 12:03
2

Commando

  1. What do you think philosophy is or for the purposes of the SE? How do you think this SE should balance popular and technical uses of the term?

Knowledge is a non-negotiable part of what philosophy simply is. We should thus strive here for knowledge, facts, and valid argumentation above all; no speculation, unsupported opinions, and entirely uncited claims. The ideal question well-defines an answer (or space of answers), and the ideal answer simply satisfies what the question wants, with evidence and objectivity.

As far as the scope of subjects is concerned, we can afford to be broad (within reason). Philosophy covers, after all, everything from the stereotypical "big questions" about gods, meaning, and the universe, to such esoteric debates as whether causal-sequence or alternative possibilities definitions of free will are preferable. Given this breadth, I won't attempt to define what philosophy is here - instead, here are some things I'm pretty sure philosophy is not (at least, for the purposes of this site): spirituality, life advice, politics, and religion (contrasted with the philosophy of religion). We've gotten our fair share of such questions in the past, and they overwhelmingly don't fit with our site.

  1. In some respects, the word "philosophy" is a recipe for boat programming questions. What, if any, are good reasons for closing a question as off-topic as moderator of philosophy.SE (rather than waiting for users to vote)? What signals and/or internal rules do you plan to use to decide when to act unilaterly?

Most close reasons are either well-defined or easily well-definable - unfortunately, as I suggested above, I don't think it's feasible to offer a complete definition of "off-topic" given just how broad philosophy is. Nor, honestly, do I expect that such a definition would even be efficacious, since I don't anticipate most users studiously reading every close reason before posting.

I can consequently offer only broad strokes of what I'd consider off-topic to the extent of needing closing. Again, some of the most frequent offenders are questions about spirituality, life advice, politics, and religion. This isn't to say that all questions dealing with these issues are off topic; to the contrary, we have a great question about the ethics of deciding whether to become a doctor and numerous good questions on political and religious philosophy. Where things get off topic is when questions are devoid of philosophical content, i.e. do not request any objective facts/arguments/references within the philosophical tradition.

The general rule I'd use to determine unilaterally whether a question is off-topic is: can this question, paired with its answer (if the question is too broad/unclear for an answer, that's a different close reason) contribute to a user's understanding of philosophy? I realize this is a bit circular, so to bootstrap it: philosophy is what any bona fide philosopher has done/written/spoken about.

By this metric, non-philosophical questions about philosophers ("was Nietzsche an mean guy?"), and questions about the "philosophies" of non-philosophers ("did Einstein believe in God?") are, in addition to the aforementioned questions about spirituality etc., off topic. This is reasonable, I think.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

This depends on the particulars of the arguments and comments. Philosophy, by its nature, (unfortunately) produces many abrasive practitioners - but there's a difference between abrasively philosophizing and simply being insulting. If the user contributes good content and stirs up arguments/flags which do not constitute attacks on other users, but are just toned aggressively, I'd do my best to nudge the user in question to be less confrontational, and leave it there. They're not being mean to anyone; they simply have a philosophical tone that leans on the acerbic.

If, however, the user is engaging in any ad hominem, insulting, offensive behaviour, then I'd be prepared to escalate to increasingly harsh measures if they're unresponsive to my initial requests. Being blunt is one thing. Being rude is another.

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

If I feel strongly about their decision, I'd raise my concerns politely and privately in chat, and we can work it out there, noting what the community has to say as well (if I don't feel strongly, it's probably not worth debating). If such disagreements continue, I'd suggest refraining from any immediate action to see how other users receive the content in question - they're ultimately in charge of the direction this site takes, after all.

  1. How do you propose to deal with popular philosophy and (new) users who want to participate in a low-level discussion themselves? Think, for example, about quantum mechanics. Related Meta questions: 1 2 3

We can't change the plain fact that this is not the place for these questions. The best we can do is welcome users who make such contributions, but politely indicate that their content doesn't belong here. Ideally, we'd explain why this is (i.e. the Q/A format, the general goals for this site, and the low-noise SE model, are all incompatible with low-level discussions), maybe tack on a few thoughts about their ideas, and hope they'll stick around to make more appropriate contributions (after we've closed the question, of course).

  1. A lot of the philosophical landscape is plagued by the conflation of opposing philosophy and bad philosophy. Where and how do you draw the line, in those fields where you have personally held positions, between something you "merely" disagree with, and something you believe needs to be downvoted, edited, or even removed for poor quality?

If I can identify a coherent argument, founded in some modicum of objectivity and soundness, then it doesn't matter how much I disagree with the reasoning itself: it's good enough. Bad philosophy happens when people offer specious reasoning or found their syllogisms in speculation or incontrovertibly false claims. Here, such behaviour needs correction.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

They watch from the shadows as the good people mill about their daily lives, intervening only when they must. They clean up the litter that naturally accumulates across posts, organize the skeleton of tags, meta, and chat rooms, and occasionally prevent pileups due to poor questions or poor answers. Otherwise, they're just like the rest of us: users enjoying and contributing to this community.

  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

It's a serious responsibility, and will require a particular degree of care I have not needed to exercise as a regular user. Being a professional philosopher, I'll need to take caution so that the disagreements which inevitably occur between myself and those of opposing positions remain maximally polite.

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

It pains me sometimes to see the delay between a flag and a moderator's response - though they've always done an absolutely wonderful job, it can't be helped that there's a lag between me seeing something that needs immediate attention, and them responding to that need. As a moderator, I'd have closed that gap, so that anything I see needs fixing will get that fixing immediately.

1

Joseph Weissman

What do you think philosophy is or for the purposes of the SE? How do you think this SE should balance popular and technical uses of the term?

A few definitions that I think about:

  1. Philosophy as creation of concepts (parallel to art as creation of compositions and science as creation of functions)
  2. Philosophy as universal critique of mystification

I don't think philosophy means a set of public opinions or a "personal" ideology. In fact arguments from one's own privileged experience tend to be, generally speaking, bad and reactionary arguments.

For the purposes of this site, philosophy refers to an academic discourse and discipline.

In some respects, the word "philosophy" is a recipe for boat programming questions. What, if any, are good reasons for closing a question as off-topic as moderator of philosophy.SE (rather than waiting for users to vote)? What signals and/or internal rules do you plan to use to decide when to act unilaterally?

I look out for specificity of philosophical context grounded in a particular thinker or work. Motivation of the philosophical importance of the question can go a long way here. In general I'm hoping that the questioner can indicate what specifically they have been reading or studying that has made the question interesting to their study of philosophy.

How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I tend to use warning emails as a very last resort, and try to de-escalate conflict in comments when possible. Shipping extended-discussion comments to chat can also be effective.

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

Talk it through in chat (possibly in a mod-only room if need be.)

How do you propose to deal with popular philosophy and (new) users who want to participate in a low-level discussion themselves? Think, for example, about quantum mechanics.

To my mind most topicality issues can be addressed by asking questions about philosophical motivation. If we can draw a line between a particular philosophical text or passage and a specific interpretational problem, then we're much closer to on-topic.

A lot of the philosophical landscape is plagued by the conflation of opposing philosophy and bad philosophy. Where and how do you draw the line, in those fields where you have personally held positions, between something you "merely" disagree with, and something you believe needs to be downvoted, edited, or even removed for poor quality?

The "Be Nice" rule helps out a lot here, and it means there will never be room in this community for hate. Offensive language is in general also not suitable for the mainpage.

The community tends to be very sharp about identifying poor-quality answers... and we've recently added a "no-effort" sort of close reason to capture similar issues in questions.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

As little as possible! Mods handle exceptions, when they occur. This site is run by the community.

A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

(Pretty used to this!)

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

Mod tools permit more granular management of specific concerns that arise on meta --- so we're able to facilitate things like the recent close-reason change in a timely manner.

1

Keelan

  1. What do you think philosophy is or for the purposes of the SE? How do you think this SE should balance popular and technical uses of the term?

Opinion should be omitted wherever possible. Instead of 'I think ...', answers should read 'One possible theory is that ...' – and ideally, references would be included. Editing posts in that way is a form of user education. Of course, we cannot expect from everyone to have sufficient background to provide these references. That is why I think that posts where a reasonable amount of objective thinking is done, and the assumptions are made clear, can be accepted also without references. Other users can always edit these in later.

  1. In some respects, the word "philosophy" is a recipe for boat programming questions. What, if any, are good reasons for closing a question as off-topic as moderator of philosophy.SE (rather than waiting for users to vote)? What signals and/or internal rules do you plan to use to decide when to act unilaterly?

It is important that close reasons are well-defined. I will consider it my task to be absolutely clear about close reasons, so that users know exactly what is wrong with their question. If a close reason is well-defined, it is most of the time also clear if it covers a certain question. If it is not clear, I would wait to see if there are users voting to close.

The community decides what close reasons we have. Hence, this is not a matter of what I think are good questions, but a matter of following the rules we have established together.

I prefer to put a question temporarily on hold and suggest improvements to the author, than to leave it open and see what answers it gets. That is the safe way. If anything is unclear, I will of course provide assistance to the author to help them edit their question.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

Valuable knowledge has to be preserved, but bad behaviour can never be tolerated. My first actions would be to gently try to guide the user in the right direction. If the user provides valuable answers, I am sure we can work it out. If not, however: we cannot make an exception on the Be nice policy for knowledgable users. If any user repeatedly violates that policy and does not improve their behaviour, actions have to be taken, ultimately up to banning the user.

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

We can surely work this out in private. I would not quickly overrule another moderator unless he is unavailable for longer time and it is a matter of urgency. If this moderator and I repeatedly have disputes, we could ask the community for input on Meta.

  1. How do you propose to deal with popular philosophy and (new) users who want to participate in a low-level discussion themselves? Think, for example, about quantum mechanics. Related Meta questions: 1 2 3

Stack Exchange is not suitable for discussion. In the past, we have attempted to advertise chat as a place for DIY philosophy, but this never really took off. Most important is to explain these users why this is not a good platform for their goals, and put the question on hold to prevent getting unsuitable answers. Ideally, we would refer to a site where discussion is possible, but I don't know of such a site.

  1. A lot of the philosophical landscape is plagued by the conflation of opposing philosophy and bad philosophy. Where and how do you draw the line, in those fields where you have personally held positions, between something you "merely" disagree with, and something you believe needs to be downvoted, edited, or even removed for poor quality?

As I wrote in my answer to question 1, posts should be downvoted, edited or removed when no objective thinking is done. It is often quite clear what the assumptions of a reasoning are. If these are debatable, I would show in the comments what issues arise. Comments are not for discussion, if the post author feels like these issues should be addressed in his post he can do so and I will remove my comment.

If no objective thinking has been done, this should be dealt with. The user can be given some time to improve his post (i.e., I would write a comment with guidelines); if this doesn't happen the post should ultimately be removed.

I have raised over 550 helpful flags on posts, and had less than 50 declined or disputed; the posts of around 10 of these 50 were later still removed by a moderator. While it is difficult to put into words what internal rules I follow, I can explain my reasoning in particular cases, and these statistics show that the community usually agrees with my flags already.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

As little as possible.

  • Keep the site clean from noise (like all other users)
  • Assist users in using the site (like all other users)
  • Educate users to perform moderation tasks themselves (like all other users)
  • Maintain a pleasant atmosphere (like all other users)
  • Settle occasional disputes between users
  1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

It is a responsibility. Not being a native speaker, my words can sometimes sound different than I mean. I will have to keep that in mind.

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

I have always shown good moderation stats (over 800 helpful flags, almost 500 edits). If I get moderator privileges, this means I will be able to remove noise quicker. At the moment, I have all privileges except access to site analytics: I am already familiar with many tools, but the diamond will make me faster.

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