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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 10 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.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):


  1. Any active user will have noticed we have had some flame wars in the past months. Users upset each other (whether on purpose or not) and fall back to plain insults. How would you deal with this? In particular, how fast would you want to resort to measures like banning? Would you differentiate between the initiator, if there is one, and the other party?

  2. As a moderator, part of the job will entail drawing the 'line in the sand' between acceptable questions/answers/comments and unacceptable. I think most people would be able to point to and agree on the centre of each category, but the moderator's job will depend, not on identifying the centre, but on distinguishing the borderline cases. Can you describe, or better still provide an example, of a question/answer/comment that you would consider just about OK for this site and then one which you think just about over the line.

  3. How would you act in a situation where you have the feeling that the question is definitely within the scope, but you cannot imagine it to be answerable within the format and this may be caused in you not being knowledgeable enough in this particular field/author/work?

  4. 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?

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

  6. What is your stance towards putting on hold, especially considering people who are new to this site? This question tries to address the problem of newbies being scared away by a fast "close". They may not know about it being just "on parole", as it were, and think they are outright rejected. Additionally, the answer should include consideration of the time/circumstances under which one would wait before adding the mandatory vote by a moderator.

  7. How do you define philosophy for the purposes of this SE?

  8. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

  9. 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?

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

4
  1. Any active user will have noticed we have had some flame wars in the past months. Users upset each other (whether on purpose or not) and fall back to plain insults. How would you deal with this? In particular, how fast would you want to resort to measures like banning? Would you differentiate between the initiator, if there is one, and the other party?

My impression was that there used to be one person that deliberately provoked others, and other persons that got triggered and took the bait. As the patterns showed, those arguments escalated quickly and spread all over the board. Therefore, I would interfere rather early with comments if the behaviour showed for the first time. If this does not work, and it uses not to, I would give them both a cooldown time, differentiating between provoker and provoked in that the former has to be given more time.

The reason behind this is that I do think that both sides are problematic: A person deliberately causing turmoil all the time cannot be tolerated, but persons letting themselves getting triggered all the time have their share in the turmoil caused and if they do not change this pattern, it will be a recurring one.

What I think is crucial here, is that there should be discussions and transparency between moderators and in meta (i.e. to the community) at every stage of the process and there is an obligation for the moderators to take a stance in cases like these.

  1. As a moderator, part of the job will entail drawing the 'line in the sand' between acceptable questions/answers/comments and unacceptable. I think most people would be able to point to and agree on the centre of each category, but the moderator's job will depend, not on identifying the centre, but on distinguishing the borderline cases. Can you describe, or better still provide an example, of a question/answer/comment that you would consider just about OK for this site and then one which you think just about over the line.

This is a hard one, although understandable. Generally speaking, personal offense (which includes belittling of others) is a red rag for me.

Example for a comment just about ok: The opposite of 'x'

I think this is imbued with sarcasm and almost personally offending. But still, it almost is.

Example for a comment overdoing it (most of them are deleted, though): Moderator advancing their own agenda?

While this comment is mostly sassy and sarcastic, it becomes ad hominem twice, going beyond what can be accepted.

  1. How would you act in a situation where you have the feeling that the question is definitely within the scope, but you cannot imagine it to be answerable within the format and this may be caused by you not being knowledgeable enough in this particular field/author/work?

My understanding is that as philosophy is a field so wide that good questions may be unanswerable for everyone but a few experts. It is not the job of a moderator to judge whether a question is answerable or not in general (except obvious cases of opinionated questions, personal philosophy, and very unspecific broad ones). This is the communities' task. A moderator should be moderate and moderate (pun intended), i.e. he should try to 'translate' and help all sides coming together as much as possible.

This means keeping an open mind and reading every question as charitable as possible.

  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?

I think this is partly addressed in the first and second question. You can, to some extent, delete the problematic comments, asking to refrain from this behaviour. But you cannot bother doing this all the time, especially as soon as this leads to ever more rants in meta, which it tends to do. Therefore, I would follow the lines drawn in the first two answers, because there cannot be exceptions and privileges. This would not be fair to other users.

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

First step: personal contact and discussion. If it cannot be settled there, open discussion on meta. Just like every argument between decent people should be handled.

  1. What is your stance towards putting on hold, especially considering people who are new to this site? This question tries to address the problem of newbies being scared away by a fast "close". They may not know about it being just "on parole", as it were, and think they are outright rejected. Additionally, the answer should include consideration of the time/circumstances under which one would wait before adding the mandatory vote by a moderator.

As written earlier, I think this is an underestimated problem by now. If it is the vote of a moderator putting a question of a newbie on hold, he is perceived as a representative of the community in the first place. That means that it is perceived as exclusion, as an expression of a closed community, and as narrow-mindedness. Therefore, a helping and guiding appearance should be what one should aim for as a moderator. It should be about trying to translate and finding a compromise that is suitable for Philosophy.SE. This may be hard and annoying at times, especially when a user posts a lot of questions in quick succession, but this is what a moderator has to endure imho.

  1. How do you define philosophy for the purposes of this SE?

I will quote myself from my answer here:

Basically, every sentence can have philosophical aspects as there may be aspects of physics, chemistry, and who knows what else. This does not make it philosophy, physics, and chemistry.

Otherwise, we would end up with the comment of @mobileink (the first part) from here:

You forgot that great philosopher Donald Duck. Not to mention others like Stalin, Mao, all of the Kardashians, my dear old dad, Charlie Chaplin, Kim Jung Un, Idi Amin, etc. etc.

The point is that philosophy only is what focuses on what is specifically philosophical. Therefore, not every reflection on a certain topic is philosophy, however philosophical some thoughts may be.

That's how it works with sources that are considered to be philosophy as well as with questions and answers in this SE. Everything that is not specifically needed to understand the philosophical content of the question or the answer is superficial and not philosophy. Every source that is not concentrating on the specifically philosophical content that you want to have sourced is not a source in philosophy. Or you do have to point it out, no matter how hard a time it will be.

Otherwise, we could simply link (or copy) the script of The Matrix Trilogy and say "Go get it" as an answer to every question.

This means that of course, the main sources questions and answers should be built upon are sources considered academic philosophy, since this is what academic philosophy is all about. But this is not exclusive. If a user is able to highlight the philosophical content and omit the irrelevant parts, basically every publicly accessible source should be considered as valid. This is what some of the more fun to read books in e.g. philosophy of time do. And it spices up the dry matter of philosophy considerably.

As an aside, as it is often addressed here: The same thing applies to Asian and Arabic (or whatever) sources. I myself am looking forward to researching on what they have to say on the specific human for my thesis.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

They solve problems the community cannot solve anymore because all ways have already been tried (deleting comments and answers violating rules, settling arguments, in case banning - see above), work through flags, and if not already happened, discuss problems and means to solve them openly with other moderators and in meta in order to be sure that all this is done in the way the community wants, not according to their own conceit. As a moderator, their main place will, therefore, be the review area and meta. And their main task is to reconcile the "invisible hand" (as the ideal of frictionless-ness self-government and non-intervention) with decisive, transparent intervention where it is necessary.

Apart from that, they should try to serve as a joint, as a mediator, and translator. This means they have to isolate themselves from their personal opinions and feelings and differentiate clearly and openly, internally and externally, between the user they are and the role of a moderator they hold. It is to serve the community and the framework at the same time, which, at times, may also be an impossible task.

  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?

My actions and stances have been coherent over time, although there has been a growth of understanding regarding the rules and needs of Philosophy.SE. Hence, I do not think there is anything problematic about past actions. What I do think is that there is a higher responsibility I have to bear for future actions, so that every word and step should be considered consciously.

  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?

First, "simply reaching 10k or 20k rep" is not that easy a task at all on this site. Apart from that, I think it is crucial to have moderators professionally trained in the area, at least if they are open-minded. They can build bridges with their background in academic philosophy other users may not, reconciling the common-sense understanding of philosophy and the needs of an SE that is most clearly, though not exclusively, typified by academic philosophy and its methods and sources. The diamond just makes it easier to act as a representative of this crucial undertaking, even though it is just as important that users like e.g. @virmaior and @Not_here continue to do this as well.

In general, although almost all of the goals and lines drawn in the answers to other questions can be served when being a high rep user just as well, the diamond will improve the ability and responsibility to do so ever so slightly, because the actions will be perceived as authoritative, although they should not be performed in an according mindset, but in respect to the responsibility to, and needs of, the community.

-5

Rodrigo's answers:

  1. Any active user will have noticed we have had some flame wars in the past months. Users upset each other (whether on purpose or not) and fall back to plain insults. How would you deal with this? In particular, how fast would you want to resort to measures like banning? Would you differentiate between the initiator, if there is one, and the other party?

I think there's no need of action in this case. If they are in the comments, those will soon be moved to chat. If they are insulting each other in their own answers, then the community will probably downvote them. Why worry?

EDIT: Now that I know lengthy discussions in the comments WON'T be automatically moved to chat, I know that's the moderator job. So, of course I'd have to do this. If a user is spotted "following other users in many posts" (harassment), than a suspension+warning is enough. After three suspensions+warnings, banning is the only choice left.

  1. As a moderator, part of the job will entail drawing the 'line in the sand' between acceptable questions/answers/comments and unacceptable. I think most people would be able to point to and agree on the centre of each category, but the moderator's job will depend, not on identifying the centre, but on distinguishing the borderline cases. Can you describe, or better still provide an example, of a question/answer/comment that you would consider just about OK for this site and then one which you think just about over the line.

Just about OK: How is a thought initiated and then that thought cause a reaction? - it may be a biology/neurology question. But it's also the most ancient and wide philosophical question, and as such it will be done and redone again for eons. For this reason I think it must stay (as well as many rephrasings of the same question -- because this will help internet users to find exactly the question they're thinking of, however words they're using).

Just about over the line: Some Amerindians once told me their definition of mythology: mythology, to them, is a central concept that unites and allow the analysis of knowledge coming from every source -- daily experience, oral history, dreams, conversations with outsiders, modern science, white man's religion, etc. Being such, they have a center where to tie every conclusion, sometimes transfigured in the form of fantastic allegories (making them easier to remember), and forever accessible to each one of them to reanalyze and discuss at night, when they gather around the fire to chat. In our society, we suppose "mythology" is dead, but we have philosophy in its place. So philosophy is that sacred place where all analysis are done, where all synthesis are tried, where every subject must have the chance to see the light of day and the darkness of our subconsciousness. Philosophy is not a restricted field such as physics, chemistry, biology or sociology. For that reason alone, it's very hard -- if not impossible -- to decide which questions should be closed or deleted from this site. I can only think of three reasons: 1) unintelligible language; 2) lack of a real question and 3) a question specific to a well delimited science, in which case the question should be forwarded to the specific site on SE (but let's be aware that sometimes philosophers answers may contribute more than specific answers from scientists. Many such questions could profitably co-exist in two or more different sites).

  1. How would you act in a situation where you have the feeling that the question is definitely within the scope, but you cannot imagine it to be answerable within the format and this may be caused in you not being knowledgeable enough in this particular field/author/work?

If I cannot imagine it, others may. I'd give it time. Maybe after six, sixty or six hundred years someone gives an answer. Are we lacking space in hard disks? If it's my lack of knowledge, then much less should I do anything (unless try to familiarize with the subject, but for practical reasons that won't be so common).

  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?

If this user's answers are valuable, then the user is also valuable to us. Comments are minor.

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

This should be voted among the mods, we may give our short opinion on why it should be closed or not. And hopefully there's an odd number of mods?

  1. What is your stance towards putting on hold, especially considering people who are new to this site? This question tries to address the problem of newbies being scared away by a fast "close". They may not know about it being just "on parole", as it were, and think they are outright rejected. Additionally, the answer should include consideration of the time/circumstances under which one would wait before adding the mandatory vote by a moderator.

"On hold" means something completely different than "closed" or "deleted". If a user gets confused, I'd suggest he/she to improve his/her English. Anyway, isn't the reason for the hold/close/delete always available? I think there is (should be?) a standard, known time of response (a week, a month?). If the user don't answer the reason stated above within time, then I see no problem in closing the question.

  1. How do you define philosophy for the purposes of this SE?

Philosophy means "passion/love/interest/affinity for knowledge". This here, being a question/answer site, should accept any question that can be answered (and which is not an objective question on the realm of a specific science; in this case, the user must be redirected to the right site -- or not, read #2 above). But which question cannot be answered? Let's think of a paradox: "the barber in city X cuts the hair of each and every man who doesn't cut his own hair. Does the barber in city X cuts his own hair?". There's no satisfying answer, thus the paradox. But doesn't it teach us something valuable anyway? Isn't an illustration of a paradox useful to philosophy? Many questions in SE sites have no answer, and I see nothing wrong with it. Who knows if after six hundred years someone finally finds the answer? Really, how many bytes are used by a single unanswered question? As I've written above, I would only vote to close questions that: 1) are unintelligible (like some "famous philosophers", even one who earned an honorary doctorate in Cambridge); 2) are not real questions, but only a statement.

  1. In your opinion, what do moderators do?

The site have enough rules to work by itself most of the times. But, as stated above, there are borderline cases, which ask for an objective decision. That's what moderators are here for.

  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?

"Fame or life, which do you hold more dear?" I choose life. In other words: I really don't care.

  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'm a member for 3 years now, and have only attained 0.5k rep. In this pace, I'd attain 10k when I'm very old. I think I may be more useful now.

  • 4
    Your answers to 1 and 8 don't seem to be very convincing that you'll make an effective moderator. Yes, in terms of questions and answers the community votes to make sure that the good ones rise above the bad ones, but those systems are not in place to deal with harassment. That is exactly what moderators are for. If somebody is following someone around and harassing them on all of their posts, just downvoting them won't make them stop. You can't adopt a "why worry?" attitude towards harassment when its the explicit job of a moderator to handle those situations. – Not_Here Jul 31 '17 at 3:12
  • @Not_Here The questions don't say anything about recurring insults, harassment or somebody "following someone around". That's a different case. – Rodrigo Jul 31 '17 at 4:21
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    #1: "Why worry?" Because that's a moderator's job. Comments are not automatically moved to chat; that is only done upon request. Moving off-topic comments to chat is, in fact, something that moderators are supposed to do to keep things clean. And if there are insults being tossed about, or "flame wars" as it stated in the prompt question, then that is precisely when a moderator needs to step in and not let the community handle it by normal means (e.g., downvotes). I agree that as a normal user, "Why worry?" is the best attitude, but it is inappropriate for a moderator candidate. – Cody Gray Jul 31 '17 at 9:36
  • The 8th question says "what does a moderator do?" That is an all encompassing question asking you what you think your responsibilities as a moderator are, so no, Delong with harassment is not an entirely different question. Additionally, the "flame wars" that the first question is asking about involved a specific user that followed another user around and harassed them on every post/made questions to specifically harass them. The topic is incredibly pertinent. – Not_Here Jul 31 '17 at 11:47
  • @CodyGray Thanks for teaching me that comments are NOT automatically moved to chat after they amount to a certain number. This really change things now. If I knew that, my answer would be different. – Rodrigo Jul 31 '17 at 11:52
  • @Not_Here Sorry if I didn't accompanied that particular user following another user. I got "flame wars" in the sense that Google gave me, i.e. "a lengthy exchange of angry or abusive messages between users of an online forum or other discussion area." And I thought this would go to chat automatically after the discussion got lengthy enough. Now I know better. – Rodrigo Jul 31 '17 at 11:54
  • Edited the answer. – Rodrigo Jul 31 '17 at 12:06
  • 1
    Also your answer to 6 shows that you don't really know how SE works. A question is "put on hold" for two days, after which that notice automatically changes to "closed". – Keelan Jul 31 '17 at 15:38
  • @Keelan Living and learning! Thank you! – Rodrigo Jul 31 '17 at 15:59
  • Please do not downvote this answer below -2. I don't think it is fair to "grey out" someones answers to the questionnaire. If you want to vote, vote in the election. (Actually, some sites try to keep all answers at the same score, but that is perhaps not feasible here). – wythagoras Jul 31 '17 at 20:43

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