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 lack of 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.

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) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

(3) What time zone are you in?

(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) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

(7) 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?

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

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

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Is there any way voting on the answers could be disabled? I feel it could be very influential in a bad way, distorting how people read the answers and/or being mistaken for a poll. Comments might be useful to ask for clarification, but could also be distracting... not sure about them. –  Philip van Reeuwijk Oct 7 '13 at 23:16
    
@Philip The only mechanism we have for disabling voting on a post is to lock it. This, in turn, would prevent comments (as well as edits) so it's alas not an option. –  Grace Note Oct 8 '13 at 10:58
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Then can we at least agree that no one should vote? I'm going to do what I can to equalize the scores now. –  Tom Leinster Oct 8 '13 at 15:16

7 Answers 7

(1) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

This does not apply to me. In any case, let me say that I would very much prefer not to have moderators known under pseudonyms only, not because I find anything wrong with pseudonyms on the site but simply because I find it better to have actual names attached to moderators.

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

I am considerably more in the «preserve the culture» mindset.

I think the initial somewhat Borg-like approach to SE sites has withered a bit, in no small part because successful sites developed their own cultures and —I guess— this has been rightly observed to be correlated to their success.

(3) What time zone are you in?

I am in Buenos Aires, which is UTC−03:00.

(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?

I am of the position that mods should not be editors of the site. We have a considerable number of users with essentially the same powers as moderators with respect to closing/deleting/etc (except, of course, that mods votes to do such things is immediately binding) and it is they who should be doing the closing, deleting and so on.

As a mod on M.SE I vote, in fact, much less to close/delete/&c than when I was a `regular' user (It should be observed that a mod cannot turn off his modhood) and I restrict those actions to obvious spam and other matters which require immediate action.

I do think that on MO we could be more aggressive voting to delete off-topic questions. I do think, too, that users should do this more, rather than mods!

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Clean up stuff, turn comments into anwers and answers into comments, take care of migrations, and lots of other small janitorial work. Handle little conflicts that sprung often and spark flags, and on occasion handle some more dramatic and visible problems.

As I said, I do not think that moderators should be editors nor —much less!— referees on this site.

(7) 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?

Let me put it this way. I would not do, write or say anything I would not do, write or say as a `regular' user.

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

Well, I think the site should be run by users with sufficient rep, and we shouldd strive to make it easier for them to be more effective in doing it. Mods should be there to enable that.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

There are fewer women on MO (at least visibly) than what I would have expected there to be. This is a problem for MO in that MO is clearly missing good users, good questions and good answers because of that!

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

Well, I've never met the current mods (we should set up a MOnference™...) and most of the year I am in a different season :-)

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(1) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

Not applicable.

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

My only sustained experience with StackExchange fora is with MathOverflow and with Mathematics StackExchange, where I have been contributing recently. So I am not quite sure what is meant by "what a Stack Exchange forum should be" beyond these two specific cases, or why the question is formulated as if to suggest there is a contrast between this "should be" and "MO culture". But Gerhard Paseman's original question harks back to the many discussions of concerns about the merger, and how it might affect or shift the atmosphere of MO 1.0 (which many people, myself included, felt generally pretty comfortable with). I recall that quite a few people expressed some worries about the merger, based on their experiences with MSE, which I wasn't very familiar with at the time.

Positive characteristics that I prize in "MO culture" (faute de mieux) and would like to see maintained are: a supportive atmosphere which values free and generous exchanges of information, scholarly care and precision in the formulation of questions and answers, a level of courtesy befitting a professional forum, and a somewhat low-key atmosphere in the matter of competition; in short, those characteristics I'd value in mathematics communities at large. It is that sense of professionalism which sets MO quite apart from MSE.

The MSE culture feels to me very, very different from MO culture, and I like it less. From what I have seen, many hundreds of questions get asked over the course of a typical day (often with a new question every few seconds -- I'm looking at it right now), and there is a general hectic feeling of people rushing around to answer questions, and in my view not taking the time. There is a lot of competence on display there, but a lot of incompetence too. It also feels more competitive to me (who can type out an answer to a calculus question the quickest?) than MO.

With the increased intermingling between the sites, it has become more urgent in my view to carefully preserve what is special about our culture here. I am committed to doing my part to maintain quality control; the idea that questions should be pitched at about or above the level of second-year graduate courses in a top-20 US research department, with attention to precision and due diligence, feels like about the right standard to me. I say this with particular regard to the increase in questions that get posted to MO because they haven't been answered at MSE; often they don't seem MO-appropriate to me.

I am aware that many feel that the MO culture is imbalanced and elitist, and in terms of fostering growth in the population of users, this is definitely a concern. Imbalance includes a heavy slant towards algebraic geometry and allied fields (I would say category theory, my own field, might be over-represented at MO!), and relatively slight representation of hard analysis and applied mathematics. I am not sure why this is -- but I do worry at times that questions in under-represented areas are often closed too quickly or zealously. On a few occasions I've wondered aloud whether a question is quite as trivial as some closers would make it seem. My own record on this score is far from perfect, but I would for example encourage users, before they dismiss a question because it looks like 'homework', to at least make sure they can do the homework! Or generally speaking, to be very careful in making judgment calls when reviewing questions outside one's area of expertise. We need to be more encouraging of under-represented areas; one small step might be helping to edit and improve questions first, before sending them off to closure-land (notice that we rely more on the stock closure reasons than before, where we used to leave helpful comments below the question).

(3) What time zone are you in?

Eastern time in the United States.

(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?

I fully expect that the present team of moderators has developed effective ways of resolving such problems. Most of the time, steady users seem to pick up on community norms as expressed in comments and when directed to the faq or to meta to discuss it further.

For mathematically insightful users who nevertheless attract trouble, a reasonable approach would be a private email, appealing to the user's good sense and recognition that this is a forum essentially for professionals, with a matter-of-fact description of what seem to be the trigger points. In most cases, an MO user who produces consistently valuable answers will be familiar with how professional mathematicians behave IRL. Appealing to the professional's sense of decorum and probity should usually suffice. If the problem continues, then follow up by conveying the message that MO users are busy people and that further such nonsense really cannot be tolerated, and that moderators' patience is not unlimited. There are skilled ways of handling such things; as someone on the nLab Steering Committee, I have a little bit of experience here.

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

I would send a polite private email message to the moderator that asks why the question was closed/deleted, and explain why I don't think I would have carried out the action myself. With the full expectation that all of the moderators are reasonable people who can see two sides of an argument. I anticipate few if any difficulties here.

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

This was actually answered by Scott Morrison in this thread: What do moderators do? Routine day-to-day activities include dealing with flags of one kind or another (spam, offensive posts, calls for Community Wiki which was an important aspect of our old "culture", etc.), answering questions or clarifying policies at meta, dealing with occasional misuse of the site, often through discreet contact. I am a big believer in the StackExchange philosophy that the community should monitor itself, and that the actual function of the reputation system is to have those with more reputation carry more weight and responsibility in that monitoring, with the moderators being around to deal with more specialized tasks.

There are other aspects to being a moderator (which I have yet to learn about) such as conferring with the StackExchange Team on possible feature requests, or fostering community relations and community outreach, or addressing problems such as possible structural biases or causes of under-representation of subject areas or populations, or maintaining growth over the long term, etc.

(7) 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?

I feel fine about that.

In terms of what I say (present tense), it obviously won't make any difference in how I write mathematics. It would only affect my choice of words when I am writing on meta or commenting on behavior, since there I am no longer seen as speaking just for myself. But that's fine; I spend an awful lot of time on choosing my words anyway.

In terms of what I've said (past tense): a diamond symbol won't alter the fact that in the past, I've spoken only for myself. I see no problem with that.

(8) 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 would necessarily become far better informed about the operation of this site, and would spend more time considering how I might be of service to this site. In that sense I would be more "effective" than I am just by indulging in the pleasures of thinking about and writing mathematics, and voicing my opinion from time to time.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

There is no doubt in my mind that women are significantly underrepresented in the MO community, even relative to their representation in the mathematics community at large, and even if we assume that many of the pseudonymous users are women.

I do feel there's something wrong with that picture; it certainly doesn't reflect positively on MO, and it would be terrible if MO were helping cement institutional gender bias (quite in spite of the good and honorable intentions of many). The linked-to discussions, which I remember, included some valuable input from a number of women, touching upon the difficulties women mathematicians face in being taken seriously by male colleagues, or being shunned as too aggressive or competitive when the same behavior by men is often rewarded. There was some discussion of women preferring to post under pseudonyms, for various reasons. The general impression I get is that the problems as they are being reported are often subtle and not overt, but nevertheless cumulative and pervasive.

No conclusions were reached at that time (indeed, some of these discussions just went downhill). It's just not clear at this point what we can or should do; as said, the problems as reported are subtle and difficult to point to. But what I might propose as moderator, with discussion and input from the community and internally between moderators, is first to hear the thoughts of more women on this topic. I propose designing a survey to solicit the opinions of female users of MO (and maybe branching out from there); it is not a difficult matter to set up a site where they can go to fill out the survey anonymously, and then the data can be more systematically analyzed. Maybe we'll then have better ideas of what we might try.

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

I would likely be the only moderator who is not actually part of academe or professionalized mathematics. (I left academe in 2001, and work as a full-time parent; mathematics is something I do on the side.) In that wise, I have some appreciation of what it is like for those who do not feel part of an academic in-crowd. (Also, as a "Mr. Mom", I have a somewhat unusual angle on how it might be for many women, as they balance the demands of parenthood and maintaining a home with the desire to pursue their intellectual or artistic passions.)

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(1) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

(Does not apply.)

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

As a moderator, I would be conservative in the sense that I would oppose against possible tendencies to get too close to math.stackexchange.com or otherwise to weaken the site's standards, and in that I would actively seek to preserve the specific culture of MathOverflow.

In particular, I would seek to preserve the freedom to provide wordy comments, including such which just kindly say "Thank you!" for an answer. Further, I think the wide spectrum of styles in which questions and answers are written is a great plus of MathOverflow, which definitely should be kept. Also I am in favor of continuing to allow also smaller edits to improve the clarity or appearance of a question or an answer.

I think acception / rejection rates of questions should depend entirely on the quality of the questions asked, and it does not make sense to try to get close to a certain specific rate.

(3) What time zone are you in?

UTC +1 hour in winter and UTC +2 hours in summer -- I live in Germany.

(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?

One of the first things I would try is to kindly explain the situation to the user by e-mail. There is always a reasonable chance that a user is not aware of the impression his behavior makes on other people, and that this already solves the problem. If it does not, the appropriate way to proceed really depends on various things, like how valuable the answers are and how bad the situation with the arguments and flags is, and many more. In such situation I would discuss any possible action with my fellow moderators.

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

Just let him know. There is always a chance that he closed / deleted the question by accident -- and if not, he may have valid reasons for doing so which I haven't seen. Of course there may always be cases of doubt, but given what I have seen so far on this site, the potential for conflicts here seems really minimalistic.

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

I think the role of moderators is to impartially deal with any problems and misbehavior of users, and to keep the site on-topic as far as this is not done by the community anyway.

Also, moderators perform general maintenance work like cleaning up tags, removing blatantly off-topic posts etc. as well as administrative tasks like those related to this election.

Further, the moderators serve as contact persons for the user community, and as such they answer any technical questions related to the site and provide assistence in case of problems.

(7) 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?

This sign would remind me that I am not only speaking as myself, but also in a sense in the name of the community.

(8) 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 think this is really a strange question -- being a moderator means taking a specific role, not being more or less "effective" than somebody else. I think the question is in some sense similar to asking somebody in what way joining the fire brigade would make him more effective.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

Yes, woman are obviously underrepresented on MO, compared to the mathematical community as a whole. This is an issue which I find a real pity. Also, I would really have liked to see a female candidate in this election.

One factor which I guess might make woman hesitate to participate is the design of this site, which very visibly attaches numerical reputation scores to people, and which is possibly perceived as pretty masculine by some.

What I could do to increase participation of woman on this site is, seen realistically, probably limited -- but in any case I would encourage more female participants to join, and would try to reduce concerns with respect to rude behavior towards new users etc..

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

I would be the first MathOverflow moderator based in Europe -- or one of the first, as not all candidates have revealed their locations so far.

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Dear Stefan. Regarding your open mind view to help new users in MO, I believe that your idea about "masculine" nature of MO is very close to the truth. I don't know whether you have any experience in philosophy or not. But it is very obvious that you have a deep sociological view like a German philosopher! Even there are some other parameters which make MO a nettlesome forum for women. For example continuous and unnecessary "down vote", "on hold" or "critical comments" by moderators and high rank users can cause the feeling in women that the others don't "like" them! Viel Glück! –  Ali Sadegh Daghighi Oct 8 '13 at 13:11

(1) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

Not strictly applicable, but I work as a mathematician in industry. My previous jobs have been in (a superposition of) industry, government, and academia.

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

I would prefer to preserve most MO culture apart from the points I have specifically enumerated on the election page. I would welcome input on efforts towards these ends.

(3) What time zone are you in?

Eastern Time Zone

(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?

First of all, I would not deal with this user alone. My initial suggestion to the other moderators would be that they provide input on a gently worded message to the user (that I drafted, say) and presumably move forward with that. If this proved inadequate, I would consult with the other moderators on further steps.

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

I view moderators as akin to judges, and would try to act accordingly. The first moderator's actions would be on "the facts of the case", and I would limit any subsequent actions I took to "questions of law", e.g., addressing failures in the moderation process itself. By this view (as there is no "court of appeal"), I would necessarily consult with all the moderators before taking concrete action.

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

IMO moderators ensure users follow the rules and norms of the community, and serve as the day-to-day managers of MO. To use a corporate analogy, moderators are officers rather than board members (the users of MO would be shareholders, and the board would be the corporate entity formed around MO).

(7) 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?

Unconcerned.

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

As I mentioned elsewhere, my interest in being a moderator is largely as a way for me to be more involved in MO in the first place.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

It's clear that women are underrepresented on MO and in the community as a whole. It's clear that underrepresentation in the community is a problem insofar as it is at least partially due to external forces, and IMO the evidence here is convincing. It is also a problem because it limits discourse--i.e., this is a problem both for women who would be mathematicians, and for the community itself. It is likely that both problems "pull back" to MO. There have been (at least old) meta threads discussing this, with no resolution. I can only say that I will remain mindful of such issues and do what little I can to ameliorate them as opportunities that are (or that are made) obvious arise.

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

I have addressed this in my statement on the election page. I am certainly demographically typical: a male in the eastern time zone of the US. Professionally, I am atypical for MO as a mathematician in industry/government whose research is generally focused on applied questions of physics and/or computer science.

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(1) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

Not applicable. (I am a professional mathematician, working in academia.)

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

There are several aspects of this culture that I appreciate very much, and clash somewhat with the culture of other Stack Exchange sites I frequent. I hope these are preserved, and there will be no encouragement of my part to change them. An example that Gerhard mentioned explicitly is wordy comments. Another seems to be the treatment of CW soft-questions, of which we have many excellent examples; we do not want these questions to overrun the site, of course, but the good ones have proved quite useful. I hope to help maintain the site standards, and the best way to do this is through example, in the posting of thoughtful questions, answers, and comments. I also appreciate how meta works and allows the whole MO community to become involved, with vivid exchanges we see in comments. This thread I started to request reopen votes is a good example; the community clearly appears to appreciate it and use it, even though its approach seems discouraged by the SE system, as it was pointed out in comments.

Naturally, if it becomes clear that something we do in the site is not as effective towards our goals as it would be if we followed the model of other Stack Exchange forums, I would be supportive of that change.

And I hope I will be attentive enough to hear suggestions of other participants and colleagues that may help improve our experience.

(3) What time zone are you in?

Mountain Time Zone (Currently, UTC$-6$).

(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?

I expect these users would each pose unique challenges, and an all-encompassing policy may not be the best approach. When in such a situation, I would attempt to reach a consensus with the other moderators before proceeding. First, I would familiarize myself with the policies the current moderator team follows. This team is quite thoughtful and I expect they have experience with these difficult situations. We would then contact the person privately and explain the problem, hoping a solution can be reached with minimum conflict. If this proves insufficient, and the policies in place do not seem effective in a particular case, we would seek advice from the Community Managers.

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

I would contact them privately (in a way that all moderators see the exchange and can participate), and would explain the reasons why I believe the decision was incorrect. I would ask them to reconsider that decision, and would try to start a dialogue leading to a common decision on how to handle similar situations in the future.

That said, I expect to be open to be persuaded and change my viewpoint. Something I would definitely not do is to unilaterally undo their decision.

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators help the community be informed, by answering their questions about the site, and providing assistance if needed. (Beyond matters that affect the whole community and are discussed on Meta, I have particularly contacted the current moderators on several occasions asking for clarification of site policies, or statistics that I have needed, etc, and their responses have been not just efficient but very useful.)

The cleaning of flags seems to be the busiest activity, perhaps followed by the removal of off-topic posts (of which we have periodically quite a few).

Moderators deal with problems that may appear within the community, helping it stay a civil and inviting place.

Some tasks are administrative in nature. In his answers to this question, Scott mentions the legal entity. I expect new moderators would be involved with it eventually as well.

(7) 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?

I am fine with it. Of course, it will be a remainder to be thoughtful and measure my actions, but this is something I already try to do. I do not expect it will affect in any way the kind of questions, answers, or mathematical comments I post.

(8) 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 is obviously a very different role than as a regular user, which does not mean it would affect my mathematical contributions (such as they are) to the community; MathOverflow is valuable to me beyond words. My being moderator would be a way of further contributing to the site and being more involved, beyond how I interact with it on a regular basis.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

It is an obvious problem (not just for MO). Solutions are difficult, short term solutions seem unrealistic. Unfortunately, I do not have a good answer; this is something that I have thought about at various levels for a while.

I hope to help promote the site (this seems particularly important), and to keep it a collegial and inviting place (we can certainly improve in this respect, I know of a few people who feel intimidated about participating).

Female colleagues with whom I have discussed MO but do not participate in the site do not seem concerned with these issues, luckily, but typically indicate that their field is underrepresented; there is the beginning of a good discussion about this here. Some find the reputation system a turn off, though there are workarounds.

Again, this is a serious concern. As a moderator, beyond whatever can be done through promotion, I would be very open to suggestions.

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

Though I live in the States, I am from Colombia. Incredibly (I seem to live in denial) I am older than most(?) of the current moderators, and do not know most of them personally. I work in Idaho, at a primarily undergraduate institution, whose population is mainly of nontraditional age and first-generation college students. This provides me with a unique perspective that I expect may prove useful to the team.

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Dear Andres, I think your ideas about "preserving the research quality of MO" are absolutely true and undeniable. I appreciate them and I think you are obviously the best candidate to be a moderator because MathOverflow is a special site even among his family websites and this high quality forum needs a special moderator like you. A moderator who be mercilessly critic and extremely exact. This manner seems rather unfriendly but is really necessary (but not sufficient) to keep the quality of the MO forum. My vote is yours and I will try to motivate my friends to vote you too. Bye. –  Ali Sadegh Daghighi Oct 8 '13 at 10:07

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

This question perhaps over-emphasizes what a moderator can do to steer the culture. As a moderator I would act pretty much as I've acted all-along. Our culture has some inertia and all the active users that have been present on MO for a few years contribute to it. At the same time, the culture has always been somewhat fluid and tolerant of different perspectives.

(3) What time zone are you in?

Most often I live on the west coast of Canada. For the next two months I'm in Germany. I also travel to Japan and Australia quite often. On top of that, provided I'm not teaching I keep fairly irregular hours. So I have a fuzzy time zone. When I'm teaching, historically I mostly used MO as a mechanism to ensure my brain is functioning in the morning -- I would always try to answer a question before my morning class.

(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?

Some users are thornier than others. To some extent we have to tolerate that, but there are some firm lines. Generally speaking I think we like to keep things fairly quiet between the moderators and users having issues with the forum. My impression is mostly moderators need only chat with these users, but in rare instances do they take strong actions like suspensions. I think they've handled things quite well so far and I see no reason to change the culture on this.

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

I imagine I'd chat with that moderator. My understanding is there's a moderator chat room. This might be a good time to use it.

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

There's a thread on this. Basically, moderators are much like any active high-rep user that frequents meta regularly. They have a few added responsibilities and abilities to interact with the site, but by and large they're not very different from many regular users.

(7) 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?

I feel fine about it.

(8) 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 suppose I don't view being a moderator as an "effectiveness" issue. I think people who get a lot out of the forum should contribute to help keep it functioning and growing. That is what I offer.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

We've had many conversations about this on the old meta, and I've participated in them fully. In summary, it would be nice to find a way to increase participation but it's certainly not a pressing issue, for all we know there might be perfectly healthy reasons why there appears to be less female presence on the forum. Perhaps compulsive MO use by male mathematicians is a little bit unhealthy? I was talking with a very strong female mathematician just yesterday and she made the point that she does not want the expectations to compulsively use MO like many of the high-rep MO users do, as she does not like giving the impression that people can just ask her questions on a whim. She objected to the expectation that women should be major users of the forum. She also likes to have big breaks in her day from the math world. This all seems perfectly sane, healthy and reasonable to me.

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

Only somewhat. I'm a white male of slavic descent, so by gender/ethnicity criteria I suppose I'm fairly typical for the math world. I do try to encourage people from various backgrounds (engineers, musicians, software developers, etc) to participate on MO and I think anyone who has watched me participate on the forum over these years has seen that repeatedly.

I seem to talk with people about MO quite a bit in person, especially when I visit universities. I've dragged many mathematicians onto the forum, like Ben Burton, Allen Hatcher, Paolo Salvatore and Stephen Bigelow.

By subject area I'm a topologist. While topology is not the dominant topic on the forum, it's one of the more common topics after algebraic geometry.

But I'm not an American, nor a Berkleyite. So that separates me a bit from most of the moderators.

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To the reader:  I provide some additional background at the end of this post, which the moderators may move to a more appropriate place.  I do not want to clutter the process with explanations, but I think the answers I give fall short of complete without it. Please follow links as appropriate.


(1) For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

Please see Background to appreciate the distinction that follows.  I am a user of MathOverflow with a large user number.  As such, I am not a professional mathematician.  However, many of my comments have been perceived by others and referenced in their answers, so some see my contributions as having some mathematical value.  Also, as this user, I have posted on meta a scenario which resonates with some others on this forum, so I have some notion of what professional mathematicians can experience.

For those who conflate this MathOverflow user with the organism that punches the keys that determine the statements I make, that organism (called by a different name) is also not a professional mathematician.  However, that different name appears in acknowledgments of several papers in mathematics, and references to that organism's unpublished works also appear in journals and books.  That organism spent years studying with professional mathematicians, and is sympathetic to some of their concerns.

(2) Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

Culture as I understand it is a product of the community, not of the moderators.  MathOverflow before the transition (based on my lurking on MO and meta) was trying to find itself, even in the midst of guidelines for behaviour, types of questions, quality and tenor of responses.  While the moderators tried to make a safe space for the community to grow, it was the community that tolerated or did not tolerate, used politeness or brusqueness, did brief or lengthy responses.

I would like to influence the community to preserve the ideals and the "fun" that appears in the early years of MathOverflow, but I also realize that MathOverflow is still finding itself.  I would prefer to steer MathOverflow to "what a MathOverflow forum should be".  My hope is that there will be as much fun in the future as in the past. 

(3) What time zone are you in?

 I am currently in UTC-7 timezone.  (By no mere coincidence, so is the organism typing this.)

(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?

 I would ask advice from other moderators as to how to approach discussing the user's behaviour with the user.

If no other tactic occurred to me, I would frame things in terms of keeping the community together.  I would point out how it is easy to fracture a community with divisive remarks, and how various previous forums failed from lack of sufficient moderation.  If the user had a point to be made, I would suggest how that user could communicate the point and still keep the community going.

I would also emphasize the user's contribution and say that the forum really needed the answers more than the flags, and ask them what could be done to ensure higher quality contributions from the user.

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

How I handle it would depend how strongly I felt about the event.  Take a major edit as an example: I would ask the other moderator why such an edit was done, and why another alternative was not done.  If I still felt that something wrong occurred, I would consult the rest of the moderation team.  I see no situation where I would perform any rollback or subsequent edit without support from part of the moderation team.

There is possibly the extreme situation where I stand on one side of the issue and the rest of the moderation team stands on the other.  If I felt the issue important enough, I would resign/quit my position as moderator.

(6) In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Primarily, moderators stamp out flames.

One of the reasons MathOverflow works well is the level of respect given to many.  Flame wars are almost extinct, and even mild expressions of discouragement and disrespect are often handled quickly.  It is crucial that MathOverflow have a subcommunity to watch for flames, and a moderation team to help put them out or steer them away.

Moderators can also have the job of encouraging participants to contribute in different ways, not just in maintaining atmosphere and quality content but also in determing and promoting forum goals.  I hope to see more of that, once the corporation MathOverflow decides what those goals are.

(7) 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?

I have generally intended my contributions to be helpful to the forum.  Some of my more lighthearted comments might be read in a different way as coming from a moderator, so I may have some regret about that.  My future posts would likely have more of an official (hopefully still light) tone, commensurate with the position of moderator.  In general, I will feel that I need to have more care about being clear than about being entertaining.

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

As part of a moderation team, I would be in a position to encourage people on an individual level, as well as in a forum level, on how beneficial their contributions are, as well as to make suggestions on how they could help further.

Having some people acknowledge your contributions with upvotes is one thing; having a representative of "the boss" tell you how you are helping the community and how you could help it further has a different and perhaps more lasting impact.  It is this additional impact I could deliver as moderator.

(9) Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator? See also: 1483 and 985

I do not know if women are underrepresented on MathOverflow.

If it were a set task to increase the number of women participating in MathOverflow, I would start by asking women in mathematics what they would like to see in such a forum, and make some incremental changes to the platform to encourage participation.

I think it is more important to encourage community growth and be watchful for issues that might prevent one or another group from participating.  Women may need to be such a group, but so may numerical analysts or people with statistical experience.  As MathOverflow continues, the community can (and should) monitor itself to decide how to grow.  The moderation team can serve as examples and send continual reminders to the community on how to do this.

(10) As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

I think it is more important for the moderation team to have a unified vision than to have a diverse set of experiences.  MathOverflow is a resource to be used by everyone who appreciates it, but in actual fact it was intended for an audience with a specialized interest: promoting mathematical research, and doing so in English.  While it may be good to require diversity among gender status, nationality, or other spectra, it is more important that the moderator team encourage community behaviour so that the forum can prosper and be useful.

I think that as more issues arise, the moderator team can ask for advice from other moderators at StackExchange to handle situations that require diversity.  I would share my experiences as a new user, as a non professional coming from industry with mathematical interests, and if needed, as someone half a generation older than many of the present moderators.

Looking over the moderation team and the current candidate roster, I see attitudes and positions that encourage diversity in the forum, and I see nothing that discourages diversity in the long term.

Background: I had been reading MathOverflow when I first learned about it from a sci.math.research post in 2010.  I have spent a lot of time reading posts on MathOverflow and on meta.mathoverflow.net.  I had some concerns over the migration of the forum from 1.0 to 2.0, and wondered how the community would change in the transition.  

I found the easiest way to participate on the migrated forum was to create a new user account, handle "The Masked Avenger".  I realized that this would be an opportunity to see how someone new to the system would be treated, and if there would be any substantial differences resulting from the migration.  

I will shift "I's" now, and speak as the new user.  In the few months I have been active on this site, I have seen many reactions, some encouraging and some discouraging.  I think I have a better understanding as to why some users would gravitate to this forum and others would shy away from it.  I have gathered even more data since joining the election, and for those who are interested, I will share my experiences later.  However, I am not doing this for a lark.  I think there are situations where a moderator can operate effectively while using an anonymous handle in the forum.  I have no such expectation of being anonymous, nor of being unaccountable, to the MathOverflow moderation team or the StackExchange Network admins. If elected I will take steps needed to ensure I work smoothly with the moderation teams.

Shifting I's once again, one can ask whether "The Masked Avenger" is a sock puppet.  I have read over the debates, and note that on one hand, "The Masked Avenger" is technically a sock puppet, as it is not the first account I have used.

On the other hand, other users have had more than one account for whatever reason, and my reasons have not been to abuse the system in any way.  Indeed, I have found value in the use, and am willing to share the value.  If "The Masked Avenger" does get elected, I will do my best to support that user in the moderation position, not because I prefer anonymity, but because of the support and feedback I can give to MathOverflow.

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The scenario on meta mentioned in answer 1 seems to have been deleted. It impressed Asaf Karagila enough to comment. You can ask Asaf for details; the intent was to convince a user why forum users might not treat his question as research level, as well as what MathOverflow was for. –  The Masked Avenger Oct 10 '13 at 0:56
    
I just saw this comment; I'm not 100% which scenario is mentioned, but I am easily impressed in the context that if I have a free moment and even the slightest impression then I will usually comment. –  Asaf Karagila Oct 15 '13 at 20:28
    
The one I refer to was the researcher at office hours. You suggested it be scripted and be part of a film about mathematicians. I assume you liked it, @Asaf. –  The Masked Avenger Oct 15 '13 at 23:47
    
(I rolled back an edit that had nothing to do with The Masked Avenger) –  Andy Putman Oct 16 '13 at 0:02
    
Thanks, @Andy. (I did agree with the sentiment, however.) –  The Masked Avenger Oct 16 '13 at 0:51
    
The "researcher at office hours" scenario is at the [since-deleted] question, meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/681/… –  Gerry Myerson Oct 16 '13 at 1:58

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