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The purpose of this thread was to collect questions for the questionnaire. The questionnaire is now live, and you may find it here.


MathOverflow is scheduled for an election next week, 29 March, 2021. In connection with that, we will be holding a Q&A with the candidates. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to pose questions to the candidates on the topic of moderation. Participation is completely voluntary.

Here's how it'll work:

  • Until the nomination phase, (so, until 29 March at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 4:00 pm EDT on the same day, give or take time to arrive for closure), this question will be open to collect potential questions from the users of the site. Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer.

  • We, the Community Team, will be providing a small selection of generic questions. The first two will be guaranteed to be included, the latter ones are if the community doesn't supply enough questions. This will be done in a single post, unlike the prior instruction.

  • If your question contains a link, please use the syntax of [text](link), as that will make it easier for transcribing for the finished questionnaire.

  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into currently.

  • At the start of the nomination phase, the Community Team will select up to 8 of the top voted questions submitted by the community provided in this thread, to use in addition to the aforementioned 2 guaranteed questions. We reserve some editorial control in the selection of the questions and may opt not to select a question that is tangential or irrelevant to moderation or the election.

  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, typically containing 10 questions in total.

  • This is not the only option that users have for gathering information on candidates. As a community, you are still free to, for example, hold a live chat session with your candidates to ask further questions, or perhaps clarifications from what is provided in the Q&A.

If you have any questions or feedback about this process, feel free to post as a comment here.

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    $\begingroup$ Just so you know, the link to the moderator chat room on the linked page goes to a very old, now closed room. $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Mar 23 at 4:03
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I imagine it would be ok to nominate others. The page currently says that users in good standing can nominate themselves, but this is not exactly something that academics tend to do. $\endgroup$ – Lucia Mar 23 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ @theHigherGeometer ah, I will create a new room next Monday but I'll remove the links for now. Thanks for letting me know. $\endgroup$ – Catija Mar 23 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia Our system only allows self-nominations so anyone interested in the position has to overcome that. Y'all are welcome to create an unofficial place for nominating candidates - for example, you could create a question here on Meta where you can recommend someone for the position - but there's no easy way to notify them that they've been nominated. $\endgroup$ – Catija Mar 23 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ For the last election, there was a meta post allowing users to nominate others by answering. I think this could be done again. $\endgroup$ – gmvh Mar 23 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ @gmvh If you're talking about this one - meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/919/2013-moderator-nominations sure. That's what I describe in my prior comment. But the caveat there is that it needs to be clear that accepting the nomination on a post like that would not be sufficient. Candidates must also nominate on the official page or others will not be able to vote for them. :) $\endgroup$ – Catija Mar 23 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Pardon my ignorance, but will the election seat an entirely new set of moderators, or do some of our current moderators automatically continue? $\endgroup$ – Joseph O'Rourke Mar 23 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @JosephO'Rourke Our general policy is that, unless they go completely inactive and unresponsive, moderators retain their tenure until they choose to step down (or in rare cases are removed for unmoderator-like behavior). As such, these three seats are to augment the existing team, not to replace them. $\endgroup$ – Catija Mar 23 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ Three seats? That's more than I was expecting, I guess we're going to need a lot of nominees! $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Mar 24 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ Why do we suddenly need so many new moderators? Are some of the current moderators planning to step down, or is there another reason? $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Mar 24 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek: There have been calls to add moderators to the team for years now. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 24 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ I posted this on the other meta question related to the election but I'll reiterate it here: I think, at least during the voting, we need clarity about which of the current moderators are staying on. $\endgroup$ – Sam Hopkins Mar 25 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding my previous comment, in case anyone did not see François G. Dorais's answer on the other question: none of the current moderators are planning to step down. $\endgroup$ – Sam Hopkins Mar 26 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija Now that the actual questionnaire is online, I suppose this question should be closed (or even locked?) to freeze the record. $\endgroup$ – gmvh Mar 30 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Catija At the very least, this question should now be un-featured. $\endgroup$ – gmvh Apr 6 at 8:39

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There has been extensive discussion on MO Meta on how to make the MathOverflow community more welcoming and inclusive. How do you think the community should approach this issue, and what role (if any) do you think moderators should play in this regard?

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A community-specific questions asked in the last election was:

  • For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?
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    $\begingroup$ This is going to be very difficult for us to parse for our actual questionnaire - it'd be a lot easier for me if you could post these as individual answers rather than as a block. $\endgroup$ – Catija Mar 23 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija: OK, I can break this up into several answers. I'm afraid it won't be possible to know which question(s) the existing votes were meant for ... $\endgroup$ – gmvh Mar 23 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ No worries - the benefit of the edit is that it unlocks the existing votes meaning whoever cast those votes can choose to rescind them if they wish and were voting for a different question than this one or they can continue to support this one if they like it. :) Thanks for breaking the questions up! $\endgroup$ – Catija Mar 23 at 15:56
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A community-specific questions asked in the last election was:

  • What time zone are you in?
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Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

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    $\begingroup$ This is a good question. For background, the current SE policy is that moderators serve until they resign or until they become inactive. (Under very rare circumstances, moderators can also be ousted.) There is room for change, even locally on MO, if users believe there should be a fixed term. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Mar 27 at 20:52
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A community-specific questions asked in the last election was:

  • 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?"
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A community-specific questions asked in the last election was:

  • 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?
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A community-specific questions asked in the last election was:

  • 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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  • $\begingroup$ I am curious, since moderators are not appointed, but elected, what kind of an answer does this question expect? Can you give an example? That is, if you were to be nominated for MOderator and accept the nomination, how would you answer it? $\endgroup$ – M.G. Mar 29 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't come up with this question. As it says at the top, it was a question asked in the last election, and I felt that the questions from that election should be carried forward (if only as possible suggestions) to this one. In any case, I don't see how the fact that moderators are elected makes diversity less of a concern. The members of various political and corporate bodies are elected, and a lack of diversity is often voiced as a (legitimate, IMO) concern. As to your last question, as a straight white male I wouldn't contribute to diversity, as normally construed. But given ... (ctd.) $\endgroup$ – gmvh Mar 29 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ (cont:) ... But given the context of MO, in your hypothetical scenario I would contribute to the interdisciplinarity of the team as a mathematically-inclined theoretical physicist, and to the geographic diversity by being from Europe. However, I am clearly not qualified to be a moderator, so that point is kind of moot. $\endgroup$ – gmvh Mar 29 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Apologies, I did not realize you were simply carrying over the question from last election. My question was meant for the person who originally asked the question in your post. All humans are individuals, so the term "diversity" needs some clarification/definition/narrowing down. If it refers to sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, then these are things one is born into 99.999% of the time and do not constitute per se any meaningful contribution whatsoever, unlike, say, one's background in cultural studies helping to bridge the gap between different cultures when moderation is necessary. $\endgroup$ – M.G. Mar 29 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ (cont'd) So, raising a question about them creates a precedent that they should influence the election of one or another person as a MOderator, which is quite the opposite result of the intent of such a concern. The election should be based solely on merit and competence. Since MOderators are elected rather than appointed, such a concern should not exist. For all we care, the future MOderators can be anon or semi-anon, like quid used to be. Sex, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, race, religion, political preferences etc. should be irrelevant to the election. $\endgroup$ – M.G. Mar 29 at 16:15
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What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

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As a moderator you will need to know Stack Exchange software - both the parts available to moderators, but you need also know the stuff available to regular users. Do you consider your knowledge of Stack Exchange software good? In case of problems, where would you try to find information about Stack Exchange software?

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    $\begingroup$ I have asked this because I have seen several times various incorrect claims from current mods posted here on meta. So this is an area where I would say that the MO moderators are lacking - for example, compared to Mathematics mods, that is the site I am most familiar with. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 25 at 6:26
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What would you consider as the "job description" of a MO moderator? Do you think that there are some things that should be added (or omitted) here: What do moderators do? Which activities, that would fall under community moderation, are you already doing? Are there some things you would like to do, but cannot do as a non-mod?

This can be considered as an extension of "In your opinion, what do moderators do?" - which was among the examples in Catija's post.

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Here is a set of general questions, gathered as very common questions asked every election. As mentioned in the instructions, the first two questions are guaranteed to show up in the Q&A, while the others are if there aren't enough questions (or, if you like one enough, you may split it off as a separate answer for review within the community's 8).

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

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