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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.

Not every question was compiled - as noted, we only selected the top 8 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us.

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. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?
  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?
  1. 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?
  1. What time zone are you in?
  1. 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?"
  1. 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?
  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?
  1. 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?
  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?
  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
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  1. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I'm using my real name. I have a permanent lectureship at the University of Bath.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

I think terms are a good idea in general, as they stop the power being concentrated and allow a variety of members to have a go. It also puts in a safety mechanism in the rare case that a moderator lapses. Though certainly moderators should be able to be re-elected once their term has come to an end provided their work is appreciated by the community.

I'd happily serve for a couple of years then see how I get on after that.

  1. 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?

I do feel that new users are often marginalised as they are not familiar with the standards of the community. I would help by encouraging patience amongst the current members, and use my moderators abilities to edit posts to improve the exposition as appropriate so that new users get an idea of the kind of style which mathoverflow uses.

  1. What time zone are you in?

GMT

  1. 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 really like mathoverflow and think that it has a great culture. The questions should be overall research level, where I interpret research level to mean PhD level and above. Certainly I think that PhD students can ask questions which more advanced researchers would find naive/basic, but I think mathoverflow should be used for this purpose. I certainly learnt a lot on mathoverflow as a PhD student, even though I cringe at some of the questions I asked back in the day (which were all part of the learning process).

  1. 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?

My understanding is that there are no moderators in Europe at the moment, so I would be able to make sure that more time zones were covered. I would make sure that mathoverflow is open to all, and particularly encourage women to participate and feel welcome.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

I think keeping up the momentum that it has and making sure that questions and answers are high-quality.

  1. 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?

I think that it is a substantial problem in mathematics in general that women are underrepresented, but I would agree that the situation is even worse on mathoverflow than the real world. I would make sure that mathoverflow is open to all, and particularly encourage women to participate and feel welcome.

  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?

Discreetly contact this user to point out the large number of flags and offer advice on how to improve their MO etiquette.

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

Contact the moderator in question to discuss the situation and try to find out why they decided it should be closed. Through objective civil discussions we should be able to come to a joint conclusion as to what to do with the question.

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    $\begingroup$ LIES! You're in BST right now which is GMT+1!!! :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 30 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ Did you follow meta discussions in the past? It seems that this is your first active participation on meta (at least on the SE 2.0 meta, although you may have participated on the old meta, now known as "tea"). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 30 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: I'm not really sure how appropriate it is for one potential candidate to grill another. But I have placed more focus on the actual mathematical questions and answers which is what I believe mathoverflow is really about. Though one of the reasons I'm applying for moderator is that I want to play a more active role in how the site is run and would play an active role on meta. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Loughran Mar 30 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not "grilling" you. I'm sincerely asking. Moderating is a meta-activity. You haven't been active on meta. And I felt that this was important enough to bring up. Thanks for the answer! $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 30 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ As a point of order, it's quite common for candidates to be questioned about their answers in the comments on their questionnaire or on their nomination. While we certainly want these questions to be civil and fair, people have often responded to such questions in the comments or by editing their answer to cover their response more fully. Particularly in an election for three positions, I feel that it's perfectly fine for this to happen between candidates since they may be co-moderators in the future. $\endgroup$ – Catija ModStaff Mar 31 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielLoughran I notice that after completing only a handful of reviews for your first 11 years on the site, just yesterday you went on a blitz and completed about 20 of them in one day. This reviewing pattern seems a bit irregular -- could you say something about it? (Personally, I think my own lack of review experience is a black mark on my own candidacy, but I don't think I'd have held your lack of reviewing experience against you.) Also, I applaud you for being one of the first to put your name forward. Could you expand a bit on what serving as moderator would mean to you? $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 4 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ @TimCampion: Well I thought that if I'm going to take being a moderator seriously then I better get more experience at doing moderator activities, with doing more reviewing being an obvious place to improve as I expect I would be doing a lot of this should I be elected as a moderator. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Loughran Apr 4 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ As for what being a moderator would mean to me: I really love MO and have got a lot out of it and learnt so much mathematics. I have mostly focused so far on the Question and Answer side, but I feel that the time is really right for me to give more back to the community and play a more active role on the meta and behind the scenes of MO. I want to move my participation on mathoveflow to the next level and becoming a moderator would mean a lot to me, and I would feel very honoured if the community decided to put their trust in me to perform this role. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Loughran Apr 4 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like I should add that I would also view being a moderator as part of my professional activities as a professional mathematician, rather than just being a "hobby". $\endgroup$ – Daniel Loughran Apr 4 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, I think all of that is very admirable! $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 4 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ Discretely or discreetly? :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Apr 4 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Rand al'Thor: Ha good catch! Corrected. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Loughran Apr 4 at 16:53
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Tim Campion

Here is a link to my candidate statement.

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

I use my real name, Tim Campion (I may sometimes publish as Timothy Campion). I am currently a 6th year math PhD student at the University of Notre Dame working with Chris Schommer-Pries. In the fall, I will start a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University with Emily Riehl.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

I'm of two minds on this question. Certainly if elected, I would be happy to serve for a finite period of time. I did notice during the nomination phase that several excellent moderator candidates were suggested who declined to run because of the level of responsibility involved. If term lengths were imposed, I suspect that the pool of qualified candidates interested in running would grow because the commitment would be less open-ended. So if we were to decide that it's desirable to have more rotation on the moderation team, I think that having finite term lengths would probably be an effective strategy.

On the other hand, I think the current moderation team does a generally excellent job -- if it ain't broke, why fix it? I would suggest that if term lengths were to be imposed, then we should grandfather in the current moderation team, allowing them to serve indefinitely barring specific issues, or take some similar sort of measures to preserve the benefits of the current system, such as not limiting the number of terms for which a moderator might serve.

On balance, I tentatively think that it would indeed be desirable to have more rotation on the moderation team, much as we do with departmental administrative positions in academia. As I understand it, moderators play several roles in the functioning of MO:

  1. Dealing with flagged posts and problem users.

  2. Facilitating meta discussions by sharing specific information they are privy to.

  3. Leading by example in helping to define the culture of MO.

  4. (Typically) serving on the board of MO and helping to shape long-term MO strategy.

For each of these roles, the benefits of cultivating a core of long-serving, experienced moderators are clear, but the benefits of continuously refreshing the workforce are equally clear.

In summary, finite term lengths sound like a pretty good idea to me, but only if the benefits of the current stability enjoyed by the moderation team can be maintained.

  1. 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?

In my answer to Question (8) below, I discuss making MO more welcoming to and inclusive of women and other underrepresented groups. Much of what I say there is applicable here: moderators can lead by example, be gentle to newcomers, and take corrective action when others fall short of such standards. Moderators can also do things like help new users to clean up their questions to make them more palatable to the MO audience. Most of these measures are not specific to moderators, but a moderator's actions in such regards do carry extra weight.

  1. What time zone are you in?

I am in EST (UTC-5)/EDT (US Eastern time zone). This will continue to be the case when I change positions in the fall.

  1. 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 have difficulty parsing the description of "culture" discussed by Gerhard at the linked post, but I take this to be a question about some of the unique aspects of the culture at MO setting us apart from other SE sites. To be honest, I have only limited familiarity with other SE sites, so I don't have a deep grasp of which aspects of our culture stand in contrast to them. MO's situation is of course unique in that we were founded independently from SE and continue to be an independent entity hosted on the SE network. We have cultivated a space specifically for research mathematics, which is fantastically valuable. Compared to other sites, this makes our community more "targeted", which has allowed us, for instance, to welcome more open-ended questions than are typically permitted on other sites. These aspects of our culture are to be treasured.

Perhaps this is an appropriate place to say something about our relationship with the SE network more broadly. I feel that the relationship could use a bit more structure. For instance, when SE redid the theme of the site last year, and when they announced the new rich text editor a few months ago, I felt we were caught both times a bit flat-footed. For instance, it's been a year, and we still haven't implemented a background color for the site in the new theme! One measure I think could help would be to have a specific individual MO user (a moderator or otherwise) designated as the "point person" for communication with SE. We would expect this person to be given a heads-up about major changes like these two before they were publicly announced, and this person would have the authority "make official requests" about such matters from the MO community to SE.

  1. 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've spoken about the value of diversity in the moderator team in answer to (2) above. In many respects I would be a regressive moderator choice as regards diversity. One aspect I do bring to the table concerns my early years on MO. I joined MO within a few months of its founding, and for many years was mostly a lurker on the site, before becoming increasingly active as I've matured mathematically. But in those early years, I was between my undergraduate and graduate school, working in industry, and not sure what role math would play in my future. MO was instrumental in helping me sustain my interest in mathematics and eventually return to academia. So I do bring a bit of an outsider's perspective.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

I think things have been working pretty well for many years now. The balance of questions on this questionnaire suggests that issues of inclusiveness and diversity in our community are on many people's minds. I agree that such issues should be at the forefront of discussions about the future of MO going forward.

  1. 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?

I object to one premise of the question. Women (as well as numerous other demographic groups) are underrepresented in mathematics as a whole, and this is an issue for mathematics as a whole. The question asks about the extent to which the problem is worse on MO than in mathematics as a whole; I believe it is a nonzero extent, but it doesn't matter. MO is part of the mathematics community, and as such, any problem for the mathematics community is a problem for MO.

As a moderator, there are various things to do in terms of leading by example in being welcoming to newcomers, which we've discussed ad nauseum over the past few months. One thing we haven't done is to systematically seek out women (and members of other underrepresented demographic groups) and ask them about MO. In dealing with problems of underrepresented groups, it doesn't seem very productive to me to have those who are represented bandying about ideas bout addressing such issues. I think it's high time we do something a little more proactive -- perhaps create some sort of survey or something like that. This is the sort of thing that a moderator's behind-the-scenes role could be helpful in facilitating.

  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 suspect the current moderation team has some internal guidelines on such matters, to which I would defer. Common sense says that the user should be contacted privately with a gentle explanation of the problems with their conduct and suggestions on how to fix them, gradually escalating if necessary to more formal interventions like suspensions.

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

Again I suspect the current moderation team has their own well-established norms on such matters, to which I would defer. Common sense suggests contacting the mod privately and discussing the issue as human beings, trying to find some consensus.

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    $\begingroup$ Since you engaged with the other candidates, I can ask you "difficult questions" without backlash, I hope. Why being a moderator is going to be any different to being a high-reputation user (which can partake in moderation tasks such as reviews, closure, deletion, etc.) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Apr 4 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I appreciate the question! (I kinda wish there more questions, to be honest!). I'm not completely clear on this. There was very little feedback when I asked about it over here. I would look to the current moderators for guidance, but my understanding is that the primary responsibility of a moderator is to review flagged posts. I do not claim to be uniquely suited to this task, but I am willing to put in some effort at it. Perhaps some of the issues discussed above are irrelevant to moderation. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 4 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I agree that it'd be ideal for the moderator to tell us about what they actually do before the election. I don't think that a lot of it is reviewing posts directly, rather it's dealing with the controversial issues (e.g. things that are closed/reopened or deleted/undeleted) or problematic users. I know that on MSE there's a lot more low quality material, but we don't intervene too often with that level of moderation. It's mainly things that the community can't do by itself. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Apr 4 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ "systematically seek out women (and members of other underrepresented demographic groups) and ask them about MO." <-- the best idea. I believe it's already been done a little bit, but more data is better, and more representative of the breadth of views out there. $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Apr 5 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ @theHigherGeometer actually, for once I'd like to see someone say that they would like to act on the responses coming from asking underrepresented or minority groups instead of just asking them about their experiences. it might seem like a minor difference, but it's the difference between lip-service and action so... it's not that minor. I should also say that I think Tim has provided a thoughtful and considered response to the questions though, and he's on my shortlist of people to vote for. $\endgroup$ – postmortes Apr 5 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ regarding the integration of underrepresented groups I think it will not suffice to invite members of the respective groups to ask or answer questions on MO but also questions and answers regarding their experience with the "organs" of mathematical research like journals, institutions, forums,etc. should be welcomed and taken serious. Maybe installing something like awareness events on meta could be a first idea for MO to take an active part in that respect. $\endgroup$ – Manfred Weis Apr 5 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes (and Manfred) I definitely agree, and I suspect some moves are being made. Awareness events seem like a very reasonable idea. $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Apr 5 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes I absolutely agree about words vs. action. Perhaps I'm betraying my own ignorance, but my perception of the state of things on MO is that we basically haven't done that first step of finding out what the suggestions of various underrepresented groups would actually be -- we just keep recycling discussion of being welcoming to newcomers, etc. After that first step, it is of course important to actually act on such suggestions. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 5 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @ManfredWeis I don't know what an awareness event would entail, but it sounds interesting! I'd be interested in finding out more. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 5 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ I think I agree with a feeling of repeating the same initial steps over and over -- and I am certain that any discussion on how to welcome minorities and underrepresented groups more will be difficult both to start and to manage. So... I welcome your intention to tackle this :) $\endgroup$ – postmortes Apr 5 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @TimCampion what I could imagine would be to encourage questions that bring e.g. women mathematicians to the attention of the mathematical community and/or general public; there is for example that movie about the African American women at NASA, but I can't remember having seen questions regarding these pioneering women on MO. I think an inherent "problem" in attracting e.g. women as contributors to MO is that the focus is on math, problems and solutions whereas the people behind the math are hardly of interest. $\endgroup$ – Manfred Weis Apr 5 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ In line with what postmortes is saying, I wholeheartedly welcome and support your intention to tackle acting on such suggestions! $\endgroup$ – Carl-Fredrik Nyberg Brodda Apr 5 at 15:06
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  1. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I am using my real name. I am Professor of Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

I believe that there should be a term. I would serve a 3 year term

  1. 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?

I have to admit I have not followed that discussion. Perhaps one should define more precisely the term inclusive. I do like the current warning "New Contributor". We do not want to scare new users away. This is inclusive. I believe MP should remain a site for research level mathematics. This in itself is a bit exclusive and I am not comfortable broadening the scope.

  1. What time zone are you in?

Eastern Time Zone US

  1. 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?"

Speaking from my own experience, I like that in the current format MO offers access to an amazing community of experts asking and answering questions. I hope it will stay that way and even more, it increases. I like this "culture" and I would like to preserve it.

  1. 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 honestly do not have a good idea. I do not even know the gender of many of the contributors. As a moderator I would try to keep the contributions/ discussions strictly academic, where mathematics plays a central role. Abusive and discriminating language should not find a place on this site in my time here the dialogue has mostly been like that. In the few instances when I noticed that the language became heated the moderators intervened to cool it down and I appreciated that. The issue of underrepresentation of women and minorities in the mathematical community is real deserve addressing but I do not feel that MO is the optimal avenue.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

You got me here. I do not know about the costs of maintaining this site and about how difficult it would be to maintain the current sources of funding. Since this site does not deal in controversial issues I believe that the risk of it being polluted/trolled is minimal but vigilance needs to be maintained. I have noticed that the frequency of homework-like questions has increased. This is bad for two reasons: it dilutes the quality of this site and it might inadvertently make this site complice to the academic dishonesty that seems to have grown substantially in campuses during the pandemic.

  1. 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?

I do not know what is the percentage of women on this site so I cannot give you an informed answer. Some contributors want to preserve their anonymity and I respect that. This make it difficult (at least for me) to have an idea of the demographics of this site and how it impacts its quality.

  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 would first send an email warning the person that this is unacceptable behavior on this site and if this continued measure would be taken.

Measures would range from

temporary restricting the right to comment and a penalty of $x_1$ points removed from his/her reputation,

temporary restricting the right to ask or answer questions and a penalty of $x_2>x_1$ points removed from the reputation.

If the comments continue to receive many flags even after warnings and penalties then we as a community we have to judge the costs vs the benefits of having such a person contribute to this site.

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

I would try to resolve this in private with the other moderators and present my best arguments why the question deserves attention. I've only encountered few situations of this kind and in some cases, when the user seemed to be MO-inexperienced, I helped "save" the question, by voting it up and editing it to highlight the features I found interesting.

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    $\begingroup$ Do moderators have the power to remove reputation points? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Browning Apr 1 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasBrowning I honestly do not know. In any case this is an issue that only the community can decide it's worth pursuing if abusive language/behavior becomes a serious issue. $\endgroup$ – Liviu Nicolaescu Apr 1 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ @ThomasBrowning As far as I can tell, the possible sanctions include suspensions and account deletion / destruction, but not loss of points or restricting the right to comment without general suspension. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Mod Apr 1 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl: When an account is deleted the votes given by that account are usually removed (the dreaded "User removed" notice), since moderators can delete user accounts, that's one more way of removing points. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Apr 1 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ I think that the range of punishments is rather limited as is since there is little in between a warning and expulsion. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of debate. $\endgroup$ – Liviu Nicolaescu Apr 1 at 9:52
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  1. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I am using my real name (though I publish as Nyberg-Brodda rather than Nyberg Brodda). I am currently a final year PhD student.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

Yes, I think term limits is part of a healthy democratic process, and can help boost engagement between the community and the moderators. I do think that re-election should be significantly easier than initial election for moderators whose work is appreciated by the community. The time itself is not as important, but I might envision myself working for a couple of years.

  1. 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?

I think it is important to reward genuine curiosity and attempt at engagement from new users, even if it is not quite to the standard we are used to. Of course, this does not mean that questions about "checking my proof of the Riemann hypothesis using antimatter" should be treated with great patience and explanation, but rather that new users are treated with a greater deal of flexibility and forgiveness, treating these as part of the learning process. An analogy: if a new PhD student were to ask a "stupid" or "obvious" question to a well-known and friendly professor in the tea room after a seminar, I would wish the community to react in a similar way that the professor might react. To me, a moderator's role in this regard is to ensure that the community as a whole keeps this goal in mind, and to step in with a soft touch to steer back any discussions that divert from this goal, or directly work against it.

  1. What time zone are you in?

BST (UTC+1).

  1. 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 think the unique culture of MathOverflow is, beyond any doubt, something that should be preserved, while keeping in mind that certain aspects of it will naturally be evolving as it becomes more inclusive and diverse (see below).

  1. 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 almost certainly be the youngest member of the moderator team, both academically and age-wise. Coming from a progressive background in Sweden, I would also be strongly motivated and driven to work towards goals of diversity and equal representation on the moderator team.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

Preserving the aforementioned culture of MathOverflow, and ensuring the continued development of the community's diversity and inclusivity (these challenges are, as mentioned before, quite interlinked!).

  1. 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?

Yes, and yes. As a moderator, my work would primarily be reactive (welcoming new users on their first posts; steering diverging conversations; pointing out and taking action, if necessary, to unwelcome behaviour, etc), and so my main contribution to this issue would be in line with this, rather than proactive measures.

However, this is not to say that it would only be reactive; for example, I might raise meta issues about certain posts and how (un)welcome these are in our community, as we have seen in the past (e.g. about sexist jokes).

  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 would likely raise the issue with the user in question in private, to remind them of the community guidelines, and to ensure that they are aware of the effect their comments have on other users.

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

I would first and foremost ask the moderator in question in private. I would not override any decision before getting a very clear idea of all variables involved in the decision, which I trust was not made lightly.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that it could be a good idea to have a Ph.D. student on the moderator team. Let me take the liberty to ask you a somehow provocative question. Assume (as a thought experiment) that some senior mathematician, that you know very well and could have an influence on your career, posts something inappropriate (for instance, a sexist joke), that some controversy arises, and that you must be the one taking action. What would you do? $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Mar 31 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @FrancescoPolizzi This is a very good question. Of course, the reality of that situation would mean that it might at first be difficult to see the situation entirely objectively (I am only human!). However, through careful deliberation, including with other moderators, seeing the reactions and opinions presented by the community, and careful (and transparent!) assessment of the facts, this initial difficulty disappears. A sexist joke (for instance) is equally unwelcome regardless of who makes it. My role as a moderator would be to serve the community, not myself. $\endgroup$ – Carl-Fredrik Nyberg Brodda Mar 31 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ these are thoughtful answers, thank you; since you are in your final year of your Ph.D., I imagine your situation will change quite substantially in the near future; are you planning on staying in academia? $\endgroup$ – Carlo Beenakker Mar 31 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ @CarloBeenakker Thank you! Yes, I am planning on staying in academia (job market permitting). $\endgroup$ – Carl-Fredrik Nyberg Brodda Mar 31 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Carl-FredrikNybergBrodda I notice that you have by far the most MO reviewing experience of any of the candidates, which is fantastic! Could you say a few words about your reviewing experience? What draws you to it? What are some of the considerations at the top of your mind when reviewing? How do you think this experience would inform your work as a moderator? $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 4 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @TimCampion Thank you! To me, reviewing (especially first posts) means doing the kind of "small nudges to make the site slightly better" that I really enjoy. Seeing other members' reactions on posts when I am uncertain of the quality has also really helped me get a feel for e.g. what qualifies as "research level" or "on-topic". There are still some posts where I feel unable to accurately decide; in those cases, I skip the question and let the other reviewers decide. This gives me a small boost of "community spirit" endorphins, which is great for wanting to review more later that day :-) $\endgroup$ – Carl-Fredrik Nyberg Brodda Apr 5 at 11:14
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  1. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I am using my real name. I am a final year PhD student, I will defend my thesis in a few weeks from today, and begin a job as a professional mathematician shortly thereafter.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

Two years seems like a fair amount of time for a newly elected moderator, upon which the moderator may choose to re-run or leave the post. For moderators that have been on the site for many years, I believe the situation may be different, and community may already have absolute trust in their abilities, in which case a probation period may not longer be necessary.

  1. 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?

This issue is of course still outstanding in other sites, such as the sister site math.SE. It is surely impossible to guarantee hundreds of thousands of users are constantly behaving in a civil fashion, but I believe as moderators we should set the example, such as looking out for posts by new users (highlighted by the system) and making sure that if one of us (moderator or otherwise) has interacted with the user, such interaction has indeed been welcoming and civil. In a site such as MO, where professionals interact, there is definitely no place for disrespect, intolerance, or other such behaviour.

At the same time, some users may come off as terse or unkind even if there is not ill-will: it is hard to communicate through text, where the nuance of spoken word is lost. Because of this, moderators should be ready to mediate interactions between new users and existing users that may have escalated due to a simple misunderstanding. This does happen often and, quite likely, more often that the former situation.

  1. What time zone are you in?

At the moment, I am in GMT+01:00 (Irish Standard Time).

  1. 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?"

Each community in SE has its own ways and its own idiosyncrasies, in particular when it comes to commenting, answering and weighing on the value of these interactions. As long as these have positive outcomes and do not produce a harmful environment, the community is free to find its own way.

For example, more experienced users tend to be reticent on giving an answer when they deem it "easy enough" or "well known", which is not useful for record-keeping. As a moderator in math.SE, I usually kindly request such comments be made into answers. If this does not work (for whatever reason, which is at any rate irrelevant) I tend to cite these replies and add them to the answers as community wiki. This helps the site keep track of those questions that have been answered, and avoid duplication.

  1. 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 do not know the moderators personally, so I'll just tell you a bit about myself. I am from Argentina, where I spent most of my formative years, graduated from a public university where students from multiple backgrounds are educated, and where I also worked as a teacher assistant. I also worked part-time in a private university where I taught math for students without a mathematical background. I emigrated to Ireland almost four years ago. I have been working with undergraduate students in Ireland for the last four years, taught around 24 courses during this time as a TA, and had the opportunity to (if perhaps briefly) interact with hundreds of students from many different countries and backgrounds. This has helped me become more aware of existing diversity issues, and learn how to help students (and in this case, users) have a better experience.

On another level, I have actively participated in many mathematics-related events in Europe and South America where I (usually indirectly) learned from organizers about how to foster diversity in such events. I most strongly believe that MO should be a place where every mathematician (or mathematics-adjacent professional) feels welcome to participate, and I am ready to contribute to this effort.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

Certain interactions I have had in the past make me believe a large amount of mathematics-adjacent internet users have a negative (or very negative) opinion of MO and the sister site math.SE, in particular with regards to the experience of new users, for example, and the way these users are treated. It would be good to understand how we can help improve the image of the site (and not in a cosmetic way!), specially if future professional mathematicians have such view of the site.

  1. 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?

Compared to workshops, conferences and other similar events (where in many cases they are still underrepresented), women participate in MO much less than usual: by looking at the first few pages of users, organized by reputation, where almost all users have public names, one can count exactly one username with an identifiable female name out of about 300+. This is of course an issue in that many early researchers miss out on using the forum (assuming they would agree using the forum is a good use of their time!), while MO misses out on the invaluable input it could receive from the many leading experts that are not participating.

The site has established itself as an important piece of the mathematical community to many, and I believe we should make sure it keeps up to the standard we would expect from workshops, say, and does its best to attract mathematicians independent of their background. I would like to help with the efforts.

  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?

We have dealt with this issue in math.SE a few times (I have been a moderator there for about 7 years). Sometimes the user did improve their behaviour after we contacted them and made them aware of the issue, making it clear that we valued their input to the site but that we could not tolerate disruptive behaviour. Sometimes we had to escalate and suspend them. As any other site, there's a code of conduct, and every user ---independent of their prowess--- should adhere to it.

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

This has also happened a few times in math.SE. The moderators involved should discuss the matter privately, and aim to come to an agreement. If no agreement is reached, I believe moderators should withdraw from the situation and let the community decide.

Ideally, this kind of situation would not happen regularly, and I believe moderators should be the last ones to decide to close a question, and let trusted users do the voting. After all, moderators can take unilateral action, and this (if not always, quite often) leads to discussion unless the course of action is clear cut (say if a user posted spam, or a solution to an open problem which is clearly bogus.)

Could you expand a bit on the similarities and differences between MO and MSE, both in general, and with regard to the way you personally use them? If elected moderator, how would you split your time between the two sites?

Both forums are similar in their Q&A format, the more experienced users from math.SE are either professional mathematicians, educators, former mathematicians, or a mix of these, as it happens in MO. The main difference is the influx math.SE experiences from new users that are very unfamiliar with the way the site works, use of LaTeX, and other issues, and the level of the questions, along with a perhaps more collegial environment in MO.

In this way, math.SE requires more intense moderator activity, which is backed up by many highly active users that help with the efforts, while MO tends to see just a handful of "lost" users and perhaps sometimes more serious issues that have to be dealt with.

I enjoy using math.SE to provide help to people that are learning a subject and, perhaps less than before, to get some help on non-research level questions that I bump into every now and then. During last year of my PhD, I started using it very little, answering questions seldomly. I use MO to consult with experts and try to find answers to questions that may appear during my research, though I have used it very passively lately, and read rather than contribute with answers. I am looking forward to spending more time on the site, and hopefully contributing to it more meaningfully.

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  • $\begingroup$ I understand that you are a moderator and extremely active user at MSE, but comparatively less active on MO. Could you expand a bit on the similarities and differences between MO and MSE, both in general, and with regard to the way you personally use them? If elected moderator, how would you split your time between the two sites? Also: for how long have you been a moderator at MSE? $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 4 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, I just noticed your edit in response to my comment -- it's clarifying! $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 5 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Not at all active user on math.se, @Tim, for some years now. Not even an active moderator. (Also, please know that mathematics.se is math.se, capital letters or not, whereas MSE is meta.se. I only learned of that distinction a year ago.) $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 8 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy (I only became aware of the usage of MSE for meta stack exchange recently too -- I was figuring it was safe to use MSE for math.se in this context, but you're right -- best be consistent!) Pedro Tamaroff is a 100k+ rep user all time on Math.SE and has 1000+ rep on the year. By MO standards, that's quite active. It's difficult to gauge moderator activity from public information as so much of the work is apparently behind the scenes. I do see that Pedro hasn't posted or commented on Math.SE meta since 2017. I for one appreciate your perspective, yourself being an active Math.SE user. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 9 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ I was in the same position, not knowing math.se wasn't seen as MSE outside of the two math sites, but folks on meta.se wasted no time at all, when I posted a general question on meta.se, and cited two examples on "MSE"... Best to avoid clashing with those folks. If it's any consolation, I knew, and I'm sure everyone here knows, your use of MSE was meant to refer to math.se. And as for 1000 rep in a year? that often comes with an occasional post + "royalties" earned with continued upvotes of past posts. I can vouch for that. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 9 at 18:29
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  1. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I use my real name here, but I am currently a voluntary college dropout studying math independently. This could potentially present an issue, since someone like me with no formal prestige to their name moderating this site could give an impression of reduced professionalism at MO to the mathematical community at large. MO seems to be taking a more center stage in mathematics at large (being mentioned in papers and at conferences etc.), and I wouldn't want to risk damaging that momentum in any way.

That being said, I have consistently participated here since I dropped out back in 2018; I left as an undergrad because I wanted to focus on research related to the surreal numbers, but my university wanted me to spend another 1.5 years and $50,000+ for the privilege of taking religious studies classes (it was an American Lasallian Christian university) and general ed credits to complete requirements for my degree. I had taken all available upper division math and physics classes and maintained a 4.0 by the the end of my first semester as a junior, and the prospect of slowing down for a year and a half to check off 'religion class' boxes rubbed me the wrong way.

I do intend to return to academia and complete a PhD, but I would first like to finish what I left college to finish and get a paper submitted for publication. Mathoverflow has been essential for me these past few years; I could not have come as far as I have without the help I've received from members of this site. Irrespective of how my academic career progresses, I intend to leave plenty of room for participation here at MO; my situation is such that I don't have to worry about income, so I won't be leaving academia any time soon.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

I think the newly available positions should rotate once every year/few years, so that parts of the moderation team can accurately reflect the feelings of the community as they evolve. It may be that someone who seems to reflect the communities values during the lead-up to an election phase turns out to be a flawed match as the landscape of the community changes, or that someone who was initially a poor choice matures and becomes a paragon of potential moderation.

This would also prevent, to some extent, the possibility of attitudes along along the lines of, "I'm a moderator so I don't have to listen to you, you have to listen to me". Although I haven't seen anything close to this on MO from the current moderators, we are all flawed humans; putting safeguards up against our baser natures is a good idea in my opinion, even if we couldn't imagine falling prey to them.

The current moderation team, however, should remain on permanently or until they choose to leave in my opinion. I think everyone currently moderating has given the community ample evidence that they are the kind of moderators we want on this site, and they could serve as an 'old guard' of sorts to help guide newer moderators in the subtle methods of their craft.

  1. 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?

This is something I'm particularly sensitive to due to the situation outlined in my answer to question 1; for the last 3+ years, MO has been my only formal connection to the academic mathematical world and has consequently weighed heavily on my self-image as a mathematician. If I had a PhD position, or a temporary/permanent job in academia, and I were to suddenly find MO too unwelcoming for me, I could simply turn to the other institutions around me and use them for support. With nowhere else to turn, the times when I felt unwelcome by the community here (which only happened rarely) were extremely disheartening, and could have been rectified pretty simply via the correct type of proactive moderation.

I think it is easiest to explain my position using the metaphor of "MO as a tea room for professional mathematicians to discuss research mathematics". Taking this view, all the regular participants here at MO are standing around a swanky lounge, sipping exotic teas and having scintillating conversation about arcane topics unheard of by the common man. An outsider walks in and is initially blown away by the scale of it all; who knew that things could even get this abstract and complicated! They initially float around a bit, listening in on conversations where perhaps every fifth word makes sense, until they finally reach a point of excitement and offer their first input into the conversation at hand. This is where things can go wrong in the current culture in a way that moderators could fix.

Let us assume that their input, whatever it was, was not sufficient to be of interest to anyone else involved in the conversation. The current cultural norm is the equivalent of everyone falling silent for a moment and giving the newcomer a dirty look, before continuing on with the conversation as if they hadn't blurted anything out in the first place. If the newcomer continues to try to offer input, the standard response is increasingly dirtier looks eventually followed by a comment, muttered into someones hand but spoken to the crowd at large, along the lines of 'you don't belong here and you should know that you don't belong here'.

Where a moderator can fix this situation, sticking with the above metaphor, is by playing the role of a good host. They could proactively identify newcomers like the one outlined above and glide around the room, close enough to hear them, waiting to see what their input level is. If it becomes apparent that they aren't quite ready to converse in this tea room the moderator could quietly pull them aside, introduce themselves and briefly explain the ethos of the room, then politely suggest other rooms that they might be more comfortable in until they mature to a point where they should return. Also, if something untoward is said before moderators can step in, they could make a point of telling the newcomer that these opinions are not universal -- from someone with a diamond next to their name, comforting words like this can have significant psychological impact. This added personal touch would alleviate much of the perceived unfriendliness in my opinion.

  1. What time zone are you in?

GMT-5, St. Louis currently, but I'm engaged to be married the 15th of may and we're looking at moving to Ireland so my time zone may change soon.

  1. 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?"

The kind of 'culture' outlined by Gerhard above is something I think is incredibly valuable and rare here at mathoverflow, and something naturally engendered by the nature of high-level mathematical discussion.

I think moderators role in 'culture influence' should, to some extent, require a split personality on the part of the moderator. On the one hand moderators (like Todd for example) are themselves accomplished mathematicians and should be allowed to contribute freely and in an unrestricted capacity as a mathematician on the site, implicitly influencing the cultural norms in the same way we all do by communal participation in them combined with individual evaluations of their significance and importance. On the other hand, as a moderator they should not strive to directly influence cultural norms beyond their normal capacity as a participant of the site, and instead strive to allow the community to decide its own culture (with moderators viewed as community participants on equal footing with everyone else). Moderators aren't elected to be tastemakers for the site. This is a delicate line to walk, but I think finding it and balancing is one of the more difficult and important jobs for a prospective moderator.

  1. 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 am a white man, so I am definitely not contributing to diversity via my race or sex. I have suffered from mental health issues in the past to the point of inpatient care however, and have a permanent diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, so I may be able to offer more diversity in understanding potential mental health issues from a moderating perspective.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

I think things are looking up for MO on average as I mentioned in my response to question 1, but the potential problems I see on the horizon are primarily the ones I see outlined in other questions about welcoming newcomers and participation from women.

One potential problem not mentioned in other questions is how the increasing polarity of the outside world right now might gradually seep in and influence interactions here on MO. We live in a world that is increasingly full of disagreement and refusal to see eye-to-eye; we've already seen some of that enter MO in the form of the recent drama culminating in a suspension.

I think that it's incumbent upon moderators to acknowledge this increasing polarity, and proactively make an effort to identify and stamp out any extraneous politicking here to keep things as math-content oriented as possible. It is also important to not simply label any opposing opinions as politicking that must be squashed, but I think that by consulting other moderators and the community at large we should be able to discern a bright red line between friendly discussion and deliberate flaming.

  1. 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?

This question doesn't ask us if we think women are underrepresented in math, but wether MO is worse than the math community at large as far as female representation is concerned. I definitely think there are fewer women here than there are in the math community at large; two of my five total professors as an undergrad were women, whereas the proportion of women to men here seems to skew more than 90% in the male direction.

I think this is certainly a problem, for the same reason it would be a problem that approximately 50% of the math community was not participating in MO for some reason or another; we aren't hearing input from valuable voices on topics they might be leading experts on in the world.

Despite this being a problem for MO, I think it is rooted somewhat in the unfriendliness of online communities towards women in general. I am not aware of any online math/science forum where participation by women approaches 50%, and I would go farther and say that outside of forums specifically dedicated to predominately classically feminine topics males tend to dominate the conversation online.

I definitely feel that it is a moderators responsibility to try to alleviate this issue, but the obvious tools at hand seem insufficient to the challenge. I would say that encouraging our female colleagues in real life to participate and making sure to moderate carefully for any shenanigans is probably the most I can think of off the top of my head, but I do think this is a topic worth investing further collaborative thought in for whatever the moderation team is moving forwards.

  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 would begin by alerting them to the situation and asking what their take on the conflict was. If where they're coming from is understandable but they have a brash tone that is creating friction, I might try to keep an eye out for conflicts with other users and step in to clarify positions and de-muddy waters when necessary.

On the other hand, if they're coming from somewhere that is ultimately deemed unreasonable or unworkable for the community by myself and other moderators consulted about the user (moderators would presumably be discussing the situation if it was a repeated issue with flags), I would inform them in a firm but friendly manner that the nature of their current interactions with the site are unacceptable and ask them to recalibrate or risk having punitive action taken against them. If they proceed to cause problems without showing improvement, I would implement short suspensions with explanations initially, and gradually increase the length of suspensions as necessary to get the point across. If nothing seems to work after a significant amount of time trying this process, I would ban the user.

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

I would ask that moderator in private about why they closed the question, and if I disagreed with the closure I would explain why and ask for their take on my opinion. Hopefully we could resolve it between the two of us, either me agreeing that it should have been closed or them agreeing that it can be reopened, but if we're really at a loggerheads I would try to consult other moderators and get a consensus opinion. I would respect whatever that consensus was, irrespective of my own personal opinions.

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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials and the move to Ireland! $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 31 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Thank you, I'm pretty excited about it :). $\endgroup$ – Alec Rhea Apr 1 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations - Ireland is lovely! $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Dotsenko Apr 1 at 6:48
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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I would like to ask you a question related to your anxiety issue. Of course, this not intended to be personal, but just to understand if it can impact the community in some ways, as moderation implies a lot of interactions with the other users. Feel free not to answer if the question makes you feel uncomfortable. As far as I know, anxiety can be exacerbated by stressful situations. Did you think about ways to cope with this, especially when some potentially stressful situations occur during the controversies among users? $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Apr 1 at 9:42
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    $\begingroup$ @FrancescoPolizzi Thank you for asking, it is a relevant question. Yes, stressful situations can exacerbate anxiety and historically even social things online could cause me some degree of increased anxiety. Further, my anxiety usually makes me more confrontational as opposed to less confrontational, which would be very bad for moderating. I have considered these things and had to deal with them even as a non-moderator interacting on the site, and I do have coping mechanisms for the stress-inducing times. (cont.) $\endgroup$ – Alec Rhea Apr 1 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @FrancescoPolizzi Aside from the obvious, like reminding myself that none of this is personal and that I respect everyone contributing here, I've found that getting married and building a life with my partner has done a great deal to calm my anxiety about... pretty much everything. It's hard not to feel ridiculous stressing about interactions online (and many other small things) when you have a wife to build a future with and kids on the horizon, and this is my ultimate secret weapon against unnecessary anxiety related to moderation. $\endgroup$ – Alec Rhea Apr 1 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @AlecRhea: thank you for the thoughtful answers. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Apr 1 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ This person made some good job with reviews. But Ī̲’d wish to see somewhat more such a good job. $\endgroup$ – Incnis Mrsi Apr 13 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @IncnisMrsi Thank you Incnis; yes, I agree that I should participate more in review activity and I intend to. I have been having issues with the review interface which has prevented me from participating recently, but I hope to find a solution soon so I can get some hours in. $\endgroup$ – Alec Rhea Apr 13 at 18:27
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Stefan Kohl

Here is a link to my candidate statement.

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

I am using my real name.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

Yes, I think there likely should be such term, though my feeling for this is not strong. Similarly as common in politics, something like 4 or 5 years may be appropriate, with the possibility of re-election. If moderators are elected for an indefinite time, by the time one may perhaps see an increasing number of moderators elected a long time ago, in all stages of becoming inactive. Candidating for re-election means actively offering one's services again, as opposed to merely not stepping back. As to myself -- I'd be happy to serve for a couple of years, quite possibly more.

  1. 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?

I think the MathOverflow community should be as welcoming as possible to every potential contributor of interesting, on-topic questions or valuable answers to on-topic questions -- no matter whether they initially need guidance or not. On the other hand, I think it should not become 'more inclusive' in the sense of broadening the scope of the site, and it should continue to be not welcoming to people who obviously cannot contribute on-topic posts or who even actively try to disrupt normal operation of the site.

  1. What time zone are you in?

Central European Time = UTC + 1 hour in winter and UTC + 2 hours in summer.

  1. 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?"

In my opinion, the specific culture of MathOverflow which gives the site the feeling of a global mathematics department in which experts for every topic can be found and talked to in a friendly atmosphere definitely needs to be preserved. -- It is what makes this site unique, and which gives it most of its value and fascination.

  1. 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 contribute to the diversity of the moderation team merely by being European. That said -- as I was the one who proposed this question for the last moderator election back in 2013 -- I hesitated to post my candidacy until now in the hope that this time not all candidates would be male again.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

Preserving the specific culture and atmosphere of the site. Increasing the participation of female colleagues. Increasing the participation of mathematicians from all parts of the world, in particular those which are currently underrepresented.

  1. 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?

I would appreciate it very much if both genders would be represented more equally in the MO community, and I think the site would clearly benefit from this. When reading the list of users sorted by decreasing number of points, it is depressing how long it takes until one finds the first names who are not clearly male -- and how long it even takes until one finds the first who are clearly female. Unfortunately the reality is that what a moderator can do to change this gender disbalance is relatively limited. -- A moderator can neither change the society, nor the general way the StackExchange software works. Nevertheless, I would at least do the small things which a moderator can do in this respect -- like being kind and welcoming, and whenever there is a good occasion, invite female colleagues to participate.

  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?

First of all, I would contact them, and kindly explain to them how their behavior is perceived by colleagues. If that doesn't resolve the issue, further steps would depend on the outcome of an exchange of opinions with the fellow moderators and on a careful consideration of all aspects of the case.

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

As to my experience on the site so far, it happens very rarely that a moderator closes / deletes etc. a question which I strongly feel shouldn't have been closed / deleted etc.. In cases of doubt, sometimes I would have tended to decide the other way -- but without strong feelings in that direction. That said, if the described situation should ever occur, I would certainly talk to the fellow moderator about the issue, and see what they and the other members of the moderation team think about the question.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't find your name in the thread meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/4926/…. By whom have you been suggested? $\endgroup$ – Todd Leason Apr 5 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddLeason: You don't need to be suggested to nominate yourself or to be a good candidate. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Apr 5 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Stefan Kohl: Concerning quest 1: Do you have a position in academia? $\endgroup$ – Todd Leason Apr 5 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl You are an extremely experienced reviewer of posts on MO, which is fantastic! Could you say a few words about this? What sorts of concerns are at the forefront of your mind when reviewing posts? Has your approach evolved over the years? What have you learned from this work? $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mod Apr 6 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ As to my experience with reviewing -- there are not much surprising things to be said in general. I didn't make a statistics -- but as likely everyone would expect, a part of the posts appearing in the review queues is good as they are, another part of the posts are good after some polishing or clarification, and yet another part cannot be rescued (e.g. calculus homework, and sometimes spam). Over the years I became more careful with my judgments as to which questions can perhaps still be 'repaired' and be made on-topic, and which really cannot. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Mod Apr 6 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ What I noticed is that there is a steady stream of questions with no positive and no negative feedback which after a year fall victim to auto-deletion, in a part of the cases likely just due to inappropriate tagging. -- I sometimes went through the list of such questions to see which of them could be improved and should be brought back to attention, and edited and sometimes upvoted them. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Mod Apr 6 at 7:58
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  1. For pseudonymous candidates, Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I am using my real name. I am a professional mathematician. I recently started a permanent position.

  1. Should there be a term for which moderators are elected? If elected, how long do you envision serving as a moderator?

No. I think that moderators should serve for as long as they want, provided that they do a good job. There are protocols in place for moderators to be removed, and these can and should be used when appropriate. But if a moderator is doing a good job overall (even if infrequent a times), that's not a problem.

  1. 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?

I think that the moderators should lead by example. But I think that the moderators' role is probably more focused on making sure that users with history of harassment are dealt with, since this is in part the main power difference of moderators from standard users.

In the context of MO, however, inclusiveness can also be understood as also being more welcoming to graduate students and perhaps advanced hobbyists. This is a razor thin line, and I think that the moderators' role here is probably more fundamental in shaping policy via meta discussions.

  1. What time zone are you in?

UK timezone. But I'm active most of the time.

  1. 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 a very firm believer that the culture of MathOverflow is great, and that it should keep this identity rather than becoming a "more normative SE site". That means allowing somewhat more open-ended questions, for example.

At the same time, we need to remember that as time passes by and the community grows bigger the culture changes. From a village to a town to a city. Nevertheless, I think we can preserve this culture. But this requires participation from all the core members of the community, not just the moderators. So far we're doing a good job.

  1. 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 lived in Israel until I finished my Ph.D., so my cultural background is very different from those who grew up in the English speaking world. I think that with respect to the current moderator team, I'm a "generation younger", at least in academic terms.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

The preservation of the unique community that we have here. I wrote more in the answers to questions 3 & 5.

  1. 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?

Yes, and I think that women are underrepresented in the mathematical community to begin with. I think it's a problem for the same reason that the low numbers of women in mathematics is a problem.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is a lot that a moderator can do about it. We can, should, and presumably do remove content that can be viewed as offensive (e.g. some jokes from the old math jokes thread), and we should try to make the site more hospitable. But having a nice restaurant is not enough to guarantee that people show up to buy the food.

  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 is a continuing issue, escalate in the standard procedure of warnings and suspensions. If this is a relatively new issue, I'd try to contact them first to see if everything is okay or if something happened.

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

I've experienced that before on Math.SE. The solution is simple: open communications. Unless something is in a time crunch, don't override other moderators without discussing it first.


Tim Campion asked:

I understand that you are a moderator and extremely active user at MSE, while also being an active and respected member of the MO community. Could you expand a bit on the similarities and differences between MO and MSE, both in general, and with regard to the way you personally use them? If elected moderator, how would you split your time between the two sites? Also: for how long have you been a moderator at MSE?

Let's start from the top. Both sites are of course sites about mathematics, but MathOverflow is a site [mainly] for professional mathematician. We should, of course, be welcoming to everyone, but the main target crowd is professional mathematicians (academic or otherwise).

As such, MO is much more a friendly interaction between colleagues, whereas MSE is closer to office hours, in some extent. (Of course, in reality neither is an accurate description and many exceptions on both ends of the spectrum can be easily found on both sites.)

In terms of my personal usage the most striking difference is that I hardly ask questions on MSE at this point. I find it easier to answer questions on MSE, simply by sheer volume of questions and their level (where I can easily pull an answer out of a hat, as opposed to thinking about it for longer in the case of MO).

Finally, if elected moderator, the time splitting is not going to be any different. I tend to check both sites very very often most of the time. I will simply have more to interact with on this site, even when there's no new set theory questions for me to look at.

I've been a moderator on MSE for just over two and a half years now. I expect the moderation on MO to be very different: less intense in volume, but perhaps more intricate in the subtle issues as dealing with people.

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    $\begingroup$ Congrats on the permanent position! $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Mar 29 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks :) ${}{}$ $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 30 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ Would you plan to continue making jokes as a moderator? I enjoy some of the jokes around here, but I think from a moderator they'd be unhelpful. E.g. mathoverflow.net/questions/378692/… $\endgroup$ – Matt F. Mar 30 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Matt: Probably, yes. Maybe to a lesser degree, but I think that some humour in the comments is a good thing. I think that part of the independent sense of community we have here is due to the lax settings in which jokes can be made, and I don't think this should change (regardless to whether or not I'm elected). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 30 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ Frankly, I'm not sure how to interpret the downvotes. Are they telling me to withdraw from the race? Is there a specific disagreement? Is it because I dared exercise my right as a user and engage with a candidate? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 31 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ the way I would interpret them, is that a confrontational attitude is totally OK for a regular user, but it is not what we would expect from a moderator (as the name says: a person who moderates = mitigates/restrains) $\endgroup$ – Carlo Beenakker Mar 31 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Carlo: Someone needs to ask questions. I don't know some of the other candidates well enough, and I also want to vote in this election. What happened to due diligence? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 31 at 9:23
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    $\begingroup$ I assume whoever downvoted this answer, simply upvoted another one. Which means showing support for that candidate's nomination. So it doesn't seem to be a big deal. By the way, you have done a good job on MSE imo. I sometimes feel uncomfortable with the jokes and sarcasm in your comments. But overall, I think your pros outweigh the cons by a fair margin. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – polfosol Mar 31 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ @polfosol: Thanks. I find it odd to downvote one over the other since there are three seats open in this election. We're far from competing for votes here. Which, again, had me confused. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 31 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Yemon: There's no real written rule. If you support a candidate, and you think they wrote compelling answers to their questions, upvote. If you think they did a bad job answering those questions, downvote. If you're not sure, don't vote. These answers have no real bearing on the election itself, but they do signal something about the support to the nominee. As for the actual election, you have three votes and you rank your top three candidates, the voting is an STV method and in this case (three candidates) I think it practically means you vote for the three people you want in. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 31 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila That's not quite correct, either in this specific case or in general - Voters have a single vote but they may choose who to award it to in a cascading order - it's Single Transferable vote. And, while you're correct that in the past you were able to only rank your top three choices, this election will be the first on the network where you can rank all candidates you wish to support, not merely the top three. $\endgroup$ – Catija ModStaff Mar 31 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija: You have blown my mind. And the dominoes that fell from the shockwave made sense in the whole idea of STV. So double-thanks! $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Mar 31 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija I hope this voting method is clearly explained on the voting page; this seems important information. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Apr 1 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @FedericoPoloni You can see the current version (that aligns with the current default of three slots to rank your choices) on the election tab of the election - mathoverflow.net/election/2?tab=election There are some links to outside resources there, too. Meeks STV is a fairly standard methodology. The new voting page will be up on Monday as the election transitions into the voting phase (provided we don't end up with a primary). It will have some new text explaining that you may rank as many as you choose but cautioning you to only vote for candidates you think would be good mods. $\endgroup$ – Catija ModStaff Apr 1 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ However you interpret these downvotes, please don't withdraw from the race, and please don't try to change your local attitudes. Imo a mod like you would be good for health of this place. $\endgroup$ – მამუკა ჯიბლაძე Apr 4 at 7:44

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