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

In connection with the moderator elections, 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.

This is an alternative form of the Town Hall Chat system we've done in previous elections, we're trying some new things to test out how a different approach works.

Here's how it'll work.

  • During the nomination phase, (so, until October 7th 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.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to voice questions that are specific to your community and issues that you are running into at current.
  • At the end of the 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. That said, if I have concerns about any questions in this fashion, I will be sure to point this out in comments before the decision making time.
  • Once questions have been selected, a new question will be opened to host the actual questionnaire for the candidates, 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 new process, feel free to post as a comment here.


If it turns out that we have any pseudonymous candidates, I would want there to be a question about their professional background. E.g. "Are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?"

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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I would be opposed to pseudonymous candidates (even though I have no problem with pseudonymous users). $\endgroup$ – Andy Putman Oct 1 '13 at 5:54
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    $\begingroup$ We do in fact have The Masked Avenger who has nominated himself (think I got the gender right) as a candidate. When someone named Carl asked a now-invisible question, said candidate responded (in a somewhat flippant manner), adding something about his professional interests. See mathoverflow.net/election/1#post-143802 $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Oct 4 '13 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for deleting the comment; it had not been answered at that point and I felt on reflection it did not add much to the previous comment. I have now responded to TMA's response. $\endgroup$ – user25199 Oct 7 '13 at 13:07

An ongoing concern is the "culture" of MathOverflow. Not to be confused with community norms or other things that have been standardized by inclusion into a more recent version of the StackExchange platform; I'm talking about various aspects of behaviour that were tolerated because of the nature of the audience, as well as because of the goals of the initial moderation team. Samples include wordy (with respect to some other Stackexchange sites) comments and answers, highly variable acceptance/rejection rate of questions, a fair amount of cautious editing, as well as a wide tolerance of voices and styles. (These are from my narrow experiences; I hope someone else will add to this to give their own example of what I mean by culture "apart from other StackExchange fora".)

Assuming a notion of "culture" similar to above, 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 StackExchange forum should be?"

Please note that the intent here is not to stir up debate about 1.0 vs 2.0 and some of the concerns that were raised back then. The intent is to have a moderator recognize "how MathOverflow was", and whether they will continue to preserve some of that against counterpressures.

Gerhard "It's Not Just About Signatures" Paseman, 2013.09.30

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    $\begingroup$ That's a good point. I think I would much prefer a moderator who has been familiar with MO for a few years and has paid attention to its (changing) culture. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Oct 2 '13 at 18:27

In previous elections we've wanted to know what time zone people were in, so that we could improve our coverage of times of day when moderators are available.

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    $\begingroup$ Current moderator locations: Scott Morrison is in Australia. Scott Carnahan is in Japan. David Zureick-Brown, Ben Webster and I are on the east coast of the United States. (Anton Gerashenko is on the west coast of the United States but he intends to step down after the election.) $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 1 '13 at 13:40

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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    $\begingroup$ Some of these are challenging questions even for existing moderators. :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 1 '13 at 2:32

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?

Some old discussions:



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    $\begingroup$ "the percentage of Ph.D.s [in the US] earned by women in 2000 and 2008 were both approximately 30 percent." From this MAA link. $\endgroup$ – Joseph O'Rourke Oct 4 '13 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ The corresponding figure in the UK is 25%, blitzadv.co.uk/LMS-BTL-17Report.pdf $\endgroup$ – M T Oct 4 '13 at 17:43

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. I think there might be a question addressing this in some way -- e.g. "In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?" (but feel free to formulate differently!!)

  • $\begingroup$ I think the current moderators do not share country of origin as much as they share a common university for their Ph.D, Berkeley. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney Oct 4 '13 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ Not even that; François is not from Berkeley. $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo Oct 4 '13 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ (Nor am I from the US.) $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 4 '13 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @François, Ryan, Andres: O.k. -- Thanks for pointing this out! -- I have corrected the text. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Oct 4 '13 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ Just to make things clear: I'm not disagreeing with the desire for diversity. I'm just clarifying the facts. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 4 '13 at 21:13

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