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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates.

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. 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. Many moderator duties concern the removal of low quality content. Aside from this, what will you do to facilitate the creation of high quality content?

  2. Have you ever been suspended from this site or another StackExchange site? If so, please provide a description of the situation that led to the suspension, and how you have reacted to it. Would you have suspended a user for a similar behavior today?

  3. Imagine a time in which the site has become divided between two groups, each of whom desire a future which is anathema to the other. The status quo is unstable; it is all but guaranteed that one group will be seen as ascendant and the other will leave in frustration. And... You've been elected to serve both groups. How might you approach such a situation? If you would seek compromise, how could you hope to garner agreement from enough people to make it work?

  4. Why do you want to be a moderator? What is your motivation for running in this election?

  5. How will you deal with enforcing policies that you disagree with, if you are elected as a moderator?

  6. 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?

  7. 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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Chris Cunningham's Answers

  1. Many moderator duties concern the removal of low quality content. Aside from this, what will you do to facilitate the creation of high quality content?

When I see low-quality questions in the review queue, I intervene in a supportive way to try to help the questioner focus the question and bring it up to the standards of the site. This is sometimes moderately successful. I think the ideal moderator candidate would be very active on other platforms and would be able to steer more discussion by math education researchers and enthusiasts toward this site, which is an excellent potential repository of information. I am not the ideal moderator candidate for this reason.

  1. Have you ever been suspended from this site or another StackExchange site? If so, please provide a description of the situation that led to the suspension, and how you have reacted to it. Would you have suspended a user for a similar behavior today?

No, I have never been suspended from an SE site.

  1. Imagine a time in which the site has become divided between two groups, each of whom desire a future which is anathema to the other. The status quo is unstable; it is all but guaranteed that one group will be seen as ascendant and the other will leave in frustration. And... You've been elected to serve both groups. How might you approach such a situation? If you would seek compromise, how could you hope to garner agreement from enough people to make it work?

This could definitely happen here (or it has already happened, or is happening?), so the question is important. However, every time I try to write an answer to this question, it ends with me subverting the question and seeking a way to allow both factions to coexist on the site with a technical solution, like strictly enforced question tags that cater to the preferences of the two factions. I guess this is my answer then: I would seek compromise, embrace the fundamental janitorial nature of my position (clean up distracting comments in discussions), and hope to try to solve social problems with technical solutions.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator? What is your motivation for running in this election?

I love this site, I've learned a lot from it and I would be happy to give back. The review queues are in my daily routine anyway. I honestly don't think I would be the best moderator (see my answer to #1), but I would be competent and happy to serve.

  1. How will you deal with enforcing policies that you disagree with, if you are elected as a moderator?

I will enforce them anyway. I do not think this is a difficult question. Educators are constantly put in positions that test their professionalism.

  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?

No differently from other users. Any comments that are a distraction from the subject at hand should be removed. If a particular user's answers always cause a lot of distractions, then there will just be a lot of removed comments. See this answer for a good description of what I mean by a distraction.

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

I do not have significant Wikipedia editing experience, but Wikipedia policy pages are a good source for Internet wisdom. As described on the page about edit wars, I would: discuss the matter with the other mod instead of relying on a summary, avoid pre-emptively bringing wide attention to the disagreement, and realize that there is no deadline or time crunch for fixing errors. In summary, discuss the matter professionally, privately, and calmly.

Thanks for your time.

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    $\begingroup$ "He is the best math teacher i have ever had. We have to cover a lot of material which is just how the class is designed. Gives more than enough opportunities to meet outside of class, however he explains everything so well i haven't gone to office hours. Also genuinely just a down to earth guy, super nerdy but like in the best way possible." - This is what they are saying behind your back. I'd be happy to have you as a mod here. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer Apr 29 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ Agh, RateMyProfessor is not a good source of data; don't encourage them. Still, I appreciate your comment. I would also be happy to have you as a mod here as well. $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Apr 30 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ One question that you asked of the other candidates: "Do you happen to be active on Twitter or have any way of drawing people from other locations (maybe the math education research community, maybe math blogs, etc) into this one?" Are you a member, or have you researched, or considered contacting, professional organizations like the National Council of Mathematics Teachers, or the SIGMAA RUME (Special Interest Group for Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education)? I think focusing on professional groups, rather than Twitter or blogs would better connect to researchers in math ed. $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 5 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste No; I am not well-connected to NCTM nor active in any relevant SIGsMAA. I think an important downside to my candidacy is the fact that I do not have any special ability to drive new users to the site. I am active in my local professional group but it does not have an education research focus. $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham May 6 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ Not a downside, I'd say. I think being a good moderator, which you are fully capable of doing, is key to maintaining a site worthy of users' recommendations to others about the site. (It doesn't take being a mod to impact "driving new users" to the site; more important, is that users have a great site to recommend to new users with experience in matheducation.) Good luck! I very much appreciate your concern about "spreading the word." $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 6 at 13:54
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Tommi's answers

  1. Many moderator duties concern the removal of low quality content. Aside from this, what will you do to facilitate the creation of high quality content?

Suggest ways of improving questions and answers, especially to people new to the site.

  1. Have you ever been suspended from this site or another StackExchange site? If so, please provide a description of the situation that led to the suspension, and how you have reacted to it. Would you have suspended a user for a similar behavior today?

I have not been suspended from any SE sites.

  1. Imagine a time in which the site has become divided between two groups, each of whom desire a future which is anathema to the other. The status quo is unstable; it is all but guaranteed that one group will be seen as ascendant and the other will leave in frustration. And... You've been elected to serve both groups. How might you approach such a situation? If you would seek compromise, how could you hope to garner agreement from enough people to make it work?

By discussing the issues on meta until a compromise, or at least a truce, has been achieved. Should the issue later become aggravated again, the issue can be revisited in light of the new experiences.

I would try to find the best arguments for both sides in the disagreement and present them as neutrally as I could.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator? What is your motivation for running in this election?

I believe I might be a decent moderator and thus want to offer myself as a choice in the election.

Those who want to know why I believe I would make a good moderator should check my nomination post: https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/election/1#post-16551

  1. How will you deal with enforcing policies that you disagree with, if you are elected as a moderator?

I will enforce them, but advocate against them in meta discussions if and when they cause problems.

  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?

Community is more important than valuable answers, generally speaking. I would try to discuss the matter privately with the user in question with the goal of having them see why their behaviour is undesirable (or that the flags are spurious or site guidelines ill-intended; these might be the cause, too, though it is unlikely) and to have them change their behaviour. Should this not work, usual punishments for bad behaviour should be enforced even, and especially, on users who provide valuable content.

The reason for the "especially", above, is that bad behaviour without contributions is easy to detect, while manipulative behaviour that is on the border of bad easily slips through, and such a person can cause great damage. I have recently witnessed this in another (unrelated) community.

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

Talk to the mod. Let them know why I disagree with their choice, while being open to the possibility that I am wrong. Should we not come to an agreement, draft a meta discussion post and okay it with the other mod before posting it; clearly there is an unresolved policy question at hand.

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  • $\begingroup$ Primarily, I want to say "kudos" to you for taking the initiative and being the first to answer the questions asked above! (+1). Secondly, could you expand on your answer to question (4) Why do you want to be a moderator? What is your motivation for running in this election? In your first sentence of your answer, you write "I believe I might be a decent moderator." I was hoping you could elaborate on "why do you believe you might be a decent moderator." I have no doubts that you can be a decent moderator, but I think it would help all users better understand why you... $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ ...want to be a moderator and why you think you "might be a decent moderator", other than answering with the assertion that you think you'd be a decent moderator. That is, why do you think you'd make a good moderator? $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Namaste I believe I answer that question on the nomination message, short as it is. I'll be happy to elaborate if you ask more specific questions. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander Apr 29 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Also, since I cannot edit your post myself, please correct the numbering of the questions in your post. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste Thanks for noticing the numbers. I have no idea what happened there. I added a link as per your request; it did not occur me to add it, that's all, given how you have also read the nomination post (or at least commented it). Please do not attribute negative personal qualities to people, even in the form of questions. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander Apr 29 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Namaste I'll elaborate on point seven; probably tomorrow (GMT +1). I did not, as far as I know, attribute negative qualities to you or others by imperative; let me know if I did so I can learn. Not a native English writer or reader. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander Apr 29 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ That's great, Tommi (question 7). Actually, you could have fooled me because you write English like a native! (I'm not questioning you, just complimenting you on your mastery of a rather difficult language to learn when not native!) $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Namaste Thank you for the compliment. I updated point seven. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander Apr 30 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answers! They give me confidence in your candidacy. One question: I listed it as one of my weaknesses so I am hoping someone else has it as a strength. Do you happen to be active on Twitter or have any way of drawing people from other locations (maybe the math education research community, maybe math blogs, etc) into this one? $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Apr 30 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisCunningham Unfortunately I do not have such connections, though I might mention or link the website to a colleague every now and then. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander Apr 30 at 17:44
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JoeTaxpayer's Answers

  1. Many moderator duties concern the removal of low quality content. Aside from this, what will you do to facilitate the creation of high quality content?

By helping to create a welcoming atmosphere that helps a teacher/educator feel comfortable engaging. I agree with Chris that as a group we can do a better job editing a question that’s borderline into one that might be a good on topic one. As I cite in an upcoming response, we are at 1.1 questions per day. Anything we can do to turn a borderline question into an on-topic one is a positive. Encouraging members to recruit peers would also be a priority. Content comes from members, and a strong, growing membership will result in both more and better content.

  1. Have you ever been suspended from this site or another StackExchange site? If so, please provide a description of the situation that led to the suspension, and how you have reacted to it. Would you have suspended a user for a similar behavior today?

Fortunately, no. As a mod on Money.SE, I’ve issued suspensions for failing the “be nice” suggestion. Minor snarky answers or comments get deleted or edited out. A frequent “that was stupid” or “what did you expect? serves you right” gets warnings first, then a suspension. Even then, there’s a gray area, where a fellow mod might say he’s ready to suspend, and I don’t object, but might not have done it myself. I am open to the fact that the line is not precise.

  1. Imagine a time in which the site has become divided between two groups, each of whom desire a future which is anathema to the other. The status quo is unstable; it is all but guaranteed that one group will be seen as ascendant and the other will leave in frustration. And... You've been elected to serve both groups. How might you approach such a situation? If you would seek compromise, how could you hope to garner agreement from enough people to make it work?

“All but Guaranteed” does not equal “Guaranteed”. In Avengers: Infinity War, Dr Strange tells Tony (Iron Man) Stark that he’s looked into 14,000,605 possible futures and it’s only in one that the Avengers are successful. Similarly, I’d suggest that there’s always a solution and I’d seek to find it. With some exception, of course, those who love math tend to be logical people. I’d first note the fact that MESE is still in Beta, we haven’t graduated. MESE was split off from the main Math site as there was an important niche that was getting lost in the larger site. Graduation requires 10 questions per day, and we are currently at 1.1. (vs the 500+ of the Math stack). We can’t afford to have a valuable topic/direction be ostracized from this stack. Depending on what the exact issue is, I’d suggest that they visit the site while ignoring or searching on the tags that match up with their own view and area of interest. A (probably bad) analogy would be if there weren’t enough interest in any one religion stack, but religion, all of them, in one stack that had traffic. If you are a (particular religion) with no interest in others, just filter on your tag, and it looks like a focused stack. As mods, we need to keep the ‘ascendant’ focus from bullying or treating the others unkindly. In reality, we’d need to see the details emerge, and keep the situation from getting out of control.

  1. Why do you want to be a moderator? What is your motivation for running in this election?

I’ve been a frequent visitor since the start. I think the my existing mod experience will be an asset while at the same time I acknowledge that each stack does have its own personality. My real life experience is in my profile, working at the high school level these past 6 years. My own satisfaction comes from the help I am able to give others, and making a real difference in my students lives as I noted in my self-nomination. If sharing my love of math with a freshman (and three subsequents years of weekly interaction) resulting in a "thank-you I am going to college and pursuing a STEM field career” is considered bragging, that’s fine.

I’d also encourage members who maintain the blank “air of mystery” profile to update it, as it’s useful to know member’s backgrounds when engaging. As a current mod, I can commit to making the time to visit and perform necessary mod duties. In theory, the stacks should be mostly self-moderating, in reality, some intervention is needed.

  1. How will you deal with enforcing policies that you disagree with, if you are elected as a moderator?

Hopefully, members that become regular visitors, and especially those who aspire to be mods, have a general agreement that the style of the stacks and each on topic list is to their liking. No one would tend to stay long if they are visiting for another reason. That said, it’s important to keep an open mind. It’s not up to an individual mod to force their own approach, in fact, I think that would be disruptive. Out of context, from another candidate “but would doubtless shift the moderation in the direction of my preferences,” seems bad. But the referenced policies were appropriate, and the implication was just about enforcement. For MESE, I feel that the Help page doesn’t so much need any changes, per se, just clarification, i.e. more specifics. I recently participated in voting to close for a particular question, but the help page on topic list didn’t really offer anything to cite as support for that decision. As a mod, I’d make use of Meta discussion to help create an on topic help page that better does this. And in hindsight, I’d give more thought to how the question might be edited to become welcome than in justifying its closure.

  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 am a believer that more (if not most) issues arise from comments than from most Q&A. Comments have a limited use, to request clarification, to offer a bit of help (suggesting detail to edit in), or to cite an error. My experience is that if a member goes on in comments, they should be encouraged to post their own answer. When a disruptive member starts to cite censorship, it might take some time and patience to deliver the message, “This stack is about…. and not a discussion board” It takes a member far more energy to keep ranting that it does a mod to hit ‘delete’. Valid concerns should be addressed via Meta or Chat. My own observation is that the chat room gets very limited use. To this issue, I find it curious that each stack has its own personality. On Money.SE, I try with my fellow mods to strike a balance, the 20+ comments often sent to chat, the helpful ones that are used to prompt an edit can be deleted once addressed. Some other may just remain.

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

I’d hope to be able to ask in the mod’s chat room for a reason, and as the new member of the team, defer gracefully. From my own mod experience, I am very aware of gray. There’s enough of that area that some fraction of our actions won’t be unanimous, and that’s ok. In general, my approach is to mod-close questions that are black/white, but if it appears questionable, let the wisdom of the crowd rule, and let members decide (while still referring back to an attempt to edit to help make it welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answers! I think they are insightful and well-done. One question: I listed it as one of my weaknesses so I am hoping someone else has it as a strength. Do you happen to be active on Twitter or have any way of drawing people from other locations (maybe the math education research community, maybe math blogs, etc) into this one? $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Apr 30 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I am an active twitter user, and would use it to the best of my ability to help promote MESE. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer Apr 30 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Joe. That makes full sense! $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 2 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeTaxpayer Perhaps being familiar with profession organizations in math education would be a better means to connect with math educators than simply turning to twitter? Most have newsletters, "community forums" (chats) and such and clearly take a serious and/or professional interest in math ed, beyond being vocal on twitter. The SIGMAA RUME, e.g., or the NCTM, etc.? $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 5 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe Currently, I teach undergraduate mathematics, along with two semesters per year in undergraduate/graduate courses. But I also am active in a program at my University that outreaches with high schools in the metro area, providing both mentors and tutors for high school/secondary school students. $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 6 at 14:04

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