The following is a "digest" version of the 2012 Moderator Election Town Hall Chat. The format, as described on Meta Stack Overflow, is one answer to this question for every question asked in the Town Hall, containing all the candidate's answers to that question.

To view the digest chronologically, please sort the answers by "oldest".

If you have questions or comments about this, please do not answer this question as the answers are designed to be used for the questions from the Town hall itself. Instead, please ask on the parent question or in the Town Hall Discussion Room.

If you see any corrections which need to be made to this digest, or if you were a candidate who was unable to attend the town hall and would like your answers included, please @GraceNote or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!

Addendum: For more about the election itself, see 2012 Moderator Election - IT Security.

  • Thanks for getting all this together, Tim.
    – Iszi
    Aug 24, 2012 at 4:32

24 Answers 24


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Security is a topic where the difference between good advice and bad advice can have significant consequences. As a moderator, what do you do if you come across an answer that's been flagged for being "dangerously wrong"?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: I believe in community moderation. My stand is stated in my meta answer here: Should answers that don't add anything to existing answers be deleted?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Downvote, then explain, in detail, via the comments, why the answer is bad. If I'm not sure, I'd hop into chat (well, I'm always in chat anyway!) and try to flesh out the reasons.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: There's two sides to that. On one hand, the flagger might not understand the topic well enough and is perceiving something as "dangerously wrong" even though it might be. If the answer actually represents a liability? Then I think I would start with a comment bringing up the issue, and then if it doesn't get addressed either edit out the offending section or delete the post. My one true goal should be to not delete posts, but sometimes it just has to be done.

M'vy M'vy answered: Having and edit to warn about this should be the first thing to do. Then assessing the reality of this with specialist the second. That would lead to a final and right decision.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: "dangerously wrong" - nicely put. I'd research the poster's history - in this case, if I really think it's malicious, I'll delete. Honestly wrong, though, has a place here - I'd downvote, comment on why, and encourage others to do likewise. Knowing what NOT to do is as important as knowing good practices as long as it's clear a bad idea is a bad idea.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: most of the time downvotes and comments work. As the only 10k in the election, I'm the only one that has vision of deletions... and it has happened in our past that we've had those very wrong answers that have been so highly voted before migration that they overwhelm our community. Being a mod is stepping out of bounds when everything else has been exhausted... and clicking delete when it's the last option available.

  • Seems I may have missed answering this one. However, my comments on this follow-up question are fairly applicable.
    – Iszi
    Aug 23, 2012 at 23:09

Grace Note Grace Note asked: Black Hat security techniques and analysis is currently under discussion to be allowed on the site, but irrelevant to that - what are your thoughts on the approach, and do you actually practice it?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: I agree with many of the opinions exposed on meta already. There is no reason to close a question for being black hat as many of them can be closed as NaRQ or too localized. Good questions with blackhat content CAN be a good resource on this site. Part of my stand is also stated here: How far should we go to demonstrate a topic that could be used for harm?

M'vy M'vy answered: I do not practice it, cause I'm doing research on other topics. However, black hat techniques are part of the 'art of security' and helps builds it. Furthermore, black hat and white hat can only be separated by a thin line.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: Black Hat techniques is one of those weird cases of poor naming and exceptional baggage. The StackExchange network and legal jurisdictions already has rules regarding illegal material, being a partner to committing crimes, etc, etc. I don't think material should be banned because it is "Offensive Security", I think material should be off-topic if it meets the off-topic definitions as per the FAQ and/or already disallowed by Terms of Service or the laws governing SEI.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I feel that blackhat is a very complex and difficult topic to litigate on. I don't practice it, but I study it. We need to be clear that blackhat is about intent, not content. However, legality is independent of hatted-ness.

Polynomial Polynomial continued: I think blackhat topics are interesting, and when well written can provide a great resource to the community. However, where a blackhat question shows clear malicious intent, we should close it. Where any question demonstrates intent to commit illegal activities, we should close it.

Polynomial Polynomial concluded: One caveat is the grey zone introduced where a blackhat question doesn't explicitly show malintent, and is not illegal, but might still be morally unjust. I think, at that point, we have to leave it to the moral compasses of answerers. As moderators we need to keep a careful eye on such topics, to make sure arguments don't occur, and that the question doesn't go off the rails.

Iszi Iszi answered: While this has always been an issue here, it's really come to a head recently. I'll drop my response from Meta in here, as I think it sums it up nicely. Some members of our community have recently helped refine my opinion in this regard, so I cannot say how consistent I have been with this in the past. But, I definitely plan on holding to this (or, if different, whatever the community decides) in the future:

Iszi Iszi continued: As responsible citizens who are in the business of "selling weapons", we should happily "sell" our "weapons" to anyone - regardless of their intent - up until the point that we actually have a reasonable suspicion (or, and especially, confession) that their intent is malicious and/or illegal. After that point, and only after that point, it is our ethical responsibility to refuse the "sale".

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I don't practice Black Hat hacking or practices. Ethics aside, I am more of a wall builder than a hacker in the security world - I simply don't have the right mindset for hacking, so I leave hacking to people who are better at it, and learn from them. As far as Black Hat the conference used for good ethical purposes - I'm interested, good information has come my way from that venue recently, but not highly involved.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: Aside from the fact that there's a difference between, "How do I verify this is secure," and, "How do I break into this guy's site?" I'd say you can't appreciate SQL injection until you can look at something and say, "Oh, I'd break that." Having spent some time in PenTesting (and now writing / reviewing code), yes: I practice.

  • AviD AviD remarked: Sorry to interrupt your flow, but she asked about black hat, not black box. Black hat usually (okay its a bit ambiguous) refers to malicious, illegal, or unethical activities.... but you knew that :)

    Grace Note Grace Note added: I think that the "How do I break into this guy's site" is a reference to the kind of Black Hat that ain't allowed

    Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland responded: Black hat technique... I don't mess with others' systems, but the knowledge of openly breaking things is the dispute. We'll never* allow questions that are openly intending to break systems that others own, but entertaining questions with the same topic and "appropriate" wording may become part of our community.

    AviD AviD replied: Yeah, but you dont really practice "black hat"... wait, do you?


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Two highly respected members of the community get in a comment war on a question. They both flag each other's comments and are cussing and it is clear that this is beyond a heated argument. What do you do, what don't you do?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: I will make it clear that they are doing acts that aren't welcomed here. I'd request that they take it to chat. I'll give them both suspensions if they do not cease their war. High respect/rep in the community does not mean one is exempted from the rules.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I'd remind both of them that they're entitled to their opinions, but the comments section is not designed for a debate. They should take their discussion to chat. I'd also ask them to be civil. Whilst it's important to be passionate about such topics, it's not constructive to have a flame war.

Polynomial Polynomial continued: If they continued to flame each other, they'd both end up warned and suspended. High reputation is not grounds for being above the law. If anything they should be held to higher standards, since they've been around long enough to know what's acceptable.

M'vy M'vy answered: Highly respected members aren't highly respected for nothing. First think is to transfer this from the site to the chat, then discuss the matter. If this is really out of control, then I'd give a warning before using more punitive means.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: That's a problem on two fronts. One is that bickering like that should be tamped down so we can keep a civil discourse. The other problem is that if they're respected members, then that also sets a precedent that their behavior is acceptable. I think the first step should be to weigh in and ask them to chill it out. If they don't, or if it escalates then it needs to be something along the lines of "Take it to a chat." At which point the offensive material should be removed.

Iszi Iszi answered: Again, this can be very situational. One thing you don't want to do, is join the heated argument by participating in a public comment war. Most of the highly respected members of this community, I think, are also active chat participants. So, I would probably lean on that as a tool to help resolve the issue in an "offline" manner.

Iszi Iszi continued: Unfortunately, if things get too extreme, certain measures have to be taken regardless of who the member is. Temporary restrictions on posting privileges, or closures/locks on the related threads are not out of the question. One thing I may have neglected to remember though, is that moderators also have access to e-mail contact - I'd probably like to try that before anything that adversely affects the user's public profile or a (good) question.

Iszi Iszi concluded: Of course, comment cleanup is almost always a must for these cases.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Comment war - I'd be tempted to delete the thread - at least back to the point where things got out of control. I'd aim for a "take it outside, guys" approach - trying to get them to duke it out in a way that isn't so public and doesn't derail the community.


AviD AviD asked: Of the other candidates, who is the one user you think would be most qualified for the position of moderator, and why?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Am I allowed to plead the fifth on that one until we get a bit further on with this discussion?

Polynomial Polynomial continued: I think @ScottPack would be a great mod. Wide knowledge, ability to find a middle ground, active in chat. A good all round mod candidate.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: MEEEEEEEEE! No, but seriously - i'll support @Polynomial. I am a big fan of his answers on the site, and he is plenty active in chat.

M'vy M'vy answered: I voted for Scott. I know him for quite a time now, and I know is motivation to moderate. Still remember the deputy badge race :P

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: It's a hard question, because the socially acceptable answer is, "Someone else not me." but we wouldn't be running if we didn't think we could do the job, right? I'm going to refrain from answering. I've placed my votes, and I don't want to sway voters that way.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: That's a hard choice - quite a few of these folks are people I've enjoyed reading over the years and whose comments I've generally agreed with - I'd be happy with quite a few of them as moderator.

Iszi Iszi answered: As I'm sure everyone's already said, this is definitely a tough one. There really isn't anyone on the ballot that I wouldn't want to see as a moderator. That said, I believe it is important that the community feels that it knows the people behind the blue diamonds well and can trust their judgement.

Iszi Iszi continued: Without meaning to diminish the contributions of the others, I'd have to say the winners in this regard (to me) are @ScottPack and @JeffFerland. They've been around this site for quite some time, and have been regularly active during their time here. Both have been available in chat frequently, and they've also had a lot of time to get a feel for most of the powers (edit, close, etc.) that will be core moderating functions.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: @ScottPack. He's part of the crowd... when I think of this site, I think of the users in it. The people who are most active and most a part of everything. Those who are rocking the cult of personality are the ones who define what the site feels like, where it goes... moderator or not. They're the ones we should hitch our carts to and have fly the flag the represents us.

  • Reading the digest I realized that I misunderstood Avi's question. I didn't realize that he was explicitly excluding ourselves. To that point, I would go with Jeff. He's intelligent, motivated, and level headed. I suspect he's probably an all around great guy that I would love to have the chance to meet in person.
    – Scott Pack
    Aug 24, 2012 at 20:18

Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: New users often are not accustomed to the Stack Exchange system, and sometimes struggle to present themselves properly, either in the way they use the site or their attitude. How willing are you to work with "problematic" users, and at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth the effort?

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I think I would treat it very similarly to when I was teaching. So long as individuals are making an honest effort, and demonstrate that they are capable, then we should help them as much as we can, right? I mean, this kind of place isn't about graduating top of your class, it's about bettering yourself and the community.

Iszi Iszi answered: I think it's rare that people aren't worth the effort, and those individuals generally tend to stand out on first presentation. You do what you can do, and that's all you can do, really.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Being a very optimistic person myself, i believe no one isn't worth my effort. I would be very willing to help any new members adjust to the site by answering any questions. This is simply passing on the treatment i received when i was new here, not that long ago. ;)

M'vy M'vy answered: Problematic users have to be dealt with. They are like students in a classroom. Sometimes a few message will help them doing great. On the question of "hopeless cases", I think that this should be address by at least two mods (except if there is a potential danger imminent), but there is always hope, I think.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I think that it's important to point new users to the FAQ and other appropriate documents. They're unfamiliar with the site, they need a manual. However, it's important not to let poor questions by tirades of new users pollute the site, so it's important to enforce that changes are made to make the questions good.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Having done it elsewhere - I can usually get a sense for the difference between "trying" and "don't care". I'll even fight for a change in attitude on the "don't cares" - up to the point where someone clearly tells me they don't want my help. Then I have to judge if they are a trivial annoyance or actually causing enough harm to need removal. Also I think each new user is a living test of our guidance - and see misguided folks as a perfect opportunity to improve our resources.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: As long as they are making an effort at moving forward, they're worth it. You walk away when they're obstinate or they stop helping themselves. Unless users are going against the system, they're really not "problematic". I think with new users the strongest struggle is teaching how to ask a good question. I've saved a few new user questions in my time with some handy editing and related comments.


Rory Alsop Rory Alsop asked: If you found yourself disagreeing with another mod on an edit/content etc., what would you do?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Discuss and reason things out in The DMZ. Yield to the majority opinion.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I'd try to find a middle ground. If a decision couldn't be reached, I'd discuss with others in chat, and look for a community consensus. If we're divided, perhaps the question needs looking at in greater depth / breadth, so a meta post would be required.

M'vy M'vy answered: Discussion in order to fully understand what he think. Sometimes one problem has many solutions.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: Talk it out with the moderator in question. I don't think we need to present a unified Wall of Mod front, but I do think we need to generally be in agreement on how to handle situations.

Iszi Iszi answered: Though we lack a proper Private Messaging system, there are ways to discuss things with one another which are not going to be plastered all over the main site. Depending on the exact nature, options may be Meta, Sec.SE chat, or the Teacher's Lounge. I believe we should keep things open where reasonable, and I personally prefer a real-time discussion for tough topics, so I'd probably lean towards chat.

Iszi Iszi continued: This could be a one-on-one chat that is also available for later community viewing, if appropriate.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Mod disagreement - Try to chat offline - either in a chat room or if possible on a private channel. There's times for keeping communication isolated in these cases, but if it isn't possible, I'd take the communication to the smallest group that has the least visible backlog.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: It already happens. You talk it over. If you can't agree, the first one in "wins". These little trifles sort themselves out, and sometimes you just swallow it.


Rory Alsop Rory Alsop asked: What do you think your time budget should be for moderating this site as it continues to grow, and what is your core time period each day?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: I can devote at least 4-5 hours a day to maintain the site by reviewing questions. I am usually lurking around at least 12 hours a day so i can probably act on any questions that come up almost immediately.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Core time period is 9-5 UK time on weekdays, sometimes evenings too. I'd probably spend a solid hour on it at minimum. I'm already pretty active in chat, and keep an eye on various goings on in meta. I think my time budget should be whatever I can afford, because I love Sec.SE and I enjoy interacting with people with it. That's the motivation I have, so it's not going to change if I become a mod.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I actually think my time budget for moderation is better than my time for answering. Between work and home life I'm much more likely to have 10-15 minutes here than there rather than long stretches of devoted time. Based on conversations I've had with moderators, both here and for other sites, handling the flag queueueueue can be be handled great with that kind of involvement. Typically, I'm available 8am-5pm UTC-4/5, and then off and on after that.

M'vy M'vy answered: I will have a lot a free time now. I am able to spend at least 2 hours by evening and more during daytime, even if it will be more irregular.

Iszi Iszi answered: The time budget should be "as moderation is needed". If that grows to be too much, then one of two things need to be considered: 1.) Do I really have enough time in my life to be a moderator. 2.) Should we ask SEI to open up another slot? My core time period of the day is generally daylight hours, U.S. Eastern, plus some late night hours.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I manage about 2 hours a day of contributions now. Quite honestly, this is the hardest part for me - I suppose no one has a lot of "free time" - I'm hoping to rebalance my time - less time spent answering questions, more spent moderating, and when and how I do the moderation is it's own question. I suspect the time budget required may be far more than I have available as it grows - there's a point with any community where moderation needs explode.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I just moved to the West Coast and I'm now at -7/-8 UTC... and that's why I missed the town hall as well. 5am just wasn't possible after a night of shopping for necessities in my new apartment. That said, I'm picking up from mid-day onward and when our current European mods are ending their workday, I'm starting mine up giving us a much-expanded overlap of when a mod is available.


Gilles Gilles asked asked as a follow-up: The top-voted answer (score +100/-20) on a question migrated from SO is, to your expert eyes, dangerously wrong. The author of the answer refuses any edit. What do you do (if anything)?

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: We've had a couple of situations like that. What we've done in the past is ask the questioner to re-ask the question, then delete the original.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: In this situation, i feel that a delete is warranted.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Actually, that is one thing I'd like to change. I'd like the ability to zero-out all votes on answers to a question that has been migrated. I'd leave the mechanics of it up to a community meta decision, but it's important. However, in lieu of that, I'd take that person to chat and try to convince them.

Polynomial Polynomial continued: If they refused, I'd have to ponder whether the question should be there at all. If it warrants being there, I'd probably ask a new question on the same subject, edit the question itself to include a notice that answers are only there for reference and should not be considered a reflection of the opinion of Sec.SE users, and include a link to the new question.

  • Scott Pack Scott Pack remarked: As I recall, that's been asked on mSO and turned down. In theory the downvotes are cleared, but that doesn't really help us in this situation, it only hurts.

    Polynomial Polynomial responded: I meant an optional "reset to zero" thing. Dunno if that's what the mSO question covered.

    Gilles Gilles added: It's not been implemented, but it hasn't been status-declined either

  • Gilles Gilles asked: and what if the votes came in after migration? (We had that kind of score on a question that wasn't migrated, but was linked by famous people and IIRC redditted)

    Polynomial Polynomial responded: It's community opinion at that point. The most I should do is downvote, comment as to why I disagree, and post another answer with the correct answer (if I know it).

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I add a clear comment on why I think the answer is wrong. I elaborate or improve a better answer (and up vote if it isn't mine). I check in on meta to see if I'm the only one feeling this way and to see if there's other options. I'm not happy deleting answers that are bad but unoffensive unless I know the user is out for malicious glee.

Iszi Iszi answered: This is a very tricky situation, and one which has been brought up on Meta.Sec.SE and Meta.SO several times. First and foremost, I'd really like to see that fixed (I guess I forgot this for one of the earlier questions).

Iszi Iszi continued: After that, I'd really have to take a step back and think on whether my eyes are really authoritative in the context of the question. I'd definitely be leaving a comment, and probably a down-vote. I'll be listening a lot to the other members of the community, especially those in high regard for their field (like @ThomasPornin for crypto, @Rook for exploits, etc.).

Iszi Iszi concluded: If it is clear that the answer is really that wrong, I'd encourage the asker of the question to consider others for acceptance. I might also add an "editor's note" at the top if I see it as absolutely necessary.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: See my above answer, but basically there is a point for a mod to say nope and delete when no other community option is effective.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland continued:



Rory Alsop Rory Alsop asked: What other moderator activities (to further the growth of Security.SE) would you bring besides edits/close/chat/suspend etc.?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Not sure what ELSE is there, but i'll try to contribute more to the blog.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Banhammer of doom! But in all srslyness, I'd try to do more blog stuff, like the article I'm doing on nukes. I'm already contributing actively to a lot of questions. And obviously I'd try to get more actively involved in meta.

Polynomial Polynomial continued: But obviously cleaning up redundant comments and helping with discussions in chat / comments is important too.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: Right, so one part of being a moderator is handling all the janitorial cleanup of the site and community guidance. The other half is acting as a representative of the community. Sure, I can go to a conference and tell people that I'm a community member, but it doesn't carry nearly the same weight as saying one moderates. I think that kind of broader community outreach is a big part as well. Getting the word out, trying to get more users! That's the key.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Not sure - but they'd probably be slow and carefully considered. I'd rather use the tools I know well in a thoughtful manner than try to invent new ones.

Iszi Iszi answered: I'm really not sure what your question is, here. I think you've effectively listed most of the things that are exclusively restricted to moderators. Then again, I don't have access to moderator tools to know what other sorts of useful functions or information comes with them. I would probably like to use whatever new tools I can to seek out and find ways to improve existing questions and answers, or discover new ways to drive traffic to the site.

Iszi Iszi continued: Also, with the "weight of the diamond" as we've discussed earlier, I believe I will have a stronger voice (and, perhaps be offered more opportunities) in representing our community in areas like Meta.SO. This, of course, would not be without input from chat or Meta.Sec.SE participants first.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I'd get back to writing articles. I stopped last year after some personal tragedy. I'd spend more time at conferences talking our community up. It's far easier to open a conversation with, "I'm a moderator of this awesome community" rather than, "Hey, I'm just a user here, but it's really cool." Serving the diamond!


Grace Note Grace Note asked: In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: While many of the privileged are similar, moderators bring with them a slightly different set of baggage. When that little diamond appears beside a name people tend to notice a little more, to take the comments with a little more weight. It gives better opportunity to help shape the discussion, or to stop disagreements before they can spiral out of control.

M'vy M'vy answered: there is many obvious cases that does not require to reach the consensus of 5 vote to close (for example). The ability to manage migration is also a plus.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Personally I feel that the diamond besides the name tend to make people notice your opinions a little more. This would be especially helpful when asking people to stop going off track in comments or take things to chat. On another note, 10k and 20k rep would take new members like me a VERY long time to reach even with active participation in the community.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Honestly, I hadn't really thought about being "more effective" as opposed to having a different way to shape the community. From the outside looking in - I respect the high rep users for being able to answer questions well and having a depth of expertise - but I look to the moderators for examples and insights on the rules of fair play.

Iszi Iszi answered: That's a little tricky to say, neither being moderator nor having 10/20k of rep on any site yet - and therefore not being able to definitively compare the two. @ScottPack has a great point about the weight of bearing the diamond in a discussion. Also, for many of us, we could help cover diamond-level tasks (speedy closure/deletion of egregiously offending posts, moderation of problem users, etc.) during times when the current team is generally asleep or otherwise preoccupied.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: Hey, I asked that one last year! Functionally, diamonds allow button clicking. I can migrate questions myself instead of flagging (no matter how much I nudge the devs to get us a list...). Truly, though, I'm already effective in being part of the community. It's not about what the diamond gives me... I'm starting to think it's not much. The question is more, "What do I bring to the diamond?"

  • Bah, I seem to have missed this question. Totally agree with bethlakshmi's answer though - spot on!
    – Polynomial
    Aug 24, 2012 at 8:44

Grace Note Grace Note asked: 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?

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: Since joining the site I've tried to treat it as a professional endeavor. Both a way for me to become a better professional, but also as a bit of professional branding as it were. As such, I've always tried to keep that in mind when posting...well anything. To that end, I would like to think that if it's good enough to represent me as an Information Security professional, then it should be good enough to represent the site as a community leader.

M'vy M'vy answered: I already heard that one :P. And it does not change very much. I do all my question/comment/answer with as much respect I can write, being mod or not does not change this. Howerver, I think I'll take a little more care to my redaction and avoid answering too quickly.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: It doesn't really matter much to me as i stand by all my questions, answers and comments.

Iszi Iszi answered: I'm only mildly concerned about the "in the past" part, as I feel I've grown a bit both personally and professionally since joining the site. That said, I will definitely be more conscious of the way I express myself going forward.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I agree with @ScottPack about the professional nature of all communication on the Stack Exchanges. But I also think that in any group (online of off) when one gets the "blue diamond" one's responses get absorbed by some members of the community in a different light - whatever you say gets amplified. I've had to do this in other venues, and I find that I add a twist to any technical communication - saying to myself - "is this an example I want others to follow?"

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Superior! Hehe. But really, I don't think it's a big deal. I stand by everything I've said, and in cases where I've been wrong I've admitted it or corrected myself. I wouldn't be happy with having my own name, let alone a moderator star, next to something I know is wrong.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I'm comfortable with that. I act in the best way to be a helpful part of the community and I think my past has been conducive to dealing with a future as a mod.


Rory Alsop Rory Alsop asked: How will you cope with becoming one of the targets for those who have an axe to grind against 'the system' or who feel they have been hard done by with downvotes or rep?

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: To be completely honest, that is something that concerns me a fair bit. I have never really felt comfortable coming face first into confrontation. I like to think that I handle it well when it happens, but it's not something I strictly look forward to dealing with. I think I would try to point them in the right direction, but as we all too often see, when someone has already made up their mind it's generally difficult, if at all possible, to change it.

Iszi Iszi answered: I've got a fairly thick skin, so I'm not so much concerned with "coping". The real question is "How do you respond?" and the best one can say is "With as much grace and understanding as I can manage.". Some cases call for quite a bit, and the generally asynchronous nature of our environment here helps me to be able to muster a good bit more than I might otherwise in person.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: hey rory, nice picture ;) Same as any member, try reasoning with them, talking it through and as a last resort, a temporary timeout.

M'vy M'vy answered: If people have problem with the system, there is always Meta (Se and SO)

  • Gilles Gilles noted: That's the point of the question: what do you do when someone calls for your head on meta

    M'vy M'vy responded: Oh I missed the last part. But if it's against the system, first go on meta. Then if they have a problem with me, I am always open to explain myself.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: That's difficult. I think the important thing to remember, as a mod, is that the community is more of a priority than janitorial work. If someone has a problem, I'd invite them to chat, and if a reasonable solution can't be found quickly, the situation should be documented on meta so that the rest of the community can weigh in.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: My pat phrase is "everyone is a hero in their own story" - I look long and hard for why this person thinks their feelings are justified and try to find a way to get them to change their perspective. It's a balancing act, because I can't take responsibility for another user's misguided view point - so at some point I'd have to figure out a way to say "join the club or leave the clubhouse", but not until after some dedicated discussions, assuming the person wants to have them.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: Don't feed the trolls. I've seen a few intense ones in the past year. I don't think it really troubles me.


Grace Note Grace Note asked: Do you feel like a representative percentage of the community participates in your site's meta? Based on that, how strongly do you think feedback presented on meta should factor into your decision making as a moderator?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I think that, as a small community, we do have a low number of people actively participating in meta. However, that's not to say that we've got a lack. The feedback there is important, and gives us a great way to sense public opinion on topics. After all, the site is for the community, so at least a good part of the decision making should be given to the community.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I feel like we have a strong core of users that participate in meta, but my gut feeling is that I would like to see more. I think the discussions on meta should definitely guide decisions. I really see the moderator's role as that of final arbiter and janitor. The discussions on chat and meta should really act as an advising event, then the moderators should make the final decision based on that guidance.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: A very large factor. This site is built upon the community afterall. I would do my best to follow the community feedback on meta, and discuss with other members in The DMZ if my personal opinion varies from the community consensus.

Iszi Iszi answered: I recognize most of the main players in the community participating in Meta, as well as some others I don't readily recall as familiar. That said, we probably do have a "representative percentage". Although I myself am occasionally guilty of not following Meta closely enough (an issue I plan to rectify within myself in the near future), I've always been of the position that "Those who care, Meta.".

Iszi Iszi continued: So, I see Meta to be a primary factor in considering matters that require feedback or consensus from the community. Really, how else can we get that input?

  • AviD AviD asked: Are you saying that users that are not on Meta, should not be taken into consideration?

    Iszi Iszi responded: Perhaps users who are not on Meta, need to be directed to or informed of it. They should definitely be considered, but if they are not willing or caring enough to participate in the discussion, I believe it says something about how much they really care for the site.

M'vy M'vy answered: Feedback is a good thing. Mods must do what they think/know is right. Feedback is a good way to know what user think and weight that with your own opinion. Of course some decision must be made while others suffer the dicussion.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I take different input streams as different. Meta, chat, questions & comments - they all play a role in giving me some information about what the community and individuals are thinking. Unless meta involvement was near 100%, I wouldn't really want meta to be the lone voice for the community - it's too much of a self-selecting group. I'd look first to trends in questions and comments, second to meta, and third to chat - mostly because chat is my own weakest link in the SE streams.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: When you see a question with major issues (poorly-written, argumentative, etc.), what tool do you reach for first?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Edit. After that, I comment.

Polynomial Polynomial continued: Unless, of course, there's a serious issue. Then I drop a comment explaining what's wrong, what's allowed on SE, and how they might improve.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: It really depends on the situation. If it's a post that I can actually understand, then I'll edit it into something readable. If it reaches a certain threshold of rant then, currently, I'll flag it or drop a vote.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Edit and comment as necessary. closure as a last resort.

M'vy M'vy answered: In order of priority : comment, edit, then flag. Always give a chance to improve the question before closing. Unless it's a dupe.

Iszi Iszi answered: Currently, I'm a bit quick to close-vote. However, I generally leave a comment along with it - it personally bothers me a bit when people don't. When my close-vote turns into a "diamond-hammer" though, I'll definitely be doing a lot more commenting before voting and probably a bit more editing as well.

Iszi Iszi continued: I see some responses saying comment, and some saying edit. While this can be very situational, I would rather reach for the comment first if possible. I don't like to do major re-writes to questions because that carries the strong possibility of changing the expressed intent of the question away from the author's desires.

Iszi Iszi concluded: If the author actually, and stubbornly, intends for the question to go in a direction contrary to the SE norm, then it really needs to be considered whether the question needs to exist here at all. If there really is the potential for a good question to be spun off of it, then I may suggest the question should probably be posted separately. This also helps to award reputation for the question to someone who is more likely to be a regular and productive participant in the community.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Tool for questions with issues - "Edit" hands down. The comments as a backup - which I'd probably use more of as a moderator in the hopes of making less questions that need editing.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: Edit and comment. Not Constructive is a followup option.


Grace Note Grace Note asked: What is one contribution you feel demonstrates that you can be a good moderator?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I feel that my explanatory style of writing and ability to find a middle ground allows me to help people understand mine and others' points of view during disagreements. I'm also open to correction. I recognise that my personal opinion might not be that of my peers, so it's important to collaborate in difficult decisions.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: Over the last 2 of years we've had a couple of instances where, for whatever reason, users have felt downright wronged. On at least one of those situations I jumped in and managed to talk him down. In the end, the user's emotional investment in the situation was simply blinding and all he really needed was a rather blunt, but respectful, unemotional appeal.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: I spend A LOT of my time here. I daresay almost 12 hours a day, checking it for new questions almost every 30mins. I spot and flag many subpar questions long before any of the mods respond (mostly due to timezone).

M'vy M'vy answered: helpful flags, though I did slow down that year, to my great regret.

Iszi Iszi answered: Primarily, the measurable metric I see that I have going for myself is overall participation and seniority. I've been on this site since the early days of Public Beta, and fairly active during that entire time. I'm also very regularly available in chat to discuss any issues that may come up in real-time.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Contribution that demos as moderator? Well it isn't managing to keep with a chat stream! :) Probably not in my observed behavior but in my unobservable behavior. I comment or join in comment streams when I feel we can be productive, but skip it 90% of the time if it's humor or a downward spiral. I've also deleted my own comments when I reread them and realized they weren't going to get us anywhere good.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: A low-value down-voted question with hostile user comments is edited by me, attitude of others addressed in comments, and the question goes from a strong negative score with close votes to a highly viewed, highly voted question from recognizing the save value and appropriately editing. Technologies that allow YouTube scale distribution?

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland continued: That approach... the attitude and human adjustment that doesn't take any moderator tools... that's the key.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Is there anything about the way the site is currently run that you would like to change? If so, what would you try to change if you were to become a moderator, and why?

M'vy M'vy answered: I don't have big problem with the site at the moment. And being a mod would not really impact my behaviour. If I want to change something, I just go on meta and do a proposition to be debated.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Not much actually. I love the way the site is being run currently. I might have a few opinions in the future, but i'm happy now.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Right now? Nothing. I love Sec.SE as it is. However, if I were to identify something, I'd post in meta and see what people say. It's not my site, it's the community's.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I'm pretty comfortable with the way security.SE runs itself, though that is some self selection bias. Knowing the moderators as I do certainly means I have a great window into decisions. I don't feel that the site itself needs to change the way it runs, but that's also not entirely my decision to make. Even if I disagree, if enough of the community wants a change it should be given serious consideration.

Iszi Iszi answered: I really can't see anything sticking out that I'd like to change. We have a great moderating team here, and SEI overall has done a good job of putting together and maintaining the site's framework. I'd really like to keep us in that position, and will definitely bring up any issues to Meta.Sec.SE or Meta.SO where appropriate.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I can remember in the earlier days of StackOverflow - there were prompts for things - like if you downvote, you're prompted to give a comment - not sure these are moderator settings, but at times I've wondered if there was room for tuning some of this.

  • Gilles Gilles noted: This is all automatic, and still exists

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I don't have anything I'd run around advocating for as a moderator... except maybe getting us a migration list. For everything one person wants differently, another likes. Overall, things work pretty well here. I don't hear the community clamoring for anything massively different.


AviD AviD asked: Being a moderator does take up a certain amount of time, that would otherwise be spent answering questions and gaining reputation. How do you feel about that, and are you willing to forgo the accelerated rep gain to which you have become accustomed?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: I don't think the question volume on the site would turn this into a problem yet. I can certainly manage both considering the time i spend here.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I'm ok with less time for gaining rep. Both answering questions and moderating are making the site better, right? That's really the goal. Make the site better.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Whilst I love getting rep, that's not why I'm here. I'm here to learn stuff, and I'm here to teach stuff. Being a moderator just means an extra level of involvement in that stuff. I like to see the community thrive, and I love seeing new people become interested in security. I think any decrease in rep gain would be more than made up for by having the privilege being a mod gives.

M'vy M'vy answered: Reputation is not really my priority on this site. There is a lot of people that answer quicker and better than me. But there is no obstacle for me continuing to answer like I always did.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Accelerated rep gain? Not sure I agree! The Security questions are among the toughest I've answered across the SE sites. :) Yes, it's an ego hit - but it's seemed to me that once I ended up on the first page of users, the warm glow of gaining rep dimmed in comparison to the opportunity to guide a community. I'm banking on the fact that as with other forums, the warm feeling of a growing community that is "mine" will replace rep as my point of satisfaction.

Iszi Iszi answered: I think the fact that rep is so closely tied to privileges on the site helps a lot with this choice. I think a major reason some people rush to certain rep levels is because certain privileges are tied to them, and those privileges greatly facilitate our ability to help make (and keep) this community a better place. Having all those powers come with the blue diamond removes the need to accumulate rep.

Iszi Iszi continued: I will definitely continue to contribute with Q&A as I can, but I have no problem putting it in the back seat when needed.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I've already gotten a softer rep curve of late... There are far more users now than when I started. IF the questions are getting good answers from somebody, I don't need to duplicate that effort. My rep is big enough that I no longer care about my rep... I care about my role, developing the community, and helping us grow constructively. Sometimes that's in answering, and sometimes that's in other things.


AviD AviD asked: Which part of the community is the most important to work on, in your opinion? Site/Meta/Chat/Meta.SO/Blog/other...

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: site = meta = chat > meta.so > other

M'vy M'vy answered: All are important for different reason. We need to have a good balance between all mods, and see what it important at a given time.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: They're all important, but for different reasons. The Venn diagram of usefulness for Site/Meta/Chat do have some overlap, but they're all very important parts of the whole. I think meta.stackexchange is one that I'll have to get more involved in. While we are a site of our own right, it is where broad sweeping changes and discussions get made. The mods should know what's going on everywhere, so that we can frame those changes to what matters here.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I think chat is the most powerful moderation tool, followed by meta.SE. so working on both of those is good. but I think that, at the end of the day, most users only ever see the main sec.SE site, so it's important to maintain presence there. I agree with Terry on this one: site = meta = chat > meta.so > other. though I might put chat slightly higher if we're looking at mod tools

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Probably because of my interest but - site, meta, chat, meta.SO in that order

Iszi Iszi answered: I believe the Site is the obvious core. After that, Meta participation is definitely important, with Chat to supplement it. The Blog is very important for publicizing our site, but (myself being guilty of this as well) I feel it is largely ignored. Meta.SO is more of an "as needed" thing, I think, for the relatively rare occasion where an issue is not localized to Sec.SE and needs resolution from SEI or a consensus from the wider SE community.


Gilles Gilles asked: You will have the power of closing questions instantly. Do you think you have a good handle on when to do that? (Especially for those candidates who haven't had the opportunity to exercise the 3000-rep close vote ability.)

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Yes i think i will. Obvious spam or advertisements will be close on sight of course, but i'll ask for opinions in The DMZ before i perform any action on others.

M'vy M'vy answered: Yes I think. Obviously in case of doubt, there is no shame asking in chat, or wait some flag to raise.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I've had 3000 rep on Sec.SE for a while, and on SO for much longer. I do tend to use it quite sparingly on here, so I don't think I'd be flying off the handle with closes left right and center. It's important to wait for other people's opinions. So I'd post it in chat, wait for a consensus, then close if necessary. Same goes for questions with a single close flag. It's important for more than one person to give their view.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I've been an extremely active close voter both here and ServerFault, so I definitely feel like I have a reasonable feel for when things should get closed. As a mod, I would probably hang back a little further. In most situations, I think a mod's close vote should be at least 3rd. 1/2

Scott Pack Scott Pack continued: I know some users will throw a flag on a question, if they don't have close vote privs, so I also thing that should be taken into account. Definitely a hard hypothetical to answer, but very important to think about. 2/2

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I think that's a fairly interesting learning curve... I tend towards cautious, so chances are I'll take too long for a while until I experience the pain of not closing some.

Iszi Iszi answered: That, I think, is something every moderator probably has to learn starting off. I'll definitely be more conscious of what I do with my close privilege. I think I've got a good handle on when questions need the mod-hammer as opposed to perhaps just comments and edits. I expect I'll be seeking a lot of community opinion though, mostly via chat or existing close votes, early on.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: Yup. I spend plenty of time arguing against closing questions, editing them to re-open, etc. When I click close, it will warrant five votes... and I will still entertain others who think it has merit.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland continued: Absolutely. I feel I lean toward the conservative side of closing questions, and as the only 10k in the race I see all the closes, deletions, etc.


Gilles Gilles asked: Some of the candidates have hardly ever flagged. One of moderators' jobs is responding to flags. Do you think you understand flagging?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Yes. Users flag because they think something is wrong, and a mod needs to take a look. It's the same as an upvote or downvote, except in a moderation context. They're saying "I think there's something wrong". As mods, it's our job to weigh up public opinion and take an action.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Yes. I flag to alert the existing mods about subpar questions. I just got my shiny deputy badge. ;)

M'vy M'vy answered: I feel fine with flagging.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I think I have a strong understanding of flagging. Between the two sites that I'm properly active on, it looks like I've flagged 711 times, and 10 have been declined. Several of those declines were even considered invalid by other mods.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: I've always felt flagging was something of a personal choice - I've flagged only rarely, but my take has been fairly permissive. That probably wouldn't change if I was moderator - I see the site as growing. I know the option's there, I've used it with restraint - and I'd rather continue to err on the side of caution.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I do understand flagging, and that's a bit of why I use it less. I click close to deal with questions rather than flag. Sometimes I discuss migrations in here instead of flagging. Most of the time, I have the power to do the job without flagging already.


AviD AviD asked: If you become a moderator, how would this affect your community participation (meta/chat)?

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Not much, I'll keep on doing what i have done so far.

Polynomial Polynomial answered: I'm already heavily participating in chat. I think my meta participation would increase. At the moment I lurk in meta a lot, and keep an eye on things.

M'vy M'vy answered: It's obviously an incentive for being more present.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: I'm already active in chat that I don't think it should affect that, however it should increase my participation in meta. That's the real driver of the community right? If it doesn't make one more involved, then something is wrong.

Iszi Iszi answered: I don't see it affecting my chat participation much, as I am already very active. I definitely would be stepping up my meta presence, or at least monitoring it more closely.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Meta participation would definitely go up. Chat - some increase, but not a lot. In all honesty, staying on chat productively in my day to day life is pretty difficult.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I'd probably spend a little more time talking in Meta. I'm in chat so regularly... I'd probably just be encountering more pings. Tracking-wise, I'm up there with the rest of them already


Grace Note Grace Note asked: White socks or black socks?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: No socks. I'm hardcore like that.

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: White shoes or black shoes?

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: Depends on the outfit, typically argyle.

M'vy M'vy answered: No socks with sandals. White otherwise.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Black socks, they never get dirty, the longer you wear them the stronger they get.

Iszi Iszi answered: Socks? Black, generally. Haven't bothered to wear white socks in awhile, though I do own some.


AviD AviD asked bethlakshmi: It seems that many here seem to weigh chat, and meta to a lesser extent, quite heavily as part of the community. However, you dont yet have a lot of participation on meta, and (practically) none on chat. Do you have anything to say to refute that?

M'vy M'vy answered: For my part, I had so few hours this last year to invest in security because it was my last year of Ph.D. I will have my defence in a short time, but since I don't have to write my thesis 24/7 now, I will have more time.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: RE - chat, meta - nope, I don't. It's a fair point. I do browse meta and would definitely be called a lurker - it may be I just don't have that many strong opinions. Chat is tricky for me from my work - I have a high-interruption job, so balancing chat interruptions and work interruptions generally hadn't worked for me. If that eliminates me as a moderator candidate, I understand - but I volunteered for the post feeling that SE involvement was the primary element to the equation.


Grace Note Grace Note asked: Final thoughts from the candidates?

Polynomial Polynomial answered: Just thanks for the interesting questions and sorry for being a bit late to the party! :P

Polynomial Polynomial continued: Oh, and free bacon for anyone who votes for me ;)

Terry Chia Terry Chia answered: Good luck to all candidates!

M'vy M'vy answered: As usual in security, all canditates are good candidates. Whatever the final result is it will be for the best. Good luck.

Scott Pack Scott Pack answered: This has been a pretty fantastic discussion, lots of great information to read through. Thanks everyone!

Iszi Iszi answered: Thanks to everyone for participating here, and to those who couldn't but are taking the time to read through the log. There's been a lot of good questions, and it's probably covered all of the issues I would have hoped to address during this chat - and some I wouldn't have expected. Good luck to all of the candidates here. Though I of course would like to be the one to win all of your votes, I can't say I'd be really disappointed with any of the possible outcomes of this election.

bethlakshmi bethlakshmi answered: Sleep is for the weak! Oh wait, that's me... sadly I'm signing off to go back to my sick bed - have a cold. Good town hall! Thanks guys and good luck to everyone!

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland answered: I'm seasoned. I'm open-minded and well-tempered. I'm happily accepting of times where things don't go my way. I'm confident enough to click the buttons when they need to be clicked and to stand behind it. I feel I would represent our community very well. It's not about the diamond helping me, it's about me serving the representative role of our community well.

Jeff Ferland Jeff Ferland continued: I'm very sorry to everyone that I didn't make it during the scheduled time. 5 am was definitely not in my time budget on short notice. It certainly was encouraging to wake up to a number of notifications from the regulars in DMZ and to be actively missed when something happens. I think that also goes to show I am a part of the community now.

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