Mathematica Stack Exchange is scheduled for an election starting next week, January 30th. In connection with that election, we will be hosting a Q&A here for 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.

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

Here's how it'll work:

  • Until the nomination phase, (so, until Monday, January 30th at 20:00:00Z UTC, or 3:00 pm EST 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.

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

  • At the end of the collection 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 (up to) 10 questions in total.

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

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

  • 5
    Why are we having an election now? (I,e,, do elections occur every so many years, has a moderator resigned, ...?)
    – bbgodfrey
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:02
  • 2
    @bb, no, nobody has resigned (so far); we just feel that we could use an extra set of hands. If you (or anybody else reading this) feel up for it, consider nominating yourself when it starts! Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:25
  • 1
    FWIW, here are some of the questions that were asked during our election time. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:28
  • 1
    Searching this site might help you form opinions about the moderator candidates. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 15:31
  • 4
    "Post answers to this question containing any questions you would like to ask the candidates. Please only post one question per answer." that was too tough to digest at once :)
    – Kuba Mod
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 20:17
  • 1
    I feel that -especially in MMA SE- there is the tendency to have an answer accepted that is not necessarily the "best". By "best", I mean in terms of subscribing to good coding practices (for example making sure variables are localised). I have definitely been guilty of this: posting a sub optimal answer and reaping the points with little pain. I am not sure if this is because of the nature of the language (easier to learn superficially) or the user base but I somehow feel we, as a community, should discourage this practice. Do you agree and, if so, how do you plan to address this?
    – gpap
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 16:48

3 Answers 3


Given that Wolfram is pushing towards a cloud-based platform, there exists the Wolfram Community for general conversation and discussion about the software/language, and there exists here a well rounded body of information suitable for most beginners to find answers so long as they can construct a proper search, what role does the Mathematica.SE Q&A play in the greater Wolfram/Mathematica realm and how would you like to see the site evolve over the next year?


"In your opinion, what do moderators do?"

This bothers me. Why should we need to ask such a question of candidates? Why are there no clear, easily found guidelines for moderators?

I have been a member of this site for more than four years and am still clueless as to exactly what is expected from a moderator. That certainly disqualifies me from being a candidate in the upcoming elections, but I still have a bad feeling about the secrecy in which the duties of a moderator seem to be cloaked.


The comments made to this question have been very helpful. It would appear that there has not been all that much secrecy; It's just that my cluelessness is more enormous than I thought.

However (there's always a however), I would still like our current moderators to be more forthcoming about one issue. What tasks that can't be done by any high rep member are falling behind so much as to require an additional moderator?

  • 2
    There is no secrecy to my knowledge — almost everything moderators can do/should do is documented here (see the "Helpful Resources" in the sidebar for more). We also have to sign a moderator agreement which basically prevents us from sharing identifiable/sensitive information w/ everybody.
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 17:13
  • 1
    @R.M. Your ideal new moderator, what should they focus on to help unburden the current moderator team? Are there specific burdens behind the request for a new moderator that make you think "it would be great if the new moderator likes taking care of this task"?
    – C. E.
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 17:52
  • 2
    The idea of the question is to see what a prospective candidate believes is what they're actually standing up to do. Moderators have leeway. There are many ways that a moderator can do things on the site - you can focus on flag handling, you can focus on chat, you can focus on guidance, you can focus on cleanup, you can focus on content generation. Many, many options, and many degrees of belief on how much of importance any given task is. That said, working on even better mod documentation is actually one of my tasks for this year.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:08
  • 1
    There is also this to read: stackoverflow.blog/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation I do think that these questions (proposed by Grace Note) are relevant. This is also an answer to @Kuba's comment on the other answer: while guidelines are useful, regulating everything by rules tends to be counterproductive. In my opinion using common sense is the better way. But there is a subjective element to "common sense". This is why these questions should be answered by the candidates: to ensure that they will handle difficult situations in a spirit that is approved by most of the community.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 20:05
  • Since Szabolcs mentions it: my guiding principles on moderation are, and have always been, "apply (not-so-)common sense", and "don't be a jerk". Too many constraints (rules), and it chokes the community. It's worked fine here and in the past sites I formerly moderated (so far). Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 3:42
  • 1
    @C.E. There are no specific burdens. Moderation involves a little bit of this and that, sometimes unpleasant stuff (suspending people you've become familiar with), sometimes just janitorial work... This site mostly requires very little moderation on our part and if people are wondering why things are done in "secret" it's because all four of us tend to be largely laid back moderators compared to some other sites and there isn't much public strong arming going on :) Wherever possible, we let the community decide the outcome of questions organically but we do use our privileges occasionally.
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 4:15
  • 2
    @m_goldberg It does not disqualify you, you would be a good mod.
    – bobbym
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 19:52
  • @R.M. I said I was clueless. I didn't even know that blog you gave a link to existed.
    – m_goldberg
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 3:55

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?
  • 3
    A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past -- that's a very good point I hadn't considered. I had the privilege of serving as a pro-tem moderator so nearly my entire time here has been though the lens of The Diamond but there was still a little adjustment period as I learned how to conduct myself. I imagine that quite a few people would have interacted differently (not "better" just differently) if serving as a moderator in past years.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 9:53
  • 3
    @Mr.Wizard and GraceNote, about the first one, aren't there guidelines for moderators which should answer such questions?
    – Kuba Mod
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 14:12

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