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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Not every question was compiled - as noted, we only selected the top 8 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes. Oh, and 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.

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!


  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

  2. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

  3. ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

  4. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

  5. 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?

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

  7. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

  8. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

  9. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

  10. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

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  • 1
    Just a little request from the candidates: Please drop in the election chatroom so that anyone who has further questions be able to ask them from you. This is totally optional though. – M.A.R. Aug 31 '15 at 20:10
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    Um, so will this remain featured? – M.A.R. Sep 8 '15 at 23:21
11

J.R.'s answers

  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

Wrong comments should be flagged and deleted. I can see how answers posted as comments might bother some SE purists, but I accept them as a fact of life. Sometimes a comment can provide a helpful nudge in the right direction. Some users may not want to leave a full-fledged answer (or they don't have the time), but they want to say something helpful anyway. And many ELL questions are written in a way that can make it challenging to compose a good answer.

To be honest, a comment-that-should-be-an-answer is no more bothersome to me than an answer-that-should-be-a-comment. In a perfect world, it would be easy to keep comments as comments and answers as answers, but, in reality, there are too many gray areas for this to be completely realistic.

  1. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

I think it's hard for some folks to analyze their question in the eyes of the learner. For example, a question might appear at first glance like it's "easily answerable with a dictionary," yet it's asking about a word that has 27 definitions under three parts of speech.

There's no panacea for this problem, but we can all try to put ourselves in the learner's shoes, and try to dissect the questions so that we can get to the root of the confusion.

  1. ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

I think this is a problem, but it's not an ELL problem. SE has apparently decided they want to keep the two communities active; now, ELU has to decide what it wants to be.

I've flagged a few ELU questions on occasion, particular from users who have just created an account and are asking their first question, especially when they seem like they struggle with fluent English. But I don't think a wholesale change can be acheived by a few flags here and there.

  1. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

Better questions will improve the site, plain and simple. But it's unrealistic to expect new users to join the community with the ability to write a first-rate question. It's best to nudge them into better practices over a period of time.

  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?

When appropriate, they can be told to tone down their passion and emotions. I would thank them for their contributions but remind them to "be nice."

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

Talk about it as a mod team, if I feel it needs to be discussed. However, this would probably happen in a "gray area" question, and I'd be just as likely to let the other moderator's decision stand.

  1. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

It's hard for me to answer this one, because I'm already serving as a moderator. But I think that strict adherence a the "delete all ephemeral comments" would not be healthy for the site. A little humor every now and then makes this a more pleasant place to frequent, and I've been guilty of writing a few "punny" comments myself.

  1. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

I think that ELU and ELL are sister sites, and the partnership between us should remain cordial and mutually helpful.

I've said this before: I think the best way to figure out where the question would best reside is to discern what kind of answer the O.P. is seeking. Take this recent ELU question, for example. If the O.P. is an English learner who simply wants confirmation that those three sentences sound acceptable – that they're getting the hang of how to use the word "have" – then perhaps ELL would be the better place to ask. Yet if the O.P. really wanted to know why the sentences were grammatical, from a formal English perspective (e.g., "in a purpose infinitive, the subject is deleted, along with its complementizer"), then ELU is likely the better place to obtain that sort of information.

  1. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

In general, I'm not much of a chatter. I prefer to spend my available time on the main site. But the chat rooms serve a useful function, and it would be nice if at least part of the moderation team frequented there. But it's not likely to be me.

  1. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

In a nutshell, find the right balance between correcting too much and correcting too little. And always strive to help the user improve in the long run. Rome wasn't built in a day, let the learners grow and develop, and don't expect immediate perfection.

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  • "To be honest, a comment-that-should-be-an-answer is no more bothersome to me than an answer-that-should-be-a-comment." So burn it with fire, right? – DCShannon Sep 1 '15 at 21:05
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    @DCShannon - I rarely "burn" either one, although I have sometimes demoted answers from new users to comments, after they have been flagged by members of the community. – J.R. Sep 2 '15 at 1:46
6

Hi, I'm jimsug. Here are my answers.


  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

There's been a number of discussions about this:

While we have a reasonably active meta community, the continued practice of answering questions in comments reflects the prevailing community norms - that it's acceptable.

I've certainly expressed my own views on this, and answers have some important information that comments don't, namely:

  • Downvotes
    They're the easiest way for people to show that the answer is incorrect, and not being able to do that on a comment raises the amount of effort required to do so.
  • Acceptance
    Yes, acceptance may only be a social construct, but might be useful for future users to know which answer was most useful to the asker.
  • Comments
    Yes - comments are structured to a limited extent, but you need a userscript to "guess" where they are directed.

There's a possible advantage to comments - people might be more willing to engage in commenting, where they would instead have downvoted.

As for whether it needs to be addressed - it looks like it's being raised here on Meta, which is a good start.

Moderator intervention, when it comes to something like this, is largely constrained whether it is a small core of people who are doing this, or masses of people. In the former, you could probably try to fix it by asking them nicely; in the latter, it's a bit more difficult.

  1. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

At the moment, I have a feeling that questions are being closed too quickly, and the close reasons may not be being used as intended. For example, the proofreading question is used where there is a specific source of concern.

Even the general reference ("dictionary") close reason is overused, in my opinion - we know the meaning of the word, so of course we can find its meaning when we go to look it up in the dictionary.

There's no quick-fix to this, it's just about encouraging people to slow down a little bit and make sure that the close reason really, really fits the question.

  1. ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Currently the How to Ask section (it appears on to the right of the page users see when asking a question) on ELU appears as:

How to Ask on ELU

To quote Wendikidd (original emphasis):

A question cannot be off-topic on one site for no other reason than that it fits better on another.

I also feel it would be discourteous to try to siphon traffic from ELU (however, we probably already do that, to some extent). We can certainly (and have, in the past), suggested on certain ELU questions that they might be better received on ELL. There's no quick fix, though.

  1. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

I've given my thoughts on this already, but to summarise -

Where the answer is no, the question lends itself to expansion fairly naturally.

However, where the answer is yes:

  1. Edit the question to be a little more broad while preserving the original author's problem and intention
  2. Answer the slightly broader/abstract problem as well as the specific problem the user had
  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?

Moderators are empowered to handle these situations by:

  • Removing offensive content
  • Contacting the user privately
  • Suspending users

... roughly in order of preference - the less impact you have on the useful content of a site, the better.

Firstly - are the flags on comments generated by the user's comments, or by others'? I feel there's some ambiguity here, and I'll deal with each case in turn.

If it's the user's comments, I would want to evaluate flags as per usual - that is, if they are offensive, too chatty, obsolete, etc., and delete them as appropriate. In evaluating the flags...

Obsolete comments are of much less concern than others - in fact, this is almost certainly a positive sign, that the user is highlighting possible improvements, or asking for clarification which is later provided.

Comments that are too chatty and not constructive (but not offensive/rude) are probably next most concerning - they add to the noise of a site, and prevent more useful contributions from being shown.

Rude or offensive comments need to be addressed. Even users who produce valuable content should adhere to our various policies on behaviour, including be nice. In this case, if the user displays a pattern of rude or offensive commenting, I would start with a moderator message, and then, if and only if the user fails to show improvement, discuss suspension with the other moderators and the Community Management team.

In the alternative, where the user's posts attract comments by others which are then flagged, it's those users I would consider. The original user is not really of concern.

The reason that a valuable contributor may have a suspension stayed is that they, well, produce valuable content. This has limits, and the decision would turn on the particular facts of the situation.

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

Firstly, I would look to see if there are examples of the action that align with my expectations. If the closure/deletion is more in line with the majority of past actions, then I'd need to reconsider my reasons for disagreement.

Next, I would contact the other moderator privately to either find out their reasons for the action, if it was not in accordance with established norms, or if it was, to explain my disagreement. I'd want all moderators to be included in this discussion. If we reach some kind of agreement on the matter, then great! Proceed as agreed.

However, if we still don't agree... then it would be down to how important the issue is. I suspect that the more important it is, the less likely I would be to disagree with another moderator, but the possibility of appealing to other moderators or a community manager still exists, if I feel the matter is important enough. If it isn't, then I'm likely to let it go, because ... well, it's just not important enough.

  1. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

It's difficult to comment on whether the correct comments are being deleted - only moderators can see deleted comments, and so I'm not sure how many comments are being deleted.

I'll say this, though - I don't remember feeling as though there were too many comments on a thread. I've only very rarely flagged comments as too chatty, and I suppose, to answer the substantive question here: if no-one has been inconvenienced enough by a comment to even flag it, it's probably fine to leave it be.

  1. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

The ELL and ELU are not entirely complementary, but there are some questions which are just not suitable for one site or another.

Again, I believe it would come down to treating like cases alike - has this kind of question been asked before? Where has it found the best answers? Although best is a subjective term, you can try to infer the user's needs from their question, and the language they use - or by asking!

In the rare event that no question like it had ever been asked before, I'd still want to try to discern the user's needs. If there were no clear path forward, I'd be inclined to leave it as it is and wait for more evidence to present itself.

  1. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

Chatrooms are important, because they can help build a core of users who can help moderate the site. Just having a few people in there can help speed up question reopenings or closures. Also, it'd be useful to have mods that are contactable in the chatroom, for urgent cases of serial spam or vandalism.

I'm active there from time to time - I'll continue to be active there whether I'm elected or not.

There might be ways of assisting language learning, some of which have been thrown around lately - again, this'll be something I look at as time becomes available.

  1. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

If the user posted in good faith, edit it to save the content and then leave a comment so that the user, and others, can learn from your edit. Users do get notified of edits on their posts, but the edit summary may hamper the tone that you could convey in a comment.

As for the unease that may be caused by editing another's post, the help center says:

If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

Of course, there are more diplomatic ways to put it, but I'm cautious of editing posts. If I edit or delete a post, it's because I believe it is the alternative preferable to leaving it be.

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    Does leaving posts with errors of grammar or orthography unedited forever seem to you to be something that helps or hinders learners? I ask this because there seem to be a disproportionately lower rate of edits on ELL than ELU despite there being “more” errors, and I wondered of what possible benefit there could be to leave so many negative examples intact as models for future learners. Isn’t that a bad idea? What’s your position on cleaning these up or leaving them be? – tchrist Sep 2 '15 at 13:57
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    @tchrist Well, if the error is in questions, I'm generally inclined to leave it be - it serves as a crude signal to readers of the asker's English proficiency. In answers, I would expect that users would downvote answers where the errors are enough to devalue it. In the event that erroneous answers aren't being addressed by the voting system, I'm not sure what we would do specifically - there's no way to easily identify answers with typos in them, much less answers with grammatical errors. ... – jimsug Sep 2 '15 at 14:05
  • ...At the very least, I would draw attention to them with a meta post and encourage users to correct and edit them as they are identified. With comments as an exception, there's two things that might happen: 1) the post is edited, and/or 2) a user might ask another question about the error. – jimsug Sep 2 '15 at 14:05
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(M.A.Ramezani's answers) ƨɿɘwƨnɒ ƨ'inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M

We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

First, we have to see why answer-like info is added as comments. It's mainly because either

  1. The info isn't enough to fully answer the question.
  2. The commenter isn't certain about their answer.
  3. The commenter believes that the info isn't good/informative/comprehensive enough to be an answer.
  4. The question is likely to be closed; and the commenter wants to give guidance on how to reach an answer; rather than writing an answer themselves. (Most probably not to encourage further similar off-topic questions)

To try and modify ELLers' culture and make them write answers where they would comment is next to improbable; simply because they're mainly comment-answering for the reasons mentioned.

They shouldn't answer at all if they're doing this because of (1); as their answer would end up in the "low quality posts" review queue and will just produce more work for the reviewers. They also shouldn't answer if the justification for commenting is (4). Why? Because while I really appreciate the sense of charity a lot of ELLers have, they should almost be sure of getting another low-quality question in the future if they answer the earlier one. I wouldn't mind helping out the user in a short comment at all though.

Guiding comment-answerers to write an answer when they have (2) and/or (3) in mind is very problematic. That's why I think it would be a losing battle to coax everyone to write answers instead of comments in those situations.

That being said, I would treat these in a case-by-case basis. Sometimes the commentator should write an answer. (Which would need a nudge) Sometimes it's good to stay there. Seldom it would be misleading and distracting from the real answer and thus should be dealt with accordingly. (With an additional comment, or deletion in extreme cases)

What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

I feel that guidance is one of the primary factors that's been missing from some of the ELL's posts. We have quite a number of decent querents who still don't know how to formulate a good ELL question from aspects of formatting to tags and the like. Lack of a meta post or FAQ to link to or a lack of people who'd link is a contributing, but not the main, factor.

Other things I'd like to see is more editing and voting. When This page is compared to its equivalents in other SE sites, it's telling me the ratio of editors/users on ELL is low. Same goes with voting.

ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

If it is a problem, it's not ours. If enough ELU or ELL users agree, we might be able to set a migration path, though for that, we'd need to convince SE that there's a need for this. I believe that a very good question would be asked from someone who would want to get the best possible answers; and that would make them more than eager to ask for migration to ELL, if that's the best could be done.

There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

These would be optimal either as a question and an answer or just a question. I would deal with them, again, on a case-by-case basis.

If there's much to be said about the way the OP thinks then leaving that as a single question with subsequent answers from other users would be the best thing to do; we'd have a substantive and well-thought question and hopefully great answers.

If there's not much to be said; and the answerer would be obliged to write a tutorial about semi- or irrelevant concepts then the OP should probably write a self-answer, provided that their answer is accurate in most senses.

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?

Usually a user that has proven to be a contributing member to the community won't be intolerable to the degree that will make their utterances flaggable. I very much agree that there comes days when these users are in a bad mood or for any other reason, can't be as constructive as the audience expect.

I'd keep an eye on them to make sure they're not offending anyone on ELL (yes, I believe that much attention is necessary) and probably would clean up content that should be cleaned up from the comments and leave them a friendly notification or two.

If the continue their misbehavior, it's going to be private warnings; again, as polite as possible. But persistent misbehavior wouldn't be tolerated and would accompany suspensions that would get longer and longer with continued ill intentions towards users.

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

The "should" is really subjective, will vary from case to case and is really unlikely. What I'd definitely not do is disrespect their decision and do what I think is right. What I'd definitely do is move away from the (colorful) buttons for a moment and try to realize why the other mod did what they did.

If I'm not satisfied, there are always mod chatrooms where we can synchronize our decisions and thus I'll handle it there with them. It's very likely that I'll respect their decision and let it stand though.

It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

To be honest, I believe the current mod team isn't removing enough comments, though I also believe they're not to blame. The main problem here is a lack of consensus; I think for instance J.R. didn't want to remove a comment to see the writer of that come and complain in the meta or take some similar action. Deleting content can and may come off as rude, be it a comment, an answer or a question. The thing here is to make sure the author understands why that deletion is vital/better for a moderated community.

Comments {can become/are} obsolete, ephemeral or chatty if

  1. They are pointing out a problem with the question. The question is then edited accordingly.
  2. They are closure reasons from other SEs and now the question has been migrated to ELL.
  3. They're "welcome" comments, but are from some months ago. (This is rarer on ELL though)
  4. They're "meta" comments (i.e. comments that don't concern the question, but are editing/asking etc. tips. Example is "Please don't use backticks for emphasizing purposes") from some time ago.
  5. They're not specifically related to the question, but are more like a friendly discussion message to the OP or another one of commenters.

I would delete (1) and (2), most definitely. As for (3), welcome comments are usually accompanied by a useful comment about the question, which would obviously stop me from purging them. I do not think editing them is an option either, just because I'd like to see people conceive ELL as welcoming as it is. (4) again sees the fate of the former. Note that adding "meta" comments is itself questionable as people can do it in the revision history, but since comments ping the OP and they're more visible, I don't think there's a problem with these comments.

(5) will be dealt with differently; I'd delete it if, and only if they're disallowing important or useful comments from being visible. I don't think ELL needs to stick to the strict comment standard of SO/SU/SF; not yet.

How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

I think the current relationship with ELU is fine. As most avid users on ELL are also participants on ELU (with a few exceptions) they can and are always acting in favor of ELL. I also believe all of the ELU mods know what's most important: ELL isn't ELU's dumpster.

While that still needs to be cleared up for some ELU users, I think the ELL<->ELU relationship is clear enough. As for how the interaction with the ELU mods will be; we'd see if the problem is an ELLers problem or not. Seeing it from the asker's perspective and understanding what they ask and what their confusion is about is the key.

What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

I believe the strongest aspect of my moderation would be paying more attention to chatrooms, which are a medium of communication. I believe in their power. ELL is one of the SEs that have the most need for a chatroom. While, unfortunately currently the people that most need the chat are ignoring it.

Being a regular chatter on ELL, I'm planning to further evaluate the chat experience and coordinate it more heavily with meta actions.

What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

I follow the universe. The universe craves towards equilibrium, never standing still, and always flowing towards moderation. The community needs moderation to a certain degree. Lack of moderation is what makes some (if not most) of us despise so-called free forums. (Note that some language forums are quite useful) Too much strict moderation will also backfire.

I've read so many meta discussions about people rage-quitting over a simple moderator actions. While most of those weren't justified, they have given me ideas, perspective and the general bias of the people I'm mostly going to end up opposing.

What I would obviously do is consider the harm and benefits in

  • Leaving the post as-is
  • Editing it
  • Deleting it
  • Leaving a comment
  • Any other action

Please do note that moderators are "exception handlers". Most of the time, I'd leave the decision to the community, if I believe the post will get necessary attention.

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3

Catija's Answers:

  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

I certainly do think that this is something that should be addressed. If the comments are correct, they can stay (at least until the question is answered), if they are incorrect, they should be deleted - As we know, comments are not meant to be permanent, so deleting comments that are not helpful should be no problem.

In an effort to address this, I think there are several things that can be done. If there are unanswered questions with comment answers, I would encourage the people who posted the comments to consider writing them as answers and including more detail. Because I'm sure it's unlikely that this will get much of a response, I would recommend we consider having a monthly "Answer Challenge". Here is an example of a similar challenge on Movies & TV.

Essentially, we would have a Meta topic where we explain the purpose of the challenge and the goal of answering unanswered questions (most likely ones that are at least a month or two old). As a reward, the answer with the most upvotes at the end of the month would receive a bounty reward.

Yes, the questions have comment "answers" but they still appear on the "unanswered" list, so the challenge could include all unanswered questions. I strongly feel that this would be even more successful than it's been on M&TV since many of the unanswered questions there have answers that are unknown. Many of the unanswered questions on ELL are known, but may be difficult to explain... or very easy to explain.

I discuss this issue to a greater extent in my answer to a similar Meta question here.

  1. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

I think one of the biggest places for improvement is in our recommended resources list. We get pretty regular requests for books and language learning resources and, while this list is certainly very long, it's almost too long and the quality of the contents is debatable. In fact, I was recently chatting with a regular ELLer and she said that she would never send anyone to our resources list because of the lack of quality resources on it.

We should work with the learners and educators on the site to determine which resources are actually well-written and helpful and do a better job of updating the list and keeping it useful.

  1. ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

I think that deciding if this is a problem is a matter that should be discussed with the ELU mods. If they have a question asked by a learner and they're willing to accept it as an ELU question, then there's no need for our involvement there. Ultimately, if the question isn't off-topic for ELU, it's up to the user to decide which site to post the question on.

As a member of Movies & TV there is a regular discussion about whether a question should be on M&TV or on Sci-Fi and, really, it's up to the user to decide, provided the question is on-topic. As part of this, M&TV occasionally gets comments that say "you would get better answers on Sci-Fi", which leads to some discord between the two sites. To avoid similar feelings between ELU and ELL I would not encourage posting comments on ELU questions telling users that they should ask that their question be migrated to ELL.

If ELU believes that the user would be better served asking their question on ELL or they believe the question is inappropriate for ELU entirely, then it is certainly possible to migrate the question to ELL... provided the question is well-written enough to not be closed immediately (more on this below).

  1. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

This really depends on the question itself. If it seems that the OP is simply trying to ask "is this right?", I'd likely encourage him to visit the chat rooms if he has minor questions about whether he's phrasing something correctly.

If the question seems like it could be salvageable with minor edits, I'd make edits to the question so that it's asking more about why a particular usage is correct in the situation rather than if it is correct. This use of explanation makes the question more useful to a wider group of people.

If a question requires a larger edit to remain open, I would recommend making such an edit (if the underlying question is worthwhile) but encourage the OP (in a comment) to re-edit the question if the content of the question was corrupted too much from their original intent.

I find that edits are often appreciated by the users here, since they may be uncomfortable with English to a degree that they're not sure how to phrase their question.

  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?

The central rule of the SE network is "Be Nice".

To that end, my first move (after deleting the necessary comments) would be to talk with the user to directly address their behavior issues and see if it is possible to find a way for them to continue to contribute to the site but to change their commenting habits in an effort to make them aware of how their comments are perceived by the other users. This may include recommending that the user take some time away from ELL in the form of a voluntary absence.

If this behavior continues, and the other moderators agree, it may be necessary to suspend a user to force them to take some time away from the site.

If a user, regardless of their contributions to the site, continues to make ELL an unpleasant place for the other users, that is a major problem and can not be allowed to continue.

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

The first thing I'd want to do is get a good understanding of why the mod made the decision she did. It's completely possible that there is something about it that I missed, some context that went unnoticed, and so I would contact the other mod in a private chat (with all of the other ELL mods), hoping to get an explanation.

I would then consider what she said, present my thoughts on the subject and have a discussion about what should be done. If we can't come to a conclusion about the question and we both feel strongly about it, I would then take it to the other users with a Meta post, present both sides of the argument and ask for the community's opinion.

While I don't think that big decisions should be made outside the public's eye, I do think that it's best practice to maintain a level of professionalism between mods, so, rather than questioning a decision made in a public place, it's best to address it initially in private and then to present a general, non-sided front to the community.

Particularly as a new mod, I would certainly take the greater experience of other mods into account as well.

  1. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

I'm probably a bit more open to comments than the strict SO rules... that being said, chains of comments that should have long since been moved to chat should not remain on questions, particularly when they veer off course and stop even discussing the topic at hand.

I'm a big fan of deleting obsolete comments and will often delete my own comments if the suggestions made in them were addressed. As a mod, I would certainly consider deleting unnecessary comments, particularly after the question ages a bit. And, in the case of long comment chains, they can always be preserved by using the moderator ability of moving the chain to chat and leaving a link for anyone who wants to see it.

I don't have any issues with the current level of comment moderation. Usually if I've asked comments to be removed and given a good explanation, the moderator has agreed and removed the comments.

  1. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

I'm not aware of the behind-the-scenes interactions between mods on the respective sites. It certainly seems like there is a level of interaction.

My main concern is the quality of questions that get migrated here. I recently was present in a discussion about migration with Shog9 and he made a really important point that I feel is often ignored:

As a general rule, if the form of the question wouldn't be acceptable on your site (regardless of topic), then dropping it onto someone else's (where the author may not even have an account) is rude: it's probably not gonna get better. When in doubt, drop in a link to movies.stackexchange.com/tour and suggest that the asker read it and re-post.

Always acceptable to NOT migrate. If you're gonna migrate or ask someone else to do so, try to make sure the asker looks good when his question appears on the new site. Failing to do this creates a bad experience for everyone involved.

I'm not saying there are a huge number of bad questions migrated here from ELU. Most of them are fine... but I do feel that the quality of some of the questions is extremely poor due to lack of detail or context and often causes the question to be closed, which leaves it in limbo since we can't reopen migrated questions that have been closed.

Imagine the frustration of an Asker to have your question migrated to another site where you don't have an account and then have it closed... it could certainly make you feel as though your question is unwanted.

To help with this, I feel that it would be good policy to make sure the mods of both sites are aware of and familiar with the quality requirements of both sites and to keep an open dialogue to minimize the likelihood of a question being closed. I feel that keeping in mind what Shog9 said (above) will certainly reduce this issue.

  1. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

I use the chat space on SE quite a bit. I really enjoy participation in the chat rooms. I feel they're a great way for users to get a quick response to "is this how you would say this" and, if the question is too complicated, you can always encourage them to ask it as a question on the site.

They're also a great place for community building, getting to know the other users and getting to quickly see if anything's up.

While I certainly think that discussing some of the finer points of Meta could be done in Chat, I'd hate to lose those voices in the actual Meta posts, so it would be important to me that we make sure important points made in chat are reiterated in the questions and answers on Meta.

  1. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

My number one rule when editing is to be respectful of the author's intent and (in the case of more major edits) to make sure the author is aware that they can still edit the post themselves if my edit was wrong.

Particularly in questions, I feel that the sample sentences in the body and title should go untouched (other than formatting) as any errors should be addressed in the answers. Other than that, I will retouch the remainder of the grammar, spelling, capitalization (etc) in the body of the text and make sure that the question title adequately explains what the question is asking.

Formatting is very important in both questions and answers, and, as such, many of my edits are for formatting purposes. Having sample sentences in quote boxes makes them stand out from the question text and makes it easier for users to answer directly.

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  • I'm confused by this whole sentence: "As part of this, M&TV occasionally gets comments that say "you would get better answers on Sci-Fi", which I personally feel leads to some discord between the two sites, so I would want to avoid similar feelings between ELU and ELL by refraining from stalking ELU questions and encouraging users to request that they be migrated to ELL." Why does that lead to discord? Seems like it would improve cooperation. Do you want to avoid "encouraging users to..." or is that your alternative to what you're avoiding? What do you mean "stalking questions"? – DCShannon Sep 1 '15 at 21:18
  • @DCShannon Because the implication in the comment is that M&TV is incapable of adequately answering the question, so it should be moved to Sci-Fi where the "serious" fans are who will do a better job of answering... it's like Sci-Fi is attempting to "steal" questions. There's a bit of animosity between the two sites to start with, so I'm not certain the issue would be the same between ELU and ELL. – Catija Sep 1 '15 at 21:26
3

Araucaria's Answers

  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

On the whole, wrong comments need to be deleted. That is when they're indisputably definitely wrong, of course. This is just because learners need helpful and accurate information. We can downvote bad answers, but this isn't possible with comments.

I think it's good to encourage users to post their comments as proper answers, especially if they're a bit shy. And actually this does happen regularly here. I've seen many answers that originally started out as comments. This is great and a good sign that the system can work quite well. There is of course always the option to create a wiki-post out of valuable and helpful comments.

I don't believe, though, that this is an issue that will ever go away. For one thing there isn't always a clear line between a comment and an answer. Another point is that different users will have different ideas about what constitutes an answer. For example, some posters won't post an answer unless they actually know that it's correct, or can substantiate their ideas with reference to reliable sources. Others will offer their intuitive insights as answers. I think both of these approaches are perfectly fine. I suppose the last thing I'd say about this is that it's part of our job as a community to look after the quality of comments cum answers and to encourage people to post answers where appropriate, but it's not an area that needs policing by moderators

  1. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

I think some questioners don't get enough benefit of the doubt with their questions. It's part of our role to try and understand why learners might find something problematic. They are, of course, already at a bit of a disadvantage as they usually don't have the necessary language to be able to frame exactly what the issue might be. I sometimes feel that if we were less terse it would be easier for new questioners to improve their questions.

I also think that we tend to favour questions from users who already have a very good grasp of English, as opposed to learners who are just starting out on their learning trajectory. I think we need both types of learner here if we are going to build a useful repository of information for learners to refer to.

The best thing I think a mod can do here is lead by example. Being helpful and patient with new users and helping them to learn how to write good questions is the best way forward. We need to remember this is an ongoing process and we'll - hopefully - be getting a continual stream of new users who need our help and support.

  1. ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Firstly, we do regularly get questions migrated to ELL from ELU. I think that this problem will recede in general as ELL grows, especially now that we have graduated from Beta. There is of course some overlap between EL&U and ELL. We shouldn't be greedy! There are good questions from learners that fit EL&U quite well too. Ultimately it's up to the user to choose the site they feel will give them the best answers they need.

  1. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

Personally, I don't think that the Am I right tag is the real issue here. Like with other questions the quality and usefulness of the question depends on how the question is framed, illustrated and supported. Just like with any other question, it's our job to help users improve their questions. If the Am I right tag irks you, why not just have a friendly word with the poster!

  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?

The most important thing about unfriendly or unhelpful comments is that they do actually get flagged. The flagging process is something that works quite well, imo. If needs be with a persistent problem, I think a speedy, friendly but firm and non-personalised approach to the member concerned reminding them of the BE NICE policy would be in order.

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

If I thought the question was really useful, I'd probably have a quiet chat with the mod. Otherwise I'd probably leave it. I might have a go at editing the post to bring out it's best qualities and see if other users decided to reopen it.

  1. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

I think the balance is about right, as it is. I don't think an overly authoritarian policing of comments is necessarily beneficial for this particular site. I think there a little room for some humour now and again. It's good to have a site with business-like questions and answers. But we are all humans too, which we need to bear in mind. After all, we like to refer to ourselves as a community!

  1. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

ELL and EL&U are sister sites. We benefit from having a friendly and co-operative relationship and also from sharing some valuable contributors. I'm not sure how inter-site moderator interaction occurs, but I'd try and get the best out of it for the benefit of our site.

  1. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

I think a well-run chatroom is a wonderful thing. I don't think they are particularly constructive as a medium for having a dig at other members, however. I think sometimes people in chatrooms don't realise that other people read their comments. They are as public and open as any other comment on the site. Chatrooms can be invaluable for learners seeking advice, or in fact to get general information about how the site works. I can definitely see chatrooms playing a greater role in this particular community. There is enormous scope for building upon upon chatroom use here as a means of helping learners in all sorts of ways.

  1. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

I think all editing should be done entirely with a view to helping the Original Poster. I'm not in favour of trivial edits, or those that subvert the author's original intent. I only believe that edits are useful when they significantly improve the legibility or formatting of the Original. I'm not in favour of hyper-correcting non-native speakers' grammar. If I ever feel that I might be treading on someone's toes, I always try to leave a note reminding the OP that they are free to roll back any edits if they wish.

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2

Nathan Tuggy's answers

We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

A comment that effectively answers the question, but also explains why the question should be closed, is fine. For example, the auto-comments when closing as a duplicate, or commenting to point out a dictionary definition, or explaining that there's a typo in the quoted text that is the only reason for the confusion.

A comment-answer on a question that should not be closed is not fine. I don't run across these all that often at present, but a reply asking them to the answer properly is the right thing to do; if they don't, anyone who feels like it can post that answer as Community Wiki, and the comment should be deleted.

What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

A bit more upfront guidance on what questions are off-topic. There's a fine list in the help center, but the tour does not have much, and far more askers are likely to see the tour.

Other than that, we mostly just need the same things every other SE site needs: more voting, more commenting on problems, more editing, more references.

ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Graduation in itself will help push awareness among ELU users that ELL is a good target for migration (assuming that sticks around). Several of our users have enough rep on both sites to migrate questions that are suitable, and anyone with enough rep to comment can give advice.

However, it's the usual pattern at Stack Exchange to have sites overlap in scope. If there's nothing that makes a question off-topic at ELU, the only reason to migrate is if the asker wants the expertise of ELL specifically. So there are many questions that could be asked at either site, and just left wherever they were first asked.

Questions asked on both sites are another story. I'd like to see those closed (and deleted) at ELU unless they're completely wrong for us. But in any case, I'm on record as hating straightforward cross-posts.

There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

I may have mentioned this before, but these should be self-answers. Someone who's reasonably confident they know how something should work should test that with a full answer that can be up- or down-voted separately from the question. This is essentially the same reasoning as for answers in comments: an answer must be evaluated on its own, with the full weight of SE voting to make sure we have the best chance to distinguish right and useful from wrong and useless.

What's more, in general, questions likely to result in very short answers ("Yes", "No") are already explicitly discouraged, because those answers don't teach much.

"Too localized" is another story, but we don't have that close reason anymore, so we can just let voting on the question sort that out.

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?

Carefully formulate gentle but (increasingly) firm notes to them, collaborating with the other mods to work out a unified approach. Sometimes, it's fine to use comments for this; sometimes dedicated chat rooms or moderator messages, depending on the severity. If necessary, suspension may be effective.

Using them as a target on Meta is not a good idea, even pseudonymized.

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

Hop into Teacher's Lounge and ask them about it, I guess. Chances are good that one or the other of us missed some subtlety in the question or the user's context. I don't foresee any real likelihood of a deadlock, but if that did happen, there's a reason there are three mods: the careful judgement of another uninvolved mod should be pretty convincing.

It's often pointed out that comments within SO [sic] should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

These are good comment types:

  • Helps explain in detail why the post is good or bad
  • Mentions missing information crucial to the question
  • Adds something that can be included in the post to make it better
  • Clarifies or corrects another of these types of comment
  • Instructs a user in better habits: editing, asking, answering, commenting, etc

Some of these should be deleted once they've been read and responded to (mostly missing information). Some should not, as they continue to instruct readers in good patterns. Right now, I don't think there are many comments deleted that shouldn't be, but there's doubtless many that could be that aren't yet.

Any comment that's not one of those types should be deleted as soon as possible (although this is certainly not the highest priority). Usually, that's managed fairly well, although having more eyes flagging/deleting can't hurt.

Comments that are funny are fine as long as they serve some genuine purpose as well as appealing to our senses of humor. Otherwise, they're just taking up space and time.

How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

I don't spend a lot of time on ELU at present, but from what I've seen, there's not much that really cries out for improvement between us. Maybe clarifying site scopes for new askers would help; that's non-trivial, and a lot of that would need to be done over there. For the most part, attitudes there seem to be reasonably positive.

If I'm unsure whether a question that's decidedly off-topic here belongs on ELU, I'd ask around, either on their Meta or in chat. Nothing special. Usually I don't expect to have much doubt, though.

What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

Usually I've been treating chatrooms as essentially another channel for cheap meta interactions. I haven't seen many (any?) learners come in for one-on-one tutoring, although that's nice when someone can spend the time on that.

I plan to spend a bit more time in chat to make sure I'm around if someone needs a quick question about the site answered.

What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

I've run into minor backlash once or twice while editing here (and very occasionally elsewhere on SE too). I almost always let my edit summaries do the talking, rather than specifically adding a comment, and that seems to work well — they're pretty formulaic, pretty neutral, and pretty terse, without being as publicly obvious as a comment, and the combination seems to avoid most hurt feelings. I've gotten at least as many personally-addressed thanks as objections or confused replies, and since both are probably mostly restricted by the way @-replying to editors is so non-obvious, and given my high rate of editing, I think that's a good place to be.

Spreading around the knowledge of how to ask an editor why they did what they did would probably make this more palatable in general. Perhaps tagging a brief note on the end of summaries to point that out would work; it's something to look into, at any rate.

When deleting whole answers, I make sure to leave a comment in most cases, unless there already is one. Again, these are usually fairly formulaic (and are in fact from a script), although I often customize the comment to be more specific. Deleted questions I assume are usually explained well enough by the close reason; I haven't run across one that needed deletion that didn't seem to be fairly clear why that was the case.

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0

Dog Lover

  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

Sure, this is certainly a valid point. As an active contributor, whenever I come across such a comment, I usually advise the OP to add it as an answer. I think this is the most effective way to deal with the problem.

  1. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

Sometimes I feel that maybe they don't understand the answer they are given. I do my best to provide an explanation in every one of my answers, and if I can't then I will post a one-sentence answer in the comments section.

The simple way to address this is by encouraging users to comment on an answer when they don't understand it. It's the best way to learn.

  1. ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

I don't see this as a major problem. The worst case really is that the question gets migrated. If the community really sees it necessary then it's always an option to "advertise" ELL on ELU.

  1. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

This is definitely a valid concern; however, it's not a huge one. After all, the idea of a Q&A site is to get an answer. As a mod I would be willing to address this by adding helpful comments for the OP.

  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?

This is a good question. I suppose that's a little bit like saying 'Internet Explorer works, but it's slow.' Microsoft address this with new updates (and now a whole new browser) and the same thing could be done for the user. Offer comments and advice and give them a chance to grow.

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

This is an interesting question and one which I can relate to. My personality would tell me to just leave it as-is, but, if it's a question that I think is exceptional, I would take it to Meta.

  1. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

Personally, I think SE would lose a fair bit of character and community integration if comments were forced to be on-topic. Unless the comments are controversial or negative (or completely 100% off-topic) then there should be no reason to delete them.

  1. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

The relationship seems to be healthy. ELU users do suggest to OPs whose questions are grammatically questionable to visit ELL and I think that's a good thing to do - it helps the OP and it makes the ELU community happy.

  1. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

To be honest, I rarely participate in chat. But, if I am elected a moderator, I will likely be a regular user of them just to ensure the community is healthy and happy.

  1. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

I always do my best to explain my actions. When a user questions my decision I always reconsider it, and, if I was wrong, I reverse it. I usually follow the guidelines set by the StackExchange network and the individual site.

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Chenmunka:

  1. We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

This is a common issue across all SE sites. It won’t go away by talking about it. Where a comment is a valid answer – right or wrong - the poster should be encouraged to convert it to an answer. It would not be frowned upon for other people to post an answer that essentially duplicates the comment. This has been discussed on other meta sites.

  1. What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

On the whole, most questioners are getting most of what they need. However, I sometimes feel that we can be harsh on questions. We must remember that questioners are learning English – their questions are not always well constructed. A little leeway should be encouraged.

  1. ELL was originally as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

The problem will reduce as ELL graduates. A link to ELU is present in the SE footer, ELL is not there as it is in beta. If a question is flagged on ELU for migration then ELL is not offered as a target as it is in beta. Both these will change. I expect a period over which ELL will gradually gain momentum, taking over these questions. In time, ELL & ELU will work well together. So, I suggest we wait a couple of months, see how things are changing, then address the situation if there is still too much overlap. Don’t forget ELL will be able to flag questions for migration to ELU in return.

  1. There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

Two points: At first glance these are low quality questions. However, if well presented with a valid reason for misunderstanding then they are sometimes well worth keeping on the site. I’ve seen some that fit into that category. Trivial comments and answers don’t help anyone. As with question 1, sometimes the comment can be turned into a good answer.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

If the answers are valuable then of course they should be kept, the user is making a useful contribution. It is true that sometimes that another user will challenge an answer in a comment. This is healthy and can help the best answer to come to the top. Flags on answers undergo reviews - a process that works pretty well.

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

Firstly, contact the other mod. I may have missed something that they have seen. That discussion may result in reopening. Secondly, if the question has attracted re-open votes I will consider reopening it. Thirdly, if I’m still convinced it should be open, then I’ll open it and post a comment stating why.

  1. It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

Bad comments help nobody. I already periodically review my own old comments and delete them if obsolete. I’ve seen really useless comments like “Who knew that!?” which I would delete on sight. I believe the current practice is pretty good, of course I don’t see the number of ‘too chatty’ flags that are raised on comments.

  1. How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

This is similar to question 3. The relationship between ELU and ELL should evolve to a more defined demarcation of content. What is learning and what is usage? That is for discussion, not just between moderators but the communities as a whole.

  1. What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

Chat is even more ephemeral than comments. Meta discussions as Q&A on the meta site involve more people and are more valuable in the long run. I can see their use in learning and that should be encouraged. I’ve seen on various SE sites the occasional long sequence of comments that ends in “Let’s take this to chat”. That works if the commenters are all online together. I will participate in them much more than I do now.

  1. What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

When in doubt, I don’t edit. As you say, it can cause some angst. However, tidying the format and spelling of a good question does make it more valuable for the site.

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  • Just a pointer: Appearing in the footer has no correlation with being graduated. IIRC it was arbitrarily chosen, with some essence of favoring the traffic the site attracts. – M.A.R. Sep 3 '15 at 11:37
-1

I'm Maulik V.

Q: We have many answers posted as comments. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. What do you think of this situation? Does it need to be addressed? If so, what will you do about it?

My A: It depends on the user. If the user is new to the site, he has no clue what goes where. In this case, I'd ask him to move the comment to the answer box (if his reputation allows so). If the comment as an answer is wrong, let it be there and some native speakers comment and correct it. After all, 'wrong things' also teach us that it's wrong!

Q: What do you feel our questioners need that they're not getting, or not getting enough of? What would you do to remedy this?

My A: Being a non-native speaker, I can answer this. I have witnessed this in my own case. I did not know ELL before and thus posted my first question on ELU See everybody's and then SF's comment. And, that is how, I encountered ELL. So, to answer this, questioners (mainly non-native) think that they are not being treated well on this site (the recent case of Elvis says it all. We have to put ourselves into a new user's* shoes. We think (and probably we know) that the user's behavior was improper, but then if you carefully observe, no user, on the very first attempt is never rude. Their next action is actually the reaction to the way we treat them. The remedy is some non-native should be one of the moderators. What an American feels, only an American knows! :)

Q: ELL was originally formed as a place for non-native speakers to get answers to questions that didn't really suit the original intentions of ELU. In the beginning, some were opposed to the idea of two English communities on the Stack Exchange, thinking it might be too confusing, citing specific advantages of having a single site, and not seeing a convincing argument for splitting ELL off from ELU. Now, ELL is graduating, yet I still frequently see questions on ELU that seem like they would be a good (if not better) fit for ELL. Many of these are asked by users who (a) are new to the Stack Exchange, and (b) do not seem to be native English speakers. Is this a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

My A: The current system is pretty good. Many non-native (including me) accidentally land up on ELL and there are good guys who simply ask us to get on to ELL (I really hope what happened to me should never happen to anyone else, especially to a non-native speaker).

Q: There has been a recent trend of questions on ELL, in which the author writes the question, along with the answer, and asks if they're correct in thinking that way or not. These questions tend to attract "Well done Marsling!"; either as comments or answers. If they get it as a comment, the question is going to remain unanswered. If it's gonna be an answer, it's hardly a good answer. Furthermore, a lot of these fit the definition of "too localized" and aren't likely to help any other learner. As a mod, what's your POV on this?

My A: ELL is pretty active and I'm sure that established users will take on this issue even before any moderator looks into it. Said that, the question (or for that sake even self-answers) will have comments, flags or whatsoever is suitable. As a moderator, I may support if the answer is valid or may 'move' the answer to comment if it's not up-to-the-mark.

Q: 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?

My A: I was one of them! For a new user, there's a very thin line between 'arguments' and discussion'. So, for them,, it's fine. And, this is how the fresher here grooms. ELL has software that takes both the parties to 'chat' to avoid long discussion there. And it's not always that discussion/argument comes with no learning. Unless it's in limit/not abusive/offensive, and if I feel that the discussion is healthy, I shall continue.

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

My A: This is thought-provoking! I'd speak to the moderator before taking any action.

Q: It's often pointed out that comments within SO should primarily (only?) be used to improve Questions or Answers (by seeking clarification, or constructively criticizing, for example). But in practice many users post many comments that can't be justified on that basis. What's your view on "housekeeping" for obsolete/ephemeral/chatty comments on ELL? Is current practice "about right" in terms of the level of such activity? What about the selectivity? Should mods be deleting more/less comments? Are they choosing the right comments to delete?

My A: I see comments as both -dangerous and pleasing! I feel incomplete if I don't thank someone who gave wonderful remarks to my answer. I mean English is one of the most polite languages and for almost everything we say, 'thanks!'. Why would we miss it here? Yes, comments like 'Okay', just '+1' (without any reason) are invalid and should be discouraged. Again, for someone new here should be 'notified' in regard to this rather than taking 'direct action' of deleting. My comment here to Damkerng is valid. I must thank him, my soul says that.

Q: How do you view the ELL relationship with ELU? What, if anything, do you believe needs improvement. How would you work with the ELU mods to determine if a question is better suited to ELL or ELU?

My A: Frankly, I've been discouraged by the ELU users on the very first day (and, first impressions are the most lasting!). I'm not active on ELL since then. And as far as which question goes where, I keep on getting surprises! Questions that seem quite 'obvious' to non-native are on ELL and at times, people ask a question on ELL that even ELU top rank users may need to think twice before answering!

Q: What's your viewpoint on chatrooms? Do you wish to participate in them, either for community-meta decisions or English language learning?

My A: I've been quite active on chatrooms for some time in the past. But I feel it'll be more interesting to discuss things about 'meta' if I'm a mod. My sole intention is to come to a conclusion (by chatting) which hurts no one.

Q: What general guidelines do you follow when editing or deleting content? Modifying and removing content can cause some angst, so what steps do you take to minimize the negative impact when a post is not clearly "bad" but may need some intervention?

My A: I've served more as a manager in my career. Taking action without any notification is certainly not good. If I see something offensive, I'd first notify the user, then 'repeat', then 'warn' and then 'remove!'. When you remove the content unbeknownst to the OP, to them, it's offensive I guess.

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  • 2
    To my mind, this questionnaire is intended to know the viewpoints of moderator hopefuls over different issues. Can anyone explain the downvotes? Also, I think ELL will set an example by selecting a non-native speaker as a moderator. Maulik or any for that sake. This is because non-natives should not feel that this platform which is meant for learners has actually become the playground for the 'natives' who are already 'learned' in the language. This is my frank opinion. – Rucheer M Sep 2 '15 at 11:22
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    Hmm, can't speak for the downvoter, but I see a few issues. First, chatty comments are discouraged; because we have chat. Second, I believe (It may be subjective though, as I was involved) the Elvis example isn't a good example at all, specially considering that presumably the same troll went off making new accounts to harass and offend me and one other user. – M.A.R. Sep 2 '15 at 11:37
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    Third, as a mod noone should apply rules based on user reputation. Everyone should be treated equally, no matter how slight the issue is. (And new users can't comment) And given that Maulik isn't really planning anything for chat I'm also inclined to downvote, but I won't. Furthermore, I don't think your interaction with ELU and your first impression, though it was their fault I agree, calls for healthy cooperation with their mods. – M.A.R. Sep 2 '15 at 11:41
  • 'chatty comments ....cause we have chat' - well, just to say your heartfelt 'thank you', I don't think anyone would call/go for chat! Elvis' example is given keeping the 'state of mind' a new user has after being treated here. I never said he was right! Troll or not, I'm not sure but I see myself in many when treated harshly by the established users. If Elvis example involved you, consider that I've been the victim! Ruchir's point is valid - if this forum is for the learners (this means non-natives by large), why don't we have one in mods' team? Don't choose me, it's okay @inɒzɘm – Maulik V Sep 2 '15 at 11:54
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    You're missing the point; noone treated Elvis harshly. Rude comments started from his side, directed at Catija. Yet Catija and Stoney patiently kept answering his comments. And I believe, if a "thank you" clutters up the comments in the post, it should be removed. Same reason why taglines are discouraged. In SE, we want to keep on-topic; not because we're not human, but because we want to build a library. We're not a forum. – M.A.R. Sep 2 '15 at 11:59
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    @RuchirM: Some users may be using up-/down-votes to keep track of their own preferences before working out the precise order of voting; I did that in SO's election earlier this year. Some users may be expressing support or disagreement, though that's kind of silly. Can't really stop 'em, so... oh well. – Nathan Tuggy Sep 2 '15 at 18:16
  • Even though Elvis was not treated rudely, the way he reacted is still a good example of the type of difficulties users may encounter. Clearly, he felt that the community was being rude, and it couldn't hurt to figure out ways to say the same thing that are more clearly constructive. – DCShannon Sep 2 '15 at 20:26
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    @DCS please note that Catija's comments couldn't be more constructively phrased. It was I that demonstrated a less polite tone when I saw him insulting everyone out right. When there's not a good example of us treating new users harshly, it's not a highly primary aspect to consider. However, there are many other SEs where this is an issue and Maulik's concerns are valid. – M.A.R. Sep 2 '15 at 20:37
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    @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M that's what I'm trying to say. No user is 'rude' on his very first post/comment. It's our response to their comment/post that provokes them. I added this point in my answer. – Maulik V Sep 3 '15 at 5:06
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    Of course, getting a "you should improve what you just said" instead of an answer comes off as an attack to some people. For that cause, forums are to blame, as people tend to think SE is just another forum while our quality standards differ greatly. – M.A.R. Sep 3 '15 at 11:34
  • @MaulikV "No user is 'rude' on his very first post/comment. It's our response to their comment/post that provokes them." While I think that giving the benefit of the doubt is a fine general approach, the unfortunate truth is that some users (albeit a small minority) are precisely this way, and a significant part of a moderator's duties are deaing with such people. How would you handle dealing with someone rude, belligerent, or trolling? – Esoteric Screen Name Sep 6 '15 at 0:33

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