I'm Nathan Tuggy, and I approve this message.
- What is your view on editing a question to correct grammar and style issues? Do you think we should edit answers differently from questions?
Yes, we should edit them a little differently. Answers should reflect the best possible style that does not conflict with the answerer's intent, and it's rare to intend to use poor style, grammar, or spelling in an answer here. But if the answerer did mean to, for example if they need to explain a dialect that's considered less educated such as AAVE, then "fixing" their answer would not be a good edit.
On the other hand, questions just need to be understandable, since there's no expectation that anyone will learn how to speak or write English by reading them. So it's fine if they have a few quirks, especially if those can either be addressed and corrected by answers along with the main point (with explanations, instead of a quiet fix!), or taken into account when figuring out what background the asker has. In the past, I've rejected edits that were too aggressive in fixing mistakes in questions, but I've also thoroughly rewritten questions that were too hard to understand in their original form.
- Sometimes people post comments on ELL that attempt to answer a question, in whole or in part. How would you handle these comments?
I would like to move the site as a whole toward taking answers more seriously and being more careful with comments, which can't be voted on properly, can't be edited, can't have proper comments on them, and so forth. Because of all that, they're unreliable whenever they're used for anything but clarifying. Any time there's anything wrong with them, there are only two ways to fix it: 1) delete the comment (usually by ♦-flag) or 2) post another comment to try to debunk the first, which will hopefully be seen by enough of the people that saw the first one.
But good comment hygiene is something to ease into, as quite a few of our experienced users, including a ♦ mod or two, don't see as much wrong with posting some answers as comments. So I'm not going to go on a comment-deleting spree. I'll just keep politely asking folks to post real answers and checking back in case someone else does, so the comments can be cleaned up.
- It is quite often that questions from ELL show up in the Hot Network Questions section and attract quite a lot of (new) visitors. Do you think it is a good thing for the site? What would you do to improve its impact in the form of comments, answers, etc?
I don't believe HNQ is generally a very good thing for the site, or indeed almost any Stack Exchange site, since it draws in large numbers of visitors that have voting abilities but only the most passing interest in English learning. It's especially bad for sites like ELL that look as though just any native speaker is enough of an expert to be able to vote or answer well. I've experienced this myself, visiting sites and voting, then realizing after a while that I probably wasn't knowledgeable enough to actually be helping the site. So I stopped using HNQ years ago.
As a ♦ mod, I will have the tools to clean up bad answers, delete irrelevant comments, or protect questions. I plan to create or adapt some notifications so I can keep on top of questions that are entering the Hot list.
- How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
I'd start out by sending them a mod message to let them know that ELL does not want comments that start quarrels, and doesn't even really want comments that provoke a lot of discussion even if it's not very heated. (I assume there are templates for the purpose, although I don't know the exact catalog of mod message templates off-hand.) If the user was unable or unwilling to tone down their inflammatory comments, then the mod team would need to escalate to suspending them for a little while to stop the immediate problems and allow everyone involved to gain some perspective and cool down. If that still doesn't work, suspending them for longer periods of time is pretty much the only option left. No one can be allowed to keep on routinely provoking others forever.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
I would talk it over with them in a private chatroom. Hopefully one of us would come around to the other point of view. But if not, then having a general discussion between all the mods would be the next step. It's highly unlikely a single post would be important enough to keep pushing things beyond this point. It's much more important to get broad agreement on trends and patterns and guidelines and value balances than to get every single post handled exactly perfectly.
- What is your view of the draft of the new Code of Conduct? What impact (if any) do you think the change will have on ELL and your responsibilities as a moderator?
I have a lot of problems with the CoC draft, most of which have been fairly well explained by others. The largest is probably that it appears to have the wrong idea about what Stack Exchange is for.
ELL is likely to be affected to some degree if the draft is adopted without fixing these issues. However, ELL is much less vulnerable to the issues of scaling and moderation efficiency than SO is, so while the CoC could cause confusion, wasted effort, and some general quality problems, it's unlikely to bring the same risks of moderation breakdown, users refraining from posting any comments, and so forth. If we keep in mind the flawed nature of the draft and exercise good discretion I believe ELL can survive fairly well.
All that said, ELL may be peculiarly vulnerable to another problem: the CoC draft forbids discriminating on the basis of English fluency. Now, obviously, this is a site for people who don't know English very well to learn it. So I don't think we actually have much of a problem with the sane interpretation of this: We don't have people saying "Go learn some English" or sneering at typical Indian English idioms or anything like that. (We have had a few askers try to get answers only from native speakers, but that's already handled well by pretty much all the long-time site users.) But if someone wanted to cause trouble, they could probably stir up some nonsense about how our requirement for learners to post in English, or to use a dictionary instead of asking a question that's just a dictionary lookup, or whatever else is somehow discriminating against some learners who don't have enough skill in English to be able to do those things reliably. Hopefully, we would be able to defend the site against this kind of dishonest attack if it ever came, but even better would be to make sure the CoC doesn't contribute to it.
- When is it justifiable to sanitise a comment? I am not referring to vulgar or offensive language, in those cases it is right that comments be deleted, and the user be given a formal warning. I am referring to comments that some users may find disagreeable (not offensive). Do you believe that a user should be informed when a comment of theirs has been redacted or modified in some way?
I'd be very hesitant before editing a comment. If it's very easy to tell where the worthwhile part ends and the lousy stuff begins, I might trim it as cleanly as possible. But otherwise, it's no longer their comment, it's mine, under their name, and no one can tell for sure what they actually said. This is especially important in cases where not everyone would agree that they said something definitely wrong in the first place.
But if I do have to take unusual actions like editing comments, deleting a string of rude comments by the same user, etc, then it's appropriate to send a mod message to let them know that something is wrong with the way they've been acting — and that we aren't just going to sit idle while they do more of that.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
A little bit of everything. They're inspirational for new and experienced users as the most visible face of the site. They influence the way the site works by their direct actions, their suggestions in comments, their meta posts, their chatting, their answers (and questions). They handle folks who are trying to push the boundaries, who are having a bad day, who are just bad apples, or who are very confused about how everything works on ELL. And they take care of the edge cases where the site machinery doesn't run as smoothly as we'd like.
What they don't do is run the site. Steer a little, sure. Shout some advice. But the site is run by everyone with at least 15 rep.
- A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?
In some cases, people will see my posts as being more authoritative, more official, than in the past. That's a little awkward, and it's likely enough that I'll need to clarify one or two things a little bit.
In other cases, people will look at answers I've written and wonder how a ♦ mod could be so wrong. Embarrassing. But even J.R. has written one or two answers I've downvoted, so at least I'm not alone! I'll try to clean up mistakes, learn more about English, and live up to this perception as best I can.
Finally, there may be some times I said something I shouldn't have through impatience or carelessness, although I can't remember any of those. If someone has to flag something I wrote because it was rude, that's a real shame, and I'll apologize for it if this ever comes up, but I believe I've spoken the way a ♦ would need to for years.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
I briefly held 20k privileges before the site graduated, and while I was able to get somewhat more done than I am now, I still ran into a number of roadblocks. Sometimes I would need to repetitively flag for ♦ mod attention (such as in some cases where a user seemed to be creating multiple accounts to try to evade question bans, or to handle locked migrated questions that should be unlocked), and sometimes I didn't have the information necessary to even tell for sure if it was worth getting a mod involved (if I needed to look at deleted comments or IP usage or anything, that wasn't going to happen).
Also, it's only fair to confess that my current activity on the site is almost entirely moderation, so I'm gaining rep rather slowly. I might be a few good months away from 10k, but reaching 20k is likely to take years more at the rate I'm going at.
Finally, having binding votes and reviews will allow me to quickly take care of some of the more mundane, unexceptional close, reopen, not-an-answer, or very-low-quality cases, leaving the community to exercise good judgement to work out the more unusual cases for the most part.