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. Due to the lack of submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as 2 of our back up questions for a total of 10 questions.

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!


What do you think Crypto.SE's biggest challenge is? (E.g. question/answer quality/quantity, too many/few closures, too many/few questions of a certain type, bad tools/guidance, …) What do you think should be done about this (not necessarily as a moderator, it's ok if this requires the whole community or Stack Exchange staff)?

Votes of moderators are definitive. If a moderators votes to close a question he doesn't need to ask anyone and none has to agree before the question is closed. With this in mind, will you change your voting activity (= vote more / less / equally often) if you'd be elected?

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

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

You've just deleted / closed a question alone (with your super-vote). The author is accusing you of abuse of your moderator powers, via meta or chat. How do you react?

Moderators have more to do, because they can do more. Will you change your activity pattern (= be more / less / equally active) on Crypto SE if you would be elected?

Everything you say or said will be seen as "definitive" / "official" reference in crypto. Do you think you're wise enough for this kind of responsibility? How do you feel about this perception?

We already had questions on crypto where the author modified the question heavily (30+ edits), extended it and asked to answer the updated question, which was based on the answers given to a previous version. How would you handle such a situation?

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

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

mikeazo here.

What do you think Crypto.SE's biggest challenge is? (E.g. question/answer quality/quantity, too many/few closures, too many/few questions of a certain type, bad tools/guidance, …) What do you think should be done about this (not necessarily as a moderator, it's ok if this requires the whole community or Stack Exchange staff)?

Attracting new users with good quality questions. Interest in cryptography is growing rapidly from what I can tell. That just makes this community more and more useful. There is a lot of community outreach we could do though. For example, I would love to see a talk on Crypto.SE at some of the IACR rump sessions. Another thing people could do is put their affiliation with the site on papers they publish (for example, in the biography section). Also, as other StackExchange communities become more aware of us, their users will come here to ask questions.

Within the community, I think we are doing a good job of having discussions on Meta to keep a good scope for the site. We are also doing a good job of keeping the low-quality questions off the site. As a moderator, I think one thing I can do to help is to work with new users to provide enough context in their questions to make them good quality questions for the site.

Votes of moderators are definitive. If a moderators votes to close a question he doesn't need to ask anyone and none has to agree before the question is closed. With this in mind, will you change your voting activity (= vote more / less / equally often) if you'd be elected?

I have had to deal with this first hand over the last few years as a moderator. There have been plenty of times where I wanted to vote to close a question but held off until there were at least 3 close votes already. There was at least once when I went ahead and closed a question and wished I hadn't. I learned a lot from that. Then there have been plenty of times that I closed a question immediately without issue. It takes a little bit of time to get a good feel for the community and that is why I try to let the community act first. Clearly though, there are situations where action must be taken immediately. Luckily, those situations are pretty obvious.

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'm not sure we have anyone like that on here yet. Clearly, if they are producing valuable answers, they are a tremendous asset to the community. Arguing Debating viewpoints within the comments is not good though and can be taken to chat where it does not become a nuisance to other users. Posting comments that are flagged as offensive, not constructive, or chatty can be a distraction. In that case, such a user can be first contacted via a comment (@soandso, your comments were flagged as , the comment area should be used to ask clarifying questions about the question or answer...). Moderators have other tools to handle this sort of situation if it becomes a bigger problem.

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

Moderators have access to a private chat room and can discuss such issues there.

You've just deleted / closed a question alone (with your super-vote). The author is accusing you of abuse of your moderator powers, via meta or chat. How do you react?

Other moderators can act as a check and balance for the additional privileges of moderators. My first course of action would be to talk to the other moderators. If there is any doubt at all in their minds that the action shouldn't have been taken, I would reopen/undelete and let the community decide. When the community decides something, it is very easy for the moderator to take him/her self out of the equation.

Moderators have more to do, because they can do more. Will you change your activity pattern (= be more / less / equally active) on Crypto SE if you would be elected?

My activity pattern has not changed much while being a moderator. A moderator, in some sense, is simply a janitor. There to clean up the messes. Every user can do their part to "clean up the messes" given the privileges they have earned. When there is a major issue, however, I do try to make myself more available until things get resolved.

Everything you say or said will be seen as "definitive" / "official" reference in crypto. Do you think you're wise enough for this kind of responsibility? How do you feel about this perception?

Am I wise enough, probably not. I think in many cases, this perception should change. Moderators are not a definitive or official source of crypto knowledge, and the users need to be told that. There are people on here who know way more about certain areas of crypto than I do. I think that moderators should be viewed more as janitors. They have the tools to clean up messes. Where a moderator does not have the knowledge to clean up the mess, they can let the community decide how to clean it up by discussing it on Meta.

We already had questions on crypto where the author modified the question heavily (30+ edits), extended it and asked to answer the updated question, which was based on the answers given to a previous version. How would you handle such a situation?

When the question is extended or what is asked has changed significantly, then that is a problem. Likely the edits should be reverted and a new question should be asked by the original author.

We do have some authors who edit their questions/answers a lot to provide additional details, better formatting, more sources of information, etc, but do not change the original meaning of the question. These do get automatically flagged for the moderators, in which case, I review the edits and dismiss the flag.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

They clean up messes and help others clean up their own messes. They encourage participation. This is especially important when new users join as, as we all know, no one reads the help center on their first visit. When people see the site title "Cryptography", they may get a very different picture of what the site is about then what the existing community considers the site to be about.

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

In many ways, and especially as I have used other SE sites, 10k to 20k rep users (higher for some of the more active sites) are, in my opinion, more important than the moderators for the site. Where I can be more effective as a moderator is helping us get more users in the 10k to 20k rep range by encouraging solid questions that community members can answer, teaching new users about things like up-voting, accepting answers, when to split a question into multiple questions, etc.

  • Sorry for the crappy nomination blurb. I had meant to edit it, but didn't realize I couldn't once nominations were over. :) – mikeazo Jun 23 '15 at 12:44

CodesInChaos

What do you think Crypto.SE's biggest challenge is? (E.g. question/answer quality/quantity, too many/few closures, too many/few questions of a certain type, bad tools/guidance, …) What do you think should be done about this (not necessarily as a moderator, it's ok if this requires the whole community or Stack Exchange staff)?

One issue I'm worried about is the decreasing percentage of answered questions.

  • Some of them are simply bad questions where nobody is motivated to answer. Not much we can do about those, since I don't want to be too close happy.
  • Some are good questions which are difficult to answer, for which we need to find the proper experts.
  • There are quite a few questions which should be answerable if somebody bothered to do it. We could improve this a bit with concerted community effort, but ultimately it'd be nice to have more users who regularly answer questions. The top 20 users posted half of all answers.

Votes of moderators are definitive. If a moderators votes to close a question he doesn't need to ask anyone and none has to agree before the question is closed. With this in mind, will you change your voting activity (= vote more / less / equally often) if you'd be elected?

In borderline cases I'd delay my votes until there are several community votes.

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

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

Talk to them, either via comments on the question or via chat. I prefer talking before reopening it, but if they're current unreachable and I strongly disagree I might take action before that.

You've just deleted / closed a question alone (with your super-vote). The author is accusing you of abuse of your moderator powers, via meta or chat. How do you react?

On meta I'd post an answer, explaining my reasons for the decision. In chat it's trickier, since this can easily devolve into a pointless argument, so if it goes on for longer in chat, I'd take it to meta. If they convince me that my decision was wrong, I'd apologize and correct it.

Moderators have more to do, because they can do more. Will you change your activity pattern (= be more / less / equally active) on Crypto SE if you would be elected?

Unlike stackoverflow the activity on crypto.se is low enough so that moderator duties shouldn't take away too much time from answering. I'm already checking the site pretty frequently, so I won't need to change much in that regard.

Everything you say or said will be seen as "definitive" / "official" reference in crypto. Do you think you're wise enough for this kind of responsibility? How do you feel about this perception?

When speaking for the community, e.g. concerning policies or what's on topic, the comments need to be worded carefully to avoid offending somebody or giving the impression that the community is rude or unwelcoming.

When speaking about cryptography itself, there isn't much I can do about that misconception. I may not know everything about cryptography, but I only answer questions where I'm quite confident in the correctness of the answer. But since there is already a similar misconception about high reputation users, it shouldn't change much.

We already had questions on crypto where the author modified the question heavily (30+ edits), extended it and asked to answer the updated question, which was based on the answers given to a previous version. How would you handle such a situation?

Revert to a version which doesn't invalidate the existing answers and leave a comment explaining that this isn't how stackexchange works, so they should rather create a new question for their followup problems. If the user persists in editing, lock the question temporarily.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

  • Take care of obvious actions quickly, like closing blatantly off-topic questions.
  • Act as a guide, explaining how this site works to new users. This doesn't strictly require moderator privileges, but still often falls to moderators when they close a question or when no other user left an explanation.
  • Handle flags

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

One advantage is speed in obvious cases since the vote is binding. There are also a bunch of important tools, such as migration, being able to convert answers into comments or being able to view a poster's history even if it has been deleted only available to moderators.

  • +1 for the first question. The site is great, but I completely agree with the problem regarding the answers ratio. I am also in favor of having some sort of community activity. Moderators are in principle not necessary for this task, but for sure are ideal candidates for leading such effort. – cygnusv Jun 25 '15 at 10:05
  • 2
    Just FYI, but you might also want to add your name to the top of your answer, so it's easier to tell whose answers one is reading. Also, looks like you missed one question ("How would you deal with a user who..."). – Ilmari Karonen Jun 25 '15 at 13:32

e-sushi
(Crypto.SE Profile & Nomination Post)


What do you think Crypto.SE's biggest challenge is? (E.g. question/answer quality/quantity, too many/few closures, too many/few questions of a certain type, bad tools/guidance, …) What do you think should be done about this (not necessarily as a moderator, it's ok if this requires the whole community or Stack Exchange staff)?

As with all SE communities, there are several challenges – of which I don´t think there´s currently one that I could call “biggest challenge”.

Attracting new members and helping them to make Crypto.SE work for them (and the rest of us) is probably one of the more important things. I´ve been doing that for a long time now, and I don´t think it´s a mistake to keep doing so.

Also, there are things like the question-answer ratio which sometimes hints at a known problem (see: How should we handle comments that are actually answers?), but from my point of view that´s something we´ll never be able to completely solve as it is an on-going thing that can re-emerge whenever a member is reluctant to post his answer as an actual answer.

All in all, I think it would be wrong to say we´ve already seen our “biggest challenge”. It might be waiting for us around the next corner. When it comes, we should be prepared to face it and handle it to the best of our abilities. Personally, I´m open to whatever challenge may come… and I´m pretty sure that – as a community – we will be able to handle and/or overcome any challenge in a positive way.

Votes of moderators are definitive. If a moderators votes to close a question he doesn't need to ask anyone and none has to agree before the question is closed. With this in mind, will you change your voting activity (= vote more / less / equally often) if you'd be elected?

I most probably won´t change my voting activity as I only tend to close-vote on questions that are clearly off-topic. Most of the time, a migration to another SE community makes sense (eg. Security.SE). As a moderator I would logically try to migrate such a question instead of just closing it.

In all other cases, the questions and answers I voted to close were lacking a big piece of quality (which could not be corrected by editing the related question and/or answer), or the individual question was simply fishing for “personal opinion“ (which tends to be the result of new members not recognizing SE communities do not represent forums, but Q&A sites – here, “gentle education“ or a simple heads-up tends to help).

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?

From my experience: talking tends to help in such cases. After all, a steady stream of valuable answers is a good thing. Giving such a member a heads-up about his/her commenting impact on the community already worked for me in the past… so, I don´t think it wouldn´t work in the future.

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

One word: “communication”.

As a regular community member, there have definitely been alike situations where I did not agree about a closure. Talking to the related moderator always resulted in the fact that the moderator was able to enlighten me about the reason(s) for closure, or (and that happened more than once) the moderator learned about potential reasons to rethink the decision and – in case of doubt – leave things up to the community to decide by reverting the closure. I think that´s a good way to handle things and I´ld choose an alike path.

You've just deleted / closed a question alone (with your super-vote). The author is accusing you of abuse of your moderator powers, via meta or chat. How do you react?

Again: “communication”.

From my point of view it´s important to stay relaxed and to definitely not take things personally. Being open and honest about the reasons for closure and explaining the reason(s) and motivation(s) behind the decision gives everyone – especially the author in question – a chance to understand things (and probably learn how to prevent closures in the future).

On the other hand, I´ld like to note that I also see the potential that such communication might result in a re-opening of the question. For example: when talking with the author shows that the question might have just been formulated (let´s just call it) “a bit confusing” – which may have resulted in a general misinterpretation of things on my side.

Two things I tend to keep in mind (especially in such a situation):

  1. Sometimes, an simple edit can do wonders… and
  2. I can never rule out that I may have been wrong – no matter if I´m a moderator or not. There´s nothing wrong with cross-checking your own decisions and to correct things that may have been based on wrong interpretation and/or assumptions. Only a fool would think he´s always correct; a grown man should be able to admit and correct mistakes.

Moderators have more to do, because they can do more. Will you change your activity pattern (= be more / less / equally active) on Crypto SE if you would be elected?

I check in on Crypto.SE on a near to daily base. As a moderator I would surely have to change that a bit – replacing my current “let´s see what´s going on at Crypto.SE today“ with more sheduled visits.

Fact is, a moderator has to be available more frequently than a regular member. Thanks to SE tools (like the Android application), it´s not hard to keep an additional eye on Crypto.SE even when I´m not sitting at my desktop.

Everything you say or said will be seen as "definitive" / "official" reference in crypto. Do you think you're wise enough for this kind of responsibility? How do you feel about this perception?

I see things a bit more seperated: there are Q&As, and there are moderator actions.

If a member mixes the two, it´s part of my job to communicate that my Q&As are independant from my moderator activity. After all, being a community moderator does not mean that my Q&As are imperative on any way.

We already had questions on crypto where the author modified the question heavily (30+ edits), extended it and asked to answer the updated question, which was based on the answers given to a previous version. How would you handle such a situation?

Same as above: “communication”.

Talking to the related author and making him/her understand the difference between a forum and a Q&A site can do wonders.

It wouldn´t be the first time where an author learns about the fact that it´s actually a good idea to post yet-another-question instead of modifying an existing question (which tends to be confusing to others, and decreases the quality of the question in general).

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

  1. Help
  2. Enhance
  3. Enforce

Yes, exactly in that order. The following pie chart might be a bit more on-point…

moderator focus

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´m not someone who fishes for points. Chances are that I won´t reach 10k or 20k for a long time. But that never stopped me from making Crypto.SE a better place whenever I could. Being a moderator would help me to stop bugging moderators with things which I could then handle myself, and it would enable me to contribute something additionally to the communty. I guess that are about the only things that would really change for me in relation to being “more effective”.

As I wrote in my nomination post:

“I don´t want to become a captain – I would just like to be one of the stewards who makes your stay at Crypto.SE as comfortable as possible.”

the love boat – welcome aboard
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Love_Boat

Ilmari Karonen's user profile and nomination.


What do you think Crypto.SE's biggest challenge is? (E.g. question/answer quality/quantity, too many/few closures, too many/few questions of a certain type, bad tools/guidance, …) What do you think should be done about this (not necessarily as a moderator, it's ok if this requires the whole community or Stack Exchange staff)?

I think the biggest challenge we're facing right now (as always, and for almost every SE site) is dealing with the growth of the site, and the ever increasing question volume, in a way that keeps the site both interesting to the core expert contributors and welcoming to new users (or at least to most of them).

Right now it's summer, and the question volume is low, but I suspect we're going to see a new wave of low level (and often low quality) questions come September, when the schools start. When that comes, both the mods and the reviewers are going to be busy dealing with it. The challenge will be in doing it in a way that maintains the quality of the site, while not driving away either the new or the established contributors.

Votes of moderators are definitive. If a moderators votes to close a question he doesn't need to ask anyone and none has to agree before the question is closed. With this in mind, will you change your voting activity (= vote more / less / equally often) if you'd be elected?

I suspect I will be casting fewer close votes than before, at least initially, because I can no longer rely on the automatic sanity check of requiring four more votes from other users.

On the other hand, having instant closing powers means I can also instantly reverse any poor closures I might make, should anyone voice their disagreement (and I very much hope they will).

So there are also situations where I might see myself, as a mod, being more willing to put a question temporarily on hold while it's being fixed, knowing that I'll be around to reopen it as soon as it's ready to be answered. Of course, that's the kind of thing I'd certainly want to get some community feedback on, before doing it on a large scale. But it is something I've seen done frequently on some other SE sites, and it has worked pretty well for those communities. It could be worth trying here too.

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?

Fortunately, I don't think we currently have any such problem users here on Crypto.SE, but I've certainly seen such situations on other sites. They're problematic because they lead to a conflict between two essential aspects of Stack Exchange: on one hand, for the site to be any good as a reference, we need a core community of skilled and active experts to provide good answers and uphold the quality of the site; on the other hand, civility is also a core value of SE, and essential for maintaining a healthy and welcoming atmosphere and allowing new members to enter the community.

Certainly, in such a situation, I'd work hard to find some way to eliminate the friction while letting the user keep contributing to the site. This might involve contacting the user privately, or inviting them to a discussion with other mods, to see if there's anything I can do to help them contribute in a less abrasive manner.

Ultimately, though, I'd also have to keep in mind that none of us is truly irreplaceable. If a single user is poisoning the atmosphere at the site, and driving other potentially valuable contributors away, then the community may be better off without them. Sometimes, no matter how skilled they may be in other ways, some people just don't have the social skills to fit in some communities. There are other ways (blogs, journals, Wikipedia, etc.) for them to share their expertise with the world, and we can still reference their contributions in answers here if we want.

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

I'd talk with them, of course. Should it seem necessary, I'd seek a third opinion, either from other mods, from the community (via meta), or from SE.

I don't think "wheel wars" are ever a good idea, but on the other hand, I do also expect everyone to use common sense. I certainly hope that, if I make some obvious mistake with the mod tools, other mods will feel free to fix it even if they can't immediately contact me.

You've just deleted / closed a question alone (with your super-vote). The author is accusing you of abuse of your moderator powers, via meta or chat. How do you react?

I'll talk with them. If there's any reasonable doubt, and no specific reason to do otherwise, I'll likely also undelete / reopen the question while the matter is being discussed. If the eventual consensus is that the question should indeed be deleted / closed, I or some other mod can always re-delete / close it, or (in most cases) we can just let the community handle it.

Of course, that's assuming a reasonable complaint. If the person complaining is clearly acting in bad faith, grossly abusive or just plain insane, or has a history of acting so, I may prefer not to give them the attention they seek. (Alas, yes, such people do exist, and you'll run into them if you spend enough time online.) Even then, I expect I'll at least mention the issue privately to other mods, just to get a second opinion.

Moderators have more to do, because they can do more. Will you change your activity pattern (= be more / less / equally active) on Crypto SE if you would be elected?

As a mod, I'd probably be more active here, at least as far as moderator-y stuff is concerned. I tend to have a lot of things competing for my time and attention, but as a moderator here, I'd at least have to set a certain amount of time aside for that every day, as far as possible.

(BTW, this is probably a good place to note that, due to summer camps that I'm organizing, I'm going to have very limited net access for the two weeks immediately following this election. Thus, if elected, I probably won't really have much chance to properly start my moderation duties before mid-July or so. That's not really something I can do anything about at this point, since I booked those weeks and signed the contracts several months ago.)

Everything you say or said will be seen as "definitive" / "official" reference in crypto. Do you think you're wise enough for this kind of responsibility? How do you feel about this perception?

I post under my real name, and I generally try not to act in a way that I wouldn't want associated with that name. Hopefully, that's also good enough for SE. I don't know if I'm wise, but at least I try not to be a complete fool, even if I do make mistakes sometimes, like everyone else.

I certainly hope that having a ♦ after my name won't suddenly make people mistake me for a "definitive" authority on crypto. Certainly, I'll try not to give any such impression. That's why I have the disclaimer in my user profile. :)

Writing this, though, it does occur to me that, compared to the general population, even I am a crypto expert of sorts; the old saying about the one-eyed man in the land of the blind comes to mind. I'm not sure how that makes me feel. Slightly scared, perhaps.

We already had questions on crypto where the author modified the question heavily (30+ edits), extended it and asked to answer the updated question, which was based on the answers given to a previous version. How would you handle such a situation?

In SE jargon, these are called "chameleon questions", and there's a lot of discussion about them behind that link. They're typically symptomatic of an inexperienced user who doesn't really know what to ask, or one who's unfamiliar with Stack Exchange and thinks it's more like a discussion forum.

In my experience, these things are highly situational, but usually, if the question has been changed enough to completely invalidate existing good answers, the proper thing to do is to suggest to the author that they revert their question to its original form, and that they ask the modified version as a separate question. It may also be appropriate to revert the question yourself, and leave a comment to the author explaining why you did so, but this does require some care and tact to avoid needlessly offending the asker.

That said, sometimes it may also be appropriate to leave the edited question as it is, e.g. if the original version was very vague or borderline off topic, even if that means invalidating some early answers. Or sometimes it may be possible to edit the question into a form that incorporates both the original and the revised question, and that can be practically answered in a way that covers both of them. It all depends on the specifics.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

As I wrote when I ran for moderator on Math.SE last winter, I believe moderators have two main jobs:

  1. To act as a janitor and/or a handyman, doing stuff like handling flags, nuking spam, migrating misplaced questions and generally doing all the little fiddly tasks that other users either can't or just don't have time to do.

  2. To act as a moderator, smoothing tempers, guiding new users and generally trying to keep the community friendly, welcoming and professional. (Obviously, that also involves setting a good example myself, but that should apply to everyone anyway.) Mods don't really have any special powers for that (well, expect for private messages, and, as the nuclear option, account suspension), but it still comes with the job and the diamond.

We're lucky here on Crypto.SE not to have (so far) had nearly as much need for the second aspect of the job as many other SE communities have had. This really is a nice, professional and smoothly running little community with little if any interpersonal drama. But that doesn't make that aspect any less important in general.

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

There are several things that ♦ mods can do that regular users cannot, not even at 20k rep (or 4k, while we're still partially in beta). Moderators can handle custom flags, migrate questions (to any SE site, not just between main and meta), (un)delete comments and merge duplicate questions and tags. I believe those are the kinds of things I could help with. In some situations, I suspect the ability to instantly close and reopen questions could come in handy too.

(I should also note that having access to the SE moderator interface would make it easier for me to add fixes to that interface into SOUP. That's probably not a very good reason to elect me, though.)

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