2022 Moderator Election

nomination began
Sep 19 at 20:00
election began
Sep 26 at 20:00
election ended
Oct 4 at 20:00
candidates
2
positions
1

On Stack Exchange, we believe the core moderators should come from the community, and be elected by the community itself through popular vote. We hold regular elections to determine who these community moderators will be.

Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.

Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

Every election has three phases:

  1. Nomination
  2. Primary
  3. Election

Please participate in the moderator elections by voting, and perhaps even by nominating yourself to be a community moderator!

Additional Links

Questionnaire
The community team has compiled questions from meta for the candidates to 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?

[Answer 1 here]

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

[Answer 2 here]

  1. Do you think there are issues with the current tagging system? If so, what are they and what do you think might be a good way to deal with those?

[Answer 3 here]

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

[Answer 4 here]

  1. What kind of a role would you take as a moderator? How does that role differ from your current role as a user?

[Answer 5 here]

  1. For pseudonymous candidates: are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

[Answer 6 here]

  1. Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

[Answer 7 here]

  1. A community-specific question asked in both previous elections was: Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator?

[Answer 8 here]

  1. What time zone are you in?

[Answer 9 here]

  1. As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

[Answer 10 here]

Carl-Fredrik Nyberg Brodda

I believe that MO is an incredibly valuable space for teaching, learning, and understanding research-level mathematics, of a sort that I have not seen anywhere else. I would be very happy o get a chance to help out as a moderator to help keep this space as welcoming, useful and valuable to its visitors as I have found it. I have been active here for around four years, and I have a good feel for the site -- what constitutes good/bad questions, good/bad answers, relevant discussions, etc.

Just as in the 2021 election (in which I ran, see my answers here), I am primarily nominating myself to ensure that there is an active pool of (qualified) choices for moderators. I believe this is an important part of any democracy. There are many other users on this site who I believe are far more qualified than me to be a moderator -- I hope they nominate themselves!

Questionnaire
  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?

What do you call an inappropriate comment made by user X with $\geq 50000$ reputation on MathOverflow? Inappropriate. What do you call a good answer made by user X who frequently generates arguments? A good answer.

This, at least in principle, is a summary of my philosophy. In practice, I would likely take a more scrutinising look towards discussions of controversial topics involving user X, to ensure that as soon as (but not before!) the discussion turns sour/argumentative, this can be ended. The overwhelming majority of MO users do not wish to see such arguments.

Finally, I would likely wish to raise the issue with the user in question in private, to remind them of the community guidelines, and to ensure that they are aware of the effect their comments have on other users.

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

I would first and foremost ask the moderator in question in private. I would not override any decision before getting a very clear idea of all variables involved in the decision, which I trust was not made lightly.

(Answer copied from previous election)

  1. Do you think there are issues with the current tagging system? If so, what are they and what do you think might be a good way to deal with those?

On the whole, I find the system in principle sound (but am open to being convinced otherwise). I find the Wiki system rather strange to understand the precise usage of, especially for top level tags -- for example, the page for just seems like a very (overly?) brief list of topics, with no explanatory text. For some specific tags, e.g. , I have seen, and been involved in, discussions (e.g. this one on precisely what history questions should be allowed there (and more generally here on MO) with seemingly no resolution.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

I think the unique culture of MathOverflow is, beyond any doubt, something that should be preserved, but this is not preserved automatically. The biggest challenge to me will be preserving this culture, and ensuring the continued development of the community's diversity and inclusivity.

(Answer paraphrased from previous election)

  1. What kind of a role would you take as a moderator? How does that role differ from your current role as a user?

My primary goal as a moderator would be to ensure that the community is aware of the fact that someone is watching, listening, and taking action whenever issues and other negative situations arise, while also knowing that I will be taking a step back and not stand in the way of positive situations from arising. Currently, I do this in a much more limited manner via review queues, voting, and commenting (asking for clarity, ensuring questions have the correct format, etc.).

  1. For pseudonymous candidates: are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

Yes. I am using my real name (though I publish with the surname Nyberg-Brodda). I am currently a postdoc at Université Gustave Eiffel, working in combinatorial group and semigroup theory. I finished my PhD one year ago, in 2021.

  1. Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

I believe that MO's unique culture, which to me seems like a large mathematics department where everyone is welcome to discuss a question over coffee, or where one can ask the "expert down the corridor", is something very much worth preserving. At the same time, if changes are necessary, I think the community should be free (within the bounds of not causing harm) to find its own way, and to not have a strong hand force their way.

  1. A community-specific question asked in both previous elections was: Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator?

Yes, and yes. As a moderator, my work would primarily be reactive (welcoming new users on their first posts; steering diverging conversations; pointing out and taking action, if necessary, to unwelcome behaviour, etc), and so my main contribution to this issue would be in line with this, rather than proactive measures.

However, this is not to say that it would only be reactive; for example, I might raise meta issues about certain posts and how (un)welcome these are in our community, as we have seen in the past (e.g. about sexist jokes).

(Answer copied from previous election)

  1. What time zone are you in?

CEST (Paris, GMT+2).

  1. As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

I likely be the youngest member of the moderator team, both academically and age-wise. Coming from a progressive background in Sweden, I would also be strongly motivated and driven to work towards goals of diversity and equal representation on the moderator team. Last election, I was still a PhD student, which could bring a useful perspective -- "sadly", I have now finished this PhD. Nevertheless, I hope to bring the perspective of an early career researcher to the table.

David Roberts

I have been an active MO user for over a decade, I was "nominated" in the previous election by a third party, at which time I politely declined, and it was suggested again (privately) that I might run this time. I will let Francesco's words at the linked post stand in lieu of self-promotion, which I dislike having to do.

I do have a fairly comprehensive grasp on the culture of MO, on the unspoken rules (or the long-ago-written consensus, if you like), and what the aspirations by many for what MO should be. I have found MO an invaluable resource, being geographically isolated, and I hope many others can get as much benefit as I have been able to.

Questionnaire
  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?

A conversation would always come first. Asking the user what they hope to gain from such engagement, and whether they would consider thinking about how to concentrate on their positive contributions to MO. If such a person were using their real name, then pointing out the impact their online reputation will have on how others perceive them. If a pseudonymous user, this would obviously not really work, but trying to encourage away from arguments and putting energy into what the community finds useful. Were this to not work, evaluating based on past moderator interactions: were there suspensions? Were there broken promises to turn things around? What do the other moderators feel would be the optimal course of action? Ultimately, having MO be a good place is more beneficial than losing one answerer. Who would we be losing as potential users by valuing one person's answers over other actual people? This would be an extreme endgame, were the call to come down to brass tacks, as it indeed has done in the past. And not a step to take lightly or quickly. But it has been done in the past.

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

A lot depends on what harm such an action may have caused, if any. For the purposes of this answer, I will presume the mod in question isn't going off the deep end, and being a bad actor. I would double check the reason why, and point out my counter-argument, for instance, based on personal technical expertise. My own personal taste in MO questions is my own, though I have a reasonable feel for what "MO-level" is, modulo not knowing what might be standard beginning material might be in fields far from my own. If I could see a way to turn around what might be, on the surface, a question not suitable for MO, then I would make the case for how we could improve the thing, but it would be a discussion, and also checking with the OP to see if I was assessing their intent correctly.

  1. Do you think there are issues with the current tagging system? If so, what are they and what do you think might be a good way to deal with those?

Currently the software doesn't enforce choosing a top-level arXiv tag. This is not a massive flaw, but it can lead to new users picking up random ultra-specific (and sometimes non-relevant) tags. But I do wonder if having such a feature might improve the experience by allowing users to filter by arXiv field with greater confidence. I'm not sure otherwise.

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for MathOverflow as a site and as a community in the next few years?

Maintaining momentum long-term is always an issue for websites. I have seen long-term active users slowly drop out, and it is important for continuity that we have a steady supply of users with a longer-term commitment to MO, who are able to carry on with high-quality answers and questions, and to uphold community moderation. MO has a fearsome reputation, not wholly unearned, and having PhD students who have completely 'grown up' in the math.SE and MO ecosystem come on board can be tricky. Not to steal from math.SE, but once people are asking MO-level questions, it would be nice if they realised they could come over here and ask them.

On top of this, of course, MO has to compete with subject-specific semi-closed discussion channels, like Discord and Zulip, or even just social media in general where people who might not feel confident or comfortable on MO have found themselves a community they can ask questions of, particularly in a more informal manner. Particularly if MO cannot shake the unfriendly or even just imposing reputation it has gained, then we lose out recording the very useful answers that are available to the world. An answer here on MO helps more than just the OP!

  1. What kind of a role would you take as a moderator? How does that role differ from your current role as a user?

I would be acting in a way similar to how I currently do: general site maintenance/post improvement, looking at maintaining a professional and welcoming environment. But with stronger powers this would change for instance how I could eg vote to close off-topic posts. Spam posts would be easier to clear, with mod powers, but misguided eg apparently undergrad-level questions I would have to leave to non-mods to deal with. Rather I would be trying to demonstrate through comments the level of patient behaviour I hope we could all live up to. Certainly I might be a bit more active in prompting towards more fruitful discussions where matters to get out of hand.

  1. For pseudonymous candidates: are you a professional mathematician? In what capacity?

I am on MO using my real name. Whether I am still a professional mathematician might be debatable, as I don't have a full-time academic position, but I am still active in teaching and in research.

  1. Assuming a notion of "culture" as explained here, what would a newly elected moderator do to preserve it? Will there be more efforts to preserve the culture, or more to steer it toward things nearer to "what a Stack Exchange forum should be?"

I would resist efforts to make MO into a generic SE site. For example, productive discussion in comments is extremely valuable, akin to questions after a seminar. Were comments treated in the way that SE seems to want, we would have to be editing the content of comments into answers, somehow in a synthesis of the question/answer format in miniature under an answer. The precise nature of that back-and-forth can sometimes be rather useful, and a bland summary might remove useful information. Clearly, though, never-ending discussions are somewhat dissuaded by the software, and an off-topic discussion is useful to shunt into a separate chat room.

Mathematics is a place where very different people can end up, particularly people different to what one might over-generalisingly call 'the mainstream'. I'd be very much willing to let the use of the platform develop organically with the user-base (while within professional norms, community standards etc), as far as is permitted by the software.

  1. A community-specific question asked in both previous elections was: Do you think women are underrepresented in the MO community compared to the mathematical community as a whole? Is this a problem for MO? If so, what would you do about it as a moderator?

Absolutely, and it is a great pity. I have seen behaviour that has been unwelcoming, and heard from women who have declined to participate. Women mathematicians (and those from other marginalised groups) can choose to not participate on MO and look for alternative solutions (easier or harder, but I suspect a little easier these days, for some). If nothing else, encouraging people to participate pseudonymously (and consistently so, to build up a bank of MO-rep and so be more influential) if they are uncomfortable being identified seems to me to be one partial solution. I have no idea, however, how to even raise this concept among general non-MO mathematicians!

Day-to-day, I would try to model welcoming, thoughtful and professional behaviour to all new users. I would see what other, longer-term moderators have done as far as dissuading tactics when things get less than welcoming. I would be happy to zap comments etc that are clearly out of line, after some warning.

  1. What time zone are you in?

+0930 in the middle of the year, and +1030 around the ends of the year.

  1. As MathOverflow is growing, the diversity of the moderator team might become an issue of interest. As I understand, the present moderators have much in common, and women are, to say it that way, underrepresented. In which way do you think would you contribute to the diversity of the moderator team?

I tick all the privilege boxes, so I unfortunately do not help in this regard. I am willing to listen, though, and I'm conscious of the fact that my overall positive MO experience will not be necessarily replicated for others.

This election is over.