The following is a "digest" version of the 2012 Moderator Election Town Hall Chat. The format, as described on Meta Stack Overflow, is one answer to this question for every question asked in the Town Hall, containing all the candidate's answers to that question.

To view the digest chronologically, please sort the answers by "oldest".

If you have questions or comments about this, please do not answer this question as the answers are designed to be used for the questions from the Town hall itself. Instead, please ask on the parent question or in the Town Hall Discussion Room.

If you see any corrections which need to be made to this digest, or if you were a candidate who was unable to attend the town hall and would like your answers included, please @Rebecca or @TimStone in the chat room and let us know!


15 Answers 15

Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: New users often are not accustomed to the Stack Exchange system, and sometimes struggle to present themselves properly, either in the way they use the site or their attitude. How willing are you to work with "problematic" users, and at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth the effort?

JNK JNK answered: I'm more willing to spend the effort on DBA than I am on SO. For example today I spent around an hour helping a user figure out exactly what he wanted to ask, then told him to accept someone else's answer. I think if after a few attempts at reason, and making sure they understand your intent, it's OK to not bend over backwards. This is a site for professionals and enthusiasts and we need to treat everyone like adults.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: I've attempted to coach users in the past, with mixed success. Sometimes a user is inarticulate but has a genuine question. At some point it will be obvious that the user isn't even trying - normally you can tell that because they just don't seem to be changing their habits.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: I'd provide comments to the user, edits to the post where appropriate, and links to the relevant meta discussions with a summary of what they say. I've done this in the past and I think our mods have done a good job of this so far. After a few exchanges it will be obvious that the user is not getting it or does not want to get it, and that's when it's time to ignore the user or suspend their account (depending on their behavior).


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Do you tend to live inside a (set of) tag(s) or do you interact with the site as a whole?

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: I have the 'generalist' badge on SO. 'Nuff said. :)

JNK JNK answered: I answer mostly SQL Server related tags, but I read almost all the questions.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: Site as a whole. I'm not subscribed to any tags, and I haven't ignored any either. I pretty much read (and usually, then edit) everything.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Final thoughts from the candidates please?

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered:

final thought in dinosaur form

JNK JNK answered: I think we have an important time ahead of us for the growth of the site and the community. The good news is, I think any of the three of us would do a great job. The bad news is, I would do a better job than those other guys. But seriously, I think this is important and that this site could get a LOT bigger in the next year.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: If I wasn't standing I would say @NickChammas's stats indicates he would get through a decent volume of moderation work. Actually I am standing and I'd still stand by that. For my money he's the stand-out candidate on that basis.


jcolebrand jcolebrand asked: What is one thing that you think has been mishandled in the site thus far that you think you can contribute strongly to help correct?

JNK JNK answered: I'm not sure that I think anything has been necessarily mishandled. I do think that we can do a better job of encouraging migrations from SO. I'm pretty active with flagging those that fit better on DBA and being able to communicate directly with the other mods in real time would certainly help with that.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: Taking a quick look at our meta, I cannot remember any such issues. We had one issue with migrations, but that was handled well by the current mods.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: I think the site could do a better job of making it explicit that database development questions are considered in topic. This has some importance from the perspective of including B.I. content on the site. However, the FAQ does mention development.

  • Nick Chammas Nick Chammas remarked: I wouldn't phrase it as a "mishandled issue", but I totally agree, especially with the problems I've noted and the now expanded scope of the site to include BI. We need people to be aware that we do lots of stuff that they may not immediately associate with the term "DBA".

jcolebrand jcolebrand asked: How do you think problem users are best informed of their transgressions?

JNK JNK answered: I think responding with system message is probably best. You don't encourage anyone to change their behavior necessarily by calling them out in public - normally it makes them defensive and they dig their heels in.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Notification via the message, invitation to discuss in a chat room and then sanctions if they're willfully ignorant or anti-social. If they're genuinely struggling to articulate a real question, I'm not above stepping in and doing some editorial work on the question to clarify it.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: It depends on the severity of the issue and the history you've had with that user. At the start, generic comments on the problem post should be OK. Those are usually to the effect of "I see what you're saying; be civil." If it's an issue of policy (disagreement, challenges, etc.), a meta discussion may be appropriate. Otherwise, system messages and eventual suspension are necessary.


jcolebrand jcolebrand asked: What are your thoughts on the current logo?

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: Love it. Simple & stylish.

JNK JNK answered: I like it but it's not really clear when it's icon-sized. It looks like a blue dot basically.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Not much. It's a bit bland, but I haven't really put any thought into the visual style of the site. Iconography for an abstract concept like a database isn't a trivial graphic design challenge.


jcolebrand jcolebrand asked: What events do you think Database Administrators needs to attach itself to going forward, similar to how the Gaming site is participating in new game launches?

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: SQL in the sun :D

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells continued: We have a cabal here in the UK, so maybe we should organise some drink^H^H^H^H^Hconference events somewhere here. I'm sure it wouldn't necessarily be too hard to induce some of our colleagues from across the Atlantic to pop across as well. Not thinking of anyone in particular @AaronBertrand :)

JNK JNK answered: Product launches, i.e. SQL Server 2012. Also events like SQL Saturday (guest bloggers?), PASS, etc. I actually thought of DBA when I saw the post on meta.SO about attending events, since there are so many events for DBAs.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: I'm not familiar with what Gaming has done, but I can venture some possibilities for this: Product launches and conferences.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Two highly respected members of the community get in a comment war on a question. They both flag each other's comments and are cussing and it is clear that this is beyond a heated argument. What do you do, what don't you do?

JNK JNK answered: Delete the comments, and post one myself along the lines of "Please keep all comments on topic. Everyone participating here has been around long enough to know better." If it happens again, lock the post and try to pull them into chat.

JNK JNK continued: And I've seen the technique I mentioned work a lot on SO. Will is a pro at that.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Mainly drag them off into a chat and tell them 'time out', requesting they delete the inflammatory comments. Concepts like 'you're a community leader - behave like one' may be appropriate or not.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: If it's gotten to the point of cussing, with the agreement of other mods (if they're available), I immediately lock the posts in question and invite the belligerents to a private discussion to sort things out like people do. If that fails, it's stern messages and then the penalty box for both. What I don't do is let the issue escalate or spill over into other posts or areas of the site.


jcolebrand jcolebrand asked: What direction do you think the Database Administrators BlogOverflow blog needs to take? How do you see yourself helping to fulfill those needs?

  • jcolebrand noted: Yes, we have a blog, we need to launch it like a rocket and get it off the ground! :D

JNK JNK answered: I've already signed up to write posts, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? But seriously, I think we could encourage notables like Aaron Bertrand, Alex K, Remus, (sorry I don't know any non-SQL Server notables!) to contribute as well.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Several categories of content: (a) backgrounders on topics of interest, mainly intended for fan-out from postings - essentially an expansion on the FAQ concept. (b) News items as relevant (e.g. B.I. merge) (c) Google fodder of one sort of another (e.g. 'Virtual database servers considered harmful') (d) Technical insights that people have on some specific topic that may merit an article but not be directly linked to a question (e) Tutorial or other background material.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells continued: The basic strategy I'd like to do is to make DBA.SE (and the SE network in general) into the best reference site possible.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: 3 areas: Best practices, How to guides, and Frequently Asked Questions (which we, as a Q&A site, are uniquely familiar with). Basically, big topics with broad relevance.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: What do you think will be the biggest challenges facing the site in the coming year or so? Do you forsee growing pains, like lack of growth or difficulty attracting/retaining quality users? Something else?

JNK JNK answered: Optimistically I think we will start having more "big site" issues with new users and quality posts. I think as the awareness of the site increases we will get more and deeper questions, as well a lot of shallow newbie type questions of varying quality. From what I can tell experts like our site a lot, so more folks will be coming.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: I think DBA.SE hasn't quite crossed the chasm yet. The posting rate hasn't really been growing much as far as I understand. A lot of content is still being posted onto Stackoverflow. I would like to see a more proactive policy of moving on-topic material to DBA.SE, so maybe users would get the hint.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: There will be continued but decreasing friction from migrations. I'm worried about low answer rates in tag sections that are unpopular with our answerers but popular to the average web user. For example, I feel we don't have enough answering activity on the and tags, but that's just an off-the-cuff perception.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Is there an example you can describe/point-to that shows you taking initiative or showing leadership on the site in past actions?

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: The B.I. merger - I made the original Area51 proposal and approached @JackDouglas et. al about merging it into the scope of DBA.SE.

JNK JNK answered: I was partially responsible for the Great Migration of 2012 (which met with mixed success) of pulling over on-topic Qs from SO. I got called out by Shog9 for that, but at least I tried. I've also been really active (along with CoTW and GBN) in updating tag information.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: See my meta questions: Tag cleanup. Site rename. Flagging policy.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: Why do you want to be a moderator (ie, as opposed to a user with privs via high rep?)

JNK JNK answered: You can do more and have higher visibility as a mod. I think there's a lot of cross-site cooperation that could be done, and as I mentioned in a previous answer soliciting high profile experts to contribute which is better done as an official representative of the site.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Originally I suggested I could act as a moderator as 'B.I. wonk in residence.' on a pro-tem basis to help with the merger. At this point I think that I can do this just as well as a 10K+ rep user, and I'll probably reach that within the next few months, Mainly I'm interested in making DBA.SE into the database world's answer to that other S&A site (stack something was it?) for much the same reasons that Joel and Jeff wanted to start Stackoverflow.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: My participation stats (visible on the election page) compared to my rep show that I do moderator-type stuff on here about as much as I ask and answer questions. Being a mod will make that easier for me.

  • ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells asked: I was about to prompt you about that. Can you tell us something about your motivations in this - you're a prolific user-moderator, and I think you will probably get through a large chunk of mod workload. Could you elaborate on your perspective on this?

    Nick Chammas Nick Chammas responded: My motivation is that it's fun and that I've attached a personal sense of accomplishment to the performance of the site and the quality of the community and its output.

    ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells remarked: Just don't burn out. We like it this way :)

    Nick Chammas Nick Chammas responded: I'm sure, like all aspects of human nature, I'll go through phases where I do much more or less than average.

    ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells remarked: As a moderator you may well bump into shit-heads. Don't take it personally; they are the ones with the issues, not you.

    Nick Chammas Nick Chammas responded: Yeah, it will be a learning experience, as I'm sure @JackDouglas and @jcolebrand can relate. I liked how Jack handled the Turtle post (meta follow-up), for example, and I had to make an effort to stay out of it. :)


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: When you see a question with major issues (poorly-written, argumentative, etc.), what tool do you reach for first?

JNK JNK answered: Normally I start with a comment. If there's no clarification forthcoming then I VTC. Obviously as a mod I would wait a little longer on closing since it's immediate.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: A comment on the question, maybe directly intervening and editing the question, asking the user into chat to try and get them to clarify what their problem is. Then the user-moderation - VTC, flagging etc.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: First, I edit to improve the clarity, conformance to site standards, and English of the post. Then I comment to request additional information if I know what the user is talking about.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: How much time to you expect to dedicate towards being a moderator? Do you feel like this will impact your participation on the site as a normal user, and do you worry about finding the right balance between the two to keep things enjoyable?

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: No worries about balance for me, as I already spend more time day-to-day editing, flagging, and posting on meta.

JNK JNK answered: Probably 2-3 hours a day. I think it will affect my participation on SO more than on DBA. Our current question volume is low enough that I can read all the questions with no issue.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Currently we don't have a large volume of questions, so I suspect about 5-10 hours per week. I tend to make large posts but less frequently.


Tim Stone Tim Stone asked: Do you feel like a representative percentage of the community participates in your site's meta? Based on that, how strongly do you think feedback presented on meta should factor into your decision making as a moderator?

JNK JNK answered: I think Meta could be a lot more active. I don't think we have a representative set on there, but it's the people that care the most. However, I think it would be good to have a more diverse set of opinions there. Having said that, since the people participating on meta are by definition the most active and involved, their input needs to be considered seriously. The people that post on meta are the people that will grow the site.

ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells answered: Many of the 'regulars' participate in If the content on meta is relevant to a decision then it may inform some decision or judgement. However, a meta posting is not necessarily a binding referendum. The group of 'regulars' is quite small, though. It may expand as DBA.SE gets more traction.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas answered: I look at this list and note all the users above Shog9 in participation. As a rough measure, this tells me we have a small but important number of people actively participating on meta. As the system of record for discussions about the site, there is no alternative to using the feedback on there in my moderating activities.

Nick Chammas Nick Chammas continued: What I can do is encourage people in comments and in chat to say their piece on meta so it's on the record and their vote is counted.


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