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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. Due to the lack of submission count, we have selected all provided questions as well as 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.

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 is your personal view of the role of CSTheory: in particular, please post an answer to Gil Kalai's question here.

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?

What is your personal view of the role that CSTheory should/will/does play in the greater TCS community?

Practically, one of the most important roles of a moderator, is to decide which questions to close, if at all. There are several attitudes toward this problem. Do you think that referring specifically to the user who asks the question and his or her perceived capabilities (e.g., "lack of mathematical maturity", as expressed by some moderators) is a legitimate reason (or part of a reason) for closing a question? Or should you judge a question only by its own merits?

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

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

We often get low quality or obsolete or chatty flags. Based on early discussions the moderators normally don't take any action and dismiss them as not requiring moderator intervention. Do you think we should continue this way or change the policy?

This is one of my concerns about long term health of the site. Do you consider the primary goal of this Q&A site to be helping researchers in theoretical computer science and related fields to get help with their research?
If you do how should we deal with persistent trouble making users who try to abuse the site for their own wishes? E.g. users who are not researchers in theoretical computer science or any related field and insist on posting questions/answers/comments that are off-topic by the site's policies, e.g. cranks that want to use the site to verify or draw attention to their attempts on famous open problems?
How can we make sure the site will not be overridden by users who are not researchers so cstheory does not suffer the faith of other online open resources for researchers like Usenet groups? (Keep in mind that with the current amount of community participation in closing we are going to have very serious trouble if the number of such users with 3k+ reputation reaches 5).

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  • $\begingroup$ hi all, my answer to 1st question & my personal results are already in here. still stand as a candidate and am interested in the job. however, unless my heartfelt personal intro there gets a nonzero total upvote (feel free to add any either way) it is probably a waste of time (for us all) for me to submit answers to all these questions no matter how fun it'd be. am judging the election will go by way of rep. urge my loyal fans to vote for me, but frankly, in all honesty, seem to have "<0" after two years of heavy participation on this site $\endgroup$ – vzn Jan 24 '14 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ also, have already cast my vote for the other 3 fine candidates. hope that we can work/coexist together on this site in the future no matter what happens in the election. part of my volunteering was my judgement of the situation at the time that it might be my only possible option to guarantee forcing out one of the current moderators based on only one other volunteer. if I lose the election however, will ask the new moderators if it is acceptable to a posteriori post my philosophies of moderation/leading in general & of this group on this thread & that they might consider & take into acct. $\endgroup$ – vzn Jan 24 '14 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn why do you want to wait to post your views until after the election, when you have a chance to officially express your views now in the form of answers to these questions? $\endgroup$ – Lev Reyzin Jan 25 '14 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ hi @LevReyzin! after decades of hanging out in cyberspace & [believe it or not] modding my own group for many yrs, & observing human behavior in cyberspace, & plugging into this group for 2yrs, have lots of ideas on the subj, but dont nec want the mod job, frankly it doesnt sound too great sometimes! just want a place to write down ideas, think out loud, have some chance to influence others, its ok w/me if ppl downvote/castigate/ignore them, but what really annoys me is when they get deleted.... which to me seems like suppression verging on censorship... $\endgroup$ – vzn Jan 26 '14 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ There are lots of places where one can write whatever ideas come to one's mind and try to influence others, eg. a blog. But on this site, the "ideas" have to be in the form of questions, and these questions ought to be research-level TCS questions adhering to our policy. If they're not, the right outcome is for them to be closed/deleted. Now the ideal way to achieve that outcome is via high-rep user votes. But if this doesn't happen, it is absolutely the job of moderators to keep the site from deteriorating by, yes, removing inappropriate content. $\endgroup$ – Lev Reyzin Jan 26 '14 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ @lev agreed. however the devil is in the details ... was talking also about meta in prior comment which imho should allow more informality/tolerance. ps hopefully openminded moderators might, instead of fixating on adhering to conventions etc, realize/consider there are many other ways for the overall site to "deteriorate" such as lack of diversity, lack of openness/ collegiality, lack of promotion, and/or lack of engagement/participation esp by sr members, etc.... $\endgroup$ – vzn Jan 27 '14 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ if I haven't made a mistake in running OpenSTV @Lev and @‚ÄĆArtem are our new moderators. Congratulations! :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 28 '14 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! (I just ran it too and got the same results.) $\endgroup$ – Lev Reyzin Jan 28 '14 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ hi all re earlier comments. election is over and there was not much luv expressed in meta for my candidacy, but did get a respectable showing anyway! thx for your support! please upvote this comment if you regard yourself as openminded & might have voted for me if you liked my answer to this question & it could have chged your vote and/or would further support me posting my ideas/views on moderating this group and cyber groups in general. on other hand will hereby generally refrain from further musing on the subj in meta unless some threshhold of votes is reached. $\endgroup$ – vzn Jan 29 '14 at 19:54
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What is your personal view of the role of CSTheory: in particular, please post an answer to Gil Kalai's question here.

As a graduate student, I find that in my studies and research I am only exposed to a certain small part of theoretical computer science. This website allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of other subfields and see what sort of questions are interesting others and how they think about certain problems. As such, I think cstheory is primarily a great way to bring the community together.

In the longer term, my hope is to use the algorithmic lens as a viewpoint on other sciences and I hope others do so as well. If non-computer scientists start using tools from cstheory then this website (and its placement among other science and math websites in the SE network) could provide a great way for us to engage with them, and share our knowledge while figuring out what problems they want to use our tools to address.

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 would address the specific flags through comments, discuss with the other moderators, and if the behavior persists contact the user over chat. If direct communication with the user does not resolve the issue then I would consider a suspension for some amount of time and contact over email (if such means are available).

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

I would contact the mod in private. If after a discussion we are still unsure of the decision then I would raise the question in meta for input from the community. However, I doubt this would come up since in my experience so far I have not seen closed questions for which I disagreed with closing.

What is your personal view of the role that CSTheory should/will/does play in the greater TCS community?

In my answer to the first question, I described my views for this site in cstheory and the larger scientific community. I think we are already moving toward this organically, but it might help to show more clearly why cstheory is a worthwhile part of a researcher's workflow by generating more answers to lists like:

*References to cstheory in the literature

Practically, one of the most important roles of a moderator, is to decide which questions to close, if at all. There are several attitudes toward this problem. Do you think that referring specifically to the user who asks the question and his or her perceived capabilities (e.g., "lack of mathematical maturity", as expressed by some moderators) is a legitimate reason (or part of a reason) for closing a question? Or should you judge a question only by its own merits?

I think it is important to judge questions by their own merit. The only time I would let my knowledge of the users previous activity affect my decision is if I am unsure about the questions. However, in these cases of being unsure, I will never act before the community voices their opinion.

There is a special case of questions that accidentally capture a deeper issue, and are simple when read at a surface level but significant at a deeper level. In this case, I think it is important to engage with the user through comments to see if this deeper exploration will serve the user, or if they were just looking for the easy answer. This is often a judgement of the users "mathematical maturity". If they were not looking for a deeper discussion, and the question is fine otherwise, I would consider migration to CS.SE.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators should interfere as little as possible with community self-governance, and act decisively only in clear cut cases where the community guidelines are already set. Moderators should also act as unbiased intermediaries in case of heated discussions and encourage good behavior by example.

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?

It will not change how I ask or answer questions. However, I will actively take note to make sure my comments are always unbiased, constructive, and within community norms.

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

The only differences I know is the binding vote and diamond (I guess there are also some drastic actions like suspension, but I will hopefully never have to use those). As someone that spends an unreasonable amount of time on the internet, the binding vote will allow me to act decisively and quickly in clear cut cases. Since "close" now means "on hold", this will hopefully improve questions. The diamond will allow me to set a good example in my actions on the site.

We often get low quality or obsolete or chatty flags. Based on early discussions the moderators normally don't take any action and dismiss them as not requiring moderator intervention. Do you think we should continue this way or change the policy?

I would encourage use of our third space (i.e. the chat room) to avoid some of the chatty discussions. However, otherwise I would leave the decision on this policy to more experienced moderators or the community (maybe we should raise a meta discussion on this?).

This is one of my concerns about long term health of the site. Do you consider the primary goal of this Q&A site to be helping researchers in theoretical computer science and related fields to get help with their research?

As I mentioned in my first answer, I see helping researchers with their research as only part of the goals of this site. I think it is also a way to communicate with other disciplines, and a way to build community. Further, it is a way for future researchers to keep an idea of what the community is interested in, and learn from reading others questions and answers.

If you do how should we deal with persistent trouble making users who try to abuse the site for their own wishes? E.g. users who are not researchers in theoretical computer science or any related field and insist on posting questions/answers/comments that are off-topic by the site's policies, e.g. cranks that want to use the site to verify or draw attention to their attempts on famous open problems?

We already have a policy on crank-friendly preprints and topics, I will enforce this policy. I don't think we have gotten too many problems with cranky users, especially compared to other SE sites. We have a great community that already deals with this well.

How can we make sure the site will not be overridden by users who are not researchers so cstheory does not suffer the faith of other online open resources for researchers like Usenet groups? (Keep in mind that with the current amount of community participation in closing we are going to have very serious trouble if the number of such users with 3k+ reputation reaches 5).

We can make sure of this by continuing to ask great research-level questions and providing amazing answers. However, I do agree that the reputation mechanism on the site is broken and it is easy for a persistent user to accumulate reputation. These sort of users are unavoidable, and in most cases they don't cause much trouble. However, if a specific user continually upsets the community then I will proceed as in the "large number of arguments/flags" question: discuss with the user and community and suspend if necessary.

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  • $\begingroup$ hi, a fan of your blog & have commented there in past. question. wonder if you think Wolfram should be given any credit for promoting the algorithmic lens & what your opinion is on his contributions(?) to TCS. he seems not to be cited on your blog site (except in comments here) $\endgroup$ – vzn Jan 24 '14 at 21:48
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What is your personal view of the role of CSTheory: in particular, please post an answer to Gil Kalai's question here.

A more obvious role for CSTheory is as a "crowdsourced" knowledge base. Searching for mathematical knowledge is quite difficult, especially when you are even a little bit away from your core field of expertise. The combined expertise of CSTheory participants is a really effective way for finding that elusive theorem, or reference.

There is another role of CSTheory that I care very much about, but is harder to explain. What I have in mind is closely related to Thurston's On Proof and Progress in Mathematics. As with other fields of math, we record progress in TCS in a formal style in technical papers. We also give technical talks, and seminars. However TCS is much more than a collection of proven theorems, and algorithms. A community of researchers shares intuitions, heuristics, mental models, and all of these are essential to making progress in TCS and keeping it alive. Mind you, often these insights are specific to subfields of TCS. These aspects of our culture are hard to capture in technical articles and talks, and we need other means of communicating them. This can be through tutorials, workshops, expository writing, monographs. And also through CSTheory. Here a researcher unfamiliar with some subfield of TCS can tap the collective wisdom of experts, ask for the intuitions and motivations behind theorems, proofs, and definitions.

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 flags are caused by the user's breaching community guidelines and by disrespectful behavior, I would warn them via comments. If this is not effective, and the disrespectful behavior continues, I would suspend them for a period of time. If the user's behavior makes CSTheory hostile and unwelcoming, this will likely put off many other users. The "steady stream of valuable answers" will not be worth losing many other valuable experts and making CSTheory unpopular.

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

I would bring up the question in meta, so that we can both get feedback from the community. At the end of the day, community consensus should prevail, and I would of course accept the consensus decision, no matter whether I entirely agree with it.

What is your personal view of the role that CSTheory should/will/does play in the greater TCS community?

To a large extent this is answered by what I wrote for the first question. In order for CSTheory to play the role I wrote about, we would need participation from experts in most of the active fields of TCS. I think there are fields where we would benefit from wider representation.

Practically, one of the most important roles of a moderator, is to decide which questions to close, if at all. There are several attitudes toward this problem. Do you think that referring specifically to the user who asks the question and his or her perceived capabilities (e.g., "lack of mathematical maturity", as expressed by some moderators) is a legitimate reason (or part of a reason) for closing a question? Or should you judge a question only by its own merits?

I think basing decisions on the level of maturity of the user is the wrong way to go. Questions should stand on their own. It may be rare that an inexperienced user stumbles into a nice, specific enough question, but it has happened. At the end, the artefact that remains for the community is the question and the answers. And if a question is close enough, it can be edited to make it just right (but reworking questions entirely is not acceptable).

On the other hand there are questions that are so broad and vague that they do capture, almost by accident, some deep issue. It is better if such question is closed, but feedback is given to the users so that they can improve their question to focus on the interesting issue.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators resolve issues (by resolving flags and closing questions) that need immediate attention, and where the action to be taken is clear (in terms of broad consensus or accepted community rules). Moreover, by virtue of their role, they can and should start discussions on issues important to the community, and they should lead by example in setting standards in CSTheory.

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?

It will be a reminder to act in balanced and responsible way. But it will not change the way I answer and ask questions.

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

Binding close votes would enable me to take immediate action where such action is needed. The ability to suspend users would allow me to deal with particularly disruptive situations, in extreme cases. Moreover, the status as a moderator would allow me to lead by example in setting community standards.

We often get low quality or obsolete or chatty flags. Based on early discussions the moderators normally don't take any action and dismiss them as not requiring moderator intervention. Do you think we should continue this way or change the policy?

I do agree that a low quality flag that does not point to a real issue does not require intervention. A chatty flag that does raise a legitimate concern (in a chatty way) may require attention, however.

This is one of my concerns about long term health of the site. Do you consider the primary goal of this Q&A site to be helping researchers in theoretical computer science and related fields to get help with their research? If you do how should we deal with persistent trouble making users who try to abuse the site for their own wishes? E.g. users who are not researchers in theoretical computer science or any related field and insist on posting questions/answers/comments that are off-topic by the site's policies, e.g. cranks that want to use the site to verify or draw attention to their attempts on famous open problems? How can we make sure the site will not be overridden by users who are not researchers so cstheory does not suffer the faith of other online open resources for researchers like Usenet groups? (Keep in mind that with the current amount of community participation in closing we are going to have very serious trouble if the number of such users with 3k+ reputation reaches 5).

This is a hard question. I think the community has been good at downvoting and closing low-quality questions, and questions that clearly have an agenda that is incompatible with the goals of the site. We have also been mostly good at downvoting low-quality answers. Unfortunately, over a long period of time a user can collect a substantial amount of points from a large number of mediocre answers (say no more helpful than a Google search). The best way I can see of addressing this situation within the system is prompt moderator action in closing questions that are posted simply to draw attention to a crank's attempts at solutions of open problems. The site's tools should work fine if the level of participation from the community is high, and in order to keep the community's interest in the site we need to keep the questions on topic (research level, in TCS). Besides using the moderation tools, leaving comments on inappropriate questions, moderators could also set an example by posting questions that are at the appropriate level for CSTheory, or by encouraging users to post good questions/answers initially left in the comments.

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What is your personal view of the role of CSTheory: in particular, please post an answer to Gil Kalai's question here.

I think there are many roles for CSTheory. Some students might want to browse the site to decide if TCS is right for them. Some researchers might use it as an occasional resource. Others feel the site gives them a community they otherwise wouldn't have. All of these seem to be valid roles for the site.

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 would resolve the flags as appropriate and comment on their inappropriate posts explaining why they are against the policy/spirit of the site. If that doesn't help, my next steps would very much depend on the reason for the large number of flags. If their intentions seemed genuine, I would be patient. But if it were clear, for instance, that the user is just insulting people for fun or to troll, I would consider suspending them for a period of time.

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

I would contact the mod privately and discuss with them. I think such problems will not be frequent here.

What is your personal view of the role that CSTheory should/will/does play in the greater TCS community?

I think it could be (and already is) a great resource for the community. It would be great if most TCS researchers joined this site and participated. However, the site's role in the community may evolve organically, as these things often do.

Practically, one of the most important roles of a moderator, is to decide which questions to close, if at all. There are several attitudes toward this problem. Do you think that referring specifically to the user who asks the question and his or her perceived capabilities (e.g., "lack of mathematical maturity", as expressed by some moderators) is a legitimate reason (or part of a reason) for closing a question? Or should you judge a question only by its own merits?

Mostly by its own merits. If you know that the person asking the question is, for example, a famous researcher, then it makes sense to re-evaluate the question with this in mind. But a bad question is a bad question.

In your opinion, what do moderators do?

Moderators basically should try to keep the site running smoothly with as little intervention as possible. This involves deleting content that doesn't belong, stopping arguments that get out of hand, guiding new users, etc.

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?

That's fine with me. (Though if I were running the stackexchange site, I might have chosen a different design decision.)

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

The software makes moderator votes immediately binding, so this lets them resolve egregious issues more quickly. Of course moderators also have access even 20k users do not. However, more importantly, because moderators are elected by the community, they can speak for the community in a way high rep users cannot. This also means that moderators should be more careful in what they say and how they use their privileges.

We often get low quality or obsolete or chatty flags. Based on early discussions the moderators normally don't take any action and dismiss them as not requiring moderator intervention. Do you think we should continue this way or change the policy?

This seems to make sense as a policy. But I don't have experience dealing with flags, so if Suresh or the other mods think the policy needs to be changed, I'd defer to them.

This is one of my concerns about long term health of the site. Do you consider the primary goal of this Q&A site to be helping researchers in theoretical computer science and related fields to get help with their research?
If you do how should we deal with persistent trouble making users who try to abuse the site for their own wishes? E.g. users who are not researchers in theoretical computer science or any related field and insist on posting questions/answers/comments that are off-topic by the site's policies, e.g. cranks that want to use the site to verify or draw attention to their attempts on famous open problems?
How can we make sure the site will not be overridden by users who are not researchers so cstheory does not suffer the faith of other online open resources for researchers like Usenet groups? (Keep in mind that with the current amount of community participation in closing we are going to have very serious trouble if the number of such users with 3k+ reputation reaches 5).

The bigger such problems become, the more active moderators have to be. So far, we've been pretty good at closing crank questions. I would strongly prefer questions be closed by the community, and I would try to cast close votes only as fifth votes. However, if the site gets over-run by attention-seekers and it becomes evident that the community is ill-equipped to deal with them, then I (in consultation with the other mods) would become more active in closing and deleting content. If certain people are persistently abusing the site, they can be suspended. If the scope of this site is to change, it should be by community discussion, not by spammers.

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