Let's try to get this election finally started. If you have any questions you want to ask all the candidates (I hope there will be more soon!), please do so here, so that we can keep things organized.

  • Do we want a list of 'standard' questions for all of the candidates to answer? I see that other sites have gone down this route.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 21:15
  • @Joseph: That was the main intention of this “question”.
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 21:16
  • @Caramdir: Ah, I see. Questions as comments here with answers by the candidates, or questions as 'answers' here with real answers in the candidate statements?
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 21:17
  • 2
    @Joseph: no idea. Maybe questions as CW answers with candidates editing their answer in? I think this is what math.SX did. (Not that I expect lots of questions—TeX.SX is a rather calm and noncontroversial place.)
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 21:21
  • Any chance of a question I can answer :-)
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 8:21
  • @Joseph: see below.
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 16:58
  • 1
    We could hyperlink user names within the answers to the main site user profile.
    – Stefan Kottwitz Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 14:33
  • Could those asking the questions 'sign' them, as with the edits to answer them this rather important point gets lost :-)
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:16
  • @Joseph : done.
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:28
  • @Caramdir: thanks for that
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:30

7 Answers 7


Alan Munn: Andrew Stacey in chat said the following: I think for a moderator I'd want someone who participated in all aspects of the site, and that includes asking questions.

My question to candidates is how important do you think one's having asked questions is to being a moderator?

Joseph Wright That is a good, tough, question. I'm a pretty experienced LaTeX user and TeX programmer, so have relatively few questions that really fit the site (so far I've only asked one). (The few things I do ask about tend to go to c.t.t, where there are some very experienced TeX programmers.) I hope that has not made me a bad moderator, as in the past I've asked enough questions elsewhere to know how to phrase a good question. So I'd say that asking lots of questions here is not crucial to being a good moderator. What's needed is patience with new members of the community and the ability to explain what makes a good question.

lockstep: I don't think having asked many questions is important for qualifying as a moderator. Stefan Kottwitz and Joseph Wright IMO have been performing excellent as pro tem mods while asking only 4 resp. 1 question(s).

I do think, though, that Andrew hit on something important in his chat remark: I wouldn't vote for a mod candidate who only seldom or never casts votes on question/answers. Separating the wheat from the chaff (so to speak) and making the best questions highly visible is a core aspect of the site.

Caramdir: I guess it does certainly help to know the site from both perspectives, but as the pro tem moderation team has show that it is not strictly necessary. More important is to know how to ask a good question and to have some patience with new users that don't know that yet.

Matthew I was first drawn to this site by a question, and I've definitely asked my fair share and upvoted hundreds of answers. As a I moderator I would obviously draw upon that experience and treat all users, especially n00bs, with respect. I can't say that it would make me a better moderator than Joseph (just to use an example of someone who admits he hasn't), but it would make me a better moderator than a version of myself without the experience of the question.

Martin Scharrer: I think that active participation and knowledge of all aspect of tex.sx is important for a moderator. Asking questions is important, but might be one of the lower priorities a moderator should concentrate on. However, asking the right questions which aren't discussed yet, even if the answer is already known to this person, could help to make this site even more valuable then it is right now. Also I can fully understand that some power users, especially well known Gurus, do not come into the situation to need to ask (real) questions here.

To pick up the other topic lockstep already mentioned above: I also think voting is a much better indicator of the community involvement of a moderator-to-be. This sites lives from votes! Not only to distinguish the good answers from the less good ones, but also to elevate the good users and give them the privileges they deserve and need to participate even more. Votes are our form of spice and as we all know The spice must flow!

Martin Tapankov: I don't think the two are related. As already pointed out, our current moderators weren't the most avid question askers, but did a commendable job nevertheless. The moderators should know how to tell a good question apart from a bad one, and how to deal with substandard ones (comment, edit, close, delete). Tolerance and "human touch" towards new users is far more important

Stefan Kottwitz I think it's important to get familiar with all aspects of the site. This includes the experience of creating one or more questions with our site interface but also dealing with the answers: voting some up or down, how many, which one to choose for accepting, giving feedback in comments, receiving comments and reacting to that. It took me some time to figure out some own questions, because I know how to find answers myself and I'm used to that. But I wished to try posting questions and so I found some which were interesting for me, real and not just for testing--respecting answering TeX users and appreciating their feedback.

Seamus I ask a lot of questions, but I don't think that qualifies me to be a good moderator. I obviously think the questions I ask are good questions and I don't think they should ever require moderator attention. I suppose one aspect of asking questions that is relevant to moderating is thinking carefully about whether a question is a duplicate. I suppose that if you weren't in the habit of asking questions regularly, you might have a different attitude towards this issue. I think when you're learning this stuff, there are questions that seem quite distinct that are obviously the same question to experienced users. So perhaps my having asked a lot of questions makes me more lenient on duplicates?

  • 1
    lockstep writes: only seldom or never casts votes on question/answers - this is a very important metric, IMO. I asked about this in the cstheory.sx election. Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 17:10
  • 1
    Having read the answers, I'd like to concur with the general sentiment that it's not necessary to ask questions to be a moderator. The context for the original comment was about certain people who seem to only answer questions, I picked on the fact that they didn't ask questions as an indicator that they weren't fully involved with this site. But a low rank on one indicator isn't fully indicative, rather one should use several indicators. (Also, to be clear, the people in question are extremely valuable to this site and (ctd) Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:31
  • (ctd) what we were discussing was whether or not they would want to be moderators. A great thing about the SE system is that it allows a wide level of participation and all add value to the site and thus to the community.) Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:32
  • @Andrew I deliberately took your line out of context, since I didn't want this to be about anyone in particular. (Although as someone who has never asked a question, maybe this is all about me :-) ) It just seemed to me that it was a worthwhile discussion to have. And I also agree that lack of voting is certainly not indicative of lack of contribution; but as far as moderating goes it strikes me as quite important.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:45
  • fair enough; I felt that on reading the replies that I wanted to clarify a little and (basically) say that the candidates weren't particularly out of line with my views. I could point out that whilst I do okay on asking questions, I'm absolutely rubbish at voting and for a moderator that's probably the more important of the two. (But then I'm not a candidate so my point of view shouldn't count.) Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 22:24

Seamus: Do you see it as the job of the moderator to write tag wikis, and not just approve edits suggested by other users?

Martin Tapankov: I see it the responsibility of top users in a tag (mods or not) to provide good tag wikis and approve changes. I don't think there should be a distinction in this context. Having at least an excerpt helps during (re)tagging and tag organization (usually performed by mods anyway), so the moderators have some extra incentive to establish some guidelines when a specific tag should be applied or not.

Matthew No. And if you are looking for a moderator to make significant contributions in this regard, do not vote for me because I will disappoint you. I am happy to keep contribution to questions and answers and being a camp counselor but I don't want to tempt myself into spending a lot of time writing tag wikis. I will seek out and recruit tag wiki authors.

lockstep: For subject areas where they are knowledgeable, community moderators have a higher-than-average responsibility for writing (and revising) tag wikis. For other areas, they should rather pester the "top users" to get some wiki entries started. Once the initial work is done, moderators may suggest possible additional content and act as copy editors.

Caramdir: No. That is the responsibility of all users who have been here sufficiently long to know what the various tags are about. On the other hand, I think the mods have a higher than average responsibility in editing and improving the tag wiki pages (e.g. by correcting spelling and trying to keep them consistent), as the list of recent tag wiki changes is only visible with the mod/10k tools.

Martin Scharrer: The moderators should make sure that important tasks on tex.sx are getting done. Tag wiki pages are IMHO important. As I already wrote in my candidature post I would like to encourage all users to provide good tag wiki suggestions. I made many tag wiki suggestions already in the past and as moderator I will continue to do so even more. I would like to get every user to make suggestions for the tags they are most knowledgeable in. Some tags still need some clarification. Sometimes I'm not sure which area they exactly cover. This things can and should be discussed on Meta. A have the idea to compile a list of to-be-edited tag wiki pages for the more important and frequently used tags.

Joseph Wright Moderators are high-reputation members of the community in most cases, and so do have a place in writing tags where they do know about them. However, that's purely a member of the community, not as a moderator per se. So I would not expect any additional responsibility on moderators in respect of tag writing. (My answer is therefore very similar to several of the other candidates: whether you regard this as a good thing I don't know.)

Stefan Kottwitz Writing tag wikis is a joint effort. I assume mainly tag specialists would edit wikis where they are the experts or propose edits. Moderators could help and keep looking at it in order to keep a good standard. I edited a number of tag wikis, but feeling as a user, not as a moderator. However, moderators could show ideas. For example, I can imagine tag wikis for broad tags being like a good structured mini web site: starting with a description, showing a list of related packages and listing remarkable question on this site, sorted by sub topic, further showing sub tags and closely related tags. This is an idea for the future when we will have to manage a huge amount of material.

Seamus Yes, I think that moderators should have more responsibility for the tag wiki than the rest of us. That doesn't mean that they should write tag wikis for tags they aren't familiar with, that would be counter-productive. But they should make sure the wikis are well structured, clearly written with working links. And if the moderators also happen to be experts in some tags, they certainly should take it upon themselves to write them up.


(In a desperate attempt to find some difference between the candidates)

Andrew Stacey: I think that tex-SE is doing very well, and is on a good track. But I'd like to see it going further, with positive second derivative as well as first. What would you like to see the community doing that it isn't currently doing?

(Note that I'm not necessarily asking for what you yourself would do (though you can answer that), but what you would look to encourage the community to do.)

Joseph Wright One area that I think would help the moderators is more voting to close, etc., by high-reputation users. The model for SO is that most things happen on a community basis, so as we get more high reputation users then there should actually be less for the moderators to do.

I guess one thing I'd want to avoid is 'mission creep'. The SO model works well for what it does: answering specific questions. However, there are other places to hold general discussion or to run a 'curated' FAQ. The {TeX} site is good, but it's not a panacea and I would not like to see this as the only place for TeX-related support.

Caramdir: The most important part is simply having good answers and easy to find knowledge. Then Google (and so on) will keep new users flowing in. Moderators are playing an important role here (though the majority of the editing/organizing work is of course done by the community as a whole). Improving questions is helping a lot for getting the search engines to find them.

Apart from that, I liked some of the ideas discussed in How about a "Featured TeX" post?. Featured answers could potentially increase answer quality (simply by pointing out what a good answer looks like) and some typesetting competitions can increase the amount of community involvement (and get some more people to read meta more frequently).

Matthew I like the idea of featuring some longer contributions. Although we're good at answering many questions, we are answering some of them several times ("What is @ for?") still and perhaps featuring some of our most popular answers will get those frequently asked questions a bit less frequently asked.

I think there should be some more "fun" questions as well, perhaps on meta. I understand on StackOverflow Fridays are a day to ask more free-form questions and it would be enjoyable to shoot from the hip once in a while. As long as it's vaguely TeX-related.

I have also considered a bit more active recruitment. Currently our questions are very findable so googlers are reaching us. But we could also make an effort to invite package developers and mailing lists users to join the site. I had even proposed a flier or trinket to distribute at meetings where a lot of TeX users attend (e.g., the Joint AMS/MAA Meetings). Where we would get the funds for that kind of thing is a another question, but it's an idea.

lockstep At the moment, the vast majority of questions is about specific, sometimes pressing issues (like "Why is symbol xy not showing up?"). I'd like to see the community ask more questions about broader issues (best practices, pros and cons of different approaches to solve a problem). An excellent example is Seamus' question about Theorem packages. It probably makes our site more prominent at Google, but above that, it's a great resource for "power users" and developers.

Martin Tapankov: Collaboration. Although CW posts are used sometimes when answering questions (I do when summarizing answers from my questions), it is rare that somebody comes along and decides to edit and append the post instead of adding their own. I understand that people do this out of respect towards others' work (and sometimes to get some rep themselves), but when I mark a post CW, I'd very much like somebody to come along to improve it, if they deem necessary. I think we can do more to promote collaboration on (some aspects of) the site.

Martin Scharrer: Like Andrew said, the site is already doing very well. In some points it might be (even) better organized. For example I miss a site-map here which tells you about all the links and pages which exist. Some of them can't even be reached through hyper-links on the site and others are difficult to find.
Other things were already mentioned, like tag wikis and close votes.
I could also imaging some form of polls or surveys on meta. On http://perlmonks.org, a perl user site similar to SX but written of course in Perl, these surveys are interesting and/or funny. This could be done on Meta quite tidy in one thread (aka question) with small surveys as "answers". The real survey answers are then pre-defined comments anyone can up-vote.

Another idea for improvement popped into my mind several times while seeing some bad user code on this side is to create more community wiki pages which describe some common errors and best practices. Maybe an own small version of LaTeX tabu and some small How To's. These pages make then excellent link targets from other questions. Google favors this site and therefore these pages will be found quickly by people which looking for it. In my opinion the community wiki format gives an excellent platform for these kind of shared posts. As moderator I like to encourage the creation and maintenance of these pages.

  • Matthew: I know that SE has a bit of money for this sort of thing. I think that their slogan is that if we come up with the ideas, they'll match it with money. Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 19:34
  • @MartinScharrer: A site map would be something one should probably request on meta.SO (and hope that it not already asked for and "status-declined" as some other things). Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 8:03
  • @Hendrik: There are questions about a sitemap on meta.SP, but they all talk about sitemap.xml which lists really all sites (or the most recent 50k(!) questions) of SO, i.e. for Google. I will open one for the kind of sitemap page I'm talking about. BTW: your entry in "Why haven't you volunteered yet?" is still missing! ;-) Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 9:41
  • 2
    @Hendrik: I now have created a sitemap feature request on meta.SO. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 10:15
  • @Martin: On meta.SO, in the first line, you want to point out that your not talking about ...; "ensure" sounds strange, I think. Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 11:24
  • @Hendrik: Thanks. Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 11:39

Charles Stewart: For non- pro tem moderators: Do you see your involvement with the site changing if you were elected? For instance, would you use chat more?

Martin Tapankov: Absolutely. I'd like to be more active on the site organization front -- cleanup, merging questions (where necessary), composing comprehensive CW answers, etc.

Additionally, I think the chat has been sadly underused since its introduction, and I can see how it can be of utility for various small support questions, TeX-related announcements, light troubleshooting, short-term issues and of course a bit of idle chat in between. I've seen some instances where a question or an answer has started long and interesting discussions between people, often going beyond the topic of the question itself, and these are ideal uses for chat.

Caramdir: It probably wouldn't change too much. With enough rep, users can do most of the housekeeping stuff without moderator intervention, and being here since the start of the private beta, I always had a chance to build up enough reputation before the reputation requirement increases (i.e. at the end of the private beta, and at the end of the public beta). The biggest change seems to be that instead of flagging post for moderator attention, I'll have to react to flags (or just do the work whenever I find it). Maybe participation in meta will increase a bit, but not too much—there is no need to flood it with posts by moderators. And I'm sure, I'd still draw lots of TikZ pictures.

Ad chat: I don't see any direct relationship between the chat and moderation. Anything that needs moderator attentions should usually be either flagged or discussed on meta. That said, the chat has been more active lately and I suppose it will stay so in the future.

Matthew: I think I spend quite a bit of time around here anyway, depending on the sports and political seasons, so I don't think I will be here significantly more. But I will make a point of paying more attention to meta.

lockstep: I would have to shift some of the time I spend answering questions of marginal (for me) interest to "janitorial" activities. As for the chat, it's obviously great when elections are up, but I'm still undecided about its general utility.

Martin Scharrer: I think I'm already very much involved with the site. However, with the power and the accompanying responsibility of a moderator I will pay more attention to the issues of other people and other outstanding or arising issues. I will have to browse Meta more thoroughly than up till know. I like the chat for quick conversations. Larger or longer lasting things should be discussed on meta.

Seamus I'd check the new questions page more regularly, and look at more questions even when they don't interest me. I'd do more to help new users ask better questions: suggest they add MWEs, change the title if it's not clear... I'd do more housekeeping things like that, I guess. And I would continue to try and improve the tag wikis (which I've only recently started doing.) I think another thing I was thinking of was offering small bounties on long-unanswered upvoted questions in the hopes of stimulating some activity. (This sounds like a bribe, so I promise to do this whether or not I am elected)

  • Could you be a bit more specific? I assume you mean in some way for moderation issues, but I'm not entirely sure.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 10:02
  • @Joseph: I'd like to ask a how have you handled conflict qn", but there has been little enough of that I'm guessing it isn't going to be a useful or fair question. But I shall rewrite the qn, since no one has answered yet. Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 11:53
  • @Charles: I see, thanks for the clarification
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 12:04
  • @Joseph: I can't comment on other venues as I'm not participating in them. I tend to view TeX-SE as self-sufficient, and I think that's the broader view of SE sites in general. Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 12:52
  • @Martin: Thanks for the quick reply (I decided my original comment was not such a good idea: for context, I was wondering about chat versus more threaded environments such as c.t.t, mailing lists, etc.)
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 12:58
  • @Joseph: I understand where you're coming from, but I think other venues of discussions are not suitable when the topic of interest is listed here. Besides, I don't know how many users besides the usual suspects frequent comp.text.tex and similar. But by all means, threaded chat would be great to have, although there are some basic means of following who said what in response to whom in TeX-SE chat. Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 13:02
  • @MartinTapankov: Concerning "composing comprehensive CW answers", I do like your comparison answers on your questions, but I think I wouldn't always like it if someone posted such an answer to one of my questions. But maybe your intentions don't go in this direction anyway. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 8:07
  • @Hendrik: I do these as answers to my own questions, as there are often more than one suggestion how to do X; of course not everybody would appreciate such ramblings as an answer to a clearcut question. This is a way for me to say: "I did all these, and this is what I found out, hope it's helpful". But of course that doesn't work for all questions -- sometimes a short descriptive answer is the best way to go. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 8:38
  • @Martin: As I said, I do like those CW answer you posted; they're clearly helpful. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 8:47

SamB: Why haven't you volunteered yet?

Andrew Stacey: Since this question clearly makes no sense for someone who has nominated themselves, I'm going to answer it even though I'm not and am not going to be a candidate.

I have two reasons, one for the benefit of the site and one for me. I'll start with the answer for the benefit of the site. I think that the ideal new team would comprise of a mix of the pro tem moderators and new moderators. Unfortunately, we're going from 5 pro tem mods to 3 mods, so even if we had no new people two of the pro tems would have to step down. (Ideally, I'd go for 4 moderators with 2+2, and while I'm wishing I'd like a pony too). I consider myself as the least able of the pro tems in terms of moderating activity: I've not written any tag wikis, rarely done any tag clean-ups, and when there's a flag then by the time I get there then someone else has almost always taken the appropriate action. So if there are to be some pro tems in the new team (as I hope that there are), I don't think that I should be one, and I don't want to risk dislodging one of the others or pushing out someone new.

My reason for myself is that I feel I've put quite a bit of time in to this site at the start, and I'm pleased with how it got off the ground (I'm not implying direct causality there!), but now it's time to scale back a bit and be just an ordinary member of the community, just answering questions that catch my interest rather than feeling that I should read most of them. I'm sure I'll still be as vocal on meta as ever, and hope to be as useful on the main site (I doubt that all the TikZ/PGF questions have been asked yet).

To sum up, what this site needed at the beginning was largely enthusiasm and time. What it needs now is a broader view of TeX and how this site can benefit the TeX community. That is something I certainly don't have.

Matthew: I didn't volunteer until now because I consider the pro tem moderators to be doing a great job already, and was kind of hoping they would continue. Also, I was (perhaps vainly) waiting for someone to bring it up as a possibility.

Stefan: When there's time given for making important decisions, I tend to use it. Also, I hesitate to speak a lot about myself. Since my feeling clearly says I would like to volunteer, I should write something now. So, see you later on the election page.

Hendrik: I feel honored that people tried prodding me, and I'm still somewhat tempted to nominate myself, and if it was only for getting the power to edit old comments :-) However, my feeling is that being a moderator implicates some responsibility, and at the moment, 1/3 of the responsibility is just too much for me. (By the way, I have been relatively active on meta.SO recently, and I'll probably continue being active there.)

Konrad: Two factors: one, I am currently very hard pressed to meet my (extended) deadline for the master thesis. Two, I actually think that the already nominated candidates are more than adequate and I’m not sure that my contribution will be all that useful.

  • @Andrew: your first reason doesn't count: non of the pro tem mods seems to be particularly keen to continue. Which makes me wonder why.
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 21:02
  • btw, this seems to be another instance of the “anon” edit bug.
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 21:03
  • @Caramdir I don't think that the pro tem moderators aren't keen; I think they thought they would hold off so as to not seem to eager ( and power-hungry :-) ) and that would encourage others to nominate themselves.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 2:23
  • @Alan: Exactly right. I decided to stand in the end partly as I was worried it might look a bit odd if none of us did!
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 22:02
  • @Hendrik: You should nominate yourself even if you're not "Talkative". ;-)
    – lockstep
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 16:05
  • @lockstep: You know, I never thought that necessary :-) Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 16:17
  • @Hendrik: Maybe we can make Resident Markdown Expert into an official post?
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 20:22
  • @Caramdir: :-) (-: Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 20:46

Alan Munn: Here's another "does it matter" question. Among us there are both what we might call "power users" and "TeXnicians" (which is obviously both a caricature and a continuum). You can identify yourself on this continuum by the number of questions you answer with answers that involve \makeatletter ... \makeatother instead of \usepackage{} :-).

I'm assuming a continuum that is roughly beginner - normal user - power user - TeXnician, but all of the moderator candidates presumably meet the power user threshold.

And while the difference between power user and TeXnician is partially a difference in knowledge, I also see it much more so as a difference in attitude toward solutions than actual knowledge per se.

So, where do you fit on the continuum, and how important do you think it is that the moderators represent the continuum, rather than be stacked up at one end or the other of it?

Joseph Wright As I'm a member of the LaTeX3 Project, I guess I'm firmly at one end of that spectrum (beyond \makeatletter and all the way to \catcode`\@=11\relax), but my focus as a developer is mainly on making life easier for users. So I'd rather be able to provide an easy-to-follow pre-packaged answer than 'show off' with a long piece of code (depending on the question of course). Now, does it matter? That's back with 'what should a moderator do?', where the key thing is to know how to ask questions. I guess in an ideal world we want a balance, so that the moderator team can bring experience of different parts of the TeX world to the site. But that should not be the over-riding criterion: being a good moderator is much more about the community side than the technical detail of questions.

Caramdir: I'd put myself somewhere below power user. However, my knowledge of (La)TeX has increased quite a lot in the last few months, simply by reading lots of questions and answers on this site. In my answers I typically prefer simple prepackaged solutions, except when it is unavoidable (which, for drawing pictures, it often is). Does it matter for moderation? I don't think so. The job of moderators isn't to write answers. When they write answers, they do so as normal members in the community. Of course a fair knowledge of the field helps to judge what a good question/answer is and thus should help with moderation.

Martin Scharrer: Where I fit on the continuum? Mmmm, I'm more a TeXnician than a power user. I keep coding more LaTeX packages than writing actual content. :-) However, I find it important that good answers are given which can be grasp by beginners or normal users. I don't like it when someone just posts some code without any explanation. These good answers should be based on existing packages whenever possible and reasonable, or mention these as alternatives.
Moderators should have a good knowledge about (La)TeX but I don't think their "rank", TeXnician or power user etc., is very important. Interest in this site and bringing in drive, responsibility and time are the more important properties. If you are now a total geek or an occasional user doesn't matter that much for the daily moderator's work.

Martin Tapankov I guess I'm somewhat above normal user level, but I wouldn't call myself "power user". I have learnt a lot from reading questions on the site in the last months, but still I have a long way to go. I have a practical disposition and try to answer questions a bit more thoroughly than what is necessary, in the hope that the answer will be a learning experience for the user instead of a prepackaged copy-and-paste solution. I like it when others do that as well.

On the question about the continuum: For me there is no direct correlation between qualities that make a good moderator and those of a TeXnician. That being said, there are some moderator tasks that can benefit from expert knowledge and insight (tag organization, and wikis come to mind). I think time spent on the site and positive attitude are more important for moderators than the amount of @s in their answers.

lockstep On the continuum, I would classify myself somewhere between normal and power user (my answers occasionally involve \makeatletter). My "power user" knowledge is for the most part concentrated in the bibliographies/biblatex subject area; apart from that, it's rather my curiosity than my actual LaTeX knowledge that distinguishes me from a normal user. (And the TeX command I use most is \hyphenation.)

I think it's important that at least one community moderator is at the "TeXnician" end so that bad questions/answers about and the like will get identified and sorted out. For the other mods, "normal user" knowledge and a keen interest in the site should suffice.

Seamus I am emphatically a "normal user". But you need normal users to answer normal user questions. If someone's question is "Why doesn't & display an ampersand?", giving them an answer that involves changing the catcode of & and then redefining it as the unicode character for ampersand would be silly. (OK, that would be a silly thing to do regardless of what the question was, but... whatever). I don't think the level of TeXnical ability has much to do with ability to moderate this site. I think, in a way, having at least one moderator who wasn't a TeXnician would be valuable: those of us closer to the ground have more understanding of new users' weak little minds. (This is obviously patently unfair: the top users on this site are all phenomenally helpful and patient with new users)

Konrad: I am a power user in that I use LaTeX for almost all of my document work. But on the other hand, I’m not very proficient and I have (to date) not read a single LaTeX book from cover to cover. I try to use LaTeX “the right way” but I’m much less proficient than all the other candidates. I don’t think it’s that important that the moderators represent the continuum, though: even the best have at one point been beginners, and they hopefully remember how inadequate they felt. ;-)

  • If your spectrum is from ”power users” to “TeXnicians”, where do normal users and beginners fit in?
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 20:11
  • I guess the point is that all of the moderators have decent rep., and so are most likely to be 'power users'.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 20:13
  • @Caramdir I guess I'm making the assumption here that none of the current moderator candidates count as "normal users" (as evidenced by their question count :-) ). But the whole continuum would be beginner - normal user - power user - TeXnician I guess.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 20:16
  • I've updated my question to better reflect what I mean by the power user / TeXnician distinction.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 20:28
  • 4
    While reputation is somewhat correlated with knowledge it is much more correlated with time spent on the site. Otherwise I couldn't explain why I have so much rep (except that people seem to like pictures :) ).
    – Caramdir
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 20:53
  • @Caramdir: I like pictures! Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 22:21
  • 3
    About the \makeatletter ... \makeatother instead of \usepackage{} distinction. How does \usepackage{<package I wrote myself>} fit into it? ;-) Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 11:08
  • @Martin That makes you a TeXnician with the right attitude!
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 13:29
  • Just a comment on my question. I wasn't presupposing that a higher position on the scale made for a better moderator. I also agree that many important moderator qualities are independent of technical knowledge. The question is mainly about whether having moderators only at one end was a good thing or not, or whether it matters.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 13:36

Charles Stewart: One statistic relevant to evaluating moderators that can't be seen from Yi Jiang's candidate statistics page is involvement with the "root" meta, http://meta.stackoverflow.com - activity there I see as a proxy for lively interest in the Stack Exchange technical infrastructure.

Have you been active on meta.SO? If not, how do you keep aware of current developments in Stack Exchange?

Postscript - You can see the kind of activity that I regard as a model of engagement in this respect on Andrew Stacey's meta.SO page.

Caramdir: No, I haven't been active on meta.SO, mostly because it would be another time sink, and I'd rather use the time for tex.SX. Of course I use it passively from time to time (e.g. to find out how some feature works). To keep up-to-date with recent developments, I regularly read “Recent feature changes to Stack Exchange” and read the SX blog.

Joseph Wright The number of posts on the main SO site and on meta.SO makes it impractical to 'watch' it just to pull out the few things that are relevant to us. I already watch quite a lot of TeX-related places, as well as doing LaTeX programming, and I think that's where I'd rather spend my 'TeX time'. I have taken to reading the SO blog recently, as there are some useful announcements there: in many ways it acts as a 'filtered' version of meta.SO.

Martin Tapankov I don't check meta.SO often (the signal-to-noise ratio is too low to be of much use), but I'm following the StackOverflow blog for announcements of recent changes. I usually ask support questions in our meta, as well as metas of a few other SE sites.

Martin Scharrer: I'm using meta.SO to check up on changes which affect me and to report issues, like the one about missing Sportsmanship badge on the candidate statistic page, which got resolved very fast after adding a comment on the related "answer" on meta.SO. As moderator I would like to keep close ties to our "landlords" from SO and keep informed about all pending changes to the site and its interface.

lockstep: At some point in my tex.stackexchange career, I faced the question "What is this 'Suffrage' badge and why did I earn it?" So yes, I occasionally check the "Recent feature changes" site, but no, I haven't been active on meta.SO.

Seamus I'm not totally sold on the idea that involvement with meta.SO is a relevant metric. Of course, moderators should understand the site they are nominally in charge of, but does that really mean involving oneself with the meta.SO site? I check the SO blog once in a while, and if there were some issue that wasn't tex.sx specific I suppose I'd ask it in its rightful place, but other than that, I'll pass.

  • Good grief! I'm a "model of engagement" for participation in meta.SO? I loathe the place and only go there when I have to! It's absolutely awful and I feel as though I've wandered into some debating hall full of sound and fury (finish the quote for yourselves). And don't get me started on the moderator-only chat room ... Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 22:19
  • @andrew: it (the chat room) seemed okay when I wandered past, but perhaps I caught it on a good day
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 22:45
  • @Andrew: only go there when I have to - and you have quite often felt that you should go, despite knowing what Macbethian horror lurked there. Like I say, model of engagement. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 14:14
  • A lot of the stuff on meta.SO is no more relevant here than, say, that on meta.gaming would be, because meta.SO is not only the ur-meta, but also the meta for SO; the latter capacity is the principle reason for my participation there (such as it is), so I suspect participation there should be only marginally relevant to this election.
    – SamB
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 23:46
  • @SamB: Stack Exchange offers facilities for filtering. E.g., I've just created a tag set for following core tags on meta.SO. I think mods should briefly look over the recent feature changes meta.SO thread from time to time. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 6:45

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