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Last active Mar 15, 2016
What would you like to do?

Hi, I'm Mogsdad, and I'm a Stack-Overflow-aholic.

Hi, Mogsdad!

I always knew about Stack Overflow. Some of my friends were on it from the start; they thought it made them cool, but I wasn't going to give in to peer pressure. I did that with acid washed jeans in the 80's, and still had the emotional scars. Once in a while, I'd Google for some programming help - simple things usually - and there'd I'd be, looking at another Stack Overflow answer, letting it help me.

Finally, I gave in. I remember it like it was just 3.5 years ago. I asked my first question. And then, I waited. It turned out that nobody could answer my question. But it's a cruel world out there, so maybe it was simply that nobody cared. Whatever. I didn't just sit, waiting - I figured the problem out myself. Knowing the horrible risk I was taking, I returned to the dark basement of the internet that is Stack Overflow... and posted my first answer. Yes, it was on my own question! I know that! Don't you think I know that!? But that wasn't enough. Minutes later, I was mastur-answering again, and again, an hour after that!

But that was only the beginning.

I came to spend a lot of time answering questions on Stack Overflow. So much time, that I suspect that someone in my family wrote this.

Eventually, answering didn't give me the rush that I'd come to crave. So I started editing other people's posts. Just a little, at the start. No big deal. Corrected some spelling, restructured a few sentences, that sort of thing. Everyone does it - I bet you've even done it!

Before long, I was queuing up with the other junkies, doing reviews at any hour of the night. That introduced me to harder stuff - it was where I first learned the sweet oblivion of voting to close. You see - until then, I thought that every question that had been posted was OK. Inside my head, a little voice kept saying that couldn't be the case, but if bad questions weren't OK, surely they'd get deleted, right? My dabbling with editing had made the world just a little better... but suddenly, with my new little friend... I could do something other than simply give in to feelings of helplessness! I could vote... to delete all teh things!

Even that started carefully. On May 24, 2013, around 9am, I had my first hit. Then later the same day, two more in quick succession. That was enough - I saw the spiral of addiction starting to pull me down, so I quit. Cold turkey.

But then, four days later, I was back in the queue for three more hits. Then the next day, it was fourteen! Before long, I was hitting the queue hard. I continued that way for a couple of years. I met a few other people in my travels, and got used to seeing names like "rene" and "Undo" next to mine on question close notices.

Eventually, I needed more - and learned about Tag Burnination. I learned that one-person burnination could be done, but was lonely. The type of organization that it takes for effective burnination naturally spawns cult-like groups of people repeating the same rituals together, day after day after day... finally, in July 2015, I met some gurus of one of those cults - some would say the very best of those shadowy groups. They went by the cryptic names "NathanOliver" and "Durron597", and hailed from a place called "SOCVR", and they drew me in to the circle by a simple burnination post.

Once they accepted me as one of their own, I was at peace. I could ask questions in a "chat room" about how the site worked. I learned so much more than was written in the help and FAQ pages. There, the word "plop" was used as a greeting - not just onomatopoeia. I learned about the dark magic of the Roomba, and was initiated into the ritual of downvoting questions and answers so they would disappear; a ritual that survives only as horrible memories and whispered rumours today.

The time when that ritual was stopped became known as The Day, and I was there, taking my lumps with my bretheren and sisteren. With them, I arose from the ashes like a... I was going to say phoenix, but really, more like a slightly disheveled raven would be more accurate. Or maybe a condor? Are they dark-coloured? I know they eat dead things, which is kind of like going after bad posts. Just let me check Wikipedia... Yeah, yeah - a condor sounds good. We arose like a... oh, never mind the allegory, it's gotten out of hand. We listened, we learned, we adapted, and got stronger.

I suffered withdrawal for a while after SOCVR ceased organized burnination activities. But after a while I found I could think more clearly, and invested more time in coaching newbies to make their first posts better, and participated in more group discussion in SOCVR about the how, when and what-to-do related to community moderation.

And now, I feel that all that history has prepared me to serve as a Room Owner in SOCVR. I'm generally level-headed, contributing regularly to discussions in the room, offering advice, and just as importantly asking for and taking it graciously. I'm tolerant of people's differences, but believe that social norms need to be respected to maintain working relationships and productivity. I like to have fun as well, and I enjoy the word-play, poetry, and memes that are a regular part of the day in SOCVR!

My stats

Outside of Stack Overflow, I'm a senior member of a software development team, with 25+ years of professional experience in programming, management, and education. I coach sports teams, mentor robotics students, and volunteer in leadership roles in my community. That provides me, and by extension, the SOCVR team, with a wealth of experience that can help keep us productively grooming the site.

Thanks for indulging me!


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@Aralun Aralun commented Mar 7, 2016

tear to the eye


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@ArcticEcho ArcticEcho commented Mar 7, 2016



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@NathanOliver1 NathanOliver1 commented Mar 10, 2016

Looks like Durron and I did a good job.


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@rschrieken rschrieken commented Mar 11, 2016

Can you elaborate on how you make sure we all know the social norms that should be respected?

That's a good question, thanks for asking it, Rene.

The primary rule, or social norm, for SOCVR is Stack Overflow's Golden Rule: Be Nice. The way that applies specifically to our actions and behaviors in SOCVR is by ensuring that all interactions are respectful; that we treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. This applies to conversations amongst room members, but also in the comments we make about and to the authors of the posts that we curate.

The way that I make sure this norm is respected is to first endeavour to model that behaviour myself. I'm aware of and try to follow the room rules, and have even learned how to avoid one-boxing images! I say "thanks!" and recognize effort often. When reading comments from users or room members, I try to suppress any emotion that could be misread in their writing, so that I absorb and respond to only its technical aspects. This is like active listening in person. Then I try to respond as neutrally as I can - sometimes this means carefully reading over my comments before hitting enter, and often it means deciding not to respond at the moment. I'm not perfect yet, and when our norms were different I wasn't so circumspect, but I keep working on it, as we all do.

Secondly, and more importantly vis-à-vis an RO role, I will speak up as a referee when I see conversations that are divisive or "not nice" (recent example. I believe that all the members of the room are passionate and committed people, and we sometimes need reminders to channel that passion constructively. I am comfortable with "being the heavy" when needed.

Finally, I try to be a support for other members of the room; offering a kind word when someone is feeling upset about how an interaction has gone, laughing at their jokes, and answering their questions.


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@NathanOliver1 NathanOliver1 commented Mar 11, 2016

If there was one rule in our current FAQ that needs to be removed, which one would it be? If you can add one rule, that isn't currently in our guidance, which one would it be?

Thanks for asking, Nathan! I believe in having as few rules as necessary, and I wish "Be Nice" was the only rule we needed. However, our rules define the social norms that our little society operates by, and writing them down serves as a guide for new members and reminders for the rest of us.

Before answering your question, let me say that I would prefer to see our rules reworded to be positive guidance as much as possible, rather than restrictions. I'd rather we say "Please walk on the pool deck", rather than "Don't run!".

Every now and then there are events that shake up the room, things so out of the ordinary that they stand out in our collective memory. It's tempting to react to such events by adding new rules that directly address observed behaviours that occurred at the time, thinking that by doing so we will avoid future problems. I am proud that we haven't done that very much - we have just 16 rules at the moment.

The one rule I think needs to be removed is #11, Please refrain from using oneboxes/noisy formatting. (When posting a URL, use link syntax to make the link "natural"). The onebox part of it is a rehash of #10, so it could be dropped. And I don't even understand what the part in the brackets is asking. (What's a "natural" link? Wouldn't that mean without link syntax?)

There is one rule that I think is missing, and should probably be our #1. It's the SO-curation equivalent of "First do no harm":

  • We strive to improve the quality of posts on Stack Overflow, and to do that we will:
    1. Guide new users / first posters to make edits to their posts that will meet the community standards as defined by the site Help and FAQ.
    2. Openly share our experience and knowledge about how Stack Overflow works with other users.
    3. Edit to improve posts when we are able to improve them sufficiently.
    4. Finally, enforce the agreed standards for on-topic questions and answers through prudent use of our earned privileges to up- and down-voting posts, flag spam and other posts requiring moderator attention, vote-to-close questions, and delete posts, focusing on posts themselves, not individual users.

I would also suggest that we combine and clarify our current rules 2 and 3, regarding [cv-pls]. Here's what I propose:

  • Users may request review of questions by posting [cv-pls] requests, within these guidelines:

    1. Save [cv-pls] requests for questions that will not get closed in a reasonable period without it. Remember that the close vote system will handle many questions, especially so for popular tags that have communities of users regularly monitoring their close-vote queues.

    2. Make requests only when you are actively monitoring the room, so that you can respond to questions about it. Remember that all users are free to "vote their conscience", either abstaining from a close vote, selecting a close reason they feel is more appropriate, or improving a post. Members are not required to close-vote any post you bring up. (Furthermore, do not pressure anyone into doing so; cv-pls means "close vote please", not "close vote or I'll stab you.")

    3. Contribute to the review of other users' requests, remembering that each request requires 4 additional users' agreement before closing. Ask questions and raise concerns where merited.

    4. Use one of the following chat syntax examples to post requests, so that our tools can detect and monitor your requests:

      [tag:cv-pls] Reason for cv - [title of question](link to question)


      [tag:cv-pls] Reason for cv - link to question

    or via the supported user script.

That was more than you asked for, no extra charge!


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@jdd-software jdd-software commented Mar 11, 2016

(I'm Petter even if user is different)
I don't know you to well (maybe we are a little of by time zone, maybe your correctly more silent than others), but I love your scripts and I always take time to check your cv-pls request, even when Pekka is involved. Good luck if your elected I will be happy to follow your lead.

Hi Petter! Thanks for saying that. I remember the specific post you're talking about... I think Pekka would understand!

I'm in the North American Eastern Time Zone, the same as New York, so you and I do have limited time zone overlap. I must admit, I haven't posted near as many chat messages as usual lately, other than [cv-pls], because I've been spending my curation time in the NATO list. I've been keeping up with most of the discussions, though, and piping up from time to time!


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@Aralun Aralun commented Mar 11, 2016

What's your point of view on off-topic rooms such as the Ministry?
What do you think about monitoring them to check that nothing gets out of hand which could then be used against SOCVR? Examples could include bad mouthing of users, clear disagreement with room / SO policies, unicorn abuse...

I was thinking of pleading the fifth on this one, Kyll, but it's a good and relevant question.

I believe that SOCVR is best if it's not all-business all-the-time, as the development of "community" amongst members has benefited from injections of humour and off-topic personal exchanges. On the other hand, the room has grown to be quite a busy place since I first arrived, and at times it's very difficult to follow the often multiple on-topic conversations going on. At those times, I have personally enjoyed the ability to take the off-topic "fun" to another chat room.

Some of our regulars maintain their own chat rooms, or are also regulars in other rooms focused on different languages or technologies, or whatever The Tavern is for! I'm thinking of all those cases here.

As all chat rooms are public, what we say there can be read by anyone, and we must remember that. While in chat outside of SOCVR, the rules of SOCVR do not clearly apply to users' actions, but we are always ambassadors for the room, and experience has shown that every message we post may be scrutinized by others, and taken as a reflection on everyone involved in our curation activities.

Do I think that the ROs should be actively monitoring activity outside SOCVR? Not at all. They should be able to rely upon everyone maintaining professional standards themselves.

Do I believe that members should expect to be held accountable for their activity outside of SOCVR? Yes, I do. This is an unfortunate but natural consequence of the fact that those posts have been held up by others as examples of how SOCVR members behave as a whole. The only evidence people have to judge us by on SO is our recorded actions, and the words we write.

We just need to remember that the Stack Overflow "Be Nice" rule applies everywhere on the network of sites.


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@Tunaki Tunaki commented Mar 13, 2016

Do you think you have what it takes to face up to the future challenge this room will meet? Can you give an example of Meta contributions, for example, where you applied moderation?

Thanks for bring up the future of the room - I think it's going to be interesting, and definitely challenging. I see two sources of challenge; one is in maintaining focus and clarity of purpose in the room as its membership grows faster than it has in the past, the other is managing the impact of outside forces fuelled primarily by Meta posts.

Within SOCVR itself, I think that current ROs and active members do a good job of welcoming new and prospective members, pointing them to the FAQ, offering guidance and answering questions. If we have a problem in this area at all, it's simply that the FAQ isn't considered to be authoritative and universally legitimate, which has lead to confusion at least, and even hostility. That's something that I think we need to improve upon. Relevant comments:

  • The FAQ on Github is incorrectly inputted by a non-RO on the one-boxing matter.
    I'm going based on what the actual source messages in chat said
  • Since when is github the place where consensus is hammered out? Am I supposed to submit a pull request? If nobody sees anything bizarre with that then I must have teleported to a site that isn't called meta. Read the comments here, people do question the process. ref

I'm comfortable moderating within the room, and I believe there are plenty of examples of that. I know I can contribute to improving the documentation of our culture and processes on Meta, as has been suggested by Shog - I suggest picking any of my answers on SO as examples of how I write.

Dealing with the second challenge, the impact of outside forces, is trickier, and I think more critical in the next few months.

  • Consider recent situations where SOCVR has come under attack, like this. I refrained from hitting return on a response, because I believe that it is the remit of our ROs to speak on behalf the of the room on Meta for any contentious issues. We need to recognize that to those outside the room, what any of us says is taken as being what all of us think. Ultimately, Rene responded exactly how I intended to, defusing the situation. I'm comfortable doing that myself, with the support of the room behind me.
  • Yes, I just proposed an answer that said "doing nothing" is an example showing I have what it takes; my point is that I perceive a threat to the continued existence of SOCVR, recognize the importance of objective responses on Meta, and have the good judgment to separate my personal views from those of the room.

On to part two of your question... Interesting phrase, that: "applied moderation". In ordinary English, the question would mean "Give examples where you've avoided excess in conduct". In Meta-speak, it could mean "Give examples where you have taken moderation actions", and that's got further nuances. I'll take a stab at answering this as best I can; please ping me on chat if I'm off the mark.

  • I have participated in polarized discussions, attempting to find the "moderate" middle ground. For example, my answer and follow-up comments for "How can we guide established users towards contributing higher-quality answers?", which were poorly received along with all answers but "downvote them to oblivion".
  • While I've originated a handful of burnination requests, I'm not running around with a can of accelerant and a match - I take such requests seriously, despite the puns, and do expect that they are backed up with research. I have argued against burnination of tags, when I've felt requests were not supportable.
  • I've been the subject of name-calling on Meta, and kept a level head. I can do that for myself; I can certainly do it for a group.

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@joncle joncle commented Mar 13, 2016

How do you feel about diamond moderators frequenting the room?

I welcome it! It's worth noting that three of our most recent mods were active in SOCVR prior to their nominations (Undo, Jos[li]ber & Madara), and others (like you) often drop in and participate in discussions.

I see three benefits from having a variety of diamond mods around:

  • It gives us a chance to ask questions and validate curation decisions. I'm thinking here about "what's the right way to handle this particular post" questions, where bringing the same question up on Meta may be undesirable both because of the Meta effect and because the situation may need more immediate action than a Meta answer would allow.
  • Transparency. The legitimacy of the room can be more easily defended when there have been frequent interactions. This may become increasingly important as active Meta contributors' repeated statements such as "We've been hearing a lot from that room lately, never anything positive it seems." When there are diamond mods who can speak from personal experience rather than having to rely on only replayed transcripts, it's feasible to separate specific users' comments from the general direction of the room (or "room mission", if you will).
  • Probably the most important benefit is the relationship built between the diamond moderators and SOCVR members. Because we see some mods frequently, we have a rapport with them, and they with us. Rather than operating with an "us vs them" attitude, I take heart in the congenial greetings when diamond mods appear, and the general openness room members have to advice and even stern intervention when it has occurred.

That's a good thing!


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@ghost ghost commented Mar 14, 2016

What is your stance on this What exactly is “artificial inflation of reputation”, and where is the line? with reference to the situation in the room?

That sounds like a question, but there are so many facets that answering it is a sentence! (waits for laughter to subside)

Wow - on the day, was in the room briefly as that started, then again well after the room had been locked/unlocked and Tiny's Meta post was up, and I missed the live play-by-play. I've skimmed it all now, going back further than the conversation peeled off for that Meta post to where I think it started, here. (Excluding the earlier in-room discussion about bounties.)

The things I hope you're asking, and that anyone considering being an RO should think about:

  1. Was that situation handled appropriately in the room?
  2. What reputation-changing behaviours involving room members are acceptable, which are not, and where do you draw the line?

If I have missed the point of your question, please ping me in chat.

So, to part 1: I think that the initial questions-to-peers were OK - the room is a place for questions about how the site works. It was a contentious issue that arose due to a Meta post that was instantly hot, though, with comments on it from members of the room, and the Meta conversation transitioned awkwardly from there to the room, where it escalated until the room got shut down to cool off.

So - what should have been done differently? The moment that a diamond moderator requested that a question be asked on Meta instead of chat, the topic in chat should have stopped. (Easy to see in retrospect, harder in the heat of the moment, yet a clear indicator that we can learn from.)

Regarding part 2, we already have a rule regarding requesting up & down votes of posts, and while that rule was intended to address concerns of organized voting on posts for closure, the fact that nobody requests upvotes of their posts indicates that it's understood to apply to our own posts as well. Asking for bounties is likewise verboten. What should we do about this if it happens? Maybe the documented rules for SO and/or SOCVR need to be clearer, but all regulars should discourage it. Messages regarding exchanges, even in jest, should be retained in the transcript, as deleting them could be seen as deceitful.

Does that mean that we can't vote or award bounties to posts made by SOCVR members? Of course not! But neither should votes be made because of that relationship. As always, it is posts that should be considered, not users.

Full disclosure: When I come across them, I pay special attention to posts by users I recognize. When Jon Skeet, Shog, Martijn or Hans show up on a post I'm triaging or reviewing, I absolutely do read it all - I want to see what I can learn about how to write great answers. If it's helpful to me, or an exemplary answer where there are poor or wrong ones, it gets my vote. Likewise, when I see a name I know from SOCVR, or someone I've interacted with before, I spend more time on the question. In other words, if I know you, it's more likely I will read your posts than if I don't know you. (How much of the "top contributors" rep comes from other users behaving the same, I wonder...) If I read your post, it's more likely I will vote on it. That could go either way for you, depending on the post. I have also awarded 3 bounties in past, one was to a regular of SOCVR for an answer that I used and appreciated.

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