This article is from a series here on Universe Factory, where we look at the people behind the Worldbuilding. We present a number of short interviews with people who have been using our site to try and get some insight into who they are and how it is being used. This interview is with Monica Cellio — one of our Moderators.
Hi Monica Cellio and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for the Worldbuilding Blog.
Hi Tim! Thanks for doing this series; I’ve enjoyed reading the other interviews.
Doing the series is no problem, it’s fun getting a glimpse of all the different people we have here. I’m sure some of the questions will seem familiar from the others so let’s get started with a little bit about you. What part of our world are you from and what do you do for a living?
I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US. I’m a technical writer, specializing in writing for programmers — software development kits, programming interfaces, stuff like that. “Speaker to Programmers”, but they won’t let me put that on the business cards. :-) Sometimes I help design the software, too.
I remember you from the beta, and maybe even before that. What was it brought you to Worldbuilding in the first place?
I think it was an announcement on Writers. I found out about the site shortly before the beta launched and followed a link out of curiosity. I remember thinking “can that actually work?”. It does. :-)
I love the inventiveness and that Worldbuilding still gets real questions.
I know you’re active on a number of sites, including being a moderator on several. Do those sites all seem to develop at about the same rate?
It varies widely, in my experience. Writers has been in beta for something like four years; it’s slow but steady but hasn’t reached that critical mass of activity yet. Worldbuilding was the fastest I’ve seen, just a bit over a year from beta to graduation. We really hit the ground running, with lots of high-quality Q&A and active users. Other sites I’m active on seem to have taken two to three years to graduate.
But even sites that don’t graduate are still engaging; I participate on several betas.
So what’s it like being a Stack Exchange moderator, and is it a similar experience on all the various sites? You must have a unique perspective as I don’t think many people are a moderator in so many places.
It’s funny — when they asked me to be a pro-tem moderator on Writers I asked “is that normal, to have more than one? is that ok?”. Now I know. :-) They’re all different, and it’s been a really interesting experience.
The Workplace is a large and active site and we get a lot of flags; I delete more comments there than on all other sites combined. Moderation on that site takes some time away from regular participation like answering questions. (I predicted that before the election, and it turned out to be right.) Mi Yodeya, the site about Judaism, is smaller, and I can still read nearly everything on the site. There I’m limited by knowledge, not flags. :-)
Beta sites tend to be more low-key, but Worldbuilding took off right out of the gate. We don’t spend a ton of time on moderation (like flags), but there are so many great questions and answers that I can’t read everything. It’s a good problem to have, and one I asked a question about on Community Building once: As a user, how can I stay on top of a fast-growing community?
What are a few of your favorite questions or answers that you’ve written?
There is one series of questions that I’ve learned a lot from, which is about binary stars. HDE226868 wrote a blog post saying “hey, your planet could orbit one of the stars, you know”, instead of two stars close together and a planet orbiting both, and I thought that was a cool idea.
So I asked how the secondary star affects the planet, finding out it would need to be pretty far away, and then I asked how to make it brighter so I could have continuous day at one point in the planet’s orbit, which led to the nifty suggestion to put the other star in a reflection nebula (which I’d never heard of).
Then I was trying to figure out how the light patterns work throughout the year and got an amazing answer.
It’s funny that some of my best-received questions are about harder sciences like astronomy, but the questions I most enjoy answering are about behavior — sociology, psychology, group behavior, etc. I like my answer to what would happen if parents didn’t “own” their children.
Another “societal consequences of an unusual premise” question where I’m pleased with my answer is how would government change if everybody died by age 25. I didn’t even know that the royal-succession scheme I proposed was a real thing until somebody pointed it out in a comment.
I learn lots of stuff from Worldbuilding, and that’s really cool.
Are you actively building a world at the moment or is it more general interest?
A lot is general interest, plus ideas for stories that may or may not ever happen (hope springs eternal :-) ). But I’m writing “Sisters”, my story on the blog, as a result of Q&A here. I’d been thinking about planets with multiple moons, and because some religions see objects in the sky as gods, I started thinking about multiple moon gods and that led to competing moon gods.
I wasn’t sure I was actually going to write it at first, but I got some positive feedback to the idea so I’m giving it a shot.
I know you’re both a regular contributor on the blog and an editor, in addition to all your moderation duties. I for one would like to take a moment to thank you for all the hard work you put in for this community and the others.
Thank you. We have a lot of great users who contribute in different ways. I’m impressed by how many good answers you manage to write while also moderating and helping with the blog.
Is there any particular question, answer or person here on Worldbuilding that you would say has really inspired you?
We have a lot of great content and a really strong community, so it’s hard to pick one. Lately I’ve been noticing how many good answers Thucydides is writing. One of his caught my attention recently (I don’t remember which), and now I keep seeing that name under solid, well-reasoned answers. How did I not notice him earlier?
I have to say I’d not noticed him either but he’s been active since March and has racked up an impressive reputation score in that time, definitely one to watch. As you say we have so many excellent contributors though that it’s impossible to keep track of them all.
It means there are always new discoveries to be made. :-)
With you being so active in Mi Yodeya I presume that means you’re fairly religious. Do you ever find that subjects on Worldbuilding and the discussion of various mythologies and similar subjects causes conflicts with either your beliefs or with how other people think you should represent those beliefs?
I am fairly religious, yes. I consider improving myself to be a full-time job, and the Internet is a big place full of people who don’t share my beliefs, so I’m not so concerned with what others do so long as nobody’s being rude. (Jews feel no need to evangelize.) There have been some sensitive religion questions (and answers) on Worldbuilding, but people are generally respectful and it hasn’t been a problem for me.
On the other hand, even though I’m sure they’re good people, I haven’t ventured onto the Mythology site just because it seems to take as given that religion is myth, and I’m not so sure I want to read Q&A that assumes up front that my religion is wrong. I might be totally wrong about the Q&A there, and maybe someday I’ll take a closer look, but there are higher priorities.
Hopefully everyone can feel welcome on Worldbuilding. Thank you for taking the time to do this quick interview Monica Cellio, before we go though is there anything else you’d like to add or to say?
I can’t think of anything else. I’m really impressed by our community, but I think I’ve already said that. Thank you for doing this series of interviews for the blog!