Meeting the Worldbuilders — The Moderators

Following the site graduation, new moderators were elected on Worldbuilding.SE. As we have a tradition to interview some users for the blog, we decided this time to interview the new moderator team together. The team is composed of Monica Cellio (Monica Cellio), Tim B (Tim Boura), HDE 226868 (HDE 226868) and Serban Tanasa (Serban Tanasa).


bilbo pingouin (BP) - First of all, congratulations on the election and thanks for agreeing to a group interview.

Monica Cellio (MC) - Thank you. I'm glad to see so much interest in our community.

HDE 226868 (HDE) - Thanks. This should be fun.

Serban Tanasa (ST) - Thanks! Looking forward to it.

Tim B (TB) - Thanks for organizing it, fun idea :)

BP - Three of you were already interviewed for the blog, but maybe to keep things together, you could write one or two sentences about yourselves?

MC - I'm Monica, one of the pro-tempore moderators who served during the beta. I'm an experienced Stack Exchange moderator and an inquisitive worldbuilder. I've written some fiction and played in some RPGs, and I love learning.

ST - I'm Serban, I live in DC, but I'm originally from Romania. My sister has a summer cottage a few miles from Dracula's castle and I visit the place religiously. Professionally, I'm a former methods-oriented political scientist now working in the private sector, but I think I never managed to grow up so part of me is still a teenager that grows giddy thinking of Robots and Dwarves.

MC - Ooh, robots and dwarves and Dracula -- just sayin'. :-)

HDE - I'm HDE 226868, a student at a STEM high school in the Northeastern US, going into astrophysics in college. I'm mainly interested in science, as many of my answers on Worldbuilding have shown, but I also like a range of other topics, which is why I like Worldbuilding so much.

TB - I'm Tim B. I mostly make my living as a programmer but I'm also a freelance writer on the side. I've always had an interest in worldbuilding so when I saw this site in the Beta I jumped right in and haven't looked back since.

BP - Before we get to your new responsibilities, I think it would be interesting to know more about you as a Worlbuilding users. Curious or Worldbuilders?

HDE - I started out as just being curious, but over the past year or so, since I joined Worldbuilding, I've become a worldbuilder, creating a couple small worlds, mainly medieval fantasies.

ST - Both! I've been writing short stories and sketches since I was a teenager. Never published anything since I came to the United States, but never stopped worldbuilding. Finding this community a year ago was a great boon to me. I've gotten a lot of feedback on important details of my worlds from the community...

MC - Like HDE 226868, I started out mostly curious but have found myself using the site more and more to actually build worlds. Maybe there were problems that I just never thought I could solve before, but now I have people to ask.

TB - I use the site to explore ideas, some have gone straight into short stories but others just bubble away in my mind until I need them.

BP - Can you name your 3 favourite tags?

HDE - That's easy for me. I would say astronomy, stars, and hard-science.

ST - Science-based, magic & alternate-history. I was tempted to say hard-science but I think it intimidates regular users.

HDE - Yeah, that's a good assessment of hard-science's first impressions.

MC - Society (sometimes I can answer those), planets (I ask about those), religion (general interest). But it's hard to pick just 3.

TB - I don't really do favorites, not in anything. I don't even have a favorite color. I'm most active in science-based but that's also the most active tag we have so doesn't mean anything. Really I'm just after interesting ideas no matter what tag they are in.

BP - Can you tell us which are your most active online communities outside of Worldbuilding.SE (in or out the SE Network)?

HDE - Definitely History of Science and Mathematics, and Mythology, both of which I'm a pro-tem mod on. I'm also active on Astronomy, Physics, and Meta Stack Exchange. Outside of SE, I'm not too active, which I find helps productivity. :-)

ST - I go to a lot of data-science meetups in the DC area. They get pretty big and time-intensive. I've done talks in front of hundreds of people on Python and R as well as data integration tools, both open-source and commercial. It takes time to prepare, since if you're wrong you're likely to get called out on it. Other than that, I'm a huge fan of Escape Rooms.

MC - Several SE sites led by Mi Yodeya (the Judaism site). Outside of SE: Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and I've been getting to know Medium in recent months because of our blog. (In person: my congregation, and the SCA.)

TB - I've got a fair reputation on Stack Exchange but other than that I don't really get involved in many internet communities. I'm in a lot of Skype groups where we talk about stuff and run RPG games and suchlike but they are all less than ten people.

I've been active in Open Source Software Development in the past, projects like jME3 which is a Java 3d games engine. Recently I've not had time to do much but I am still on the contributor groups for that.

BP - After a bit more than a year in beta, Worldbuilding.SE graduated to become a full-fledged site (within the SE Network). This led to the first moderator election of the site. Some details of the election have already been shared on the blog. Can you tell us if it was your first election on Stack Exchange? As candidate?

MC - This was my third election as a candidate. I'd have to count badges to figure out how many I've voted in.

ST - Yup. And not by accident. Worldbuilding has become my highest rep stack. On other stacks, usually others have already asked or answered the questions I care about. In Worldbuilding, the possibilities are endless, and often a great single question or answer can send me on an hour-long reverie.

HDE - Yeah, this was my first election on Stack Exchange as a candidate, which was pretty cool. It was also the first election I've seen held on one of the sites I'm most active on.

TB - This is the first time I've stood, assuming you don't count being nominated for pro-tempore moderator!

BP - Why did you choose to be candidates for this election?

HDE - That's a good question. In my nomination spiel, and maybe in the candidate Q+A questions on meta, I think I wrote about how I think the site needs to get a better image out on other Stack Exchange sites (and the Internet at large). I felt (and feel) like I can do that really well; I have experience on a lot of sites that are related to our scope.

TB - Partly it was for continuity - we had a good moderator team and I wanted to try and help make sure a decent number of us were in the next team. Partly it was because I've been so involved in the site from the start that I feel attached to it and want to help it continue to grow.

HDE, Your election results were remarkable, is there anything in particular you'd attribute that to or do you think it's just your overall well regarded profile across Stack Exchange?

HDE - I have absolutely no idea. I was just as surprised as anyone else that I did so well.

MC - Worldbuilding is a cool community full of bright people. I can't answer nearly as many questions as others, but I found moderating the site to be a comfortable and fun niche too, a way that I can do good things and stay connected with all the people and activity here. Tim's comment about feeling attached to the community resonates for me.

ST - Haha, partly because I'm a data hound, and mods get access to more and fresher data, and partly because I decided I wanted to have more influence in the direction in which the community was moving.

BP - How was this election for you? And what are your feelings about it?

ST - I thought it was fun. I particularly loved the primary stage. Here in the US we are also going through a political season, and I'm a political scientist ... I admit I may have used a teensy bit of game theory to calculate my odds before and after the primary. The low proportion of downvotes I got compared to the other candidates, in particular, was a good sign.

BP - Did the calculated odds turn out to be correct?

ST - It was a Bayesian range of probabilities, updated through new relevant information. It was a range and the result was within the updated post-primary range, so, short answer, yes.

HDE - Well, it was my first time through, so it was exciting. I had no idea - even after the primaries - how it would end. Besides the election chat room, and the processes of voting and writing the nomination and answers to questions on meta, I put it out of my head for the most part.

MC - It was exciting. I never expected to see so many strong candidates. I knew I had some fans and being a pro-tem gave me an edge, but I was not at all confident that I would win a seat in the end.

TB - There was a real buzz about the election, lots of people talking about it and comparing stats and writing javascript to scrape live stats out of the site. There was even Hohmannfan compiling stats by hand for the first day of the primaries!

MC - Yes, it was fascinating to watch the election chat room during the primary.

TB - When I saw the results of the primaries I was reasonably confident but really we had no way to be sure those results would carry through into the final results.

MC - The voting schemes are so different between the primary and the election that I didn't know what to expect. This was my third election but my first primary.

TB - My main worry was that you, HDE, and I were so far ahead that everyone would tactically vote for the 4th spot and we'd lose a lot of votes that way. Fortunately STV seems to have prevented that as we still got a good number of votes. Nearly 2/3rds of the voters voted for two of us along with someone not in the top three, but there's no way to know if that was tactical or their actual preference.

ST - I'm very grateful to all of you tactical voters out there :)

HDE - That was why I didn't know how things would turn out.

MC - I wonder how different the race would have been if the election had allowed choosing four. Serban, any speculation?

ST - STV often has similar results to a normal n-past-the-post election, especially when the 3 of you were so far ahead of the pack, and I had a big lead in 1st votes compared to other candidates

TB - But really as was said many times the pool of candidates was so strong that anyone would have been a good choice. I do think it's a shame that Michael (our other pro-tem mod who stood) didn't make it through as he did do a lot of good work for the site but equally having fresh insights is valuable and Serban and HDE are both excellent additions to the team.

BP - One week ago, you learned of your election. I suppose that was a great moment. Can you tell us how were your first days? Two of you continued from pro-tem, so it is business as usual? One of you started as a moderator on WB, but has previous experience on other sites, how do you view the difference? And for one, it is a jump in the moderation bath, if I'm not mistaken. How was it to discover all those new buttons?

TB - As you say really it was business as usual. I said hi to the new moderators but they don't really seem to have needed any help settling in. From my point of view the main thing is working on the site scope discussions that took a back seat during the election.

ST - I was, um, not very productive at work that day, exploring all the new tools and features. I have been doing, if anything, less moderation, since my close and flag votes are now binding...

TB - Yes, in general moderator policy on Worldbuilding has been to not do anything that the community can do unless it's something really clear cut like a blatantly off topic question or spam that needs destroying with a vengeance.

HDE - Yeah, the tools are pretty cool. Monica and Tim made it pretty easy for me (and Serban, I think). Worldbuilding is a step up from HSM and Mythology in terms of all the stuff to do (higher flag counts, for one!). But I was familiar with the tools, so it wasn't too hard. It was better than when I started out on HSM!

MC - Mostly business as usual. I tried to keep an eye out in case our new team members needed any tips (particularly Serban, who wasn't already familiar with the tools), but they figured things out pretty quickly on their own. I also tried to leave a couple easy flags for them to handle, just to get settled and all.

TB - Hah, I did that too. We had a lot of flags come in one day and I cleared half of them and left half active.

MC - It sometimes seems like you get to most of what are, for us, the overnight flags before the rest of us even wake up and see them. I blame time zones.

TB - Yeah, quite possibly. I think I'm active a good few hours before most of you and it makes a difference on flag count.

ST - Worldbuilding has a great number of active high-rep users who help with moderation, and a rather polite culture. Aside from the occasional bot/spam spill, not much to clean up, really.

MC - Comments, sometimes. When you read a post and are greeted with "read 39 more comments", it's usually time to move it to chat.

BP - We now want to look ahead. What is the future of Worldbuilding.SE?

ST - Well, now that I'm a moderator...

TB - LOL. You should have had that as your campaign speech. You'd have got in no problem with how Worldbuilders love blowing stuff up.

Well, that's both hard and easy to answer. Easy because we carry on as before, and hopefully continue to grow. Hard because that's not really a very interesting answer.

MC - Worldbuilding has been through an active beta and has about doubled its daily question count since graduating. We're bumping into questions about scope and trying to work that out now. Our challenge is to resolve the biggest questions, keep up the activity, and keep everybody happy about the outcome. (That's a broad "our" -- the community, not just the mod team.)

TB - Yes, I think one of the big reasons for the success of Worldbuilding is that so much of it is driven by the community as a whole, Moderators most of the time are acting in a guiding role and letting the community get on with making the site great.

MC - Yup. The moderation job sometimes involves being the disciplinarian, which isn't fun, but there's less need for that here than on some other sites. It's great that the community self-moderates so well.

HDE - I think it depends not so much on us but strongly on the ongoing scope discussions. I'm glad we're having them; they seem to be a strong positive shift for the site, and I think they'll lead to great things. But there's a bumpy road ahead before we can sort it all out.

ST - On a more serious note, as more and more questions accumulate, there will likely be more duplicates. As more users arrive, outside of a small dedicated community of those who actively created and sought out this place, we'll likely have a lower average quality of first posts. So more work, possibly more mods... I look forward to more wiki posts, I'm already mulling over a list of possible candidate questions...

BP - Finally do you have some comments you would like to make?

ST - Looking forward to serving the Worldbuilding community!

TB - Worldbuilding is graduating, we've had elections. We're getting a new site design. The site is busier than ever; I can't wait to see where we've got to a year from now if the past year is any indication.

MC - I'm really looking forward to seeing where our awesome people take this site from here.

HDE - I'm looking forward to an awesome future for Worldbuilding Stack Exchange.

BP - Thank you for agreeing to that interview. I am sure our readers join me to wish you and the site all the best.

TB - Thanks for organising this, BP . It's not something we've done before but I think it worked well.

ST - BP, thanks for taking the time to chat with us!

HDE - Thanks for having us; it's been great to be here.

MC - BP, thank you for organizing this. It was a lot of fun.


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