The following is a "digest" version of the 2011 Moderator Election Town Hall Chat. The format, as described on Meta Stack Overflow, is one answer to this question for every question asked in the Town Hall, containing all the candidate's answers to that question.

To view the digest chronologically, please sort the answers by "oldest".

If you have questions or comments about this, please do not answer this question as the answers are designed to be used for the questions from the Town hall itself. Instead, please ask on the parent question or in the Town Hall Discussion Room.

(A big THANK YOU to Rebecca Chernoff for organizing these town halls!)

If you see any corrections which need to be made to this digest, or if you were a candidate who was unable to attend the town hall and would like your answers included, please @Josh me and let me know!

15 Answers 15


Dan Patterson Dan Patterson asked: I am concerned that this forum will become a substitute for other forums that are software specific. What should be done to ensure that the questions and/or answers are platform independent and/or highlight advantages or disadvantages between them?

whuber whuber answered: @DanPatterson It's very hard to ensure Q's and A's are platform independent. That's really asking to much. However, careful moderation--primarily through gentle comments--can go a long way towards encouraging answerers to think about the potential scope of their replies and to craft them in ways that may be broader than the immediate question. Not all questions are amenable to this, but many are.

Mapperz Mapperz answered: but ESRI do have their own forums.... but GISse does get users faster answers! (bonus)

scw scw answered: @DanPatterson My strategy so far has been to try and involve people who are involved in GIS using a variety of technologies in the site, I myself use a mixture of software and think its a productive environment. Getting questions & answers on topics outside of the historical norm of GIS helps; people doing web mapping, using spatial data in NoSQL data stores, javascript implementations --

scw scw continued: @DanPatterson (con't) these all broaden the audience, and give us a nice intersection of developers and those with the technical knowledge that historically has been tied to a few major software packages

underdark underdark answered: @DanPatterson: I'm with @scw here, I doubt the community would be big enough if we'd discourage software-specific questions.


Kirk Kuykendall Kirk Kuykendall asked: For all candidates: what do you think the biggest impediment to the proliferation of GIS technology is today?

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @KirkKuykendall Bandwidth

whuber whuber answered: @KirkKuykendall The human factor: finding appropriate uses for innovations in GIS and using existing GIS effectively.

underdark underdark answered: In Europe: data availability

scw scw answered: @KirkKuykendall Understanding of the technology: its a relatively new field, and most folks now attracted to it come through the 'neo-geography' door and don't necessarily understand the whys of the approaches they use, which limits the utility of the results

matt wilkie matt wilkie answered: @KirkKuykendall basic computer literacy. I see many people using all these fancy tech gadgets and not having a clue how they work or what their limits are. For many, it's indistinguishable from magic, it actually is magic. Even now it is not uncommon to see spaces and tabs used to indent paragraphs for instance. There is a chasm betwixt that and understanding point, lines, polygons and linking them to tables and coordinates


Michael Todd Michael Todd asked: What are your thoughts on company-specific questions (e.g. ESRI)? Allowed, disallowed? With constraints?

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @MichaelTodd it can get a bit E-S-R-I orientated but thanks to @underdark and QGIS it leads to other ways GIS software can do it for minimum cost and fuss.

underdark underdark answered: @MichaelTodd: I don't see how we could disallow ESRI-specific questions (and I'm not known as a big fan ;)

whuber whuber answered: @MichaelTodd Company-specific is fine. Why should we discriminate in such a draconian manner between commercial and open source software? Of more importance are the quality of the questions and the answers. "Quality" means how general, timely, accurate, and well-formulated they are.

matt wilkie matt wilkie answered: @MichaelTodd if we disallow product or company specific questions the site will suffer, and so will I. At a guess I'd venture less than 20% of my questions and answers so far are sufficiently general enough to be not tied to a company/product.


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

whuber whuber answered: @RebeccaChernoff I deal with this all the time on stats :-). There's always a good reason. It's important for the mods to communicate and coordinate regularly. That doesn't entirely eliminate conflicts, but it minimizes them and makes it easier to cope with the ones that arise. Mostly I just accept what happens, make suggestions for the next time, and move on.

underdark underdark answered: @RebeccaChernoff: I'd initiate a discussion about it on meta

underdark underdark continued: or the chat, if it becomes more lively

matt wilkie matt wilkie answered: @RebeccaChernoff we (the pro-tem mods) created a private gis-mod only chat room. I'd start by expressing my dissenting view there, ask them to elucidate their reasoning, and if need be migrate the discussion to meta to catch a wider range of opinion.

scw scw answered: @RebeccaChernoff Contact them through email and try to set out some ground rules in the FAQ or on meta -- this is an area which could use improvement, being more explict about the rules used to govern the site. In practice, it hasn't been an issue.


Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What can be done to bring more people to the community? Do you feel that's part of your responsibility as a moderator?

whuber whuber answered: @RebeccaChernoff Yes, promoting the community is definitely a moderator responsibility. Unlike almost all the other responsibilities, which are reactive, promotion takes initiative: it is proactive. Best, I think, would be for the mods to work together rather than individually so that they can use all the site's capabilities (and SE resources) towards a coherent promotion.

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @RebeccaChernoff can promote the site whether a mod or not - moderators are to help keep the quality and consistency through the GISse...

underdark underdark answered: @RebeccaChernoff: Bringing new people and perspectives to the community should be everyones goal - moderator or not. Mods have the added responsibility to ensure that the site gives a good first impression to new users.

  • I really feel like there were more answers to this question... but I can't seem to find them! If anyone else can, please let me know.
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 15:48

Rebecca Chernoff Rebecca Chernoff asked: What do y'all see as the biggest challenge when it comes to moderating GIS-SE?

whuber whuber answered: @RebeccaChernoff Generating wider interest: publicizing the site, attracting good questions and great answers, and keeping people interested for the long haul.

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @RebeccaChernoff time is the biggest challenge (how to cover holidays and vacations??)

underdark underdark answered: @RebeccaChernoff: Keeping up motivation on all sites, but until now the site seems to run smoothly.

scw scw answered: @RebeccaChernoff The scale of the site isn't such that I think the act of moderation is burdensome, I'm more concerned with getting a cross-section of users who are interested in GIS and might of never heard the acronym, and providing a great resource for people in this exciting field. Secondarily, how to keep the community structure functioning over time, a problem all online communities must deal with (see reddit, hacker news, stackoverflow, etc -- its a problem with no simple solutions)

matt wilkie matt wilkie answered: @RebeccaChernoff The biggest challenge I've had so far is figuring out how to handle one line answers that are technically correct, but are actually bad answers. "your solution is [here], bye." I don't want to discourage participation altogether by downvoting or closing. I sometimes leave comments asking for more info etc. but so far very very few have taken up on the suggestion.


Kirk Kuykendall Kirk Kuykendall asked: Newspapers have increased their readership by sensationalizing (if it bleeds, it leads), to what extent should GIS.se be made more sensational (LocationGate? tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/04/… )

whuber whuber answered: @KirkKuykendall I would actively resist any move towards sensationalism: it is unprofessional and inconsistent with the site's usage criteria. (It's hard to see, though, how one can "sensationalize" anything much in a Q&A format.)

scw scw answered: @KirkKuykendall I'm not sure that the site would be best as a repository of news, that feels like the wrong focus for it. I do admit that it provides a lot of profile however, the 'locationgate' authors were at Where 2.0 and it did provide a lot of buzz and interest to have CNN cameras on the scene... but again, I don't believe this is worth focusing on as an approach to grow the site


Rebecca Chernoff http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/d8c43bb4c449d8054aebdd4ad98c6f6c?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG Rebecca Chernoff asked: 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?

whuber http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/66c15ca582c60477dc4b535d8b39558b?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG whuber answered: @RebeccaChernoff Privately. I like to pretend such users are luminaries in their field--perhaps people I already admire--because that helps keep the politeness level high. I emphasize the value of their replies and ask them to be aware of the reactions to their less-considered behaviors. That's key, too: you discuss behavior, not personality, because the one can be changed but not the other.

underdark http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/70650c12de2f6352e141d3245e5d4350?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG underdark answered: @RebeccaChernoff: I think it would only be fair to discuss such problems in private before taking any further steps.

matt wilkie http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/875b592087c435ab4a8d533cda9b69c1?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG matt wilkie answered: @RebeccaChernoff like this: Somebody is answering too many of their own questions. It's not exactly the same, but similar. The idea is to raise the profile, expose a number of viewpoints, express the complaints, but not attack or denigrate.

scw http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/b0daf5f61d054f0f504dbfe19344b0f6?s=16&d=identicon&r=PG scw answered: @RebeccaChernoff Intelligence doesn't equate social skill, and I think a polite email explaining the concern is often enough to redirect things sufficiently. Fortunately, GIS.SE hasn't shown much propensity for this kind of user


Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek asked: How much time do you anticipate spending on the site? How much of that would be "moderating"?

whuber whuber answered: @MichaelMrozek Moderation is part of what every high-rep user is expected to do. If you look at the 'User' tab on our main page you can see the mod candidates are already active on meta, with voting, and editing. The progression to formal moderator status isn't a great leap; it's just a small change that doesn't require much more commitment of time.

whuber whuber joked: @MichaelMrozek I don't really want to confess how much time I actually spend on the site each day--it's too much :-).

underdark underdark answered: @Michael: I check at least twice a day, usually more often. Time spent depends on what is going on on gis.se and in the real word

matt wilkie matt wilkie answered: @MichaelMrozek based on my experience thus far, I spend about 20-30 minutes a day, of the days I come to GIS.se at all, moderating (This includes thinking about moderating but not actually doing anything). That has been slowly ramping up as the site's popularity increases and more things are flagged for attention.

scw scw answered: @MichaelMrozek As a pro-tem moderator, I've spent around 10-20 minutes a day moderating, relying on the model of letting most things bubble up through the flagging system -- the moderation system says that's 94 interventions over a few months. I try to consistently visit the site to moderate, then participate when time allows in addition to that.


Mapperz Mapperz asked: How do we promote GISse for a big community base? more blog, twitter posts - any more ideas?

underdark underdark answered: @Mapperz: Forum signatures?

whuber whuber answered: @Mapperz Blogging, talking it up at conferences, telling colleagues and researchers. There are some more creative ideas out there, like the stats site's Journal Club (where authors of recent papers have been invited to participate, and some actually have). That raises visibility and credibility.

  • I could only find these answers -- if I missed some, please let me know!
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 15:30

Kirk Kuykendall Kirk Kuykendall asked: Should GIS.se be a forum to announce bugs of Esri, which might motivate them to fix them more quickly (what happened to the bug tag?)

underdark underdark answered: @KirkKuykendall: No, I don't think we want to become ESRI's bug tracker

whuber whuber answered: @KirkKuykendall We could announce bugs, but ESRI has been making more of an effort to manage these itself and it has a history of serenely--and totally--ignoring all third party efforts to identify bugs. We should step around this issue delicately.

scw scw answered: @KirkKuykendall I wouldn't want to see the site become politicized and have a vendor specific agenda -- if questions come up and that helps bugs get fixed that's great, but I'd rather get vendor folks on the site answering questions where its appropriate, and redirecting to their internal systems where it isn't.


Kirk Kuykendall Kirk Kuykendall asked: Are any of the candidates restricted or pressured by their employers to toe a company line with regard to GIS.se participation?

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @KirkKuykendall no none so far.

matt wilkie matt wilkie answered: @KirkKuykendall I'm not constrained about participated on GIS.se by my employer, except in so far as I may occasionally be told to put it down, slowly back away, and pay more attention to my real job.

underdark underdark answered: @KirkKuykendall: not expecting any troubles

whuber whuber answered: I'm self employed and enjoy the independence from such pressures.

scw scw answered: @KirkKuykendall I'm in an educational setting where questioning your choices is celebrated and have no commercical interest tied up in my responses.


Kirk Kuykendall Kirk Kuykendall asked: Do you think a market economy helps or hinders innovation in GIS?

whuber whuber answered: @KirkKuykendall A market economy compared to what? Five-year planning on the soviet scale? North Korean isolationism? Out of curiosity, how are you going to relate our answers to this question to our characteristics as would-be moderators? :-)

scw scw answered: @KirkKuykendall I'm not sure I have a good answer for this, I suspect some mixture of market economy and public investment is best, but I'm not qualified to speak on the economics of the space


Michael Mrozek Michael Mrozek asked: 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?

whuber whuber answered: @MichaelMrozek Frankly, I don't notice the diamonds and suspect others don't either. (In many places they don't even appear.) But you're right; it does change how you behave. My activities on the GIS site changed radically after I was elected mod on a different site, because my perspective changed: I had to take more responsibility for, and think harder about, every action.

underdark underdark answered: @MichaelMrozek: It's not like we've been anonymous until now. It won't make a difference.

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @MichaelMrozek don't mind having a rhombus after my name.... geometry specific there.

scw scw answered: @MichaelMrozek I think more carefully about what I post because of this added weight, but I don't think it changes my answers significantly


Dan Patterson Dan Patterson asked: Any final thoughts from the prospective moderators? (pet seals chased away the polar bear)

whuber whuber answered: @DanPatterson I'm impressed by all the participants in this conversation and sorry that we can vote for only three of the candidates.

Mapperz Mapperz answered: @DanPatterson vote it counts!

  • If any of the other candidates have closing thoughts, just post them in the chat and @Josh me. I'll include them here in the same format. Thanks!
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 18:37

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