Douglas Gregory (DMGregory)
- Game design questions are generally underserved by our site, often because many really interesting game design questions are open-ended. What (if anything) do you feel you should or could do to change this, as a moderator?
As a game designer myself, I have a lot of experience helping fellow devs understand that design isn't just making stuff up or deciding by fiat, but about problem solving within constraints. That puts it right in SE's wheelhouse of promoting answers that correctly solve defined problems.
In the past I've had good results here with light edits to tweak a questionable design question into an answerable scope, and/or a comment explaining why I think the question fits here. Other times I've provided an example answer to demonstrate how evidence and references can be applied to the design topic at hand. Sometimes all it takes is a vote of confidence from a trusted user to encourage others to see the question in a productive light.
Some examples where these methods helped in turning multi-close-voted questions around to receive multiple answers, upvotes, and Accepts:
I think we can make this more systematic too. In this Meta Discussion, I proposed a four criteria we can use to evaluate and guide improvement of game design questions - now part of the game-design tag guidance. I'd like to lead by example in applying this model (or future community improvements on it) until constructive guidance for design questions is as much a part of our shared lexicon as "comments are not for extended discussion" ;)
- There's a perception among developers that StackExchange is elitist / unwelcoming, or that established/high-rep users are on a "power trip" and out to bully new users...As a mod, how would you guide the community to provide a more welcoming first impression or onboarding experience for new users?
I think a big part of this has to do with questions 1 & 7. For many users, their first experience with the site is having their earnest, vital question shut down before anyone could answer it.
I don't think the community is wrong to do this - we get a lot of low-quality questions, and lowering our standards or opening the flood gates isn't a solution either.
But in the same vein as above, I think many of these questions can be rehabilitated with a modest investment on our parts. Especially if, through leading by example, we build a cultural norm around first attempting to improve questions before closing/downvoting, sharing the workload across the community.
Second, I think tone is a huge part of the equation - especially on the Internet where it's easy to read malice or aggression into innocent text. We've all been doing this long enough that the usual phrases like "Asking for technology recommendations is not on-topic for this site" just roll off the keyboard, but to a new user this can look like a very curt and gate-keeperly dismissal. Including in our routine a bit more explanation of why, or guidance to help the user to their next step, can radically change the emotional vibe of the interaction.
Even the automatic "Possible duplicate of..." comment can be edited if we catch it fast enough, and expanded to frame it as guiding the user toward immediate/already-vetted help for their problem - so that it doesn't read solely as chiding them for not searching first. I've been trying to do this recently and it's often better received than a bare duplicate flag.
- Aren't you afraid that you will burn out solving mundane issues that you could ignore before?
Yes, definitely! But I think by adding more moderators through this election, we'll be able to share the growing load of the site more evenly, and there will be more flexibility for the team to adapt as individual mods' availability and focus naturally vary over time. We're all here for each other so no one person needs to push beyond what they can sustain.
- Why do you want to be a moderator?
I've learned a ton from participating in this community, and I want to give back, to help it thrive and offer the kinds of learning opportunities to other game creators that I've been so luck to enjoy here.
- Some community members have felt a change in the chat culture on the site. What are your thoughts on the current state of the site's chat room?
I'll confess, I haven't been as active in chat here as I feel I should be as a potential mod, and so I'm making a point to visit and participate there more frequently. So far, I don't think I have enough experience to answer this question well.
- Moderators have a rare ability to make unilateral changes to the site, bypassing checks that often require larger community consensus. What do you feel is the area most in need of that kind of unilateral intervention today, and how would you address it?
Honestly, things seem to hum along pretty decently for the most part, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our existing mods and community members. I can't think of a major glaring issue that demands unilateral action that isn't already being handled reasonably.
I'd just like to help spread the maintenance load - particularly with regard to moderating comments and pruning outdated / off-topic discussion, since the non-mod tools are somewhat more limited in maintaining quality in this area.
I might like to use those powers for a bit of tag cleanup too. Right now, although I have a lot of rep, it's clustered in a small fraction of our tags, so there are lots of topics where I currently can't even propose synonyms. Not a dire problem for the site, but something I think I could better help with as a mod, so I'm not stuck waiting for the right question to come along before I can make an obvious improvement. ;)
- A huge percentage of questions get closed (roughly every 8th or 5000 out of the current 40,000 questions not counting the deleted ones), a big chunk of these ask for software, book or technology recommendations. What would you do to solve this issue?
Recapping the theme from questions 1 & 2, I think there's a lot of opportunity to proactively improve questions & find the on-topic nugget buried inside, and promote this as a community value we can all help realize, so fewer questions need to be closed in the first place, or are abandoned in that state.
Questions which are fundamentally off-topic like technology/book recommendations are a different matter though. I think we exclude these for good reason - our site's format simply isn't the best way to handle this type of question.
I think Bálint's suggestion to improve the question guidance presented immediately beside the question authoring field is a vital step here, and I'd love to collaborate on proposed content. :)
I think there's a deeper issue though, that users tend to ask these broad/suggestion-polling questions when they're uncertain of themselves. Often it seems like they lack confidence in a topic to form their actual question, so they ask for "general guides" hoping what they need will turn up in there somewhere.
I think this is another area where cultivating community norms around supporting new users as discussed in 2 could be beneficial. When a user expects to be welcomed and guided, it's easier for them to open up and describe what they're doing, with less apprehension that they'll be pounced on for going about it the "wrong" way.
- What professional or hobby experience do you have that you think you'll be bringing to the role of moderating this community? This might include soft skills dealing with people, or professional experience having developed games (and if you have the latter, what games have you worked on, if you are willing/able to disclose?)
I've been designing games professionally for ten years, specializing in systems design, user interface, economy balancing, and design communication, in both indie and AAA contexts. Along the way I've gotten to explore a wide array of development problem spaces, including localization, motion controls, multi-touch/multi-user interfaces, custom controller hardware, working within existing & controlled brands, and developing/pitching original game IPs.
I also have teaching experience in game mechanics and balancing through Sheridan's bachelor of game design program, and algorithm design & analysis as a TA with Stanford online.
I plan to continue applying this background in communication and teaching to cultivating a productive learning environment for all our users here.
My commercial game titles include:
- Flip's Twisted World (2010, Wii, indie, 3rd-person action-puzzler)
- Splinter Cell Blacklist (2013, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3rd-person stealth-action)
- Starlink: Battle for Atlas (2018, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, toys-to-life 3rd-person open world spaceship-flying/building action-adventure)
My non-commercial titles include:
- With great powers come great responsibilities and influence. As a newly elected moderator, what behaviour(s) that you had as a non-moderator will you change, if any, whether it is about voting, interactions with other users, interventions on meta, etc.?
I have a habit of being stubborn, and arguing a point longer than I should, something I've already been working to curb. I'd need to be extra-vigilant, recognizing that each message I post reflects not only on myself as a user, but on the site and its moderation community. I'd also need to act with awareness that the power imbalance between a mod and a regular or new user colours how all my interactions are perceived, however well-meaning they may be. I'd need to practice restraint, recognizing that an (in my opinion) imperfect question/answer/comment is very often better than an alienated community member.
Also, as I understand it, a mod's close vote closes the question instantly. To date, I've been relatively loose with close votes in situations I saw as borderline but wasn't clear how to fix - on the logic that others have a chance to disagree or make changes without the closure taking effect. I'd need to be much more judicious with closing, and only close a question when I'm certain that it's off-topic or causing harm in some way.
- 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?
I'd want to discuss this with the user, in chat or a private channel if they'd prefer, to try to guide them to a more harmonious relationship with the community.
I've had a number of these problems myself as I've been gradually learning more about the site, and I benefited greatly from mods and fellow users taking the time to explain why we do things a certain way on StackExchange, and showing examples of how to use the site more productively. I'd try to give this user those kinds of learning opportunities.
In the event of misunderstandings or differences of opinion about site conventions/norms & best practices, a meta thread explaining the concept can be effective for showcasing productive behaviours without calling anyone out explicitly, developing consensus as a check on my own bias, and also as a resource for all users' future reference. These threads by Josh Petrie and MAnd for example helped clear up misconceptions I'd held.
If problems persist, I'd discuss with the other mods what types of measures are best to dissuade the user from antagonizing the community.
If absolutely necessary, I'd rather suspend or ban a productive but inflammatory community member, rather than have them continue to upset or alienate our community here. Good answers are comparatively easy to come by, but a friendly collaborative community takes years to cultivate.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
I'm still pretty junior in my understanding of StackExchange conventions, so my first guess would be that there's something I don't know or have overlooked about the situation.
I'd try to reach out and discuss the issue with the other mod in another channel, like chat, or a private message if they prefer / if it pertains to sensitive information. I'd ask questions to understand the choice to close/delete, and if I still feel it should have been done differently, present my thoughts on why.
If we're ultimately unable to come to a consensus to reverse the decision, or the other mod is not available or interested in discussing it, I'd typically let the existing decision stand. It's easy to post a new question or answer, so no permanent damage is done even if I disagree with it. Escalating to the other mods, or causing a scene or edit/modding war would likely be more disruptive to the community.
I think further escalation to other mods would only be required if it became a persistent issue - like targeted blocking against a particular user / topic not in violation of the rules. For everyday differences of opinion, I think the site format gives us a lot of room to live and let live.