2011 Moderator Election

On Stack Exchange, we believe the core moderators should come from the community, and be elected by the community itself through popular vote. We hold regular elections to determine who these community moderators will be.

Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.

Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

Every election has three phases:

  1. Nomination
  2. Primary
  3. Election

Please participate in the moderator elections by voting, and perhaps even by nominating yourself to be a community moderator!

This election ended Feb 5 '11 at 20:00.

Anyone may download the election data. Voters have access to pre-built OpenSTV software to audit the results; all others may use this source distribution.

261 voters were eligible, 129 visited the election, and 104 voted

I'll volunteer as well. I've been involved with this site since private beta and have been an enthusiastic member since. I think cstheory.stackexchange.com has become a great resource, and I've learned quite a lot by participating. I'd be happy to have the chance to contribute to its success as a moderator.

I believe a good moderator should be, as the word suggests, 1) moderate but also 2) decisive. I'll try to nudge people to fix their posts and to make their questions clear (as I have in the past). And I'll happily guide new users. But at the same time, I won't hesitate to delete blatant spam, close simple homework questions, or deal with "trolling." However, I expect these to be rare events, and especially as we get more high reputation users, I would hope a moderator would only rarely have to intervene.

About me: I am a postdoc at ARC at Georgia Tech. In case people find it relevant, I mostly work in learning theory and in machine learning, so I am interested in both theory and practice of learning. I'm a fairly high reputation user (though not nearly as high as some other candidates!). I visit the site daily, and I visit meta weekly, though if I became a moderator, I would increase my participation in meta as well. I am in the EST (UTC -5) time zone.

EDIT: Regarding the current "lifetime appointment" policy, I think occasional rotation in the moderator pool would be healthy, and I imagine whether or not I am elected, I would advocate for periodic (say, yearly) elections.

EDIT2: This is my last attempt at renominating myself. If this gets deleted, so be it.

  • $\begingroup$ Good decision Lev. Now we have interesting race. $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Al-Turkistany Jan 28 '11 at 19:58

I've been thinking about the role of a moderator on this site, and how best to build the site over the next months. Once I read on Meta that, once elected, moderators remain "in office" until they step down, I decided to make my thoughts public, because I believe I have pinpointed some issues that site leaders should take seriously. On the one hand, this self-nomination is real: if elected, I would try my best to be a good moderator for as long as I could. On the other hand, I would be pleased with any three moderators chosen from the current list of nominees, so my message isn't "Vote for Me," but, "I hope we all think about the folllowing things as we go forward."

About Me

I am an ABD computer science graduate student. My research interests could be broadly descrbed as distributed computing, natural computing, and Theory (Other).

I usually log into cstheory Mon-Fri from 9am-12noon, and 10:00-10:30pm, Central Time US, UTC/GMT -6 hrs.

I committed to the creation of cstheory early on, and was active in both private and public beta periods. Perhaps my most significant contribution to the site has been: I wrote the (now-official) policy on questions requesting guidance on research paper topics. This was a contentious issue, and a modification of the "no homework questions" policy, which had also been contentious. I also proposed the voting method used on Meta to determine whether a policy proposal succeeds or fails, and I helped design publicity materials for SIGACT News and for FOCS 2010.

Role of a Moderator

The official StackExchange position on the role of a moderator is much more limited than the roles our temporary moderators have, in fact, performed -- and it seems as though there is some disagreement among the candidates about the correct way to view the responsibilities of the job. I'll divide my thoughts into different areas.

Directing Traffic

I like the notion of directing traffic more than, say, being the heavy who closes off-topic questions, because the way site rules are enforced has an effect on the tone of the site overall. I am a big fan of the "virtual vote to close," which Ryan and Suresh often used over the last few months: they announced in a comment that a question wasn't consistent with site policy in its current incarnation, but then they gave the asker time to fix it. (This also meant they gave community members time to help the asker to fix it.) I am in favor of letting the community take care of most community issues, and saving the "emergency powers" of moderation for emergencies.

I believe the best traffic-director in all of TCS cyberspace is Richard Lipton, and his handling of the diversity of comments on his blog is something any site moderator would do well to emulate.

Welcoming new users and helping them succeed at using the site

Part of directing traffic, perhaps, but I wanted to separate it out for two reasons. First, we have discussed on Meta that a long term objective for this site should be that a researcher in another field (e.g., chemistry) with an interest in modeling a problem algorithmically, could come to this site and ask a question that might require several iterations to "get right." Second, I saw in a recent question that a new user was told his topic was not TCS and he should post it somewhere else, whereas I and others thought, indeed, it was in scope for this site. Moral being: A good moderator needs to know when a question is "well meant" even if it doesn't appear to be in scope at the moment, and will (allow the community to) work with the asker to produce something that benefits both the asker and the site.

Dave Clarke is perhaps the nominee with the best track record in this regard.

Conducts site organization and maintenance

StackOverflow now gets 2,000 new questions a day. Need I say more? We will probably never get to that sheer quantity, but a significant increase above our current level of traffic is something we need to plan for. Correct tagging, etc., is vital to creation of a useful community information repository.

Kaveh Ghasemloo and Sadeq Dousti are the co-best nominees in this regard. If we consider only the last 45 or so days of the site, Hsien-Chih Chang would join them as co-best.

Publicizes the site

This is out-of-scope, as far as official StackExchange policy is concerned, and perhaps Jeff Atwood & co. might consider additional community leadership positions, like "Site Ambassador." In the absence of any elected role other than moderator, I think there's no question that the ability to say, "My name is __, I was elected to a position of leadership in cstheory and I'd like to tell you about it," has more cachet than just saying, "I'm one of the most active members on the site." I have some ideas about next steps in site publicity, which I will mention next.

Not that this needs to be said, but Suresh Venkat is the nominee with the strongest track record in this area.

Next Steps in Site Publicity

We now possess a trove of world-class information and explanation. The most remarkable question on the front page as I write this is the one about techniques for reversing quantifiers. This question-answer could easily be extended to an hour-long lecture, or powerpoint presentation, or a blog entry as readable-but-deep as anything that appears on Lipton's or Gowers's blogs. I believe we should make a more focused effort to expand upon and publicize our best questions to the "outside world."

I'm a semi-regular guest-blogger on the Computational Complexity blog (my next contribution, on chemoinformatics, is scheduled to appear within the week), and I have an ongoing invitation to submit guest blogs that are on complexity broadly-defined. I would be happy to choose a question every couple months, and write about the issues it brings up, linking to the site, and giving credit to the original asker and answerer. This is something I would enjoy doing whether I were a moderator or not (though perhaps I should only say that after the election, ha). If a few of us started doing this, we could produce regular mini-publications on a variety of blogs, as well as newsletter for SIGACT, SIGPLAN, etc.

Other than blogs and newsletters, there are several other electronic resources, like the DISC/PODC mailing list. Collecting the "best" (or even just collecting all) of the distributed computing questions every couple months, and mailing them out on the DISC/PODC list would be a community service that would also advance the site. It would be a bit like a Technical Report Column -- putting everything at your fingertips and you could decide what, if anything, to investigate. So I would suggest we target some venues for this type of publicity, and then send them question lists periodically.

Finally, I bet a lot of conferences would be open to 10-15 minute announcements about the current status of cstheory, and examples of the best questions and answers in the field of the conference. If an announcement is too much, a poster at a prominent location as well as in the poster session seems easy to swing. So I'd suggest a thread on Meta where people announce conferences they are planning to attend (or helping to organize!) so other users can help them with publicity tools if they are inclined to give upates about the site at the conference.

Recognition for Service to the Community

I will spoil a surprise and reveal that I had already planned to ask Lance Fortnow next week if there was some "Service to SIGACT/TCS" award I could nominate Suresh Venkat for. He definitely deserves one. That said, recognition for someone like Suresh is nice but not necessary, whereas I would hope, for example, that if Hsien-Chih Chang decided to apply to graduate schools, he would be able to get a kickass letter describing how helpful he has been on the site, and how technically useful his comments and answers have been. Similarly, I hope Kaveh and Sadeq receive some type of recognition that is potentially useful when they are applying for jobs, etc. Also, I'd like to say the following, since I'm sure Sadeq would never say it himself: given the world political situation, it would be much more difficult for Sadeq to meet people on this site in real life than it would be for, say, me, to meet the same people, because he lives in Iran. I hope that if it is possible for cstheory users to ease Sadeq's travel to international conferences, that you please do so as he has been doing a lot for all of us.

That's all!

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks Aaron: quite a masterful breakdown of the different roles moderators can play. Definitely we should keep this in mind as we cast votes. I like the various suggestions for outreach activities: this is a more comprehensive list than I had ever considered. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 28 '11 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ don't forget to go over to meta and look over the two moderator questions for candidates. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 28 '11 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'm really glad that you join this election. Thank you for the thoughtful ideas on moderation, and your idea on promoting the site by blog posts is nice and practical, hope it will get implemented soon, and that would be a great contribution to not only the site but all the TCS :) $\endgroup$ – Hsien-Chih Chang 張顯之 Jan 28 '11 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ Very nice coverage of all the possible tasks, and some nice words too. Welcome to the race. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Jan 28 '11 at 7:57

I toss my hat into the ring, too.

  • I'm a reasonably high-rep user.
  • I work in the borderland between languages and verification, and am reasonably knowledgeable about type theory, denotational semantics, and program logics.
  • I'm currently at MSR Cambridge UK, and in the GMT+0 time zone.

This site has already been helpful in my research, and I would like to help it out in return.

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    $\begingroup$ Good man....... $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Jan 26 '11 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome Neel: again, as with Dave, I'm really glad that we have theory B folks here. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ Neel, head over to meta: there are two questions there of relevance to moderator candidates $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ Neel and Dave are the top Theory B contributors of the site. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 27 '11 at 4:45
  • A professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium, working on the theoretical/practical boundary of programming languages, coordination, and software product line engineering and numerous other topics.
  • More of a jack of all trades than master of any.
  • In any case, a Theory B person.
  • Active, high reputation user (though I missed out on my fanatic badge by going on vacation).
  • In the Central European Time Zone (GMT +1).
  • Contributor to the SIGACT article about cstheory.stackexchange.com.
  • Fixer of entries.
  • Offers quality-improving comments to improve quality.
  • Down voter of junk.

If elected I promise to do a good job.

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    $\begingroup$ Woohoo!! Our first Theory B candidate!! $\endgroup$ – Hsien-Chih Chang 張顯之 Jan 26 '11 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ Dave is incredibly active on the sites, and it must be frustrating for him because of the lack of theory B folks. I'm really glad he's thrown his hat in the ring. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ Dave, head over to meta: there are two posts of relevance to you, now that you've thrown your (very large black) hat in the ring $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ Dave has been an active user since the early days and has strongly supported the growth of Theory B posts and users on the site. Without him the site might have been called cstheory A in place of cstheory. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 27 '11 at 4:31

I've just decided to nominate myself as a moderator. I hesitated to do so, because in my opinion there are some of us who are far more well-known and respectable, more participated in this site, and have already done a great job (both in meta discussions and background work) in the past. Currently three of them have joined the election, and I do hope more and more devoted users step forward and give all the members a wider variety of choices, just like @Suresh and @Kaveh have said.

I'm relatively new to both this site and the real theory cs community (I'm not even been to the graduate school), and my knowledge in this field is epsilon. So from the first day knowing this site I never missed one single day reading wonderful problems and answers posted by tcs people all over the world. Like @Sadeq I learned a lot, since most of the questions are completely new to me. Slowly I could contribute at tiny places, also made mistakes, and learned lessons from them.

I really like the idea that tcs people can be connected and joined by sharing what you know and what you want to know; this not only makes us learn to communicate, and also enhances spreading existing knowledge through the whole community. Now I would like to help a little more by taking over some regular duties of maintaining the site, and let the experts and knowledgeable ones in each field can concentrate on providing great answers to questions proposed by insightful people.

My advantage of being a moderator may due to my present location. I'm in a completely different time zone to most of the users on the site (GMT+08, 08:00 here implies 17:00 in Salt Lake city (Suresh), 19:00 in Toronto (Kaveh) and 03:30 in Tehran (Sadeq)), that means I can help monitoring the site when other moderators are asleep. And that may be the only advantage I have comparing to other candidates :P

Whether I will be elected or not doesn't matter, I just want this awesome site to be known and used by more people and all of us can learn something from each other. Hope all of you agree and support the site by recommending it to somebody. Thank you all very much!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for nominating yourself. You should point out what your time-zone is. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Jan 26 '11 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave: Thank you for the opinion, I've add it to the intros :) $\endgroup$ – Hsien-Chih Chang 張顯之 Jan 26 '11 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ You always strike me as a helpful and responsible editor, commentor and (close) voter. Thank you for stepping up to the vote! $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jan 26 '11 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ The time zone issue is important. Almost more important than activity, because we're getting more and more questions. I think everyone should post their time zones. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 21:44

I hereby nominate myself (Kaveh). (and yes, it sounds odd).

I was an early fanatics, have made a large number of edits (mostly retags), and have been active on meta. I would like to be a minimalist moderator (if you elect me I will try to use the moderator abilities as little as possible and hopefully it will be limited to "deleting obvious spam, closing blatantly off-topic questions", and implementing the policies decided by the community) and hope the need for moderator interventions will drop as we get more users with +10K reputation. I view cstheory as a resource for researchers and a community managed by the community. I think following a MathOverflow like strategy had a significant effect on bringing the experts to the site. I eagerly wait to see the posts on the site start being cited in conference and journal papers.

I would like SE to add the interesting questions page and allow more user customization so users can create their own criteria of what is an interesting question.

Will I make a good community moderator?

I don't know.

I usually get involved in heated discussions on meta as a user (well, you can read it positively as being enthusiastic and caring about the site and its success), but when it comes to making decisions and taking actions I like consensus and compromise. I respect users but sometimes new users not familiar with me might feel otherwise (this has happened in the past and I have tried to improve my comments and avoid misunderstandings caused by them and there has not been a recent case AFAIR).

I understand that a moderator will be held to a higher standard of behavior and has to be more patient and that partially means that I have to learn to be cooler in discussions (it is easier to argue enthusiastically as non-moderators). I hope that SE will implement two types of votes for moderators so they can also cast non-binding votes for closing questions.

I cut this post down, for the full version see the previous version.

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    $\begingroup$ Tsuyoshi Ito fits the description. He is fanatic and high reputation user. I hope he has the free time for the position :) $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Al-Turkistany Jan 22 '11 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ Kaveh works very hard on the site, especially doing the 'drudge' tasks of relabelling questions to have more appropriate tags. It's not often noticed, but is very important in helping the site remain searchable and well organized. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 22 '11 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Suresh, thanks :). @turkistany: Yes, I also would like to see Tsuyoshi and other high reputation users and regular visitors to nominate themselves. Hopefully it will not become a new time commitment and the time they spend on the site will suffice. As far as I understand the regular tasks are "deleting obvious spam, closing blatantly off-topic questions" and that shouldn't take much time. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 22 '11 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @everyone: if you are a high reputation user who visits the site and the meta regularly please nominate yourself (or I will start listing names that I would like to see nominate themselves here in my comments :). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 22 '11 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ For example, in addition to tsuyoshi, jukka, hsien-chih and Peter (Shor). $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 22 '11 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ Also Noam, David, JeffE, Dave Clarke, Robin, András, Neel, Lev, ... $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 23 '11 at 5:38
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    $\begingroup$ Having an election with just 3 candidates for 3 moderator positions is a very bad sign. I can guess that some of you have reservations about the time it will take to be a moderator but seriously it is not going to be a big deal and take more time than you already spend on the site, it is similar to what you were doing when we were in the beta so please consider nominating yourself if you care about the site at all. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 26 '11 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, some of us (well me, at least) think that the three people who have nominated themselves will do a super job. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Jan 26 '11 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ time zone please ? $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Dave, but I think the same holds for most of high reputation users who had access to the moderator tools in the beta including yourself. I think having a moderator from Theory B (specially in Europe Time Zone) will be a good thing for the site. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 27 '11 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ For transparency reasons, I wonder whether Kaveh should write his full name, if he wishes to be a moderator. I don't object to regular users being (semi)anonymous, but I think moderators should not be. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Jan 27 '11 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ Good point Dave, Also, I think a candidate moderator should post his photo in his user profile. $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Al-Turkistany Jan 27 '11 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ Dave, it is not secret but I don't see any point in including it here and therefore won't include it, anyone interested enough can find it easily (say by clicking on the page for our group that I have linked above). :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 27 '11 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ The point wasn't just to include it here, but to change your user name to it. I'm not going to force the point, though. People may feel more happy about being moderated by a person, rather than a nick-name. I remember back in the day when I wasn't using my name ... but that's another story. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Jan 27 '11 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ It is not a nickname, it is my real first name. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 28 '11 at 2:56

I've been an active member of CSTheory since the first days of public beta. When I joined this community, little I knew that it would become an important part of my life, and that I'd be so addicted to it! Everyday, I try to open all new posts, read them carefully, and see if I can contribute an answer.

This way, I contributed nearly 30 questions and 90 answers. Some of them were even out of my research field (such as the one on queueing theory of the one on updating parse tress), and I had to spend a lot of time to research before providing an answer.

Now, I want to take another step, and spend even more time on CSTheory. I believe moderation requires patience, knowledge, good understanding of the forum rules, and a lot of time. On the other hand, I trust this community moderates itself, and a moderator must intervene only in special cases.

I think I'm ready to commit to such duty. Anyway, I will try my best to continue playing my part in the community, whether I'm elected or not.

Other info:

  • My timezone is UTC +3:30 / +4:30 (depending on daylight savings).
  • I'm a junior Ph.D. student.
  • I study foundations of cryptography (specifically, zero-knowledge proofs). I've a rather good knowledge of computational complexity theory, too.
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    $\begingroup$ I'm all for this :) $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 22 '11 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ I think @Kaveh and @Sadeq would be great choices. Since it looks as though @Ryan is stepping down, I'd like to make the following comment. I think Ryan did a great job several times, phrasing things diplomatically but clearly, when new users have posted questions that don't quite "fit." Kaveh and Sadeq have, at times, been less welcoming in how they express themselves. I would hope that, if elected, they would be more circumspect in how they choose their words, following Ryan's good example. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Sterling Jan 24 '11 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Aaron, why not nominate yourself ? $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Suresh: Thank you. I'll think about it. I would be happy with the moderators being the three current nominees, and I haven't done as much behind-the-scenes work as any of them. I think I've always followed your suggestions, so far, so perhaps I will again, but I'm not sure. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Sterling Jan 26 '11 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ The more candidates, the more choice, and a better crop. Choice is good ! $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ time zone please.. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 26 '11 at 22:43

My timezone: Mountain time (UTC-6/7, depending on daylight savings)

I'd like to nominate myself (boy, that sounds odd)

I've been a temp moderator here for the past few months, and have been pretty active in both the main site and on meta. My general moderator policy is "less is more", and I try to separate my personal opinions from what the community deems reasonable. Overall, I think that this community moderates itself quite well without moderator intervention, and the only times when intervention has been required is because of new users becoming acquainted with site norms (we are a rapidly growing site, which is great!)

I'd continue more of the same if I were to be elected.

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    $\begingroup$ Without a doubt, Suresh has been the driving force behind this site since it first launched. If I had seen this page before you, I would have nominated you immediately! I am undecided about whether I will continue, as I've been steadily losing spare time over the past two months. It may be time to let someone else step up. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Williams Jan 21 '11 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ Suresh has been vital to the success of the site. Based on what I have read on other SE metas, cstheory has become a success story and an example to follow by others and Suresh's moderation has played a great part in it. It is a very good news that he is willing to continue as a moderator. He is patient, fair, respectful, and leads by example, I don't think we can find a better moderator. :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 21 '11 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree with Ryan and Kaveh. Suresh is effective and efficient moderator. $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Al-Turkistany Jan 21 '11 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ While I'm embarrassed and honored, I'd be even happier if more people nominated themselves (cough Kaveh cough) $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 21 '11 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ Suresh has definitely done a very nice job. By the way, is it possible to nominate someone other than oneself? $\endgroup$ – Huck Bennett Jan 21 '11 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ no. you can only nominate yourself. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 22 '11 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you folks. If we were to elect one and only one moderator, undoubtedly it would be Suresh! $\endgroup$ – M.S. Dousti Jan 22 '11 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ And more fortunately, we are going to have some moderators as good as Suresh, and not only one, but three! :D $\endgroup$ – Hsien-Chih Chang 張顯之 Jan 22 '11 at 16:32

This election is complete.