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I miss the Worldbuilding stack. I left because I did not like getting my ideas deleted by moderators. And it occurred to me: what if WB stack had different moderators? I think the current moderators have done a capable job keeping the site clean and easy to use. But I think new moderators could do the same, and come at the moderator job with fresh perspectives, and also be less inclined to delete my ideas.

Background:

https://stackexchange.com/about/moderators

Users - Worldbuilding Stack Exchange

Who are the moderators? We believe moderation starts with the community itself, so in addition to privileges earned >through reputation, we periodically hold democratic moderator elections.

Here are the moderators for WB stack: HDE 226868, L.Dutch and Monty Wild.

But as it turns out, despite the above pasted text, there are not actually periodically held democratic moderator elections. Moderators are elected for life.

My question on meta.stackexchange: Can an election happen if moderators are not stepping down? A referendum?

Is there a mechanism to hold an election if moderators have not stepped down? I am thinking of the British prime minister. A prime minister can serve for life. At intervals there are elections and a prime minister can be replaced, or be re-elected to continue on.

The answer is “no”.

Other than that, no matter how much sense it'd make, there is no such mechanism as you >describe: "Elections are called as needed by the Stack Exchange Community Team on all sites."

Here are the candidates from the last WB stack election 5 years ago in 2018. HDE was in position from the first election 7 years ago and since.

2018 Moderator Election Q&A - Questionnaire

• Nominee Questionnaire: JBH

• Nominee Questionnaire: Renan

• Nominee Questionnaire: Secespitus

• Nominee Questionnaire: AndyD273

• Nominee Questionnaire: L.Dutch

• Nominee Questionnaire: Marshall Tigerus

• Nominee Questionnaire: Monty Wild

• Nominee Questionnaire: dot_Sp0T

I think Renan (now known as Square-Cube Law) and especially JBH would have been and would be stellar moderators if they are still interested. There are other enthusiasts on this site who have arrived over the past 5 years who would no doubt also do a fine job.

This is a public appeal but really only the current moderators can decide if it will happen. If they don’t want an election / referendum, it will not happen. They are appointed until they choose to step down. If those 3 think it is an idea worth merit they would resign then run again for the position, this time as incumbents running on their own records. Re-election would be validation of their existing approaches.

Why would anyone not want a referendum? 1: It is a pain for the poohbahs at StackExchange to administrate. So if I were one of those I might say “please, we have plenty of pain, just carry on as you are.” 2: I do not want to risk the status quo.

5 years is a good long term for office. It makes sense to me to ask the community if they want more of the same or if they want a change. Power to the people and all! For the record I personally am very uninterested in being a moderator, being constitutionally unsuited for the job. But I am very interested in posting ideas and having even the most pathetic and incomprehensible of them remain undeleted.

WB Stack referendum!! ?

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    $\begingroup$ If you have an issue with site policy there are other avenue of recourse. If you've already brought up the issue on meta or contacted a CM, replacing existing mods is unlikely to change things. Moderators don't set site policy they enforce it. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 7 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ What I see here is that you want moderators who specifically don't moderate your posts, but otherwise uphold the same policies and uphold the same approach to the community. That's not good enough reason to want the moderators changed, especially when you already acknowledge they are capable and, as sphennings said, policy change doesn't require moderator change, so the fact policy has not changed means the community and/or company are the ones actually deciding your posts should be deleted, and all you would get is a new hand pulling the trigger. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Jan 8 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ People, please! This is not about me! This is not about policy. This is about "We believe moderation starts with the community itself!". If you think a moderator referendum is a bad idea, say why. If you think it is a good idea, say why. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 9 at 2:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Except that your only argument for it, is something you don’t like mods doing to you. Something I’ll add that is done by mods on every site, as a core part of their job. How could we see this as anything else? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 9 at 2:36
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    $\begingroup$ We don't need to replace our Mods. We do, I believe, need a two or three more Mods. I would support an election for more mods, not a vote of no confidence or a referrendum on the current mods. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 11 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ 8 downvotes and 3 upvotes for a proposition of democracy. Dark days. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 27 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ "It's bad when people democratically vote against my idea. They should only democratically vote for my idea." $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jan 27 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ For the record, Will... you're missed. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 29 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings, this is fundamentally a creative place, there's a great wide shade of grey around the story/opinion/too broad questions, by closing questions the mods decide where the line is drawn. I think the community should be drawing that line. Historically the community and mods have closed questions in a 4:1 ratio, that's been creeping up in favour of the mods to the point where in the last year they closed more questions than the community. I think that's incorrect. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 2 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix are mods preventing the community from having a discussion about where that line is? $\endgroup$
    – Kevin B
    Feb 2 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinB it's removing the agency that the community has to make that decision directly. We're having the discussion about it now, the question is whether anyone will take note. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 2 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ The Community is starting the process of updating our Tour and primary Help Center page. This will include policy decisions and it's a great opportunity to help us define the next stage of Worldbuilding. Please join us at this Meta page and share your thoughts. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 0:09

4 Answers 4

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Even if a referendum was supported by Stack Exchange, mods doing their job is not a valid reason for removal. We have a process in place to deal with moderator misconduct. As you yourself say, there isn't any misconduct. We should not pressure moderators to resign because you don't like the core premise of the site.

It seems like you want to have a referendum so that "even the most pathetic and incomprehensible" of your answer posts are not deleted. Deleting low quality posts is part of a moderator's duties. Changing who enforces site policy will not make it permissible to post whatever you want.

When you take the tour on this, or any other, stack exchange site, one of the first things it says is "We're a little bit different from other sites. Here's how: Ask questions, get answers, no distractions". This is what Stack Exchange chooses to lead with when introducing new users to their site. Permitting responses that do not answer the question, violates the fundamental idea that distinguishes us from other question and answer sites.

Compared to the restrictions Stack Exchange chooses to place on questions we're incredibly permissive with what we accept in answers. The only requirement for an answer post is that it must be an answer to the OP's question. To quote from the help center, "Answer posts that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed." We're expected to answer well asked questions, not simply share our ideas.

The two times you've asked about answer deletion on meta, it was non-moderators who answered explaining how this is site policy. When you've followed up with edits resolving the issue, your answers get undeleted. When you don't resolve the issues, your answers remain deleted.

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    $\begingroup$ sphennings, sphennings. I always appreciate your advice and recommendations. But although I introduced the idea by noting how I came to it, this is not a request for personal advice nor a demand to remove moderators. This is a question about whether a moderator referendum is a good idea or a bad idea. Try again. An answer should start with "I think that a moderator referendum is a good idea, because Willk has persuaded me with his immaculate logic". Or perhaps "I think that a moderator referendum is a bad idea because znqr lbh ybbx:. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 9 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk My position is pretty obvious. It’s an idea that is not even worth entertaining. We can’t have a referendum because it’s not supported by SE, leaving us with moderators voluntarily resigning. However there would need to be a reason for us to do such a thing. My post clearly explains why there isn’t a valid reason to even entertain the idea. Your only argument for is that you don’t like a core SE policy. This will not be resolved by changing moderators. To even suggest it in an attempt to avoid site policy reflects poorly upon you. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 9 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ The Community is starting the process of updating our Tour and primary Help Center page. This will include policy decisions and it's a great opportunity to help us define the next stage of Worldbuilding. Please join us at this Meta page and share your thoughts. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 0:09
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WB has changed, a lot, several times.

The stack I joined isn't the one you joined, I was already fading out as you became active. The stack as it is now isn't that one either. I miss the one I joined, but that's long gone. Fundamentally most of the questions when I started were either story based or opinion based requiring creative solutions. Everything is now much stricter, it's more about maths problems that can be solved, heading for "I can't be bothered to categorise this properly for another stack" questions rather than the considerably more creative place it used to be.

But such is life, nobody even gives praise to Glarnak any more. All I can really suggest is to let it go and move on. WB is dead, long live WB.

Edit

I realise I've not proposed a solution.

I suggest this, as long as a question has clearly had thought and effort put into it, it should only be closed by the community vote, never by moderator action. Let the community decide what is and is not acceptable and we'll see how it goes from there. Basically I'm asking the moderators to do less.

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  • $\begingroup$ I remember Glarnak. I've never been one to let things go, especially good things. I've always been an apologist for WB.SE as creative pace and worldbuilding as artistic endeavour. Maybe it's time for WB.SE to evolve again. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 31 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ Glarnak smite thee! I periodically invoke his majesty if only to remind newcomers that there's a history here that shouldn't be forgotten. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas That's only going to happen if we can convince the people with the keys to the help center display case to open the door. I tried for a long time to get a "don't use the Opinion-Based VTC reason" policy and I could never get enough traction to get a Help Center change. Without it, people just point to the rules and run. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH, it's not about not using it, it's about using it less and also backing off the story based closures which are also overused. It's all shades of grey, recent years have moved it more towards black and white which doesn't suit what fundamentally needs to be a creative space. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 2 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'll say that I agree with your final point and have personally increasingly followed it more over the last few years, with respect to closing questions and certain other moderation actions which can be done by the community. Mods are exception handlers, and we should probably use our powers more for exceptions. It means that the tasks I do are now the ones that are less visible -- or even invisible -- but I think it's better for the long-term health of the community. And yes, by the way, we are behind on the Glarnak praise. I should put that back on my calendar. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 2 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I agree with Separatrix that the site over the years has become tons more procedural and tons less creative. all of my favorite personal answers were from 3+ years ago. Today I frequently get into comment debates with young users who are unhappy that my answer met the OP's needs rather than reflecting "factual reality." So, let's make an assumption. Even though only 4-5 non-Mods may participate (very likely), if we make the effort to overhaul the help center and site-specific close reasons, will the Mods act on the results in a timely manner? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix I've no problem with that statement, TSB is overused... but if we can't objectively explain where the line is drawn, then our only choices are to use it or dump it. Considering our SE Overlords believe this is the storybuilding stack, I think we need to rethink our goals. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 4 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ The Community is starting the process of updating our Tour and primary Help Center page. This will include policy decisions and it's a great opportunity to help us define the next stage of Worldbuilding. Please join us at this Meta page and share your thoughts. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas The Community is starting the process of updating our Tour and primary Help Center page. This will include policy decisions and it's a great opportunity to help us define the next stage of Worldbuilding. Please join us at this Meta page and share your thoughts. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ The interesting thing is to ask why is the old Worldbuilding gone? The rules have changed very little. The interpretation of the rules, however, and the "most active question closers" have changed a lot. It does imply that the gap between old and new has less to do with the rules and more to do with the current interpretation of them, with questions of whether we actually like this new style, or whether it actually serves this community (or any community). $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 14 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JamieB a lot changed when Monica went, apart from being a moderator here along with others who left after the same incident, they were key in setting the tone of the site. There's no going back to that, part of it was about being a new stack and exploring what was going to be, part of it is being a victim of its own success and attracting people from other parts of SE where the rules are more rigidly applied. They need to be more like guidelines here for the stack to work. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 14 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB I also noted that on the year in moderation stats, more questions are being closed by moderator action than by community action whereas previously it was 4:1 in favour of the community. That possibly means that unspecified individuals are having an outsize effect on the tone of the questions we're getting answered. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 14 at 8:11
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It's tricky to understand the life of a moderator if you haven't been one yourself. For sure, on other sites, I've had answers deleted by mods. I believe that in some cases this was because a user with a penchant for quickly finding fault flagged it, and then the moderator didn't take the time to review the situation carefully.

While it was a bit tedious to get the situation resolved, I'm not convinced that that only way to make the system work better is more frequent elections.

I think that the way the SE system is meant to work is that first you need to earn enough reputation to see deleted posts, and then you should use that privilege to review the deleted answers and closed questions. If you see a pattern that is concerning, then raise awareness via a constructively written Meta post.

There are three things that need to be in alignment for the site to work:

  1. The "law of the land" as defined by the help pages,
  2. What the community wants and how they choose to act in most situations,
  3. The moderators decision making criteria.

There are many ways to improve alignment other than through moderator elections. In any case, the full time people at Stack Exchange are probably the best equipped to fine tune how the site works when it comes to things like maintaining moderator engagement and decision-making quality.

What the users can do is use their privileges, the voting buttons, and the comments in a manner that aligns with the "law of the land" as defined by the help pages. If you feel that some users are too quick to find fault, use your upvotes and comments to ensure that your more open and accepting point of view is well represented in the community.

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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't work, I commented to a persistently annoying user to find something constructive to do as I had no intention of changing my answer they had already downvoted and got a mod message warning me I'd be suspended $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Feb 1 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Kilisi The Community is starting the process of updating our Tour and primary Help Center page. This will include policy decisions and it's a great opportunity to help us define the next stage of Worldbuilding. Please join us at this Meta page and share your thoughts. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH na... your little gang can chat amongst yourselves. I might make an innocuous comment and get threatened with suspension again $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Feb 6 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Kilisi never once by me, but I understand. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 4:05
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My observations about moderators

  1. I almost never see HDE 226868 anymore.

  2. I rarely see Monty, though he's been more active recently.

  3. The vast majority of moderation is carried by L.Dutch.

  4. The last time I can think of the moderators asked anybody on the site about a policy was when James was a moderator. It was the (IMO now infamous) Real World Question policy. I'm not aware of any significant change in the Help Center made by our moderators since that time.

  5. Back when Monica was a moderator, the moderators were communicative. Almost gregarious. Our moderators today are very uncommunicative.

  6. Moderators are human. Sometimes they do things because they got up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed that morning. Questionable decisions — even mistakes — don't intrinsically justify removal. This is why Meta exists, so we can talk about things.

  7. Above all... moderators are expected to enforce the rules. Moderators that (a) don't enforce the rules, (b) don't participate in discussions about the rules and (c) don't help establish the rules are not valuable in their role.

Are they doing a bad job?

No, but they're not doing as good a job as they could be. And I agree with Elemtilas that the issue is likely better resolved by spreading out the workload. However...

I'm a bit of a believer that Mods should be (even must be) regularly active in all aspects of the community. Active contributors, active commenters, active moderators, active on Meta.... Considering that SE's model is to let moderators be moderators for life, it should be a necessarily weighty burden to self-analyze whether or not personal activity justifies both continued presence as a moderator and the choice to keep the moderator club so exclusive.

What should our policy be?

  1. We should always have five (5) moderators. If a moderator drops out for any reason, an immediate election should be held to replace that moderator.

  2. All moderators should be expected to re-present themselves to the community for re-election every five (5) years. Elections should be held on years ending with zero (0) and five (5). All moderators participate regardless when they were first elected.

This is fair to the community. Moderators both good and active continue. Moderators who no longer have the time to moderate either don't throw their hat in the ring in the next election or don't get re-elected. New blood has a chance to become members of the ruling class.

Do I expect this to happen?

Considering the moderators' track record with participating in community policy discussions and acting to change the Help Center to reflect community consensus...

No.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Kilisi You might want to check this out. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ Looks boring. I reckon every 2 years mods need to be re-elected or lose the diamond $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Feb 2 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ There are two points you bring up here that I think are valuable to discuss. The first is with regard to meta posts: mods aren't tasked with creating or discussing policy. I've come around to the view that maybe it's actually best if we aren't involved in doing so, since some of our tasks involve enforcing that policy -- it's like separation of powers. I the ability to shape meta discussions is an important skill for a moderator to have, but it isn't a mod's job to do so. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 2 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ The other point is that the community currently generates ~3-5 flags per day, on average. The workload is not large, and looking at the last year, the team's flag-handling time is fairly quick. So I don't think workload is an issue. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 2 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Hmmm... Here's my problem: Mods are the ultimate police force. The specific and "final" (for practical purposes) executors of policy. They should be involved in the discussion of policy because its execution (should) affect them. But I'll set that aside. What policy change discussed and approved in Meta since the Real World Question policy has made it into the help center? None that I can think of. Documenting policy is specifically the Mods power - and if the RWQ policy is any example, it doesn't happen unless it's started by a Mod. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Perhaps part of the problem here is that the efforts of the Mods to enforce policy and thereby (theoretically) preserve culture has in recent years become all but invisible. In fact, in the last couple of months Mods have been posting answers contrary to policy - making the process of educating young users a whole lot harder. Today, I find it very difficult to believe the users can speak with any combined voice that will be heard other than individually using flags. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Regarding the first of those, I'd flip the question: Which policy changes since then do you believe warrant inclusion in the help center? (AI-generated content might be an example, but that's partly a network-level issue and is being worked on.) I don't think we seen many enormous scope changes that should be added and aren't already adequately documented in meta posts. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 2 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 (a) Instruction on the valid use of VTC:Opinion-Based. (b) Clarification that we don't answer questions about 3rd-party/commercial worlds. (c) Clarification about the limits of the Real World Question policy and its use in worldbuilding. (d) The limits of imposing reality on worldbuilding questions. (e) Clarification on acceptable/unacceptable brainstorming questions. If I took an hour to research it, I'd find a lot more - and I'll underscore the point that the only policy changes here that have been made in years were policies advanced by Mods (RWQ, AI...) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 And to make a point, "adequately documented in meta posts" is, IMO, a cop out. Over years Meta gets clogged. Meta-only policies get lost unless regularly used so they're not forgotten... and even those get forgotten. Meta is a great place to discuss and decide on policy, but it's worthless for being the repository of policy. That's what the help center is for. I've occasionally had users, irritated that they couldn't just do what they want, actually accuse me of advocating a policy that was "just my opinion" because I wrote the Meta post and despite dozens of upvotes for approval. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 2 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH So, I do kinda disagree with that because eventually it just ends up making the help center too crowded for the purpose new users usually use it for -- getting basic info about the site -- but this is something we should look at more. What do you think of the idea of writing a meta question on this -- specifically asking what meta discussions people think deserve to be in the help center? Each answer would argue in favor of one existing meta discussion, we could feature the question for ~2-3 weeks, and at the end edit the help center per the final voting. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 3 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 If we had greater involvement in Meta, that would work just fine. With my expectation of only a handful of regular participants, that sounds tedious. But I'm happy to review the Help Center and see if it can be broken up that way. Please note that I'm having trouble seeing a bullet list of policy references with links substantially clogging the help pages. BTW, do the Mods have any influence over this page? It has a lot of potential other than it's too out of date. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 4 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH No, we unfortunately can't edit that one -- we can only edit two help center pages and parts of the tour. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 5 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 OK, I consider it low hanging fruit, so maybe I'll take a crack at it between the others and toss it over to Meta Stack Exchange. They once told me they'd love people to help out with that. Some of the Help Center links are so far out of date they violate today's CoC. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 5 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 It appears that on the Tour all we can edit are the example questions. Is that correct? If so, must they link to Main or can they link to Meta? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 5 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH We can edit the example question, the header at the top, and the section under "Get answers to practical, detailed question", but the example question has to be on main and satisfy a couple criteria -- the system automatically gives us a set to choose from. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 5 at 22:27

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