Vanilla 1.1.9 is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.
1 to 34 of 34
[In response to a suggestion by quid, I am starting a new thread for a topic that came up in this thread. ]
There has recently been a suggestion to delete (erase from the site; make invisible and inaccessible) the "colorful language" thread. I think this is a very bad idea. I propose that MO have a policy of not deleting any questions which have had significant answers or comments.
My position is that the "colorful language" thread has nothing to do with research mathematics and detracts from the main purpose of MO. There are many answers and comments that are relevant to the question, but none that are relevant to research mathematics. I voted to delete the entire thread. We'll see if other 10K users agree with me--it takes three votes from 10K users to delete a thread.
The follwowing is a (I hope [Added: turns out not quite correct]) correct data-point not a contribution to the discussion. It seems to me that (recently, last days) several old (several month, perhaps spring 2011) questions that had somewhat highly voted answers (by which I mean answer with say score around 10) already got deleted.
It is difficult for me to make precise what these were or how many these were in total [perhaps somebody who can know this could provide this information]. I noted it only due to the fact that my total answer-count decreased by a little and can only reconstruct something from memory. It affected both mathematical and soft questions [I only know it for a soft question].
To give a rough idea (if my memeory does not fail me) [unfortunately it did partly].
[Added: This one did not dissapear I refound it but had misremevered the title] One was something about the invertability of I - A if I is the identity matrix and A matrix of spectral radius smaller than one.
Another, was some career advice question of a young (teenage?) person.
Both can be considered as off-topic [Added: remains true]. I certainly do not want to personally complain about the deletion. And regarding the general matter have no well-formed opinion, so that I will stay out of this discussion. As said, the purpose of this posting is to provide a data point, to the extent that (or so it seems to me) as of recently it can happen that a question with somewhat well-received answers gets deleted (and I also reconstructed in one case that this is not something specifc to my account/me [Added: not true anymore as it concerned the other question]).
This was suprising to me (to be understood in a neutral sense) [Added: still remains suprising] and I thus provide this information, since under sligthly different circumstances I would not have noticed this at all and so could imagine this being the same for others while possibly being relevant to this discussion. [Added: remains true]
In the last 23 hours 33 threads were deleted, not by the owner. None of those I looked at had net positive votes.
What do you propose as reasonable ground for deletion, Kevin? Bill has given a criterion I can understand, but you seem to be saying as long as a thread has a non-trivial amount of participation it should be kept. That seems kind of hazy. I don't have a lot of experience with community moderation but my general impression is that the only way you can get the community to moderate effectively is if the rules are at least reasonably clear. Muddy rules will lead to inaction and moderators pushing against each other, defeating the purpose of community moderation. I believe your suggestion has a good intention but I think it needs more formulation.
@Bill Johnson: Here's what I posted on the other thread. I would be interested to hear your response.
If I understand correctly, you are proposing to not merely close the colorful language thread, but to delete it and make in inaccessible/invisible to the large majority of MO users. This strikes me as misguided and a little bit rude, and I hope you will reconsider.
I'm not personally a huge fan of soft big list questions, but many users of this site seem to enjoy them. A large number of people participated int he "colorful language" thread, and it seems rather inconsiderate to them to delete it completely from the site.
A collectively moderated site like MO doesn't work well if people adopt too rigid a standard for what is acceptable. We all should tolerate some differences between what we think MO would be like in an ideal world and what MO is actually like in the real world.
Note that I am NOT arguing that all or most soft big list questions should be allowed. I think it is important that they not be allowed to dominate the site. Closing some of them early, before they get started, is fine. But once a question and garnered a large amount of participation, I think it should be left on the site.
@Ryan: I would welcome alternative suggestions for deletion criteria. What Bill proposes is precise but wrong (in my opinion). I would prefer a more reasonable standard, even if it is a little bit fuzzy. Clearness is not a virtue unless it's accompanied by sufficient correctness.
I think it's fine to delete obviously spammy questions (including poorly written homework questions). I think the "colorful language" question should definitely not be deleted, for the reasons I give above. I think that because of its drastic nature, deletion should be used very sparingly. In the large majority of cases it suffices to simply close a question and let it drift away into non-front-page obscurity.
For what it's worth, I found the Adams quotes (from Infinite Loop Spaces about double cosets) mathematically interesting and they led me to a book that I probably would not have taken a look at otherwise (when I was taking a class on representation theory last year).
@Kevin Walker: My first post in this thread was a response to what you wrote in the other thread and repeated in your penultimate post on this thread. Here I will add a response to the last sentence in your last post in this thread: An off topic post which draws a lot of votes, such as the "colorful language" question, appears on the first page if one selects the "votes" option. That gives new users the wrong impression of what MO is all about, IMO. These days, I think that such a question would be closed quickly, before it drew many answers.
Now the "colorful language" question has been reopened, which means that it can easily be kicked back to the front page with the "newest" option clicked.
@Bill Johnson: Thanks for the response. Appearing near the top if a user clicks on the "votes" tab seems like a relatively minor issue to me. The questions at the top of that list are never going to typical or exemplary, since the typical and exemplary MO question is of interest to a relatively small number of experts (and therefore won't get a huge number of votes). I don't see any way around this problem. Fortunately it's a very minor problem.
I think MO is fine the way it is. There are a few soft questions, but not too many, and the number of them seems stable. I see no need to start deleting questions at an increased rate.
Kevin, while I agree rules have to be flexible, I also feel that if they're not clear and flexible it gives the impression of double-standards and hypocrisy. I suppose I'm worried about the potential for creating a system where "famous" people can create threads on any topic they want, wheres newcomers and "regular" mathematicans are held to much higher standards. I think the same kind of dynamic happens with things like taxes. For example, the Canadian and US tax codes are very complicated (to some extent out of a desire to create fairness) but this gives people the impression of endless loopholes and back-doors. Likely there's no ideal tax system nor system of laws but my own prejudices tend to lay more towards clarity. But I'm not a flat tax person, in case you're curious!
@Ryan: I agree that clearness is desirable, for the reasons that you give and for other reasons too. But there are other, potentially competing, desiderata for rules and guidelines. One of these is that it's desirable for a rule to produce outcomes that are preferable to the outcomes of any alternative rules we are considering. In a messy and imperfect world, sometimes the optimal rule (or guideline or law or ...) is not the clearest possible one.
I certainly think that what I proposed at the top of this thread can be improved on. My main concern is that we not go overboard deleting questions. I think we should err on the side of leaving questions undeleted (but still closed).
I think that as far as soft questions go, the colorful language thread was one of the better ones. However, if others would like to have a great crusade against all soft questions, I will lend my support to that cause.
@Kevin Buzzard: I cast the fifth vote to reopen the colorful language question. I actually don't care very much whether it's open or closed, but I feel strongly that it shouldn't be deleted. Since deletion was at most two votes away (according to Bill Johnson), and since deletion is difficult to undo, I thought the best way to prevent the issue from being decided before this discussion had run its course was to vote to reopen. I think the previous four votes to reopen predate this thread.
@Kevin Buzzard: I think Kevin Walker gave an accurate description.
@Harry Gindi: "Crusade" is too strong a word, but, yes, I am opposed to soft questions cluttering up MO. I know good mathematicians (and, IIRC, others have mentioned this) who have taken a look at MO but got turned off by the "fluff". The moderators and users have gotten pretty good about quickly closing math questions that do not belong here and have recently gotten stricter about fluffy questions, but old fluffy questions with many upvotes work against MO IMO.
The always sensible Gil proposes a reasonable compromise solution if it is possible to implement it. If applied to the "colorful language" question there would remain the censorship issue to address, but doing what Gil suggests would be adequate for most fluffy questions (including, e.g., the one asked by Tim Gowers that is the most upvoted question of all time).
I think there is a little bit of bad information lurking here since only 10k users can actually see what has and hasn't been deleted.
There hasn't been a single deleted big-list question so far and it's not clear there will ever be one. All deletions so far were for much more mundane and transparent reasons. (And moderators have ways of looking for unusual deletions.) Deleting and undeleting are just as easy as closing and reopening, in fact easier since they only require 3 votes (from 10k users) instead of 5 votes (from 3k users).
Experience from the past tells us that talking about rules is almost never productive. Why would you want a rule for a somewhat unique case? This is not math, abstraction and generalization are not desirable here. On the other hand, talking about specific borderline cases can be useful, and that is what meta is for...
One more piece of information: what Gil Kalai suggests was discussed in general some time ago;
Gerhard Paseman: I just now saw you nominated me for something; I did not mean to initial ignore this. Thank you for considering me. But, while I would be personally very curious too, to know the opinion of the community at large on various matters (while actually being a bit afraid the result would rather go against my personal interests), I believe that my participation in the administration of a thing like this would not be a good idea, for example, as I suspect too many might not appreciate a pseudonymous user in such an activity. So, I will decline.
Do deleted questions remain in the database dumps? If not, I would suggest that an outside archive of "big-list" questions be made (I could do this, using the current database dumps) before they are deleted. I know I enjoyed (and learned much from) reading the answers to many such questions (for instance, the one about false beliefs), and, even if removed from the site proper, they might prove useful to readers.
@Akhil Mathew: Deleted questions are still there but can be viewed only by moderators and 10K users.
@Bill - how can only moderators and 10k users be privy to certain items in the public dumps? They are merely something like a text file.
@Akhil - I second this idea. As people elsewhere say, there is material that tries to find its way to MO which is better suited to a blog, and perhaps a lengthy blog entry with the current contents of the thread (with votes, if desired) will mean that the thread can be deleted here. This is clearly not a small task, and someone would have to be willing to host it, but this seems to me to be an even better solution than the one at StackOverflow (close and lock and say 'this is not really a good question, despite all the votes'). What functionality do we get by hosting these answers here? Voting? (no one gets rep points, and votes are skewed towards older answers) Sorting by votes/newest/oldest? (if no new entries can be added, this isn't really necessary)
@DavidRoberts: I don't know.
@Akhil: I believe but am not sure that deleted content is not included in the public dump (at least this seems to be the case on SO, and from the respective dumps-thread here it seems by and large what Anton includes in the public dump is modeled after what SO does). So that for dumps created after the deletion I guess the answer is 'no'.
[Added, this is redundant, did not read carefully, sorry]: However, there would remain the old dumps that would contain the information.
(Or perhaps Anton could even change what to include from the full dump that he has and that of course contains the information; as is visible from the dumps-meta-thread over time some changes where made so it seems certainly technically possible; yet there might be issues with including all delted material, but there might be some way for, automated, selective inclusion; but this is pure speculation on my side, and in view of the existence of the old dumps perhaps not even necessary.)
One more general technical infomation: if one wants something 'read only' only, recently somebody, I believe joro, showed/posted a link to a full 'read only' version of MO running on some other software (OSQA I think). This would/could be usable to preserve material (in various degress of sophistication) too.
Deleted content is not part of the public dumps (for obvious reasons). However, rest assured that nothing on MO is ever lost! Should it ever be the case that an unusually popular question or answer gets deleted from MO, whatever contents will be made publicly available in some way or another.
@quid: Yes, of course, I had forgotten about the older dumps.
So does this information about the dumps change opinions about deleting highly-voted but "distracting" old threads? The argument for deletion is at least partially compelling as it strikes these threads from the readily-discoverable record on MO. But the solution proposed by Gil Kalai seems totally reasonable, too. I don't like the re-opening of these threads, especially if it was just a protest vote to make deletion more difficult in the short-term.
I see no merit whatsoever in keeping the question in question on MO, and would be happy to see it deleted. I regard the arguments given so far in this thread as thin, particularly the one about the amount of effort that has already gone into the answers as I see none. Nor do I see much value in preserving the answers "for posterity", though if it were posted on someone's blog and organised a bit better (with, perhaps, a little commentary) then that would be fine.
However, I do not propose deleting it. Not because I think that the arguments for keeping it are sound but simply because there are enough people who do think so and therefore deleting it will simply change the close-reopen war into a delete-undelete war (sounds like the Cybermen versus the Daleks) and that will be even worse.
So I second the suggestion to close it, lock it, and append a message along the lines of the StackOverflow one.
For whoever might care: my observation on deletions of my answers were in a detail incorrect. Detailed edit in the original comment I had misrememebered a title and only thus did not refind an answer yet thus thought it was this one that disappeared; that some dissapeared remains true. (The problem with which I was faced was to find very few missing items to which I pay little attention in a list of about 100 were I can only observe the total change.)
What remains is that several (small to very small one digit number out of about 100; one of which I can reconstruct; no clue regarding the others).
What is perhaps the main change is that I only know it about a soft question.
The purpose of this comment is to highlight the correction, which otherwise might go unnoticed, and I would not like that somebody stays somewhat misinformed, me being the source.
I sincerely appologise for this error (but fortunately I at least always said I might misremeber and asked for corretions).