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Some discussions, such as the one on annoyingness-of-CAPTCHA, are being locked without this being indicated in the titles. Closed threads seem to acquire the word "[closed]" automatically or by policy.

Doing the same for locked threads would increase transparency and improve the ability to select or exclude those discussions when reading the site (esp. the meta).

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see the point of the downvote. Having a [locked] appended to locked questions isn't supposed to be a bother to implement and to look at. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Nov 16 '10 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ The downvote is counterintuitive, since this feature is already in place for [closed]. For locked questions one has to read the question, not only the list of titles, to see the status. Why the difference and why the downvote? $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 16 '10 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ A better question is why there is this rash of locked questions on meta right now. $\endgroup$ – Robin Chapman Nov 16 '10 at 7:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Robin: mathematics site is, I presume, a sideshow for SE 2.0 when a zillion others can be added and maintained without the unique or time-consuming special needs of the math world (TeX, level ratings, addition of -- and crossposting among -- sites for subfields, mechanisms for dealing with sources or archival/bibliographic concerns, etc). I think Stackexchange should explain whether they are committed to the peculiar needs of a math site or will run it on a "take it or leave it" cookie-cutter basis in which any active use is defined (by SE) as a success. (sci.math served 120K users/wk...) $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 16 '10 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with T. I didn't realize the CAPTCHA thread was locked (and I have no idea why it would have been locked in the first place). $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Nov 16 '10 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ This has been proposed on Meta Stack Overflow for months. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/51498/… $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 20 '10 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a reason this thread was resurrected from over a year ago?... $\endgroup$ – user7530 Nov 28 '11 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @user7530 See meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/3261/… $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 28 '11 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Bill Ah thanks. I was confused as I hadn't noticed any locked threads recently... $\endgroup$ – user7530 Nov 28 '11 at 22:21
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Note by BD: I think it is important to clarify that "that question" below refers to (at least) two very different threads. Namely (2.) appears to refer to the "bug" tag war in the question "Single comment split into many comments" about returns posting comments. On the other hand, "the replacement Q is much better" appears to refer the question on the annoying captcha algorithm - which had no tag wars. It's not clear which question (1.) denotes. Ditto for "user misbehavior". --BD]

That question was locked because

  1. It wasn't a constructive question, e.g., "Why does {x} suck so much?"

  2. Users were taking it upon themselves to editorially classify it as a [bug], by reverting moderator edits.

(the replacement Q is much better, by the way -- so in that sense, the locking produced the desired effect -- to keep things constructive)

As for [locked] as a question status, that's rare enough that it has never been needed; I don't see any need for it here.

These sorts of problems are typically related to user misbehavior not system misbehavior. Treat the disease, not the symptoms. In extreme cases, we reach out to the user to try to work it out, and if we can't work it out, possible timed suspensions.

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    $\begingroup$ -1: Honestly, you'd be making a better impression on me and other expert mathematicians active on this site if you just stopped replying to questions altogether. The way you respond to your clients' concerns is by making threats?? Here's one in return: I am getting pretty close to boycotting this site and advising my colleagues to do the same. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 18 '10 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ Desired effect? Desired by whom? Which "user's behaviour" is causing systems problems? I have my prime suspect. $\endgroup$ – Robin Chapman Nov 18 '10 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff Atwood: Responding to clients' concerns by saying that the best solution may be to suspend users who express these concerns sounds like a threat to me. This is the meta site, whose entire purpose is to field questions, discussions and complaints about the use of the main math.SE site. Cutting off the discussion by fiat is bad enough. Threatening users is worse: if I ever find out that a user is suspended from the meta site for this reason, I will cancel my account here immediately. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 18 '10 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff: many of your postings state or suggest a preference (which presumably becomes that of StackExchange) for extensive involvement by moderators erring on the side of heavy control. This is puzzling considering that you have already built the kind of technology to algorithmize most things and nearly eliminate the need for moderation apart from handling of legal/spam matters. A USENET-type laissez faire model with modern technology and statistics would be easier on the SE operators and nicer for the users. Why not just let less-desired material sink in visibility based on ratings? $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 18 '10 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ @pete indeed, but we expect a certain modicum of civility and basic human decency on meta.math. The idea that "we can do whatever we want" and "there are no rules other than those we make up" is a bit too Lord of the Flies for me, and I cannot in good conscience stand by and let it happen on my network. Thus, intervention is sometimes regretfully necessary. If you find this untenable, as I said earlier, participation here is completely at will; like real world relationships, sometimes things don't work out. No harm, no foul -- everyone walks away. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 18 '10 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff: poison -- and some people might disagree as to what is poisonous -- certainly does sink away if I can set a dial to control its visibility based on statistical indicators (X and Y talk only to each other in 10+ iterations of comments), user ratings, etc. This is exactly like the safety settings on a search engine, except that the algorithmic problem is far easier on your network of sites. People flaming each other under the radar is not a problem that affects anyone else, if anything it keeps the above-radar parts of the site away from the energies of the flame warriors. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 18 '10 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff Atwood: so your view of your recent actions is the "regretfully necessary" intervention that upholds "basic human decency", without which meta.math would resemble "Lord of the Flies"? So you view your customers as wayward children in need of your civilizing influence? Wow. As I said before, your comments here are making a very poor impression. Are you capable of saying, "I'm sorry, I certainly didn't mean to threaten and belittle the users of my site. I'll try to choose my words more carefully in the future"? If so, you might want to give it a try. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 18 '10 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff Atwood: P.S.: implying to your clients that it is all the same to you whether they stay or go is also a strange business practice. You've written such comments more than once here in the last couple of days. Again, not saying anything at all would come across better. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 18 '10 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff Atwood: If you didn't mean to threaten and belittle us, perhaps an apology, modification or retraction of your answer is in order. More significantly: there is ample evidence that many users feel that your recent behavior has been the most problematically uncivil. Why do you feel that specifically intervening in this site in a way which has generated a lot of negative reactions is a good use of your time? Isn't the job of moderation one for the moderators of the site, not for the head of the whole operation? Or do you feel that you are uniquely qualified to defend human decency? $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 18 '10 at 10:17
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    $\begingroup$ @pete After many years of research (Shirky et al), riding herd on a personal blog community of 120k readers for 6 years, and 2.5 years of intensive community building on Stack Overflow and Exchange, yes, I believe I am qualified to vet online communities. To the extent that you see me here, it's because there are problems that demand my attention here -- flags, fights, outcries, users quitting (not you, from earlier), etc. In fact, I can say without the slightest hesitation this is the most issue-generating meta community we have ever had. It's not even close, frankly. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 18 '10 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ Dear @Jeff Atwood: Please note that Pete Clark is also uniquely qualified to comment on such matters, having been one of the most active participants in the MathOverflow website and the meta there. He has substantial experience with dealing, more specifically, with mathematical communities. (I believe the same is true for T.., though having no USENET experience I unfortunately cannot confirm.) I would like to add my support to his suggestion that a less top-down approach to moderation (or, at least, one done by expert mathematicians) would be significantly less alienating to people here. $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Nov 18 '10 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: I agree that this discussion has been informative. However, the impression that I'm getting is that Mr. Atwood is deeply exasperated with the ornery math people (or, as you say, the "hornet's nest"), in a way which I would hesitate to call "constructive". He has of late repeatedly pointed out the location of the door, which makes me less than sanguine about the possibility and nature of future discussions. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Nov 18 '10 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff: if math.SE is "the most issue-generating meta community we've ever had", has the idea occurred that it could be from structural and technological needs of a math site not fitting perfectly with your model? This is certainly the case for the homework, plagiarism and similar matters that have dominated much of the inter-user discussion. e.g., an optional, editable questionnaire for the poster-dependent metadata (is question homework, level of answer sought, etc) would help the first issue (and many others) and a Sources file would help both. Blame and intervention is less useful. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 18 '10 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ @pete I've pointed out the door on meta.stackoverflow before; see comments on meta.stackexchange.com/questions/24093/… -- but yes, the meta.math community generates about two orders of magnitude more "mod needed" actions than any other community we have. If you don't want me here, that's great -- I don't want to be here either (as a mod)! So stop tearing each other apart and generating so many flags. Bring back civility. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Nov 18 '10 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: please undo the edit so that Jeff's post contains only the text written by Jeff. Inserting editorials into other users' postings is discouraged. Your comment, which I and at least two others have upvoted, makes the point well enough and the thread is open for posting your own answer if further elaboration is needed. It has become somewhat superfluous in light of Jeff's later statements that he and/or SE management intend to close or lock all questions of type (1), those with "XYZ sux" titles, whether or not they also contain the type (2) edit wars. $\endgroup$ – T.. Nov 19 '10 at 18:22

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