# Is it appropriate to downvote answers for the sake of deleting a question?

I have noticed that sometimes answers are downvoted in order to cause the automatic deletion of a question by the community user. In particular, there are closed questions with $1$-point answers - when the answer(s) are downvoted to $0$, they are then eligible for automatic deletion, which can only be undone by the moderators.

This was briefly discussed in a comment thread on a related meta question, but I would like to know what the community's feeling on this issue is in a more general sense. The vote total on Bill Dubuque's comment opposing this practice would seem to indicate that there are numerous people who disagree with this.

Personally, I believe that answers which are on-topic and mathematically valid should never be downvoted, regardless of the question quality; this does have the (perhaps unfortunate) side effect of preventing low-quality questions from being deleted.

Edited, $15$ hours after the original post; for the sake of noting the vote counts before this substantial change, the question is currently at $+5/-1$. Note that all the answers (except for Thomas's answer) were received before the substantial change to the question, and responded to the abstract issue.

This question was motivated by the actions of a single user, who is now making a large-scale effort to remove old questions that do not meet various quality standards. For example, all of these questions had close votes initiated by this user, and were subsequently deleted automatically due to $0$-score answers with $1$ upvote and $1$ downvote:

and so on; other examples are 501467, 500197, 499054, 498085, 497807, 497583, 495832, 495732 and 495710, all of which were removed during the latest round of autodeletions. I am breaching the usual convention of no-naming on meta because the user has already given an answer to this question, stating that this is an action they regularly carry out; see also here.

I consider this behaviour to be abusive and gaming the automated deletion process in order to remove large amounts of content from the site. It circumvents the fact that the privilege of casting deletion votes is limited to the most experienced users of the site, and I think that many of the close-voters on these questions (myself included) would have seriously reconsidered the votes if they knew the ultimate fate of these answers.

Edit, part $2$, at the suggestion of This is much healthier. As Healthier points out in a comment below, a network-wide update means that these deletions are no longer irreversible - the posts automatically deleted by the Community user can be undeleted by non-moderator users. Although I feel this is a step in the right direction, I don't believe that this substantially changes any of the points I've made in this question; it would still take a large-scale coordinated effort by users who can cast undelete votes in order to counter the voting actions of one single user. Considering the hundreds of questions involved here, I do not believe this to be feasible.

• @Zlatan Why do you believe that? Having joined only $7$ days ago, do you really think you have enough experience to understand all of the issues involved in the complex dynamics of this site? – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 16:20
• @quid It circumvents the (apparent) design of the downvote vs. close vs. deletion system; being able to trigger a specific deletion vote is reserved to only the most experienced site users. The sheer volume of these deletions also seems to be substantially more than was intended; by proceeding in such a manner, a single user can cause $50$ questions to be deleted per day. It would take $3$ trusted users to delete a mere $30$. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 18:44
• @quid Because anyone with a few sockpuppets and half-decent programming skills can easily manage to force the Community user to delete any threads that they do not like, and the community has no way to undelete them without the help of moderators. Do you really think that this is what SE intended? Moreover, the SE platform has very poor tools for tracking such abuse. It is essentially under the radar. Users are being tricked into assisting this campaign without any clue of the organized campaign behind the scenes. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 18:44
• @BillDubuque sock puppets is an entirely different issue. If you have evidence (or just reasonable suspicion) that a user is using sock puppets for this purpose, I'd strongly suggest to send SE a mail with the details. They are the only ones that can detect this, everyone else can just guess. – user9733 Jun 29 '14 at 18:48
• @ZlatanderZechpreller There is no "vote of the majority" involved in these deletions, but rather the actions of one specific user. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 18:49
• @quid I seriously doubt that the system was designed in such a way to allow or encourage a use of mere downvotes (by a single user!) to force question deletion. As I see it, there is a substantial difference between having strong or frequent auto-deletion of unanswered or poorly answered questions, and seeing good answers be downvoted for no reason other than forcing deletion. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 18:53
• @BillDubuque if somebody actually intends to use many sockpuppets for deleting arbitrary threads I would "recommend" they just use spam/offensive flags. // T. Bongers: I do not want to continue this comment thread too far, my point is that downvoting to achieve deletion is part of the system (see my comment to Hurkly re automatic dv). Whether or not this is applied in a reasonable way in this case is something else. I do not know. I cannot see the threads. I do not want to decide. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 18:59
• @ZlatanderZechpreller That is not at all what I'm saying. The "problem Bongers," together with your avatar (and what I understand as the English translation of your username) indicate that I shouldn't spend any more time replying. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 19:06
• I realize that you are largely arguing about the principle of things, but the evidence brought up does not convince me. I clicked throught the five links given here as well as the five links in Bill's answer. Let me simply state that I'm not gonna shed any tears for the lost threads. Their removal is IMVHO closer to good housekeeping rather than loss of valuable content. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 29 '14 at 19:31
• @Jyrki I wonder if you will feel the same when some of your answers to (old) questions that do not meet his quality standards are similarly deleted in this manner. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 19:42
• @JyrkiLahtonen You're right - a significant part of my argument is about the principle of whether a single user should be able to cause hundreds of these deletions. It also irritates me at times when the carefully written hints and answers I've put time into are removed via this process. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 19:43
• @gnometorule: Both you and Bill have a user profile image which is not an identicon. Coincidence? I think not. – Asaf Karagila Jun 30 '14 at 0:47
• @gnometorule: You're a real gem, and that's the key idea. – Asaf Karagila Jun 30 '14 at 1:07
• I realize my opinion has been tainted by a poisoned well -- we assume it's just about circumventing the deletion process, but I can easily imagine a user truly thinking answers to bad questions aren't useful, and thus should be downvoted. I certainly think the majority are counterproductive, although I haven't taken the final step to cement my belief into downvoting them. And if said hypothetical user takes the time to go on a massive campaign to close and downvote deserving things, that's a good thing, and the only reasonable controversy would be whether the script is too generous. – user14972 Jun 30 '14 at 14:18
• @BillDubuque the phrase you have issues with starts with "It seems" so it should be quite obvious that I am referring my perception of the situation at hand, which you can find flawed or irrelevant or any number of things. But I do speak for myself. – quid Jul 9 '14 at 14:17

I would cast my opinion for no.

There is already a mechanism for interactive deletions, and it is balanced by restricting it to high-rep users and requiring multiple people to vote to delete.

The automatic deletion script, on the other hand, is a convenience feature to automate the process for posts that are among the least controversial to delete and are unlikely to ever be seen again by enough people who actually have the power to delete. In fact, I believe the origin of this feature was when moderators on one of the other SX sites started actively searching for these things, so they could cull the things that wouldn't have a chance to be "naturally" deleted.

Gaming the system is to trigger the automatic deletion to circumvent the balance on delete votes is quite inappropriate.

EDIT: This answer is meant to be a reply to the abstract question, and not a judgment on specific allegations of abuse.

• There is "tools" the "being seen" is not that much of an issue. Indeed, I would assume most of the non-first delete votes come through "tools." The line of argument you present is thus somewhat week. Especially, with the old delete rules and procedure (before autodeleetion) it was pretty easy to clean up everything. This worked very well on MO before the switch. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 12:13
• @quid: Maybe, maybe not: my description of the origins and role of the autodelete system aren't really my point, but the first time really was "We're cleaning a lot of stuff up, it would be nice if this could be automated". The point I'm vested in with this post is about circumventing the balance on the deletion process. – user14972 Jun 29 '14 at 15:43
• Of course, part of the autodeletion is convenience, however I feel this is not all there is to it. There were also other changes, such as stricter limitation of the number of manual delete votes available. A point of these changes was IMO to better integerate deletion with more usual types of voting (up/down and open/close) and to rather avoid manual deletion. Recall that until some time ago an automatic dv was cast as a consequence of certain types of closure with the explict intent to push such question towards deletion via a dv. (This was taken back for other reasons.) – quid Jun 29 '14 at 17:40
• Thus dv with a view towards something getting deleted was even built into the system. I thus cannot understand you talking about gaming the system and circumventing the balance. The procedure in my perception is perfectly in line with "the system." If you do not like the design or the behavior this is one thing (I do not consider it as that good an idea either.) But to claim somebody is gaming the system seems unfair. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 17:42
• @quid I strongly disagree. This massive deletion campaign is sneakily exploiting a big loophole in the design of the SE platform. Most users voting to close these questions have no idea that good answers will be deleted, or that many good answers were downvoted multiple times for the sole purpose of deleting the entire thread. In fact most reviewers do not even see the answers when they vote to close since the review queue does not display them. Even if they did, they might be misled to believe that the answers were not helpful, due to them being downvoted to $0$ in order to trigger deletion – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 18:08
• @BillDubuque if you believe that there is some exploit you should signal it to the moderators or SE staff. Also, if they exist it should be easy to document the existence of "many good answers [that] were downvoted multiple times for the sole purpose of deleting the entire thread" (my emph). If somebody does this using more than one account I would consider it as highly problematic. [While I typed this comment I noticed that some example were added, I cannot check how many have multiple dv; could such information be added, it seems crucial to evaluate the situation.] – quid Jun 29 '14 at 18:44
• @quid's last point is IMHO crucial. If I understood it correctly the community can prevent these unilateral closures by giving TWO upvotes to the most deserving answer. In more esoteric tags finding those two upvotes may be taxing, but the listed questions were mostly at freshman level if not high school. IOW the community has the tools to combat this. Upvote! – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 29 '14 at 20:57
• @Jyrki That's what I recommend in my answer. If you vote to close a question and it has good answers all having low score, then upvoting at least one of the answers to score $3$ will probably prevent the thread from being deleted. Whether or not score $3$ is high enough or not depends on how many user accounts are collaborating in this massive deletion campaign. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 21:12
• @Bill: Arguably, there is no such thing as a good answer to a question that should be closed (short proof: there isn't a meaningful measure of intrinsic goodness of an answer. Goodness is only meaningful relative to its role as an answer to the question). I feel your argument strongly relies on your supposition that the question shouldn't be closed in the first place. – user14972 Jun 29 '14 at 22:38
• @Hurkyl Most definitely arguably. But let's argue that elsewhere, since that would push this thread very far off-topic. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 23:03
• You saw the numbers, Hurkyl: over a 12-month period, the 10K users deleted 218 questions in total, 0.6 questions per day. Compared to the amount of garbage pouring it, this is nothing short of pathetic. 10K users collectively failed to protect the site from low-quality content, substituting endless pondering on meta for taking action on main. Years into the debate, you are still waiting for your belief to "cement" into doing something. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer... – user147263 Jun 30 '14 at 15:00
• @Thisismuchhealthier. Going on a one-person mission to cleanse the site of questions you don't like is not, in my very humble opinion, an appropriate response to the state of the website. I think the general consensus (at least indicated by vote counts here) is that your actions are causing a serious loss of good content; if you could convince the community your actions are proper, then that would be a different situation entirely. Keep in mind that I say this as one of the most prolific close-voters on the site. – user61527 Jun 30 '14 at 16:54
• @T.: There was a bait and switch that really invalidates any inferences one might make about vote counts on question as relating to the general consensus about the desirability of retaining the content of the targeted question threads. – user14972 Jun 30 '14 at 17:02
• When your opinion becomes a crusade affecting hundreds of questions and answers, then it's a bit more than an opinion. I don't necessarily disagree with your ideals here, but rather the implementation. – user61527 Jun 30 '14 at 17:46
• Oops. I voted down instead of up, and now my vote is locked in. This is a very important issue, and I certainly agree with this post. – apnorton Jul 1 '14 at 0:46

There are so many approaches and reasons to upvoting and downvoting here (=Math.SE, not Meta) that it is IMHO largely pointless to attempt to codify them. A discussion is, of course, ok, if for no other purpose than to vent one's frustration. To simplify matters somewhat let me attempt to break them into three categories. It would be a miracle, if even a majority agreed with my grouping :-)

# Downvotes - Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo

These are the downvotes cast at worthless questions and erroneous answers. Some prefer comments explaining the errors in answers to downvotes, some revert a comment to a downvote as a last measure if the poster of erroneous material does not react. These will hardly ever cause an uproar in Meta. I guess the level of disagreement is tolerable to all and sundry. Downvoting plagiarized answers might fall into this category, but the burden of proof is a problem.

This is the other end of the spectrum. The downvotes that are nearly universally condemned: Revenge downvotes, serial downvotes, downvotes following a disagreement in Meta or other unpleasant exchange. Downvoting competing answers for the sake of bringing ones own up. A common feature is that the target of the downvote is the poster as opposed to the post. (This doesn't fit the last item in the list, but I include that among the Bad motives anyway.) Sure, the caster of such a downvote can allude himself to having other motives that guide the selection of the post being downvoted, but only manages to deceive himself (if that). If you are hit with one these, the advice is to flag it. Alternatively you can just decide that 1) somebody was having a bad day, 2) take one for the team, 3) and move on.

Everything else in between. Largely downvotes targeted at a behavior of a poster as opposed to the poster themselves. Motives like the practice of: asking a PSQ, answering a PSQ, giving a copy/pastable answer to a HW, giving hints only, posting nearly duplicate answers to the same question, posting duplicate answers to different questions or other things that can be viewed as rep farming. Answering a question while other member(s) try to engage the asker with hints/suggestions/questions about context (the last item is debatably bad). Whatever irritates you — the list goes on (and grows as we invent new peeves).

It is easy to justify ugly downvotes to yourself. After all, you seek to improve the quality of the site as a whole. Or at least pull it in the direction that you yourself prefer. Nothing much wrong with that as the weight of the sum of voters is then what matters, right?

An easy justification for Ugly downvotes is that up/downvoting is the only tool we are given to steer the development of the forum. Of course, a more enlightened thing might be to write a comment explaining the reason of the annoyance. If that doesn't work, then...

A big con (as pointed out to me by others in related threads) of Ugly downvotes is that they are often difficult to distinguish from downvotes targeting a person. If the downvoter is targeting a behavioral pattern, it is natural to take the history of the "miscreant" into account. After all it is common sense to simply point out to a newbie their faux pas. But after basing such downvotes to a history of the user are you then not targeting the user as opposed to their behavior?

## Why do we react differently?

Come on! Silly of me to ask! We are people! Some may have come to this place from an environment, where "only Good downvotes" was the norm (MO?), and think of everything else as an insult to the professional standards. Some may have come from an environment where like/dislike votes are cast freely, and let them slide. Some may have had next to zero social media history when joining in, and their behavior is based on the learning curve of the chaotic response they encounter here.

## Did I have a point?

I react negatively to posts that I perceive to be under the umbrella of my ugly downvotes are defensible, but their ugly downvotes are an abomination. Many of them smack of whining, but I guess it is good to let the poison come out.

I'm afraid I have cast a number of Ugly downvotes myself. I don't feel particularly proud of any of them, and I am trying to learn away from them. I feel the pain and frustration of the fallen brothers, when they try to salvage a decent math site from becoming a homework factory. You have my sympathy, but there should be a better way.

What to do when having a bad day and feeling like littering downvotes left and right? I dunno. Cast one, and simmer in the guilt until the feeling passes away? Whine in a suitable Meta-thread?

I have been teetering at the edge of the abyss of a downvoting spree. I took the "whine on Meta"-route. With the fortunate result that Asaf felt like picking my reasoning apart. He enjoys messing with me occasionally — and is welcome to do so :-). The pain and shame of having my argument punctured full of holes kept me from falling to the dark side on those occasions.

I don't know if I really had a point.

R.I.P Ennio Morricone

• No comment. :-) [Also, have I really done that? It fits my profile, so I won't deny anything this time.] – Asaf Karagila Jun 29 '14 at 11:38
• It's rare for an answer this long to be so entertaining that I actually read through to the end of it. Not saying I agree with it, just that it was a pleasure to read. – Gerry Myerson Jun 29 '14 at 11:51
• Interesting answer. Since you mention MO, it is common practice of some (not me so much) to dv reasonable answers to question they consider off-topic. This is by and large accepted behavior. And of course MO also has ad hominem voting and other bad things. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 11:58
• @Asaf: Our little exchanges on Meta have had the described affect. Twice IIRC. It probably was not your main objective, but the resulting Gibbs slap had such an effect on me anyway :-) A pause causing me to reconsider is all that was needed. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 29 '14 at 16:27
• @quid I confess that I cannot make any sense of your comparison to MO (MathOverflow). To me it makes as little sense as comparing the acceptance policies for articles submitted to the journals Amer. Math. Monthly vs. Annals of Math. $\ \$ – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 22:48
• @BillDubuque I am not comparing anything. I described the situation on MO as I see it. The reason I considered this as relevant is that in the post you can read: "Some may have come to this place from an environment, where "only Good downvotes" was the norm (MO?)" That is, the question how the situation is on MO was raised quite explicitly. Therefore, I explained the situation on MO as I see it, to answer this question. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 23:02
• @quid My remark applies to that as well. MO has little to nothing to do with this site. General-level math forums always have been, and always will be, very unique beasts, facing very unique challenges. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 23:10
• @BillDubuque the post does not compare the two sites either; certainly it does not propose to adopt the practice of MO or even only to take the practice on MO as a guide. To the contrary, it speculates that the policy on MO might/should be very different from the one described and somehow promoted in this post for this site. Incidentally, and somewhat ironically, what you seem to want for this site is what J.L. speculated to be the case on MO. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 23:22
• Sorry to have created some confusion. During an earlier related discussion some people expressed as a strong opinion that mathematical errors are the only acceptable reason for downvotes. I was, indeed, speculating here that may be their different background (a long history at MO ?) would explain their different expectations about how people should downvote. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 29 '14 at 23:37
• I don't believe in downvoting at all, but I don't have any strong objection to Good downvotes by others. However, I am frankly appalled that downvoting readable, mathematically correct answers that don't violate a request for hints only is not in your Bad list, recognized as the vandalism that it in fact is. (And I have no interest whatsoever in participating in NO.) – Brian M. Scott Dec 3 '14 at 11:02
• @Brian: Thanks for the comment. I guess all the ugly and the bad downvotes are about mathematically correct posts (when dealing with answers). Can't say I'm surprised to hear that you don't see any shades of grey, or more facetiously, bad/ugly among such votes. I'm afraid that such differences of opinion are at the heart of much acrimony here. Others also pointed out that the comparison to MO was misguided. I was simply speculating that members' different history with social media and/or math forums might explain the differences in their expectations as to what a downvote means. – Jyrki Lahtonen Dec 3 '14 at 13:33
• @Jyrki: Indeed, I’m very much with the OP on this issue. (I take it from evidence in the comments that it was T.Bongers; I’m pleasantly surprised, given his enthusiasm for closing questions, and — despite that enthusiasm! — I’m sorry to see him go, since he wrote excellent answers. I have to admit, though, that I sympathize, and if I end up crossing paths very often with the specific user in question, I may disappear again sooner rather than later.) – Brian M. Scott Dec 3 '14 at 19:14
• I'm afraid the development of the site has made Ugly downvotes a norm. Too many users ignore the compromise rules on homework and duplicates. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jul 6 '20 at 11:48

Here is some important context. There is, apparently, a massive campaign orchestrated by one user to delete all questions (and their answers!) if the question does not meet his standards of quality. This campaign appears to target not only recent questions, but every question, including questions many years old. As best as I can infer, this campaign has been in the works for many months (possibly much longer), but has only recently ramped up to full steam. Now, with many thousands of (multiple) downvotes cast on answers, entire threads of questions (and all answers) can be deleted en masse by simply pushing the question into the close review queue to get it closed, which will later trigger an irreversible automatic deletion of the entire thread by the Community bot.

Below is a sample of various helpful answers that were deleted yesterday (from the hundreds that are already deleted or soon scheduled to be). Note that it is the same user who first voted to close, pushing the question into the close queue, to help trigger the automatic deletion.

$\quad$ thread1 $\$ thread2 $\$ thread3 $\$ thread4 $\$ thread5

If this campaign continues unchecked, then a significant percentage of site content will be deleted, irreversibly, since normal users cannot vote to undelete content deleted by a moderator such as the Community user. This will cause the deletion of many fine answers (esp. those composed at a time when majority views on questions standards differed greatly from current majority views).

It is important that all users who vote on such matters be aware of how their votes may help to further this campaign. I suspect that most users who have been active in the closure review queue did not realize that their votes would later lead to irreversible deletions of many good answers. Please give such matters very careful consideration the next time you review a question for closure. If it has good answers then upvote the answers to help prevent the entire thread from being deleted by the Community bot (which requires all answers to have score $\le 0).$ It seems that there are only a few users and/or sockpuppets involved in downvoting the answers, so if the answers are upvoted high enough then that will prevent the campaign from downvoting the answers to $0$, so it will prevent the thread from being automatically deleted by the Community bot.

Finally, I propose that we petition SE for the capability to undelete content that was deleted by the Community bot. As is clear from the above, there is much potential for abuse, without any way for normal users to reverse such. Though diamond mods can reverse such deletions, they are already overworked. Moreover, decisions on important matters such as these should involve as many experienced community members as is possible, so that we can leverage the combined wisdom of the community in the hope of making the best decisions possible for our very diverse community.

• Apparently I had misread something, so never mind on the disagreement. So far, though, I don't really see any evidence of sock-puppeting or multiple voting (aside from the serial voting that was resolved a month ago). – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 15:09
• @Bill: Your concern is valid in that there are many ok questions and/or answers that only have zero-score answers or anyway $\le+1$ answers. And these are exactly the posts that are under threat here. I have recently started an upvoting campaign of material that I like to see here. Why don't you join in and start upvoting answers as well? Practice what you preach and all that. Edit: For the record, this is not to be read as me having doubts about the example deletions being a good thing. No tears for their loss from me. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 29 '14 at 16:17
• I do find it rather curious that a user so prolific in answering questions, and in encouraging others to upvote good content, has cast a mere $889$ votes in a $4$-year tenure; and barely two-fifths of these are upvotes. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 16:24
• @T.Bongers If I spend more time reading and (carefully) evaluating answers then I will have much less time to compose answers. But the latter is where I firmly believe that I can add the most value to the site. There are front-page users who have cast far fewer votes than I in a few years, e.g. under 200. But this is not the place to discuss such. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 16:42
• People who want to help stoping the campaign can just look at the profile of the user who is doing it, click activities, click reviews, find all posts where he has casted a closevote, and then take measures to counteract it (simple downvotes are not trackable though). I am really surprised that such a behavior is not worth of earning an enforced "time out" for the user who seems to be on some kind of crazy literally destructive crusade ... – Dilaton Jun 29 '14 at 19:53
• @BillDubuque: I would like to thank you for your consistent and energetic defense of values, and for showing that answers to technically "simple" questions can shed light on ideas. – André Nicolas Jun 29 '14 at 20:05
• -1, since this is making the issue about "I don't think these questions should be deleted" rather than about the means by which are getting deleted. – user14972 Jun 30 '14 at 8:33
• As an aside, if I was convinced people were upvoting an answer not because they think it is a useful answer but instead to try and ward off automatic deletion, I would strongly consider offering a downvote to counteract it. – user14972 Jun 30 '14 at 8:39
• @Bill: That would be the day when the meta is effectively run by a single user (or less), with power to suspend and delete all opposition. That is probably the day when this site will meet its end. – Asaf Karagila Jun 30 '14 at 16:26
• Contrary to what is said in this answer, there has never been any evidence that the user in question employed sockpuppets. The proposed sockpuppet candidates Bill gave on the thread he linked were accounts where even unregistered users could easily verify that they are not sockpuppets (I tried it out). In particular, creation and last-activity dates made it impossible for them to be interacting at some time. I'm shocked that a former moderator didn't show this minimal due diligence before starting public accusations. – Michael Greinecker Jul 1 '14 at 9:30
• @Bill Regardless of the (seemingly dubious) claims of voting fraud, I must say that I'm becoming a bit offended at the sheer flippancy displayed by the user in question, in both answers and the autobiography. – user61527 Jul 1 '14 at 14:10
• @BillDubuque sorry to engage you in yet another comment conversation but re "Those are your words, not mine." You said (4th comment here) "Evidence for such was mentioned in the prior thread, but the discussion was deleted by an SE mod." where such was "sock-puppeting or multiple voting." Who mentioned this evidence other than you or is the issue that 'or multiple voting' was dropped? Or what precisley is not your words here? [Though then it is not quite clear what multiple voting should be without a sock; I mean most things get multiple votes and it would be nonissue usually.] – quid Jul 1 '14 at 19:45
• @Thisismuchhealthier. You're quite right - I'm sure I've triggered some of these deletions, which I view as an unfortunate (inasmuch as they cannot be undeleted by non-mods) side effect. But I see several key differences: My close votes are never unilateral, but are rather done in coordination with four other users. Nor do I ever downvote good mathematical answers (which I generally view as a misuse of downvoting). Furthermore, my close votes are not part of an apparent crusade - the volume is generally limited to what I see in the queues, and what I come across with in the new queue... – user61527 Jul 2 '14 at 17:28
• So in summary, my key complaints are the volume, the (IMHO) misuse of downvotes, the irreversible deletions that come from this process, and the complete lack of oversight or consensus with other users that these votes involve. The last two are the most important to me. – user61527 Jul 2 '14 at 17:29
• @Thisismuchhealthier. Hello there. I've just learned of your campaign via this answer. If I understand how your campaign works correctly, and perhaps I don't, it would seem that your standards differ significantly from the community's standards as a whole. Consequently I ask, what are your standards for trying to get a question deleted? – Doug Spoonwood Jul 8 '14 at 6:32

1) First, I am one of those people who will vote to close a question that shows no effort. I know that this isn't the topic under discussion here, but since the questions linked to above were closed because of lack of context, it might be relevant.

2) I think it is unethical to try to game the system in anyway.

3) If you see a question that you believe should be closed, then just vote to close it. I have, myself, several times initiated the closure of a number of questions within a limited timespan. But I didn't do so because I was trying to game the system in anyway. I don't know that it is fair to single out the one user mentioned above. I am against PSQs and so when I see one I often vote to close (I don't always do this). I don't do it because I secretly want the question to be deleted. I vote to close/put on hold and then I hope that the OP will edit the context and add context. If the OP doesn't want to do this, then I am fine with the question ultimately being deleted.

4) I think that it should always be possible to vote to undelete a deleted question question.

5) I believe that any downvote should be accompanied by a comment explaining why the downvote was given. The only exception is when the answer is spam or other obvious inappropriate content.

6) I (for the most) only downvote answers if I believe that they are mathematically wrong (in which case I leave a comment and wait with the downvote until the poster has had time to edit). Besides that, I might downvote a question that I believe fails to address the OP's actual question. Again, I don't think about what consequences the downvote has in terms of future deletions.

7) Maybe "some of this" can be solved if people would upvote more?

• The problem with posting many opinions as above is that it makes the votes to your answer completely meaningless. Which points do the votes target? I disagree with some of your points, and I agree with others. Probably the same is true for many users. How do you expect them to vote? $\ \$ – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 22:27
• @BillDubuque up if one agrees with the general sentiment and down if one disagrees with the general sentiment (typically explaining what the diagreement is). If one is in the middle one simply does not vote at all. – quid Jun 29 '14 at 22:46
• @quid But that is of little value in helping to judge community opinion on the multiple specific points, since one cannot know which points the votes target (or not). – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 23:01
• @BillDubuque do you mean to propose Thomas posts 7 answers? – quid Jun 29 '14 at 23:28
• Thomas, the seventh point was discussed here before. – Asaf Karagila Jun 29 '14 at 23:37
• @quid I don't recall ever proposing any remedy for that defect in the SE platform. But it will be remedied in some platforms in the works. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 23:41
• @BillDubuque oh, so your first comment was just a bit of general complaning about the platform. Sorry, I thought you had some specific concern and/or advice regarding the format of the current answer. – quid Jun 30 '14 at 12:16
• @Quid Be serious. The point of my first comment is clear. If you wish for the votes on a meta answer to be meaningful then be sure that they target a unique point (or points where there is unlikely to be any disagreement). I often emphasize this because it helps meta to work more efficiently (and helps to avoid abuses - which is not an issue here). – Bill Dubuque Jun 30 '14 at 12:33
• @Thomas No need to apologize. I was simply relaying some advice that I thought would prove helpful. I don't think it would be wise to engage here in a discussion of the points on which I disagree, since they are tangential to the topic at hand, so doing so would only serve to further derail this thread (a big problem on meta). The more "related" topics you offer opinions on, the more chance you have of alienating potential voters (as you did I). – Bill Dubuque Jun 30 '14 at 16:11
• @BillDubuque I think it is a lot better when people take the time to develop a nuanced position, as opposed to shooting off some sound bite in the hope to gather a lot of votes. Votes to be meaningful on meta is not a major concern (to me). They are not even that meaningful on main. Why care about them that much on meta. Further to the your critique of this post, the structure of the post makes voicing partial agreement or disagreement relatively easy. In contrast to your post, for example, that also is not that much making a unique point. (Partially witnessed by the very first comment.) – quid Jun 30 '14 at 22:01
• In sum, it is difficult to see something constructive in your first comment. It is some generic criticism that could be made on every other meta post at least, including yours in this very thread. Perhaps I should repost it? :-) – quid Jun 30 '14 at 22:06
• @quid You're comparing apples vs. oranges. My post was not meant to measure community opinion on some issue. Rather, it was meant to inform the community of some important context. Now, isn't it about time to stop beating this dead horse, so that more important issues can be discussed? – Bill Dubuque Jun 30 '14 at 22:06
• @BillDubuque So what? OP here meant to share a few of their thoughts. I am not sure why here voting in your sense must make sense, and in your case it is a nonissue. You did not only inform about some context. You also proposed a petition. SO does a vote mean one dis/agrees with the petition or one consider the context as not/useful or as not/accurate. Is it clear? Is this the same? Why is it irrelevant their? (I know this is off-topic here, so I will try to stop it here.) – quid Jun 30 '14 at 22:13
• PSQ??? what is that? – kjetil b halvorsen Jul 1 '14 at 15:09
• @kjetilbhalvorsen Meta shorthand for "Problem Statement Question", a question that consists of nothing else but a [usually copy-pasted] homework assignment plus possibly something along the lines of "NEED HALPZ URGENT!!1-eleven". If it contains so much as "I tried integrating by parts but it didn't get better", it is no longer a PSQ. – Daniel Fischer Jul 1 '14 at 18:38

You really miss that "equation of tangent line" answer, don't you? But that's what I do, among other things.

I think it's appropriate. Others may disagree and that's okay with me. Heracles got his $5$th labor discounted because his method was considered inappropriate. There may be some parallel here.

Added: The "air of negativity" comment reminded me of the infamous "Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late" thread (>1000 upvotes, 6 close-reopen cycles, 54 answers). The top-voted answer by Mysticial is worth reading, especially for users who keep insisting that Math.SE is oh-so-very-different from other large SE sites.

• I didn't link to that answer (although it was the most recent inspiration for this question) because I wanted my question to be about general mores, not about my particular posts; and although I greatly appreciate your high-quality answer to my recent question, I completely fail to see its relevance to the question I've posed here. I was aware that this is one of the actions you regularly carry out, but I didn't name you in the original post - again, I'm asking about community opinion, not about the appropriateness of actions taken by individual users on specific questions. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 3:38
• @T.Bongers There was no explanation in the the prior thread for the reasons behind this campaign, which includes $2575$ downvotes and $0$ upvotes cast in the $59$ days since this account was created. Hence, probably, there will be no explanation here too. This is certainly not "much healthier". It is the most nonconstructive activity that I've seen since the inception of the site. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 15:15
• Honestly, I find the way in which you use the site to be extremely harmful. Although you do contribute good answers, you have never once taken a positive voting action, but rather seem to spend the vast majority of your time working to remove content. There's a serious difference between voting to close an old low-quality question, and deleting all the (good and bad) answers that go with it. That's why deletion votes are one of the very last privileges granted based on reputation. Your thousands of downvotes, many of which are independent of quality, create an air of negativity here. – user61527 Jun 29 '14 at 18:14
• @T.Bongers Another point worth noting: most of the recent answers given by this user are to questions missing context, motivation, etc. exactly the types of questions that he seems to be deleting. Apparently his quality standards do not apply to questions that contain his own answers. – Bill Dubuque Jun 29 '14 at 20:31
• @Bill, maybe so, but in the meantime...? – Gerry Myerson Jul 1 '14 at 5:46
• @Bill It seems this user answers questions without much context if they add in a useful way to the knowledge repository of MSE. That is not my standard, which is more restrictive, but I certainly see a difference to the downvoted questions and answers that were given as examples. – Michael Greinecker Jul 1 '14 at 9:05
• @BillDubuque "Any user can look at the many examples given here[..]" How can I do this? You do realize the examples are deleted. But then "[...] the evidence brought up does not convince me. I clicked throught the five links given here as well as the five links in Bill's answer. Let me simply state that I'm not gonna shed any tears for the lost threads. Their removal is IMVHO closer to good housekeeping rather than loss of valuable content. – Jyrki Lahtonen" is good enough for me not to worry. – quid Jul 1 '14 at 17:17
• @BillDubuque Given that I mentioned explicitly in an earlier comment that even notified you (albeit in a part not directed at you) that "I cannot see the threads" I am wondering which one of us two does not pay attention. :-) – quid Jul 1 '14 at 17:42
• @Bill, if you want less things deleted, vote more. This is just one user. If he can delete with a single downvote, this means that the answers could not have score higher than $1$. If at least two people would vote, then at least two people are required for an automatic deletion to occur (not to mention five for the closure). If you are going to complain that you better spend your time writing answers than reading and voting other people's answers, then perhaps you should consider the case that most of what gets deleted is not something you consider worth voting, and thus saving. – Asaf Karagila Jul 1 '14 at 19:53
• Bill, Michael: There isn't a point in discussing whether I apply the same standards to my posts as to the posts of others. Nobody is an impartial judge of things they are invested in. This is why mathematicians don't referee their own papers. If anyone feels I posted something I shouldn't have, they are very welcome to downvote, VTC, and/or vote to delete. In extreme cases, maybe even leave a comment -- though I much prefer not to have unnecessary pings in my inbox. – user147263 Jul 1 '14 at 23:14
• @Thisismuchhealthier. It seems to me that you don't trust others to do their work. If you deem some question must be closed, you can do so, and if you want it deleted, you can vote to delete it. But this is a community forum, so it is logical that people frown upon gaming the system to achieve unilateral deletions and whatnot. It seems unfair, too, that people which are giving some of their time to post useful solutions (cf. the questions deleted by community) get their posts downvoted (when the downvote is clearly not called for, except to delete the post) and subsequently deleted. Many (...) – Pedro Tamaroff Jul 5 '14 at 20:05
• (...) of my answers are also useful to me, since they record a proof of a fact I might sooner or later forget, or the OP will. I find it much unhealthy to unilaterally delete posts, since you're deleting information (no matter how basic or trivial) that other people do find useful. – Pedro Tamaroff Jul 5 '14 at 20:06
• @PedroTamaroff FWIW, I support greater access to one's deleted content. I do not consider posting routine solutions to routine exercises a useful activity, and my votes reflect that. – user147263 Jul 6 '14 at 19:10
• @BillDubuque If you seek a site for doing others' homework, then consider instead Yahoo! Answers. – user147263 Jul 9 '14 at 4:28
• @This in NOT much healthier. Is that the best you could do for a strawman? So much for hoping that you might engage in a constructive discussion. – Bill Dubuque Jul 9 '14 at 12:11