# Is there an MSE-like site that is more pleasant to work in? Or are there other solutions?

The Problem: It becomes more difficult to help people on a site in which there is mass closing of questions. And I am disturbed that a small group of people is engaged in trying to delete permanently some of the questions I have answered. I interpret it as systematic deliberate erasure of my work.

In my opinion, things have substantially worsened over the past several months. If there seems to be no sign of change, one solution is to scale back my participation on MSE, possibly to nearly zero.

The question: Are there suggestions about alternate sites that one could contribute to? Or are there other solutions?

• The deletion aspect is a bug in the system in my opinion, and should be addressed and removed by the developers. But I hope you also can see that others feel that not enough questions are closed, and that the temptation to answer questions sometimes leads to questions being answered when they should be improved by the asker first. In other words, although I am sure that many people participate on this site to help others, there is not agreement on what it means to help with a particular kind of question, and there will likely always be a range of opinions about it. – Carl Mummert Aug 1 '14 at 2:43
• I too am very interested to learn about existing alternatives. I've already scaled back my participation (alas, recently there are far fewer opportunities to teach due to the massive closures and deletions). The site has grown to be quite boring and frustrating from a teacher's perspective. – Bill Dubuque Aug 1 '14 at 4:56
• I am replying to the first sentence only. Too many were downvoted by you-know-who or clones in obvious preparation for automatic system deletion. There is a systematic campaign, of which this is not the only sign, to remove many questions, and as collateral damage to erase the work of others. – André Nicolas Aug 1 '14 at 14:05
• I am rather against closures on meta, but the question asked has nothing whatsoever to do with this site, it is about any site but this one. Moreover it is extremely subjective. On top of that the surrounding text it is full of self-indulgence. – quid Aug 1 '14 at 21:44
• @Hurkyl To make a beautiful mathematical mind, one often starts with a hopelessly confused student, who has no clue where to begin. – Bill Dubuque Aug 1 '14 at 23:06
• Please don't leave. – copper.hat Aug 2 '14 at 3:37
• @GitGud Saying of someone that he is a tool is not very nice. More to the point, threads about people leaving site are regularly closed with the formulation that "users leaving the site is their own damn business". Let's not have double standards here. André Nicolas, your decision to stay or go is your own damn business. – user147263 Aug 4 '14 at 13:44
• Honestly, the more time I read meta the more I want to see a good alternative to this site. A person who has poured as much effort, time and expert insight as the OP ought to be a bit more respected by users whose main claim to fame is being glorified internet janitors. At the university, when you see someone write on the board, "do not erase" you leave it alone and respect their work. The same basic principle ought to apply here. – James S. Cook Aug 6 '14 at 17:36
• @JyrkiLahtonen I confess that I am shocked by some of the things proposed above. I find it absolutely absurd that one should have to waste precious time searching through obscure lists to find one's contributions that were destroyed by other users, and then waste further time trying to rally other users to restore such content. This is certainly not "much healthier". It is in fact the the most toxic tumor that I have ever seen infect any general level math forum. If this continues I will certainly leave, and will strongly encourage others to stay clear of the infected site. – Bill Dubuque Aug 7 '14 at 13:00
• Indeed, this Crusade is becoming woefully toxic, and the Great Crusader (and recruited clones), wearing the banner of working to make the site "much healthier" on behalf of "us all", is delusional, and worse, pretending "they" represent/speak for the community. This is an extremely contentious matter. I am deeply offended when anyone presupposes to speak for the community, and perceives his/her thoughts, opinions, evaluations, and commitments to be unilaterally "right", and anyone who disagrees, wrong. This is, indeed, a good time to consider alternatives. – Namaste Aug 7 '14 at 14:28
• @amWhy Who presupposes to speak for the community? At least the user I have reasons to believe you refer to as "the Great Crusader" (which can be seen as pretty offensive in various ways, but okay) made it extremly clear that they act following their opinion and believes only, for example: "Voting is not by consensus, it is everyone's expression of their own opinion." or "No, it is still just an opinion of one user, who happens to think that those Q&As should be deleted." But, some others do not like this either. – quid Aug 7 '14 at 16:03
• In case anyone would take it seriously, I want to mention that Bill Dubuque has threatened to leave the site many times, for years. – Jonas Meyer Aug 7 '14 at 17:09
• @BillDubuque If you did not notice there was a proposal for a compromise in this very thread: those that answer, or to use your wording the teachers, also take care of the question if they are poor quality. What's wrong with that? Doing this might then also allow you to upvote questions you answer at a rate higher than (at most, likely lower) 1 in 8 or something like that. (Thinking about it, you ought to agree most of the question you answer are not overly good.) – quid Aug 7 '14 at 18:57
• Looked at 10 again. Spam. Assigned geometry problem, unmotivated solution. Stats problem, with explanation that insufficient information was given. Verify my homework problem with mostly yes/no answers. Optimization problem asked, answer points out an algebraic trick that was missed. 2 * routine "do my homework" "okay". Another "do my homework", with "the problem's wrong". Another "do my homework" (but this time with "it's due tomorrow!"), answer is yet another exposition of "stars and bars" works. Another "do my combinatorics homework", with an answer "here's how to do base 3 arithmetic". – user14972 Aug 9 '14 at 12:24
• It becomes more difficult to improve this site when there is a small, disturbing group of people actively engaged in trying to keep the site in the gutter. I too am feeling frustrated, possibly enough to quit MSE again. – user14972 Aug 12 '14 at 3:25

I haven't been here long, and I rarely follow meta. That said, I am surprised and dismayed by what I perceive to be very open hostility among several prominent users here, over something that I consider to be not particularly significant--"contributions" to a site.

No single user, no matter how high their reputation or extensive their contribution to MSE, should feel entitled to the ownership of such contributions. This site is not an academic publication. Whatever content you post here is understood to be freely given and subject to modification or deletion. If that doesn't suit you, then you are more than welcome to compile your knowledge in other, perhaps more traditional, ways. To that end, I cannot suggest any internet site that meets such a standard, for the internet is paradoxical in that, once put online, some things never go away; yet things are easily lost to intrinsic impermanence.

Regarding the nature of closure and deletion, I find that the role of MSE should not, in my view, merely be that of a homework-answering service. Questions that do not show any problem-solving effort on the part of the submitter are extremely common, and I believe that if these are not addressed in a uniform manner, such behavior becomes encouraged to the point that it will overwhelm the site entirely. One might argue that it is not our responsibility to police students and discourage them from cheating, unethical behavior, or at the very least, the failure to appreciate the value of self-learning. One might also argue that if they do not get their questions answered here, they would simply turn elsewhere (and they frequently do). But all I can say is that for my own personal conscience, I would feel ill at ease if I did not vote to close a question that I perceived as being asked in bad faith. That doesn't mean I am perfect at sorting it out, but that lack of perfect discernment does not mean an acceptable solution is to not attempt to draw a distinction at all.

And if others do not have such qualms, it is not my place to tell them that they should.

The system here is quite democratic: for the most part, each of us gets as much influence or voice as we ought to. What does not sit well with me is the idea that just because some people have very high reputation counts and a long posting history, that they can dictate to everyone else the direction this site should go--with thinly veiled threats. That, to me, seems juvenile and self-centered. We each contribute freely. That doesn't make any one person's contributions more worthy than another's. If your contributions get deleted because some users in the community are collectively deciding that this site should enforce a policy of not actively assisting parasitic behavior, that is unfortunate, but surely cannot be cause for complaint that "your" work is being lost: you cannot lose what you gave away. You are always welcome to not give away your knowledge, but to suggest in such a retaliatory fashion that you somehow "deserve" better treatment is not particularly mature.

• I agree with your basic principle of that you don't have ownership to the answers that you post here, but you are forgetting that besides the formal aspects there are also personal aspects to this matter. In this case, the number 1 contributing user to this site (and other high repusers) who does not feel happy because apparently a significant amount of his answers were deleted. Then of course you can point him to these principles, but you have to understand that this does not motivate someone to keep answering on this site, however right you may formally be. – dreamer Aug 15 '14 at 11:31
• @dreamer The "significant amount" would be less than 0.5%, from what I remember having seen deleted. I'd estimate it at about 0.1%. – Daniel Fischer Aug 15 '14 at 11:43
• @DanielFisher I trust that you're right, but if it concerns so little questions I cannot believe that we can't simply edit those questions. I'm solely thinking in terms of what is more useful for the site, and I still think that this is not the right thing to do. – dreamer Aug 15 '14 at 11:47
• @dreamer Editing bad questions into something that one could keep is hard work. One only makes that effort if one thinks the answers to the question are worth it. – Daniel Fischer Aug 15 '14 at 12:03
• I do agree with you. – Tomás Aug 16 '14 at 2:14
• @dreamer It should be recognized that some would appreciate if certain types of questions were not answered. It is thus not at all a problem if the motivation to answer these types of questions would decrease. – quid Aug 16 '14 at 9:47
• @quid Well I think that it is obvious from the OP that not only the motivation to answer these kind of questions dissapears. – dreamer Aug 16 '14 at 15:06
• @dreamer this is posisble, but perhaps not the most rational way to approach the issue. – quid Aug 17 '14 at 7:29
• @dreamer There is no shortage of users on this site who are willing to answer well-asked questions that demonstrate original effort. The number of high-reputation users who answer anything and everything without regard to ethics because they regard this site as a race to accrue reputation, is small. I doubt they would so easily leave given their addiction to posting, but even if they did, they would not be missed. The site would be better for it because it would no longer encourage homework answering. – heropup Aug 18 '14 at 4:11

Since the question has been expanded to include other solutions, I'll propose one:

• Improve the questions whose current state puts your answers at risk

Here is a query that finds them: My answers at risk, with your UserId pre-filled. It locates the answers that may be deleted if you-know-who downvotes them and/or the question.

There are $25$ results right now, representing $0.25\%$ of your answers. These are closed (not as duplicates), have score at most $1$, the question has score at most $1$, and there is no accepted answer.

Sure, some of them can be saved from the evil downvoter with an upvote. But it might be better to improve the question. A question can be improved by adding some context:

### Context

This problem is of the kind ... which are usually solved with ... This one is particularly (hard|nice) because ...

This will add information for both the OP and for future readers. It will also set a better example for future question askers.

• To be fair, I ran the same query for myself: it brought up two answers (which by the way, is also $\approx 0.25\%$ of all my answers). They might have been helpful at the time, but did not have any lasting value. I deleted both. – user147263 Aug 3 '14 at 20:58
• I have only 5 out of 3500. Did I win? – Asaf Karagila Aug 3 '14 at 22:43
• @AsafKaragila The new UTC day arrives in 75 minutes, and with it my new batch of downvotes. Don't say you were not warned. – user147263 Aug 3 '14 at 22:44
• ... and I'm out of downvotes already. The danger passed... until the next UTC day. – user147263 Aug 4 '14 at 1:13
• I got an empty list. Strange. Many answers I'm not proud of. – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 5 '14 at 8:37
• @JyrkiLahtonen Congratulations of having higher standards than many of us... – user147263 Aug 5 '14 at 16:21
• @JyrkiLahtonen Only three of the questions you've answered are currently closed other than duplicates. These ones. I don't know how proud you are of these answers, but they are scored 3 or higher. As for answers to non-closed questions, nobody and nothing can delete them until the question is closed; save for moderator action. – user147263 Aug 5 '14 at 21:56
• ... which, by the way, is an illustration of how "unilateral" my sneaky deletions really are ... First, five users have to agree to close, then others decide not to vote for reopening, yet others decide not to upvote... – user147263 Aug 5 '14 at 23:35
• @JyrkiLahtonen I edited the post about the quartic and voted to reopen; it got reopened within about an hour. – user147263 Aug 6 '14 at 15:56
• @JyrkiLahtonen Score $\geqslant 3$, and visible for $\geqslant 60$ days means you keep the rep. That was made so when the wailing about deleted old off-topic but highly-voted threads on Stack Overflow became too loud. Let people keep their internet points, and they only complain about [putative] crap being deleted when they honestly think it isn't crap.. – Daniel Fischer Aug 6 '14 at 17:00
• @DanielFischer What strange logic behind that design decision. It seems to imply that the SE thinks that rep is more important than the information conveyed in the answer. Why preserve the rep but delete the answer? Are we here to accumulate "rep" or to share mathematical knowledge? – Bill Dubuque Aug 6 '14 at 19:08
• @BillDubuque The design decision was "We want to get rid of crap, even highly upvoted crap like 'What's your favorite Programmer Cartoon' [not that such a thread is necessarily crap on its own, but in the context and purpose of SO, it is], but every time such a thread is deleted people come to meta and raise a stink, and we get a delete-undelete war. We don't want the latter, so let people keep their rep, then they only complain about deletions of threads they really consider valuable." From a utilitarian standpoint, that makes much sense. – Daniel Fischer Aug 6 '14 at 19:15
• @Daniel Bizzare. If it really is crap, then the rep should be lost on deletion. – Bill Dubuque Aug 6 '14 at 19:21
• @Dan One possible fix is to require deletions to be approved by n users with sufficient "rep" in the tag(s). Presumably they can better judge the quality of any deleted answers that might be lost. Also the 10K tool histories need to be extended (now its only 12/24 hrs, far too short). Maybe there should be (un)deletion queues too (which do have better history) – Bill Dubuque Aug 6 '14 at 19:30
• @BillDubuque It's not the time, you have tabs for today, 2d, 7d, 14d, 30d, that should/would be enough. The problem is that there's a [too low] limit on the number of items shown [apparently 45]. There's a feature request to change that. Requiring an approval for every deletion by sufficiently-high-tag-rep users is not a viable option. It could possibly be if enough people looked at the candidates, but people don't, it's not much fun, and takes too much time. – Daniel Fischer Aug 6 '14 at 19:40

As you may know, moderators have access to certain statistics which aren't otherwise easily visible (though which are largely retrievable from either the SO data dumps or data.se). I have also perceived more closures and deletions than normal, so I thought I'd take a look at the data. We are asked to not share specifics (I don't know why), so these are averages.

It turns out that somewhere between 8% and 9% of posts (questions and answers together) are deleted each week this year - closer to 9% now, closer to 8% in January. Last year, It hovered between 6.5% and 7%. So there is a definite increase. To me, it feels pretty noticeable.

In many ways, I find the SE platform to be well-designed for self-governance. I rarely disagree with people deleting answers - it seems to me that people rarely delete answers without good reason. But some people target some questions (and their answers fall because of it). There are three ways to delete a question (edit: as is pointed out in the comments, I'm slightly off here. See the comments, but it doesn't change the discussion):

1. If the question is negatively scored, more than a month old, and there are no upvoted answers, then the Community user will delete the question automatically.

2. A number of users puts the question on hold. If it is not reopened in the next 5 days, the question becomes closed. Once the question is closed, 3 10k users vote to delete.

3. A mod uses mod superpowers to delete the question.

Issues with the first way would be decreased if more people voted. Something that I've noticed much more than closures and deletions is that the voting has not at all kept up with site growth. Unfortunately, while we can sometimes say vote early, vote often, a very small group of users reads the meta and fewer care about what they read - this is very hard to change.

The ideal resolution of the second way is for users to edit their on hold question. It gets put in a reopen queue, and users tend to be pretty liberal about reopening after any nontrivial edit from the queue. Frankly, though, users very often don't edit their question. Or if they do, they're confused - they have no idea how to approach the problem, users demand context, and they edit something in like I'm lost. What do I do?, which typically doesn't lead to reopenings.

Something which could be done, but which isn't done very often, is for capable users of really editing lower quality questions into reasonable questions, especially questions that have been otherwise abandoned by the OP. For example, it seems to me that it's extremely likely that an answer of André is great, and the site is better off with it than without. If the question is enroute to being closed, then perhaps a higher rep user could really edit the question. [This conforms to the view that this site is a Q&A repository, where good answers to good questions should be kept so that they can be found later; a different popular view is that this site is for learning math, and thus answers should help the OP first and foremost, including limiting to hints and whatnot]

To try to answer your actual question, Martin's Link in the comments contains every site that I know of aside from reddit and quora. I've at least looked at all of them before (and migrated here from mymathforum), and I really think MSE and MO are the best at what they do (i.e. not discussion).

• Correction to Item 2: 10K users can vote to delete 2 days after closure; they don't have to wait for [on-hold] to turn to [closed]. Source – user147263 Aug 1 '14 at 7:19
• Item 1 is also incorrect. At the age of 30 days, a question is deleted if it is negatively scored and there are no answers at all. In particular, this path does not lead to answers being deleted. You missed another scenario: a question that's been [on-hold]/closed for 9 days is deleted if there are no positively scored posts in the thread (Q or A). – user147263 Aug 1 '14 at 7:25
• Thank you for digging up some stats. I cannot shake the feeling that to some extent the relative increase of closures and deletions reflects the fact (or, perhaps more accurately, a gut feeling) that the growth of the site has largely come from high-schoolers/freshmen wanting somebody to do their homework for them. It is, of course, nearly impossible to substantiate (or disprove) my point. Just felt like bringing it up anyway. – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 1 '14 at 9:56
• I have also noticed that @Jyrki Lahtonen mentioned: I have no way to verify it, but I feel as if the average quality of questions has gone down in the last year or so. It is possible to write excellent questions about mathematics at all levels, and it is possible to write poor questions about mathematics at all levels. As a user, I want to see more of the former and less of the latter. – Carl Mummert Aug 1 '14 at 14:46
• @Carl I am pretty sure that this time last year, people were lamenting the quality of the questions and claiming that they were not as good as they were a year ago... – user1729 Aug 4 '14 at 8:44
• @user1729 And correctly so. They also failed to act after lamenting, which is why a year later, they get to lament more. – user147263 Aug 4 '14 at 14:05
• @900sit-upsaday: Something like that? Are you The Hound? – Asaf Karagila Aug 4 '14 at 16:59
• @mixedmath: I vaguely remember that at some point meta decided that it is pretty impolite to dramatically edit the text of a post, which would include your "really edit" idea. But, I like the idea of really editing, and the notion that we should wait until the OP has abandoned the question strikes me as a good compromise. But I'm genuinely not sure of a heuristic by which I could measure "abandonment". I am prepared to say that 3mo without an edit is definitely enough, and the 59m edit I recently reverted is definitely not, but things sitting in the 30d scale feel awkward. Suggestions? – Eric Stucky Aug 6 '14 at 5:22
• @EricStucky I'd begin by saying that since the past meta decisions landed the site where it is, they should not be taken as canon. My suggestion for the time scale: if the question has turned from [on-hold] to [closed], then the OP has failed to save it, and others can make their attempt. This happens five days after closing. – user147263 Aug 6 '14 at 5:59
• @900sit-upsaday: The first order of business is to blame everything on the previous guy. I'd say that the dark ages landed the site where it is. Also the starting conditions of the universe and baryogenesis. Possibly strings, micro black holes (due to CERN experiments), Freemasons and Nazi pagan cults ceremonies to release ancient powers all had to do with it as well. More seriously, though, I don't think that we need to aggressively edit things written by other people; at least not "shortly after posting". – Asaf Karagila Aug 6 '14 at 18:56
• @AsafKaragila My first order of business has been to fix things. The blame game came about later, and from another source. Also, I am controlled by signals from elsewhere. – user147263 Aug 6 '14 at 20:54
• @900sit-upsaday: Shog didn't mention where. You picked the wrong site for it. In either case, yes, assigning blame to the predecessors did come later, but it's commutes with actually doing things, so without loss of generality it came first. – Asaf Karagila Aug 6 '14 at 21:02
• @AsafKaragila But that's the idea: pick a wrong site, and make it right. – user147263 Aug 6 '14 at 21:06
• @900sit-upsaday: So your plan is to induce a collective Stockholm syndrome? – Asaf Karagila Aug 6 '14 at 21:10
• The concern I have is about your #2 "Once the question is closed, 3 10k users vote to delete." This is a way of a question being deleted even if it has a very highly scored answer. If you could find out how often this happens, compared to last year and update your post or reply to this comment I'd be grateful. – TooTone Aug 14 '14 at 11:04

One suggestion.

A significant part (may be I'm projecting here?) of the sentiment against answering routine exercises is related to the fact that variants of the same exercise occur repeatedly. A few years back Bill Dubuque launched a campaign in favor of so called abstract duplicates: to have one sufficiently general umbrella Q/A prepared by an expert (or by community effort), and thereafter refer new entrants to that canonical answer (and otherwise close them on the spot). We have a dedicated thread for collecting near-duplicates in Meta, but it is somewhat underused, and cannot really serve well to this end. Unfortunately the campaign for abstract duplicates has also fizzled since.

One of the suggested reasons to start our own Stack Exchange Mathematics Blog was that posts there might serve in this role. That blog is in its infancy, and I have some doubts about how often visitors read it. Advertising the blog on the main site is a bit difficult. Anyway, the blog is one possible outlet for members with an overwhelming desire to teach. Right now the blog suffers from a shortage of material/authors. Together we could generate enough volume, which hopefully leads to more people reading it. This, hopefully, would in turn attract even more qualified people to contribute to the blog.

• List of Generalizations of Common Questions – Isaac Aug 7 '14 at 14:56
• @Jyrki Lahtonen: Elsewhere, there has been more than one insulting comment from you, so invitation declined. – André Nicolas Aug 7 '14 at 19:02
• My original post was Coping with abstract duplicate question. To be sure, I'm not proposing that abstract dupe closing should always be done. Rather, I think decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis, by users who have significant experience teaching the topic. – Bill Dubuque Oct 5 '18 at 22:50
• @Bill I guess it won't surprise you to hear that in my opinion your prophecy from 2011 has been fulfilled in the sense that meanwhile the problem has gotten out of hand, and the site has been swamped by hundreds of minor variations. Of course, the human answering machines turn the deaf ear to any suggestion of restraining their desire to show that "Look, I, too, can do this problem! Can I have my upvote, please!" – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 6 '18 at 7:59
• When I composed that post I presumed that SE would evolve and develop good tools to handle dupes. But it hasn't - which posed major problems.. E.g. many of my answers link to other posts for proofs. If those posts end up being deleted because someone preferred another dupe thread then the proof link is left dangling. The ability to abstract and localize vias link (vs. duplicate inline) is paramount and should not be compromised. Just as for closures, many deletion votes are robotic, so overlook these matters (which take nontrivial time to assess). – Bill Dubuque Oct 6 '18 at 13:04
• I see your point, @Bill. I may want to see it as an argument in favor of deleting new duplicates and leaving the older versions. Anyway, it is something to keep in mind. I keep referring people to your old answers (among other things). Mind you, I don't think any of the threads I used are in danger. – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 6 '18 at 13:04
• In the past I have mentioned this and other related issues (e.g. improper assessment of posts in merges) but, alas, the discussion is not easy to find by SE search tools. That's why I added the "delete" and "policy" tags to this old thread. Believe it or not someone sent a mod message to me about that. The mind boggles.... – Bill Dubuque Oct 6 '18 at 13:06

Let me start off by saying that I agree with the fact that this site should be as informative as possible, and that therefore each question should be of sufficient quality to be maintained. However, one should not forget that the main driver of this site is its users (and then especially a few high-rep users). Ideally, everyone would of course want the site to be 100% organized, but for obvious and legitimate reasons deleting questions that are of mediocre quality but that have high quality answers evokes negative emotions from exactly those high-rep users that are of such vital importance to this site. In an perfect world each question on the site is of high quality, but not being able to achieve this on every single question is always better than not having this site at all.

Now to respond to 900's latest answer in which he suggests that users edit questions which are at danger of being deleted, I have the following proposal: why does 900 (or any other person that sees a calling in upgrading the quality of the questions on this site) not edit those question himself instead of deleting them? I think this is the best compromise as it (a) satisfies high-rep users (and maintains their high quality answers) and (b) makes the questions on this site of higher quality.

Let us please try to put our personal differences aside and channel our energies into empowering this site, rather than to try to win personal battles.

• Take a look at the list of editors for this quarter. Looks like I edited some things, doesn't it? But as I said elsewhere: "them's the breaks: if I am the one picking up toys after kids had their fun, I get to decide whether a toy goes back on a shelf or to the dumpster. Those who want to make sure their toys avoid the dumpster should pick them up themselves." – user147263 Aug 6 '14 at 16:28
• "Let us please try to put our personal differences aside and channel our energies into empowering this site, rather than to try to win personal battles." What does "empowering this site" mean? And who is focused on personal battles rather than that? – Jonas Meyer Aug 6 '14 at 16:32
• How simple do you want me to put it for you: are you going to fill up the void if Andre Nicolas and/or Bill Dubuque would leave the site? You obviously seem to think that keeping this site clean is of more importance than keeping the users that make for the sole existence of this site. – dreamer Aug 6 '14 at 16:54
• Just a data point concerning "deleting questions [...] of mediocre quality but that have high quality answers": Since the brouhaha began, I've gone to the "delete" tab in the 10K tools pretty much every day, and looked at a large part of the listed "Recently Deleted" questions (at least a dozen every time) to check if anything shouldn't have been deleted IMO. What I saw deleted was poor (or worse) questions with mediocre to somewhat goodish [and also with baddish] answers. There may be a few good answers deleted, but that's tiny fraction. – Daniel Fischer Aug 6 '14 at 16:57
• @danielfisher If that is the case, then you have a valid point. But I honestly do think that Andre s OP is based on the fact that at least for him a significant amount of posts were deleted. And if this fraction is really so small, then why do we really still need to delete those posts, as their deletion evidently elicits so much commotion/frustration? – dreamer Aug 6 '14 at 17:01
• @dreamer I have seen André's name not so often, but I may have just missed those. I don't know how many of his answers have been deleted. We would not need (and ordinarily should not, there may be exceptions) delete good answers [then one should strive to make the question acceptable], but there are different views on what should count as good. – Daniel Fischer Aug 6 '14 at 17:09
• What if failing to "keep the site clean" is "risking the departure of some of the most important members of this site" and effectively dis-empowering the site? – Did Aug 6 '14 at 17:27
• @dreamer maybe I have missed something, but noone is claiming that the deleted answers of Andre were good! Indeed, only one of his answer's is linked to in this thread, and it was as an example of a bad answer. Evidence...give me evidence... – user1729 Aug 6 '14 at 21:22
• Dreamer, you are welcome to start editing. I'm sure that 900 would appreciate all the help he can get. Also it's not his fault that Bill and André have answered crappy questions (as have I). The blame belongs to the lazy OPs (and the FGITWs whose rapid answers in some way legitimize the sloppy questions). – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 6 '14 at 23:03
• Dreamer, I think that you are misplacing the burden. Anyway, here's one example of what salvaging a question may entail. The OP used odd notation, and the question was quickly put on hold as unclear. I felt differently. I generated and added two animations to explain what the question was about. It was duly reopened shortly. But that was well over an hour of work. I only answered it much later. Anyway, it is unreasonable to expect that kind of salvage effort hundreds of times per month. And all that so that your heros could bask in the glory. – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 7 '14 at 8:08
• (cont'd) Mind you, that question does also exhibit the trigger happy nature of close voting. The problem in the first place was caused by a retiree using idiosyncratic notation. The context he lucidly described only allowed for a single interpretation that made sense, so any mathematician who would stop to think about it would have given the same interpretation I did. Anyway, my point is that salvaging a wrecked question is often more work than answering it well would be. I don't have any illusions of superiority. I'm sure several members could have given the answer I gave. – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 7 '14 at 8:12
• @dreamer I do not know whether most of his posts are of high quality, however there is still an underlying assumption that the deleted posts are good....and we have still not overcome this assumption. – user1729 Aug 7 '14 at 9:31
• @Bill: Make sure you account for user myopia in your expectations. (this note doesn't mean to suggest it's a bad idea, just that we shouldn't expect a large fraction of people to really pay attention) – user14972 Aug 8 '14 at 17:48
• @BillDubuque Putting such a banner on top of question, with an answer underneath it, would be saying: "You shouldn't ask such questions, but if you do, we'll answer anyway". – user147263 Aug 8 '14 at 17:51
• @900 But I think a better solution is to have a meta thread listing "bad" questions with "good" answers that are proposed to be preserved. This would give users a chance to edit and improve the question so to preserve the good answers, which seems like a reasonable compromise. But we would need a more efficient way to locate these. Perhaps with the help of some of your scripts? – Bill Dubuque Aug 8 '14 at 18:01

Help Center explains:

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which...

• ...are unclear or lacking specific details that can uniquely identify the problem.
• ...solicit opinions rather than facts.
• ...require too much guidance for you to answer in full, or request answers to multiple questions.
• ...are not about math as defined in the help center.

Let's take this question as an example: it's a recent one; I voted to close, and it's my downvote on the answer there.

1. The question is unclear: there is no assumption of $X$ and $Y$ being independent, and without that there isn't a way to find joint PMF.
2. There is no indication of what the asker has difficulty with.
3. "Find joint PMF" questions have been asked and answered many times before, even with exactly the same parameters

Some of these issues could be fixed. The Help Center says:

Don't forget that you can edit the question you're answering to improve the clarity and focus - this can reduce the chances of the question being closed or deleted.

The independence assumption, the all-caps BINOMIAL, the incorrect tag -- those things could be fixed, but ... that's a kind of boring task best left to others.

In a nutshell, there is a contradiction between

1. I want to answer any question I feel like answering, regardless of its quality.
2. I want my answers to be preserved on the site.

On Stack Exchange, you get to pick one, not both.

• In my opinion, your massive crusade of downvoting and deleting helpful answers is by far the most nonconstructive behavior that has ever occurred in the 4 year lifetime of MSE. As is clear from this thread (and others), your behavior is greatly alienating some of the best teachers on this site. Is that what you desire? – Bill Dubuque Aug 1 '14 at 18:57
• And why should we care about some random text in the "Help Center"? Was that authored by our users (esp. experienced teachers?) No, it was not, so it has little chance or pertaining to the major issues MSE faces. – Bill Dubuque Aug 1 '14 at 19:06
• Although @Bill and I have vastly differing philosophies on closures, I agree with him that the scale of this crusade of deletions is beyond destructive, having now affected (by your count) over three thousand posts. However, I seem to recall you left a comment in a related thread whose punchline was "I don't care, and will continue doing this no matter the backlash," so I'm probably wasting my time by commenting here. – user61527 Aug 1 '14 at 19:07
• It is a bit off-topic here but since it was brought up by @BillDubuque once again: the amount of poor-quality questions and related phenomena is extremely off putting for some others. – quid Aug 1 '14 at 21:36
• I also think it's worth pointing out that this post makes absolutely no attempt to answer the question, which is about sites similar to MSE. Its only purpose seems to be to tell André that he's wrong to answer the questions he answers and expect his contributions not be deleted. (-1). – user61527 Aug 1 '14 at 22:28
• @T.Bongers: If there are three thousand questions that should be deleted, then what is the problem with someone deleting those three thousand questions? – user14972 Aug 1 '14 at 22:59
• @Hurkyl, I think the problem is that some of those delete-worthy questions have attracted keep-worthy answers. Deleting the question throws the baby out with the bathwater. – Gerry Myerson Aug 1 '14 at 23:14
• @Hurkyl I object to the scale because it's being carried out by one user only. A big reason I participate in Mae is its democratic nature. Good answers are being lost due to one user's actions. – user61527 Aug 1 '14 at 23:23
• @T.: Then oversee! Shine a spotlight on what's actually happening, so that the community can do some oversight. Maybe I haven't paid enough attention to meta, but all of the objections to this campaign I've seen have been on matters of principle (and, IMO, with blinders on). I haven't noticed anyone doing something like dredging up a representative sample of deleted posts so that the community can discuss their opinions about their fates, or cherry picking some outliers that probably shouldn't have been deleted but wound up being collateral damage. – user14972 Aug 1 '14 at 23:27
• @T.Bongers From 900's profile: "$4300\!+$ downvotes on Math (site record), of them $3500\!+$ on now-deleted posts. $2200\!+$ votes to close on Math, of them $1300\!+$ on now-deleted posts". So it seems he is quite proud of this destructive behavior over $3$ month's time. What a sad state of affairs. – Bill Dubuque Aug 1 '14 at 23:40
• @T.Bongers no attempt to answer the question -- the "question" is a flimsy pretext to post the half-rant, half-threat labeled "Introduction", and I responded to that. – user147263 Aug 2 '14 at 3:08
• @BillDubuque "...greatly alienating some of the best teachers on this site." The implication here is that high reputation implies good teacher (because this question is focused on a high-rep user). I do not know if this implication is what you meant, however I do not believe it to be true. High reputation implies prolific teacher, but I am sure that many of the best teachers on this site wile away their time on their favourite tags, barely breaching 20K. Prolific does not imply good... – user1729 Aug 4 '14 at 8:49
• There is also the implication that stopping the behavior that Bill complains would not greatly alienate some of the best teachers on the site, nor would it greatly alienate some of the best teachers who would otherwise have joined the site. – user14972 Aug 4 '14 at 9:03
• @bill: Not that I have any expectation you'll listen, but.... You say that 900 is greatly alienating some of the best teachers on the site. So what? You haven't made a thesis statement, or an argument connecting your claim to your thesis statement. Any actual meaning you might have is left to an unspoken implication. Among the most obvious implications of your words is that 900's course of action will alienate more people than not following that course of action will. If you did not mean that, then I'm quite comfortable laying all the blame for miscommunication upon you. – user14972 Aug 4 '14 at 15:42
• @Bill: Funny, I could say exactly the same thing towards you. :P Have you at least noticed the irony of your previous comment? – user14972 Aug 4 '14 at 15:46