This continues to be a divisive issue with neither side willing to compromise at all. Mathematicians being idealists of the purest kind that is hardly a surprise.
I am somewhat impressed by the fact that hardly anyone is bringing up reputation in this discussion. In spite of our love/hate relationship with these internet points the rep game is a strong driving force here. Oversimplified: As we cannot change the fact that everybody's upvotes give the same +10 rep, the problem with easy PSQs persists
- one faction is seen by the other as protecting their ego point gravy train, and
- one faction is seen by the other as wanting to levy high taxes on the Joneses instead of keeping up with them (simple jealousy comes to mind also).
Some posters are blaming Behaviour's campaign for the current state of the affairs. That is IMO another oversimplification. The sentiment against LHF/PSQ/HW/whathever you want to call them (and their FGITW answers) had been growing for a long time. Behaviour was simply the first to find a way of attacking these that actually managed to make a dent to that wall. When T. Bongers brought the matter up in Meta, it had the (possibly unintended) consequence that many members who were unhappy about the situation (raises hand) realized that they actually have efficient Tools to fight the problem. The deletion of PSQs then picked up speed.
This caused a change in the site dynamics. The prolific answerers had gotten used to nothing ever disappearing. As it was a statistical certainty that even their answers (many objectively quite good, but to objectively bad questions) would become collateral damage, the change naturally came as a shock. This was evidenced in André's outburst. Undeniably IT WAS A CHANGE - the site became a bit different. And conservatives are never happy with a change. Do remember that the increase in the frequency of PSQs was also a change. But that was a more gradual change, and had to reach a certain point to make conservatives of a different kind come out in the open.
Of course, at the same time the defenders of those questions also learned about the tools. Deletion/undeletion wars have commenced. I predict that we will be behaving like kids for quite some time still, fighting for territory in this sandbox. Eventually an uneasy truce will be reached - in the form of a thermal equilibrium between delete/undelete votes. But we are not there yet.
I have also been toying with the following
- The pro-deletion party ceases deletion of PSQs for a time being, and instead flags the PSQs to moderators' attention upon sight, and
- the moderators turn the PSQs into Community Wiki -questions.
This has the known effect of eliminating reputation gains from such questions. With ego points removed from the equation, we can then test, who is sincere and who is not. The possible outcomes are:
- Nobody bothers to answer a CWified elementary question, but the complaints about PSQs continue. Case proven - the answerers were only doing it for the sake of internet points, and the anti-PSQ party wins.
- The answers continue to come in, but the complaints stop. Case proven - the complaints were only about internet points, not really about the quality of site. The pro-PSQ party wins.
- No answers + no complaints. Everybody should be ashamed.
- The steady stream of answers continues as do the complaints. This is IMHO the best possible outcome, because everybody learns that the other side is sincere. May be mutual respect will begin to grow?
Of course, there's the alternative to acknowledge that you (yes, I mean you, my dear reader) cannot have it all your way. The sooner we realize this (yours truly included) the better off we collectively are.
Bill is probably right in that the site software cannot be bent to handle abstract duplicates well. I think that collecting/merging existing abstract duplicates to Community Wiki threads is the best available approximation. The merging will necessitate quite a bit of editing by hand. Martin has been hard at work already (see his links under this) - sans CWification. If elected I could also give it a try. I would start by listing a representative sample of questions, move the answers to the umbrella thread, and edit in the number of the specific example handled in that answer. Unfortunately the amount of work may be overwhelming, and I'm not sure about whether that is a satisfactory resolution.
Moi? Confession time! I know that it is silly to worry about internet points, but I'm not completely at peace with the fact that noobs here think that (for example) Lab Bhattacharjee is twice the mathematician that I am, because he has accumulated twice the rep. Against that the same noobs may think I know more than, say, David Speyer or Noam D. Elkies, which is just ridiculous. Sue me! This may be a good reason for me to run for a moderator position in that I lose the power to cast delete votes on contentious threads.