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I want to address two ongoing issues being discussed in the thread regarding the closure or deletion of questions.

  1. The question on sequences.

Why was this deleted? On Nov 15, 14:15, the question was asked. Five to seven minutes later, three answers were given. User Did properly posted not one, but three duplicates with very useful answers thirty minutes after the post was produced. A collection of users closed the post as off-topic. This could have very well been closed as a duplicate, but at this point, this seems irrelevant. The relevant situation is that most users didn't take the time to direct the OP to the relevant useful and already existing threads, and decided to post answers instead. The downvotes (which I do not support) are a reflection of this. The post was deleted since it was of no value (in view of multiple duplicates) and because of the ongoing vote battle, which was simply not going to get us anywhere.

Gerry, in particular, said he'd "...like to see people stop voting down good answers, but it seems that is asking for too much." I agree with you. But this is a consequence of a sillier issue: users are not taking the time, neither when posting, nor when answering, to look up for duplicates and direct the users to such threads.

  1. The post about self-harming

Why was this closed? The question was off-topic, be it about a sensible topic or not. At any rate, it was properly answered, and accepted. I strongly support the fact the issue was addressed. This already gives the post closure. In a parallel situation, there was an increasing amount of discussion, in particular in other answers, that were derailing into either non-constructive or simply off-topic discussion that was not fit to be done there. As Asaf wrote: "These issues are far far far faaaar too complicated to be discussed in the comments of a meta site about mathematics." The closing vote was made to avoid further discussion in the post, and in particular to avoid further answers that don't really address the question. If one wants to discuss a particular issue that has arisen in a particular post, it seems better to open a thread about it, with the appropriate link. For example, Fred Kline's answer should fit perfectly in a discussion thread titled "What is your personal viewpoint on the actions to be taken when...?". Although the OP did talk about "community", his constant used of the word "protocol" seemed to indicate he was after the "official SE viewpoint" on the matter, which (as the accepted answer supports) seems to be what he was after, after all.

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    $\begingroup$ The more duplicates there are, the easier it is to find them in the future. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Dec 27 '14 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud I'm failing to find the words to express my disagreement with your idea. But look at this to see what pops in my head when I think of "many duplicates $\implies$ easier to find." Sure, but this fails to educate our users into a better use of the site, and is highly unoptimal! $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Dec 27 '14 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud if it is as simple as this we might just routinely copy-paste existing Q&A to have more duplicates. (It was mentioned that in this case the Q seems to be literally the same as an existing one; I never saw it undeleted so I cannot check.) $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '14 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW here is a screenshot of the question. Everyone can compare it with the duplicates Did posted, especially the first one: the text of the question itself is the same, word for word. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 27 '14 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Copy and paste wouldn't do much good. The main reason why I think it's beneficial to have duplicates is because different people write in different ways and use different keywords. I think it would be helpful to have a 'good' amount of variants of each question, in order to increase the easiness to find duplicates. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Dec 27 '14 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Pedro Please don't use superpower mod votes to force resolution of contentious matters. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 27 '14 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque What are you talking about now? Please be specific. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Dec 27 '14 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ @pedro The matters at hand. I strongly disagree with your use of mod votes to force your preferences on these matters. They should be decided by the community - not a single user. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 27 '14 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque There is a difference between abuse of power and use of power. Intervention was needed in the "sequence" question. I cannot really argue with you if you constantly oppose the closing of each and every question, whether by the community or by mods. The case of the "self harm" post is more delicate. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Dec 27 '14 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque The user is not hypothetical at all. I am talking from an objective point of view. One can count the number of times you chose to leave a post open, and when you chose to close it. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Dec 27 '14 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I said partial inferences. It tells us what the user thinks should stay open, which is non-trivial information in this context. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I agree it's very partial. But it can still give you some vague idea. If someone votes to reopen a relatively old PSQ that was closed recently (compared to its posting and the review), and without reasonable answers; and if someone does that more than once or twice, then this is something to learn on that person. Even if they only ever reviewed three closing/reopening items. Especially if they only reviewed those three items. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ When someone takes six seconds to review a question, votes to "Leave Open" even though the question is terrible and is later closed by the community, it also tells something about that someone. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 27 '14 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ We're building a straw man, @Bill, and then we're gonna take it to see the wizard so it can get a brain. (How about that as a non-sequitur? :-)) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ It seems, Pedro, that you are saying the downvoting of answers on Question 1 was a response to the failure of others to note duplication. I see no evidence for this. The downvoters didn't vote to close the question as a duplicate; they didn't leave comments saying they were downvoting the answers because the question was a duplicate. It strikes me as much more likely that the downvoters, like the answerers, didn't look into whether the question was a duplicate. They had a very different agenda when they left their votes. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Dec 27 '14 at 21:52
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Closing is a tool to deal with questions that are simply off-topic or violate other site rules. Closing questions for any other reason than that is horribly confusing and will inevitably cause trouble. It is not a way to declare questions as resolved. Closing is confusing enough to new users, having questions closed that are not against the site rules makes it even harder to understand.

Post 2 is not off-topic here on meta, it is a question about site policy in a specific situation. My answer also shows that this topic has come up before on other SE sites, supporting my opinion that this is an issue that belongs on a meta site.

Closing the question for off-topic comments doesn't make much sense as it won't do anything to prevent further comments. I prefer to simply warn users in a comment that the discussion is getting out of hand and ask them to stop. It can be necessary to remove comments if this is not enough. Locking posts is an even easier method, but with rather large drawbacks as it will also stop voting and editing.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that the 2nd post is very out of place here. In particular because it deals with this sort of delicate topic which involves two things: (1) human life, (2) internet anonymity. It might be in place on meta.SE, and perhaps should be migrated there instead of being closed. But it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion on this topic online. Exactly because there will be three essential camps: (1) Do everything to save at least one person, regardless to any "collateral" damage done. (2) You don't know what's going on there, don't get involved. (3) No idea what to do. [...] $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ [...] And since one camp is silent, and the other two camps will never agree, this just means that this is a topic that will involve a lot of people ending up angry and tired at each other. And later on someone will complain that I have a personal disliking of him, because we stand on different grounds regarding suicide prevention on a mathematics website. But that's besides the point. The issue here is that this is not something to be debated on a mathematics website, or about a site about a mathematics website. Not when meta.SE exists, anyway. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ The issue were off-topic answers not only comments (but it might have been clearer to lock the post, though it also has downsides). But I agree that it is in principle on-topic, though the question was not formulated too well IMO. Your answer gave the official policy, this is fine. Yet then several users gave their personal view, based on personal experience. In some sense this can be valuable but it can also be risky and ultimately leads nowhere. There already was a highly problematic comment on one that got quickly deleted. (It was completely off-topic, and designed to insult.) $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '14 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ The question about self-harm was deviating into something off-topic. That's my point. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Dec 27 '14 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @pedrotamaroff If I continue this line of thought to the extreme conclusion, it seems I could get any question closed simply by posting off-topic answers and comments in it. While questions that invite problematic answers should likely be closed, the presence of bad answers should not directly lead to the closure of a question. Moderators have much more tools available to deal with this case than just closing. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Dec 27 '14 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Sadly, such diversionary tactics used to force closure and/or deletions are very common on meta these days. It's not surprising that a new mod with (relatively) little meta experience may not be aware of this. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 27 '14 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Look at the timeline. The original question received some comments about the title (from you, if you may recall). It received the answer from Mad Scientist. Then it received the answer from dustin, some comment exchange between me and dustin (replying to his question as to why his answer was downvoted) and then Fred Kline's answer. It seems to me that the "diversionary tactic" would have been employed by dustin, which is very much against the closure of that thread (or even a passive stance on the topic). So your comment here is nothing more than off topic mudslinging. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque this might or might not be the case, I really doubt though it applies to the question at hand. Do you seriosuly mean to say that dustin and Fred Kline psted their respective answer to "force closure"? $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '14 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Your entire comment was a non sequitur, then. And completely off topic and irrelevant, which again is tantamount to mudslinging. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: That is true. It's impossible to have a discussion. Especially when every other comment is "Non sequitur" or "This is irrelevant and off topic!" or "I didn't expect such and such user to understand". It is completely impossible to have a discussion when half the comments are like that. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin: With the difference that Facebook can, to a much much better degree, verify your identity; as well Facebook is a site aimed for people posting personal messages like "I'm depressed and want to die" whereas this is completely off topic on pretty much any SE website. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin: With so many people on the internet, it's not insanely difficult to hack a personal computer in your physical area; heck, if I live next to you, I might just log into your wifi network and do it from my phone. Then post some sort of self harm message. When the cops knock on your door, or on all the doors in the building because they can't pinpoint the apartment (because it might be in the university over wifi) you tell me what's going on. IP address is not everything, it's a lot but far from sufficient. (And it's an easy real-life method to annoy people, or worse.) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin: I've seen what happens to people when they are being accused of stuff considered taboo. The action alone can push a person over the edge. You never answered me, how many people being pushed over the edge are worth saving one person. And I don't expect you to answer me either. This is not the place for this sort of debate on the value of human life across the globe and across different communities and societies. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin: So it's nonsense to worry about abuse of the system? Okay. I'll keep that in mind for the next time someone voices a concern about a possible abuse of the system. It's good that you finally realize that it's impossible to have this discussion here. Although I suspect that I couldn't have this discussion with you anywhere else. Perhaps because the things that I've seen and been through are incompatible with what you've seen and been through, and at least two of us are too closed-minded to change those opinions. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin: By the way, since you're so interesting in poking me at the fact that I understood "unilateral" the way it is written in the dictionary, rather than the way you meant it to be (which is not the first definition in the dictionary you referred to, and is so wide that it can be extrapolated to pretty much anything), let me add that between you and me, I'm the person who is using their real name and real identity here. You're so concerned in saving even just one person from self-harm. I'm concerned in saving even one person from being falsely accused as a mental patient. Look it up. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '14 at 18:40
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The "question on sequences" quite clearly had entered a circle of un/delete that needs to be broken one way or another by moderator intervention. (Delete and undelete votes can be cast multiple times by the same user on the same question, the process would not reach an end in a reasonable way.)

This is a show-case for a situation where moderator intervention is called for. The mere fact that a moderator intervened is not objectionable at all in my opinion.

If there is discontent about which way the moderator chose, it seems best those that want a different outcome open a meta-thread where they make a reasonable proposal how the situation should be resolved differently.

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Regarding Question 2 (Self harming)

I agree with Pedro that this question is not a good fit for our local meta site--Meta.SE should be where posts of this type are discussed and settled. However, I disagree with closing it.

Wait--what did I just say? Why should we keep a question that's not a good fit for our site? The reason is simple: If Meta.SE "is another galaxy, an unfamiliar place inhabited by unfamiliar people", then searching for a particular policy across all the Meta sites on the SE network would be like looking for a particularly shaped rock on any planet across several galaxies. Policies about suicide/self harming are important to have, and we want them to be within easy reach.

Let's look at what "closing" a question actually means:

Is closure the end of the road for a question?

Definitely not. Closed questions can and should be edited to improve them and address the reasons why they were closed in the first place. Once this is done you might need to either flag the question for moderator attention or raise a meta question to bring it to everyone's attention so it can get the necessary views that might translate into reopen votes.

It's only when a question can't be salvaged that it should move onto the next state - deletion. Source: What is a "closed" or “on hold” question?

Pay particular attention to the last sentence: saying a question should be "closed" means "if this isn't improved, it should be deleted from the site." I don't think this question should be deleted, because that means we must search through other meta sites to determine what we need to do in that situation.

My proposed resolution: Lock the post indefinitely--the most prominent answer by far acts as a pointer to a thread answered by Shog9, where people should go for an official policy. This means that we can search our own meta for an answer, yet the answer is really "go look at a different post for official policy." Locking the question also halts the divisive (and endless) cycle of debate about the issue.

Summary

I believe that Pedro identified an actual problem (something did need to be done about those posts), but solved the problem in the wrong way--particularly, he solved them like a normal (20k) user would, but not like a moderator could (with power to lock). This should be expected from newly elected moderators, and I think the community should be a bit more understanding. :)

If people think I should create separate meta questions about my proposals, I can do so.

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  • $\begingroup$ As an aside: I'd love to know if downvotes to this answer mean "I disagree with your analysis" or "I disagree with your proposed course of action." $\endgroup$ – apnorton Dec 27 '14 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't downvote or upvote but Pedro tends to want to close post he doesn't agree with. Take a look at comments here. It is only the third or fourth comment. To me and maybe to others, it appears that he wants to be more of a dictator than a moderator. $\endgroup$ – dustin Dec 27 '14 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ That's incredibly melodramatic, @dustin. That reads more like a misunderstanding of what it means to close a question than a desire to exert dictatorial control. $\endgroup$ – user98602 Dec 27 '14 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeMiller it show that he wants to just close post which don't necessitate it. In police terms, it shows motivate to actions. It isn't melodramatic. It is observations of actions taken. $\endgroup$ – dustin Dec 27 '14 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ Q2 is clearly off topic and shouldn't be left open. The idea of having a thread on self harming, which may turn up in a search made by someone looking for help, is clearly wrong. As a policy priority for the site, I would suggest there is no evidence to put this issue high up the list. Someone seeking help should ideally be directed towards a source of help local to them (same time zone and language). The question "are there existential pressures and issues particular to mathematics and mathematicians" might be more related to the site than the general question, though still off topic. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bennet Dec 30 '14 at 13:48
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Regarding Question 1 (Real analysis)

Yes, this question is an exact duplicate of an older question. Because the text of the question prompt matches word-for-word, I don't think it adds any advantage to search engine results (which is the primary reason given for not deleting duplicates). Thus, I think it should be deleted.

Yes, the question was causing serious problems, too. It was closed, deleted, undeleted, deleted, undeleted, and finally deleted again. That shows that community consensus was not building on what should happen to that question. Thus, something needed to be done.

So, it appears I agree with Pedro, right? Those are the two main reasons he lists for deletion:

The post was deleted since it was of no value (in view of multiple duplicates) and because of the ongoing vote battle, which was simply not going to get us anywhere.

Well, I do agree that these two things are a problem and that moderator intervention was needed. BUT, I disagree with the particular form of intervention. Particularly, deleting the question is not the appropriate course of action in the case of a vote battle. Instead, the course of action should be to lock the question:

When should a post be locked?

Posts should generally only be locked in cases where something seriously bad is happening. In particular, where the ongoing updates and edits are actively detrimental to the system.

Some examples of when a post might be locked include:

  • SNIP

  • A question that gets opened and closed repeatedly many times without achieving community consensus on whether it should stay open or closed.

  • SNIP

Source

(I'm going to assert that deletion is similar enough to closure that the above applies here as well.)

Locking the post for a short duration is like telling the community "let's all take a deep breath and talk about this." We could then create a meta thread and discuss what needs to happen to this post. I'm sure that, if it was more clearly noted that the text of the question was an exact copy of an older question, more people (maybe not everyone, but at least more people) would have agreed with deleting it.

Another approach that could have been taken by Pedro that might have (possibly) made more people happy: reopen the question and immediately reclose as an exact duplicate of one of the threads from the comments. Then, the people reviewing delete votes for the question could see that the text was identical, rather than simply off topic. (For a concrete example, I voted to undelete because I didn't think the question was off topic enough to warrant deletion. Only later did I learn that the question was also an exact duplicate.)

My proposed resolution: Undelete, lock the question, and hold a meta discussion about the post. The act of undeleting first shows the people who think the question should stay undeleted that Pedro is willing to be flexible, while locking the question and holding a meta discussion still acknowledges that there is something wrong with actions taken about that post.

Summary

I believe that Pedro identified an actual problem (something did need to be done about those posts), but solved the problem in the wrong way--particularly, he solved them like a normal (20k) user would, but not like a moderator could (with power to lock). This should be expected from newly elected moderators, and I think the community should be a bit more understanding. :)

If people think I should create separate meta questions about my proposals, I can do so.

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  • $\begingroup$ As an aside: I'd love to know if downvotes to this answer mean "I disagree with your analysis" or "I disagree with your proposed course of action." $\endgroup$ – apnorton Dec 27 '14 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the proposed course of action. I consider locking this or similar questions as circuitous and needless bureaucracy. There is nothing salvageable about that question: leave it deleted. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Dec 27 '14 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ "There is nothing salvageable about that question: leave it deleted." @user, "nothing salvageable" includes the four answers that were posted to the question? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Dec 27 '14 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry When one FGITW's instead of doing due diligence and checking for duplicates, one takes the risk of the question being closed and/or deleted. I see no reason to go out of our way to reward those answers. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Dec 27 '14 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ @user, the right way to handle a duplicate of Question X is to close it as a duplicate and to merge its answers with the answers to Question X. It's not a matter of rewarding or punishing people who post answers to questions; it's a matter of retaining mathematical content on the site, versus deleting it. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Dec 27 '14 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not typically part of the "let's keep mathematical content" group, but I think I agree with the sentiment in this particular case. This is a great example of when merging--not deleting--the question is appropriate. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Dec 27 '14 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ Very well; I would not object to a moderator merging the answers (mostly one-line hints, so not what I would value as rich mathematical content, mais a chacun son gout). I still disagree with undeleting/locking as pointless bureaucracy. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Dec 27 '14 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson I agree to some extent but there should be further considerations. For examples, if the old question already has several good answers and the new answers would not add anything and would all be worse, then merging them could have a negative overall effect. More answers, even correct ones, is not necessarily better; we "protect" some questions for a reason. (This is a general remark, I cannot even see the answers in question, but so was your comment.) $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '14 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @quid 10k view. The one at the bottom of the list is the one I would prefer to merge; the other two are (as mentioned before) one-line hints. Of course, the difficulty is that the answerer self-deleted the answer due to the number of unexplained downvotes. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Dec 27 '14 at 22:18

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