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Two days ago the question “The Bachelor Problem” (from Tao's Google+ account) was posted on MSE.

It received a lot of positive attention, solutions and comments until an MSE user voted to close on the basis that he considered the puzzle's references to male bachelors and female princesses to be sexism. A StackExchange employee (not active on MSE) stepped in and duly "corrected" the question as well as all its answers by replacing "bachelor" with "bachelorette", "princess" with "prince" and "sister" with "brother".

Feeling a rather awkward political uncertainty, I respectfully ask for clarification on the precise nature of the value added to the question and its answers by that edit.

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    $\begingroup$ I found the edit quite amusing - I think it's a positive move to acknowledge that there is a bias about the choice genders in these puzzles, and the mathematical content is unharmed by changing it, so why not. The person who cast a close vote is pretty well unjustified in doing so, since the question is on-topic and I think focussing on the mathematical content is appropriate. I don't think anyone is being accused of sexism more than, "Ever noticed how almost all puzzles like this have the men doing the thinking? That might reflect badly on this community [of mathematicians]." $\endgroup$ – Milo Brandt Feb 4 '15 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ After some debate, I've removed questions 2 and 3 since they are off-topic, in particular opinion based that will simply lead to conflict. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Feb 4 '15 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ The change does useful "consciousness raising" that will likely continue to be necessary for quite a while. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Feb 4 '15 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I would describe the end result more in the line that the amount of sexism was conserved, only changed in direction. (And I did not find any sexism in the original version, so I have no complaints with the new one, for that reason...) $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Feb 4 '15 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ I just find it weird when an employee which isn't active on the site gets involved for no good reason. I mean, what are the odds the question would have stayed close for very long? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 4 '15 at 6:36
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    $\begingroup$ The assertion that Tao "first posted" it is completely misleading not to say blatantly false. The problem does in no way originate with Tao, but as explained on the blog he was told it by a friend and then pulled the precise formulation from some online source. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: Thank you for the correction, I had misunderstood the OP's reference. I removed the sentence claiming Tao as the original source. $\endgroup$ – user139000 Feb 4 '15 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ The question, like many others of this kind, seems to originate from Raymond Smullyan's "What's the Name of this Book?" (At least I'm pretty sure I read it there) $\endgroup$ – Ral Zarek Feb 4 '15 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not going to touch that question with a long pole, but if an edit is needed there, it's to remove (from ... account) which is useless name-dropping at best and misattribution at worst. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 4 '15 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for following up on this. I now realize you essentially took it from main, and (if anybody) OP on main is to blame. (I thought in error this was you as well.) $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ One problem with the renaming: searching on "bachelor problem" via SE does not find the new question. This is not good if that is (or becomes) the standard moniker. I added a note with the alternative name to remedy that. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Feb 4 '15 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ (I deleted part of my original comment.) Frankly, I think the change was silly, pointless (unless garnering attention counts) and serves to irritate rather than educate. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Feb 4 '15 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ Even beyond the issues discussed here, the question is a duplicate (which I saw after voting to as off-topic) math.stackexchange.com/q/29364/23353 (and, FWIW, if someone goes and edits the other question to change the genders, I will roll back the edit because it is too minor of an issue to resurrect a dead question from 4 years ago). $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ It would seem that this question ought to refer to boys picking flowers by the policy implied by the editor. (P.S. If anyone makes that edit, it should be rolled back) $\endgroup$ – Milo Brandt Feb 6 '15 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ As the user who posted the comment, pointing out the (unintentional but disappointingly invisible) sexism, that seems to have led to the edit: I might as well say that the fact that this discussion is now happening is far more important to me than what happened to the question itself. $\endgroup$ – Greg Martin Feb 10 '15 at 8:51
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Personally, I don't think the question is sexist towards women, or that the edit is sexist towards men. With that said, the fact that I'm not offended by it doesn't invalidate the feelings of the people who are. They have a right to feel that way. There are good points on either side.

But it doesn't matter. The edit itself is a matter of taste, and therefore off topic. It is not enough that it does not harm the question. An edit must provide substantive improvement, and that means mathematical content or clarity. Those who wish to see a question with a female protagonist are free to ask one.

I think the only fair solution is this: Because it's an external quote, it should be taken at face mathematical value in its original form. Either closing or forcing change on it sets a precedent that we can bootstrap questions with unrelated political issues. That shouldn't be acceptable here.

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    $\begingroup$ I apologize for being insisting, I would however appreciate an answer to my question. Let me present it now as a pair of more specific questions. Q1. In my observation it is common that somewhat longer collections of words, such as a full sentence, written in all-caps are edited to text using standard capitalization. Do you consider such edits as "off-topic"? If not, in which precise way does it fulfill the criteria you presented? (Not rarely should OP have used all-caps in an attempt to be more clear; that, say, I consider this as misguided seems, however, like a matter of taste.) $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 6 '15 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Q2. Some individuals have the habit to mix varied expletives/profanity into their writing, without any particular bad intentions rather as a matter of style. Would you consider it as an edit that is "off-topic" if such profanity was removed? If not, again, in which precise way are your criteria fulfilled? Thanks in advance. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 6 '15 at 23:56
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    $\begingroup$ @quid In both cases, the original form distracts from the actual question, and therefore it increases clarity to change it. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Feb 8 '15 at 9:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin who is to decide this, based on which objective criteria, and why can't we do so (or try to do so) in the current case but must accept the original? In Q1 the most reasonable interpretation is, as said, that OP used all-caps to increase clarity (in their opinion). For Q2 somebody might make an argument that the judicious use of expletives increases clarity in that it highlights key parts of the post.// Given all the debate it seems hard to claim that this question was such that it did not cause distraction. Thus it seems there was need for an edit (though possibly a different one) $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 8 '15 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ @quid It was the actual edit that sparked "all the debate", so your argument does not even have a shimmer of validity. As to the "objective criteria": We're not machines, but humans, and language is inherently subjective. Objectivity is an illusion and I don't want to exhaust myself striving for it (knowing that I will fail). But now that you've come to resort to defending your position by calling expletives an increas in clarity, all hope for a reasonable discussion has sadly been lost. I will no longer respond. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Feb 8 '15 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin Not quite. The original version drew a comment plus a close vote due to its phrasing. This motivated the edit. You misrepresent my position on expletives. Look, and to come back to something more reasonable, it is actually pretty simple in my view: on some things there is enough consensus and support that edits can be performed to change it without issue on other things there is not enough consensus and support. Gender-sensitive use of language is visibly in the later category. In my opinion this is quite unfortunate. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 8 '15 at 12:56
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There are two issues at play, here. This post deals with the way the post was edited, rather than the end state of the post.

The Editor is an SE Representative

Regardless of whether or not Jaydles was acting in an official manner, he represents StackExchange. As such, his action reflects on SE whether he intended it or not. This has a large intimidation factor--if I think the change is frivolous (a bad edit by definition), who am I to roll back the VP of Community Growth's edit? And, if I do, will I be suspended? (That second question is the primary reason I have not rolled back the edit already.)

Furthermore, the StackExchange model is built around self-governance of sites. The action Jaydles took was a giant statement saying "We don't believe you're capable of handling this on your own, so we're taking care of this."

We've worked through many problems on our own, thank you very much, and we were certainly capable of settling this one. As a result, the feeling I am left with is as if a friend and myself were in a disagreement, and then my parent came in and said "here's how it's going to be, now act happy." We're semi-stuck with the solution we were given and we would have settled it on our own (probably in a much better way). Granted, we're not truly stuck in this instance, but any edit to the question to remove gender will cause all the answers to be outdated. Or, if someone reverts the edit, they look like a male-supremacist for taking issue (even though my reason for reverting would be to discourage revisions like that in the future).

The Editor Misused Moderator Abilities

There is good reason for the revision queue--it is to prevent people with little experience on a site from screwing up questions with bad edits. However, since Jaydles is an SE employee, he has superpowers on all sites. This edit would have died in review, for multiple reasons:

  • The edit clearly conflicted with the author's intent. For good or ill, this was meant to be a discussion of a problem from Tao's blog. That modification makes it no longer the same problem.
  • The edit is not scalable. Are you now going to edit questions like this one? Are we also going to edit a bunch of Stable Marriage problems? If we decide that the issue of gender in a backstory is significant enough to require edits to questions, we likely have hundreds of questions to edit.
  • The edit is polishing a turd. The question is off topic, as discussions are off-topic here. There is no question in the OP. An edit by a semi-official person (and sending it out on the Twitter feed) causes headache because now there's a precedent for such questions to be on-topic. Questions like this are bad questions by the help center definition (discussion oriented), and have no business being popularized.

The Editor is Unfamiliar with Math.SE Culture

The edit reason is very revealing:

Some readers thought the original reinforced negative gender stereotypes, so I jut reversed the genders. Even if you think that unneeded, it seems like it can't possibly cause any harm, so why risk a fun problem being shut down?

We are not a "fun problem" site. That is Puzzling.SE. "Risking a fun problem being shut down" doesn't bother me one iota. Risking a good, on-topic, non-duplicate question being shut down would be cause for minor concern, but this none of those. (Here's the duplicate.)

Beyond this: Math.SE is a very conservative site with regards to how much editing is done of other people's posts. We edit to add formatting or make something clearer. We don't edit to say something substantively different than the author meant. If there's a disagreement about a post, we take it to meta first; we don't take unilateral action. (Consider the stink that arose when one of our new moderators closed and deleted two popular questions without discussion first.)

Anyone with two months of Math.SE experience would have known that such an edit certainly could cause an issue. This shouldn't have been forced on us by an outsider, but rather suggested.

Conclusion

I really don't care about the genders of people in a problem. However, I do care about someone coming and imposing their view of the issue on me. For all I know, only two people took issue with the question (the guy who first commented and Jaydles) but hundreds of people viewed the question without thinking anything of it. Now there are dozens of people who are irritated at the way this went down, and there's no clean way of settling it. If Jaydles wanted to make everyone happy by changing the offending text, he could not have caused a worse outcome.

Jaydles, if you're reading this, please understand that I don't mean it as a personal attack. Your intentions were pure, but the action you took was badly done. Each site on the SE network has a different level of lenience regarding edits and unilateral action. You've now found out that Math.SE has very little lenience in this area. In keeping with the awesome SE model of site self-governance, please ask a question on Meta or suggest action be taken via a comment/chatroom next time you're tempted to edit a post on a site where you're inactive.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for writing this. I was highly tempted to do the same, but you've done far better on the politeness scale than I could have. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Feb 4 '15 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ While I know that many users would hesitate to undo an action by an SE employee, there is really no reason to. As a mod I've had many interactions with them, and they can handle someone disagreeing with them. I'm very confident in claiming that they won't suspend anyone for reverting their edit. The ability of regular users to undo many moderator actions is an important tool, it allows small mistakes to be corrected without much fuss. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Feb 5 '15 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ The question is not a duplicate, and in particular the so-called duplicate does not have an answer that meets the conditions set in this question. $\endgroup$ – Joffan Feb 6 '15 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Joffan Then why is the 100+ upvoted answer also on the duplicate question? math.stackexchange.com/questions/1130336/… $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 6 '15 at 4:57
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I was going to just comment. Then, as writing a comment, it turned into two, then three...feeling a bit more courageous even as I typed, until it evolved into an answer.

I found the edit to be both humorous and gratifying. No, I'm not the one who voted to close, nor did I find the original offensive. But I found it gratifying that on at least one occasion, someone cared enough to actually consider how the ways questions are framed may impact women and girls, and to take seriously those who believe the original post reinforced sexism.

The sad fact is that as a woman in mathematics, I have become so inured to being thanked as a "sir," being assumed to be a "he" and not a "she", my answers being "his" and not "hers", etc., and I'm not surprised anymore at the ways in women with female usernames are treated here, often, as I see it, not taken as seriously as those with "male" usernames.

I've had to learn to pick my battles, depending on context and depending on the consequences of speaking up. I've also learned that if I object 24/7, voicing every situation that is exclusive of women, doors are closed, and those to whom I speak stop listening. So I use my voice strategically, or so I aim. To be honest: MSE is not a place I find to be receptive to seriously considering the ways in which women are excluded in math, the ways in which the notion that "It's just plain fact that there are more men in math than women" is used to justify actions which ensure that "there are more men in math than women.

I commend @Jaydless for actually stopping to consider the thoughts and feelings of users who actually happen to be women, and on a math site, no kidding! (Yes, we exist. Here.) If for nothing else, it is gratifying to know that at least one person at stackexchange took a moment to think about "the same ole same ole", and further, decided to make an edit, the consequences of which have revealed a lot of ignorance of and disinterest in women's experiences on math.se.

I post this with a bit of trepidation.

Amy

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    $\begingroup$ meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/9227 $\endgroup$ – Did Feb 5 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ ilaba.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/why-im-not-on-mathoverflow $\endgroup$ – Did Feb 5 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ ilaba.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/still-not-on-mathoverflow $\endgroup$ – Did Feb 5 '15 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ "UX"? User eXperience? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Feb 5 '15 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry Yes. Perhaps I should have just written it out? $\endgroup$ – Namaste Feb 5 '15 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ I would hazard that most men find smart women intimidating because they represent competition from a (culturally) unexpected source. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Feb 6 '15 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for this answer. Admittedly tangential to the particular issue at hand, but there are too many people who are just completely unaware or purposefully ignorant of the problems you mention in your answer. $\endgroup$ – 6005 Feb 9 '15 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for posting this. $\endgroup$ – tracing Feb 10 '15 at 13:53
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As a preamble let me say that I consider questions touched upon here as important in general, yet the precise instance seems in any case minor in the general context of the problematic so that I think one should not get too upset about it either way.

I do consider the (original) formulation of the puzzle as unfortunate, to no small extent for the starting half-sentence (my emphasis).

You are the most eligible bachelor[...]

This somehow suggest that "the default reader" is male. Or, put differently this puzzle seems written for boys. I think this is unfortunate and unnecessary. (Yes, I realize one can argue that it also might suggest that default reader is single and invited by kings and so on, yet I still feel there is a difference. At least I (as a male) read "imagine you are a king" more smoothly, for lack of a better word, than "imagine you are a queen.")

Now, it is turned around, which is relatively better and not the same (contrary to what some want to make believe) due to the reason given in the edit-comment (my emphasis) "Some readers thought the original reinforced negative gender stereotypes, so I jut reversed the genders." and the inverted version does not reinforce common stereotypes but rather goes against them. That's a difference.

My preferred version would have been to simply have a gender-neutral version. Like, I don't know "You are about to hire one of three siblings."

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that the best version would somehow avoid reference to the genders of the participants ("You are a professor hiring graduate students..."). But I disagree that the new version is less sexist than the old (to the extent that either one is particularly problematic); like Mariano I would think the sexism of a remark is invariant with respect to permutations of the genders involved. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Feb 4 '15 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the "not the same" paragraph. $\endgroup$ – Did Feb 4 '15 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ The inverted version has a masculine figure of the greatest power in the land deciding that a girl is to marry. He is even deciding that she is to marry a man. I cannot imagine why this does not reinforce common stereotypes and much less why it goes against any... $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Feb 4 '15 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez well, one could have inverted that too, or could have done what I proposed as my preferred version. (or I could have said it is changed regarding this one aspect, or wrote something still more complex.) And, yes, no need to bring it up, I realize also my version might reinforce some ideas some might find objectionable, but still I am convinced there is a difference. If you don't, okay. I have no interest in having a(nother) debate with you around these matters. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ @user7530 Is taking from the rich to give to the poor, and taking from the poor to give the rich also the same in your opinion? $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Yes; they're both theft. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @quid. Agreed. If I steal \$1000 from Bill Gates, or Bill Gates steals \$1000 from me, both are thefts of \$1000 and both are seen as equal offences in the eye of the law. One might argue that stealing from the rich is "morally less wrong despite being the same crime" because it fulfills some broader social agenda seen by many as desirable. But math.SE is certainly not the place to debate such things. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Feb 4 '15 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton I am not sure my usage of the word "taking" is off, but varied system of taxation do contain elements of vertical transfer. Now, you might consider any form of taxes, or perhaps just this form, as theft. This however is a somewhat extreme position. But I do appreciate there are all kinds of positions. I am just waiting, and even tried to preempt it, to call me out for promoting wage labour. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @quid I read your use of the word "taking" as in "Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor;" I see what you meant now. (Your usage is, in hindsight, correct; I just read it one way.) $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ @user7530 "taking" is not the same as "steal" at least I thought so, but perhaps my usage is off. Please see my other comment. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Yes, sorry, I misinterpreted your comment. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Feb 4 '15 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Mariano: Your comment makes me realize that the real objection shouldn't be to gender issues, but rather to the promotion of monarchy and tyranny!!! :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 5 '15 at 7:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: I will take this as a pure joke, as I assume that you do realize that the problem that I pointed out is quite specific, and the discursive arguments you, Mariano, and some others bring up does very little to invalidate it. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 5 '15 at 14:21
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I think the edits serve as a minor amusement or distraction, I see no sexism in any of them. Plagiarizing @Marianos comment:

Well, I would describe the end result more in the line that the amount of sexism was conserved, only changed in direction. (And I did not find any sexism in the original version, so I have no complaints with the new one, for that reason...)

While the SE member is inactive on Math.SE, his actions represent SE as a whole, so I'm not stumped by this fact. The edit didn't harm the questions mathematical content and to some (including me) it was actually amusing wich one might consider added value.

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I will pitch the idea that if we are going to remove some of the negative stereotypes in the problem we must remove all of them.

This would more or less entail removing genders entirely and possibly removing the king. Another option would be to place the question in a more neutral context (a person is looking for a lab partner and has three options...)

This proposal basically states that, if we are going to change something like the implied gender stereotypes, it is best to remove gender entirely.

If you agree with this idea, upvote. If you disagree, downvote.

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    $\begingroup$ If you think the name associated with the question (in the title) should be removed, upvote this comment. $\endgroup$ – user157227 Feb 4 '15 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ If you think the name associated with the question (in the title) should not be removed, upvote this comment. $\endgroup$ – user157227 Feb 4 '15 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Let's remove all the stereotypes from the question -- by closing and deleting it. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 4 '15 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ @FamousBlueRaincoat who decides if there is a stereotype in a question or answer? A single user, some number of users? $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ @mikeazo In my scenario, the users able to cast close and delete votes. Five are required to close, and a few more to delete. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 4 '15 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @FamousBlueRaincoat similar to what I advocated below (using flags). There are strengths and weaknesses of each. I can definitely agree that we should simply use the available community controls of SE. $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 20:52
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I made the edit.

Let's start with the easy stuff:

  • I don't think the OP was being knowingly sexist or did anything wrong.
  • I don't think the author was being knowingly sexist or did anything wrong.
  • I totally would have posted that riddle without thinking of any of these issues.
  • I think Raymond Smullyan is awesome, and wore through the covers of a few of his books staying up late doing riddles over boxed wine in college.

enter image description here

So, none of this falls into the "there was rampant sexism being perpetrated and it must be stopped" category.

I saw the question while browsing, and initially had no personal objection to it until I saw the comment that indicated that at least one user thought it should be closed for reinforcing some historical stereotypes that may still send the wrong message today.

My take was this simple:

Some people in the community felt that the riddle, as written, reinforced gender stereotypes that have strong historical patterns, and eliminating them in no way interfered with the problem.

Is it fair to call the riddle sexist? Dunno. Don't care. Do I judge anyone for posting it? Nope. Not calling anyone sexist. Woulda done so myself without thinking about this issue.

But personally, I'm happy saying,

"Since some folks seem to think little girls might be much better off if their role models were less often the princess/prize, and more often the decider/mathematician, when it's essentially costless to do it, why not do that? I'd rather my daughter instantly associate with the protagonist."

I don't think anyone was seriously suggesting that the changes I made made it sexist against men (presumably since men are so rarely cast as the prize in fairy tales or human history, there's little risk that doing so will reinforce negative stereotypes). But if anyone feels that to be an issue, you're welcome to de-gender it ("siblings"), but I personally think that that does slightly harm the problem, as it's a little harder to parse, and feels more stilted.

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    $\begingroup$ Non-local moderators should not make such actions, in any event; StackExchange is based on the idea of community moderation, and users in the math.SE community are able to handle things like this. In general: (1) because the edit does not require moderator attention, there is no reason for a moderator to intervene. (2) Even if the question did require moderator attention, for a long time we have had a convention on math.SE that local moderators will take care of problems when possible, and non-local moderators will only take care of issues that local moderators are unable to handle. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Feb 4 '15 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ You are right that it is not a big deal either way, but it is revisionist and there is a political correctness element to it. It makes an issue out of something where there really was none, other than some hypersensitive guy extrapolating non existent offence. I have never encountered anything remotely sexist on MSE (other than my own remarks). $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Feb 4 '15 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ An issue is the last thing I wanted. A user here raised the issue; my hope was just to make some tweaks that resolved it without a big debate. And that was my hope with this post - to make clear that no one did a bad thing; but if it makes some feel unwelcome, we should fix that if it does no harm. $\endgroup$ – Jaydles Feb 4 '15 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Jaydles: that is not the role of a moderator, as I understand it. Moderators are not intended to step in to resolve wording disputes in questions - the community already has a process to do that. Moderators are intended to correct breakdowns in the usual system (e.g. delete/undelete wars, rep fraud), and to handle unexpected circumstances. This seems to be just a routine editing dispute. Without taking sides on the content, I don't think it was serious enough to warrant a moderator edit of multiple posts. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Feb 4 '15 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ Although I typically wouldn't care if the problem was phrased one way or another, having an SE VP make the edit based on one user's comment (or, if there were more, any traces have been deleted) has made me decidedly against the edits. By performing the edit, some unknown moderator is imposing his view of the issue on everyone else. This is something that needed discussion first, not immediate action. I, for one, am quite upset about this action--not because of the content of the post--but because the method used is antithetical to the SE model of governance. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert There were no moderator powers involved here, anyone could have made this edit (Jaydles wasn't acting in an official capacity here as far as I see). Moderators are also regular users, and edits are not moderator-exclusive abilities. I don't expect moderators to suddenly stop editing just because that is something the community (of which the moderators are a part of) can do by itself. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Feb 4 '15 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Unless a user has 2000 reputation, edits must be approved by the community. If this edit was not approved by the community, this is undoubtedly "moderator powers". $\endgroup$ – user157227 Feb 4 '15 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Really? So some SE high-hat descends from the aetherial plane to the math.SE commons he avoided before, just to make a non-moderator edit? Because he wanted to "resolve" something? Please keep in mind that it was the diamond that allowed Jaydles to bypass the suggested edit queue normally in place for "new" users. I'm not buying your story. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Feb 4 '15 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @user157227 Yes, the diamond made a difference in this case. But I still don't think it makes sense to think of editing as a moderator ability. There is not all that much difference between rejecting a suggested edit or rolling back an edit, both can be easily done by regular users. It's not like he locked the post, anyone could have reversed the edit. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Feb 4 '15 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Who in their right mind would roll back a stack exchange employee's edit? I still don't see how you can claim that this person is a member of the community OR that they did not use "moderator powers". $\endgroup$ – user157227 Feb 4 '15 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ The edit was in preparation for the question to be tweeted by the main StackExchange account, which is managed by Jaydles. I don't care about the gender of characters there, but promoting a marginally topical question, better suited for Puzzling, gets my -1. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 4 '15 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Mad Scientist: Jaydles does not have the rep needed to make the edits, apart from the moderator ability. A user with more experience would be more likely to realize that, even if the edit was useful, on this site we have a very conservative culture about editing other people's posts. If the edit had been put in a queue, I suspect it might well have been rejected. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Feb 4 '15 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ Carl Mummert has said it best. There are two issues: one about gender use in the post, and the other is about an SE Community Manager butting in inappropriately. The second issue has not been addressed at all by Jaydles. I have seen this kind of action from SE personnel before, who interfere without knowing a community and its culture, and it really bothers me. Let the community and the moderators they elected handle this. $\endgroup$ – user43208 Feb 5 '15 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ @user43208 a couple of points: The first initiative against the phrasing came from within this community. It is obviously possible to consider "outside" intervention as a problem in and by itself, it is however not clear why one might want to do this. Finally, in my observation what usually happened (at least lately, I only care that much about some 4+ years ago events) is that SE does something that seems about reasonable to me while local users behave in unreasonable ways about and related to it (to which the local mods are already used). $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 6 '15 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: I do view the outside intervention as a problem in and of itself, because I don't want to see us return to the "bad old days". Actually: I fully support the spirit behind the edit - the question would be far better if it was not phrased in terms of "marriage" of any sort, and it is a very unfortunate habit to write questions like that one in a sexist manner. But I do not think it was a problem so severe that an outside moderator needed to step in to remedy the issue. I do wish the Jaydles had addressed this issue. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Feb 6 '15 at 15:28
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$\begingroup$

On issues like this, we should let the community decide. There is a reason we have various flags (e.g., offensive) and rules about what happens when a post gets so many flags (e.g., for the offensive flag.

If enough users flag it as offensive, a moderator or the OP can decide whether or not they want to make edits.

$\endgroup$
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    $\begingroup$ There is absolutely no foundation to raise a flag on any of these. This sums up the situation nicely enough. $\endgroup$ – AlexR Feb 4 '15 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexR, personally I agree with you. That said, my answer here is an attempt to take myself out of it. Some may find it offensive, if they do, what action should they take? What should the result of this action be? $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ That's okay, note that we have a different meaning for down-votes on meta, so this is a disagreement, not a downvote for a "wrong" answer. $\endgroup$ – AlexR Feb 4 '15 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexR, no worries, I understand. You should submit your own answer. $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ I am going to plagiarize the linked comment now for an answer ;) $\endgroup$ – AlexR Feb 4 '15 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ -1 for the suggestion to flag, +1 for the "let the community decide." So, net 0 $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ @anorton I'm open to suggestions. How does the community decide if not through flags? down-votes? comments? $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @mikeazo Typically through a comment. If the comment is upvoted enough without conflict, someone typically takes it on themselves to perform the edit. If there is conflict, we start a meta thread and discuss the pros/cons of the idea. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @anorton, The main reason I went with flags in my answer is that there is an automatic action if enough people flag it and they are more or less anonymous to general users. $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ Only moderators see flags, and not every flag is (necessarily) seen by all moderators. So, there's not an easy way of keeping track of how many people are offended vs. how many people would be offended by the edit. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 4 '15 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ @anorton, We haven't dealt with many spam or offensive flags on the site I am a mod on, but the Meta.SE post I linked to says there is no need to remove spam or offensive flags. That seems to suggest that mods should not clear those (assuming they even can) as they are automatically cleared if thresholds aren't reached after 48 hours. I do agree with your point that the OP will get no notification in the mean time (until the question is deleted). $\endgroup$ – mikeazo Feb 4 '15 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the downvoting here. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Feb 4 '15 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @copper.hat I read this answer as a suggestion that users who dislike the post under discussion should use offensive flag (six of which delete the post automatically). I strongly disagree with that, hence my downvote. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 4 '15 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ To save everybody the effort to check: we are at 10 votes, which is the maximum. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 4 '15 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque I don't know, but there's a first for everything. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 5 '15 at 1:01

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