I recently reviewed an answer and decided to vote for deletion as it was in my own opinion merely a comment, and could not be qualified as an answer.

My decision was backed by 6 other reviewers. The user, fairly experienced on this site, decided that he had been wronged, and went on to comment and complain on a random post of each of the reviewers: here, here, here and others.

I feel like this is clearly rude, disrespectful and condescending. I flagged each one of these abusive comments for administrators.

Is there anything else I could/should do? And more importantly,

Is there anything we could do as a community to avoid this kind of behaviour? Why is the list of people voting to delete an answer available to the poster?

  • 26
    $\begingroup$ His behavior after the deletion is not appropriate. However, regarding the deleted answer, I am quite surprised that it was deleted: the hint is correct. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 6:38
  • 17
    $\begingroup$ @Jean-ClaudeArbaut: Being correct is not everything. It's important, but it's not everything. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 6:42
  • 30
    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I wasn't clear enough then. It's a good hint, as it should lead the OP to the solution, while not giving too much information, so he still has some work. It's my understanding that such hints are accepted. Or at least they were. Maybe this changed? $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 6:45
  • 21
    $\begingroup$ To be fair, I think "abuse" might be a bit strong in this case. It was not the appropriate way to handle it, but it seems to me that he kept a civil tone at all times, moreso than a lot of confrontations I see on here. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 6:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I agree my use of the word "abuse" might have been too strong. I was genuinely more than annoyed to have been 'tracked down' (myself and the other users) and left a comment (on a random post) that was not demanding any clarification but directly insinuating that we had deleted the post without reading it. Notwithstanding this issue, I don't think that there is yet a clear consensus if such a post qualify as an answer. I would appreciate any input, as it is a recurrent problem. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 7:34
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ I agree with @John-Claude Arbaut. The hint is correct, and lets the OP work on the problem a little bit. It shouldn't have been deleted. If I were a delete-voter and contacted regarding this situation, I wouldn't mind explaining my point (and would probably vote to undelete the post if I saw the hint was correct). I have seen hints that lead nowhere (even when I asked the authors of these hints to explain further, they sometimes flatly refuse to give further explanation), but such hints are not voted to be deleted. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 7:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If "this does not provide an answer to the question" is a reason for the deletion of this answer which gave a correct hint, then "this does not provide an answer to the question" should be a good reason for the deletion of answers that give not-so-useful hints. However, if I remember correctly, a moderator (or an ex-moderator) of Math.Stackexchange once wrote (I can't find the link) that honest attempts despite being wrong are not reasons to vote to delete. So, if we shouldn't vote to delete not-so-useful hints, why should we vote to delete useful hints? $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 8:31
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ I think referring to this behavior as abusive is particularly problematic in this post because you publicly identify a user. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 5, 2020 at 12:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Jean-ClaudeArbaut It may be worth noting that there is not much of a consensus on whether or not hints are acceptable as answers, no matter how good those hints are. II think that this is the most recent question on this topic; older discussions are linked therein. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 13:56
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson Judging by the answers, especially the upvoted answers, I would not say there is no consensus. It confirms my impression and my experience on MSE. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 15:38
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson Ah, you mean that when someone writes "Rather more often, a hint will actually be more useful to the asker.", he doesn't address hints. Fine. I can't help you, sorry. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 16:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I think user's answer is perfectly acceptable, and I have voted to undelete it. It is better than the "improved" answer, because it gives the OP something to think about. $\endgroup$
    – TonyK
    May 7, 2020 at 12:34
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ If that user's comments were abusive, it was only in a deficiency of specificity in his complaint. But the deleted answer was not unreasonable. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 3:55
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ The question of whether the question was correctly or incorrectly deleted is distinct from the question of whether the user's followup actions were abusive. The moment in which the user took to reviewer's entirely unrelated questions to pester them is the moment, IMHO, where that line was crossed. I am somewhat distressed not to see more condemnation of that action. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 15:40
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I have to agree fully with @StevenStadnicki. Downvotes and deletions can be frustrating if the answerer posted in good faith. But contacting each reviewer is too much. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    May 14, 2020 at 1:27

2 Answers 2


Let me briefly answer your two questions, without dealing with the story around them.

  1. When the situation is complex, avoid flagging comments. When we see a comment flag, it is easy to take it out of context, and the response is essentially "delete/edit the comment" or "decline the flag" (or both, sometimes). It is hard to respond to a flag like this, and it's easier for it to go unnoticed, especially if you choose one of the boilerplate comment flags.

    Instead, flag the post. Flag one of the posts. Nothing is more annoying than seeing the same flag several times on different posts, it can be quite confusing at times where the flag queue is not empty. When you flag, choose "in need of moderator intervention", which is the last option, and give a brief explanation of what's going on. If necessary, we will find ways to contact you privately.

  2. Deletions are public because of accountability. It also helps us the moderators dispel suspicions of foul play, let me paint a picture. Say that a certain user posts a lot of low-quality answers, and suppose that these answers "keep getting deleted". The user might suspect that the one or two people who often comment about the quality of the answers are orchestrating this whole thing. With the deletions publicly available, this is harder to claim.

    Publicly available records also helps the community to have a certain degree of trust: you can see that this was done by someone, you can question their motives or see what else they have been doing, and you can see that this is not just the moderators silently removing content.

    If we, the moderators, were the only ones privileged to see who reviewed what, and how, and who deleted or closed which questions, the strain on the system would grow tenfold from people inquiring about being persecuted by some people, rightly or not. So this is not a bad thing overall, both from the community's perspective, or the moderators'.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I should add that a 3rd party user had taken the liberty of flagging the mentioned answers as described in (1), although not adhering to the "flag once" part of it, so there's no need to flag again. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 6:41
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I wanted to apologize because I believe I was the third party user who flagged more than once. I thought it would be helpful to flag each of the posts that were involved. If I had known that flagging more than once was unhelpful, than I would not have done it. I hope I don't find myself in this situation again, but if I do, then I won't flag more than once. $\endgroup$
    – user729424
    May 7, 2020 at 2:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user729424: That's fine. We see this sort of behaviour more often than I'd want. Sure, sometimes it makes sense (e.g. flagging contest material), but sometimes it doesn't. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    May 7, 2020 at 5:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's possibly helpful that when flagging a single post as representative of several, using the custom "for mod attention" box, to include a sentence like "See also question numbers 123, 456, 789, .. where the same issue applies". Then mods can refer to those specific posts directly as well as check user histories however needed. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    May 16, 2020 at 23:25

This case highlighted for me a limitation of the review queue process that might be worth bringing to the attention of the redesign project.

The Answer posted (and deleted from Review) was quite terse, and phrased as a "hint", basically "add the first and twice the second equalities."

However despite its brevity, this was, in the context of what the Question laid out, a fairly complete solution. While the title of the Question posed a non-obvious geometric claim, the work shown in the body of the Question reduced the problem to:

How to use the equalities to get that $AB+CD=AD+BC$?

So the adequacy of this "hint" ought (IMHO) be judged in the context of progress already shown in the Question, and not merely in terms of having an Answer with self-contained exposition of the problem stated in the Question's title.

Looking only at the one-line Answer, one might understandably jump to the conclusion that the "hint" was a lazy effort to post quickly. But as a response to the OP's work, it rather hits the spot, especially in view of the OP being a rather experienced participant themselves.

I believe in such cases a terse Answer is often welcome, as building on the OP's approach and bringing about a quick validation.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ By now OP posted an answer, which is much better. I think the indirect nature of the "hint" is problematic; I mean the "first equality" and "second equality". I see little reason for doing that other than to save time. At least the equalities could be recalled. That's precisely a thing I dislike about the hint-culture, it encourages this type of minimalism. The is no direct causation, but still. . $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 15:15
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @quid: I take your point. Ideally someone would have nudged the user who posted a "hint" to say a little more (as they've now done), which is an improvement in making the Answer more self-contained and comprehensible to future Readers. The one-line version was likely accessible for the Question's OP, who had carried the argument just to that point and wanted to know the next step, but we curate content for future Readers. I believe the review was most likely initiated automatically, which may have (slightly) discouraged anyone from leaving a Comment. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    May 5, 2020 at 17:22
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I agree regarding this effect of the review. But there is a strong counterblancing measure in place. The owner can undelete the post with their vote alone. In that sense such a deletion is arguably far less invasive then one might think. Instead of posting a new answer they could just have undeleted. And while there is no handwritten comment there are the autocomments. The glass is not entirely empty. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 18:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @quid wrote "The glass is not entirely empty." I'll drink to that! $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    May 5, 2020 at 18:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .