# Are the curators becoming overbearing in impeding the use of the site by askers/answerers?

I see one dimension into which MSE users might be partitioned into two parts, is into the "asker/answerers" and the "curators".

Asker/answerers view the site as a place for those who would ask and those would answer, to come together to ask and answer questions. No matter how great the collection of museum-piece answers becomes, people will still be interacting. The primary function is the interaction of people having a "mutual incidence of wants" who exchange their wares and gain by it.

Curators on the other hand see the site primarily as a place where a museum of good questions and answers is curated. Emphasis is on the judgement of quality, the maintaining of standards. Human activity, and the process of the site's users having their immediate needs met, is secondary to the policing of what makes it into the museum.

Moreover, users who would come here to interact with each other are proactively impeded. If content is not approved, close votes are corralled with a view to reaching the threshold for deletion.

I will nail my colours to the mast. I do not fully understand this second category of people. They come across to me like they see others up to something and it offends them. I suspect they are the kind of people, who if I elected to grow my front lawn they would come and cut it for me while I was out. Their egos gain by the feeling of being "the ones upholding standards round here". I'm just calling it how I see it - please tell me what you think motivates you if you see it differently.

Today I saw Hagen von Eitzen was on a ban and I disapproved of this most strongly. I've not been around here much lately but it looks a lot to me like the "lawn police" might have organised themselves to the point they have a disproportionate bearing upon site activity. I knew they disapproved of him answering what they judge to be low quality questions but I dispute that their need to impede the activity of others is supported by a majority of users. I also think it is hostile to new users, to impede their use of the site.

The asker/answerers on the other hand, do NOTHING to impede the curators. Poor quality material is VERY effectively suppressed by the upvote/down vote system, without the need for closure, deletion and user bans.

• Here we go again. Jun 19 at 23:23
• It's an infinite loop But I suppose a satisfactory conclusion is yet to be reached so it needs to/ will keep looping until a new idea is came to Jun 20 at 0:18
• "Poor quality material is VERY effectively suppressed by the upvote/down vote system, without the need for closure, deletion and user bans." - this is just plain wrong, to the extent one would consider it a deliberate mistruth. The only reason Math SE has its current level of quality, let alone the level it should aspire to, is precisely because the crap gets closed and deleted, and repetitious crap-posters get suspended from posting.
– Nij
Jun 20 at 0:33
• It seems that another terminology commonly used for curators is caretakers. Terminology for other groups evolves over time. Jun 20 at 5:27
• @Nij, are you suggesting that Hagen von Eitzen is a "crap-poster"? Have you seen math.stackexchange.com/questions/736346/… and math.stackexchange.com/questions/447170/… and math.stackexchange.com/questions/1109433/… (and I could go on...)? Jun 20 at 5:29
• @Nij playing devil's advocate, can you point me to something to justify this? Jun 20 at 6:34
• @GerryMyerson if a little bit of pushback against the most severe extremes of the activities of the curators is "here we go again" then yes, here we go again. If no barometer is ever placed on user sentiment surrounding what's happening hidden away in dark places, those doing it won't be in a position to judge their own actions. Jun 20 at 8:07
• Encouraging crap posting is only three steps from making it directly. If a user is going to encourage crap posts, despite being asked not to do that, instead of directing effort to answers for high quality posts, I'm not overly concerned by a suspension. Finding a handful of good examples among thousands of choices, especially when the bad examples would be deleted, isn't a great argument against suspension of such users.
– Nij
Jun 20 at 9:09
• To justify what - that removing crap prevents crap from remaining? Maybe last year I'd have bothered, but, it's been done a hundred times, and I'm far from the first. It has never changed anything in the perspective of those pushing for a total laissez-faire site, because it seems clear there is no space in that perspective for the site as a whole to be viewed as anything more than an open field to plant and reap whatever anybody wants.
– Nij
Jun 20 at 9:13
• @Nij, no, that the ‘crap’ that is there doesn’t make a practical difference if we don’t remove it. As I said, just devil’s advocate; I do eg participate in review queues, but it occurred to me that both sides presented in this thread sound like they are selling a rock that keeps tigers away, with no supporting evidence. Jun 22 at 0:36
• Which is exactly my point. Closure and deletion are the removal. The original post tries to argue voting will be sufficient. Even you appear to be supporting the position it's not enough, so, why advocating for a post that makes its own nonsensical point?
– Nij
Jun 22 at 1:47
• @Nij I'm not quite advocating for the post. I hope to win over people who disagree, and strengthen my own belief in the current system. So if someone knows of evidence that is easy to reach for, then it would be good to have it linked here. I don't particularly know where to find it Jun 22 at 3:14
• Like @Gerry I agree that Hagen von Eitzen is one of the more talented answerers we have. I would be scared to take him 1-on-1 in a problem solving contest. Even if I were still in my prime. Yet, I don't understand why someone capable of painting these beautiful pictures also indulges in mass production of 2-minute sketches. Anyway, I actually thought he had "reformed" recently, and was a bit surprised to see him suspended again. Inertia at work? 2 days ago
• @JyrkiLahtonen I'm sure Sherpa Tensing enjoyed a gentle stroll in the hills from time to time. 12 hours ago
• @samerivertwice The gripe I have against certain users is exactly that they don't limit their gentle strolls to time to time. I was hoping EoQS would catch those who do nothing but gentle strolls, but it doesn't work quite that way. I should probably post about it somewhere else, so that people can comment. 10 hours ago

Your point boils down to "people should be allowed to create and enable bad content if they want because it doesn't hurt anyone."

But it does. Questions on math.se aren't private messages. Bad content takes up space in the front page. Bad content wastes the time of those who read it while looking for questions. Bad content makes our museum look unprofessional and lowers its credibility.

Ultimately, we "curators" do side with the answerers. We want the answerers to have interesting questions to answer, and to be able to find them. We won't retain talented answerers if all the interesting questions are submerged in a sea of boring, malformed, low quality content.

It wouldn't be a problem if there wasn't so much of it, but there is. This isn't your grass growing a few inches. It's a jungle springing forth from your yard, vines going into the road, bushy overgrowth obstructing the sidewalk. Yeah-- the city's gonna cut it for you, and send you the bill.

• Are you suggesting that Hagen von Eitzen creates bad content? Have you seen math.stackexchange.com/questions/736346/… and math.stackexchange.com/questions/447170/… and math.stackexchange.com/questions/1109433/… (and I could go on...)? Jun 20 at 5:31
• Honestly, this dichotomy of "curators" vs "answerers" irritates me (it's not this answer, but it's a theme in general). The more we seek to shoehorn people into roles, the more they tend to take up those roles. The simple reason why some people review more is because a lot of people review less : despite the fact that they do have the reputation to review. If we need community moderation to be enabled (and if "doing nothing except answer questions" is community moderation, then I need a better argument) then we need a more even distribution of opinion to reflect in reviewing. Jun 20 at 5:33
• For which we need more people to , well, review, for starters. We won't be thinking of "curators", "answerers", "repwhores" and so on if we start taking more collective responsibility of this website. Reviewing will go a long way to help ease the burden of an unbalanced community. There are still many questions unanswered, but I would love to know why people don't review at all. Not enough time? Not interested? Maybe review is a waste of time? Not reviewing is forgoing what, for me, is the best way to assert one's ownership of this website's direction. Jun 20 at 5:40
• But a) who is the judge of good and bad content? To the person who really matters, the asker, the "good" content at that moment in time, is the answer to the question. And b) deleted, low-quality (in your view) content is still content in a very similar way as low-voted content. It's all there in the database. Low-voted content is still suppressed. Only difference is you've impeded or prevented people coming together to ask and answer questions for each other's benefit. Jun 20 at 8:00
• I mean, the categorization thing is simply an easy model for the issue. If you are to suggest that we abandon that , then you should be able to give some other description/ theory of MSE which is easy if not easier to comprehend. @SarveshRavichandranIyer Jun 20 at 9:19
• @Ethakka I'm not saying we should abandon it. All I'm asking for is for such comparisons to not be projected as dichotomies, as if you can do one but not the other. I basically maintain that we should try harder in thought, feeling and action to bridge the gaps in community moderation. Think like everybody can do their bit. Feel the necessity to do that bit. Then, do that bit. Right now, not everybody is doing their bit for community moderation : and it shows in the number of users undertaking stronger review actions than just voting, answering and ignoring. Jun 20 at 11:22
• With respect to your first two comments, @Sarvesh, I agree. And labeling any user in such a false dichotomy, may often be hurtful to them, even to the point of violating the code of conduct, when they do not address any user's behavior, but instead, reflects only bias toward the label assigned by others. Jun 21 at 15:49
• @samerivertwice For (a) : The judges of good and bad content are those that have earned the privilege of stronger actions on content because they have a higher reputation. The asker's opinion of what is good content is measured against the community's opinion in this way. Since askers typically have low reputation, it is mostly the community that decides the fate of their content. As for (b), questions on this website are fighting for visibility, simply put. Deletion, as an action, eradicates visibility of the question, while voting only decreases it, and not by much if it's just $-1/-2$. Jun 22 at 6:56
• @SarveshRavichandranIyer I'm sure you, like any reasoable reader, doesn't feel stabbed in the heart by the simple assignment of the label of "curator", which is used only to facilitate the convenient discussion of a topic. Of course, there is a continuum from curators to askers/answerers and where one chooses to draw the division is a matter of Sorites paradox. Where you mention bridging the gaps in community moderation, perhaps one of the gaps, is the question of how do we permit askers/answerers who would to come together, to do so, while maintaining quality for those who want to curate? Jun 22 at 10:46
• @same The roles, while mentioned to facilitate discussion, rub off as mild stereotyping as amWhy mentioned. There is a need to look at the system more holistically than having roles assigned to each person interacting on a question. You're still making the division, because you're saying "how do answerers come together in such a way that curators are not disturbed?" The answer is rather simple : when you see a question, do you simultaneously think like (1) A potential answerer , AND (2) a curator? If so, then you are behaving holistically. A majority of our site ; is not. Jun 22 at 14:22
• There are two big reasons (1) A lot of people come to have "fun" and posts they don't see aren't of concern to them. But the community has to pick up after their fun, whenever that fun goes off track (2) The scarcity implies that there is a lot of content to evaluate, and reviewing users in general simply don't have enough time to take on the role of an answerer properly. Holistic behavior is ideal , but the closer the better. Jun 22 at 14:40
• @samerivertwice Regarding who decides what constitutes bad content, it's important to realize that our policies are the result of a decade-long ongoing discussion right here on the meta site. Context is not an edict created by the moderators, and it is not something that was passed down from the broader SE network, either. It is a negotiated consensus within the community that has achieved sufficient support to become policy. But policy is constantly evolving-- we are not "originalists"-- so the best way to affect that consensus is to continue participating in these meta discussions.
– Alexander Gruber Mod
Jun 22 at 19:21
• @AlexanderGruber what I have learnt from this question is that among the meta users who are sufficiently motivated about this issue to vote on it, there is a healthy majority in favour of the more extreme enforcement of what they view as quality standards, meanwhile an also substantial minority takes the opposing view. It is difficult to assess the degree of bias arising out of the vast majority of site users are new users not involved with meta, although it is clear in which direction the bias acts upon the sample. Jun 23 at 8:20
• @samerivertwice By casting the consensus of meta community as "creating a bias" you're saying that the casual users opinions automatically should have equal precedence, and that things are somehow skewed unfairly away from a group. I would say that this is not unfairness at all, but the correct reality when you have groups akin to citizens and tourists. Tourist countries don't (and shouldn't) let tourists legislate their laws to suit their whims. Of course, tourists are free to become citizens but it doesn't happen overnight or without integrating with the existing community. Jun 23 at 20:45
• @rschwieb I already knew that you would understand the notion of statistical bias, but I didn't know that in reading my earlier comment, it would have been clear to you that statistical was the type of bias I was referring to. So I sought to disambiguate my earlier comment. In particular, by your writing: as "creating a bias" you're saying that the casual users opinions automatically should have equal precedence, it gave me the impression that you thought I intended the meaning "prejudiced", a different meaning of bias, which carries some judgement of right and wrong along with it. Jun 24 at 11:53

This is not an answer. Just a digression into some of the issues mentioned in the post.

## Quality

After discussing with some old users, I got to know that in the initial formation of the site, there was a point when the questions of 'poor quality' became too large in number. Now, what do I mean by 'quality'? Let's take a moment to discuss that actually.

So, quality in itself is a human construction, it is not something given to us by god, at least directly. In this community, what is then quality? I believe it is whatever is considered to be so by the people who are vocal on the site.

Being a concept influenced by so many people's conception of it, the idea of quality is quite amorphous. Is there a commonality in how the vocal people consider quality? I think so yes. If there wasn't, it would be impossible that any question could reach beyond a single upvote.

Returning to the topic, I believe the efforts of community to reduce such undesirable posts were maybe a bit too successful. I say a bit too successful because as of late, there has been an increased influx of disgruntled users complaining.

It is natural that since users here have limited time and resources, there is a question of how one should allocate those resources such that the usage of site feels most fulfilling to themself. The choice of philosophy on this matter may determine the personal conception of quality one has.

## Finiteness of ideal places on the internet

For the frequent member of the site, there is no other site which on the basic level reaches their expectations of quality as much as MSE does. Due to the scarcity of digital location, the people here are forced to fight on what MSE should be like on the higher emergent level (results of people's behavior on the site).

## Remark on MSE as a curated museum idea

This may be possible in stack overflow, but I don't think it is in mathematics. In SO, due to the nature of the field, there are always new questions in abundance at the basic level. This stimulates site activity and gives participation opportunities to basic users.

MSE on the other hand doesn't have this property. The math curriculum world wide is roughly constant and trying to make this site like a museum would allow kill avenues for site participation of new users. I feel there are a quite a bit of users (including me) who would prefer this not happening.

I think that being allowed to partake in MSE by questioning and answering maybe a transformative experience for a student. It is requires multiple skills to do:

1. Being able to take instruction
2. Learning Math jax
3. Being an effective communicator
4. Ability to empathize with people who don't know what you do know

So, I don't think it is correct that newer generations are denied the avenue to train these skills in an organic environment.

I'm not really sure what to say after this. It's a messy situation. It is what it is I suppose.

• I agree it is instructive to participate. Moreover, in my view it is the very participation which is the heart of the site. If we continue with strict curation, I fear the asymptotic behaviour of the site is to converge upon a fixed, unchanging library with every question asked before and no further questioning and answering taking place. As we get ever closer to that, those who have taken us there would look back wistfully from the dormant, inactive library, at what they have lost. Jun 22 at 10:52