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My question was recently voted to be closed. One member said it was because the question is extremely specialised. I don't think it is extremely specialised. It's a criterion of a prime being unramified in a Galois extension of an algebraic number field. But even if it was, I have no idea why it should be closed.

So my question is:Is voting to close okay if one thinks it's extremely specialised?

I'd like to point out two problems related to this.

(1) One usually never knows that a question is of interest for only a small number of people.

(2) What is the harm of letting it be open?

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    $\begingroup$ What's the reason for the downvotes? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 17 '12 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ This is old, but might be relevant. $\endgroup$ – user2959 Aug 18 '12 at 0:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto If you want to this discussion to be about that particular question, you should add the tag specific-question. (But if you want to discuss similar situations in general, the tags you've chosen are fine. The way I understand you're question is that you want a general discussion, but I wanted to be sure.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 18 '12 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Since a similar problem may happen again, I'd like to put this question in a general discussion. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '12 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I should also add that if you think that some particular question should be reopened, the usual way is to open meta question, where you explain your reasons why you think that this is the case. And maybe there is a hope that you'll find 5 users that will vote for reopening. I believe re-open and specific-question would be suitable tags for post like that. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 18 '12 at 6:43
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    $\begingroup$ My particular vote to close was heavily influenced because you were making it a matter of principle -- that your question should not be closed as too localized because no question should ever be closed as too localized. I strongly disagree with that assertion, and since you were turning the issue into one of abstract principle, I cast my vote accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Aug 18 '12 at 10:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl, sorry, that makes no sense to me at all. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Aug 18 '12 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl If, as here, you may disagree with meta-level issues sparked by some question, then please debate these issues on meta if need be (not on main). Please don't vote to close the question based on extra-mathematical matters of principle sparked by the question. That question is very far from being the most specialized question we've had, and our charter is to welcome all mathematical questions; be they general, special, elementary or research-level, they all are on-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 18 '12 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ When, for whatever reason, one does not wish to answer a question, it seems simple enough not to answer it. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Aug 19 '12 at 17:00
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I can't understand at all why this question was closed. It is a perfectly sensible question in algebraic number theory. I have answered many questions of this kind before on MSE (some asked by the present OP, and some not), and one of the things I enjoy about MSE (which makes it different to, e.g., MO) is that it provides nice beginning graduate-level questions such as this to solve. (In this particular case, I would have written an answer myself if I'd had more time when I first saw it posted.)

Personally, I have little interest in participating on a forum which doesn't allow graduate level number theory questions, or other questions of a similar nature, since these are the questions I am mostly interested in answering. While I appreciate Mariano's position that people can vote to close as they please (which certainly reflects the reality of the situation), I nevertheless would hope that people will be thoughtful with their close votes, and will bear in mind that others' tastes may differ from theirs. There are more things in heaven and earth $\ldots \,\,$ .

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    $\begingroup$ I think you missed, at least, my point in voting to close the question. I love, and have tried to answer and participate in,graduate-level questions of all kinds. This is not the issue here, in fact not even close, at least from my point of view. The OP was stuffed with notations, conditions and definitions in such a way that it made it both tiring and hard to follow and, as a result of these, also interest-killing...**in my opinion**, of course. I wrote to Makoto and told him I think the question's well posed and nicely explained, but what I wrote above decided in my case. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Aug 19 '12 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ @DonAntonio: Dear Don, Thanks for explaining your reasoning. It's not so much that I missed it, as that (as I wrote above) I don't understand it. The notation seemed pretty standard to me, and while it might have killed your interest, I don't see anything about the question that would prompt one to make a universal generalization in that regard. Regards, $\endgroup$ – Matt E Aug 19 '12 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ @DonAntonio It might have killed your interest, but that doesn't mean you should kill the question. $\endgroup$ – Unreasonable Sin Aug 20 '12 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't, @UnreasonableSin: I was one out of 4 or 5 people that voted to close that question. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Aug 20 '12 at 3:36
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I seem to take the contrarian viewpoint here (by here, I mean the general sense of closing questions because they are particularly theoretic or advanced).

When I think of closing things as "too localized," three things come to mind.

I think of MathOverflow's "too localized" blurb in their faq. It says:

If your question was closed as "too localized," it was probably an explicit homework problem (or looked like one). MathOverflow is not the right place for such questions; they send the message that you want somebody else to do your work for you, and you're not even willing to ask it in a general form.

Needless to say, we do not close explicit homework problems, even when they are exactly requests that other people do your work for you. But the nice bit is the last phrase: "... and you're not even willing to ask it in a general form." This resonates within me.

There is a thread at SO about addressing What questions should be closed with reason "too localized"? (from 2009), with an awesome answer (written in 2011, much more recently) that gives a perfect (IMO) feel for "too localized questions in the form of an example. They said the 'cannonical "too localized" question is:'

Why is there a green Honda Civic parked out in front of my house?

This is too localized because:

  1. Who cares?
  2. Is it even still there? Go check.
  3. What are the chances that this question could ever be answered in a way that would benefit anyone else?
  4. Now is it there?

The answer was written two years later because suddenly people were applying "too localized" far too often (this is mentioned in the answer, and in other answers, and in the comments there)

Also from that question was another answer that said:

I always thought that meant that the question does not have appeal to a broad enough base of developers. It's like that guy at a company meeting with 500 people in it who will raise his hand and ask a really specific question about his project that nobody else in the room gives a damn about and won't get off of it. :) Something like ...

"Here at my company we use a library called AwesomeLib. But when I call DoGreatStuff on CoolObject in AwesomeLib, I get the following exception ..."

This answer got no upvotes, although there was a $+5$ comment that said "So basically, people are only to answer questions that that appeal to as many as possible, rather than to help someone solve their problem? I thought these sites were exactly for that: a place where a person can get help solving their problem."

This is sort of how I perceive this occasion: MSE is a community open to almost any question, and one of my guiding principles here is that people should be able to ask questions where they will get the best answer.

Earlier this year, the question Consider changing the wording of the "too localized" close reason was raised. Were I to give a concrete alternative to the "too localized" guidelines, I might recommend listening to what Shog9, the SE Community Coordinator, recommends:

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is so specific to you, right here, right now that no one else will ever have the same problem or be able to benefit from its solution.

But to end, I should note that one cannot argue with Mariano's answer: people should vote to close whatever they think should be closed (although what they think should be closed is a somewhat fluid concept). But I emphasize temperance. If I were to try to close everything that doesn't interest me, or even that I can't imagine anyone actually being interested in, then set theory would be gone (I'm sorry Asaf) - but that's silly. Just because it doesn't interest me doesn't mean others aren't interested. As long as there is valid mathematical content that isn't a green Honda Civic on the front yard, then I see no reason to get rid of the question.

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    $\begingroup$ For that matter, I find that Makoto's question is neither "too localized" nor "too specialized" for MSE. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Aug 18 '12 at 5:38
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    $\begingroup$ +1 The effort that already went into telling the OP that his question should not be answered would be better spent on answering other questions. $\endgroup$ – user31373 Aug 18 '12 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ @mixedmath: But you're a moderator, so you shouldn't vote to close on things anyway... binding votes, and whatnot. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '12 at 7:26
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I just wanted to show my support. I don't understand most of your questions (just as I generally don't understand a lot of question on math.SE), but I wanted to say that your questions show interest and motivation that are inspiring to me.

I think it is obvious that those votes do not reflect the merit of your questions, and that they're mostly based on little more than a personal prejudice.

This observation amounts to simple reflection on general questions which are much more localized, specialized, and unmotivated, and yet they receive no close votes.

I hope you continue to be a part of this site, and don't be pressured into sustaining your mathematical curiosity.

Note: I don't like accusations like the one I have made in this post, but I have just felt too sickened by this whole ordeal...

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Up to now I was under the impression that this site is (among others) exactly for this kind of questions. I do not understand why it was closed and would not vote for closing it.

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People who can vote to close can vote to close for whatever reasons they may consider appropriate.

If a user thinks a question is way too specialized for it to be of interest to the site, he can vote to close.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm asking if it has no problem. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 17 '12 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder what will happen when we get five 3K users who are really not interested in any math beyond standard undergraduate curriculum. $\endgroup$ – user31373 Aug 18 '12 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Leonid: I wonder what will happen when we get five 3K users who are really not interested in any math beyond high school curriculum. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '12 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ Because software permits users to do some thing doesn't mean those actions are justified or appropriate. Take for example serial down-voting or writing rude comments, the software permits them but neither is an appropriate behavior (according to the people who have written the software). The users should not misuse the software's features just because they can. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 19 '12 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh, the softwate is not going to be able to detect "voting to close because the question is too specialized"... For example, it did not detect it in this case. Coming up with rules about voting which are simply unimplementable («you cannot vote based on the reaosn that...») is not going to solve any problems. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Aug 19 '12 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with most of what you say. You are right that the software currently doesn't give an easy way of detecting these cases, however I think it doesn't mean we cannot state norms and etiquette explaining what community views as reasonable use of these features. Most likely it will not stop users who are determined to act against these norms, however it will take away the sense of righteousness of those who are misusing them. In short, my point is: users can do many things, but just because they can do these things doesn't make them acceptable behavior. (reposting to remove the misspelling) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 19 '12 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez I think your answer is as relevant to the present discussion as "People usually die when you decapitate them" is to a discussion of when killing is justified. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Aug 20 '12 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Or, for another analogy, simply replace "vote to close" in this answer by any other action that goes against MSE community norms, but is not prohibited by the SE software, e.g. posting comments that are rude, heckling, obscene etc. Certainly we do not want to encourage such behavior simply because "he can do so". It is not clear to me if the above answer is merely emphasizing that it is possible to do so, or, rather, that it is endorsing such behavior. Probably the many downvotes are due to the latter interpretation. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 20 '12 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker, the difference is that it is perfectly reasonable to think that a question is too specialized for this site. You may not agree with a hypothetical user who thinks that —and it is clear that several people in fact do not agree with that hypothetical user— but that is as far as you can go. Just as people can vote to close, people can vote to reopen. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Aug 21 '12 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez I still don't see in what way you answered the OPs question "Is voting to close okay if one thinks it's extremely specialised?" This is clearly a normative question. Your answer seems to be descriptive to me. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Aug 21 '12 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ Micheal, I am of the idea that yes, it is ok to vote to close a question of one thinks it is too specialized. It seems to me technically unfeasable and, in fact, undesirable, to limit the reasons users can have to act, if they do so in good faith. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Aug 22 '12 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that in this case some users have misunderstood the meaning of "too localized" (cf. the links in mixedmath's answer, being "too specialized" does not imply much about being "too localized"). I agree that there was no bad intentions on their behalf, however it is still a problem if some users are unintentionally misusing a feature. In these cases the intended use of the feature should be clarified so this doesn't happen in future. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 23 '12 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ @kaveh Being "too specialized" on its own does not mean "too localized". But I do agree this question is "too localized". This is in no small part due to the way the question is phrased, particularly the cold start and long lemma of which at least 7 sentences begin with "let". I have answered specialized questions in my area, but I have a strong preference for specialized questions that are phrased in a better way. Because of the limited number of close options, "too localized" is the best fit. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Aug 26 '12 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert "But I do agree this question is "too localized". This is in no small part due to the way the question is phrased, particularly the cold start and long lemma of which at least 7 sentences begin with "let"." Please explain why my question is "too localized" and this is no small part due to that it has 7 sentences begin with "let". $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Sep 3 '12 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Dear Makoto: the sentence you copied from Carl's comment is the explanation. Your insistence in doing this (the peak of this practice was you asking someone to open a meta thread precisely in a meta thread opened by that person...) is extraordinarily annoying to quite a few people, among which I certainly number. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Sep 3 '12 at 17:34
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Your objections to the abstract principle have pretty easy counters which I had already made in the comments. I'll expand upon them a bit.

(1) One usually never knows that a question is of interest for only a small number of people.

"Know" is a very imprecise word, so it's hard to tell what your objection actually is. IMO, you give the impression of meaning it in a very strong sense, suggesting one needs to be nearly omniscient before making any moderation decisions.

But realistically, people can and do "know" such things at a level of confidence appropriate for doing things like voting to close.

(2) What is the harm of letting it be open?

(Assuming "it" is something that is 'too localized') As I had said, it's a signal-to-noise ratio thing. It's pretty much the same harm as not deleting advertising spam: the useful content of the site gets drowned out by the noise, making the site less useful to pretty much everybody.

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    $\begingroup$ "But realistically, people can and do "know" such things at a level of confidence appropriate for doing things like voting to close." "As I had said, it's a signal-to-noise ratio thing." For example, my question was upvoted and answered by Jyrki Lahtonen. I don't think my question is noise. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '12 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming, for the sake of argument, your specific question is noise, that fact has little bearing on the abstract issue of whether questions can be so localized as to warrant closing. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Aug 18 '12 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ I wrote about my question as an example to show that one usually never knows that a question is of interest for only a small number of people. Let alone future possibility. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '12 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Makoto The problem is that "too localized" is so incredibly vague and subjective that - as here - it is often abused to impose arbitrary prejudices. There is probably a way to argue that it could be applied to almost every question on the site - if one so desired. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 27 '15 at 3:27
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@Makoto, I think your question could perhaps fit better in some other forums, but this one seems to be out of that classification. Your question, as I already wrote, seems to be a nicely posed and written one, but even for someone like me, with a rather heavy algebraic and number theoretic taste, is hard to follow because of the huge ammount of notations, assumptions and conditions given in such a small number of lines. I think someone reading on that subject and later being exposed to several of all those assumptions could probably follow what you're asking.

Just imagine you want to prove the open function theorem of advanced calculus out of the blue, i.e., without first explaining notation, jacobians, relation with implicit functions and etc. It would make that questions extremely specialized and most probably out of the reach and interest of most people.

Don't take it hard. And I am with you that in this case downvotes seem to be pety reactions to something that doesn't deserve it.

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    $\begingroup$ Please keep in mind that the charter of MSE is to welcome mathematical questions at all levels. This includes questions that may be of interest to a minority of our members. Please don't vote to close these questions for reasons of topicality. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 18 '12 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ Please keep in mind that one of the reasons to vote to close a question is "too localized", and the explanation given there is "too localizedThis question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, see the FAQ." This is what I think the OP's question is, and the reasons for this were already exposed by me and others. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Aug 18 '12 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ Which does not apply to the question at hand. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 18 '12 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ And that's your opinion, which I don't share. Yet, as already explained to the OP, if I'm given reasons that convince me I've not any problem in the least to change my vote. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Aug 18 '12 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ We have many far more specialized questions that never received a single vote to close as too specialized. The question is one that might occur to many students of algebraic number theory, and it is better-posed than many of the questions that we receive. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 18 '12 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with you in that we receive many too specialized questions, yet either (1) not many people see them as such, and/or (2) they're considered to be of sufficient general interest now or in the future for not so small a group of people. I also agree with you that this particular question is posed in much better way than many others, yet it still is a pretty hard to follow question and too "crowded" with stuff that after a short while seem to dissolve the interest in it...at least this is my opinion. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Aug 18 '12 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ Actually we don't agree, since I didn't state said questions were too specialized to be on-topic - only that they are more specialized than the question at hand. If you find the volume of questions overwhelming then the software has means to help cope with that, e.g. browsing questions by tags in your fields of interest, or using RSS feeds based on such, etc. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 18 '12 at 4:03
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    $\begingroup$ @DonAntonio: I clicked on it. It was of interest to me. I think most people easily see you do not like Makoto in general. $\endgroup$ – ex0du5 Aug 18 '12 at 5:05
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    $\begingroup$ "but even for someone like me, with a rather heavy algebraic and number theoretic taste, is hard to follow because of the huge ammount of notations, assumptions and conditions given in such a small number of lines." What exactly do you find it hard to follow? There's no special terminology in my question. "unramified", "the ring of integers", "A Galois extension of an algebraic number field", "a prime lying over". All of these are very basic. $H$ is the inertia group. This notion is also basic in algebraic number theory and commutative algebra. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '12 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Why did you reopen the post? Your vote essentially overrides what other five members have voted on. Much like your vote in closing or deleting should come last (except in the cases where the post is clearly spam/duplicate/etc.) the same should apply for reopening. If you want to be upset that Makoto's answers from another thread were deleted by a moderator and not "by a community jury", play nice and let the community jury itself. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '12 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ @DonAntonio: Not everyone participate actively on meta, it doesn't mean that people don't read or follow issues. The fact that a user has been active or not on the main is much more revealing. I think you are ought to delete that last comment towards exodu5. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '12 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ex0du5 Why do you present personal interpretations as facts that everyone would know? This is either preposterous, or intimidatory. And anyway, what is the point in accusing the OP of pettiness, simply because they do not share all your views and they dare to (civilly) express theirs? All in all, I fail to see any positive effects of your intervention on this page. $\endgroup$ – Did Aug 19 '12 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ @EricNaslund: did: I apologise for being disrespectful. When I see clear and obvious hostility towards a person over long periods of time (this has been going on for a while), I think the right thing to do is to stand up to it and call a duck a duck. I think that sometimes, a policy where it is allowed to bully a person in site-acceptable ways but work against pointing out in a blunt manner that such behavior is unacceptable, ends up promoting bullying. I thought it was important to let Makoto know that there were some who thought that behavior was the word I used. I won't use it again. $\endgroup$ – ex0du5 Aug 20 '12 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ I already deleted my comments following ex0du5 deleting his direct offensive commentary, yet he seems to enjoy the rally and continues with it "indirectly". I won't say anymore about this, just that it was me that went out for Makoto when several of his posts were massively downvoted and adviced him about what to do about this. Accusations about targeting someone, whom I've no neither the pleasure nor the honour of knowing, are as offensive as a foul word when unbased, as in this case. And for what it may be worth: the "too specialized" option to close a thread should disappear, imo. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Aug 20 '12 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila "I am not surprised that many people dislike MK; nor I am surprised that his reputation is wrecked." Please explain how this is relevant to this thread. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Sep 3 '12 at 15:16

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