Were two users removed within the past hour?

Why do they do this? Are they somehow offended by something happening here? If so what sorts of complaints are typical?

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  • $\begingroup$ I wonder such things, as well as what obligation the mods (admins?) have to honor requests for deletion. $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Nov 9 '12 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ As far as I can tell, the removal of the user was not done by any of our mods (our mod tools show nothing at all on this). This probably means that it was done by someone at SE, so we have no info at all. It appears to have been a high-rep user (about 6500), if my guess based in Googling is correct. Had I known in advance, I would have tried to convince the user to stay, and tried to learn about any problems sparking the decision to leave, so that we might attempt to address them. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 9 '12 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ I also want to know why I see $-10$ and $-40$ reputation deductions (total $50$) on the two removed users; but my reputation went from $53,395$ to $53,335$ (actual deduction $60$). This is a $10$ points difference. The last time I checked $10\neq 0$. Did SE prove PA inconsistent when I was busy writing my thesis?? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 9 '12 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ Is there no way to find what the user name was? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 10 '12 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ I lost -25, -25 and I don't have that many to lose.The departure of a good voter is a loss in itself, but perhaps the system can be adjusted to mitigate the point-impact of these tempests? Would it hurt? I think requests to leave should be honored. But need that undo everything that was done prior? $\endgroup$ – daniel Nov 10 '12 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ @daniel: that particular angle has been discussed here on meta before. I'd look it up, but this mobile has only a small, cracked screen :) $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Nov 10 '12 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ @TheChaz: Thanks, I'll check. Thought I'd post a comment while I still have enough points :). $\endgroup$ – daniel Nov 10 '12 at 7:47
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    $\begingroup$ @daniel I've written a feature request on Meta.SO that votes of deleted users should remain and should not be deleted a while ago. It is highly upvoted, but hasn't been implemented so far. $\endgroup$ – user9733 Nov 10 '12 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist: Good. I think it makes sense. Typically the people who leave turbulence in their wake were higher-ranked members. It militates in favor of retaining their opinions about things post-departure. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – daniel Nov 10 '12 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious: when a user asks to be removed, are his/her questions and/or answers to questions also removed/undone/deleted? $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 10 '12 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy No, it looks like this. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Nov 10 '12 at 21:09

This really isn't an answer to the present question, but I don't want to clutter up the comments, and it does speak to the "fall out" that occurs when a user asks to be removed. And given the lack of communication from the two users who asked to be removed, I am going to speak up and speculate a bit: I refrained from participating at Math.se for nearly a year - in part - because of issues I will address shortly. I did not choose to remove myself when I decided to "walk away".

But the absence of most users @ math.se goes easily unnoticed. I'm sure my lack of participation went unnoticed. In contrast, given the question at hand and the ensuing comments, the absence of the users who chose to remove themselves from math.se, or at least one of those users, did not go unnoticed.

Thought: perhaps a user, "high-rep" or not, may be trying to make a "statement", so to speak, with respect to his/her departure, which may not be noticed otherwise than by asking to be removed. Likewise, as I am currently feeling rather ambivalent about math.se and my perception of the dynamics that play out here, if I ask to be removed, it will likely be noticed because I have cast a lot of upvotes!

There are less than desirable dynamics occurring here at math.se that have nothing to do with the quality, or lack thereof, of questions and answers.

First, I suspect - without pointing fingers - that there is a "likability" factor which contributes to voting patterns which doesn't say anything about the quality of an answer, question, or comment: voting patterns that reflect personal biases having nothing to do with the quality of a particular question and/or the veracity and helpfulness of a given answer. Despite the fact that math.se is purportedly for math Q&A, voting patterns (at least as I see it) reflect much more than mathematical veracity and/or helpfulness.

For example, I've seen - on more than a few occasions - some of the most high-rep users post an incorrect answer and yet receive a handful upvotes within one minute of posting, even when others have already posted correct answers and yet, remain deprived of upvotes. In other words, if we let $Rx$ represent "$x$ has high rep", $Ux$ correlate with "$x$ gets an upvote", and $Lx$ express "$x$ is likable or well-liked",

then I am suggesting that it is not necessarily the case that we can then assume:

$$\exists x(Ux \rightarrow Rx).$$

I suspect that the converse also plays out here:

$$\exists x(Rx \rightarrow Ux)$$

and additionally,

$$\exists x(Lx \rightarrow Ux)$$

(Note: I have taken the liberty of using $\rightarrow$ in a semi-causal sense..., which cannot be captured by "strict" implication.)

Also, it seem there are many occasions in which a sophisticated answer assumes far more advanced mathematical maturity if it is to be of help, which receives a handful of upvotes because the answer correlates with the upvoters' level of understanding, but which are plainly way over-the-head of the OP (i.e., answers which assume knowledge which is far beyond the scope of the OP's level of education, and hence, may be horribly confusing and thus unhelpful to the OP). Granted, for future users, those answers may be helpful, so I'm not implying sophisticated answers do not belong; rather, I'm observing that votes often seem to correspond to "who outwits others" vs. who is most helpful. (I am reluctant provide links to such questions/answers because I do not want to "finger-point" anyone!)

Granted, there is meta-math.se to make such a statement (of "washing ones hands of the site"), but then a "disgruntled" user has to deal with the possibility of a barrage of "downvotes", which would only further discourage him/her.

$(*)$ Assuming that a disgruntled user does not want to "go public" to discuss an issue, ideally we would like him/her to contact and/or flag a moderator to discuss it before officially asking to be removed altogether.

Otherwise, if s/he is determined to be removed, perhaps there should be two other options, so it's not an all-or-nothing matter:

$(1)$ the option of negating the impact of his/her participation here, in terms of previous votes, and

$(2)$ the option of being removed while leaving their votes stand. Could this be a feature request? Some who want to be removed may very well not want to deprive others of the rep corresponding to his/her upvotes.

To end (yes, I'm going to wrap this up!)

I suspect there are many users whose participation consists mostly of voting, editing, and/or commenting - all of which are welcome and valuable. If we value such contribution, so long as such users have the option of being removed, along with their votes, the math.se community is held accountable, to some small degree, to keeping this site a welcoming arena in which to participate.

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    $\begingroup$ I would like to add another formula. $$\exists x(\neg Lx \rightarrow \neg Ux)$$ i.e. disliking tends to cause downvotes. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 10 '12 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ I am truly confused by the existential quantifiers. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Nov 10 '12 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ I actually noticed that you went missing, and I was glad to see that you were back. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 10 '12 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker No intention to confuse. I was trying not to make a global statement - so qualified by the existential quantifier. Indeed, the expressions are over-simplified! $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 10 '12 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy Why should one ever have the right to take away all their votes? I am not allowed to change my previous votes after some time, so why should I be able to do this in the least discriminating manner? $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Nov 11 '12 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker: actually, at present, you do have the right to change your votes/delete up/down votes by asking to be removed. At any rate, I'm not necessarily implying it's a right; but I think that as things stand, perhaps we should focus more on making the site as hospitable as possible, and less on the loss of a little rep. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 11 '12 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW I did notice that you were absent for a longish while. I think that more often than not somebody will notice, when a regular conributor fades out. Even if only temporarily. There are several easily imaginable reasons (related to work or personal matters) for that to happen. Therefore people are reluctant to draw attention to it. Arturo being a notable exception. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 11 '12 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ Concerning the observations: (1) I have definitely received the occasional unwarranted immediate upvote or two for an answer that needed serious repairs. (2) I see quite a few correct answers that I think are clearly too sophisticated for the OP, and I’ve the impression that it’s not unusual for them to receive more upvotes than the accepted answer. This isn’t altogether bad: those answers may be very useful to someone who comes across them in the future. But I do sometimes wince a bit at the apparent lack of concern for the actual OP. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 13 '12 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian I appreciate your comment, and your taking the time to comment. I just wish there were some place to "vent" on this site. I sort of tried to do that here, in this question. But, alas, not one moderator has replied or commented. Have you considered being a moderator, should the opportunity arise? $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 14 '12 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ Just long enough to shudder at the thought! I’ve been in analogous positions elsewhere, and I know that it would take an awful lot of the fun out of things. I don’t rule it out categorically, but I think it pretty unlikely. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 14 '12 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott Yes, I suspect moderating is a bit of a thankless place to be. Take my comment as a vote of confidence, at any rate. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 14 '12 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ And I thank you for it. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 14 '12 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato I agree completely - I thought I responded to your comment earlier; I know I upvoted the comment. Anyway, I agree whole-heartedly. I should have elaborated a bit more on the phenomena of being "liked" vs. being "unliked" and the impact that has on voting. It seems one can easily risk being dismissed, ignored, etc. for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of one's participation on this site. Thanks, for chiming in. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 14 '12 at 20:10

We're obligated to remove user accounts and personally-identifying information upon request. While we do try to avoid this (if the person is willing to share his reasoning with us, we'll try to mediate disputes or correct problems), often it is too late by the time we're contacted.

And yes, two accounts were removed upon their owners' request yesterday.

In response to the comments: we don't hold accounts hostage; we're bound by our privacy policy, the CC BY-SA license under which all content is contributed, our published deletion policy, and basic human decency to honor such requests - provided they're made in compliance with such policies - in a reasonable amount of time.

We do try - particularly in the case of older, high-reputation accounts - to work with the folks requesting deletion, to see if a less destructive resolution can be found. However, they're under no obligation to work with us or provide us with any information beyond "this is my account and I want it gone".

My advice to moderators wishing to avoid this is to not let it get that far. If you're letting a situation degrade to the point where someone feels they're unwelcome here, you've already missed your best chance to mitigate the problem - so don't sit around waiting to hear from us, get in touch with the person and try to fix it. Leaving an annotation on the profile is a good idea as well - we do try to investigate these before taking any action, but if there's nothing visible this fails; whether or not we'll take the time to involve moderators at this point depends considerably on what information we're able to garner from the account itself or its owner.

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    $\begingroup$ Why were we (MSE mods) not consulted (as promised) before the removal of one of our high-rep users? Being more familiar with the site, we may have been able to have resolved the matter much more constructively (as we have done many times in the past). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 10 '12 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ The deletion of person-identifying information doesn't really work for many hig rep users. As long as someone adressed them in comments under the original name and they posted in the same place, one can figure out a users number and use google to search for that users activity. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Nov 10 '12 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ The high-rep user in question requested that ALL of their accounts be deleted. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Nov 10 '12 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Shog9 If memory serves correct, the high-rep user had high-rep only on our site (over 6500 here), with rep an order of magnitude lower on all other SE sites. So the user removal hurts us much more than other SE sites. Even if we were not able to convince the user to stay, by speaking to the user, we might have learned things that would help us to address problems on the site. That is why we prefer that you let us have a hand in these matters. Generally, we have more site-specific knowledge, hence more of a chance of achieving better resolutions. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 10 '12 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque How would one (a user) contact a moderator (not necessarily "any" moderator (any in the sense of random, e.g. by flagging) to address issues, short of posting on meta...I'd be happy to add that option in my "answer"...some who are unhappy here, may not feel comfortable "airing" their issues on the site... $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 10 '12 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque The prerequisite for this is that the user is willing to talk to the Math.SE mods. My personal experience is that the SE team will contact the mods of the affected sites if there is still some chance to prevent deletion. If the user is determined to delete the account there's nothing they can do to stop it. $\endgroup$ – user9733 Nov 10 '12 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy: You can always find the email of some moderators on their user account. Or you could flag and request an email to be sent to you... $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 10 '12 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist But the SE team is rarely (if ever) in the best position to judge whether their is "some chance to prevent deletion". Generally this requires very specific site knowledge, which requires regular participation on MSE. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 10 '12 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque But they have to make this judgement, as they are the ones contacted in many cases. And I don't think we should start to require deletion to go through the specific site mods. I disagree with the side-effects user deletion has, but the decision to delete belongs to the user in question alone, and no one else. If they aren't willing to talk about it, there's nothing else to do except following their request. $\endgroup$ – user9733 Nov 10 '12 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist I think it would be better if the "contact us" links recommended that users email site mods (vs. SE team) regarding account deletions, and providing a mailing list for contacting site mods. The site mods often know the reasons why a user is upset and, as such, have a better chance of engaging the user in constructive conversation (especially for "rage quitting"). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 10 '12 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: see my edit. I've worked with moderators regarding user deletions on numerous occasions, but in the vast majority of cases this simply isn't feasible because the person involved has no interest in further communication. You're far better off stepping in sooner rather than later; by the time it gets to us, they've already jumped through a few hoops. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Nov 11 '12 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: and you're not reading what I wrote. We handle each request individually, and for high-rep users we'll always at minimum offer to help work through any problems they might have on the site. If we can, by looking at the account, figure out what those problems might be, we'll go further. But unless we know what the problem entails, we can't pass the buck. Believe it or not, sometimes the problem is the moderators - passing such a request off would be counter-productive. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Nov 11 '12 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: you're arguing both sides of this. Either you have more information than us and should already be working on resolving the issue, leaving notes on the account and such - or you don't, and can't really contribute anything to the process. We get enough requests that we recently hired another person purely to help us handle them in a timely manner - adding more overhead to the process in cases where there's absolutely no indication that it will do any good isn't going to happen; asking us to spend more time on folks you haven't bothered to work with isn't going to go over well either. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Nov 11 '12 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MJD: I imagine it started as an implementation detail - obviously it's worth putting extra effort into designing a system that can continue hosting posts after their author has left, but the value of retaining votes is somewhat less obvious. As a side-effect of this, it allows the deletion of sockpuppet accounts to automatically nullify any ill-gotten reputation, though of course that could be achieved in other ways. See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/125740/… $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Nov 12 '12 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Shog9 The whole vote fraud topic really needs dedicated tools anyway, if only to educate mods about the correct way to deal with this. The current way is rather confusing, and sometimes rather dangerous (especially when merging users). $\endgroup$ – user9733 Nov 12 '12 at 22:19

Extended Comment

I actually do not see any reason why any serious user should ever be removed.

The effect of deleting a user seems to be that that users account profile cannot be visited anymore, the username changes to userXXXX with the Xs representing digits, the votes get cancelled, and the user cannot use the account anymore. If we, as a community, decide that the cancelling of votes is undesirable (except for sockpuppets, spammers etc.), one can just change the name of a user, delete all profile information and the moderators suspend the user indefinitely.

Do moderators have to respect removal requests?

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    $\begingroup$ Moderators don't have the ability to remove all the profile information. So if you want to remove all personal information you have to delete the user. It is SE policy to accept requests for account removal. The correct way to change this is in my opinion to change the mechanics of user deletion, and to allow for the votes to remain even if the user is deleted. $\endgroup$ – user9733 Nov 10 '12 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist I agree of course that this is not a very elegant solution, but it is better than what we have now. The profile part should be a minor issues. Users who want their account to be killed can be expected to clean up their profile themselves. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Nov 10 '12 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ There's more stuff that contains private information, the IP addresses that the account was accessed from, the connected OpenID providers, and old mail adresses can still be visible from the account history in some cases. My point is that if privacy concerns are the reason for the request to delete the account, nothing short of actual deletion will satisfy this. $\endgroup$ – user9733 Nov 10 '12 at 23:19

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