There has been a lot of inquiry about recent events. This post is meant to clear that up and avoid speculation. In particular, I am posting this as a follow-up to a comment I had made previously.

This is also a logical follow-up content in the following:


Recently, largely due to poor inter-moderator communication, Bill and Qiaochu got into a disagreement that led to both temporarily (for one week) losing their moderator abilities.

During this time, Bill officially and permanently resigned as a moderator via direct communication with the SE team, making his loss of moderator abilities permanent. I regret to inform you that Bill D. is no longer a moderator of MSE. But Qiaochu will return to moderator-ship within a week.

There also is a lot of speculation about Bill's current suspension. It would be a breach of privacy to describe the details of any action leading to suspension, but his suspension was independent of Bill's resignation. He changed his name, and wrote several messages indicating that he was planning on leaving the site entirely. I might also note that another user was suspended at the same time for largely the same reason. Due to Bill's unnaturally well-known suspension history (and the original question), I will comment that the length of the suspension follows SE Guidelines.

As a moderator, allow me to say that I have confidence in our moderator team and in the invaluable support of the official SE team (who have been with us throughout), and we continue to live and learn as individual moderators and as a team. As a member of the community, allow me to say that it is always sad to see a high contributor decide that he no longer wants to be a part of the community. Many of Bill's answers had very clear exposition. But I also have confidence in this community and the incredible speed with which it answers and addresses all sorts of mathematical concerns.

On the other hand, I am very happy to announce that I have been told that Zev will be returning to the site very soon as well.

  • $\begingroup$ May I know the other user who was also suspended? $\endgroup$
    – user17762
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ Hooray for Zev! $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Marvis: I'm afraid I can't say. I only mentioned Bill explicitly because of the high visibility on meta of his suspension. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ Who is going to tell Arturo the news? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael: Well, whatever you do, please don't email him. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ Related to your last paragraph, and influenced by a comment exchange I had with a StackOverflow moderator, and even though this isn't the ideal space to say this, I (and I'm sure I speak for at least 95% of the community) am very grateful for all the service of all the moderators, including Bill and Qiaochu. Thank you all. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ I haven't followed the events very closely but I saw a disgusting exchange between the ex-moderator and a vocal user and I can't help feeling astounded that one user was suspended for (at most) a couple of hours while another one is suspended for an entire year "for largely the same reason". $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ @t.b.: It may look odd when you look only at that bit of information, but note the main alternatives are either that first-time offenders be given year-long suspensions or that frequent offenders be given hours-long suspensions. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps we need to have more subdivisions in the duration of suspensions for frequent offenders, or simply have some mods decide on a suitable duration on a case by case basis. I think Theo agrees with me that the current system that leads to Bill being suspended a thousand times longer than someone else for the same action is too simple, not fair, and not the system that we want in place. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ Let me emphasize that I do trust that the matters were given serious consideration and that none of the decisions were taken in haste. I am confident that the future team of moderators will keep up the good work and I am supportive of every single one of them and grateful for their work. Let us hope that the current unhealthy events will be overcome quickly and that the next year will bring more mathematics and less drama and soap opera. Happy holidays to all. $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 6:27
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    $\begingroup$ @ragib: I don't know if Bill deserved a lesser suspension, but if he did, I an certain it's not because some other person who has acted differently got punished differently. Some troublemakers merely need a wake-up call or a timeout and they'll stop causing problems. For others, moderators have to enforce "go away and never come back" to end the trouble. Any attempt to make punishments be similar in scale across the board is fundamentally misguided. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ Bill will be missed $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ Can I just comment that the title of this question is unlikely to be useful in a few months' time? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks Ben. I changed the title - something that will hold for a longer amount of time. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ Are there plans to reinstate Qiaochu's diamond? My calculations show that the designated week ended some time ago. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 0:52

1 Answer 1


Thank you for this. Now would probably be a good time for me to say some things.

Part of recent events involved me provoking Bill in a rash and stupid manner, and I apologize for this. I am very grateful to the SE team for resolving the situation quickly and cleaning up the mess that I had a hand in creating.

One of Bill's frequent complaints about my behavior was that I am too ready to act unilaterally without informing the other moderators either before or after the act. This is more or less true. Bill would have preferred that the rest of us confer with all of the other moderators before nearly any kind of action, and I adjusted my moderation policy too far in the other direction. I will work on this in the future.

Please do not interpret what I am about to say as coming from some kind of petty personal conflict. Someone needs to say it and it might as well be me. Bill D. was a uniquely toxic presence on this site for a very long time, and I am very glad that he is gone. Those of you who have been drawn into a conflict with him for any reason know what I'm talking about, and those of you who haven't are lucky.

Let's put such unpleasant things behind us.

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    $\begingroup$ I've been drawn into conflicts with Bill since about 1995, and as much as he has managed to annoy me from time to time, I look beyond it to recognize his outstanding contributions to this website. I am very sad that he is gone, and I hope that once things have cooled down he'll find his way back here --- and I really hope that the moderators, whoever they may be, will find some way to work together in the future and spare us the childish displays we have lately been treated to. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your selfcritical reflections, Qiaochu. We should differentiate between Bill as a user and as a moderator. As a user, he made many valuable contributions, and his aggressive style was sometimes a problem but rarely a serious one. I was quite worried when he ran for moderator, so much so that I seriously considered campaigning against him (which I would ordinarily consider bad style). I decided against that, but what happened since confirmed my worries, so as far as Bill as a moderator is concerned, I'm quite relieved that that period is now behind us. $\endgroup$
    – joriki
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ @joriki: You should run for moderator regardless to anything! $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ Unburdening myself ... I’m glad that you’ve now made a public statement and somewhat reassured by it, but in all honesty I wish that you’d consider taking a significant sabbatical. // I thought it obvious that Bill was ill-suited to be a moderator and admit to having entertained the same idea as @joriki. I’m in broad agreement with the principles that Bill espoused, but I fear that he really needs a better mirror. I will not greatly miss him as a user: his answers, though interesting, were often quite unhelpful, and I consider myself fortunate that we only rarely answered the same question. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott Yea, if you answered the same questions, you might have more downvotes on your answers. $\endgroup$
    – GeoffDS
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ (1) The recent events suggest that you might be getting a bit stale and could use a bit of a break. (2) I don’t think that it’s a good idea for either of the principals to remain in the administrative (as distinct from mathematical) spotlight. (3) I was very unhappy with both sides. I believe your intentions, but I’m definitely feeling ‘once burned, twice shy’. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: moderating is not all that strenuous an activity and it is not clear to me that a break would do anything. If you don't currently want me as a moderator then it is not clear to me why that preference would change over time if I'm not allowed to start changing the way I moderate. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ @QiaochuYuan +1 "Someone needs to say it and it might as well be me." I believe many of us are relieved that Bill is no longer a moderator. I didn't actively notice Bill before he ran for moderator. However, based on his opinions before the election, I really hoped that he wouldn't make it. Looks like others were even more concerned, but everybody remained silent. However, my concern was less his aggressive style, but his liberal position regarding the standards of quality for questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomas: Whereas I think that Bill’s stated views on questions and how new users should be treated were one of the best things about his activity here. In my view far too many people are ready to jump on the slightest shortcoming. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: I'm not particularly interested in dragging up more unpleasantness from the past, but Bill's stated views and his preferences as revealed by his actions are very different. For example, he has stated on several occasions that he believes no moderator should take serious action without consulting other moderators, and he has on several occasions unilaterally deleted comments criticizing him. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a voice against Brian's: Qiaochu, I hope that you continue your work as a moderator. I also hope that in doing so, you will keep up your uncompromising attitude towards cheaters. $\endgroup$
    – Alex B.
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ @QiaochuYuan I'm a bit late to the game, having taken a break from MSE due to a heavy course load and thus missing the fallout a few weeks ago. But I'd like to express my gratitude to you for your service as moderator; I've always found your actions (including the unilateral ones) quite reasonable and in the best interests of the community. I too am glad to see Bill gone. While he was a prolific answerer, his answers were opaque to many users and his behavior was truly toxic. He's pulled me into a few ridiculous arguments over the past year, and I was tempted to call him out in many more. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 4:30
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    $\begingroup$ @QiaochuYuan Welcome back!! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ I'm glad to see that your diamond is back. Keep up the good work. $\endgroup$
    – user53153
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ Going back to the original answer here to express my support for it. Based on interactions from a few years ago, it always seemed to me that the quality of his answers never came close to counterbalancing his abrasiveness. Since I have not had so much interaction recently, I can only guess it was still the case this year. In spite of all that, if he ever shed these unfortunate qualities, it would be nice to have him back. The more the merrier! Also, ditto Michael and Pavel! $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 18:55

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