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    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013 edited

    I thought I'd start a thread that systematically identifies closed threads with at least one delete vote, but for which deletion could be considered controversial -- for example, if the thread has some answers.

    To start things off, I present:


    Flagging for moderator attention is also a good idea. We can clear delete votes and remind users that deleting a question with multiple answers also deletes all these answers. (As I just did for this one.)

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013

    @François G. Dorais: I am rather dubious if Ryan Budney wanted to preserve the question plus answers. In any case, my opinion in view of that question would be rather the opposite; I did not vote it and might not dare to do it just so, hence I might ask if anybody is against deletetion of it. And this is my reading of OP.

    Are you personally against deletion of it? (Because if you are not, and noone else is either, then let us delete it.)

    And I think everybody is aware of the fact that the answers will also be deleted, but then in this case while there are three, none of them seems really worth preserving (perhaps none's is relatively best. And that long one did you read it? "Mathematics has been defined as discourse (about the universe of discourse) but of course it occurs inside of our universe with limited ressources." And, just yesterday a "collleague" of OP of answer explained us what this is supposed to mean for normal numbers...).


    First part (written as a regular user, not as a moderator): I think the "role of the observer" has been considered a great deal in math philosophy, especially in connection to Brouwer's theory of the creative subject. I am not a specialist, though, and I don't know enough about this to answer the question. I think this is a valid math philosophy question though the reception would probably be better received elsewhere.

    Second part (written as a moderator, not a regular user):

    Indeed, the proper course of action to delete such a question is to discuss the issue here. (Or, when the circumstances are too delicate for this, to consult the moderators via email. We will either take immediate action or initiate a discussion for you, as appropriate for the case.) It's still a good idea to clear delete flags while the discussion is happening since the question needs to remain visible for the discussion to make sense to everyone.

    In this particular case, if the real goal is to delete a particular answer, it's best to go through the moderators who can do that without deleting the entire questions. (Note that after migration, users will be able to vote to delete answers.)

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013 edited

    Following the procedure outlined in the second part: This (the one line linked to by Ryan Budney) question/answer package should be deleted because:

    1. For the question: The question is written quite naively on a subject that might or might not be on-topic. In any case, it does not seem like a research-level question by a huge margin.

    2. For the answers: two are very short and just speculation, specifically note "maybe the idea can be worked into" and "Perhaps this idea can be used", resp. (While the question asks if there is a field of mathematics that deals with this.) without any detail (except for some links for quantum mechanics, for context, but this is very stanadrd information anyway). One is long and puts forward in a perhaps somewhat eloquent way "something".

    There seems to be no content worth preserving and so this question could be deleted without loss. The reason why it should be deleted is that this type of content (as well as several other forms of content) have a tendency to attract contributions (and contributors) that constitue (and create, resp.) further additional undesirable content (undesirable, in my opinion at least). The question being closed is no real measure against this (eg, spin-off question can be create).

    • CommentAuthorfedja
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013
    > Are you personally against deletion of it?

    Slightly yes. I would prefer to delete only spam and the things that clearly start running out of control, letting the rest flow into the oblivion naturally. It is obvious that the OP doesn't really know what he's talking about but otherwise the discussion there is well within limits and it is possible in principle that somebody will say something interesting and non-trivial in that thread. I admit that as it is now, its value is 0, but IMHO, the deletion should be triggered by passing some negative threshold. However, those are just abstract considerations. If you ask me whether I'll bother to lift a finger to protect it from deletion, the answer is "no".

    In addition to recording your opinion on deleting the question, you can also record your opinion regarding deleting particular answers. There is no reason for these to be the same so I won't infer one from the other when it comes time to determine the community consensus.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013

    @fedja: Possibly your contribution was written before my last one. I am gald we agree that the value is 0. There is certainly something to the idea: its value is 0 but why delete it when it causes no harm. To a certain extent I shared this opinion for some time. However, in my exeperience such content can have somewhat indirectly negative consequences (see preceding post). To a certain extent these indirect negative consequence are present for most any 'soft' content; but to thus ban all 'soft' content might be throwing out the baby with the bath water, however since the particular "water" in question does not contain any "baby", I think we should just throw it away.


    I won't vote to delete, but since IMO the thread has zero content I would be happy if the moderators delete it.


    Hi, wow, look at all this activity! :)

    I wan't advocating deletion, nor the opposite. I thought I should start this thread because I've seen a few instances where people were upset either a question or an answer they were invested in was deleted. The thread I linked to above seemed to be very much on that borderline (or perhaps beyond it) where we typically do not delete. So I wanted to make sure we were aware of it. The idea being that if we systematically point out these cases we can converge on some kind of community consensus, and help new 10k+ users observe what the consensus is.

    I thought we should have a regular thread where these borderline issues can be discussed. It seems to happen often-enough to deserve it.

    On this particular thread I think yes maybe we should keep the thread around. But I don't have very strong opinions on it. I'm mainly just striving to get some kind of consensus.

    • CommentAuthorfedja
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013
    Which seems to be "Nobody really cares much at its current state but as soon as it attracts or spawns some really unwelcome content, wipe it out without any further discussion". Is this summary correct?

    @quid Yeah, I wrote my post before reading yours. As to 1), I'm not really sure what a "research-level question" is when we talk about "metamathematics". Certainly, it doesn't fit the proclaimed MO guidelines, but, as you know, I'm not very fond of enforcing those guidelines. 2) makes perfect sense to me though the thread doesn't seem to be above my threshold for "potential harm" (however, if it is above yours, I can easily understand that too :)).

    I suppose, but since the thread is closed it's likely not to spawn much or any content of any kind. So there's no troubles.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013 edited

    Two users cared enough [added: or at least one, I thought when typing this OP said two and believe in addition I had a look and saw two but this recollection might be wrong] to vote to delete. And it seems to me in addition Bill Johnson and I have expressed a clear preference for it being deleted.

    Also, I do not really see an argument against deletion. It seems there is agreement it has 0 content, it being closed this is unlikely to change, so why should this stay around. And it seems OP left the site 6 weeks ago (after asking this one question), so it seems even unlikely they will mind or even notice. The only reason seems to be on some purely formalistic grounds because it has answers (and upvotes).

    @fedja: a question of this type could be a lot more sophisticated. If this should be a math philospohy question, then this is a scientific/scholarly activity, so I do not see why research-level should be meaningless here. I do agree in particular in this direction we should be a bit more generous and alow general interest questions more freely, but that one really seems like an outgrowth of idle and uninformed or at best half-informed couriosity.


    I wouldn't say the question has zero content. It's asking about precise formalisms appropriate for dealing with the idea of an observer. That's a pretty basic idea in physics, and as far as I can tell the OP was interested in what the existing structures in mathematics have to say about it.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013 edited

    @Ryan Budney: Perhaps we should then reopen it if the question is valuable, as the present answers seem quite lacking. :-) This is only half-joking since in some sense the question seems really the relatively best part of the package, which was in some way a main reason for my intervention here, as I found François G. Dorais initial focus on the answers getting also deleted so surprising.

    But while I have a clear preference for this being deleted, I wlll not further insist on it. In any case, I think creating such a thread was very good idea, thank you for doing it.

    Personally, I think the question and answers are an absolute train-wreck, leaving very little that could be salvageable. (The initial paragraph of the question is maybe "relatively the best part", but it's still flaky as all get-out despite impressive phrases like "formal mathematical systems", and it really goes downhill from that point on.) I feel pretty confident in my opinion that this is, at any rate, not a mathematical question, and it's also an invitation for far too much flaky speculation and discussion than is appropriate for MO.

    I guess though that I'm leaning against deletion. Despite the wreckage, it is harmless and dormant in its closed state. The OP seems to see something of value in Rhett Butler's answer (saying he "totally nailed it"), and it seems like a bit of a slap in the face to just delete something a well-meaning OP finds value in, however obscure that value seems to others. Also, it's not impossible that someone of respectable stature (like JDH) could come along and comment something worthwhile that I or others hadn't thought of. Fedja's counsel (in his first comment in this thread) seems structurally sound to me.

    All that said, I certainly wouldn't cry if this were deleted.

    The reason to bring up deleting answers is that one of the original two votes to delete told me that was a key reason for their vote.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013

    @François G. Dorais: If your comment is in response to me, this is (of course) not what I referred to; this part was not surprising. I said "initial focus on the answers getting also deleted" not say "can also be deleted seperately" or something like this. This refers to your "initial" (ie first) contribution, this part (my emphasis):

    We can clear delete votes and remind users that deleting a question with multiple answers also deletes all these answers.

    Which to me suggested that the presence of the answers is in your opinion reason against deletion, while apparently in this case some (including me) think it is rather reason for deletion . So, this suggests to me that either you have a completely different opinion on this or this is a purely formalistic reason, in any case both interpretations were surprising to me.

    And, while I see some merit to have this as a rule of thumb "do not delete substantive answers in the process" I think the emphasize should be on substantive (which is not synonymous with several and/or long ones, IMO).

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2013
    @Todd Trimble (mainly): this is not to continue the debate, but somehow I could not help checking this and so I need to share the 'insight', or completely pointless information, depeding on the "observer" I'd guess :-)

    As I said OP was not 'seen' since the day the question was asked (April 11th). On closer inspection, it turns out the last time OP was 'seen' according to user page coincides with this comment 'you nailed it' *all* answers were given about an hour (the two short ones) and three hours (the long one) respectively *after* that (also one long comment is an hour later). And at first OP was quite talkative but then *nothing* (after they found the reference).

    That 'seen' is of course not anything certain in particular for an unregistered users, but chances are OP *never even read* and then likely never will read *any of the answers*.

    I'm more worried about this deletion vote: #85635 which I think does the answers injustice.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2013 edited
    @darijgrinberg: I agree.

    Here is another one by same OP
    (two votes to delete), which while IMO rather misguided as question, has a detailed mathematical answer where deletion seems not appropriate to me.

    Can we start a new thread for these two?

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2013 edited

    Can we start a new thread for these two?

    Ryan Budney's idea was to "start a thread that systematically identifies closed threads with at least one delete vote", so I continued here (and I'd assume the same is true for darijgrinberg). That being said as there was so much discussion on the first, on the one hand it might still be good to have a separate thread, though the question is do we then do a thread for each case or is the idea rather to start a new 'systematic' thread'?

    On the other hand, in my opinion, the two new ones are relatively clear case for non-deletion; except I am missing something or we start a mass-deletion of non-research content. (The reason these got delete votes at all, I'd speculate, is mainly due to the fact that OP did several [annoying, IMO] edits bumping various of their questions at once.)


    I don't think a "systematic thread" and discussions mix well: it will be hard (if not impossible) to determine the consensus on each question and there is no special notification when new questions are added to the "systematic list."

    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2013 edited

    I think the problem we have with individual threads is that people are hesitant to start a new thread for every borderline case. When they're borderline, my sense (by just observing people) is that they won't start a thread until after their favourite question was deleted -- or if they don't start a thread after an event like that, they'll complain in the main forum. I think it's more pro-active to have a catch-all thread, and it gives people a sense that there is a place they can go for these issues. I think this is a more positive and productive process.

    Others may feel differently but that's why I wanted to try this.


    Ryan, that's not a bad idea but in that case there should be minimal discussion surrounding each question. The success stories thread is a good example of this. (I'm skeptical this can be done with "controversial" topics.)

    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2013 edited

    I suppose we'll see! If it fails, I'll have learned a lesson. My impression so far is there is a need for this kind of thing. If there was a way to partition off sub-threads that would be ideal. Ah well.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2013

    To my surprise the question mentioned by darijgrinberg got deleted. Could somebody offer an explanation why this should be deleted while the one mentioned by Ryan Budney should stay. (This is about the only combination of events out of the four possibilities that I find difficult to understand.)

    I just cast the last vote to undelete.