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    The problem, Willie, is that few people read the FAQ! A good system would be entirely self-explanatory.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    I find it amusing that you can have so little faith in people reading the FAQ and so much faith on people following the scheme being laid out.

    (Yes yes, people are unpredictable and hard to control. That's why I do maths and not sociology.)

    • CommentAuthorAndrea
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    I should also add that many people (e.g. myself) have already read the FAQ, and will not probably read them again, unless they are told that something new has been added in the first place. So the FAQ are not a very effective way to communicate a change in policy.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010 edited

    But ... but... if a person sees something he doesn't understands, he would have a question. And FAQ means "Frequently Asked Questions" afterall...

    Also I'm pretty sure the Mods have the power to send e-mail to all users. A curt missive stating "some changes to voting policy has made. See the FAQ" is not out of the question.

    Anyway, my point is that since it is impossible to make anything completely foolproof, why not just settle for something that is easy to implement?

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010 edited

    Zee moderateurs do not have all of zee e-mail addresses of zee users who participate in zee website.

    </fake french accent>


    Harry is correct here. We have no mechanism to email everyone, and there is no obligation to provide an email address when you register. (Remember though our rule of thumb --- if you do something naughty and haven't provided a means to contact you, the moderators may well act entirely without regards to your interests!)

    • CommentAuthorMariano
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    Hmmm. All the proposals so far both too complicated and too easy to break.

    How do other SE sites manage this issue? StackOverflow has 87 pages of users who can vote to close, and MO has a mere 2.5 pages (two and a half!!!)... I have not looked, but I expect SO users do not end up in longuish debates about whether to close or not to close questions.


    My guess is that SO naturally has a wider audience, so its bar is already set lower, so to speak. Questions also appear much more quickly than on MO, so a borderline question is just going to sink and not bother anybody.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010 edited

    I think Andrea's solution is the only real way to deal with this issue. It will also give us the power to add actual reasons for closure.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    @Harry and Scott: I stand corrected. I've assumed incorrectly that the earlier email I got about spam on MO meant the Mods had the ability to e-mail everyone.

    @Harry's most recent comment: do you mean the post about the URL and javascript? (Sorry, as this thread has gotten a bit long and hard to keep track of.)

    I look at this proposal and think 'too complicated'.

    How about addressing this with a cultural shift?

    Let me propose that we agree that one should not vote to close based purely on what one personally thinks of the question, but based on what one thinks the community thinks of the question.

    In other words, a vote to close should mean "I think the community consensus would be that this question should be closed." rather than "I think this question should be closed."

    If you're not sure what the community consensus would say, then you start leave a comment and start a thread a meta to find out.

    (In this post, I do not mean consensus to mean unanimity but rather what the general feeling of the community is, taking into account that some voices are more influential than others.)
    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    Alexander: it's not clear to me what you interpret "community consensus" to mean. It is apparent from debates and discussion we've been having on meta for some time, that some of us would prefer MO to be more research-orientated and more geared towards a tool for the Working Mathematician; others want something more like Being Part of A Maths Club; and there are many other variants in between and around these positions.

    Moreover, my impression is that MO started out with certain goals, not as a manifestation of "the community"...

    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    Cf. "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" ;-)

    I don't know what the community consensus is, and the whole point of the proposal is that, presumably, as meta develops a case history, we have a better idea what the community consensus is, or at least what the rough "median opinion" is.

    Counting votes strikes me as a terrible way to "decide" such debates. For one thing, it drives off people who are on the losing side because they end up permanently with no voice and no sense that their ideas, even if ultimately rejected, are thoughtfully considered.

    Could my suggestion lead to a situation where some group continually misinterprets (willfully or not) what everyone else wants and goes off closing questions many people would prefer to remain open? Yes. However, I trust that people are sufficiently thoughtful and respectful that this won't happen. And if there is a group that isn't sufficiently thoughtful and respectful, I won't want to be a part of this community anyway.
    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    The trouble with defining things in terms of a community, is deciding who is part of the community in the first place (cf. political philosophy). I don't think MO was intended to be "a voice for the people", even if such a thing could be desirable or productive or both.

    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeJul 16th 2010

    That last comment no doubt sounded more patrician/snooty than it was meant to. I just feel that it's not so easy to work out what we mean by "what the community wants". In practice, I agree with the general thrust of what you were saying, which is to be a bit less gung ho about closing, and to ask what others would do. (Categorical imperative?)


    I think what Alex Woo suggested has already been practiced more and more by the MO community, even by members who have been described as "extreme". Keep in mind that this whole thread originated from this thread, in which Harry Gindi started off the debate on whether to close certain question. To me, that is a convincing evidence that our community is dealing more maturely with controversial issues.

    If the vote-trading practice is implemented at all, I would prefer not to have to write things like: "I vote to close, cancelling X vote". IMHO, it will make things more personal than necessary.


    Like Hailong, I am personally happy with the way things are now. Unfortunately, some people here are not. I think that the only system that won't be "too complicated" is the high-tech solution that Andrea proposed (which was further improved by Scott (see the post after my idea that we use the MO login cookie to authenticate everything)). The advantages of this system are pretty straightforward assuming someone here has the knowhow to actually code it.

    Perhaps an effective way to quantitatively implement the vote trading scheme would be to add adjacent comments to the root of the thread. One comment would be "I vote to close" the other "I vote to keep the thread open" and people could upvote the comments appropriately. That way upvotes could be anonymous.

    @Ryan but then, there would be (almost) no reputation threshold.

    • CommentAuthoran_mo_user
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2011 edited
    In view of recent though not(!) very recent events the precise agreement on the inofficial voting process became unclear to me.
    (I ask this now as this thread just got reactivated, and at the precise occassion asking this could have been considered as an unfriendly act; this is also the case now though towards somebody else (neither is my intention), but then who knows when not, see the p.s.)

    Could somebody clarify the following two points for me.

    a. Every user (with appropriate 'power') has one technical vote on each question.
    For example, if a given question undergoes close-reopen then people voting to close on the first occassion cannot redo so a second time.

    b. As a consequence of a., it is a standing agreement that if somebody votes informally and this informal vote is cancelled that both users (voter and canceler) used their vote on the given question and thus should not/must not vote technically anymore on this question.

    Is this correct?

    p.s. I thought I posted a slightly different version (mainly different in that it contained precise reference to the recent event that confused me, to make precise what I mean; yet also containing a diclaimer that I simply would like to know this as opposed to being intended as provocation) of this about two hours ago. It is likely that I actually did not post it (as I might well have forgotten to submit the preview and cannot rememeber rechecking that it appeared), and thus I repost it in a less precise form. Yet, in case there is a different reason the post disapeared, I will now recheck that it actually appears and if it disappears again, will leave it at this, and do without the information or try to get it at a later point in time.

    I think that there is a big difference between a policy and a convention.

    Policies have to be formally decided upon by the "ruling class" and made clear in some obvious way, with a good way of notification of updates. No such method exists on MO (the FAQ certainly is not normative) so policies are hard to implement. This is fine by me as I don't want to have to click an EULA to use this site, and I like the ease of entry that these sites afford.

    Conventions are simply things that a group of people agree to abide by. We have a convention that when downvoting, we leave a comment. Not all of us do it, it is unenforceable, and there are no penalties when you don't do it. But nonetheless, it was discussed here and thought to be a good idea, so those who are aware of it try to do it, and hope that by doing it then they make MO a better place (and that others will see it and do likewise).

    A policy is imposed from on high and is a "you must". A convention is agreed by the masses and is an "I will".

    This vote trading is a convention. There are no strictures saying that people have to abide by it, it is merely a way to avoid certain unpleasant situations and those who prefer to avoid them join in with the trade. But no-one has to abide by it. If someone puts a "I cast a virtual vote to stay open" and then the question is closed anyway, there is nothing to stop them making that virtual vote a reality by casting a reopen vote. This convention is here because there were some heated arguments about questions being closed early, and we prefer to work in a calmer environment. But if someone chooses to ignore it, that is their choice.

    That said, there are a couple of things that I would change about this convention. I don't like the "pre-emptive" votes to stay open. If someone feels that a question is in danger of being closed, but no-one has actually voted to close yet then the right thing to do is start a meta thread and link to it.

    I also think that those putting a "don't close this" vote should include their current reputation. Since reputation is not displayed on comments, one needs to click through to see that the person really does have enough reputation to participate in the close/open debate. We sometimes get copy-cat comments and those are annoying.


    I don't think the vote trading convention is a very good one. It seems like even the really simple version is complicated enough that it causes confusion. Starting a thread on meta and posting a link in the comment thread of the question generates a pool of people willing to close/open a question, and it usually generates some discussion about why people are willing to close/open.

    My subjective impression is that there is less outrage about questions being closed than there used to be. I feel like the main function of vote trading was to mitigate this outrage. If this function is no longer necessary (or is less important), the method of starting a meta thread is strictly better than posting a "vote to keep open" comment.

    If nothing else, the sooner you vote to close a question, the sooner somebody else has the opportunity to vote to reopen it. Of course, I'm not suggesting you vote to close/reopen willy-nilly. As always, you should be able to defend your vote to close/reopen. Preferably, you should defend it in the comments or on meta before you are even asked to do so.