• Register
PhysicsOverflow is a next-generation academic platform for physicists and astronomers, including a community peer review system and a postgraduate-level discussion forum analogous to MathOverflow.

Welcome to PhysicsOverflow! PhysicsOverflow is an open platform for community peer review and graduate-level Physics discussion.

Please help promote PhysicsOverflow ads elsewhere if you like it.


New printer friendly PO pages!

Migration to Bielefeld University was successful!

Please vote for this year's PhysicsOverflow ads!

Please do help out in categorising submissions. Submit a paper to PhysicsOverflow!

... see more

Tools for paper authors

Submit paper
Claim Paper Authorship

Tools for SE users

Search User
Reclaim SE Account
Request Account Merger
Nativise imported posts
Claim post (deleted users)
Import SE post

Users whose questions have been imported from Physics Stack Exchange, Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange, or any other Stack Exchange site are kindly requested to reclaim their account and not to register as a new user.

Public \(\beta\) tools

Report a bug with a feature
Request a new functionality
404 page design
Send feedback


(propose a free ad)

Site Statistics

205 submissions , 163 unreviewed
5,037 questions , 2,191 unanswered
5,344 answers , 22,706 comments
1,470 users with positive rep
816 active unimported users
More ...

  Should questions/answers be hidden on meta?

+ 0 like - 2 dislike

One of the principles of community moderation agreed upon at the founding of the site was that meta was a place where community discussions could develop, and consensus be built up. Toward that end, there was no policy regarding "off-topic" or "low level" regarding meta-posts, just the usual stuff of no spam, no duplication, and no gibberish.

One of the most important things was that any disaffected user would be free to discuss their problems on meta without any censorship. This is invisible from the main site, and it is important for fixing any political problems that come up with overzealous moderation.

But in recent days, a user named "VK" has come here to complain about the treatment of user Vladimir Kalitvianski. These questions/answers have been deleted based on the (preposterous) claim that VK is not actually Vladimir Kalitvianski complaining about his treatment, but a user impersonating Vladimir Kalitvianski making malicious posts.

If anyone believed this preposterous idea, I assure them that I have spoken to Vladimir Kalitvianski on facebook, I know his account, and he has told me he is VK, something that should go without saying, because come on!

Since meta was supposed to be entirely free to criticize current policy and moderator action, I don't see the reason for the close votes and delete votes on meta questions and answers. The answers, no matter how ridiculous and off-topic seeming to moderators, are just preserved to make sure the community is free to change its moderation policies when they are not working, without silencing anyone who is unpopular and affected by these moderation policies.

What is the policy regarding meta? Is it going to be completely open as originally agreed? Or did the policy change at some point?

asked Jan 25, 2015 in Conflict Resolution by Ron Maimon (7,720 points) [ revision history ]
recategorized Apr 2, 2015 by dimension10

"It was agreed upon..." - by whom? I don't remember any such discussion.

Oh, how quickly you forget.
@RonMaimon Please post a link to the relevant discussion or page.
You found it--- it's still part of the FAQ--- users may challenge moderator actions on meta etc etc., and obviously these discussions should not get deleted by the same moderators that took the action. The current comment, however, was interpreted differently by you, not as criticism of moderation, but as a request for new reviews of scientific papers, something which I suppose is indeed off topic. I wouldn't have interpreted it this way, but it's a reasonable interpretation, and closing in this case is appropriate, I suppose.

2 Answers

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

Regarding the specific issue

The questions and answers that were closed and deleted respectively through the community moderation threads were not about "criticising moderator actions".

The basic content of the posts were "I challenge you to prove I'm a crackpot.". However, no moderator actions were taken because he was a "crackpot", in fact he requested deletion himself, and the one single warning he got, that is now retracted, was in accordance with an old (now ammended) policy about posting off-topic comments.

To be honest, I may have called him a "crackpot" outside PhysicsOverflow, or in private discussions with other moderators, but does that really matter? I don't really remember calling him a crackpot on PhysicsOverflow in public. I apologise if I did. Whatever it is, calling someone a "crackpot" is not a moderator action as your question seems to imply. 

Regarding the hiding of the meta posts

The first answer was posted on a thread entitled "Should moderators be allowed to delete posts?". There is no way that an answer saying "Prove that I'm a crackpot!" is an on-topic answer for a question about "Should moderators be allowed to delete posts?". Thus, the answer was hidden. However, the answer was reshown by you later, so since the hiding appeared controversial, and I voted to delete it instead (I had initially thought that obviously off-topic, on the verge of spam, answers can be deleted uncontroversially). The vote to delete passed with three votes for and none against, and the post was hidden.   

Then (after the first deletion, but before the first undeletion), "VK" posted a question with the same content on meta. The question was off-topic for meta too, since meta is for discussion about the site, not about specific users' characters. Had the question been about a specific moderator action, it would have been fine. I voted to close it, and the vote to close went through in 23 minutes (or something like that) so the question was closed.

After this, "VK" again posted the same answer on the same thread saying "dimension10 this is on-topic so don't delete" or something to that effect. This was also before the undeletion of the first answer. I deleted it as a duplicate of a deleted answer.

Now again, before the undeletion of the first answer, the anonymous user "VK" posted a meta question with exactly the same content. I deleted it as exact vertabim duplicate of a closed question.  

I don't see any violation here, as the post was clearly not about a moderator action, but the "name calling" he thinks he is a victim of.

Now replying to the question

In my opinion, yes, questions and answers should be hidden on meta if of-topic, by use of the community moderation threads. This is to ensure that meta is always for discussion about the site (including moderator actions, but not the character of specific users).

There was never any policy saying that you can post whatever you want on meta. Yes, moderators are meant to be less strict when imposing "off-topic" rules on meta, but they still do apply to meta.

answered Jan 25, 2015 by dimension10 (1,985 points) [ revision history ]
perhaps if the question were rephrase to "is it proper for moderators to make the justification for deletion of comments 'user is a crackpot'". The context is the misuse of moderator power to delete comments and to treat users labelled a certain way differently than other users, singling them out for special harassment. This is a moderation issue. I agree it wasn't phrased in the optimal way, but it's not my place to judge, I didn't write it. Regarding the ability of users in bad standing to challenge administrative action against them, this was an agreed principle of the site. I guess all you can do is wait for the community consensus on what to do here.

@RonMaimon That was NOT the reason stated for any deletion or warning, real or imagined. Nobody used "user is a crackpot" as an excuse to delete, that's a plain lie. The post was clearly protesting against him being called a crackpot. You can't just interpret it differently to save the post. If you want the post to be kept, tell him to rephrase it. As of now, it just says "you called me a crackpot and I think this is a personal attack so I challenge you to justify it". This is not a moderator action, anybody can call anybody a crackpot, without moderator rights.

Also, as we just found from the other thread, "VK" was talking about a very old deletion, when the spam filter was active, and he already knows this from private discussions with me and public ones with polarkernel.

Edit: It seems there really was a deletion that I was unaware of. I apologise on behalf of the moderator who did so, and please be assured that such deletion will not occur again.

@Dimension10: You need to learn to read between the lines. When a person posts on meta saying "Am I a crackpot?" it's clearly a response to moderation which considers their postings crackpot. The request for a scientific rebuttal was out of place, but I don't judge how disliked users choose to express themselves. They are usually tone-deaf and generally rub people the wrong way, so I assume they will get on one's nerves automatically. That's normal for anyone with a new idea, and it's not an excuse for deletion. On the other hand, you can ask a person to rephrase the question.
+ 1 like - 2 dislike
Yes, posts can be hidden, closed, etc on meta too. Community moderation as well as the off-topic rule hold for the whole.site, in cluding all parts such as meta. This has been long time ago agrred on. Claims that there has been any community consensus which says somthing else are simply wrong.
answered Jan 25, 2015 by Dilaton (6,240 points) [ revision history ]
That's what this question is meant to decide. Can users who feel mistreated be silenced on meta by vote. I don't see how this helps the site stay clean, as meta is all admistrative stuff, and no physics. But there is a temptation to delete criticism.
@RonMaimon Except that no criticism has been deleted. He wasn't silenced, it's just that the post was completely off-topic for meta.

That was NOT the reason stated for any deletion or warning, real or imagined. Nobody used "user is a crackpot" as an excuse to delete, that's a plain lie. The post was clearly protesting against him being called a crackpot. You can't just interpret it differently to save the post. If you want the post to be kept, tell him to rephrase it. As of now, it just says "you called me a crackpot and I think this is a personal attack so I challenge you to justify it". This is not a moderator action, anybody can call anybody a crackpot, without moderator rights.

I did not complain about name calling solely, I complained about a special treatment of mine due to your definition me as a crackpot. You dimension10 pervert my words all the time.

EDIT: I cite: "The most direct reason of treating me here in a special way was a certainty of some in power that I was a crackpot. I admit I myself made it possible with some of my "far reaching" claims." ... "Otherwise calling me a crackpot and treating me as such are just a name calling due to personal disagreement on this and that question, which is abuse of the power."

Of course, I did not expect you to review my papers, it is impossible for you. I pointed out that you were too quick to execute me as a crackpot, as if you had proofs.

@VK: Yes, that was your intent in the post, and also how I personally read it, but it was not the main content of the post, and I don't think you can blame Dimension10 for focusing on the longest part of the thing. The main content was talking about yourself and labels, and asking people to review your papers instead of calling you names. If you had challenged specific actions of moderators instead, with specific claims of bad behavior, it should not have been deleted, rather answered.
@RonMaimon: Answered? I doubt it very much. Dilaton never answered my direct questions.
@VK: There doesn't seem to be any need, as you are not giving the content of claimed erasures, and the log check revealed there are none. It's not you being a liar, more paranoid regarding the intention of the moderators. There is nothing specific to respond to.

Yes, there is a specific deleted phrase: In Physics there are always doubts (thread about Higgs-less universe), ask better the conformist to stick to physics.

I am not paranoid at all. They insist on their rights to delete spam and off-topic posts; Dilaton just keeps silence about deletion in this thread, but generally Dilaton repeats that spam and off-topic posts are treated and will be treated as such, and polarkernel sees nothing. It is not a bug on my side, it is not a conspiracy, it is a practice of a holy alliance.

OK, I said what I wanted and I do not regret leaving this "open" forum.

@VK You were warned not for being a crackpot, but in accordance with the old policy for posting off-topic comments 49 times. Sigh.
@dimension10: I was speaking not about "warning", but about deleting comments and posts. Stop switching the subject.

@VK: Do you mean that someone edited your post to remove a phrase? That would indeed not show up on the delete log.

@VK personal insults and attacks, such as for example calling a user with the name conformal_gk conformist etc are offtopic and you know this.
Also, it seems VKs bad name-calling has driven away conformal_gk, whohas became very important contributor and was one of the last answerers we had. Since VKs name-calling he has not been seen anymore.
@Dilaton: Thank you for recognizing your intervention (deletion). You have grown up in my eyes. @RonMaimon: I did not understand your question. What specifically is it about? The EDIT above about "too quick to execute" was mine.
@Dilaton: As to name calling, it is not my choice. We are grown up to keep our behavior civilized, not to unleash name calling. I really regret if conformak_gk left PO because of my behavior. @conformal_gk, please forgive me and be back. I got too carried away with flames, sorry!

@VK: I think I see. The phrase " In Physics there are always doubts (thread about Higgs-less universe), ask better the conformist to stick to physics." was EDITED OUT of your comment by Dilaton, because Dilaton felt it wasn't nice enough, because it was calling other people conformists. This violates the user's right to control content under their name, and it is also applying rudeness rule.

Since it's an EDIT, it doesn't show up on the delete log. But it's still a deletion of content. I understand everything now. Thanks!

Perhaps moving the whole thread to chat when it turned into nonsense would have solved this quickly.

@RonMaimon. No, this phrase was a single one in my comment. It was my reply how "to stick to Physics". It was entirely deleted, not edited. There were other flame-like and self-defending comments deleted. But now, when Dilaton explained himself, I am in peace.
Perhaps it was deleted by editing out to make an empty comment, and then the empty comment was automatically deleted by the system? I get it now.
As I suspected, there are loopholes, backdoors, etc., to do such things. I asked to move this to Chat, but was redirected to mentioning that AJAX is not ready. Very clever!
@RonMaimon no, he called exclusively and intentionally conformal_gk "conformist" (probably thinking it was a funny way of making fun and mocking concormal_gk s name), and even though rudeness is allowed, such personal attacks and name-callings are offtopic. We agreed on this after you called Marco Frasca a Moron etc which has driven him away, you remember?

Demanding that every personal insult and attack should be treated as "precious gem" (or only those issued by VK probably?) you are going ridiculously way to far.

There are exactly two ways to deal with such name-callings in accordance with the laws and principles of PhysicsOverflow: either the whole comment has to be hidden as off-topic, as explicit name-calling is off-topic, or the insulting off-topic part has to be edited out.
@Dilaton: I agree with you, the name calling part may be removed, if not avoided. No problem from my part. I remember one of my comment partially "edited out" although it did not contain any name calling at all. It distorded my comment, though, and I was unhappy. It was in another thread and some while ago. P.S. Sorry, it became an answer instead of comment. I cannot convert it into comment. Do it for me, if possible.
By the way, I do not see "Public block log" on Meta anymore. Was it hidden? And the posts are not "refreshed" here either in the list of posts. Only the author and the posting time are displayed. Also, I do not receive e-mails when you answer me anymore although I check the the corresponding option and provide my e-mail address each time.

@Dilaton: So you edited out this comment, and then didn't mention anything about it after a week of asking about comment deletion on meta? After a hundred comments by Dimension10 saying "no deletion happened"? And you did it in such a way that it would not appear on the delete logs? Is it possible that there is something wrong with that?

The comment was totally off-topic because it was not about physics. But if you are going to get rid of it, either hide it and all other content-free comments equally, or move it to chat and let them fight out their empty insult battles there, where nobody else has to look at it. Conformal_gk was bringing up other off topic nonsense on the same thread--- "reformulation" "consensus of experts", etc, none of that nonsense is about the question at hand (main question: "What would the universe look like with Higgs?", side question: "does the experimental data leaves any room for alternatives to the standard Higgs?".

Who cares about these nonsense comments? Nobody is going to cry tears over them. If the whole thread was moved to chat, leaving a link, and the off-topic comments hidden, everything would be ok. If you said "keep it on topic, the last 6 comments have nothing to do with the Higgs, and will get hidden", everyone would have been happy and the off-topic nonsense would be gone.

But the problem here is that the road taken was selective enforcement. That means deleting VK's subtly derogatory comments, and leaving in the explicitly derogatory comments of another user, so that VK just has to take insult after insult without being able to respond.

And then, when people brought it up, the procedure was to mislead all the other administrators about what happened on meta, leaving them to have to puzzle it out like Sherlock Holmes. Thanks D. Swell job.

Regarding conformal_gk not being seen anymore, that coincides with your administrative actions against VK also. I can't speak for conformal_gk, but if I was having an argument with someone saying silly things, and then I suddenly saw a moderator step in and remove their comments, I would say to myself "Who the heck is this moderator, and why does this person think they have the right to decide which side of a debate to delete? What if this person decides to delete me next?"

That's a hundred times more frightening than any individual misguided user, because this is the person in charge of the site, you can't really overrule this person as an ordinary user, and every answer adds to this person's sphere of control.

@VK The public block log is here. I don't know what you mean by "posts are not refreshed". Regarding the not receiving emails, I think there's a problem with the mailing server, which I encounter often whenever sending a private message. Nothing can really be done on our part, this bug occurs once in a while.

@RonMaimon It wasn't conformal_gk who brought up comments on reformulation...

Regarding the editing out, I was unaware this happened, this is much worse than deletion; please be assured that this will never happen again.

@Dilaton Rudeness was never an offence, and never will be, do you remember this? Editing rudeness out of posts does really qualify as "censorship". The agreement achieved when Ron called some users "morons" was that administrators should be polite whenever possible, not about users.

@RonMaimon I was unaware of this editing out, it was a mistake and will never happen again. I apologise, and will now edit all my comments in which I said that no deletion happened.

@VK Apologies about the erasing, I was unaware of it, and thought you were being dishonest.
@Dimension10: I know you were unaware, and you are right that it will never happen again. You are most likely wrong about it being a mistake. It was a deliberate crafty method of specifically harassing VK, so as to drive him off the site, without leaving any trace that other moderators can see. Invisibly editing comments is the only thing an administrator can do without leaving any trace.

Also, some comments were deleted down to zero size, so that the site's comment filter automatically got rid of them. I suspect that this was also what happened to the comment you claimed was deleted by the spam filter--- it didn't look like it could trigger the spam filter.

This would normally be a completely untraceable attack, as you can only figure it out by taking Vladimir at his word when he claims the comment disappeared--- the deletion doesn't appear anywhere in the logs. It's actually quite clever, what will people think of next?
@RonMaimon No, it wasn't blanking out of comments (the post editor doesn't allow that, it throttles such an attempt), it was just editing out of sections from comments.

Actually, any 500+ rep user can do that, except that they can't check the "save silently" option. Storing comment edit histories is on the feature request roadmap. Until it's solved, I have restricted permissions for editing others' comments to moderators+. (this wouldn't have prevented the specific erasing involved, but I know that he will refrain from doing so in future from private communication).

By "mistake", I didn't mean "accidental", I meant "blunder".
@Dimension10: I just wrote a comment with content "this is a test". I then edited the comment, replacing it with a single whitespace. The result is that the comment vanished into thin air. Nothing throttled. Please try it yourself.

I tried it again, but now it doesn't work. I am mystified, I certainly succeeded in doing it the first time with no problem.

This was not a blunder, this was first a deliberate deception, and then a deliberate cover up from both you and me.
@RonMaimon Doesn't work for me. It throttles the edit. You might have added another character accidentally while editing it.
@Dimension10: It didn't work for me the second time either, immediately after I did it once.

I wrote "this is a test"

then "this is another test"

then I replaced "this is a test" with a single empty space, and the comment vanished. The comment simply disappeared, it wasn't replaced with a blank comment. I am sure about this, it still doesn't appear.

then, right after, I tried to replace "this is another test" with a single empty space, a combination of spaces and control characters, etc, and it wouldn't let me. Perhaps blank unicode will work for this. I suppose we should ask Dilaton what works best.
this is a test.
@RonMaimon What's more likely, that that isn't what happened at all. Even VK said that certain sections of his comment were edited out, not that his entire comments were blanked out. I tried it with all of what you suggested, nothing works.
It's not working now. I swear it worked the first time I tried. I am 100% certain, I tried it yesterday. I can't get it to happen again. VK said that the whole comment was deleted, I made it happen exactly once, and I am not crazy or misremembering--- I was paying attention.
@RonMaimon It didn't work the second time you tried it, just after the first time, either, right? What had you used then? You could have clicked the delete button accidentally or something.
I just selected the text and hit the space bar, then saved it (perhaps silently, perhaps not). Then I scrolled down to see the comment, and it was gone. It's driving me nuts, because it never happened again!

Your answer

Please use answers only to (at least partly) answer questions. To comment, discuss, or ask for clarification, leave a comment instead.
To mask links under text, please type your text, highlight it, and click the "link" button. You can then enter your link URL.
Please consult the FAQ for as to how to format your post.
This is the answer box; if you want to write a comment instead, please use the 'add comment' button.
Live preview (may slow down editor)   Preview
Your name to display (optional):
Privacy: Your email address will only be used for sending these notifications.
Anti-spam verification:
If you are a human please identify the position of the character covered by the symbol $\varnothing$ in the following word:
Then drag the red bullet below over the corresponding character of our banner. When you drop it there, the bullet changes to green (on slow internet connections after a few seconds).
Please complete the anti-spam verification

user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required

Your rights