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Chris Ferrie posted a question about the recent paper The quantum state cannot be interpreted statistically. In the comments followed a question about the merits of the paper per se, rather than Ferrie's question. Then Moshe came and deleted the whole thing.
Well, I didn't like the discussion that followed (Lubos Motl's comments were particularly unhelpful), even though I participated in it, but I disliked Moshe's action even more. The discussion was off-topic, but I feel it was important to have.
My question is, what should one do in situations like this? Is it appropriate to ask a question debating the merits of a paper as a whole? I for one would be interested in hearing what the community thinks that are the specific problems with this paper.
On the general issue: Comments in SE sites are treated as provisional text leading, when useful, to changes in the answers. The answers are the permanent and valuable record to be preserved as the output of this endeavor. This general philosophy of SE, as I understand it, is aimed at inhibiting excessive discussion. I was skeptical at first, but I see now how this attitude prevents runaway arguments, personal insults, trolling, and all the other pleasures of blogs, forums and the like. For those who enjoy this kind of thing, these internet forums are still there.
To the specific issue: in this incident, one user came with insulting comments, a few others told him he was wrong. None of of those comments included anything of interest to a third party, not even an off-topic discussion on the merits of the paper. I would have preserved such comments, or part of such comments, which included a substantive point on the physics of the paper, whether or not they were related to the original question. Given that the original comments were unhelpful and offensive, and that the followup comments included nothing but direct response to the original comments, I felt that deleting the whole thing was the only sensible thing to do.
A new question about other aspects of this paper is welcome. But, keep in mind our FAQ - this is not a place for an open-ended debate or discussion. This is a place to get help with specific and answerable questions, preferably of a technical nature. I think there could be an interesting question along the lines you suggested, but whomever asks it would have to read the paper and think about it first, in order to be able to come up with a specific rather than a generic question. Such questions are more likely to lead to a useful discussion, which is the reason they are generally encouraged on SE sites.
As always, feedback is appreciated. This is not my site, and I am doing what I think is the will of the community.
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