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Threads being deleted for no obvious reason

  1. Mar 26, 2012 #1

    Jonathan Scott

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    There was a thread "Could a black hole be a result of matter/antimatter polarity reversal?" in the relativity forum earlier today which appeared to be an innocently over-enthusiastic question, partly based on a very speculative article at physorg.com. I replied a few times for example to explain that the mainstream view is that "anti-matter" is not the same as "negative mass" and that black holes don't go anywhere. However, the thread seems to have completely vanished.

    A similar situation happened a couple of days ago when I tried to reply to another similarly confused thread (about the Cavendish experiment), although in that case the evidence was admittedly mounting that the original poster was probably not open to scientific discussion.

    In the past, such threads would typically incur a warning about speculation or non-mainstream ideas and would be locked if necessary.

    In the last case I hadn't yet seen any evidence of anything other than jumping to false conclusions based on a over-speculative article.

    When I've spent time and effort trying to help someone with a complicated question, I'm not happy to find that my efforts have been just deleted without trace. Is it really necessary to do this rather than just adding a reason and locking it?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 29, 2012 #2

    Ryan_m_b

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    When threads begin to head towards overspeculation warnings are usually given or infractions or sometimes the offending posts are deleted to prune the thread back towards something productive. Threads are locked when the conversation has ran its course and it is not constructive to keep it open i.e. the OP has been throroughly answered but now people repeatedly bring up old points, argue off topic etc.

    Threads are usually deleted when the premise of thread violates the rules or when the OP refuses to learn.

    I don't know the specifics of why your thread was deleted but sometimes it is best when you see a questionable thread to report it rather than answer, I understand it is frustrating to answer only to have the thread deleted (it's happened to me before) but many times this was avoidable.
     
  4. Apr 5, 2012 #3
    Baby and bathwater come to mind.
     
  5. Apr 5, 2012 #4

    DaveC426913

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    No, Ryan was specific:

    "...when the premise of thread violates the rules..."

    A thread whose premise is overly-speculative is highly likely to go awry.

    Yes it sucks for Jonathan, but the good of the many out weigh the good of the few. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
  6. Apr 5, 2012 #5
    My argument would be that Jonathon's contribution, by identifying and correcting the error's in the OP's thinking, would be contributing to the good of the many.

    I do understand the rationale for this policy by the forum. I'm simply communicating my belief that it is a misguided policy, which by turning a blind eye to stupidity indirectly encourages it.
     
  7. Apr 5, 2012 #6

    Ryan_m_b

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    It is my opinion (and the opinion of many others I would wager) that were we to generally allow OPs with premises that violate the rules the quality of the site would suffer. Please note that this does not mean that an OP cannot be wrong, even stupendously wrong, but it does mean that if a thread starts with a rule violation it will most likely be deleted. It is always a judgement call though, a mentor may leave a thread open if they think it is beneficial to the OP and others (and believe me there is a lot of discussion always going on behind the scenes with regard to our actions; don't think that we simply act on a whim and never look back!) but the vast majority of times this is not the case. Rather the thread wastes member time and decreases the quality of the site.
     
  8. Apr 5, 2012 #7

    DaveC426913

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    BTW, for Jonathan's benefit: it took me a while to get into the habit of recognizing threads that are iffy. Often what I do is write an initial *short* response, then turn around and report the thread, asking for adjudication. That gets the ball rolling. That way, if it passes I can feel free to answer in more depth.
     
  9. Apr 5, 2012 #8

    DaveC426913

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    If you wanted to see the consequences of keeping the bathwater, check out sci forums. They keep the baby, the bathwater, the rising steam off the surface - even the water wrung out of the loofa. The problem is, of course, that they have 10,000 tubs full of water, and are left with no babies at all.
     
  10. Apr 5, 2012 #9

    Evo

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    That is very helpful.
     
  11. Apr 5, 2012 #10
    But how do you know that an admin has adjudicated in favor of the thread? It would be nice to have a feature where the admin is able to respond to a report, either in private or in public. Can the admins even see who sent the report?
     
  12. Apr 5, 2012 #11

    Evo

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    We can see the report and which member reported it. We do not have the time to reply to each member that submits a report.
     
  13. Apr 5, 2012 #12

    DaveC426913

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    I find admin response time to be less than 6 hours (often less than 2 hours). If it hasn't been locked within 6-12 or so hours, it likely won't be.
     
  14. Apr 5, 2012 #13

    DaveC426913

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    Heh yeah.

    It doesn't have to take more than a single click by an admin.

    When a thread gets reported by a member, a tiny icon automagically appears on the thread header in yellow, which means "there is a report pending that has not been seen by an admin. Write short posts".

    When an admin gets around to reading the report, they have merely to click and 'Approve' button - no time-consuming message to type. The approve button automagically changes the report back to green "this thread has been seen and approved. Continue about your tiny ant-like lives." (or better yet, the icon disappears altogether).

    Wouldn't be hard for Greg to set up.

    :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
  15. Apr 5, 2012 #14

    Pengwuino

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    The mods power has become too great.

    TIME FOR REVOLUTION!!!!
     
  16. Apr 5, 2012 #15

    Ryan_m_b

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    Few points:
    • This would make MANY threads "tagged"
    • There would be no indication as to why a thread was tagged, the moderation may just involve removing some spam or infracting for bad language. No need to write short posts there
    • This takes away the anonimity of reporting somewhat. Some people may not be comfortable reporting on a thread if it is made public that there has been a report. Likewise the way that thread makers and contributers will percieve their relationship to a thread when it can be publically marred will likely change
    • Mentor activity is often debated amongst us. This can go on for some time and can both be prospective (before we do anything) and retrospective (after we've done something). It would create confusion if there was a tag that remained for a while, indicating that nothing was being done, when in actual fact we are still debating. Along the same lines as this it would be strange if we kept going back to a thread after it was made "clean"
     
  17. Apr 5, 2012 #16

    DaveC426913

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    Yeah. I started to think about the implications.
     
  18. Apr 6, 2012 #17

    ZapperZ

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    I feel that this deserves a little bit more of an explanation that, hopefully, gives some insight into how some of these decisions are made.

    To start off, let's be very clear here. Under the 0th order approximation, if something violates the PF Rules, that you are posting at your own risk. Deletions of such posts/threads are justified. So let's make sure we get that out of the way before going any further.

    Now, our lives (as in the Mentors) would be very simple if we stick to that, and if everything is black or white. But it isn't, and the Mentors often take it upon themselves to make their lives a lot harder by often considering each case individually. We often see topics that skirt the rule and can be considered as highly dubious. It would have been justifiable to delete that thread. However, in quite a number of instances, the fate of that thread depends very much on the intention of the OP, and also the OP's history in this forum. This is purely a judgment call on the Mentors. If the OP is a long-time member in good standing, and the thread is useful in dispelling the errors, then we more than often inclined for it to stand. However, if the OP is more interested in airing out the dubious ideas with no intention of showing any desire to learn, then the same, thread with the identical topic would not have lived a very long life. The PF Rules will be applied as the justification for such a deletion. This is certainly a judgement call on the parts of the Mentors, but it is something that we have to do.

    So yes, often we throw out the baby and the bathwater. But note that we already are doing that when we unambiguously prohibit any and all discussions on crackpottery. We have been asked why many times regarding this policy. We were often told that we would be doing a tremendous service to allow such discussion so that members can learn on what's wrong with such crackpottery. Unfortunately, such a request does not consider other consequences. Crackpottery is similar to fecal matter. It tends to attract other crackpots to it. It comes up on Google search, and these people are just drawn to all and any avenue where they can air their "theories". After all, where else can they get such publicity (certainly not in peer-reviewed journals)? We had tried accommodating such a thing, and it was an unmitigated disaster in terms of moderation. So rather than being wishy-washy about it, we simply drew the line and said a clear "NO" to such a thing. Are we missing out on the opportunity to educate people about why such-and-such crackpottery is wrong? Absolutely! However, we can't be everything to everyone. Our desire to have a high signal-to-noise ratio means that we'd rather have quality over quantity. Do a few things, but do it exceedingly well. If that means that we have to throw out a few babies with those bathwater, so be it. We will nurture the remaining babies and be dotting parents to them.

    Based on the quality of members we have attracted, and the respect that this forum has received, I'd say that such a rule and strategy are paying off.

    Zz.
     
  19. Apr 11, 2012 #18
    I believe I understand your argument fully. I have moderated on three science forums and have an appreciation of the issues. I simply disagree with the policy.

    If members who feel it would be worthwhile to save more babies remain silent then the staff may be left with the impression that the policy is universally acclaimed. It isn't. I'm simply using a thread in the Feedback sub-forum to provide that feedback.
     
  20. Apr 11, 2012 #19

    Ryan_m_b

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    I don't think anyone has said that the policy is universally acclaimed but the majority of feedback we recieve is positive.

    I definitely appreciate that other science forums have different policies and are more lenient however I have yet to see one that rivals PF for quality. Many forums that have more relaxed rules than ours suffer from crackpot creep as more and more rubbish posts spread into the forums.
     
  21. Apr 11, 2012 #20

    ZapperZ

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    Er... no. Since the day we implemented the policy, our members have certainly not remained silent on the matter. You can browse through the threads in this forum if you don't believe me. We fully understand the objections, and we've heard of it many times, often after we had to admonish a crackpot or someone who disliked our restriction on personal theories (why would they join a forum in the first place that has an explicit rule against such a thing is beyond me).

    However, as has been mentioned, there's an overwhelming support for such a policy, AND, more importantly, we seen a significant improvement in the quality of posts that are left open. So as scientists, if we want to consider "experimental results" as evidence to support a hypothesis, the success of PF since such an implementation is very hard to argue against.

    Zz.
     
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