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The question Single word for something that is “not yet a fact” but very close? erupted into a furious flurry of answers, comments and hostility over the last few hours. Twice I was in the process of composing a comment when the answer I was commenting on was deleted. In both cases, my comment had included a recommendation to take up the discussion here.

I'm not disputing whether the action taken in deleting the posts was appropriate. However, I'm concerned that ordinary EL&U members like me, with only modest rep points, seem to have no access to what's going on behind the scenes and therefore no ability to reflect on the process.

In particular, the most recent remaining post has been locked and has the following message:

This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved. For more info visit meta.

This seems entirely inadequate: visiting Meta provides no information on this specific issue at all, and presumably means "we have a Meta site, go search there for something that might explain the general process for how this issue will be dealt with".

I'm reasonably experienced with both the general expectations and processes, and the things you can find in Meta, but what's happened with the several posts to this particular question seems very opaque, and the auto message doesn't seem very helpful.

And we also lost a valuable answer by Mary_Mag (?) when it potentially could have been edited to save it.

Again, this is not a criticism of any decisions taken, but I'd like to understand what's happened. And I do think the message referring to Meta needs to be better worded or have a more targetted link.

  • Did you want to learn anything more about the posts on that page? I think Andrew Leach's answer gives the clearest explanation (the deletions were for abuse of the system, and may have been based in part on personally identifying information that cannot be disclosed to anyone but moderators) so in my opinion, you should accept it. I'm considering deleting my answer otherwise since it's currently a distraction from Leach's answer. – sumelic Aug 26 '16 at 22:32
  • Your post responds most directly to the issues I raised, and includes an image of Mary Mag's answer. The reason for deleting the answers was pretty clear (i.e. the hostility and/or the abuse of EL&U systems) so Andrew's answer merely explains why mods can't explain further. Rand al'thor's comment poses the same question that was in my mind. I'd like to explore this further. – Chappo Aug 26 '16 at 22:56
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    What if we can't explore it any further? The reason might be something like "Mary Mag had the same IP address as Brannon Benge, suggesting that the account was a sock-puppet." – sumelic Aug 26 '16 at 23:01
  • Yes, in which case deleting the final paragraph then locking the post would have preserved the valuable part of the answer - exactly as tchrist did with Barge Simpson's answer - and separately, mods could have suspended or closed the Mary Mag account as appropriate. – Chappo Aug 26 '16 at 23:10
  • The negative posts certainly needed immediate action, and I have no qualms with what the mods have done in making decisions on the spot to preserve the integrity of the site. The additional discussion here is very helpful to explain why and how, even if we can't know the exact reasons. – Chappo Aug 26 '16 at 23:12
  • I've been caught up with things like family, relaxation and sleep so I haven't been able to respond to the posts here on meta until now, and I have to log out again now, but I'd like to come back to the issues again (about 8 hours from now). E.g. what happens to Barge Simpson's post? E.g. if I added an answer using Mary Mag's suggestion of "dictum", is it best not to mention her or is it appropriate/ethical to acknowledge the original source? – Chappo Aug 26 '16 at 23:19
  • Even without looking at mod-level information, the repeated roll-backs constitute a fruitless chain of yes/no/yes/no/..., and would have been enough justification on its own for a moderator to step in. – Lawrence Aug 26 '16 at 23:42
  • @suməlic: delete then, and I'll post a new question when next online. – Chappo Aug 27 '16 at 2:00
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    @Chappo: thanks. Now that I've edited my answer and you've switched the accept, I'm fine with leaving my answer up. – sumelic Aug 27 '16 at 2:03
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    I am still rather confused. Close as I can tell, Brannon Benge first proposed "axiom" as an answer. Yes, it was insufficiently documented, but it's normal to tolerate that for a few hours, after warning the poster to add more documentation. But several high-rep folks jumped on Benge, claiming the word was not appropriate, because they themselves did not understand the non-mathematical meaning of "axiom" (and apparently didn't bother to look it up). Benge, of course, over-reacted. I think there was misbehavior on the part of several participants. – Hot Licks Aug 27 '16 at 12:20
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There was enough evidence of abuse of the system to delete answers. The moderator agreement means that to protect personally-identifying information we can't be any more specific.

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As far as I can tell, the message just means that if you want to discuss the locked post you should do it on Meta, as you just did. I agree that it's not very helpful.

Once you get 10,000 reputation, you get access to some "moderator tools" which include the ability to see deleted posts. It's true that lower-rep users do not have direct access to what's going on behind the scenes. However, by posting on Meta or in chat, you can get the attention of members with higher rep who can go look at the posts and tell you about them. (For example, I posted a screenshot of Mary Mag's answer that you can see in earlier revisions of this post. I removed it because it is not relevant to the general question, and I think it's distracting.)

You got an answer to your question from a moderator, Andrew Leach:

There was enough evidence of abuse of the system to delete answers. The moderator agreement means that to protect personally-identifying information we can't be any more specific.

In other words, in this case, nobody besides the moderators has "access to what's going on behind the scenes," and you aren't going to get any more information.

You said "I'm not disputing whether the action taken in deleting the posts was appropriate" so it seems to me there is nothing left to say here. If anyone does want to dispute the moderator actions on the basis of the limited information that we do have (for example, if you feel that Mary Mag's answer should have just been edited rather than deleted) I'd advise making a new Meta post. I'd be happy to provide screenshots or quotes for this if you don't have access to deleted posts.

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    Why not just edit out the final paragraph of Mary Mag's answer rather than deleting it? – Rand al'Thor Aug 26 '16 at 14:36
  • @randal'thor: You know, if that's a real question, I don't have the information to answer it, and if it's a rhetorical question, I don't have the ability to do anything about it. – sumelic Aug 26 '16 at 23:30
  • I know, but I just wanted the suggestion to be there so that those who do have that information and ability could see it. Having seen Andrew's answer, I now withdraw my suggestion. – Rand al'Thor Aug 26 '16 at 23:33

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