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The very bad question How to use Obfuscation in C# Code was deleted by Joel while we were in the process of finding out what the poster was asking.

Why so quick? We didn't even give him a chance to realize what it was that he didn't understand.


The OP was clearly not a native English speaker (profile says he's from Iran), and may not even have ever seen the word "obfuscate" written down. He was no doubt sounding out the word he thought he had heard. He was actively engaged in the process of understanding what question to ask.

He even thought he as asking about a "luck" file!

As I see it, if the question hadn't been deleted, it would have taken less than another 15 minutes to get the OP to realize that he had heard wrong. We would then have asked him to state his question in simpler terms. This would have brought out the fact (perhaps) that he was looking for how to do software licensing, or whatever it is that he wanted. Now, the OP probably has no idea at all what the problem with his question was.

I can see doing this for posters who don't engage with the community to learn how to ask their questions. I close those questions pretty fast, and delete them even faster. But in this case, the OP was actually making an attempt, and he should have been permitted to continue.

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+1 - the question was terrible, but there was obviously some conversation with the OP going on and he seemed to be trying to get his point across. Not sure whether there ever was a chance of actually establishing a communication, but still –  Pëkka Oct 22 '11 at 19:46
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I was curious what the OP meant, but honestly, I didn't see the conversation going anywhere, and I guess Joel felt the same. –  Michael Petrotta Oct 22 '11 at 19:49
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In that case, he could have said so. I wasn't pleased to find a conversation I was in the middle of cut off while I was still speaking. The conversation was clearly active, and had only been going on for 15 minutes. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 19:59
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What John says. There are so many crap questions on SO that have no activity at all. No need to walk around mod-deleting those that do. –  Pëkka Oct 22 '11 at 20:03
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I sympathize, but I'm not sure I agree. All the attention focused on that question consumed energy that could have been applied towards questions that had a chance of getting answered (that's assuming that the referenced question was hopeless, which of course is arguable). –  Michael Petrotta Oct 22 '11 at 20:07
    
@MichaelPetrotta: I, on the other hand, did see the conversation going somewhere, or I wouldn't have been conversing. If you think I have any tolerance for conversations that don't go anywhere, then "you don't know me very well". –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:07
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@MichaelPetrotta: why not let us decide for ourselves how much energy to consume on the question? With 75k rep on Stack Overflow, I might have been trusted to decide for myself. Most likely other adults involved could also have been trusted. At worse, "daddy" could have asked us, "now, children, do you really think this is getting you anywhere"? –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:08
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@John, I'm not sure why you're using that tone, but I'm sensing a lot of hostility that I don't want a part of. I think I'll bow out. Remember, though - you've implicitly given Jeff, Joel, and to a lesser degree, the other mods, the power to do what Joel's just done. Jeff's discussed this exact issue before, and made very clear this is how he'll deal with questions like this. I suggest approaching the issue with that in mind. –  Michael Petrotta Oct 22 '11 at 20:11
    
@MichaelPetrotta: I don't know what tone you think I'm using. The tone that I intend to use is "hey, I was talking when you just hung up the phone on by behalf!" and therefore, "where do you get off making that decision for me without even the courtesy of discussing it with me first?". What kind of person must Joel think I am that he can't even bother to tell me he's going to terminate a conversation I'm having? –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:15

2 Answers 2

That question had 8 downvotes, 2 flags, and 2 votes to close. It would have been closed by voting within minutes anyway.

The question itself was trivial and almost certainly a dupe. I don't moderate a lot, but when I do, it's because I'm trying to find out what life is like for moderators and understand how moderation tools can be improved.

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Joel, the thing to do would have been 1) to add a comment saying you don't think the comments are converging on a good question, and 2) If that didn't improve quickly, to add a comment telling the OP what the problem is. Does he have any idea what happened? If you had allowed the question to be naturally "closed by voting within minutes", then the OP would at least have had a close reason to ponder, and the possibility that further comments could have helped him improve the question. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:17
    
Based on how this was left, Joel, what do you expect the OP will do next? How will it benefit the community? Does he create a duplicate, give up on Stack Overflow, or what? You haven't left him with any idea of how to proceed. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:19
    
Good point about the triviality of it - and generally anyone doing obfuscation is using C anyway. –  Adel Oct 22 '11 at 20:20
    
@adel: I don't think he was using the word "obfuscation" correctly. He was also asking about a "soft luck file for a program". –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:26
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It should have been closed, not deleted. I think what happened was that I was working through the "edit" queue. The edit queue has options to accept or reject a proposed edit, or to delete the whole post. Since the post looked awful, and the proposed edits were trivial and non-helpful, it didn't seem like "accept" or "reject" was the right decision, so I hit "delete" (as far as I remember). –  Joel Spolsky Oct 22 '11 at 20:29
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Joel, the edits may have "obfuscated" the problem. The fact that there was an edit from "abfuscation" to "obfuscation" may have hidden the fact that the real problem was that the OP thought obfuscation had something to do with lock files. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:31
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It shouldn't have been deleted, but it was right to close it with extreme prejudice, so all's well now. –  Pëkka Oct 22 '11 at 21:17
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Closing it would have allowed the OP to see a comment telling him why it was closed. What will the OP see the next time he browses to his question (assuming he has saved the URL)? Nothing that will help him to ask the question better. He will either ask the same question again, or may just give up onm Stack Overflow. Closing with a comment to "figure out what you're asking before you ask" would at least have given him a hint. –  John Saunders Oct 23 '11 at 0:06
    
@John the question was undeleted. –  Pëkka Oct 23 '11 at 9:36
    
@Pekka: thanks. Unfortunately, the original deletion broke the conversation with the OP. I agree with the eventual close and delete, since, after undeletion, there was no progress towards clarifying the question. I wish I had checked in sooner, so that I could at least post a comment encouraging the OP to clarify the question and try again. –  John Saunders Oct 23 '11 at 19:22

I don't expect mods to watch the inter-arrival time of comments. If a question has multiple flags, downvotes, and close votes, I think it's perfectly OK for a mod to show up and play godzilla vis-a-vis bambi.

There is so much work for the mods that it's not reasonable to ask them to look so closely. I appreciate that the commentators felt like the rug was rolled up under their feet, but I don't see a viable alternative.

Looking now, it's pretty clear that the OP had no interest in 'obfuscation' at all. His or her English was so impaired that they hit upon 'abfusctation' while trying to talk about some sort of 'blocking'.

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Then I think we have a perfect example of why moderators might want to look, at least, at how recent was the last comment. I think the downvoters and maybe the closers were reacting to this question, in broken English, about "obfuscation". I don't think people noticed that he was also asking about a "soft luck file for a program". This implied to me that he was being told to go find a solution for a "lock file" (a file used as an interlocking mechanism), and somehow had the impression this had something to do with "abfuscation". He needed to be set straight, not cut off. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:30
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The site is awash in trash. Priority one is pruning it. If the management wants to make it easier to take care of people like this at the same time, they could act on the various suggestions for putting new questions in some sort of limbo where they could be repaired. –  Rosinante Oct 22 '11 at 20:33
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I'm a notorious deleter. You're preaching to the choir about trash on the site. I frequently use all of my 50 delete votes per day. But this question was still being "worked". Delete questions where there is no active attempt to correct them, not the ones we're still working on. I give up quite quickly when there is no engagement from the OP. In this case, we had a "live one". –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:35
    
Be sure to read Joel's comment on how the question came to be deleted. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:36
    
I did. I think that there's something to be said for both sides of this. His side is that the negative signal was strong enough to justify pushing the big red button. Your side is that, even with all that, he should have noticed the active comment thread. –  Rosinante Oct 22 '11 at 20:42
    
I'm referring to his comment that starts, "It should have been closed, not deleted". –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:44
    
Aha, the fine print. Well, call me Emily Litella. –  Rosinante Oct 22 '11 at 20:45
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As penance, I did stackoverflow.com/questions/7862339/…. –  Rosinante Oct 22 '11 at 20:47
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I believe you just proved my point. The downvotes and flags, and maybe even the close votes were instant decisions, more likely made due to emotion or impulse. The discussion that was in progress was ongoing due to an active engagement between the parties. If the discussion had ended without positive outcome, even 15 minutes later, then I would have voted to close and delete myself. In the meantime, I should have been allowed to finish. You won't see me demonstrating patience with crap questions very often. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:49
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Um, I was trying to concede. –  Rosinante Oct 22 '11 at 20:50
    
I wasn't fighting. I was trying to improve the site. –  John Saunders Oct 22 '11 at 20:51

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