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Why should a Stack Exchange employee, being an outsider to a site's regular users, take it upon themselves to delete a question that the community is discussing, whether it should be reopened or leave closed?

A question on German Language & Usage was flagged and/or voted for close and deletion. It was closed by one of the site's local moderators, Takkat.

I started a thread on GL&U's meta to discuss the closing of the question, to ask why it was closed and I also started a dialogue in chat with one of the users involved with closing the question. A moderator responded once on the meta question, and joined once in the chat, underlining that he didn't close the question.

Despite having votes to reopen, a Stack Exchange employee, Anna Lear, joined the meta discussion and deleted the original question. She has 101 reputation on GL&U, which means she is a greenhorn in this field. She claims by herself that her German is rusty, but decides to delete a question, where the discussion on its legitimacy is on-going.

Why did she overrule the vote of our moderator?

I made many attempts to communicate my points, while my opponent ignored them and made ad hominem arguments. The activity of the network wide moderator seems arbitrary to me.

Maybe it was me, who attracted Anna Lear by flagging an answer as insulting, where I am accused of being cruel and inhuman (no joke!). I had a hard job to stay calm. but instead I am punished by the moderator.

Summary: There is an ongoing discussion whether or not to reopen a question with 2 votes to reopen it, and a 3:-1 vote in the discussion. The local moderator is up to date and did decide not to delete the question. Still the question is deleted by an employee who claims not to be a fluent speaker of the language.

So in future if I try to delete a question with help by the local mod, and it fails, I should ask an employee to do so? Can I force every question to be deleted by raising a noisy debate?

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closed as not constructive by Time Traveling Bobby, hims056, Diago, Toon Krijthe, Martijn Pieters Feb 8 '13 at 12:29

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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She's one of the community managers who, unlike the rest of the "local" moderators, is employed by Stack Exchange, the company that hosts these sites. That's why she has a diamond across all sites. So although she may not be familiar with the subject matter, she is surely more familiar with what makes a constructive question and what doesn't than the rest of us. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 8 '13 at 6:19
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Oh, so is this "I disagree with someone's actions and that makes them a bad person." all over again? –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 8 '13 at 6:25
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I see no evidence that Anna "overruled" anyone. She merely took the next logical step. One I happen to wholeheartedly agree with. –  Andrew Barber Feb 8 '13 at 6:25
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@BoltClock'saUnicorn: Being a manager makes her more familiar? Looks like an argumentum ad autoritatem to me. I would expect a person, being more competent in deciding whether a question is constructive, to explain better, why a question for the meaning of a word in some context should be aksed without mentioning the context. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 6:27
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn: Who told somebody a bad person? Me surely not. I didn't call somebody a bad person. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 6:28
    
here chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/499/german-language-and-usage is another chat, where the local moderator underscored, that he didn't deleted the question: "Ich habe sie nicht gelöscht!" –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 6:35
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GLU guidance: youtube.com/watch?v=7xnNhzgcWTk –  Uphill Luge Feb 8 '13 at 7:50
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@Mr.Disappointment To be fair, OP linked to everything he talks about. The quote you've isolated is in reference to one of the answers in his Meta GL&U question. –  Yannis Feb 8 '13 at 9:21
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@Yannis The length of this question, and there's more ...?! –  Grant Thomas Feb 8 '13 at 9:56
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Everyone else has accurately explained my original reasoning already (good mind reading there, folks! :)), so I'll just note that I didn't see your flag and didn't even know you flagged anything on that meta thread. I was there for other reasons. But even if it was your flag that got me there, I'd likely still have investigated the entire situation to place the flagged answer in context. –  Anna Lear Feb 8 '13 at 16:15

4 Answers 4

Disclaimer: I am a Stack Exchange employee whose German is excellent, being a native speaker.

I am however going to look at it from the perspective of assuming I don't know what the question is about. Here are the facts:

  • The question was closed on February 1st.
  • The last answer on the Meta discussion was on February 1st.
  • On February 8th, one week later, there is a downvoted, closed-as-off-topic question with very little leftover community interest sitting around on the site.

There is no reason to not delete such a question, no matter what the context (with the possible exception of very rare cases on metas).

In my eyes, Anna's deletion of that question was a clean-up task.

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Anna Lear is a member of the SE community team, it is her job to keep an eye on the SE sites and step in, if necessary. But in this case she is not overriding a moderator as far as I can see, as it was a mod that closed the question and I haven't seen any other mod step forward to defend the question. The community hasn't reopened it, as far as I know (but I can't check the number of votes now).

Anna Lear stated her reason to delete in the meta post:

I have deleted the question since the discussion around it has made it unsalvageable. If you choose to ask it again, I strongly suggest you at least find a different way to illustrate it.

This reason is independent from the actual subject, it is based on the controversy the question has caused. I also agree with this reasoning, a question that is this controversial doesn't work, it will create more discussions, flags and consume time of the mods and the community. And I see no reason to do that if you can ask the actual question without using the Holocaust example.

I don't see this action as overriding either the community or the local moderators, but as an effort to end the drama around this question.

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Well, I understand your point, but asking the same question without the context of the holocaust will a) of course remind everybody innvolved in this debate that it was originally asked in that context, so the context will be implicitly there. I prefer to talk about problems explicitly. b) It suggests that I, who asked the question, did something wrong. That's a very uncomfortable feeling in connection with questions about the holocaust. The accusation is, that I am respectless towards the victims which isn*t the case. I fear that closing and deleting will make me look as if I was. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 7:07
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@user: Near as I can tell, the closing of the question, the down-votes, and the rest of that meta discussion also suggest - rather strongly in some cases - that you did something wrong, though perhaps not intentionally. Deletion gives you an opportunity to do exactly what Anna suggests: re-ask the question without the visible baggage of its previous iteration to drag it down. –  Shog9 Feb 8 '13 at 7:11
    
Well, @Shog9, my meta thread had a voting of +3 and -1, summary +2. That's not what I would call a strong suggestion that I'm wrong. That is just one downvote in a very rabiate manner. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 7:23
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@userunknown: You can't just cite the number of votes to illustrate that you are "not wrong". You asked "the question was closed, why?" and I upvoted the question because I felt that it was an important issue. In my opinion closing the question as "off topic" was the right thing. So please don't use the number of upvotes for the meta thread (including my upvote) to prove that you "were right". –  0x6d64 Feb 8 '13 at 11:52
    
@0x6d64: Okay, I'm sorry. Convention on meta is, that upvote means "I agree" and downvote "I disagree". I will change my counting. So it is 2:2 on meta. The main impression for me is a missing interest either way - but quite typical for GL&U in general with its low traffic. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 20:37

Disclaimer: Mein Deutsch ist sehr schlecht.


There are no "global moderators", Anna Lear is a Stack Exchange employee, and more specifically a part of the community team. While each Stack Exchange community enjoys a certain degree of autonomy, it would be unrealistic to ask Stack Exchange employees to never interfere, after all this isn't a democracy.

That said, I'm not so sure I understand what's wrong here. The question was closed as off topic, deletion is the next logical step, if the question isn't improved. And the community had enough time to examine the question and improve it, the Meta discussion was up for a week before Anna stepped in. Also, I don't see how the discussion is on-going, all answers except Anna's were posted on Feb 1. I don't have an opinion on the specifics of your question (see disclaimer), but I think your best course of action would be to calm down and consider taking Anna's advice:

If you choose to ask it again, I strongly suggest you at least find a different way to illustrate it.

The topic of your question was controversial, and the community had already shown that they didn't welcome it (by closing it). The way I see it the deletion is the least important thing in this whole discussion.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Anna's action was wrong. If that's the case, your community moderators can reverse her action by undeleting and re-opening the question.

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Yes, the discussion is not going on, because Takkat is not responding to my comments (why I don't believe that the question is off topic) and the original flagging Eugene Seidel never showed up in chat and never answered a question in chat, nor did he respond in meta to my comments. His initial comment was -1 Worst Question I've ever seen on StackExchange, I'm disgusted without any argument at all. In meta he is insulting me as cruel and inhumane. Instead of explaining what his problem with the question is, he wrote incredulity that I should have to explain why the Question was offensive –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 6:57
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@userunknown Well, if no one's responding, perhaps you should take it as a sign and move on. –  Yannis Feb 8 '13 at 6:59
    
If I would ask my answer without mentioning the holocaust, I would confess that I made something wrong in asking it with that context, which is the context in which the question is coming up most often. Eugene Seidel, who raised the dispute, edited his answer two days ago. I don't agree that it had come to a stop. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 7:00
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@userunknown Eugene Seidel posted a long meta answer explaining his reasoning. There is no requirement for him to discuss this further if he doesn't want to. –  Mad Scientist Feb 8 '13 at 7:08
    
@MadScientist: Yes, he posted a long text, but didn't understand my question and debated against a straw man. I reacted in the comments, but he insulted me as being inhuman and cruel. I flaged that insult, and maybe triggered the appearance of Anna Lear that way, who deleted the original question. I had a hard time to understand what his concern is all about. If you look at the history of his reply, in the beginning he refused to argue his standpoint explicitly. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 7:20

This question was flagged as offensive for deletion. At this time I felt that the wording of the question may have been unclear, and that an edit would make a considerable improvement.

Therefore, and because we already had a good answer if the question was changed to a wider and different context, I decided to close rather than delete to give the OP or the community a chance to improve the question by removing the sensitive context, or to remove at least the provocative parts.

Details and suggestions for improvement were also discussed in detail in chat, sadly with little feedback from other communitiy members.

After there were no substantial edits and there were no additional constructive suggestions from the resulting meta discussion the next step was deleting the question. It was a wise decision from Anna to do. It should have come much early from us moderators, or the community at german.se.

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I can only shake my head about that decision, but I fear I have to accept it. The question arose in that context and makes perfect sense in that context. Removing the context is IMHO not justified at all. We normally ask for more context, to make a question clear, not for less. I read the question multiple times now, over and over again, and I can't see an offense there. Claiming that I didn't made substantial edits is wrong. I added two paragraphs with more words than there were before. My impression is, that the question is deleted to prevent it from being reopened. –  user unknown Feb 8 '13 at 20:46
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userunknown made a number of misrepresentations which I corrected in the comments below balpha's Answer. Unfortunately all those comments are now gone and because this Q is locked I can't post an Answer of my own :( ... I guess it doesn't really matter anymore. –  Eugene Seidel Feb 8 '13 at 21:35

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