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It seems that some of the answers and comments that I've posted at Server Fault have been removed, not by me.

Do users have the ability to edit or delete other users' answers and comments? If so, that's contrary to the idea of an open, community based forum. How will I know that my answers and comments aren't being edited and/or deleted? How can I trust the "forum" if I can't be assured that my input is not being altered?

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You have 3.9K of rep on serverfault and this is news to you? –  Rosinante Dec 5 '09 at 16:49
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It's not a forum –  jmfsg Dec 5 '09 at 17:27
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Ah, if only I had the rep on Meta to edit ;) –  CodeByMoonlight Dec 5 '09 at 18:14
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Wow. I'm sorry I asked. I know full well that answers can be edited, I'm specifically referring to some of my comments being deleted. How can I trust that what I post won't be removed and that my answers and comments reflect what I say, not what someone else edits them to say. I guess I can't. My apologies for troubling this esteemed group of individuals who are obviously more intelligent and insightful than I am. I was looking for a helpful answer and you guys hit me over the head with a hammer. –  joeqwerty Dec 5 '09 at 19:03
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@Joe: you pretty much just showed up screaming "Censorship!" without anything to back up your charges - how did you think that would play out? Users can edit other users' posts: that's... a core feature of SO, and yet your question seems ignorant of it. Users can flag answers and comments, causing them to be deleted - that's key to keeping spam, noise, and rude/offensive posts at bay. Moderators can immediately remove anything - again, necessary to prevent widespread abuse. If you feel you've been treated unfairly, you'll have to be more specific about what you feel was improperly removed... –  Shog9 Dec 5 '09 at 19:07
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Well, this what I was afraid of. @Joe, like the man said. Generally, the rep system ensures that edit rights, let alone close rights, are not abused. If you feel mistreated, best to ask about the specific problem, not sling around general accusations. –  Rosinante Dec 5 '09 at 19:38
    
@Shog9: I didn't scream anything. I asked a question. @Juan Manuel: It's not a forum? What is it? I suspect you knew what I meant even if I didn't use the correct terminology. @bmargulies: I didn't sling any accusations. I asked a question. @everyone who answered my question: I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone, but frankly I'm astonished at the negative tone to some of the answers and comments to my question here. Again, my apologies for being a neophytr, for not reading the FAQ, and for offending anyone with my obviously out of line question. Also, thanks for the downvotes as well. –  joeqwerty Dec 5 '09 at 22:08
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@Joe: There were two words in your original title: "Editing" and "Censoring". Censoring is a serious charge - and again, I must note that you've yet to back up your allegations with anything substantial. Editing, as I've mentioned once already, is a key part of what makes these sites unique; editing, along with the overall Q&A format, is what differentiates these sites from the ubiquitous attributed post-response forums that you are no doubt familiar with. At this point, I do hope you've taken some time to read the FAQ, so if you still have any questions you should now be equipped to ask. –  Shog9 Dec 5 '09 at 22:44
    
Downvotes are handed out pretty freely at meta, I've found. I tend to mark things CW to duck them. I still don't understand why @Joe doesn't understand how the word 'censorship' reads as a criticism rather than a question, especially in the absence of specific questions, but so it goes. –  Rosinante Dec 6 '09 at 3:18
    
@bmargulies: The flip side to doing that is that you can't gain rep when people agree with you here ... –  John Rudy Dec 6 '09 at 3:40
    
@Shog9 & @bmargulies: My use of the word "censorship" may have seemed accusatory, but my point is that the deletion of one of my comments on serverfault can be construed as a form of "censorship" by not allowing my "voice" to be heard on the forum and not letting my words speak for themselves. If others can edit, remove, etc. your answers\comments, how can you trust that your words and ideas are being presented as you intended? Editing for brevity, spelling, etc. is one thing but editing because an idea is contrary or not popular is another matter altogether. Thanks for your insight. –  joeqwerty Dec 6 '09 at 3:56
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@joeqwerty: OK, there's a pretty big disconnect here. It sounds like you had a comment get deleted. Others cannot edit your comments, but mods may delete them, and the community as a whole may delete them if the comment gets enough offensive flags. I promise to not flag you (but can't promise on anyone else's behalf) if you please just post the text of what got deleted, or something similar, so we can try to determine why it went buh-bye? Or better, e-mail team@stackoverflow.com ... –  John Rudy Dec 6 '09 at 7:35
    
I'm just going to let it go at this point. Franky, I'm dissapointed at the response I got here. My question may have been worded inappropriately and may have come across as inflammatory, and for that I apologize, but the "gang" mentality and negative tone of some of the answers and comments astonishes me. I made no specific accusations in my OP and was asking because, yes, I did have a comment deleted which made me wonder how many more of my comments or answers may have been deleted or altered. –  joeqwerty Dec 6 '09 at 17:57
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People respond to what they read. If you write something that is read as inflammatory, people will respond appropriately. And frankly, neither of the two highest-voted answers here comes across to me as even slightly negative; disagreement != negative. –  John Rudy Dec 7 '09 at 0:50
    
Sorry for adding to this, but I just wanted to say I kind of see where joeqwerty is coming from. Whether you find the word "censorship" offensive or not, it still applies. And it is, in some ways, contrary to openness. Of course various issues have to be balanced, and the current balance seems pretty good overall, but to maintain that balance you need to be open in discussing the issues too - not all stressy ("screaming" indeed!) –  Steve314 Oct 2 '10 at 2:29

6 Answers 6

As with any wiki-based project, users have the ability to edit each others' content to an extent far greater than is common on other formats such as your average bulletin board or mailing list. If you can't accept the possibility that what you write could be edited, then you're well advised to not post material on the site.

That said, there are checks and balances in place to ensure that people don't abuse the feature (c.f. rep requirements, rollbacks), and you always have the ability to edit, comment on, or reply to anything you post, so long as the question remains open.

Ease up!

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Strictly speaking from the dictionary definition of censorship, which is simply suppressing material on the grounds that it meets (or fails to meet) some arbitrary standard, yes, it's absolutely censorship. That is, censorship can be considered synonymous with moderation.

The more important question is whether or not this is beneficial to the community. I think that it can be (and has been) successfully argued that some moderation is vastly preferable to no moderation at all.

What would you trust more? An utterly unmoderated free-for-all? It's true that moderators are human, and mistakes can be (and have been) made. Nevertheless, the end result of the moderation process at SO a large, successful, community-driven site which thousands of people find "trustworthy" enough to use on a regular basis, inasmuch as trust is even relevant.

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There is no need to trust SO. You trust the babysitter with whom you leave your children. SO is a site for finding answers to questions. When you have a problem, you ask a question, or you find that it has already been asked, and apply the solution(s) provided by others. You don't trust that the answers are true, you verify that they are true.

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Directly from the Server Fault FAQ:

Other people can edit my stuff?!

Like Wikipedia, this site is collaboratively edited, and all edits are tracked. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your questions and answers being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

I don't see how this is in any way "contrary to the idea of an open, community based forum." All of the content is open to be modified by any user who has enough reputation.

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Having come here after asking a similar question, I'll just point out that even if all edits are tracked, I can't even see the history on my own comments - only on questions and answers. Having someone distort what you say is damaging irrespective of which classification you put on those words - though this is a hypothetical thing from my perspective (I have no knowledge of any abuse). –  Steve314 Oct 2 '10 at 2:20
    
@Steve314: Only moderators can edit your comments. You're right though, comment histories aren't visible like Q&A history is, not even to moderators. That's the main reason I'm very reluctant to edit anyone's comments. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 2 '10 at 2:46

There are several ways posts get deleted:

  • Comments will be deleted if the post to which they're attached get deleted.
  • Answers will be deleted it the question to which they're attached get deleted.
  • A post will be deleted if 6 people flag it as spam or offensive.
  • A question can be deleted once it's been closed - but that requires the original 5 close votes and then another 3 delete votes.

  • Moderators sometimes delete all the comments from a post if a lot of them (not necessarily yours) are offensive or off the point.

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Reading the FAQ, you will learn that users earn the right to edit, and even close, based on reputation. They earn reputation via the judgment of the community in voting up their questions and answers. If you can't live with that, you'll have to find someplace else to post questions and answers.

In other words, if you don't choose to trust this system, no one is forcing you to. If you don't trust this system, nothing in an answer to this question is very likely to persuade you to change your mind.

I originally wrote this before sidling over to sf.com and seeing that the OP has a goodly stock of rep and has been around for a while, which leads me to wonder if I am missing a point here somehow.

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