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I posted an answer on the Winterbash 2014 secret hats post which has now been deleted. Why was my answer deleted? I'm pretty confident that post is what got me the Eureka hat, so I can't understand why it was removed.

It's been said that the purge was due to duplicate answers, but that doesn't make sense to me either. No where else on the SE network do good, upvoted answers get deleted by moderators. I don't see anything special about MSE that makes it any different. Is there something special about MSE that this is acceptable behavior?

I understand why the joke posts were removed, but to be fair about it, then someone should have removed the joke from the only existing answer left on the question too.

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    Has it been answered elsewhere on the post? Or was your contribution unique to that very busy thread? – Oded Jan 5 '15 at 16:41
  • @Oded Like I said, I am fairly confident that post is what earned me Eureka, so I would say it was, at least at one point in time, a unique post. – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 16:42
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    Also, what does it matter if it was a unique post or not, do we suddenly remove duplicate answers? – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 16:42
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    It looks like all of the independent answers were edited together into the one wiki answer, and then removed as they were now redundant. Just seems like that was the way the question was organized. – Brad Larson Jan 5 '15 at 16:44
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    From a reputation perspective, I can understand why some people are upset. The existing answer was created and edited after some of the other answers were created. And then updated to incorporate other details. In fairness, Some Guy with an elf hat was able to 'earn' gold badge, and other badges.... for partial answers, but noone else? – rolfl Jan 5 '15 at 16:46
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    Why would we keep duplicate answers? – random Jan 5 '15 at 16:48
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    @random why wouldn't we? Is there something special about MSE where moderators can decide to delete good answers on a whim? This wouldn't be an acceptable action on any other SE. Why would it be one here? – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 17:29
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    There is nothing special about MSE that requires needling through duplicate answers – random Jan 5 '15 at 17:33
  • Duplicate answers, even with upvotes, may get deleted from Super User. They were routinely deleted from Meta when it was also dealing with Stack Overflow's meta, back when Meta had moderators. – random Jan 5 '15 at 17:51
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    As the person who made the CW answer, I too was confused by the deletions. To someone who only saw the question after the deletions, it would look like I figured out all the secret hats by myself. – The Guy with The Hat Jan 5 '15 at 19:05
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    Duplicate Answers weren't the only answers Deleted. – Malachi Jan 5 '15 at 19:18
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I don't really have any more information for you than has already been said in animuson's answer and the comments, but since you asked...

It wasn't just your post that was removed; it was all but the one answer that actually was a complete answer (listed all the secret hats and had correct information about how to earn them). Your answer wasn't treated differently from any of the others that were deleted, so the following explanation is for the treatment of the thread as a whole.

That thread was a complete mess. In hindsight, it should have been community wiki with a single wiki answer from the beginning, but once it started accumulating answers, we let it go for a while. After all the secret hats were discovered, though, the thread turned into kind of a disaster. There were a lot of partial-(or complete) repeat answers, wrong answers from people who clearly hadn't read previous answers, and, just before I deleted all those answers, a lot of joke answers.

I cleaned up and locked the thread for several reasons:

  1. All the secret hats were reported on that page, which means no new Eureka hats would be awarded for further posts there.
  2. Deleting duplicate answers would not mean that any Eureka hats would be revoked.
  3. The post had already been community wiki for a while, meaning no one was earning new reputation for their answers there.
  4. The post was flagged more than once asking for the type of cleanup I performed, and I agreed with the request.
  5. Having a single, complete answer would make the post much more useful and readable to future visitors.

MSE is often different from all the "main" Q&A sites, but this post really comes down to one of the core goals for any Stack Exchange site: to leave useful artifacts. I'm sorry if the cleanup caused you to be confused or upset by lost reputation, but I stand by the decision.

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    what was done about the issue that @rolfl mentions in his comment above? meta.stackexchange.com/questions/246612/… – Malachi Jan 5 '15 at 19:19
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    and those Joke Answers were awarded Votes(Reputation) by the community. – Malachi Jan 5 '15 at 19:20
  • That's fair enough I suppose. Thank you for the explanation. It does concern me that valid answers were removed in the clean up, but so be it. My concern there echoes The Guy With The Elf Hat's. – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 19:24
  • For the record, I agree that the joke answers needed to be cleaned up @Malachi. I just think the post could have been cleaned up with a little more discretion. – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 19:32
  • one of those Joke Answers made it into the FAQ as well, but not the other Joke Answers – Malachi Jan 5 '15 at 19:32
  • Nevermind, the Joke Hats that were part of the Excitement are no more. we can only have so much fun... – Malachi Jan 5 '15 at 19:42
  • I tried to warn about this when the first joke answer was posted but was ignored, think I even raised a flag. Oh well! (Better Late Than Never :)) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 5 '15 at 20:53
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    "MSE is often different from all the 'main' Q&A sites" Read: MSE mostly shouldn't be powered by the SE engine, but by something else entirely, because it is a case study in misuse of a technology for the bloody sake of it and subsequent constant apologies for that fact. – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 7 '15 at 5:04
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Because that question turned into a FAQ. Maybe it wasn't a formal one with the fancy red tag, but it was a FAQ nonetheless.

Questions of that form benefit from having one neatly organized answer that contains all the information relevant to answering the question. Sometimes if the information is too much to fit into one answer, it can be split into multiple answers.

Questions like that severely suffer when there are a whole bunch of answers all saying somewhat the same thing with those little differences. Then we're not really answering questions any more, but just confusing users as they wonder "Which answer is the right answer?" They keep reading through more information not gaining any further understanding.

The practice of deleting all the other answers once they've all been integrated into a single answer is very common for FAQs here on Meta. Most users just don't notice it because FAQs tend to develop over time and the other answers don't end up deleted until well after the reputation effects have been made permanent and the discussion has died down. Winterbash is unique, though, in that the event is more heavily advertised and only runs for a short amount of time.

To put it simply: this was an act of general clean-up. Removing all the noise and repetition so that users can easily find the information they desire is definitely a good thing.

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    No offense @animuson, but I'd like to hear from the mod who did the deleting. – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 16:50
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    @RubberDuck bet you ten dollars paypal she says the same thing. – user1228 Jan 5 '15 at 17:22
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    not to mention cleaning out all the joke posts that were just piling up for no good reason. No, I don't need to see 38 posts with the hat upside down. – Martijn Pieters Jan 5 '15 at 17:25
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    Is that because you hate fun @MartijnPieters? – Taryn Jan 5 '15 at 17:26
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    @bluefeet: bah, humbug! – Martijn Pieters Jan 5 '15 at 17:27
  • @MartijnPieters mine was certainly not a joke post, although I'll admit I tried to make it fun. Point is, I lost a good chunk of rep when a good answer was deleted. – RubberDuck Jan 5 '15 at 17:30
  • @RubberDuck Yes, you lost some rep. But you didn't lose the most from that purge. – Kevin Jan 5 '15 at 17:33
  • @RubberDuck: I lost rep too, I had an answer up as well. It happens, it happened last year with Winterbash posts as well. Once Winterbash is over some cleaning up is inevitable. Yours was not one of the joke posts I was talking about. – Martijn Pieters Jan 5 '15 at 17:45
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    @RubberDuck FWIW, I've done this exact thing before with many of the FAQs here on Meta, back when it was still MSO. I took on a small side project of my own to clean them up as much as I could, because every once in a while we'd get random comments or even a new question wondering which answer of the FAQ was relevant and correct. The mere fact that someone had to ask us that means we failed at creating a FAQ. – animuson Jan 5 '15 at 18:31
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    The clean-up was warranted, and that's why your answer was deleted. I'm sorry you lost reputation, but that's just one of the side-affects. To be honest, it should have been community wiki from the beginning, so that everyone could contribute to a single canonical answer without all the confusion down below. Then we wouldn't be worrying about users complaining about reputation loss. – animuson Jan 5 '15 at 18:32
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As one of the authors of a non-joke answer that was deleted, I'm disappointed by the characterization that the rest of the answers on that question were useless or duplicates. I made six revisions to my answer to ensure it was somewhat detailed and accurate. Rather than simply saying, "do this," I described how I guessed and verified the requirements for the hat; I also discussed the connection between the name of the hat and the method for acquiring it.

The purpose of the consolidated summary answer, at least as I understood it, was to pin the requirements to the top so that users could quickly learn how to earn hats. Given that the event is over and nobody can earn any hats at all, that answer now collects the most useless part of each of the more detailed (non-joke) answers that came before it.

I'm not saying this sort of cleanup is never warranted or that moderators are not within their rights to do it, but I don't see the need for drastic measures here. What possible harm, or even inconvenience, would any user suffer who happens to find an old Q&A about an event that's no longer running, for which there exists a summary answer already pinned to the top by upvotes and acceptance?

I gather there were some flags on the question. There were answers that were clearly jokes. There were answers that were clearly duplicates. It would not have taken an inordinate amount of work to separate the wheat from the chaff, based purely on timestamps and vote counts. It did not need to be done right away; a lock would have been sufficient to keep the problem (assuming you grant it was a problem in the first place) from growing.

But the nail in the coffin of the "we did it for the quality of the site" argument to me is, if the whole point of deleting these answers was to clean up that Q&A and keep the useful bits, why are there still 80-odd comments hanging around on those posts? Those are the low-hanging fruit, after all; almost every one is idle chatter and/or obsolete. The notice that was added to the question even says it was "locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated."

I'm guessing this sounds like an angry answer but honestly, it's just that my sinuses are killing me and I have a tendency to extreme loquacity; to express how I really feel, here's Jean-Luc Picard. This was an unusually ham-handed reaction to a real molehill of a problem. It did a little harm in the form of lost reputation and bruised egos. It unjudiciously wiped a bunch of content, some of which was crap and some of which was not, from an interesting Q&A. The result is more concise, which is good, and more boring, which is bad.

Forgive me for not coming to a more satisfying conclusion, but my face feels like it's about to step into an alternate dimension. If I decide there's important content in my deleted answer that would be useful as part of the consolidated "FAQ style" answer, I'll edit it in. Anyone else whose answer was deleted is free to do the same. Okay. I'm going to Rite Aid now.

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    A well reasoned argument about how the +3/60-day rule for grandfathered rep is hurting the psyche of users – random Jan 7 '15 at 14:31
  • The "spirit, mind or soul" of users? That seems a bit melodramatic – Air Jan 7 '15 at 14:43
  • Isn't that just – random Jan 7 '15 at 14:46

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