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Before May 25, 2019 - The help on all sites doesn't cover three things well enough IMO.

https://meta.stackexchange.com/help/user-was-removed

  1. It doesn't acknowledge that in some cases - community managers will approve a deletion that ends up changing reputation substantially in one event (sometimes thousands of rep points revert in rare cases where the deleted user voted broadly or over years towards the recipient accounts).
  2. It doesn't define what very high reputation score means (absolute or relative to what?).
  3. It doesn't point people to this great answer (or other history from 2010/2012 timeframe) that I presume is what we have today in place when User deletion reverts previous voting and reputation totals of other accounts: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/268608/165931

I'd like the help to summarize more closely the process we have in place today.

I'm not asking to change the rules on votes being permanent or not permanent or some other compromise. That’s been asked many times already.

In the near term, if we had edits to the help article, moderating all the sites might be a little easier to explain this removal is by design and intended. Here are the soft / incorrect parts I'd like to see tuned up:

This removal occurs whenever a user is deleted, unless that user had a very high reputation score.

Additionally, please refine this line:

In such cases, the staff use a special deletion that preserves the votes, resulting in no reputation change for those who had been voted on by that user.

If there is a deletion tool that can override the vote preservation, please state that plainly. This sounds like people are arbitrarily cooking the vote books to me. I don't get any impression that's what actually happens in practice, but the words are too soft IMO here and should be sharp and clear.

I personally fully support when removal has happed each and every time I've seen it happen, but would like the help to be more transparent about how and why the design contemplates reversing large periods and volume of votes both up and down when patterns come to light after the fact and this change is blamed on a user being removed.

I understand people have strong opinions about whether rep should be removed or not, so the least we can do is be clear and plain about how and what is happening and not have a wrong / unclear help article.

  • S**t happens ... Though seems to need to happening some (and rare) times. I don't see any improvement or advantage regsrding that feature request.The rest of the story is a private thing, as it was already mentioned here. – πάντα ῥεῖ May 25 at 18:30
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    Thanks @πάνταῥεῖ I’ve made edits so this is hopefully very clear about wording the help system, not advocating for other changes in procedure around user deletion. Other Q cover that topic extensively. – bmike May 25 at 22:38
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Update: The page has now been edited to say:

We have a system in place that examines the impact of removing a user's votes. If the user has cast a large number of votes, deletion will be held up so staff may consider preserving the votes prior to the deletion. The decision is at the staff's discretion and cannot be reversed after the deletion has taken place. If you are seeing a "User was removed" event in your reputation history, it implies that the user either hadn't cast enough votes to be reviewed, or staff made the explicit decision not to preserve the votes.


So reading a lot of the confusion around this system, I want to clarify some things just so that they're all in one place, before continuing on:

  • As far as the "special deletion" - I've no idea where that terminology actually came from. It's weird and unsettling, and makes it sound like we're way more involved in the process than we really are.

    There is no special tool for deleting a user without preserving votes. When a user meets certain thresholds, their deletion that was already supposed to have gone through is held up for review by staff. Staff can make the decision to transfer their votes to the Community user in order to preserve them before processing the deletion, but the deletion still goes through as normal like any other deletion, at the click of a button that indicates "we're done looking at this."

  • Those thresholds are entirely based on number of votes and number of users voted. Reputation is not considered at all.
  • Hitting either of those thresholds only guarantees someone from staff will review the deletion. It is not a guarantee that the votes will be preserved, and we may refuse to preserve the votes for any number of odd reasons relating to the account.
  • Voting fraud being involved is only one of the most common reasons that we would refuse to preserve votes. It is not the only reason, and voting fraud existing doesn't even always mean we would refuse - it's just incredibly likely that we would refuse. So to everyone: Please do not assume that votes not being preserved was due to voting fraud. It is not always true.

That said, what bothers me most is that wording all of that into a sentence or two is really hard. Simply changing it from "high reputation" to "number of votes" is still incredibly inaccurate, because that makes it sound like a high number of votes will always be preserved, which isn't true. There are plenty of exceptions.

Past that, the text definitely just gives users a false hope that the decision might be reversed because it isn't explicit in mentioning that the decision was already made, which just results in even more noise. So here's a rewrite that tries to encompass all of this information:

If the user has cast a large number of votes, deletion will be held up so staff may consider preserving the votes prior to the deletion, in order to prevent other users from losing large amounts of reputation. The decision is at the staff's discretion and cannot be reversed after the deletion has taken place. If you are seeing a "User was removed" event in your reputation history, it implies that the user either hadn't cast enough votes to be reviewed, or staff made the explicit decision not to preserve the votes.

Note that we will not define the exact thresholds for how many votes will trigger review.

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    I would support something along the listed of there is manual human review so that someone can preview the reputation change that will happen when some accounts are deleted. even getting things together like this post is super helpful. Thanks! – bmike May 25 at 18:58
  • @bmike There isn't actually any way for us to easily see how much a user's reputation will actually be affected by the change. While we can make a super-conservative guess by just multiplying upvotes by 10, it's generally not necessary to look at anything other than vote counts. – animuson May 25 at 19:04
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    I wonder if having a database query to run a quick check - here 're the top 10 absolute rep changes you will make real when you click the button. I don't know if I'd want to see actual user names if I were in your shoes - but having some idea what the real effect would be something I'd design (says the guy not designing this system). – bmike May 25 at 19:18
  • The help center article was originally copied from an older version of this FAQ answer. The original text regarding vote preservation criteria being "a very high reputation score" and the idea of a "special deletion" can be traced back to this edit. (Note that the sources they cite only broadly say "high-activity", not specifically "high reputation".) – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog May 25 at 19:30
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    How about something like "We have a system in place that examines the impact of removing all votes. If there is a high number of votes or large reputation change for individual users, the deletion will be held up until a moderator reviewed it manually. They can decide to preserve the votes, if there are no reasons speaking against it, like e.g. detected voting fraud or anything else. Once the vote removal took place, it is irreversible though." That contains more information about the reasoning, while also emphasizing the human factor and irreversibility. – Byte Commander May 25 at 21:37
  • @ByteCommander A modified version of that is what ended up getting placed in the page. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog May 28 at 18:35
  • Nice. I'm glad I could contribute some inspiration, even if it was just a minor part. Thanks for the notification @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog – Byte Commander May 29 at 0:06
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I agree that "unless that user had a very high reputation score" is the wrong text, since it's decidedly incorrect. However, going into detail on what the specific criteria or whatever is isn't really relevant. It's enough to say something like this: "This removal occurs whenever a user is deleted (except under special circumstances)," possibly with a link to Shog9's post.

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