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A question about electrostatic discharge that I had answered was removed today, and with it I lost 592 reputation. The question is available via cache. I don't agree with the rationale for closing it out, but didn't take too much issue with it as it was still available for viewing.

The boilerplate rationale for closing it was:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

The person who asked the question could have worded it a bit better, but the point behind the question was entirely valid - basically why doesn't ESD seem to be as significant an issue now as it was ~20 years ago. Their perception was accurate; ESD has become primarily a supply side issue while years ago products made it to the consumer market with significant ESD vulnerabilities. That's not an opinion.

Considering the effort that I went to in providing sources for the information I provided, its a tough sell to call the answer opinion based. There isn't much logical consistency in believing that a question is opinion based but has an entirely fact based answer backed up with sources from science, research and industry.

On a side note, there are very few posts on this topic on SU that are thorough, provide sources, and are fully accurate. Most get some key aspects of the subject incorrect. I won't bore anyone with the list of answer and the inaccuracies in them, but compared to most topics covered on SU, this one needed a good, thorough and verifiable answer.

I made sure that I said nothing I could't back up with a legitimate source, or in a couple cases, I noted that the statement was in dispute or in active study, and the answer isn't yet 100% known. None of that falls under opinion. Active scientific debate is not opinion - it's a key foundation of the scientific method.

In any event, the answer I gave was well received and I felt covered the topic pretty thoroughly. Regardless of the process behind closing the question, it seems pretty strange to wipe out the reputation that comes with the answer. A search through this forum didn't clarify whether or not that was supposed to happen; this post seems to indicate it is not supposed to be subtracted out.

I have two questions / comments about this:

  1. What is the policy on removing reputation on a well received answer when the original question was deleted?

  2. I think its worth considering making the process of closing / deleting someone's contribution(s) more transparent. It would be trivial to offer the impacted parties an opportunity to address the concerns; a message to the impacted users containing the rationale for the decision and with a mechanism to for them to provide feedback if they see fit.

  • I agree with your last point, but the reason given for deletion wasnt that it was off topic; not sure I agree with that either but at least an argument could be made. I am hoping a SU mod can chime in on the points. – Argonauts Aug 14 '16 at 0:13
  • The answer didn't contain an opinion, which is why I am asking about it. – Argonauts Aug 14 '16 at 1:17
  • It was definitely taken out today, was at 2350 ish. Shows up in the activity log I can see – Argonauts Aug 14 '16 at 1:26
  • Good News – Ramhound Aug 14 '16 at 1:57
  • I appreciate the help. I didn't see the 60 day caveat; although it must be close to that. Maybe someone can post a better question on the same subject and I can leverage the couple hours I put into that. – Argonauts Aug 14 '16 at 2:09
  • You should propose an edit to the existing question. If the question is not on hold eventually it should be deleted, the reason it was deleted today, isn't unreasonable though which is the reason i suggested improving the question for the author. – Ramhound Aug 14 '16 at 2:16
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This specific question has been undeleted and the particulars addressed in answers by the two moderators involved. But the issue seems to come up periodically, so let me post my two cents about the issue in general.

Closure

This question's wording really was pretty bad, and I was ready to vote to close it before it starting getting surprisingly decent answers.

The problem with the opinion-based close reason is that it refers to the question, not the answers, and it's based on potential, not fact. The site sometimes gets really good answers to a really bad question, and that should be considered in making decisions on the question's disposition.

Deletion

As random points out, questions are closed when they don't meet site standards or aren't a good fit, which means they generally don't belong here. However, there are levels of "needing to go".

  • Spam, obscene, or otherwise in need of immediate removal
  • Off-topic, unconstructive, and of no real use to any user (no reason to keep it longer than it needs to be here)
  • Marginally on-topic, very poor quality, probably of use or interest to just the OP (give it a short window of opportunity to see if anybody can improve it or there is any general interest)
  • Issues like being opinion based but otherwise on-topic (the resolution needs to consider other factors, which I'll mention, but removal isn't an emergency)

Closed questions that meet certain criteria for automated handling get deleted by the system, depending on time, votes, answers. views, and author status. However, that can take a year or more (or never, for questions that don't meet the criteria).

So the system needs manual house cleaning for questions that aren't handled automatically or for which human judgement would be more effective. That can be done by moderators or high reputation users, but deletion should be done cautiously. For example, a question that is:

  • clearly off-topic by today's standards
  • should have been considered off-topic at the time it was written
  • has answers that provide no current value
  • if there are high upvotes they make no sense to a sober viewer

There's no reason to wait if there is a reason to clean house.

Even then, the need to remove it is not an emergency. And certainly, if it involves a newer question and non-trivial rep is involved, it isn't so critical to remove it that it must be done immediately; it can wait at least until the rep is "vested".

There is also an alternative to deletion (historically locking the question), for threads that can still be useful, even though they aren't a good fit.

Mitigating factors

A deletion decision should take a number of mitigating factors into account:

  • Potential for improvement. There used to be a "very low quality" close reason, a criterion for which was that the question didn't even have the potential to be improved. Deletion decisions should lean in that direction. Even if the question doesn't get improved during the hold period or soon after closure, if it received significant upvotes, or good answers, that points to some raw potential.

    Good answers answer something, and it ought to be possible to make the question worthy of the answers. Worst case for a thread that would face deletion, anyway, would be to rewrite the question to reflect how the question "should have been asked". I'm not talking about a case where someone writes a great answer to something that is different from what the question asks. We don't rewrite questions to fit the answer. The solution there might be to post an entirely new question and recycle the answer. I'm referring to the case where the answer answers what was asked, so rewriting the question doesn't change the meaning or intent.

    This question is a case in point. Clean up would have been better before closure, but people were spurred to action by this Meta question. The question went from being deleted to being improved and reopened because the potential was there all along, as evidenced by the answers.

  • Community opinion. Not much about the site's standards are absolutely cut and dry or set in stone, and that's on purpose. Within limits, the community decides what should be here. Sometimes the voting looks like a lot of people were under the influence, but when the community has spoken, we should be extremely careful about overruling it.

  • Actual answer quality. When a crappy question is sitting there by its lonesome, we can speculate that it is likely to attract low quality answers. And if those low quality answers start coming in, we can know we were right. In either case, we can give serious thought to closure and deletion.

    However, if good answers start coming in, we need to reassess the speculation. You can't act on the basis of "answers will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions" when you have the answers and clearly they are not.

  • Value of the answers. The purpose of the site is a knowledge base of quality answers; the answers are the "meat" of the site. The questions provide the framework for originally creating the answers, and serve as a way to anchor and organize the answers to help find them. But Google finds answers directly, the searches don't rely on the quality of the question.

    Like the question that triggered this thread, a poor quality question might not get improved, at least in a timely way. bwDraco's answer to a related Meta question makes the point that high quality answers should never be discarded on the basis of the quality of the question. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water because the bath water is dirty.

  • If I understand /help/roomba correctly, upvoted closed questions will never be automatically deleted, nor will closed questions with an upvoted/accepted answer. – Ben N Aug 14 '16 at 15:58
  • @BenN, good point. Updated the answer. Thanks. – fixer1234 Aug 14 '16 at 18:11
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I've undeleted the question tho I would leave it to the community to decide if it should be on hold.

That said, it's an unexceptional question, bordering on terrible, with exceptional answers. It kind of won the HNQ lottery and would probably have been forgotten if it had been closed.

Reopening the question was on the merits of the answer, not the question, which probably should have been edited/closed more quickly.

I've attempted to improve the question. This might have been a good idea to do earlier before the closure.

I may follow this up with its own, detailed meta question.

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The question was closed. And closed either leads to being deleted or fixed in a way that makes the question in scope for the site topic and subsequently reopened.

Closed is not a synonym for no more answers, but that the question (if not otherwise a duplicate) doesn't belong on the site any more.

As to why the reputation on an answer to an out-of-scope/off-topic question disappears when deleted goes to when it happens.

First, if you've contributed something worthwhile to the site, you should keep the reputation for that even if it eventually gets deleted. "Worthwhile" here is defined as,

  • A score of 3 or greater
  • Visible on the site for at least 60

Since the question was deleted inside of 60 days instead of left to be deleted at 61, that is why the reputation goes with it.

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