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I am asking this question because of a recent encounter with a moderator on this post. A moderator asked me to add an example to my answer, and when I didn't, he just deleted my answer.

Some extra points :

  • The post had a bounty that was close to elapsed
  • My answer was the only answer and AFAIK was correct
  • I added the example, but the moderator left the answer deleted and the bounty elapsed

Had my encounter been with anyone else but a moderator, I would have received a comment such as : "I down-voted your answer because an example is required. If you add the example I will reverse my action". And it would have had much the same effect on me.

Somehow it seems to me that deleting an answer when other actions were possible, is too-final, a too-strong disciplinary action against a disobedient user.

As an aside: Bounty posts are protected against closing, but not answers. As the poster here lost his reputation for nothing, I think that he is owed his reputation back.

[EDIT]

Apparently there is no answer and no guidelines to the question of whether a moderator should take moderator-level action when a weaker community-level action might suffice and communicate the same message.

As usual (sigh), my attempt to start a general discussion has only started everybody explaining how bad was my answer. In my opinion, an answer that really solves the poster's problem needs interaction with the poster. Deleting an answer on a bounty question, where obviously the poster waits for a solution, blocks this discussion and any further improvement of the answer in a direction profitable to the user, not to a moderator who is anyway a highly technical person.

I didn't get an answer to my question, but did get useful information for myself for the future. For others, especially moderators, I hope this post may lead to some thinking.

Thanks to everybody that has contributed an answer here.

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    I took a look at the answer's history and noticed that as originally written, it was not much more than a link-only answer. As the highest-reputation user on this site, and as our chief "bounty hunter", you should know how to write good answers that meet our quality standards. Link-only answers that don't directly address the question don't meet these standards. – bwDraco Nov 27 '16 at 19:54
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"With great power comes great responsibility." That applies to the moderators, but it also applies to you. As the user with the highest rep on the site, that makes your posts somewhat of an implied standard.

People look at your posts and expect to say, "I see why this guy is at the top." And in that position, new users should not be using one of your posts as an excuse that their low-quality post was just like what the highest-rated user posted. Unfortunately, when you're a rock star, you live under a microscope, and you have more influence than a typical "private" citizen.

The fact is, many of your answer are exemplary and the vast majority of them are at least good, solid answers. Occasionally, though, like this answer, you just phone it in.

Bounty questions aren't inherently special, but readers have an expectation that if people are competing for a bounty, they will put in a little extra effort to earn it. Bounty threads are in a spotlight and get a lot more scrutiny, and answers tend to be held to a higher standard.

So when the highest-rated user posts comment-fodder on a bounty question, it isn't surprising that the answer would get noticed and treated with more definitive attention than a random post by a random user.

Was the action excessive? Not every post of that quality by any user will be noticed, and if it is, it wouldn't necessarily be deleted. But being in the spotlight of a bounty, the treatment is also in the spotlight. Deletion was within the bounds of prescribed action, and your posts shouldn't appear to be subject to special, kid-glove treatment.

I'm not saying that it was, or might have been, treated more harshly. Rather the opposite. Site quality standards should apply based on the post, not the author. A bounty post is highly visible. To ignore a quality issue on such a post would have the appearance of special treatment for high-rep users. So it was appropriate and fair for a moderator to take some form of action on the post.

Was the action overboard ("reverse discrimination")? That's largely in the eye of the beholder. But when you're in a position of increased attention and scrutiny, avoid putting the moderator in a position where that question is raised.

All that said, the answer is now a good one and warrants undeletion. As far as the bounty, I'm not clear on the timing in this case, or the potential for a bounty to be retroactively fixed. Frankly, it would bother me to have a bounty awarded for the original post on a technicality if that's what was there at the time.

If the answer was improved to its current form during the bounty period but not undeleted in time for the bounty, responsibility for that seems to rest largely with you for posting the original version, the timeliness of improvement, and failure to flag the revision for undeletion as stipulated. That's all part of the learning process, and mistakes you won't make next time. Life is unfair.

  • Thanks for the compliments. Besides still maintaining that my original answer wasn't content-less, just not up to my normal standards, you did explain why my answers are judged differently. I will have to be more careful - life was simpler when I had less reputation. – harrymc Nov 27 '16 at 20:36
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    Your answers are not judged differently. I don't particularly care how much rep you have when moderating, other than pointing out you should know better sometimes. – Journeyman Geek Nov 28 '16 at 0:25
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    Just to clarify, I didn't mean to imply that the answer was, or might have been, judged differently. My point was that high-rep users shouldn't expect a free pass (i.e., I've contributed a lot to the site, so just let this crappy post slide). Experienced users are expected to know better and their posts are the examples new users emulate. Their own expectation should be being held more rigorously to site standards (not higher standards). It's hard to miss or ignore a highly visible bounty post, so it's appropriate for a moderator to not let it slide based on the author's other contributions. – fixer1234 Nov 28 '16 at 1:51
  • @JourneymanGeek: There are tons of answers on SU that are worse than mine was. I still claim that on this one you used a sledge-hammer when a little tap on the fingers was enough. The time for a netiquette for moderators has evidently not come yet, and it is clearly not to be developed in this post, but think about it. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 6:51
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    I delete many of them. This is exactly the same as trying to argue your way out of a speeding ticket cause other people speed too. Moderation does not give me omniscience... But most people don't realise how much janitorial work takes place. – Journeyman Geek Nov 28 '16 at 6:54
  • @JourneymanGeek: We are all thankful to you and the moderators for keeping this forum as clean as possible. I agree it's not possible to deeply analyze each post and answer before acting. That's what guidelines and netiquettes are made for. I remark that not all too-brief answers are useless - I sometimes find such answers on stackoverflow very useful when one can find the missing info on google. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 7:01
  • Read through your answer at least twice before deleting. Didn't take me very long. As for "finding the missing info on google" - the idea is people should be finding what they miss elsewhere here. We arn't yahoo answers after all. – Journeyman Geek Nov 28 '16 at 8:25
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    When I vote on an answer, I look to see if a reasonable knowlegeable person could solve their problem, by that answe alone. If that cannot be done then I can't possible find the answer helpful to the community. Sadly due to your reputation harrymc and overall high answer score, your answers are likely never to enter the review queue, unless its a audit. You would have to submit a very short answer, for that answer to appear, in the review queue. "There are tons of answers on SU that are worse than mine was" - Please show us more respect then that. – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 14:42
  • @Ramhound: Of course I didn't mean it this way. Please allow me more common-sense than to insult people who care about this forum. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 19:44
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    @harrymc - You are the one who is defending your original revision of your answer. You then indicate that, because there are worst answers out there, the answer shouldn't have been deleted. In the end because of your high reputation, you are held to a higher standard, because your answers are no longer reviewed by the community in the same way a new user's answer would be reviewed. So I will repeat what I said, show us more respect, then to justify the answer's original revision with an excuse as lame as "there are worst answers out there" if thats the case FLAG THEM so they can be deleted. – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 20:10
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    @Ramhound: Not at all - read my edit on the post. I was trying to discuss some sort of netiquette about when deletions should be avoided or postponed or when down-voting should be preferred. I failed, as nobody wants to discuss this - bashing me seems like the preferred fun. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 20:17
  • @harrymc - I am not "bashing" you. You wanted feedback. Just because you don't agree with that feedback, does not mean we are bashing you, you specifically do I even mention that fact your question does not even contain an actual question? Your actual question, "When should a moderator not use his super-powers?", has very little do with the question body. – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 20:22
  • @Ramhound: But you must admit that this provocative title generated much interest and it did have a connection. It didn't help in the end, as most people apparently never read beyond the first paragraph. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 20:25
  • @harrymc - You don't know what people read. I read the entire body of the question you ask, which does not literally contain a question, due to absence of a sentence ending in a question mark in the body of the question itself. A moderator at the end of the day, is still an end user, which means they should review content just like everyone else does. – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 20:28
  • @Ramhound: Quite possibly my post was badly written. But the title did have a question mark : When should a moderator not use his powers? And the body meant to give a concrete example to discuss : Deleting an answer on a time-limited bounty rather than forcing improvement thru weaker actions. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 20:36
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I'm the moderator who did it.

It feels like the fair, and best course of action would be to treat these answers as I would any other answer from a user who I feel is inexperienced of the ways of the site. These answers don't exactly reflect the sort of quality one expects, and in this specific case is massively speculative. I've let users know in the comments of my expectations in quite a few instances where I've felt an answer was not good enough. Every single one of these comments were written specific to the answer, and thought went into them.

If I comment, I feel an answer is trivially salvagable. If not, deletion and optional comments to let the OP know is a tool for encouraging more substancial improvements. If I'm commenting multiple times with no response, well, clearly the OP dosen't see the need to make his question more awesome.

Links don't make answers. I've pointed out many times in the past, and have deleted many answers that were purely links with very similar messages. The request to flag once its corrected is literally one last chance to fix the issues with an answer, and in such a way I might not necessarily be the mod who deals with it. I could just as easily delete it and not give guidence, you've been on the site long enough to know how things should work,

Since you feel this is "too violent", Let me point out what the site rules say about this.

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are:

  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

Reimbursement of bounties is not typically the policies of the site. In addition, if the bounty is awarded since its the only answer, as opposed to the correct answer, it goes against both the spirit and letter of the rules. A bounty is literally spending reputation to advertise a question and there's no certainty of an answer.

Quite simply, this is merely a application of the rules of the site to both the letter and the spirit of it.

  • Hi. I'm not angry and I did vote for you as moderator. But I beg to differ: (1) This was not a non-answer, as it detailed what the user had to do: assign the shortcuts in Windows and then map them using AHK. (2) I had no knowledge of the poster's technical ability and didn't know how much help he required. One example wouldn't help a total newbie do all that he wanted - he would still need to do some work. Had he asked, I would have done much more than the example I finally added, but I needed some feedback from him. – harrymc Nov 27 '16 at 18:25
  • (3) The basic question is not answered: Should a moderator down-vote an answer or delete it? Deletion blocks answering and it also takes some procedure and time to undo. – harrymc Nov 27 '16 at 18:47
  • A moderator does what seems appropriate at the time. I rarely downvote answers deserving deletion, simply cause I have the option of undeleting it once the OP's fixed the answer. – Journeyman Geek Nov 28 '16 at 0:24
  • My answer was too-brief but quite enough for a technical person: It had the procedure and where to find the needed info. You wanted it to apply to a wider audience and forced me to do that - your prerogative. I just tried in this post to clarify some points. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 8:15
  • @harrymc - What about everyone else that isn't technical? My mother who knows nothing about computers, could write an answer like this one, all you said basicaly was use "AutoHotKey" – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 14:47
  • @Ramhound: Knowing your abilities, they had to be inherited from someone. It wouldn't surprise me to see her advising the poster to assign Windows shortcuts and then map them through AHK, and I wouldn't call her advice nothing. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 19:39
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The original version of the answer counts as a non-answer, given:

There is extensive help to be found on the Web for writing AutoHotkey scripts, but I can also give hints if you wish.

Which, in the context of answers, is telling them to keep looking. (It's not for that one line, but that line summarises the whole answer.)

Anyone would be right in flagging or voting to delete that answer in that state as a non-answer. They could also downvote, but to say it wasn't subject to being deleted is not looking fairly at the requirements of an answer being self-contained and answering the question.

The comment about it being deleted includes this:

Feel free to edit this to an acceptable answer, then let us know so we can undelete it.

That is an ask of you to flag your answer after the edit so that anyone of the other moderators can also undelete it, if it was made into a legitimate answer. Only moderators can undelete moderator deleted posts.

  • (1) You have not answered the question of whether deleting my answer in this context was too violent and whether the poster should be reimbursed. (2) It wasn't exactly a non-answer as it linked to the AutoHotkey home page where lots of information and examples are available. (3) I admit that the need to flag wasn't clear to me as this was my first such case, but in any case not much time was left before bounty expiration. (4) Could you undelete my answer which did cost me some time to write. – harrymc Nov 27 '16 at 17:33
  • You could always copy and paste your old answer into a new answer... – Burgi Nov 27 '16 at 17:57
  • @Burgi: I thought of it, but it seemed kind of sneaky. – harrymc Nov 27 '16 at 18:06
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    There is no violence involved. A moderator will and should delete answers no matter if it was posted on a bountied question or not – random Nov 27 '16 at 19:27
  • @harrymc - bounties can only be refunded in specific situations, the situation you describe, isn't one of those situations. The bounty served its purpose it got the author an answer, who I might add, didn't aware your answser the bounty. The author had lots of time to award the bounty, they choose not to award the bounty, to any answer. Bounty started on the 19th and your answer was only deleted 2 days ago, so the user had 5 days, to award the bounty BEFORE the answer was deleted. – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 14:53
  • @Ramhound: Who knows what the poster did. But if he came back after a few days and found no answer at all, he would have been disgusted. – harrymc Nov 28 '16 at 19:31
  • @harrymc - I can tell by the history of the question what happened. – Ramhound Nov 28 '16 at 20:06
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When the answer was deleted, it looked like this. (Screenshot for <10K users.)

I now address this comment:

(1) You have not answered the question of whether deleting my answer in this context was too violent and whether the poster should be reimbursed. (2) It wasn't exactly a non-answer as it linked to the AutoHotkey home page where lots of information and examples are available. (3) I admit that the need to flag wasn't clear to me as this was my first such case, but in any case not much time was left before bounty expiration. (4) Could you undelete my answer which did cost me some time to write.

The answer was correctly deleted for being a non-answer, i.e. being only a link to somewhere else. Cleaning up such things is exactly what moderators are supposed to do. The moderator in question was very generous in giving you a warning before removing the answer.

Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how much awesome info there is on an external site if the outside page changes or becomes unavailable; that's why we require answers to stand on their own as much as possible. Relevant SU FAQ: How do I recommend software in my answers? Answers that rely on external software must explain how to use the software to accomplish the task, per point #6. Had you said included an AHK script that accomplishes the task, the answer would be excellent.

Bounty candidate or not, non-answers are non-answers. If it makes you feel any better, the answer wasn't yet eligible for automatic bounty awarding. The question owner needn't get their bounty price back; in the current system, bounties buy attention, not answers.

Since the answer now appears to address the problem in the question, I would support its undeletion. Note that time spent on an answer doesn't necessarily justify its existence. I once spent some time putting together a really neat answer with cool screenshots, but I realized only after posting that it didn't address the problem. So I removed it.

  • Thanks for the trouble you went into to write this answer. I still maintain that: (1) This is not a non-answer, as it detailed what the user had to do: assign the shortcuts in Windows and map them using AHK. (2) I had no knowledge of the poster's technical ability and didn't know how much help he required. One example wouldn't help a total newbie do all that he wanted. (3) The basic answer is not answered: Should the moderator have down-voted my answer or deleted it? Deletion blocks answering and it also takes some procedure and time to undo. – harrymc Nov 27 '16 at 18:18

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