I noticed that all answers to this question have been deleted.

IMO at least one of those answers was better than nothing (i.e. arguably imperfect but shouldn't/needn't have been deleted).

Assuming they were deleted by one moderator:

  • Is there consensus or discussion between moderators before deletion (i.e. does more than one moderator believe that these answers should have been deleted)?
  • Do moderators invariably agree with other's decisions, and give each other carte blanche to delete whatever they don't agree with?
  • Does something (e.g. a private consensus between moderators) prevent a single moderator deleting things, which neither the community nor other moderators think should have been deleted?

May I suggest to the moderator in question that you:

  • Consider simply down-voting any answer you don't like, instead of deleting it
  • Seek the opinion of a second moderator (and/or of the community) before you delete an answer, unless that opinion has already been clearly expressed for example by the answer's having several downvotes.

3 Answers 3


I was the moderator that removed all three answers. The whole issue was brought up by one moderator in our chat room, that moderator didn't declare which action they favor (deletion was one of the possible actions they brought up). I wrote that I would tend to remove all the answer because they're original research, and later another moderator recommended to go through with the deletion.

To answer your questions, in more complicated issues we moderators tend to discuss them. There are no hard rules here, if time is an issue we usually act unilaterally, and for clear issues we tend to act alone as well.

All the moderators tend to have a similar view of what the site should be. This was even more pronounced in the original set of pro-temp mods, especially as the direction of the site was not entirely clear at that point. My impression is that this view is supported by a majority of the community, as the elections also have shown. But that doesn't mean we mods don't disagree. We tend to agree on the major stuff, but we're not always the same opinion on individual actions. This is mostly not visible as such disagreements might be discussed in the mod-only chat.

In a case where we mods strongly disagree, I think the only sane choice would be to discuss the whole thing on meta. There are no technical barriers preventing a moderator from going against the rest, but we can override the decisions of other mods. If we strongly disagree that is a sign that the issue should be discussed with the whole community.

  • 3
    I would add that we also challenge each other on decisions already made (i.e. "Why did you choose to take this action here? It seems harsh/soft."), and occasionally agree to reverse them. I think that is important, culturally, not to close ranks and accept/defend every decision made just because it was made by a fellow mod.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 23:23

It is also worth noting here that questions & answers on Skeptics often get temporarily deleted to stop a rush of downvotes where we're of the opinion that they could well be turned into good questions/answers. Maybe not in this case, but true in plenty of others.


Coming back to the specific question here:

All three answers did back-of-the-envelope calculations, which have caused controversy here before.

As then, it wasn't the act of, say, adding two numbers that was the problem. It was the act of declaring that adding the two numbers is the most appropriate calculation to perform.

Did that calculation neglect to include tax, friction, management overhead, spoilage, sick days or any number of other factors that make calculations more difficult? What other hidden assumptions are there? How would we know?

The popularity of the Martingale Betting System and pyramid schemes are examples where people can be taken in by back-of-the-envelope calculations that don't consider all the issues.

For this reason, we want to avoid answers that rely on original research, and instead look at peer-reviewed research where we can also see the reactions of the scientific community to the calculations.

  • 1
    Back of the envelope calculations would mean theoretical answers, not original research (pedantically speaking)
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 9:08
  • When a condition (e.g. number of people in the family, for tax purposes) isn't stated in the original claim, then the condition should (must) be clarified/chosen in the answer. IMO the answers did that and were therefore on-topic: they presented relevant evidence e.g. numbers from the tax code and publicly-available cost-of-living figures.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 11:56
  • @ChrisW I believe it's a bit more complex than that. Answering the question properly does require a lot of expertise in the field. The answers did not bring any evidence to show that the formulas they were using were applicable (correct, general, acceptable in the context). They also failed to document the error margins they were incurring into (some claimed 1 cent precision, some claimed to be "close enough" without reference). We had three users trying to justify their position with some calculations and unproven expertise, not focusing the answer on the evidence.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 13:48

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