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Was the wheel invented before the wall? is trivially answerable by looking up the history of "Wheel" and "Wall" on Wikipedia.

That is why I -- providing those links, plus a link to the "Wall of Jericho" -- asked the OP what remained unanswered.

My understanding was that "claims" that are trivially answerable aren't on-topic on Skeptics.SE. I was asking that comment with the intention to vote-to-close unless the OP came up with some non-trivial angle.

There were other comments which I don't quite recall, and the question was gathering downvotes (I assume as the lack of research done by OP was obvious).

Coming back a couple of minutes later, I find that my comment has been deleted. Instead, we now find an answer by another user, that basically provides the same links as my comment. Both question and answer start collecting upvotes.

Questions:

1) Why was my comment considered delete-worthy? Isn't a request for clarification of the question what comments are for?

2) Why was this done within minutes, as if I had been posting spam or attacking the OP?

3) Why is an answer with basically the same content left standing at the same time?

(Did someone take exception at the one word ("unsurprisingly") with which I expressed myself unsurprised that the POTUS would make a trivially false claim?)

4) What is the policy on trivial Wikipedia lookups: officially answerable, or reason for vote-to-close?

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    Generally speaking, leaving a note when you delete other user's contributions would be basic civility. – DevSolar Jan 11 at 15:49
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    Can't answer on mod-actions, and didn't see/didn't flag it; but the comment here above is really a worthy feature-request for meta.SE, as some 'features' of comments are designed that way? Sometimes I do not care about my or other's fleeting comments, then it also bugs me to not know what happened. – LаngLаngС Jan 11 at 15:55
  • Confession: I thought I had deleted it, and was about to pen an answer very similar to @MadScientist's until I checked. I will say: I am preparing a meta question (but it is probably a couple of weeks away) to discuss some aspects of comment policy that I think should change. This post isn't the same subject, but touches on some of the same concerns. – Oddthinking Jan 12 at 4:51
  • My criticism of it being a dumb question was also deleted. – fredsbend Jan 13 at 15:48
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I deleted that comment because it was a pseudo answer. I cleaned up a few other comments as well on the same question for other reasons.

Pseudo answers in comments are inherently problematic on our site because they can't be downvoted and they can't really be subject to our usual ways of enforcing references like answers can be. We generally delete pseudo answers on sight.

The later parts of your comment were not relevant for my decision in this case. I can't delete half a comment (except by editing, which causes even more serious issues), so once I decided that the first part was a pseudo answer the comment was going to be deleted.

As an aside, just because a question can be answered by pointing to Wikipedia doesn't mean it's trivial. Wikipedia isn't always right, and it is often very interesting to go beyond it to the primary sources. We also don't have any significant issue with too trivial questions. Nobody comes here for technical support or homework, and we have a very low question volume. There is simply not much harm done by allowing comparatively simple questions here, and trying to enforce any strict rule is difficult because nobody agrees on what "too trivial" is.

  • Personally, I don't think any statement of fact made by the President of the US is too trivial for this site. – Avery Jan 11 at 17:39
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    Leaving a line that states you considered it a pseudo-answer (which it wasn't, see my question) would be the minimum, IMHO. So you placed your personal acceptance of trivial lookups (primary sources on whether walls were invented before the wheel, really?) over stated policy. -- I'll stop now, I think I made my point. Overmoderation is as harmful as undermoderation, and when you're looking at this meta, it should be obvious which side of the line you're walking at this point. – DevSolar Jan 11 at 17:41
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    @DevSolar Comments are mostly deleted because they add noise. Adding an explanation for each deleted comment would defeat the purpose. Our policy on pseudo answers in comments is well established, my personal opinion on where the line towards trivial questions lies wasn't a factor in this decision. – Mad Scientist Jan 11 at 17:45
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    Comments are to ask for clarification, and improvement. The question in question is off-topic by established policy. I was friendly enough to ask the OP for clarification, pointing out why the question as-is would be off-topic otherwise. I feel offended by a) that policy-adhering comment got deleted, and b) that I am being accused for "pseudo-answering" when what I did was helpfully point out to the OP why his question should be closed, not answered. I was completely within policy here. That question should be closed, then deleted. – DevSolar Jan 11 at 17:52
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    Note that I am not argueing for my comment to be undeleted, or that I am jealous of the rep earned by the answer. I am argueing about quality standards of the site be followed. It's not so much the deleted comment that's bugging me, but the question remaining open. (And now that it's answered, the OP couldn't easily delete it himself -- which is why I pointed out the triviality in a comment, not an answer. As per SE policy... – DevSolar Jan 11 at 17:55
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1) I'm not the deleter but your first comment read as a clear pseudo answer and it wasn't that nice towards the OP either - the second comment was a rant. I'll let the original mod answer fully.

2) Comments are deleted as we see them, there's no point in waiting for something we consider harmful to do harm.

3) See point one: it was an answer in a comment. We delete such comments on sight.

4) The policy for wikipedia is "OK for definitions (always), acceptable for high-school science, bad for anything else (so: look up the sources within Wikipedia)". You can find it here in meta.

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    Your answer works around the basic assumption that my comment was something else but a good-faith request for the OP to clarify why his question should not be downvoted for lack of research effort and voted for close as being trivial. – DevSolar Jan 11 at 16:12
  • Also, if a tongue-in-cheek "unsurprisingly" is "harmful", what is having the question (and trivial answer) remain on the site? We haven't closed that question, we're letting it stand -- to showcase the unsurprisingly trivially false claim of Mr. Trump. What's the stronger political statement? – DevSolar Jan 11 at 16:14
  • @DevSolar my answer tries to explain from the point of view of the moderator doing the deed. It makes no assumptions on your side - we deal with bad faith actors in a wholly different way. I am not sure why you keep on bringing up the fact that there's a question and answer and we let them be: they seem on topic to me, the only problem being that your comment answered the question and we don't allow that (because it skips voting) – Sklivvz Jan 12 at 9:06
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    regarding 4) You dug up a very old meta post that belongs to before we only allowed claims. It referred to questions like "what is the placebo effect?" which of course can be answered by a google source. If you google "Was the wheel invented before the wall?" you will see it only brings up this controversy – Sklivvz Jan 12 at 9:09
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    @Skliwz: Because no-one in their right mind would actually ask it? Because it's a trivial lookup? Or do we now actually cater for people who can't do two trivial lookups in a row to compare two numbers (if they actually need a lookup in the first place, as common sense would really do in this case)? – DevSolar Jan 13 at 16:04

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