So a brand new member posted a way off-topic question and I voted to close. https://writing.stackexchange.com/questions/40615/personification-of-depression

I commented:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because while there is a core of a question there, the author states "l hope that this could be used in a healthy manner to try to get some stuff of your minds, but also trying to just having fun with the idea and learn from each other." And this is not what Writing.SE is for. If you edit this into a specific question about writing a character with depression, I'll consider voting to reopen.

The author quickly replied with (I'm using spoiler marking because it's filled with cursing and I don't know what the rules about that are in this SE):

Just because you don't know how to answer my post, doesn't mean that it should be closed just like that. I'm just trying to start a creative discussion related to writing on a webpage related to writing. So what the fuck is wrong with my question? Is this fucking site only meant to suit a certain type of people? Also, l'm not writing about a character with depression you moron! Read the fucking question before you decide to comment! Just because you have a much bigger reputation here than me, doesn't give you the right to tell everyone else what kind of content they can talk about! Fuck you

He then deleted the entire post. I can still see the comment and the whole post, maybe because I had commented? I don't think I have enough rep to see all deleted posts. (Note: I found out about it because my inbox showed his comment to me.)

Anyway, I'm more amused than insulted, though, had he not removed it, I would have flagged it as abusive. Perhaps things would have gone better had my comment come after a moderator welcomed him to the SE, but I don't think my comment was especially mean (and even if it was, it doesn't justify the response).

So what's the protocol here? He still has an account and can still post and answer and (probably soon) comment. Since the post has disappeared, he won't get any feedback about how inappropriate his behavior is or how his original post wasn't right for Writing.SE. (He clearly understood his comment was not okay at least.) He probably doesn't know that I saw the comment or that some others can as well.

As someone who is reasonably new here myself, but building up rep and working towards being a member who takes on more responsibility as I acquire rep, I'd like to learn more about the culture of moderation here. I'm not really looking for ways I could have been "nicer." My question is more, what happens now?

  • 4
    There was nothing wrong with your comment, you could not have been nicer. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 11 '18 at 19:52
  • 5
    Is your goal to try to get this person banned-for-life? Or are you asking if there is some way you can apologize for the misunderstanding and bring him back as a productive contributor? – wetcircuit Dec 12 '18 at 16:59

Flags are the best way to raise awareness. If it's deleted (as in this case) but you're concerned, please do err on the side of letting mods know somehow.

Sometimes somebody posts something in {haste, heat, frustration}, realizes it was inappropriate, and deletes it. If it happens once, then lesson presumably learned and we move on. But if there's a pattern of this -- yes, sometimes people leave rude comments long enough to hit your inbox and then delete to try to hide the evidence -- then that's something we want to know about. Since you don't know what else the person has written that's now deleted, better to speak up and have it turn out to be nothing than to say nothing and find out you're one of a dozen people who made the same decision independently.

You won't generally know the outcome of flags like these (beyond seeing stuff get deleted, if it was live on the site when you flagged it), but you'll see that it was handled (or that it's still pending). You can see your flags (and responses from moderators) on your profile "Activity" page in that box of stats in the upper right corner (click on the flag count).


You can see the question because you have the access to moderator tools privilege (which includes the ability to view deleted posts) and you have a way to it (via your inbox, and I suspect also via your comment and vote histories).

So what's the protocol here?

Flag it for moderator attention.

Generally, whenever you see something that violates the Code of Conduct, flag it for moderator attention, and disengage.

We'll handle it from there. Exactly which action a moderator takes in response to a flag is decided on a case-by-case basis, but I can assure you that every flag is looked at. (The one exception to this would be flags which are auto-handled by the system.)

I don't know if you can flag on a deleted post with one of the rudeness-related flag reasons, but you certainly should be able to raise a custom flag.

  • Okay, so to be clear. Even if a post or comment is deleted, you would like users to flag for the moderators? – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 10 '18 at 17:46
  • The answer is yes, I can flag a deleted post, though the only option was "moderator intervention." In the comment box for the flag, I referenced this post. As for disengagement, yeah, I've run a LOT of mailing lists and online groups so that one was a no-brainer. Though it's not for everyone, so it's a good reminder. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 10 '18 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Cyn Ordinary users (no matter the reputation) can't see deleted comments, so that shouldn't be necessary. (Comments on deleted posts are another matter.) As for deleted posts, yes; if you come across it and it's flag-worthy, then please do flag. It's better to flag once too much than once too little. As long as the flag reason is legitimate, about the worst that is likely to happen is that the flag gets dismissed with a "no further action needed" response or similar. – user Dec 10 '18 at 18:32
  • Thank you for the explanations. I did see in the mod tools link it says "Watch for signs of abuse being obscured by deletion." That sounds like what's going on here. Please let me know if I've done the followup as I should and if there is any additional action I should take. Thanks again! – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 10 '18 at 18:43
  • 1
    @Cyn, you might not have seen it yet, but repeated offenders can and do get suspended. In addition to letting admins take care of a particular offensive comment, flags serve the purpose of finding the users who repeatedly disrupt the peace. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 11 '18 at 19:54
  • 1
    I saw today that my flag has been marked helpful and the user's account seems to be deleted. I had not even considered that this might have been a repeat offender (because he had a rep of 1). Thanks to those of you who took the time to train me on moderator methods and how, as a user, to best serve them. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 11 '18 at 20:01

What happens now? We consider how we can do BETTER next time.

I don't see why you voted to close, or why you ignored site warnings about replying and commenting on 1st-time posts. Those warning are there to prevent this exact situation.

The "core question" (as you put it) is perfectly clear: creating a character as the personification of depression. It's an unusual question, but character-building is certainly on-topic for Writing, and the topic is clearly indicated in the title.

The question is not a "What if…?" and it's not too broad. It's about Writing and character-building, the tags are spot-on for the subject: an antagonist that personifies depression in non-fiction creative writing.

If you could "see the core question" why did you vote to close rather than help a 1st-time poster to re-state his question clearer?

You seemed to have voted to close because you didn't like the motive behind the question, rather than the question itself. Yet you offered no advice how the question could be made "more" on topic, your comment didn't make any effort to reshape the question to better "fit" (in your opinion). You made no constructive suggestions. He was a 1st-time poster who won't be back, and it's because of the way you mishandled his first interaction on the site.

imho, You were wrong to vote to close. It's your close vote that is off topic, and seems "final" – you simply allow no room for discussion, or that you could be wrong so can he clarify.... Maybe the OP invited it by adding "tmi" but I don't see how that invalidated the clearly stated question/topic.

You decided the question shouldn't be here because you didn't care for a small un-essential sentence or two about how he hopes the question will be received. Was that necessary?

  • 1
    I agree that there was a core of a question there. The problem was the framework in which the question was presented. Not the TMI stuff, I didn't care much about that. But the fact that he framed his question as helping us do self-therapy and learning from each other (about depression, not about writing). When I see misframed questions, sometimes I comment but don't vote. In this case, I sincerely felt the question was not close enough in its current form. And that's why it takes several people (5?) to close a question. If no one agrees with me, nothing happens. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 12 '18 at 15:46
  • 2
    @Cyn 1st-time posters do not know that obviously, and comments aren't about your announcements and personal opinions. They are to help re-shape the question to gain clarity. SE shows multiple warnings when commenting on 1st-time posters for this very reason, so you will STOP and think about how to be constructive. You can comment first and allow them time to fix before voting to close. – wetcircuit Dec 12 '18 at 15:57
  • 4
    There is nothing wrong with voting to close, if you personally believe a question should be closed. Which is what @Cyn did. Cyn acted exactly as one should. Now, if some other user (like you) believes the question should not be closed, you get to vote to "keep open", and you get to leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter. You also get to edit the original post to make it better, and even notify whoever voted to close, giving them an opportunity to retract their vote. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 12 '18 at 21:28
  • 2
    (cont.) If one sees a way to edit the question and make it better instead of VTCing, sure that's better. But one doesn't always see that edit. Sometimes one only sees the problem. I have been in this situation - first VTCing a bad question, and then voting to reopen it once someone edited it and made it better. In fact, that's why a question gets marked as "on hold" - to let the OP (and anyone willing to help) know that perhaps this question should be corrected. And once it is edited, the question automatically goes into the "reopen" queue. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 12 '18 at 21:31
  • 2
    @GalastelIt might be helpful to consider about this answer. I found it thoughtful and keeping the right kind of goals in mind: writing.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1706/… Obviously we cannot control how people will react to rejection (hence the site warnings because it is not uncommon). This answer considers the problem from the OP's perspective. Do you disagree? – wetcircuit Dec 12 '18 at 21:36
  • 1
    I know that answer, I wrote it. :) If OP had not responded the way he did, someone would have helped that question. Either someone would have left a more specific comment: "you need to change X, Y, Z for the question to be a good one", or someone would have just gone ahead and edited it. People can have a very negative response to having their posts edited, just as they can have a negative response to a VTC. This OP - I don't think he would have responded to an edit in a more positive way than he did to Cyn's comment. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 12 '18 at 21:48
  • That's a good point, @Galastel. I'll say I've been unhappy with some edits/comments made to my posts on SE, but I've never once sworn at the person, called them a moron, or insulted them. If he had said "hey, why the heck are you trying to close down my question?" I would have responded and maybe we could have had a conversation. I would have even been willing to do the edit (I didn't because it would have completely changed the question & I felt that was inappropriate without his permission). – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 12 '18 at 21:52
  • 1
    @Galastel, I invite you to re-read your other answer, since it has some sound advice we can all follow. I am not claiming Cyn did anything wrong, but she seems to be looking for retribution…. That's going too far. The OP made a raw (personal) question, but it wasn't off-topic and I don't believe it needed editing…. Maybe some compassion. It was also a fascinating question, so we all loose out. – wetcircuit Dec 12 '18 at 21:58
  • 1
    Well, if we all agreed on everything, would have been kinda boring, wouldn't it? Ideally, you would have answered, I would have commented, Cyn might have VTCed, in which case you would have voted to keep open, and I don't know which way I would have cast my vote, other users might have contributed. We could have had the relevant disagreement in a peaceful civilised manner, in the comments or on meta. We do that. Instead, OP managed to cram into one sentence more F-words than I've used in my entire life. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 12 '18 at 23:33
  • 3
    I get that he disagrees with me. If I disagreed with you using the same language he used to disagree with Cyn, I would get kicked off SE, and it would be totally deserved, don't you think? If I disagreed with someone, and we both started using offensive language, we'd both deserve the boot, "who started" being irrelevant. "He started" is not "get out of jail free". At least, that's how I see it. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 13 '18 at 0:27
  • 5
    Strongly disagree with this answer. Yes, striving to be welcoming and diplomatic is really really important. But OP did that. And another thing that's really important is being mindful of site structure and guidelines, and promptly putting on-hold questions that can't be answered well. Otherwise, we become a mess. (1/2) – Standback Dec 13 '18 at 16:58
  • 5
    Heroic edits are fantastic (and I've done a fair number myself), but they're absolutely not the baseline -- the baseline is: comment kindly, and vote to close. Heroically rewriting a rambling "what are your ideas for this idea I want to write" question that's aimed as brainstorming -- that's something that could take half an hour, or require back-and-forth with the question's OP, or that I might not have time for until evening, or mess with answers written while I edited. "Don't VTC until you've offered a heroic edit" is poor advice that will just enshrine unanswerable questions. (2/2) – Standback Dec 13 '18 at 17:00
  • 2
    I'm done discussing this with you @wetcircuit. I don't know why you are obsessed with this and accusing me of all sorts of bizarre things. Talking about how to handle users who behave badly is appropriate for Meta. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 13 '18 at 17:23
  • 1
    @Standback I love that term "heroic edit." I may just steal it. :-) – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 13 '18 at 17:26
  • 3
    Moderator note: I've purged a bunch of comments here that were spiraling downhill quickly. Remember that we have a code of conduct and belittling language is not ok. – Monica Cellio Dec 14 '18 at 16:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .