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I'm completely taken aback by the reaction to this question and my own answer to it.

  1. The person is a new contributor who asks a difficult and complicated question that shows evidence of prior research. He's greeted with snarky comments and multiple close votes. This is not normal or OK as a way to welcome a new user on an SE site.

  2. I post a long and detailed answer with lots of facts and a reference to a book. I get downvoted to -2 with no explanation. I post a comment asking if the downvoters could explain what they object to. No response. This is not normal behavior on SE. If you think an answer on SE is wrong, it's normal to leave a comment explaining your downvote.

I'll be deleting my profile on this site now. I hope it's able to clean up its act.

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    I'll let others answer in detail, but essentially we expect higher standards for questions about Nazis and the Holocaust because we get so many posts from trolls touching on those topics. Many people don't explain downvotes in comments just because they have experience of hostile responses to those comments in the past. That is not just a problem on History:SE. There is a reason that voting (up or down) is anonymous on all SE sites. – sempaiscuba Jul 17 at 0:09
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    "If you think an answer on SE is wrong, it's normal to leave a comment explaining your downvote." In my experience, it's the other way round. Many users refuse to explain their downvotes out of fear of retaliation, in the form of verbal abuse or revenge-downvoting. You're right that leaving a comment should be the norm, but regrettably, too many users have lost their faith that their constructive feedback won't be met with hostility. – F1Krazy Jul 17 at 8:55
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    Having said that, I must admit that deleting your profile because of one negative experience seems like a bit of an over-reaction to me, and I sincerely hope you change your mind and stick around. – F1Krazy Jul 17 at 8:56
  • @sempaiscuba Haven't seen this thread on main until now. But you write about 'standards for Qs', link to 'standards for As'. And as that thread is altogether sub-standard on both, why not answer here? If I were to answer here, I'd be inclined to vivisect all posts there in detail, but I guess that's neither pretty nor anywhere near 'wanted or warranted' here? (btw: Ben's post might not be 'the worst' after all, but to me it looks most prudent to just delete the whole thread, if we don't manage to substantially improve all posts! – LаngLаngС Jul 17 at 10:27
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    @LаngLаngС I may add an answer at some point, but this is a community-moderated site, and I wasn't one of those who voted on the question &/or answers in that case, so I'm going to give others time to respond first. – sempaiscuba Jul 17 at 11:01
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That's a question on a heavily-trolled topic. This site has essentially been under continuous attack from Nazi trolls trying to push their opinions as thinly disguised questions about the Holocaust.

As a result, we do have a standing site policy that questions on that topic will receive extra scrutiny and much less leeway. I'll repeat it here:

Questions on these topics have a hair-trigger for being put on hold. This goes in particular for new users who don't have a proven track-record of asking good questions.

In addition, the wiki for has this in it:

This is a sensitive and heavily-trolled topic (many questions are from holocaust deniers trying to get people to agree with them) so questions on this subject are held to an exceptionally strict standard.

If the poster had put this tag on their question (which they probably should have), they should have seen that message as well.

So you can't really use a Holocaust question to talk about how we should be dealing with questions about the history of ice rinks. They are different kinds of questions, and per-policy, are treated differently.

Going forward, I wouldn't be adverse to putting a phrase like that in some of the other related tags, so it won't be as easily missed. It also wouldn't be a bad idea for us to post a link to that site policy on any question that might run afoul of it. That would serve both as a warning to the question poster, and to any users who might be disappointed if they spend a lot of effort answering a question that's very likely to be closed.

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    One might even argue that those questions are almost perfect illustrations of the maxim 'Not all questions can or should be answered here', from our Help Centre page on How to write a good answer. – sempaiscuba Jul 17 at 13:48
  • @sempaiscuba Half-agreeing. If Q could be improved, and a very good answer can be posted, the why not have us deal with the topic? After a good edit and reopen, I'd probably not think bad of the Q per se (we might see). Per policy, Q needs improvement (& before any answers are posted). But it's way more shocking to me what kind of answers were posted here, and upvoted too! Makes me think we need an "answer put on hold"-vote as well. – LаngLаngС Jul 17 at 13:55
  • @LаngLаngС If the question were improved to meet site standards, then of course it would be reasonable to post an answer. Unless or until that edit is made, then no, it probably shouldn't be answered. If someone has a related good question, and they feel they can add a 'very good answer' to that question, then they should post that instead. – sempaiscuba Jul 17 at 14:00
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I regret that you felt it necessary to leave and to delete your profile. That question presents us with a set of choices for which there are no unequivocally good options. I was uncomfortable with that question from the moment it was posed; it seemed sincere, but it also seemed like an invitation to the trolls. Unfortunately I've come to accept that there is a significant overlap between sincere and trollbait. It isn't fair if we act on a sincere question that happens to be trollbait, but it also isn't fair if we fail to act on trollbait that happens to be a sincere question. T.E.D articulated our current standing policy to resolve this conundrum; I agree with T.E.D and with that policy. I wish it weren't necessary.

While I think that H:SE could stand to be more friendly, I don't think that it is unreasonable for H:SE to expect the same level of formalism and preliminary research as is common on other SE sites. I think we're better at expressing that expectation than when I joined the site.

@gktscrk comments that the issue isn't notifying people that they broke the rules, it is about how this is expressed. I'm going to have to think this through. I think there are two hypothesis here and I don't have enough data to act on either:

  • If we leave flawed questions on the site without feedback, they become the culture of the site. We are communicating to new users that this is acceptable.

  • Feedback is unfriendly.

My answer has been to provide the standard comment (and ask the community to continuously improve that comment), and add additional constructive feedback where possible. (and even an answer if I can)

I'd be interested in any constructive suggestions on how we can better reconcile these choices.

  • How to encourage sincere questions while discouraging trolls
  • How to be more friendly/welcoming, while maintaining our expectations and site culture.
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    Honestly, my suspicion is still with the trolls on it. It fits a pattern of challenging a nitty detail about the Holocaust, in an attempt to get some kind of official sanction from this site for denialisim. – T.E.D. Jul 17 at 12:53
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    As I don't have a way to really evaluate the Q sa this or that now, but have deep gripes about a lot of the content posted as answers (apart from parsimony on refs, incompleteness "in any given country"; eg we see unqualified "all Jews belong", "host nation", "After some training you can recognize Jews": the Q should have been closed much faster to prevent this kind of answers. So, 'constructive', as an idea inspired by this very Q on main: we should incourage mod-hammer on this topic, lower mod-votes to 'please VtC, don't wait for 4 community votes'? (But perhaps 1–2 such votes?) – LаngLаngС Jul 17 at 13:48
  • Thanks for the insight; I need to think about your suggestions, but while I'm thinking, I wanted to acknowledge them. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 17 at 13:53
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    Irrespective of the Nazi topics (as I think this pertains to much more), the second part should mean that before "downvoting" or "closing", comments and suggestions are offered to new people for them to improve. It's not a question of "formalism" or "preliminary research" but rather how this is expressed. Far more common here than "benefit of doubt" is the approach where "you've broken the rules, so suffer" without any constructive input. While I agree that if a person can get past the initial harshness, it's possible to learn how to write good Q&A, it's not made easy for someone starting out – gktscrk Aug 13 at 6:21
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    Re expression, a "new user" should not be immediately downvoted. Comments are better unless there's something seriously wrong with the Q. If a new user receives numerous downvotes but no lessons on how to improve, it creates a bad vibe. If the downvote is (still) required, it can be given the next day (or the day after that) as well—if it is clear that there will be no improvement to the quality. While I appreciate that SE doesn't require downvotes to be explained (and that it is detrimental to do so in some cases), new users can find that difficult to understand and perceive it as hostile. – gktscrk Aug 13 at 10:39
  • And I know that you (and some others) always provide the "standard comment" but at the same time many others don't or, at least, they don't explain what they think is wrong with the question. Downvoting older profiles' poor questions is an entirely different topic because by that point they should have better understanding of what's going on. – gktscrk Aug 13 at 10:40
  • Good in theory; difficult in practice. I'm on board with this - I've been doing this informally and now that you've articulate it, I'll try to hold myself to this standard. But implementing that standard across the community is as difficult as implementing the standard for good questions. How can we best elevate your suggested protocol to a cultural norm>? – Mark C. Wallace Aug 13 at 10:41
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    Oh, it's very difficult. I think I can also see the other side of the argument where if some people have been members for five or ten years, and someone comes in and posts a really poor question, I can see why someone would want to downvote immediately. I would imagine they've left tens of comments earlier on, on how posts can be improved. Yesterday, I think both you and I had the same approach on that first answer posted. In the end, it was improved by someone else while the original owner hasn't logged in again. But, I would think that if they did, the comments there would be helpful to them – gktscrk Aug 14 at 9:58
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    Overall, it's probably a question of what gets done more, first, etc. We cannot force people not to downvote, and we cannot force people to comment with suggestions. However, if the general impression is there that poor(er) posts get a suggestion, then I think that trend might be expanded. If I leave a comment on what I think is missing, someone else might leave one as well. That first comment always seems to be the most difficult. That said, I myself have problems with some types of answers (eg, literal interpretations of the Bible as answers to historical questions) which I'd rather avoid. – gktscrk Aug 14 at 10:02

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