This is request for comment from the community regarding the following question:

in SAT resolution proofs, are all DAGs possible?

  1. Is the question in its current form suitable for the site?

  2. If it is not, was closing it by a community moderator justified? Or was it excessive use of moderator powers?

  3. If the question is not suitable in its current form and moderator action was excessive, how should we deal with it?

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I am traveling right now and won't have a good Internet connection for a few days and might be slow in replying. –  Kaveh Feb 17 '13 at 8:39
    
to whom it may concern, my main issue is K's moderation style which imho is overly heavyhanded/unilateral at times esp in my case, he gave me a 7 day timeout not too long ago merely for an offhand comment on a closed question by someone asking about a paper on the woeginger official "crank list". too much! he's closed quite a few of my questions over my whole period of joining here, but unf there is no record of this as they have all vanished into the ether after deletion. 404! k, think about this formula: moderation $\neq$ policing –  vzn Feb 17 '13 at 16:48
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also, the question of this post entitled "should the question about structure of resolution proofs be closed?" is imho misleading & self serving charade because the question is already closed by k's unilateral action, and he/other moderators presumably have no intention whatsoever of reopening it no matter what the outcome of this meta discussion. have been actively contributing to this site for over 1yr & have never seen any question ever reopened in that timespan. has it ever even happened? will certainly be interested to see counterexamples to that. feel free to "prove me wrong" –  vzn Feb 19 '13 at 17:47
    
Let me reply to the points that you have mentioned in the comments first: 1. regarding suspension, you have been warned a number of times before suspension that your action will lead to suspension but you ignored those warnings and continued a non-constructive behavior. Therefore I had to suspend you and 7 days is the default minimum for suspension in the system. 2. regarding closing, this is the only question of yours which is closed and has a positive total vote. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:08
    
3. regarding deletion, closed questions with negative total votes are automatically deleted by SE software after some time, and there is not much point to keep those on the site anyway. 4. regarding that the question is closed, maybe my title is not good and it should have been "should the question have been closed". The point here is to get opinions on that closing. There has been questions which have been reopened. And in any case IIRC if other users want to reopen a question, they can do so. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:08
    
5. regarding this comment, if you have read the FAQ you know the target community of this site and what it is about. This site is not for hobbyist, it is for professional researchers. That is the community of the site. Others can be welcome but only if they understand where they are. I felt unwelcome when I tried to participate on say the Q&A devoted to professional researchers in theoretical physics or professional musicians. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:20
    
That is normal, I am interested in those topics as a hobby, but those sites are for professionals in those topics. Moreover taking into account the fact that cranks have overtaken previous online spaces for professional TCS researchers like Usenet Groups to the point that they become unusable for professionals researchers I don't think it is a bad thing that the site is unwelcoming to such people. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:23
    
If you look at the site there is no other user that has as many answers and questions with total negative votes as yours. One of your recent comments on the main site is flagged as not constructive repeatedly for 2 times and we have declined its removal both times and it is again flagged for a 3rd time. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:31
    
That is despite this meta post your comments continue to get flagged. You are the only user AFAIK that continuously post comments/answers on topics you are not an expert, these are non-constructive behaviors which often requires moderator intervention. If you stop them and only post when you are really knowledgeable about something then you will see less negative reaction. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:39
    
To be honest, to me, you look like a non-expert in TCS who wants to have experts listen to his ideas about open problems and is participating here for that reason. Let me tell you, that is unlikely to happen, specially with the non-modest manner that you post your comments. If you look around you will see that you are the only user that continuously posts pompous claims, a bit of modesty and not acting as an expert on a topic when you are not will go a long way in getting less negative reaction. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:47
    
Take for example this comment, are you an expert on Programming Languages? If not then you shouldn't have posted this comment. It is obvious for an expert to notice that your attitude of knowing a lot about the topic is not backed by knowledge in the topic (and no, hedging using "arguably" and etc. doesn't help at all). Moreover by SE guidelines comments are temporary and are mainly for asking clarification about the question not for expressing opinions. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 19:53
    
k, what a huge waste of time. you clearly have a personal vendetta against me that is highly unprofessional as a site moderator. as for any comments that are at issue, am tired of the pompous attitude of academics on this site who claim that some statements are obviously incorrect and then offer no counterclaim whatsoever. lame! dont see any responses to the comments in question. comments are cheap on this site, they are not meant to be priceless jewels of wisdom... as for usenet, have you even ever used it? and your judgement of any user as a "crank" is outright discrimination... –  vzn Mar 17 '13 at 3:35
    
re theoretical physics, news bulletin, despite support by some elite stackexchange users and theoretical physicists, the site was closed due to insufficient participation.... –  vzn Mar 17 '13 at 3:46
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@vzn, I don't have any "vendetta" against you, I tried once again to explain to you why you face more moderator interventions than other users and you can see from other moderators and users' posts and comments here that they also consider your behaviors as not constructive and inappropriate (though they may differ with me on how to deal with them). If you continue the same pattern you should expect similar treatment and reactions. On the other hand if you take into account what we are saying and avoid those non-constructive behaviors, you will see better treatment over time. –  Kaveh Mar 17 '13 at 5:34
    
In addition, if you are really serious about your claim that I have abused moderator powers against you and this is not just an excuse you use to continue your non-constructive behavior, then you should directly email the SE team about it and they can check it and take appropriate actions if your claim has merits. Otherwise if you don't email them but just continue to make such claims on the site then that is another non-constructive behavior. –  Kaveh Mar 17 '13 at 5:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

My view is simply this: moderator powers should be used lightly, and only when the community mechanisms are insufficient to correct a situation. In the case of the above question, here's what my personal (i.e non-moderator) take is:

  • the question rambles terribly and doesn't really get to the point
  • the poster has a habit of writing questions and answers like this, and frequently gets downvoted/otherwise censured for such postings
  • But in this case, another user has suggested a concrete improvement that can be made, and there are a number of upvotes (and faves) for the question.

So the moderator role here is to help suggest modifications (especially since there appears to be a germ of substance in the question) and encourage the OP to make the changes (which I will note the OP has not done). As an individual, the moderator is free to downvote the post in its current form.

But as a community moderator, I prefer to do nothing rather than do something, and in this case I have to ask what the consequences are of doing nothing. Either the OP will fix the post or not. If not, it's quite likely that other members of the community will downvote the post and/or vote to close it. Or they might attempt to answer the question.

The "worst case scenario" from my point of view might be that an ill-formed question sticks around for a while. But what is the downside of this ? The OP regularly posts ill-formed questions, and they get hammered (about 2/3 of the questions posted have a net negative score). Clearly the OP is not learning anything from the community view on their question formulation, but I don't see any evidence that these questions are affecting others, or reducing the quality of the site.

Either way, there are sufficiently many options available to the community at large that I (as moderator) don't need to step in. And that's my underlying philosophy.

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thx for the lukewarm support. you can focus on my negative record as you have, but also have many upvoted questions/answers, which you omit mention. yes, find it hard at times to determine/predict what questions/answers the group upvotes or downvotes, but also ask more questions than some & dont take it personally, there are some systemic issues with the group that imho all moderators take a consistently blind eye to & are unresponsive toward... –  vzn Feb 17 '13 at 23:36
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It would be helpful not to take the 'victim' stance, and instead understand what others complain about. Contrary to what you think, we don't have a vendetta out for you: none of us have the time or energy for it. –  Suresh Venkat Feb 18 '13 at 0:13
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I think that (in general) rambling, poorly edited posts do have a negative impact on the site. Of course not everyone is a native English speaker, but it's bad when the OP makes no effort to be coherent. Good science is done through clear and precise writing. –  Huck Bennett Feb 18 '13 at 1:33
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dont accept the vague & highly subjective criticism, focused on meta issues/irrelevant minutia, led by moderators ... its unseemly ... cyberspace needs fundamentally different standards by nature ... am not a professional scientist, am not writing a scientific paper ... the overall attitude is not friendly and welcoming and the low participation-to-member rate on the site reflects this ... guess you guys never got the memo ... –  vzn Feb 18 '13 at 2:47
    
k. in contrast to 2 other lightly-treading moderators does indeed seem to have massive time/energy to apply his "moderation" (routinely verging on inflexible intervention) powers! however! do wish to commend the above attitude expressed by suresh as in conformance with official stackexchange policy, "a theory of moderation" which states "what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!" –  vzn Feb 19 '13 at 17:55

Regarding the question of suitability for this site:

I do not believe the question in its present form is well worded. I am ambivalent about its appropriateness. Ill formed questions appear occasionally on this site. I myself have posted a question that was sub-optimal for the site, and was glad that the community engaged me and pointed out why my question was inappropriate rather than closing it. I believe the community has tolerated and helped to improve vague, unclear, but well intentioned questions. Even if intent is unclear, we have helped improve unclear questions. I feel that this question can easily be improved to a clear, technical question and ideally, I would prefer this route.

I am aware that the OP is very unlikely to incorporate feedback from the community and improve the question. I agree that this is a problem and sympathise with the frustration of both the site users, and particularly moderators who must confront such issues.

Nevertheless, I would prefer to be part of a relaxed community. This is a personal preference. I am averse to forums that feature flame wars, heavy moderation and contentious discussions that essentially amount to shouting contests for intellectual bullies. I would like this site to have an image that is welcoming and not intimidating to give computer scientists the confidence that they can ask questions and be listened to rather than fear admonishment if their query does not satisfy some rigid set of rules. Let me clarify that I am currently fairly happy with this site and I do not believe any of the concerns I am stating currently apply.

Closing a question so quickly, especially when it is not obvious why (to me as a user, viewing the question) feels strong to me. I would have preferred for the community to go through the potentially futile process of suggesting improvements and then either expressing our displeasure with our votes, or ignoring the question beyond a point. To Kaveh, I would like to further add that this is a preference of mine, not a strong opinion. My desire for a relaxed environment and concern that closing a few questions quickly will cause us to descend into a dictatorship is less realistic than your concern that the site will attract cranks, but neither concern seems empirically justified. In the latter case, you may have more information as a moderator and if people are indeed being driven away by cranks I would agree that we should behave proactively. This concern does not seem to apply to this question because the user in question has been on the site for a while and the community has survived.

Regarding improving the question itself.

Here is one potential wording.


This question is about the combinatorial structure of resolution proofs.

Let $Prop$ be a set of atomic propositions. A literal is an atomic proposition or its negation. A clause is a disjunction of literals. Let $Clause$ be the set of clauses over $Prop$.

The resolvent of two clauses $C \lor p$ and $\neg p \lor D$ with pivot $p$ is the clause $C \lor D$.

A resolution proof is a finite, labelled DAG $P = (V, E, piv, clause)$, where

  1. $(V,E)$ is a graph in which vertices have in-degree $0$ or $2$, and vertices with in-degree $0$ are called leaves and those with in-degree $2$ are called internal vertices
  2. $piv$ is a function from internal vertices to atomic propositions
  3. $clause: V \to Clause$ is a function satisfying that for all internal vertices $w$ with incoming edges from $u$ and $v$, $clause(w)$ is the resolvent of $clause(u)$ and $clause(v)$ with pivot $pivot(w)$.

A clause $C$ is derived by resolution from a set of clauses $F$ if there exists a resolution proof $P$ in which $clause(v)$ is $C$ for some vertex $v$ and every leaf vertex on a path to $v$ is labelled with a clause from $F$. A resolution refutation is a derivation of the empty clause.

The original questions can be reformulated as below.

  1. For every DAG $G$, does there exist a resolution proof $P$ whose underlying graph is isomorphic to $G$?
  2. For every DAG $G$, does there exist a resolution refutation $P$ whose underlying graph is isomorphic to $G$?
  3. Does there exist an ordering on clauses such that the set of clauses labelling leaves is minimal with respect to that ordering?

Let me point out that I believe (1) and (2) are directly in the question and (3) includes a minor interpretation on my part. I would further extend (3) as below.

3'. If $E$ and $F$ are sets of clauses, define the order $E \le F$ if for every clause $C$ in $E$ there exists a clause $D$ in $F$ such that every literal in $C$ occurs in $D$. For every DAG $G$, does there exist a proof $P$ such that the clauses labelling leaves are minimal with respect to this order. Is there a unique minimum labelling?


My reformulation does leave open whether the question is research level. I believe the reformulated question is not difficult to answer, but I find it appropriate for this site. The proof required would be a background exercise for approaching the type of work in The complexity of resolution refinements.

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uh, thx for your effort to reformulate the question. am certainly open to new ideas on that as indicated in the original. however, dont feel at this pt like reediting the question, because it has been trashed and stigmatized, and all the existing critical/hostile comments will stick to the edited version. so, if you feel like asking it yourself, will certainly for one upvote it, but of course its rather risky to do so. as for me not taking feedback from the community, that is outright demonstrably false (and a now escalated smear), from my pov it is more vice-versa the situation.... –  vzn Feb 18 '13 at 5:17
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You could look at comments to your past questions. We have requested capitalisation, basic grammar and punctuation, definitions of technical terms. None of these appear in your writing, so what feedback do you believe you are demonstrably taking? No one is trashing or stigmatizing you. Everyone (including me) who posts vague questions gets criticised. There is nothing personal in the treatment you get. We are just a bunch of nerds who like science preferrably in well formatted form. –  Vijay D Feb 18 '13 at 5:44
    
"we", who the @#%& is "we"? are you on the editorial board now? there is nothing vague about my question and k. and everyone else knows it. am really tired of the ridiculous focus on utter superficiality and triviality ... maybe you guys (using "you" in the same sense you use "we") should seriously consider being english editors or proofreaders instead of TCS researchers.... –  vzn Feb 18 '13 at 5:50
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When you're writing code do you call the compiler a "@#%&" when it doesn't know what a "whl" loop is or how to "tpdef" something? Is it acceptable to write a fifty line program when five clean lines will do? It's the same situation here. –  Huck Bennett Feb 18 '13 at 6:45
    
guys, the meta issues associated with the question at hand are a red herring and you all know it.... we're going around and around in circles. a compiler can RECOGNIZE words typed in lower case so I guess its more intelligent than many of the humans around here. have gotten moderate upvotes on questions that have virtually identical style/format... take a look! but you cant conceive or admit the voting has an inherently unpredictable and yes, capricious element to it. peace? lets talk about the real TCS like real men in chat –  vzn Feb 18 '13 at 17:33
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The TCS researchers I know do spend a lot of time proof reading - perhaps even a majority of their research time! It can be frustrating to spend time thinking about how to communicate clearly, but if you start practicing today it will become easier and easier. –  Colin McQuillan Feb 20 '13 at 6:13
    
@Vijay, if you edit the question in the way you suggested then I think it is fine to reopen it. ps: IIRC, sometime ago there was a discussion where the community opinion for the situation when a user sees a good question inspired by another question which itself is not in a suitable form was to ask a new question in place of changing the question to something that significantly changes the intention of the OP in the question. –  Kaveh Mar 16 '13 at 20:11
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@vzn: compilers care about formatting even more than CS researchers do. We just have different standards from compilers as to what represents clear communication. Just because we're smarter than compilers doesn't mean that it's polite to require us to spend extra effort on your posts — not just more than a compiler, but also more than for anyone else's posts. (And for some posts this problem goes beyond mere syntax and orthography!) –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 5 '13 at 23:14
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@vzn: if you want to be included in the community, you needn't conform absolutely, but you do have to demonstrate good faith. A minimum requirement is to demonstrate willingness to invest that trivial amount of effort to communicate clearly, and in particular not to defer the effort of understanding what you mean to your audience. This is not special to TCS.SE, but is simply the meaning of good communication skills, and is essentially expected in any professional context (not to mention simply polite behaviour). –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 5 '13 at 23:19
    
I removed the following comment unintentionally (I flagged it for other moderators to check but the system removed the comment). "vzn: @niel my posts all meet basic/reasonable minimum standards for clarity and communication. merely because a single overzealous moderator has a grudge against my participation in this so-called community does not make every one of his proclamations mandatory to follow. I respectfully decline his endless anklebiting suggestions, automatically affirmed by the mutual admiration society of mindless sycophants, circling the wagons...." –  Kaveh Jun 6 '13 at 3:58

Here is my explanation for closing the question:

The OP states clearly in the first paragraph that his intention is to share his ideas and states that he does not expect an answer for the question he is asking. That I think clearly means that the question in the post is not a real one and the post is not suitable in its current form and should be closed as such.

If those extra claims and statements are removed and the post becomes a real question it can be reopened. I think the post is clearly not suitable in its current form and should get closed until issues with it are resolved at which point it can be reopened.

Unilaterally closing it might be excessive however as we know closing is not permanent and can be reserved and if this podt is a clearly unsuitable in its current form then moderator intervention is not too excessive.

Now I could have simply commented and asked OP to modify the question to become suitable, however in my experience in dealing with this user he is not receptive to such comments so I felt it is unlikely that without a closure the user will fix the issues, particularly since from the first paragraph it seems that expressing those ideas and claims are the main intention behind the post. It is often possible to notice the difference in attitude and language of a post really asking a question from a post which is intended for expressing/soliciting/sharing opinions/claims/ideas even when it is not as explicit as in this question.

More generally, I think it is an abuse of cstheory to promote one's opinions, particularly on topics where one is not an expert on, in fact it looks to boarder a post by a crank which are off-topic for cstheory.

I don't think this kind of posts and such expression of claims and ideas are suitable for cstheory, a user can express them somewhere else and people interested in the opinions of the user can read them there. One should abuse the fact that experts and researchers read cstheory to promote and advertise personal opinions and claims.

I think cstheory is not and should not become a medium for non-experts to express such claims and ideas, that is not a goal of the site and frequency of such posts would hinder the usefulness of the site for its target community. Right now we have a single user who insists on abusing the site (comments, answers, questions, and even cstheory associated chat-room) in this way so the effect might not be very noticeable, however it will be if such posts become acceptable and frequent and will cause the site to suffer from the problems that tcs Usenet groups suffered because of such posts.

This is my perspective. If you have different opinions and perspectives about this question or the general issue please share them with me and others. As a moderator my intention is to follow as much as I can any view or policy we arrive at as the community of cstheory.

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this is somewhat misleading, reopened questions on this site are VERY RARE. I have respectable rep pts after 1 year of participation that indicates widespread community support for my participation. admit, there is a vocal minority of resistance to my personal style etc, possibly incited by k's at-times hostile moderation style.... –  vzn Feb 17 '13 at 16:51
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Nobody is incited by Kaveh's moderation style. We are responding to your low-quality posts as individuals. There Is No Cabal. –  JɛffE Feb 28 '13 at 1:36
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@Kaveh: I agree that cstheory should keep high enough standards (just to keep the attention of experts). Poorly stated questions (especially from native speakers) should be of course "rejected". And I appreciate your voluntary job towards this goal! But in this special case, I would not just close the question: it already had upvotes, and even one answer. A (strong) request to the OP to improve the formulation would be perhaps enough. –  Stasys Mar 1 '13 at 19:26
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@vzn: Even we, not native speakers, are trying to keep the standard rules of writing (punctuation, capitalization, avoiding jargons, etc.). We spend time for this. But it pays up: after all we want to wake the interest of our (also busy) colleagues. This is not oddments - this is showing respect to colleagues. As such, your question was interesting enough (I don't see an immediate answer). It was just "disrespectfully" formulated, just "online", in "telegraphic style". –  Stasys Mar 1 '13 at 19:29
    
@stasys thx for your clarifications & senior researchers such as yourself are quite valuable on the site, and a "target audience" but, exceedingly rare on this site, esp in participation, and imho it probably has very little to do with how questions are asked/written. as for what is "disrespectful" about the formulation, strongly disagree with you on that, quite to the contrary feel it was clearly respectfully formulated... if the audience wants to take my personal style as disrespectful, then there is nothing I can do to save that, incl further wasted time here in meta goo –  vzn Mar 1 '13 at 19:41
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@vzn: On "disrespectful". Science has nothing to do with emotions (I mean your last sentence). I tried to explain what do I mean under "disrespectful". Just understanding that colleagues are very busy. Yes, with doing research, and with trying to properly communicate it. So, "showing respect" means saving their time (at the cost of wasting our own time). Stackexchange is not the same as quick conversation in a floor. Say, I have had re-thought/edited my questions several times before posting. This was not a waste of time. Just like this comment in "meta goo". –  Stasys Mar 1 '13 at 20:17
    
feel free to look at the original question editing history to see that it has been edited for clarity & many of my other questions have also, and there is nothing inherently wrong with any of my questions. what is really at stake here is entirely subjective and a moderator named "k" chooses to consistently take away the "benefit of the doubt" in my case & the mooing herd falls in line, insulting me as "pompous"... projection! what a huge waste of time.... apparently the crowd has endless appetite for meta goo instead because it requires so much less mental energy.... –  vzn Mar 1 '13 at 21:07
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@vnz: "apparently the crowd has endless appetite for meta goo because it requires so much less mental energy". Not quite respectful w.r.t. community ("crowd"), or? –  Stasys Mar 1 '13 at 21:16
    
@stasys whatever, wink :p "wrt" is in the eye of the beholder eh? the faq says bring your sense of humor which is apparently lost on this robotic geek crowd led by the borg... follow the leader! anyway had some new ideas re our last chat & but it closed, some other news for you... chat? –  vzn Mar 2 '13 at 3:18
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@vzn: who here is the "leader"? My attempts at providing feedback have been spurred by my personal reactions to your activity. In short, they have a jarring quality, in part because their tone is often confident despite being quite speculative. We have different values than you for contribution, and so long as you try to contribute without maintaining those same values, you are of course going to be presented with negative feedback — and complaining to us without showing an understanding of those values won't help. –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 5 '13 at 23:36
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@vzn: you apparently missed the fact that my point is that I speak for myself. When in the past you have complained bitterly about negative votes, you haven't seemed willing to take that as feedback, but you take that also as group-think. You cannot have it both ways: either you're willing to accept personal feedback, or you aren't. If this strikes you as terrible and as groupthink, why are you trying so hard to be part of this particular group? –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 6 '13 at 8:07
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@vzn: I cannot infer precisely all of your values (although you seem to have no problem assuming that you can infer ours)... But it's perfectly obvious that your values are different, because otherwise why are we having this discussion? As for our willingness to tolerate difference of style and opinion: given that science is about trying to converge to a consensus by adopting certain standards for examining a subject, whatever makes you think that simply accepting different opinions and carefree writing, is "scientific"? Science is about awareness of one's actual level of knowledge. –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 6 '13 at 8:13
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@vzn: Now that you mention it, I'm surprised to find that this is actually an old discussion. I thought that I had discovered it because of new activity; I have no idea how I ended up commenting on it now, and I'm sorry if you felt that I went to pick a fight. However, my points stand: as to evidence, you forget that I've been there when things have happened, e.g. cstheory.stackexchange.com/q/12258 cstheory.stackexchange.com/q/12034 cstheory.stackexchange.com/a/14713 cstheory.stackexchange.com/a/15048 cstheory.stackexchange.com/a/12009 cstheory.stackexchange.com/a/12597 for starters. –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 6 '13 at 15:43
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@vzn: I provide the links above to demonstrate examples of what I view as lack of constructive response to negative votes: typically special pleading and, as in your responses to me and others here, accusations of snobbishness, groupthink, and imposing unneccessarily harsh standards on you. This is at least how I feel, and I can infer from the reactions of some others that they do as well. I'll refrain from commenting more on the matter, until such a time as it is pertinent in current events --- which is all that I intended to do this time, though I failed for reasons which I find mysterious. –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 6 '13 at 15:57
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@vzn: it only took a casual stroll through your posting history, for those episodes which I particularly remembered: less than 5 minutes all told. Your participation in this way is memorable, after all. That's all I'm going to say for now. –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 11 '13 at 23:34

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