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I have been a top contributor for the year on the Ebooks SE for the last 2 years. I have gone out of my way to provide useful information to people who ask questions. I have done my best to follow SE guidelines and to make people aware of guidelines. I have contributed to several other SE, so it's fair to say that I know SE expectations and SE culture.

I run an ebook publishing company and I have written about the ebook industry for a while. I know a lot of things about ebook technology and standards. I format ebooks everyday and work as an editor in Katy, TX . I also am a writer and geek. I have gone out of my way to publicize the ebook SE on another websites and on social media.

I have tried my best to be helpful and polite, especially to newbies who may be unfamiliar with SE rules.

At the same time, I see a lot of effort on this SE to remove posts and answers even when it is unwarranted. This has happened to me several times. Sometimes the judgment is questionable or based on an alleged infraction which is borderline or debateable. I am an advocate for loose enforcement of SE guidelines -- mainly because strict enforcement of guidelines is usually unnecessary and alienates people. Also, I feel that way because I understand that it takes time for newbies to learn the SE mores, and I want to be helpful.

Today, moderator Ed Cotrell deleted my answer to explain to a new user about the right way to find an answer to his off-topic question. My answer was appropriate, polite and still helpful. HERE IS THE QUESTION WITH THE DELETED ANSWER: I NEED RECOMMENDATIONS

So why was it deleted? Because somehow my "help" was not appropriate or in the appropriate form.

I call b.s. on that.

First, I answer ebook questions on this SE several times each week, sometimes even daily. According to Ed Cotrell's profile, he hasn't answered a single ebook question in almost 2 years on this SE. He mainly does moderation: deleting answers and voting to close things.

Second, according to Ed Cotrell's bio data, he doesn't even work in the ebook field.

Third, my answer was helpful and polite. Cotrell's response was classic deletionism.

There is a technical reason I chose to post an answer below and not as a comment underneath the question. I needed more space, and the answer field allows that. Please note that I did make a comment to the question, as is customary on SE. Additionally, I posted a longer answer. That is beyond what is necessary.

This deletion action by Mr. Cotrell is infuriating to me. It attempts to make the ebook SE less helpful to readers and questioners. It mis-applies a SE rule. It is deeply hostile both to new users and frequent users.

Furthermore, I might have brought this up individually with Mr. Cotrell, but apparently he's keeping his email a secret and the SE application doesn't have the functionality of direct messaging. Posting something on META is literally the only way that SE allows you to protest a moderator's action.

If this were the only time this sort of thing happened, I would let it pass. But this happens to me and others on a semi-regular basis on the Ebook SE.

For this reason, I have decided to permanently leave the Ebook SE. Please note that I will continue contributing to the Writers SE and some of the other SE. But I grow weary of this nonsense. Why bother trying to contribute if there's someone else who is deleting my answers for dubious reasons?

You can find me at https://www.reddit.com/r/selfpublish/ , the Kindle formatting forums and on #eprdctn

Robert Nagle idiotprogrammer@gmail.com

OCT 21 UPDATE: I have made an offsite response to Mr. Cottrell's answer below (PS, sorry about the misspelled name).

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    I can't see the deleted answer, but you voted to close the question and answered it at the same time? I hope you know that answering off-topic questions is also discouraged, and there's no exception... – Andrew T. Oct 16 '17 at 19:50
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    Posting on meta is a fine way to raise an issue, though if you want something more private in the future, either flagging for moderator attention (a moderator can then open a private channel in chat) to bring something directly to the attention of a moderator or using the contact page to directly get ahold of the SE community management team if you feel an issue with a moderator needs their intervention. – AJ Henderson Oct 16 '17 at 20:48
  • Andrew T., My deleted "answer" was simply explaining to the newbie why this question was OT, referring the user to more relevant SEs and to other suitable non-SE discussion boards for asking the question.It expanded on the comment I made below the question. – idiotprogrammer Oct 16 '17 at 20:51
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    Couldn't that have been a comment or 2? That's a perfectly good use of a comment. As a mod elsewhere, I'd totally have done the same thing. Answers are not meant for non answers that don't fit in a comment – Journeyman Geek Oct 17 '17 at 0:18
  • I have stated before that the comment to the question is an awkward way to reply when your answer is somewhat long. The context and the substance of the answer should have made it clear why I chose to use both the ANSWER as well as COMMENT. – idiotprogrammer Oct 17 '17 at 1:05
  • LAST COMMENT: You are free to make and enforce any rule you want, but how many users are you driving away by overzealous deletes? As a principle, I generally reject all online forums which err on the side of deletionism. I understand that rules need to be made and applied, but respect for an individual's contributions is extremely important to me. A deletion decision is something I view as inherently dangerous and destructive; the presumption should generally be against it. – idiotprogrammer Oct 17 '17 at 1:05
  • LAST LAST COMMENT: To respond to Journeyman Geek's question, just because it is POSSIBLE to type Moby Dick as a consecutive series of tweets does NOT mean that is OPTIMAL or USER-FRIENDLY. I think in multiple paragraphs; it is not always possible or recommended to divide my thoughts into discrete chunks via comment. Style and sentence flow are intrinsic to my expression -- character limits are artificial. – idiotprogrammer Oct 17 '17 at 1:54
  • LAST LAST LAST COMMENT: Application of this rule to this case reflects the effort to hide the normal interactions between more experienced and less experienced members of an online community. I believe that these interactions have intrinsic worth and they are worth preserving for their own sake -- especially when the thread is short and to the point. Preserving legacy discussions ARE sometimes useful to outsiders and even regular members. Deleting these interactions (even in a systematic way) doesn't make an online community more effective; it makes it more BRUTAL! – idiotprogrammer Oct 17 '17 at 12:39
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We're sorry to lose your valuable contributions. I hope you'll reconsider rather than rage-quitting.

I'll offer a few points in response to your comments.

The Deleted Post

First, for those who can't see the post I deleted (which is nearly everyone), here it is:

Oh, gosh, I hate to break the news to you, but Stack Exchange has lots of rules about the types and rules of what you can ask or post about. Each SE has different guidelines, so you might want to check the one for the ebook SE: https://ebooks.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic

You might find another SE which is more relevant to your question. (A big list is here: https://stackexchange.com/sites#lifearts See for example the sci/fi -- fantasy SE. https://scifi.stackexchange.com/ Generally though, a lot of SE try to discourage people from asking recommendation questions of the sort you are asking.

Many other sites out there might have more open (and less constrictive ) discussion policies. For example, Reddit has many interesting subreddits dedicated to special topics. I just found one for Sci Fi readings which might be interesting to you. https://www.reddit.com/r/scifibooks/

A common complaint about SE is that its strict guidelines for questions tends to discourage open-ended answers. On the other hand, these guidelines also allow the topics to stay focused on questions that can be answered objectively. Hope this helps...

I should point out three things before we go any further.

  1. The question was off-topic and unsalvageable. You even cast the first vote to close it for being off-topic.
  2. You made no attempt to answer the (off-topic) question by recommending books. Your "answer" was commentary about why the question was off-topic. Note: I'm not saying you should have offered recommendations. I'm saying your "answer" wasn't an answer.
  3. You posted your "answer" on October 7. It didn't come to my attention until October 16. For 9 days, it was there and visible to the entire world. That was more than long enough to serve its purpose of communicating to the OP. In fact, it was long enough for several users, including the OP, to see it and comment, and for you to post a reply comment yourself: comments on the deleted post

Your Comments Above

I'll try to address some of your comments.

At the same time, I see a lot of effort on this SE to remove posts and answers even when it is unwarranted. This has happened to me several times. Sometimes the judgment is questionable or based on an alleged infraction which is borderline or debateable. I am an advocate for loose enforcement of SE guidelines -- mainly because strict enforcement of guidelines is usually unnecessary and alienates people. Also, I feel that way because I understand that it takes time for newbies to learn the SE mores, and I want to be helpful.

There is no effort to remove posts "when it is unwarranted." We do, however, follow a question-and-answer format. Your "answer" wasn't an answer. I'm sure by now you've read the guidelines on how to answer questions here, so I'm assuming you knew that.

Today, moderator Ed Cotrell [sic] deleted my answer to explain to a new user about the right way to find an answer to his off-topic question. My answer was appropriate, polite and still helpful.

I did delete it. It wasn't an answer. See above.

So why was it deleted? Because somehow my "help" was not appropriate or in the appropriate form.

I call b.s. on that.

It had nothing to do with whether the answer was "appropriate" or "in the appropriate form." It literally did not answer the question. It was an extended comment.

According to Ed Cotrell's [sic] profile, he hasn't answered a single ebook question in almost 2 years on this SE. He mainly does moderation: deleting answers and voting to close things.

Guilty as charged, at least with respect to answering questions recently. I am more of a student in this space than a teacher, and I have a few other things on my plate. I was, however, asked to help moderate the site until it can hold moderator elections, and I'm happy to do so.

Second, according to Ed Cotrell's [sic] bio data, he doesn't even work in the ebook field.

True, but I'm not sure why that's relevant.

Third, my answer was helpful and polite.

Again, it wasn't an answer.

Cotrell's [sic] response was classic deletionism.

Please spell my name correctly, if you're going to use it so many times. And I like the phrase "classic deletionism." I'm going to have to start using that.

There is a technical reason I chose to post an answer below and not as a comment underneath the question. I needed more space, and the answer field allows that.

There is a reason comments are limited in length: we don't want extremely long how-to posts every time someone asks an off-topic question. The sites on the SE network get thousands of off-topic, nonsensical, incoherent, overly broad, or otherwise bad questions per day. We don't want users reposting the entire Help section in the answers (or the comments) to all of those questions. And in any case, "I needed more space" does not convert a series of comments into an answer.

This deletion action by Mr. Cotrell [sic] is infuriating to me.

Sorry to hear that.

It attempts to make the ebook SE less helpful to readers and questioners.

Nope. It removed a non-answer to an off-topic question.

It mis-applies a SE rule.

Respectfully, no.

It is deeply hostile both to new users and frequent users.

Nope.

Furthermore, I might have brought this up individually with Mr. Cotrell [sic], but apparently he's keeping his email a secret and the SE application doesn't have the functionality of direct messaging.

I don't post my email on SE because, among other reasons, I also moderate Stack Overflow. I get enough email without hundreds of complaints about who-knows-what (that likely didn't even involve me) flooding my inbox every day. People already send nasty messages to SO moderators and stalk us on Twitter and in other contexts all the time. I'd rather they not also spam me.

Posting something on META is literally the only way that SE allows you to protest a moderator's action.

We have a function that lets you flag a post for moderator attention. I'm not the only moderator, and I would not handle a flag complaining about my actions. Also, you could have posted on Meta without simultaneously quitting.

Again, I hope you'll reconsider your decision to leave, or at least seek a constructive dialog. Rage-quitting the site doesn't make it better.

  • MY RESPONSE. ghostlypopulations.com/random/… I won't be commenting further, but I will check this thread periodically – idiotprogrammer Oct 20 '17 at 11:36
  • @idiotprogrammer I'm sorry that you haven't reconsidered your decision to leave. It would be great if you stayed and helped us improve the site! Unfortunately (and ironically), your comments are posted in a context where users of this site can't reply or interact with them at all. Some of your points would have made good feature requests or at least topics for discussion either here (ebooks Meta) or on the Meta site for the entire network, Meta Stack Exchange. I hope you'll take a little time off and come back when you're ready! – Ed Cottrell Oct 20 '17 at 14:30
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We also have a very underutilized chat site that would be useful for these exact scenarios. A nice thorough post could be left in the chat room and linked to directly in the comment section of the question on the EBooks SE site.

Here is an example of how you can link to a direct post in the chat room:

enter image description here

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    On my offsite response (see above), I have suggested several other asynchronous and less peremptory moderation methods. Deletion strikes me only as a last resort strategy for moderation. – idiotprogrammer Oct 20 '17 at 12:00
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    Thanks for taking the time to write the post. – Jason Down Oct 21 '17 at 15:00

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