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In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers.

Not every question was compiled - as noted, we only selected the top 8 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us.

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes.Please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written, and also including a link to your answer on your nomination post.

Once all the answers have been compiled, this will serve as a transcript for voters to view the thoughts of their candidates, and will be appropriately linked in the Election page.

Good luck to all of the candidates!

Oh, and when you've completed your answer, please provide a link to it after this blurb here, before that set of three dashes. Please leave the list of links in the order of submission.

To save scrolling here are links to the submissions from each candidate (in order of submission):


  1. How do you balance being welcoming to new users bringing "easy" questions with maintaining a repository of research-level questions that appeal to more established members of the site?

  2. Right now, what do you think is/are the biggest challenge(s) the site faces? Do you have any (brief) ideas as to how they might be addressed?

  3. As a moderator you're expected to mediate during (heated) arguments. Have you ever been in such an argument with another user and how was it eventually handled? Alternatively: How would you handle the situation if you would find yourself in an argument with another user?

  4. What is one area in which you would like to see some improvement from (or bring some improvement to!) the current moderator team?

  5. We have had several attempts at defining how much effort is required to avoid a homework closure. However we have yet not had any edits to the homework FAQ post in that direction. Questions which are not a blatant copy-paste of textbooks still get closed as homework (examples: 1, 2, 3), and are sometimes reopened (example). This situation causes confusion to both close voters and askers alike: what exact criterion to use when close voting a question? Do you see this situation as a problem, and if so, how do you intend to tackle this situation as a moderator?

  6. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

  7. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

  8. Someone flags a well-established user's comment as being rude. What are your criteria for evaluating whether to delete the comment or preserve it?

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Candidate: andselisk

  1. How do you balance being welcoming to new users bringing "easy" questions with maintaining a repository of research-level questions that appeal to more established members of the site?

In my opinion, Chemistry.SE has grown up enough to allow for a relatively effortless resolution of this problem. If the question posted by a new user is an "easy" one, there is a high chance it's been answered before, so it's handled as a duplicate, also pointing user to the topic resolving their issue. If it's a new "easy" one and hasn't been covered before, then it deserves to be processed as any other question, disregarding how basic, boring, easy or tedious it is — as long as the question complies with the rules. Everyone is welcome to comment and to answer such questions.

As for advanced users, I tend to believe that not all of the "easy" questions are the white noise for them and sometimes "veterans" may find these questions interesting. If not, pro-users usually have an established system of filtering the questions they are not interested in or may find boring. The quality of the titles is kept pretty high, so often one can say what the question is about at the first glance without opening it. Besides, advanced users usually use sorting mechanisms: advanced search, favorite tags, RSS etc.

  1. Right now, what do you think is/are the biggest challenge(s) the site faces? Do you have any (brief) ideas as to how they might be addressed?

Chemistry.SE maintains high quality level of posts (to the point some answers are nominated for publishing in a reputable journal) and demands a quality input from the users too. This is often a challenge for the new users which claim that the learning curve is too steep, there are too many rules to follow and that MathJax/English/punctuation/life/… is hard. The challenge for the site at this point is not to loose all new users because of this. I faced a situation when a user denies to use MathJax because of its complexity, but the person is also an experienced chemist. My take on this is to try to assist new user in taking that bar (by editing their posts/supplying useful links), speaking in pole vaulting terms.

  1. As a moderator you're expected to mediate during (heated) arguments. Have you ever been in such an argument with another user and how was it eventually handled? Alternatively: How would you handle the situation if you would find yourself in an argument with another user?

Yes, I was engaged in a couple of heated situations. There was one battle on the battlefield of edit wars and extended polemics whether the answer can be considered as such or not (it was a one-liner which was also wrong, in my opinion). I find heated arguments counterproductive as they cause "thermal throttling" and I'd try my best to evade such discussion at the beginning attempting to steer the course towards consensus.

At first, I'd try to reason logically, supply evidence or involve a similar precedent. Stop&think, if opponent does the same (maybe it's me being a nonsense). If I feel there is a brick wall, the opponent is trolling or starts to abuse language, I'd rather bail as it makes little sense to continue at this point (flagging along the way, if necessary). In the end, it's the community-driven site and involving collective conscious in the conflict between two individuals might be useful.

  1. What is one area in which you would like to see some improvement from (or bring some improvement to!) the current moderator team?

As much as I hate flattering, I must admit I learned too much from the mod team (jonsca: importance of voting/closing; Loong: importance of standards and organized thinking; Martin: importance of impartiality, tips on advanced formatting (MathJax/$\mathrm{\LaTeX}$); orthocresol: effective work with bibliography, drawing adequate organic molecules) to issue any complains whatsoever.

On a nitpicking side, I see users often adopting the opinion of another user with the diamond-attached nickname rather blindly. From my observation, a mod may sometimes just comment (not even vote to close) that the question is somewhat unclear, and that comment gets +10 upvotes, the question gets -5 downvotes and eventually gets closed by other users, not even the mod himself. Unfortunately, people are sometimes too lazy to think for themselves and adopt the opinion of the higher-ranked individual. I realize it's a mind game at this point, and I can only suggest to try fore-think the consequences of such comments considering how the audience might react.

  1. We have had several attempts at defining how much effort is required to avoid a homework closure. However we have yet not had any edits to the homework FAQ post in that direction. Questions which are not a blatant copy-paste of textbooks still get closed as homework (examples: 1, 2, 3), and are sometimes reopened (example). This situation causes confusion to both close voters and askers alike: what exact criterion to use when close voting a question? Do you see this situation as a problem, and if so, how do you intend to tackle this situation as a moderator?

Indeed, it's hard to find a more controversial topic than homework policy. I'm afraid I cannot share more sophisticated wisdom in addition to what's already been discussed. Judging whether the question is a homework-type may seem subjective (and it is in many cases). My criteria for closing as HW are mainly the following:

  1. Lack of demonstrated research (information is free and readily available, but OP didn't bother to find or to read on the topic).
  2. Questioner needs just a pass; doesn't participate in discussion, doesn't react to the tips and suggestions and keeps on demanding for an answer. A good indication of that is also a number of copy-pasted queries on multiple Q&A sites (yes, I do check that too with all suspicious questions, plus search-by-image if there are photos attached).
  3. A poorly formatted question asking for urgent help with smartphone screenshots or just a dark photo with a lot of noise. In 99.99% it's a student taking an exam (e.g. I guess the reason for closing is obvious).

I personally don't see this as a major issue. I know some users claim that I'm known for disagreeing with too many close-votes, some claim that I purposely try to close random questions as my name pops up first in the list of close-voters. I'm not in position to judge myself, so I just follow the criteria I established above for myself and it worked OK so far. I think I also tend to skip questions quite often if I don't fully understand what it's about or the question is far beyond my field of research, hoping others with more expertise may serve better judgement.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

First, I'd check whether those arguments/flags are actually relevant. Second, if the discussion is expanding, it should be brought to a chat room. Flags should be reviewed, and if those are not helpful, contact user and explain what's wrong with their flagging. A user productively posting relevant answers is a valuable site member, however it isn't a reason to issue a free ticket for offending others and expanding polemics.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

Given I'm a mod, I assume another mod has equal rights and comparable competence as I do, so this decision should be respectfully reviewed and not criticized. If I really like the question, I'd reach out to the person and try to understand the reason for closing. Once the situation is cleaned up, I'd probably suggest to improve the question (collectively, ideally) and, once it suffice the site policy, cast a vote to reopen it.

  1. Someone flags a well-established user's comment as being rude. What are your criteria for evaluating whether to delete the comment or preserve it?

If the comment is indeed rude, then it should be handled as such. If the situation repeats, then the user should be informed why this is not an adequate behavior.

However, I often see experienced users trying to deliver a tip or give a clue in a somewhat sarcastic manner or via a metaphor. Personally, I don't see this as being rude, rather being creative and memorable. It also depends on the cultural background, so it's hard to formulate a list of criteria here, and I believe each case should be reviewed separately.

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Candidate: Todd Minehardt

  1. How do you balance being welcoming to new users bringing "easy" questions with maintaining a repository of research-level questions that appeal to more established members of the site?

There are (at least) two kinds of "easy" questions, in my opinion.

One of those is a variation of a problem we've all seen before, where one needs to balance an equation or compute the pH of a solution based on some given information - I find no use for these specific types of questions here (do we need 10 variants of how to compute the pH of a buffered solution with slightly different amounts of acid/buffer in each case?).

The other kind of "easy" question is the generalized variant of the above, and we should have a canonical example that fills that niche. That second variant also serves as an anchor point from a research perspective.

  1. Right now, what do you think is/are the biggest challenge(s) the site faces? Do you have any (brief) ideas as to how they might be addressed?

Jerry Garcia said, in reference to the Grateful Dead's ardent fan base, that "[The Grateful Dead] is like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice." I happen to think of chemistry that way and this site in particular.

I don't perceive any problems: We are not a homework dumping ground, our attention to detail (typographical and scientific) is exceptionally high, and our core base of dedicated users remains strong and is growing.

However, my views are not shared by everybody. The "homework" business has been going on forever, and likely will continue. Some feel we're too elite; others, too lazy. However, that's life in general and I suggest that people use their ability to vote and review to effect change. After all, that's what those mechanisms are for.

  1. As a moderator you're expected to mediate during (heated) arguments. Have you ever been in such an argument with another user and how was it eventually handled? Alternatively: How would you handle the situation if you would find yourself in an argument with another user?

When I first started posting here, one user engaged me in a comment thread. I disengaged, raised a flag for rudeness, and the behavior stopped due to moderation intervention. That was easily 4 or 5 years ago.

Occasionally I will get baited by someone - this rarely happens - and my approach is to ignore it. I will NOT engage in an argument, and here's why: The stakes are small, and most things can be discussed away; I post under my real name; and the Internet never forgets. It's not worth it.

  1. What is one area in which you would like to see some improvement from (or bring some improvement to!) the current moderator team?

I like the vibe here, and I like the moderators. My interactions with them have always been positive. I'd like to be part of that club. I have no complaints.

  1. We have had several attempts at defining how much effort is required to avoid a homework closure. However we have yet not had any edits to the homework FAQ post in that direction. Questions which are not a blatant copy-paste of textbooks still get closed as homework (examples: 1, 2, 3), and are sometimes reopened (example). This situation causes confusion to both close voters and askers alike: what exact criterion to use when close voting a question? Do you see this situation as a problem, and if so, how do you intend to tackle this situation as a moderator?

Se my answer to (1), in part. The word "homework" might be misapplied, and the amount of effort might vary, but we are not the Internet resource for every freshman's slight variation on how to calculate the pH of a 0.01 M acetic acid solution, and I will never waver from that. I do not see any problem here other than many people who post here do so once and do it to get an answer to a problem in advance of turning in a homework assignment or taking an exam, and correcting that behavior can be accomplished in part by not entertaining it

I vote to close more questions on this site than any other users - 8,538 as I type this - and at least several other folks are in agreement with me at any given time on those decisions. My main criterion is, "is this question worthy of being part of a curated collection of questions and answers on this site?" Have I answered some fluffy questions? Yes. Will I do so again? Yes. But there are other places where those kinds of questions can happily reside, and I'll do everything I can on my part to make sure they don't end up here.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

That sounds like an invitation for a sidebar chat where I could dispense some wisdom I've acquired over the years. I would point out that in the workplace, such behavior would result in material downside, from management or HR, culminating in dismissal or other actions that could really hurt a person's career and/or savings account.

But here, on Chem.SE, you're getting another chance - you might lose some rep, or have to say you're sorry, but in the end, I think I could convince a person that even if you're an all-star in terms of contributing content, the truth is if you're a jerk you'll be shown the door. We are a tolerant crowd but we do have a very impressive and knowledgeable user base: nobody is irreplaceable.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I'd talk to them. But again, I am very heavily biased in favor of voting to close (and have the record to prove it), so likely I'd be in alignment with them.

  1. Someone flags a well-established user's comment as being rude. What are your criteria for evaluating whether to delete the comment or preserve it?

I have a sarcastic, cynical, and often profane way of communicating my humorous remarks in person, but on this site (and any other Internet-related media) you'll at best see a "Dad joke" or a nod-and-a-wink poke if I "know" the person I'm responding to.

If I feel that the remark is something that would come back to haunt to user - I come from the dark ages when we didn't share everything we did in a public forum that never goes away, and that's a plus here - I'll delete it for their sake.

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Candidate: pH13 - yet another Philipp

  1. How do you balance being welcoming to new users bringing "easy" questions with maintaining a repository of research-level questions that appeal to more established members of the site?

TBH, I think that this is no business of a moderator. To be able to do this, I would have to check every single question and then decide what to do with it, maybe deleting too many "easy" ones that the few research-level ones show up more. That is neither realistic nor how this system works. The community decides by its voting behavior which questions are more worthy than others.

One possible way to affect the balance would probably be to ask a lot of own research-level questions.

  1. Right now, what do you think is/are the biggest challenge(s) the site faces? Do you have any (brief) ideas as to how they might be addressed?

As far as I get it, there is still no, or at least no satisfying, solution w.r.t. the homework question. But unfortunately, I am not too deep into all meta activities to give a proper answer here.

  1. As a moderator you're expected to mediate during (heated) arguments. Have you ever been in such an argument with another user and how was it eventually handled? Alternatively: How would you handle the situation if you would find yourself in an argument with another user?

No, I have never been in such an argument with another user.

The situation can basically only be handled by talking about the problem and trying to find a solution together. But if no solution can be found for whatever reasons, there are some effective tools to prevent the user from writing anything. Of course the latter is not a solution that I would want to see.

  1. What is one area in which you would like to see some improvement from (or bring some improvement to!) the current moderator team?

I am very happy with the current moderator team and from my point of view, there is nothing very obvious to improve. I also could not improve the team itself but only try to be a valuable and helpful member.

  1. We have had several attempts at defining how much effort is required to avoid a homework closure. However we have yet not had any edits to the homework FAQ post in that direction. Questions which are not a blatant copy-paste of textbooks still get closed as homework (examples: 1, 2, 3), and are sometimes reopened (example). This situation causes confusion to both close voters and askers alike: what exact criterion to use when close voting a question? Do you see this situation as a problem, and if so, how do you intend to tackle this situation as a moderator?

I think we should answer as many questions as possible as good as possible. We should thereby not ignore homework questions per se. If once an answer to a homework question exists, we can easily close new similar ones as being duplicates of them. And if the question is of low quality, it can be closed of being so.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I think, this is in principle very similar to the third question. One has to talk to the user to find a solution and, again, patience is the way to go.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

Maybe I should have asked own question ... the answer again is, that I would search the conversation to get to understand the reason. That I would have done it differently does not mean, that I would have done it right or better.

  1. Someone flags a well-established user's comment as being rude. What are your criteria for evaluating whether to delete the comment or preserve it?

Common sense aka is it rude or not ... no?

Why can't a well-established user not also have a bad day and write something rude? We are all humans and if well-established or not, we should follow the netiquette to get around with each other best possible.

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    $\begingroup$ "patience is the way to go." .... I love that very much. $\endgroup$ – user1271772 May 5 at 15:36
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Candidate: Tyberius

  1. How do you balance being welcoming to new users bringing "easy" questions with maintaining a repository of research-level questions that appeal to more established members of the site?

I (and I believe a lot of other users) seem to take the approach of directing "easy" questions to a relevant duplicate/canonical question when possible. I generally try to make sure the user understands how the site works and how their question might be improved. Really just making an effort to ensure that, while we don't want to repeatedly answer the same basic questions, we also don't want to completely dismiss good-faith questions from new users.

  1. Right now, what do you think is/are the biggest challenge(s) the site faces? Do you have any (brief) ideas as to how they might be addressed?

I think building up a larger active user base might be the biggest on going challenge. A small group of power users generate a large portion of the content and perform most of the community level review work. The site is basically just above the line where even just a few active users leaving or becoming predisposed for an extended period would really slow down the workings of the site. That's why I think its so important to not be dismissive of new users, as it can make the difference between having a new, engaged person on the site or just a one off question.

  1. As a moderator you're expected to mediate during (heated) arguments. Have you ever been in such an argument with another user and how was it eventually handled? Alternatively: How would you handle the situation if you would find yourself in an argument with another user?

On this site, I generally haven't had any issues, but I did get a little heated on Cross Validated SE once. I got an answer (and a vote to close if I remember right) to a question from an established user, but I didn't see how it applied to my question. I thought they were being unnecessarily cryptic and condescending with their answer and I already happened to be in bad mood, so I was somewhat terse in my replies to them. Coming back to the question the next day, I felt ridiculous for letting myself get worked up over someone making an earnest effort to help, so I left an apology in the comments. I realized I was reading a tone into their comments that wasn't there. This helped shape my perspective that people in the SE network (in the vast majority of cases) are just making the best effort they can to help and aren't out looking to demean less knowledgeable users.

  1. What is one area in which you would like to see some improvement from (or bring some improvement to!) the current moderator team?

I honestly don't see any major holes in how the moderator team currently operates and I think any issues that do exist simply come down to man-power, which this election should address.

  1. We have had several attempts at defining how much effort is required to avoid a homework closure. However we have yet not had any edits to the homework FAQ post in that direction. Questions which are not a blatant copy-paste of textbooks still get closed as homework (examples: 1, 2, 3), and are sometimes reopened (example). This situation causes confusion to both close voters and askers alike: what exact criterion to use when close voting a question? Do you see this situation as a problem, and if so, how do you intend to tackle this situation as a moderator?

While I think more can be done to clarify the homework policy and that discussion should resume, I don't believe there will ever be "exact" criteria for closing as homework. To a certain degree, its a "I know it when I see it" issue. All of the close reasons require some level of personal judgement as to what constitutes enough effort or originality to stay open. And while this can lead to some mistaken closures, I think the community as a whole does a good job of advocating for good closed questions, whether through meta-discussion or just using the reopen review queue. So for now, I think this approach of trusting users judgement and catching the few erroneous closures is working well enough.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

First and foremost, I think you have to see the know the context of the comments. Assuming the flags are reasonable, I would probably ping the user, give them a warning, and try to figure out how to nip these arguments in the bud before they start. If its a recurring issue, a short ban would probably be in order and if continues beyond that, longer bans would be in order. An established user will often get a little more leeway, as they have developed a rapport with other users and have built up good credit through the content they have created, but that can only get one so far before their behavior is more disruptive than it is worth.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

If I felt closure/deletion was really out of line, I would ask the other mod's perspective on why they closed the question. From what I have seen, the mods really only tend to close questions on their own for very blatant cases, so this would likely be pretty rare. If I came away from the discussion still not satisfied with it being closed, I would probably make my case to the community in the comments or on meta. I don't think it would ever be a good use of power to reopen the question on my own, as this would just lead to a pointless back and forth of closure and reopening.

  1. Someone flags a well-established user's comment as being rude. What are your criteria for evaluating whether to delete the comment or preserve it?

It should come down to tone and relevance. A comment that seeks to clarify a question or improve an answer, even a somewhat critical comment, should stay around or at least be addressed in a question/answer. If the comment is more conversational or more about particular users than the given question, then I think it should probably be removed. And while it is always tough to gauge sentiment from text, mean spirited or demeaning comments should be removed. In general, I would probably lean more towards the side of removing comments and ensuring relevant information winds up in the question/answers, as comments aren't meant to last forever.

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Candidate: Melanie Shebel

  1. How do you balance being welcoming to new users bringing "easy" questions with maintaining a repository of research-level questions that appeal to more established members of the site?

Both types of questions deserve an equal chance of response. Many of the "easy" questions often already have answers on other areas of the site and as a moderator, and as a member of the community, I feel we have a responsibility to politely direct the users with easier questions to an answer.

More difficult questions posted by established users often garner more interest because many of the "foundation" users surround and support these questions with bounties and comments. However, many of the tougher questions do go unanswered. I would like to use my experience in marketing to bring help in from off-site to not only answer these questions, but to grow our user base.

  1. Right now, what do you think is/are the biggest challenge(s) the site faces? Do you have any (brief) ideas as to how they might be addressed?

The biggest challenge I see is that users who are further along in chemistry (be it professional chemists or students working on their Ph.D.), often don't see their questions answered. When you get really deep into any subject, you see a real lack of resources. One idea would be to work on expanding the user base in terms of chemists who are further along in their path. I feel we could bring our A-game off-site on Twitter or perhaps Instagram. I've been able to bring some great traffic to some of our more fun questions. I would love to see more of that and would help where I can in that, both on-site and off.

  1. As a moderator, you're expected to mediate during (heated) arguments. Have you ever been in such an argument with another user and how was it eventually handled? Alternatively: How would you handle the situation if you would find yourself in an argument with another user?

One issue I see is someone appearing "police-like" with newer users. Rules exist for a reason, but I feel sometimes we can get over-zealous with them. Tone is very important on the Internet in that it really doesn't exist at all, you can read something horrible in a statement or read it with great kindness. That said, it's really important that any message can be perceived as friendly as possible. I spend a lot of time online so I'm always read my messages back to myself and try to take it in the worst way possible. That way I know how to "attack" my own message to make it come across softer and more friendly.

  1. What is one area in which you would like to see some improvement from (or bring some improvement to!) the current moderator team?

I don't see any problems with moderation as is. I would love to see the community grow and feel that the moderators are doing a phenomenal job on the site. I would like to take my unique perspective in writing for the internet and marketing to make the community more fun, give users a great return on investment, and draw others to the site. While this isn't an issue with moderation, I really feel it would help the site.

  1. We have had several attempts at defining how much effort is required to avoid a homework closure. However we have yet not had any edits to the homework FAQ post in that direction. Questions which are not a blatant copy-paste of textbooks still get closed as homework (examples: 1, 2, 3), and are sometimes reopened (example). This situation causes confusion to both close voters and askers alike: what exact criterion to use when close voting a question? Do you see this situation as a problem, and if so, how do you intend to tackle this situation as a moderator?

Homework will always be a tricky subject here. Unfortunately, there is no blanket policy that seems to have worked in that past. I would treat each homework question individually and make the call given the situation. I would also work with the other mods to discuss how to handle some of the "greyer" areas.

  1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I have dealt with people who are absolutely brilliant, but lack in tact. It can be difficult, but there are many ways to handle it positively. This would have to, of course, be handled on a case-by-case basis. One idea would be to talk to the user, politely, about tone on the Internet. If the user is completely out of line, then other steps may have to be taken. Brilliant answers are very welcome, but a site can't grow if a user is going to be abusive toward others.

  1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would talk with the mod privately. I feel that re-opening the question would be terribly passive aggressive. Perhaps the moderator misunderstood something or perhaps I did. Perhaps the two of us could work together to polish the question (while retaining its meaning) to make it acceptable.

  1. Someone flags a well-established user's comment as being rude. What are your criteria for evaluating whether to delete the comment or preserve it?

Sometimes even critical comments are welcome, but it depends on the tone. Does the comment come off as cruel, hateful, or hurtful? In that case, perhaps it would be best to delete it. If it's critical but constructive, those comments should probably stand. Again, this would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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