# Why was my answer censored? [closed]

This relates to https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/540575/ . I said what I had to say on my answer itself. It was edited out by a moderator and suggested to me that I post my query here.

I have no queries as such, but I do have (what I feel) an important point to make. Since I spent a good deal of time crafting out my original "rant" (and frankly, a little exhausted) I'll just post the part that was edited out. Sorry I don't have the energy to write a standalone question, but the general direction of my problem should be clear. I request the community's feedback on the issues I attempt to highlight.

Also, please ignore the title (it's a rhetoric question). I have to think one up, but my mind is not proving very helpful. I will add though, that I have been using SE for years (for my own education) and have only recently started contributing.

I do notice now that I am spending more time on SE, however, a very strong strain of anti-intellectualism going around here that I did not notice when I was just using Google search to look up questions on SE. Many closed minded people on this website (just my observation). I think for my own sanity, I should go back to what I was doing formerly.

Edit: Example of what I am talking about. I received a downvote on my answer on the Physics site after I posted this here. How to explain this? Also, the fact that this is all anonymous makes all this so much worse.

EDIT (II): I thought for a while why any of this seems so objectionable. I realize that the point I am making seems so inconsequential (I mean, there are lots of instances on this website of people losing their shit when faced with the dreaded downvote ; I am yet another in that pile, etc.).

However, this is not inconsequential (in my opinion). It has, in fact, great relevance to the question of whether this site (or any other such resource that is of, by, and for the people, to be cliched) manages to be effective. To do what it is supposed (or advertised) to do. Allow me to explain:

$$(1)$$ My understanding is that down-votes are reserved for answers (and questions) that show an objective lack of effort. I should also mention, that I have seen a lot of down-vote worthy (IMHO, of course) content on this website, but have never been able to bring myself to actually press the downvote button. I press the UPvote on the answer which I think is correct instead. This fulfills what StackExchange advertises itself as (a sentiment I fully agree) : I quote (from the front page of SE) : "The right answer. Right on top"

That is why I said (to address a comment below as well, although the justification I gave below is also perfectly valid) "...to anyone with a hint of intellectual honesty (and let me add, understanding of physics) my answer is not down-votable..." .

It IS intellectually dishonest to down-vote an answer that shows clear effort (irrespective of whether the Physics is right ; that's what the upvotes are for)

$$(2)$$ Now, let me add a layer of mindfuck (assuming you are still with me). First, a few pieces of info:

I paid a visit to the SE page of the commentator (and downvoter) that I addressed in my answer on the referred post above. I found that his highest rated answer is to the following question : Why does matter exist in 3 states (liquids, solid, gas)? Sounds Familiar? (hint: link at top of this post). No comments (yet).

I lost my marbles yesterday too over this same issue (details in chat log of hbar). In that case, my answer was down-voted by my co-answerer on the question! I mean, of course, these things are impossible to prove, but when things are happening in real time, it is not that hard to tell who the downvote came from.

I can understand emotional deployment of up and down-votes. That happens a good bit on this website as well (I would say, the majority are just emotional). The above two examples seem much worse somehow.

$$(3)$$ Why? There are lots of people with lots of different kinds of fish to fry on this website. Mine was that I wanted to work on my (physics) writing (brevity is not a quality I possess, as may be evident).

But how comfortable would you be if people started using the down-vote to help them fry the fish they are here to fry (especially of the professional kind)? I think a reasonable claim may be made that such a thing happens fairly regularly on this website (I'll leave it to you to decide if the above two fall in that category, but I think I am not that far out in suspecting). That is, if the DOWN-VOTE becomes a TOOL to gain COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE? Would that be an appropriate usage of the down-vote? Would that be healthy? Do the OverLords at SE imagine this is a sustainable model? What about the advertising tagline above?

$$(4)$$ It is with good reason that this is the tagline. Any such website would be pointless if the right answer weren't usually on top. So, for long term survival of any such platform, it is crucial that this condition is, on an average, true.

This is not a question I am asking (except to answer to yourself, perhaps) but take a good look at the Physics SE website. Do you, in your personal opinion think this condition is satisfied currently? ie, do you think the right answer is at the top (generally, usually etc.). Even if you do, but you too have noticed what I point out in $$(3)$$, do you think it will for very long?

$$(5)$$ Which brings me to my final point : I read some highly read discussions on this Meta site regarding if there needs to be a critical mass of Professional Physicists for this website to function. The answer , in my opinion, is NO. Several people whose work I follow on this website are not, and they are producing good work.

Profession is some narrow box we are all boxed into. However doing physics is much wider than what professional physicists like to think. The only condition that professional physicists satisfy is that their paycheck comes because they do physics. That does not mean that people who earn their living through other means cannot be Physicists (eg., a certain A.Einstein?)

However it IS crucial that the amount of bullshit on this site does not reach a critical mass. Ultimately, any public platform can only function if the public has trust. If there is no trust, there is nothing.

tl;dr: I will not apologize for this "wordy" post. Educated people need to have longer than 5-minute attention spans. I do realize, though, that my writing can be wordy, objectively. So if you read all the way, thanks.

REMOVED TEXT : @ leftaroundabout's comment: "... I had to downvote. This is just a more wordy version of knzhou's non-answer ..."

• Frankly, I have a suspicion that you do not understand OP's question. But Let me Reiterate. OP's question asks if there is any unambiguous , macroscopically observable (that can be captured in a "3-D image") criterion that distinguishes liquids and gases. The answer is No.

• The "wordiness" of my answer contains actual Physical arguments backing @knzhou's perfectly valid answer, I suggest you read them. As somebody else has already pointed out below, to anyone with a hint of intellectual honesty (and let me add, understanding of physics) my answer is not down-votable.

• Also, about downvotes. It is fine. I got very worked up over downvotes on an answer yesterday. I am pretty new to this ; however, let me add that it is not necessarily about me. It is about making sure that the physics is correct. It gets my goat a little when my Physics makes sense, but it is downvoted. I'll try to handle this better.

• I am learning how to write, but still, I can sense when I have written a valid and reasonable answer. This is (IMO) an instance. But I see a very strange pattern on PhysicsSE: answers that I know would be accepted by my colleagues in the Physics department (because they contain real PHYSICS) are repeatedly down-voted here. I mean, what do people want this website to be? Quora? Yahoo Answers?. (Although, maybe based on the quality of some of the answers that are upvoted on this site, the answer is yes)

• also. Minor Point. It seems like you have your mind made up that liquids and gases are indeed distinct phases in a well defined manner. The point of this bounty that you have announced seems to be to find a reputable source (exact wording of bounty) to back up your pre-cooked understanding. I'll just say that made up minds are not good for doing physics (or anything, actually). (that is just an opinion)

"... Another (unimportant) matter: you put so much emphasis-markup into your answer that it becomes hard to even read. In particular, please don't use math mode as “super-italic” emphasis...."

• ONLY useful (to me) feedback : I have tried to fix this as far as possible on this post. Thanks for this comment.

Finally, at the person who attempted to delete this paragraph : DON'T. Censorship is not healthy for a democratic atmosphere. Everything (including physics) comes after.

• I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because, in its current form, it isn't a good fit for our community. Note that the user list in the close banner is misleading, because a moderation action caused several close votes from the community to "age away." – rob Apr 8 at 20:39

Answers shouldn't be used to talk to other users. They should just be used to answer the main question.

That part that was deleted isn't answering the question, it is just defending your opinions to other users. The rest of your answer that is valid still remains, so this isn't "anti-intellectualism".

Why was my answer censored?

It wasn't. This site, like all publishing venues, has an established format, which establishes which kinds of content goes where. Keeping to this format is what makes this website a useful resource to read. You posted content to the wrong part of the format, and you got directed to where to post it.

Specifically, the moderator's explanation for why content was removed from your answer,

I've edited out the portion of this answer that consisted of a reply to comments rather than an answer to the question. Answers should be self-contained and consist only of material relevant to the question as posed.

is right on the money. The text that was edited out belongs (i) in comments; or, if long enough (ii) in chat, be that a comments-overflow chatroom or the site's general chatroom.

It is about making sure that the physics is correct. It gets my goat a little when my Physics makes sense, but it is downvoted.

are you sure that the downvote is because the physics is wrong, and not because the presentation makes the content less useful than the 'raw physics' would indicate? For me, your answer (in its current form) is pretty close to the edge of being so wordy and hard to parse that it becomes essentially useless, particularly for the broad (HNQ) audience of that post. Votes are primarily for sorting answers by order of usefulness, not just correctness, and if the clarity of a post's text is bad enough, then it can definitely impact, sometimes severely, its usefulness.

Writing good, clear text is hard. It takes a long time of practice to be proficient at it. Further, evaluating the clarity of your own text is also and extremely hard task in general. So when you say

I am learning how to write, but still, I can sense when I have written a valid and reasonable answer. This is (IMO) an instance.

I would invite you to consider the voting on your answer as feedback on how clear your text was, and how accurately calibrated your clear-o-meter is for your own text.

Some other minor comments:

• Edit: Example of what I am talking about. I received a downvote on my answer on the Physics site after I posted this here. How to explain this? Also, the fact that this is all anonymous makes all this so much worse.

This is known as 'the Meta effect' -- posting about a specific post on Meta will draw attention to that post, and will amplify the reactions to it. If the content is good, then a link for meta will draw upvotes; if it is not useful, then it can draw downvotes. This can happen independently of how the link is framed within Meta. (But, if you post a long and wordy rant linking to a post that looks like a long and wordy rant, then you've primed your audience to notice precisely the problematic aspects of the post you've linked to.)

• tl;dr: I will not apologize for this "wordy" post. Educated people need to have longer than 5-minute attention spans. I do realize, though, that my writing can be wordy, objectively. So if you read all the way, thanks.

Stop blaming your audience. "Educated people" also need to be able to write clear, concise text. The onus is on you, here. This comment indicates that you realize that the tone and format you chose was harmful to your purposes, but you went ahead anyway. I don't think this is a good strategy here.

• In general, I agree with what you write (although I think that the HNQ is a totally counterproductive feature of this site if it really draws to the site people that upvote/downvote answers they are not at all qualified to judge). For this particular answer to this particular question, some of the downvotes certainly seemed to be due to disagreement on the physics (just look at the long thread of comments under the answer) and I can understand the frustration of the answerer. – Yvan Velenik Apr 1 at 10:49
• @YvanVelenik At the same time, the people disagreeing with the physics also seemed to be pointing out that the top answer said the same thing. So it at least does point to the fact that the "right" answer still seemed to make it to the top; and that the issues with this answer can't be completely blamed on people disagreeing with the physics. As far as HNQ goes, I think most will agree it has problems. I'm kinda supportive of it (it's how I found the site); but I'm not convinced that it does more good than harm. – JMac Apr 1 at 12:02
• @both: HNQ is a fact of life as far as this thread is concerned. Like it or hate it, it's here to stay for the foreseeable future. SE has implemented some (quite meaningful) changes that improve the feature, while at the same time not being enough, but the meltdown late last year means that (despite an indicated willingness by SE to continue working on this feature) it will be quite low on the dev priority list for now. It is what it is, and debating whether it should exist or not is a pointless use of this space. – Emilio Pisanty Apr 1 at 13:03

This whole mess began due to an edit which was done by me on the linked post, so I would like to clarify.

Actually I was surfing through the HNQ when I found that question and after scrolling down the other answers I came to yours. Well, I'm not a physicist, so I didn't judge your answer from the physics point of view (whether correct or not). (Also note that I didn't vote on it.)

The only thing that bothered me was that you edited your post to use it as a media of conversation between you and the others. This isn't the purpose of an answer. An answer should be (mostly) to the point and the comments are for the purpose of clarification.

So I thought that it would be better to hide (not remove) that portion with "". And that's what I did. Also I commented on the post (now moved to chat) where I stated:

Well I hided a portion of your edited question as it seems to be a rant. You should use chat or comment if you want some info to be delivered to a particular person. If you dont agree with my edit then you should just remove those "".

Note that I did that edit just to improve the quality of your post (as those rants just add noise). I didn't had nor I (currently) have any grudges against you. That was just done in a good faith. But certainly you didn't like it and hence wrote:

Finally, at the person who attempted to delete this paragraph : DON'T. Censorship is not healthy for a democratic atmosphere. Everything (including physics) comes after.

Well, that didn't sound good so I commented about this in the H-Bar (you can look at the conversation here). After that, your post gained a bit of attention and then a moderator intervened.