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Can we please let the community close questions?

I quit using Physics Forums because of a single case of moderation. I started a thread on the site to do a general relativity calculation in public. Along the way I was told by several respected posters that what I was doing was hopelessly wrong. Eventually a moderator closed it: Schwarzschild Orbits in Cartesian coordinates

The result of my calculation was a paper that was the first amateur paper to win an honorable mention in the annual gravitation essay contest: http://arxiv.org/abs/0907.0660

The basic problem with allowing single people to close posts is that single individuals (heck, even groups of them) do not know enough about physics to distinguish between crank efforts and real physics. Sorry, physics is big and each of you, individually, is quite small. If you allow individuals to close threads you will eventually have this sort of problem drive people away.

I'm reminded of a statement by Harry Collins (a sociologist specializing in physicists):

One of my failings ... is that I cannot generate the levels of disdain for physicists that one physicist can generate for another; I know what I am missing because ... in my own field I can readily generate such levels of disdain for some of my fellow social scientists!


The problem with disdain is that it is an emotion that can blind the reader. And the people most attracted to giving effort on Stack Exchange; do you think they're going to have LESS than the average level of disdain? I suggest that they're likely to be those who have more difficulty "getting along with others".

In short, the reason you should not have single moderators closing topics is the same reason physics journals use more than just a single person (the editor) when deciding whether a paper is worth publishing.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Isn't this the same thing as meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/339/…? $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jan 21, 2011 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, if someone could move it that would be good. $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2011 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ Since you asked, I'll close it as a duplicate so people will be redirected to post their thoughts on the other question. It'll be more productive to only be discussing this in one place. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jan 21, 2011 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ That's odd. I thought that I asked to have this closed as a duplicate. Things that make you go "hmmmmmm." $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2011 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ mbq reopened it. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Feb 21, 2011 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


I agree to this, when a question is not in 100% clear violation of the FAQ or site guidelines, the community shall decide, moderators should only enforce the written rules, not thin and vague complaints that some (one) person posted on meta long time ago, that would lead to chaos and need of moderation of moderators, which I believe is tried to avoid on SE.

If there is a situation where one needs to close lots of questions under short time, there should be added a rule to the FAQ that these questions violate, thus giving moderators power to close.

Does anyone know anything about the process of forming the FAQ or site guidelines on SE ?

  • $\begingroup$ The basic problem is the question of whether or not a question is in "100% clear violation". For example, suppose someone asks a question about a preferred reference frame. There are some physicists who believe that this is a bad idea that was proven wrong long ago. There are others who disagree and papers are still published on the subject. Eventually, in the fullness of time, you will have a moderator who closes a question of this nature. $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2011 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ I am not in favor of adding any more rules to the FAQ or anywhere else. Such a piecemeal approach is inefficient at best and destructive at best. If there is a situation where one needs to close lots of questions under short time ... I don't think that is any clear and present danger of that happening. Moderators on this site have, in fact, been subject to moderation. In particular I was recently awarded a two-week suspension by a mod which was rescinded by the super-mods on consideration of the facts. $\endgroup$
    – Deepak Vaid
    Jan 21, 2011 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Space_cadet; What was the post that got you a 2 week suspension? $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2011 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Carl, it wasn't a post but a back and forth in the comments. Anyhow that situation is water under the bridge. $\endgroup$
    – Deepak Vaid
    Feb 22, 2011 at 11:06

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