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This is really just posted to get the conversation rolling and please don't infer my view on the topic from the question -- I'll post an answer when I have some time that will reflect my opinion on it.

Anyway, there was a recent question seeking to create a massive compilation of reading materials:

Best Sets of Physics Lecture Notes and Articles

It was closed because it definitely does not conform with our current policies concerning big-list questions nor those concerning reference-request questions and the related discussion.

Despite clearly not conforming to any of the established policies, the question has attracted 3 reopen votes. I have been admonished in the past for voting to close against the prevalent opinion described on Meta, so I would like to find out why reopen votes are being cast on a question that so clearly violates all of the established policies.

So the discussion here is really about whether we still feel the questions are off-topic or not and more specifically whether the question linked above should be opened despite it being against existing policies.

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    $\begingroup$ @Hunter This post is to get a conversation going for you since you had expressed interest in it. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ "Questions" like the one listed don't really serve any useful purpose. A good resource-recommendation question requires answers to explain why the linked page is useful and what the scope is. The question you linked to is just a collection of links roughly related to a particular topic. How does that provide any value to anyone? Even Googling for the topic produces a better set of results. $\endgroup$ – Brandon Enright Mar 1 '14 at 5:18
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 I dont like this post as it looks like calling in moderators to support you in disagreeing with the people who think the question in question is useful in order to prevent it from getting reopend by all means. This defeats the purpose of community moderation. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton so when you disagree with something it's "asking the community", and when tpg disagrees, he's "calling for moderator support"? When I read the first sentence of this meta post I really felt bad that it was necessary. And yet you go do the one thing that sentence was meant to prevent -- leave a non constructive comment inferring the OPs motivation and calling him out for it. Really? $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 Thanks for this. I feel that I'm still to new to this forum to really contribute to this discussion. But I don't understand why such a biig list topic is possible on the mathexchange site, but not possible on the physicsexchange site. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Hunter the Math SE community (and the same goes for MathOverflow) is less focused on enforcing all SE rules and guidelines by all means (they adopt only the ones they deem helpful), but allows what the majority of the community of contributors to the site deems good and useful. For example they dont appreciate unilateral closures of non-garbage/non-spam/etc at all, but follow their guideline that moderators should only provide the 4th or 5th final vote. Policies on the mathematical sites and on Physics SE are completely different, and you can guess which approach I personally prefer ... ;-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Hunter Nobody is too new to contribute -- new ideas are important, otherwise we may all have tunnel vision. Each SE site is allowed to determine its own policies and Math.SE has policies to allow questions like that while we don't. I don't know if they every outline why it's on-topic for their site, but we have questions and answers outlining why it's not okay on ours. So, any discussion should be about agreeing/disagreeing with the existing policies and if disagreeing with it, ways to alter it to allow what you want. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton My intentions should have been clear but since you muddled them up, I'll restate them. First, as my comment stated, I wanted to get the conversation rolling for Hunter who had expressed interest in a constructive conversation. Second, I wanted to give those who were for or against reopening the question a chance to express themselves here rather than by going back and forth through the close/reopen cycles that don't allow anything other than petty interactions. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ And for the record, I'm not looking for moderator support. I'm looking for community support about the obvious hypocrisy in following policy. If people want the question reopened, change the policy first. Don't try to subvert the will of the community through voting to open questions. I believe I was reminded of that once (although it was a policy I remember existed which is why I linked to one meta question but not the other). $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 well, here we have again the close/reopen asymmetry (not talking about the specific question but generally). Why should people who want to reopen a question always have to wade through cumbersome lengthy meta discussions before being allowed to cast their vote, whereas people who want to close a question can always go ahead and just do it? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Because closing the question (in this case) follows established policy. While reopening the question (in this case) is very obviously against the existing policy. So if you want to subvert the community policies, you should be forced to do it in the open in a meta discussion. Stop trying to generalize the discussion beyond what is here and focus on the topic at hand -- A) Vote according to policy and if you don't like the policy, work to change it and B) Should this question be open and if so, how to reconcile it with the policies and if not, what to do with the answers. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton I already addressed this, you seem to disregard everything I say. Reopening a 5-vote-closed question involves overturning something 5 people agreed on. Even if there are 5 opposing people, it is an indication of some rift in policy, and is best done on meta instead of just having people close-then-reopen-then-close the question. The reopen feature is meant to be used on improved posts, and in the occasional case when a close misfires. This is neither. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth: Oh my god, do you really not see the difference between 1 person and 5 people. Do you really not see how your comment also applies to dmckee's decision of unilcaterally closing the question after 5 people reopened it? . This is nonsense. Oh and yes, I'm being rude so you will ban me again, the fourth time, I know, don't waste your time writing a message explaining why this time. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Mar 2 '14 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the 1-person closing, but I do not think dmckee should get so much flak for using it. We usually don't apply close votes in the realm of subjectivity of the policies, but that doesn't mean we can't. It looked pretty off topic, and dmckee closed it, expecting people to come to meta if they wanted it reopened, since there was already a bit of discussion in the comments on the on topicness (and atleast 5 people who found it off topic). In this case? In this case the post is obviously off topic and a couple of users are knowingly voting to reopen. That's totally different. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 2 '14 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Dimensio1n0 If you are unhappy with that action, take it up on another thread. Please leave discussions and comments about this question only. Most of the reason the meta discussions become long and drawn out is because nobody stays focused on the task at hand and starts pulling in every complaint from every question ever. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 2 '14 at 15:36
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Voting to close/reopen against policy

Dilaton's correct here:

@tpg2114 and others, we agreed in meta that questions about software exclusively used by and useful for physicists purpose are allowed. So there is no need to close this question, voted to leave open. Please do not overrule that agreement like this.

One should not silently oppose policies via the vote to close / vote to reopen buttons. While there is an intentional degree of subjectivity in the closing policies, there is a limit to it and if a post is objectively closeable (or non-closeable), one should not use the 3k tools against that. Too much of this might lead to a review ban.

If one wishes to overrule these policies, they are free to discuss it on meta.

Note that it is important for you to cast your votes according to your own assessment of the question. This is especially important when there is a great deal of subjectivity involved, either due to an intentionally subjective policy or the lack of a policy altogether. It's OK to vote against popular opinion on a post -- it helps give a true assessment of what the policies ought to be. But this only applies to cases where there is some subjectivity involved, not when you know that the post is objectively off topic by current policy.

So, vote by the policy, not what you feel the policy should be. When there is subjective leeway offered by the policy or a lack of policy, vote according to what you feel and not what everyone else feels.

Best Sets of Physics Lecture Notes and Articles

Regarding the resources post, that seems to be the one to rule them all. Extremely broad, since it more or less is a resource-rec for all physics.

What we can do, however, is move the answers into the community wiki historical answers on the older, converted, book questions. I'm not sure if all have been converted yet (Emilio and I had managed a couple, not sure how many the volunteers managed to clear up), but if so we can just move the answers over. And possibly create new book questions for the ones where there aren't answers yet.

Or move to the tag wikis.

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    $\begingroup$ As said elswhere > 3000 rep users should not act as blind mindless machines that mechanically execute the instructions written in a computer code called policies or rules without thinking about it as individuals. Even on MSO I heard the notion that community moderation works best when high rep useract in accordance with their best knowledge and fair judgement in the context of some community guidelines which allow some room for wise case to case judgement. And as this is a physics site after all, IMHO the physics/physicist point of view is what should govern all policies and review decisions. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton I'm pretty sure I clearly mentioned the distinction between the objective portion and subjective portion of policies (I wrote a whole paragraph on casting votes according to your own assessment). Quite a bit is up to the 3k user's judgement -- but not all. Don't like a policy? You can always complain on meta, there's nothing mindless about that. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 9:34
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    $\begingroup$ Also, you yourself have left the comment telling others to vote according to policy, the one I quoted above. Are you disagreeing with yourself here? $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ Not talking about the question in this question now, what really strikes me odd and what I disagree with is the large asymmetry on Physics SE between closing and reopening. I mean, in the same way as 5 people (or a mod) can close a question just like that because they think it is the right thing, it should be equaly easy for 5 other people who disagree with this to reopen it without having to go through huge bureaucratic obstructions or meta discussions or face mod closing directly after successful reopening. This is how community moderation should work, as often said even on MSO. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 9:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton There's a difference between reopening something that could be on topic by current policy and reopening something that is off topic by current policy. Also, note that 5 other people felt that it should be closed -- it's an indication of some discrepancy when this happens. Also, reopening is usually meant for edited questions -- when it gets used without any edits that means there are issues, like I said. Also, I participate on MSO a lot, and have no clue what you're talking about. You seem to have misinterpreted something here. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ edits are not always needed as people closing a question are not always by definition more right than the ones who disagree with the closing ... Closvoters can be wrong too, in particular when people are judging questions outside their domain of deeper knowledge they can not properly assess what is too broad etc ... I often observed that people who are not particularly knowledgeable about the topic of at hand vote to close/leave closed, whereas people who know the physics of the issue (including physics and maths profs) disagree with the closevoters and are casting leave open/reopens. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Yes, but so can reopenvoters. If there's a discrepancy, where two groups of 5 people disagree on it, it's far better to bring it to meta than to let it keep dancing between closed and reopened states. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ In principle yes, but more often than not, in particular concerning higher-level / advanced topics questions the people voting in favor of a questions are often the ones capable of continuously giving strong answers in the corresponding tags, whereas the other group does hardly post in these tags at all. People of the second group too often deem questions too broad / unclear what you're asking, etc whereas for people knowledgeable or familiar enough with the topic it is completely clear what the OP is asking, they know that the issue is not too broad but has a well defined answer, etc ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Regarding the asymmetry -- it's just as easy for 5 people to close a question as it is to reopen a question. The difficulty seems to be finding 4 other people to agree with you about reopening it, which is not a bureaucratic hurdle but a logical one -- you can't really complain if not enough people agree with your views. Particularly when you're so quick to jump on me for voting against established policy but now you are eager to find 4 others to vote against established policy to get something reopened. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Given that the question in question is a big list "not knowledgeable about for example advanced theoretical topics" is both a red herring and a veiled insult to other users. I will be treating it as such in the future. Please refrain from further sly attacks on people who disagree with you. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 1 '14 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee I have let me drag into things way too much, apologize. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 1 '14 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ I am disturbed by what I can only interpret as a threat of a review ban in this answer. I otherwise mostly agree, but will not upvote on that count. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Mar 1 '14 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty So you're opposed to suspending review privileges for people who consistently ignore the written policies in their reviews? I think that's what he's trying to say here... And I'm asking out of curiosity, not because I'm trying to express an opinion one way or the other about something like that (I would like a day to come where I don't have to preface my comments/questions this way...) $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 I'm not sure. SO has review bans but they follow a very specific procedure. I'm disturbed in particular by the specific wording. If this isn't meant against anyone in particular, like I hope it isn't, then it could definitely use some rephrasing to clarify that. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Mar 1 '14 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I'm not sure what Manishearth had in mind, but I can make the following completely general statement: reputation-based privileges sometimes have policies attached, as described in meta posts or the help center, and it's expected that those with enough reputation to use a privilege will make their best effort to use it in accordance with the policies. If someone consistently abuses a privilege, defined as using it in a manner that violates the relevant policies, we'll do what is needed to revoke that person's ability to use that privilege. $\endgroup$ – David Z Mar 1 '14 at 22:24
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I would really like for it to be possible to have one wiki message that contains a massive list of lecture notes that users find particularly useful. My suggestion is that we allow for on such message where people can add any website/notes that they find useful. However, I would suggest that every set of notes must have one or two lines pointing out what particular subject they address and why these note are so good. I believe this rule will ensure that people have actually used the notes themselves, instead of just googling, say, "quantum mechanics" and randomly add notes to the message.

The only disadvantage (I can think of) is that some of the links will die after some time. But I don't think this is the end of the world, and the pros will outweigh the cons .

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    $\begingroup$ Are you familiar with tag-wikis? Manish's answer above (and what we've talked about in previous discussions) suggests putting related references materials on the wiki's for each tag rather than on questions/answers through the site. So one would go to the quantum-mechanics tag wiki and see the list of reading material and (hopefully) some explanations about it. Is that something that flows with what you would like to see? $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 oh, is that what he means with "Or move to the tag wikis"? Yeah, I think that is a actually a very good idea. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, there's been discussion about it in the past where people felt the tag-wikis are too hidden to be useful, that people don't see them and so on. I personally think that people will use the features of the site that we promote, so if we populate the tag-wikis and leave comments and a meta post saying that people interested in a topic should read them, then they will get used. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 1 '14 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ We do have one big wiki posts that lists all the other resource/book posts, each of which has a bunch of lists. We still have to get through curating these properly. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth yeah but lecture notes have some advantages as well. First and foremost: they are free! And also, sometimes it is quicker to check lecture notes than to go through a very big book. A disadvantage of lecture notes is, of course, that they aren't always correct or sometimes even completely wrong. Therefore, I think it would be very useful for students to have a list available with good notes that have been verified by users on this website. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Hunter oh, the policy makes no difference between book recommendations and lecture recommendations. That's a triviality, we can incorporate a request for lecture notes into the other posts :) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth oh, thanks, I wasn't aware. I thought I had read somewhere that notes were not allows due to the risk of links dying. Are you referring to this wiki post? It seems to be closed. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ Link only answers are not allowed. Yes, I am referring to that post, it is still closed because the curation of book posts was never completed. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth you say: "the policy makes no difference between book recommendations and lecture recommendations"; maybe I'm missing something, but how can one make lecture recommendations if links are forbidden? Either way, I would like to discuss the possibility of also being able to add links. As I mentioned in my original message, I think that the pros will outweigh the cons. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Hunter link only answers are forbidden. Just a link (or just the title of a book) is not acceptable. A link with enough text outlining the contents its ok in general, for resource recommendations we have a stricter policy on answers (meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/4697/…), though it doesn't disallow linking to resources. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 1 '14 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth ok, I guess it is then waiting until that post can be opened :). $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth just for clarification: so the only reason this post was closed is because it contains only links without explanation? $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 1 '14 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Hunter No, it is too broad, and doesn't follow the policy of resource recommendation policy. The latter mandates that it should have some explanation, the former is independent. However, since these links are useful, they can be moved to the CW answers of old book questions -- when we set up the new policy there were still some old locked questions with one-liner answers, so as not to lose content we consolidated them into a single answer. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 2 '14 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth ok, now I'm confused again. It seems that the policies have been set up (maybe not deliberately) in such a way that one way or another it is impossible to have a post containing links to notes. Why is this wiki post not considered to be too broad? Also what do you mean by CW answers? $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 2 '14 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Hunter care to come into Physics Chat? What you say isn't the case, but the story of the book policy is a long one. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 2 '14 at 0:11
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Firstly, I have been more or less happy following this site because it is about PHYSICS. I had a professor in College whose face would light up just by saying "Physics" .

Secondly I am aware that this has a long term goal of being a repository of interesting questions and answers to be found by future searches on the topics.

Thirdly I am aware that in education, as in most human organized goals, there are two tendencies a) follow the rules and you cannot go wrong, b) nurture the student and the knowledge will root and flower.

Actually the happy medium is the best in education. There should be rules and goals to challenge and channel, and there should be nurturing to generate spontaneous creativity.

If the site wants to be a web educational resource it should also keep the happy medium. Following strictly the rules is for games like football and cricket.

Leave everything ambient and impulsive may be good for poetry and the arts.

But physics at its best is stifled by football rules and regulations because the best physics comes out of creativity as great as the one Shakespeare showed in writing his plays.

What I am trying to say is that strictly sticking to rules stifles creativity, and educating physicists, who are mainly boys and mostly trained to follow the rules should have enough leeway to allow creativity to emerge. For example: closing "stupid" questions of young boys without looking at their profile or guessing their age, or leaving a kind comment, stifles creativity, no matter the rules, and discourages young people from following the field.

This is one reason I would "bend the rules" because we are not playing chess here. We are teaching and learning.

Now for this specific closure, that is not even reviewable, I think the blind following of rules is not useful. An aspiring young physicist googling for "best physics lecture notes" will get this on the search. Does it reflect well on the site to have it "closed as out of topic?" Would it attract him/her to have a look and contribute to the site? I think it would be enough to keep it locked so that it does not pop up on first page, and leave it at that. Not many people come out with "best physics lecture notes" questions to make it a problem, and if they do they can be referred to the duplicate.

Balance is everything, and remember, it is not a site for football games judgment.

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    $\begingroup$ I think I can agree in philosophy but not in the actual implementation. If we want leeway then we should have a policy that says "leeway is okay." But if we have a policy that says "X is not okay" then we need to enforce that policy. In other words, we should "blindly" follow the policy but it's okay if the policy has flexibility and subjectivity built into it because "blindly" following it means making judgement calls and that's okay. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 2 '14 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ But I don't think it's acceptable to flagrantly ignore what's written and purported to be "rules." That just makes enforcement of actual policies that much harder. We can't say that it's okay to ignore policy A but then try to strictly enforce policy B. And there are times when we need to be able to strictly enforce policies (offensive or spam posts as one example). $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 2 '14 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ But is it really feasible to update and curate this list? We already have a set of book questions that still haven't been curated completely. Far better to incorporate this into the book posts (and make this post a redirect to the master book question using a merge) than to have another thing which is a pain to maintain. I'll see if I can move the content around later today. Or we can move them to tag wikis, and then just leave behind links in the closed post. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 2 '14 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ Basically, unless we watch the links here and add our own, we will end up with a list of random links to lecture notes which may or may not be that good. I'm certain that we don't have the power necessary to curate this if it is left open. It won't reflect well on the site if we aren't giving links to good notes, either. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 2 '14 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 Well, if it is in the rules it is not bending, and follows the compulsive football rules logic, against which I am "lecturing" above. $\endgroup$ – anna v Mar 2 '14 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth fair enough , another venue does not diminish the poster and leaves the post available without undue negative connotations to discourage new readers. Maybe there should be a call for people to review book references. I do not know how to get access to the list. $\endgroup$ – anna v Mar 2 '14 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ @annav The master list is here, but it may be outdated. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 2 '14 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @annav I think we're arguing two sides of the same coin here. I don't like the idea of not following what is written because then nobody will know what to expect. But if it's written down that there is flexibility and subjectivity so expect that, then it's okay and we can do it. So we're just looking at getting to the same end result on two different roads. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 2 '14 at 15:39

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