I posted what with hindsight I now see is a controversial question:

Elementary statistics for jurors

I think the question is controversial in the sorts of answers to the question that it's appropriate to give, and perhaps also in the legal status that providing answers to it might entail. I'm no SE insider, but I get the impression that controversial questions are frowned upon. Some answers were deleted. I think the deleted answers were not controversial in their statistical content. Rather, it was controversial more along the lines of whether it is appropriate to provide any direct answer at all.

The four or so answers that were deleted discussed relevant statistical ideas. Of the two answers that remain, neither discusses statistics. Instead:

  • One (the top-voted answer that remains) gives -- what to me as a layperson is -- legal advice (not legal advice in any legal technical sense, because I don't know how that is defined). That advice appears to be incorrect for my country.

  • The other gives a controversial opinion about how the legal system does or should work.

I think those remaining answers are poor, for the reasons above, and also give the misleading sense that they reflect a consensus view. The deleted answers make clear that this is not a consensus view. Rather than leaving the question in its current state, I think it would be better if the question and all of the answers were deleted.

So I have two questions:

  • Can I / should I delete the question? Might it come back again in some partial form (for example, with only some of the answers present, as now)?

  • How can I find out why and by whom the answers were deleted?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I don't think this question was controversial. I suspect it was converted to CW simply because it solicits opinion and/or does not have a clearly definitive answer. To me, this is clearly within the scope for how such questions are treated. I'm glad you asked it and it got a +1 from me prior to the CW conversion. :) $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Aug 20, 2012 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming that lack of an objecting answer on a CW thread indicates "consensus" is the Duty Calls fallacy. We can't all respond to everything that comes up! But the accumulation of positive votes on those answers does tend to support your assessment... . Our FAQ contains some advice about how to encourage more and better answers. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Aug 20, 2012 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ Is it a CW post? How do I tell if it is CW? (I don't see how to tell on this page: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11740/…) $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ whuber: Well, I don't want to get into stats here ;-) but all knowledge is conjectural. How else could I find out about consensus other than by making a guess and then being proved wrong? Seeing those now-deleted answers is a way to be proved wrong. That way is eliminated if answers are deleted systematically according to whether they align with a moderator's opionion (I don't know if that's what happened here, of course -- that's part of the problem). Prior to this incident, I held the naive view that sensible answers were not deleted en masse, and in an apparently systematic fashion. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW: I didn't even know that SE sites had a delete-without-history feature: a clear-cut misfeature IMO because it will tend to prevent mistakes from being corrected, which no doubt is the opposite of the intention. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 20:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CroadLangshan, in reading your comments and re-reading your question, I think I see where the misunderstanding is arising. It appears you are under the impression that the moderators deleted the answers. Those other answers were deleted by the person who posted them, not anyone else. In light of that, to address your comment (below) "but after all of the answers that are directly on topic are deleted, the question as a whole becomes worse than useless in my view", I'd say that I don't think the viability of the question should depend on one user's decision to delete his/her answers. $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Aug 22, 2012 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ Macro: The problem here is that, from regular users' point of view, there is nothing to misunderstand about what happened and who did what and why, because the system provides no information about those things. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


I don't think your question was controversial. In my opinion, the only thing questionable was whether or not the question was on topic for the site. In particular, the question almost seems to require more legal expertise than statistical expertise. As such, the types of answers you're likely to get on the statistics stackexchange will probably be pretty subjective and more akin to what is normally a community wiki (which is, I think, why it got converted).

Regarding your specific queries:

Can I / should I delete the question? Might it come back again in some partial form (for example, with only some of the answers present, as now)?

My personal opinion is: No, the question shouldn't be deleted.

It is arguably off topic but special circumstances sometimes allow somewhat "off topic" questions to remain (e.g. the Statistics Jokes thread. See whuber's comment there) due to popular demand which your's may fit under, since it has so many upvotes. I invite the moderators (and other members) to correct/augment that last statement.

How can I find out why and by whom the answers were deleted?

Generally, you can't. If you have over 10K rep you can see deleted answers, where you can also see who deleted the answer. You can also see answers that you personally deleted. Other than that, only moderators can see deleted posts. Posters are not required to give reasons for deletion.

  • $\begingroup$ I see your "almost", but: It does not require legal expertise to answer it. It requires legal expertise to know whether it should be answered, or something along those lines. You could make your personal opinion useful by explaining why you think it shouldn't be deleted, perhaps by responding to the reasons that I put forward for deletion, or discussing what you consider to be the valid reasons for deletion. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @CroadLangshan - As I said, I don't think the question was controversial (that was the reason you put forward for deletion, right?). As for my reasons for saying "Don't close" - I think that some statistical expertise is required to give a "good" answer, making it at least debatable that the thread is on topic - in my opinion, the importance of the "borderline" on-topicness of the thread is reduced by the clear community support in the form of numerous upvotes (see e.g. the statistics jokes thread). $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Aug 22, 2012 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ "that was the reason you put it forward for deletion, right" -- Well, whether something is controversial is by definition something about other peoples' views, not ones own. So while your opinion adds to that, I guess you can probably see that all of the answers that made an attempt to directly answer the question getting deleted, plus all of the remaining answers suggesting that the question in some sense should not be answered, might suggest controversy! $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @CroadLangshan, re: "all of the remaining answers suggesting that the question in some sense should not be answered, might suggest controversy!" - FYI: the user who voluntarily deleted all of their answers made it clear in a now-deleted meta post that the reason for the deletion was because the question was converted to community wiki. That suggests the deletions had nothing to do with whether the question itself was controversial. If anything, the labeling as "community wiki" was controversial (at least to one person). $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Aug 25, 2012 at 14:48

I certainly find it a valid question. Also, a quick search for "introductory statistics" revealed that there a whole lot of questions that are concerned with getting advise on reading on a very basic level of statistics.

I'm not sure where this would be on-topic but I find the two answers together with the comments (https://stats.stackexchange.com/a/34128/4598 and https://stats.stackexchange.com/a/34109/4598) actually quite shocking: the message is that someone who wants to brush up his rusty statistics knowledge is actively discouraged from doing so.

While I'd always object to such an attitude, I find it particularly bad in this case.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You have done well in offering your own constructive reply on that thread: that's the best way to improve things, IMHO. Two additional ways to consider responding to "quite shocking" answers on our site are via comments and downvotes. Both can provide helpful signals to future readers. It's preferable to resort to these three mechanisms before complaining about answers here on meta. (FWIW, none of the answers that shock you have yet been downvoted.) In reviewing those answers, though, I'm having trouble interpreting them as negatively as you do. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Aug 20, 2012 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ Though I think the answers that say you shouldn't study are incorrect, I can certainly understand where they're coming from, and were quite valid in the context of the other answers. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ It's not the answers that remain that shock me, but the deletion of all the other answers. My judgement that those answers are poor is a relative one: relative to all of the answers that were deleted. Also, that judgement is about the suitability of the answers (see my question here). In the context of the other (deleted) answers, I wouldn't even downvote them (and still haven't), but after all of the answers that are directly on topic are deleted, the question as a whole becomes worse than useless in my view. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ whuber: Ah, I now realise your comment was directed at cbeleites, not me. Nevertheless, my previous comment stands. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2012 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber: I wouldn't have complained here. But as there was this discussion about whether the question should be deleted going on here, I thought I write down my opinion. I do not know the answers that were deleted. Meanwhile, I did comment them. I think the "shocking" was also that only these answers were left. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2012 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ Croad, the deletion of the other answers was done unilaterally by the person who posted them. This is an act that is a difficult to understand response to retroactively making the thread CW. I believe it unlikely anyone will persuade that person to undo their actions, regardless of the potential benefit to the thread and the community. Although moderators can undelete answers, I am reluctant to do so because I do not want to antagonize someone who has exhibited such a capacity to contribute great answers. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Aug 22, 2012 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ whuber: Thanks: whether or not you judged motivations correctly in this case, that helps me understand how things work. I cannot check, but I'm pretty sure there were multiple authors whose answers were deleted. I'm still amazed that SE doesn't follow the wikipedia model more closely here (keeping a visible metadata audit trail - i.e. who did what when - even if not a full content audit trail - i.e. full record of how the text changed). $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @CroadLangshan, just an a couple of FYIs: 1) all of the deleted answers were by the same author. 2) there is a fully visible audit trail. You can see the full history of all non-deleted posts. Regarding deleted posts - for whatever reason (I'd imagine there is some rationale), Stackexchange only sees fit to make their history visible to moderators and users with over 10K rep. $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Aug 25, 2012 at 14:50

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