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This question

What is your favorite "data analysis" cartoon?

Should really be closed, as it's sending a negative signal about what is allowed on the site, per the comment:

According to the tour, this question should be closed, since it is a question that has "too many possible answers" and since it is "primarily opinion-based". I'm not complaining, just surprised it has stayed open for this long. – Flimm Dec 9 '14 at 10:29

Per the blog:

https://stackoverflow.blog/2010/09/29/good-subjective-bad-subjective/

There's also a direct analog with Stack Overflow, which used to have a "funniest programmer cartoon" question, as well.

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    $\begingroup$ Here's the funniest programmer cartoon thread: stackoverflow.com/questions/84556. It's currently locked (for "historical significance"). $\endgroup$ – amoeba says Reinstate Monica Jul 10 '18 at 7:11
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    $\begingroup$ It's an anomaly. I don't worry one bit about the negative signal: good news that we have a sense of humour even if it's localised. It's needed to cope with the poor questions posted here in an endless stream. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Jul 10 '18 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ It's so clearly anomalous I don't think it sends much of a signal at all about what kind of questions are considered all right here. On the other hand, locking it now wouldn't do any positive harm. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 10 '18 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ Note that we also have somewhat similar in spirit stats.stackexchange.com/questions/726 and stats.stackexchange.com/questions/1337, both open. See also whuber's comment here stats.stackexchange.com/questions/1337/…. $\endgroup$ – amoeba says Reinstate Monica Jul 10 '18 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Scortchi this twitter user pointed to it as an example of being treated unfairly here. twitter.com/mohsen____/status/1016431208207699968 so it is doing active harm. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '18 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ From the twitter conversation, it isn't clear if they are talking about Stack Overflow, Cross Validated, or Mathematics. What was their actual question that was closed? Was it even on CV? I'm not sure that locking, closing, or deleting this thread will preempt the style of complaint proffered in the tweet. We regularly get off topic questions that are closed followed by whataboutisms. This is most commonly programming questions & then, 'but you have n-thousand threads tagged [r]'. We would have to close cartoons, the others @amoeba lists, & then thousands more just to hope to stop whataboutisms. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ @gung: It's this (now deleted question): stats.stackexchange.com/q/355210/17230. It was closed not because it wasn't a "real, actual problem", but because it wasn't about statistics/machine learning, not even remotely. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ OK, this is the closed thread: Smallest FIFA World Cup semi-finals yet?. Note that it is deleted, so users <10k may not be able to see it. At any rate, it isn't funny, so the cartoons thread is not a good analogy. Also, it isn't even remotely on topic. If we closed the cartoons thread, there must be tens of thousands of threads that are at least this close an analogy and still open for a motivated complainer to point to. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ @gung To be fair, the FIFA question has clearly been misunderstood in the comments. OP probably has in mind the area of the smallest convex shape covering all four semi-finalists; not the sum of the four countries' own areas. I think it's in principle a good question but it is off-topic here; maybe it could belong on gis.stackexchange.com. In any case, I 100% agree that it is not funny and has no relationship whatsoever to the cartoon thread. $\endgroup$ – amoeba says Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ @amoeba: It's ambiguous: "All those countries combined cover a small area of earth surface" suggests one thing; "draw a polygon that covers all of the semi-finalists" another. There's already an SO question on how to find a convex hull on the surface of a sphere - might also be on topic at Maths or CS. It's whimsical, I suppose, rather than funny - which wouldn't in itself be a reason to close a question. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 16:50
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I've changed my opinion -- this answer is retained as a historical artifact but I no longer believe it. A new answer can be found below.


I think leaving the cartoon and joke thread open serves a useful purpose: there is a certain inevitability to people posting that kind of content, but new posts about jokes/cartoons/etc. can be closed as a duplicate of the existing thread. People who want to add their own joke or cartoon can do so.

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    $\begingroup$ This is related to your previous question (and answer in the same post) stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5325/…. In my opinion, your answer here marginally conflicts with the main idea about that question; 'do something to reduce the widening gap between Q and A', because if we are going to keep accepting off-topic questions more noise (and grey area) there will be for us to reach a consensus about when to close and when not to close marginal/poor posts in CV. $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Jul 10 '18 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreSilva The good news is that these questions have answers, at least. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Jul 10 '18 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ Someone on Twitter pointed out that their "funny" Stats question about the World Cup was closed, but this "funny" question was left open -- even encouraged, per your text. So it is doing active harm. Closing it is the correct course of action. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '18 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffAtwood I'm not interested in catering to the needs of the kind of person who shows up out of the blue, asks an off-topic question, and then complains on Twitter about the injustice of it all. We have help center to explain the site to new users, and meta for people to ask specific questions about how the site works. We have no obligation to help people acting in bad faith, and I do not think this user is arguing in good faith. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't impute "bad faith". I would just call the Twitter post a tantrum. The OP has a case in so far as they didn't receive a reason for closure that they understood, but nevertheless their reaction is just over the top. A person couldn't have got to 45K reputation without paying some attention to community practices and experiencing some decisions that look quirky or even wrong (who agrees with all the decisions ever made?). $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Jul 13 '18 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ In that vein there'd probably be a dozen more deserving injustices a day (where a post has a better "what about" to point to). Do we focus on this guy's complaint simply because he found a way to ping a network founder? How would that be equitable to the users who don't go on twitter and poke Jeff Atwood? It's not about stats and was rightly closed (by 5 highly experienced users). The guy's comparison is unfounded and if closing posts while leaving the comic one open lose us people who behave that way, we'll be saving a lot of drama. Responding to it would encourage people to hassle Jeff $\endgroup$ – Glen_b -Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ If he had a point, he could post here on meta -- and surely he knew that already; it seems like he already understood he was out of order. There may be some basis on which we should close the comic question, but that world cup isn't remotely comparable to it. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b -Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffAtwood I’d be open to closing the joke thread if it were accompanied by a concerted effort of users with VTC privileges to more aggressively close broad, vague and unanswerable questions. But the joke thread on its own is not the core problem that CV faces w.r.t. moderation — my recent meta posts outline my feelings there. But closing the joke thread solely because it’s garnered high-level attention isn’t how SE moderation is supposed to work either. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ Stated another way, if the joke thread a problem, we’d have many more joke-type threads opened. I can only recall seeing one other such thread, and it was immediately closed as a duplicate. But that’s not what our users tend to do. When CV users ask poor questions, they’re usually about debugging or asking us to do their job for them (“how do I analyze these data?”) $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Sycorax: In what scentece that I wrote did you read that I was writing in bad faith? This is an insinuation which is as invalid as the argument that the cartoon post helps other posts marking as a duplicate - yes but only the cartoon-like posts. So if you simply like the cartoon post why making up excuses to keep it $\endgroup$ – user213325 Apr 12 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @igoR87 I wasn’t writing about you. Look at the date of the comment. This is a thread from a year ago; it's impossible for the comment to be about you because at that time you hadn't posted your controversial question. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Apr 12 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry I misunderstood what you referred to $\endgroup$ – user213325 Apr 12 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @igoR87 Thank you! I appreciate it. I'm sorry that your question was a source of so much consternation; that must have been frustrating. Part of what makes SE a good network for Q&A is that it has lots of guardrails around what it wants to do, which can be surprising for new users because those guardrails are what make it unlike the rest of the internet -- so there can be a disconnect between what users expect and what happens. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Apr 12 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Yes this is definitely true to me. And yes, I find it a pity because I've been using SE for long time passively and actually like the idea but the last days were pretty frustrating for me. That is why I wrote that I want to delete me original question "must know about statistics" but this edit I made wasn't approved. Anyway, hopefully there'll be a happy end and I got a big take home message on asking questions.. $\endgroup$ – user213325 Apr 12 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ I've been here for a few years and there are still times that it's frustrating -- good answers don't get upvoted, duplicate questions don't get closed. But that's when I remember that this is just a hobby that I do for free, so I can take a break and do something else until I'm not frustrated and want to come back. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax says Reinstate Monica Apr 12 at 16:17
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I agree. And remembering closing does not mean deleting it.

Besides sending a positive signal about what is on-topic here, with 77 existing answers I doubt many people (if any) are reading all of them at once (which means that even closed, we can keep revisiting the post, read the other answers, and still have some fun).

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The "jokes" thread is doing active harm to the website.

The "jokes" thread continues to be a sore point. When a question is closed, some users will use the "joke" thread as a justification that their question should remain open. This encourages unproductive "big list" and opinion-based questions, such as What must someone know in statistics and machine learning?. SE discourages this style of question (https://stackoverflow.blog/2010/09/29/good-subjective-bad-subjective/)

Notably, the author of that post cites the existence of the "jokes" thread as justification for their off-topic question.

The reason that stats.SE is a good source for high-quality content is that it is emphatically not a discussion forum, but a question-and-answer site. Continuing to host discussion-type questions harms the site.

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The most important thing about rules is that they are not applied differently from day to day but consistently.

Saying a question should be closed because it is subjective and at the same time leaving questions like the cartoons open is highly inconsistent, leads to frustration and discussion and thus harms stackexchange.

At the moment the old answer from Sycorax (Jul 10 '18 at 0:22) has most upvotes and my opinion on the argument that the cartoon question helps marking new bad questions as duplicates is that this is only true for cartoon-like questions and not for all the other subjective questions which invalidates the argument.

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For a site that is essentially populist it seems odd to close a topic that has generated so much interest and votes. It's also fun.

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    $\begingroup$ (Not the downvoter, but) there is a legitimate argument for closing the cartoon thread--it's not the kind of question that CV (or any of the SE sites more generally) is supposed to be about. It may help you to read the blog post (Good subjective, bad subjective) Jeff points to for the official SE statement on the matter. Moreover, analogous threads have been deleted from Stack Overflow (the flagship site). $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ There is a limit to the amount of populism that is beneficial for CV; other Q&A sites have existed that were more unconditionally populist & they've never coalesced the way the SE sites have. They've never built the high-quality repository of information we have. There's a reason for that. Ultimately, the constraints built into the SE system yield better content over time. That said, there is also some legitimate ambiguity over where exactly to draw the line. I believe the cartoon thread lies within it, or at least, this argument doesn't make a good case that it should fall outside. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 20:23
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Personally, I love the posts on favourite quotes/cartoons/jokes. They are some of my favourite posts to read on this site. It would be a real shame if they were removed. If it becomes a genuine problem with people complaining that these are out-of-scope (e.g., to argue that their question should be allowed in) then I would recommend adding a new category explicitly to keep these questions on the site, but make acceptance conditional on moderator discretion:

Funny/Pithy

This tag is used for posts that solicit amusing or pithy material relating to statistical theory and practice (e.g., cartoons, jokes, quotations, stories, etc.). This category is created to allow a limited number of amusing posts beloved by the CV.SE community, that would otherwise by out-of-scope on this site.

Warning: Posts under this category will be closed by the moderators unless they are unique non-duplicated posts, and show immediate and lasting popularity on the site, as evidenced by high numbers of up-votes from CV.SE users.

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    $\begingroup$ BTW, no-one's (yet) proposed removing the cartoons post; just closing it - which would prevent new answers' being added. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 25 '18 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, okay. That is a big difference. I misunderstood. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica Jul 25 '18 at 10:04

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