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deleting stuff

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In the beginning folks could delete their posts whenever they wanted.   And then we were hit with a rash of people that would ask a question, and once they got their answer, they would delete the question.  It seems that they didn't want people to know that there was a point in time that they didn't know stuff.   We want this site to be about perennial discussion - so somebody would start a thread, and stuff would be added to that thread over many years.    Further:  a bunch of people took the time to answer the question!   In the end, we decided that in this scenario, we wanted to modify the software so that people cannot delete their posts.

As the years passed, we fiddled and tweaked, made exceptions, helped polish threads ...  we've dealt with spammers and trolls and mean people ....    we've also had lovely people attacked and ...  the stories go on and on and on ...  this site has become pretty big.   We have about 40 active staff right now.   I started this forum 19 years ago.   We have a massive history on this topic.

Now we get a lot of emails from people that don't agree with something that appears here.  They have found a way to create an email account at google that sounds like the author of a post and say "I don't want that to appear anymore - remove it immediately, or else!".   And we look at the post and it seems fine.  

Drama.  Drama that is going to take time to sort out.  Is that the real author of that post?   Is there a valid reason, to us, to take it down?  Or is this part of some weird bickering match between two people and we are being asked to be the unwitting tool of shenanigans?  The staff wants to participate in programming discussion - they don't want to be spending large tracts of time being the servant to bad guys.  

11 out of 12 requests are loaded with hostility.  They refer to our software, our path, our history, our recipe for community, our staff as "ridiculous", "bananas", "stupid", "fucked up", etc.  

"Other sites ...."    Ah, that's the thing:  we are trying to do something different, so we manage things quite differently than other sites.  

I have had more than a thousand people tell me that the way I manage my site is wrong.  They insist that I have to manage my site the way they tell me to.  Each individual that is certain that I am their puppet to command is unaware of the hundreds of other puppeteers that were just as emphatic that I have to manage my site in the opposite way.   What happens to the puppet that complies with a thousand simultaneous puppeteers?

The issues with deleting stuff is a hundred times greater than what I have described here.  There are so many complexities.   Things we have done that worked, things that we have done that we regretted, but mostly it seems to be an area where somebody commands me on a certain path and in the end it is not possible for everybody to be perfectly happy.   Naturally each party wants me to obey their command without question.  And these same parties don't care one lick about all of our history or all of the other people involved.  

There can never be a perfect solution.  Day after day, we make the best of it.  Work, work, work ...

At one point I made it a policy that if somebody wanted me to make some sort of change, I would say "send me $200 via paypal".   My thinking is that since it is a site about software engineering, whoever is requesting the change on their end is getting paid to make the request.   We are not getting paid to process their request.  And it takes a good bit of time to sort things out to make sure the request is legit and what we are doing is proper.   Only one party ever paid the $200.  My impression was "wow, it is just THAT serious to these folks!"  So we did it.

If you write a post and there is a reply to it, chances are very slim that we will remove it.  The person that replied gave your post their thought and time before making a reply.  We wish to be respectful to that person.

If your request contains any sort of threat or any form of disrespect, there is a very good chance it will simply be ignored.  

I have seen staff members do an enormous amount of work, pushing the boundries of what our software can do, to help somebody with stuff like this.   They would spend hours on it.  Only to have the person they are helping shit all over them in the end.  A powerful reminder of "no good deed goes unpunished."    So, a lot of the staff are pretty worn out on helping folks with stuff like this.  It's easier to just ignore this stuff and go back to talking about programming.  

Here is my advice if you want help along these lines:

1:  Post your request as a new thread to the ranch office forum instead of sending emails or even PMs.   This way, it can be seen and processed faster as well as all of the active staff can see it at the same time and be able to discuss it.   It also verifies that you are the author of the post in question, rather than requiring us to do a lot of research to try to figure that out.

2:  Phrase your request as a request, not a demand.  

3:  no threats.

4:  no insulting the site, the people on the site, the policies, etc.

This does not guarantee that you will get what you want, but it does improve the odds.   We don't have any hard rules about this stuff, because valid reasons that crop up are often things we have never heard of before.   So I guess our general, squishy policy is that we don't delete stuff, but once in a long while, we have been convinced to make an exception.

I know that when considering a request like this, staff will look at your cow count, your post count and some of your recent posts to get an idea of whether you are generally helpful to others, or generally combative.  

We have a bunch of awful that our all volunteer staff sorts through every day.  At the same time, those same staffers are keen on building a beautiful software engineering community.    If a nasty person stomps off and says "I will never user coderanch.com again" - then our policies worked rather well, and our community is a nicer place.    And if a lovely person needs a bit of help, I think the staff is generally glad to help.  Help us help you.
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