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As I mentioned in another post recently (Why even bother posting on this board?), I quit posting on this board months ago because I found the policies of the moderators frustrating and, to my mind, counter-productive. My attention was brought back to it when I got a notification that one of my old posts was deleted. So I decided to make this post stating, I hope, a little more clearly why I think moderation policies are counter-productive.
Let me say that while this post may sound harsh, I say this as a friend. I thought this forum sounded like a great idea and I wanted to see it flourish. I'm very disappointed by the turn it has taken. (I am very active on several other Stackexchange sites that do not pursue policies like this.) (Oh, and don't get me wrong. I don't suppose the moderators are lining up begging me to come back. I don't suppose that anyone noticed that I quit posting.)
So: Why do you suppose that people visit a web site like this? I think there are three pretty obvious reasons:
To learn something, either by posting questions and getting answers, or by reading questions and answers that others have written.
They find it interesting to participate in intellectual conversations.
They get satisfaction from helping others, an ego boost, if you will, at the thought that other people may find something that they have written enlightening or interesting.
Would you agree? Can you think of other reasons? Surely these are the main ones.
Okay, now what do the moderators primarily spend their time doing? I'm sorry if this sounds pointed and rude, but I believe the honest answer is:
Deleting questions and answers that they believe don't meet the criteria someone invented for the forum. That is, putting limits on the type of questions that can be asked and the answers that are acceptable. That is, deliberately blocking likely visitor goal number 1.
Deleting (or moving to chat) any conversations or debate that may develop about a question or answer. That is, deliberately blocking likely visitor goal number 2.
Deleting or editing answers for a variety of subjective criteria, throwing away an answer that someone may have spent considerable time researching, thinking about, and writing. That is, deliberately blocking likely visitor goal number 3.
Now you may say that the negative effects I mention are too bad, but we need these policies to preserve the integrity or purity of the board. To which I reply, Why?
Yes, I understand deleting a question that is blatantly and obviously irrelevant. Like is someone posted a question about football or celebrity gossip, there are other forums for that. But what is gained by banning debateable questions? Do you suppose that people will come to this site and say, "Zounds, there's a question on this site asking about comparisons between Islam and Christianity! That's not just about Christianity! I am traumatized to see such questions!"
Yes, I understand banning abusive language and insults. But what is gained by banning conversation and debate? If I ask a question, and someone gives an answer that is arguably wrong, isn't it better if others post explaining why that answer is wrong, rather than me going away assuming it is correct? And if the question is debatable, what is hurt by allowing the author of the answer to come back and defend himself? If I'm not interested in reading such debates, I can easily skip over the comments and go to the next answer.
Moderators regularly engage in very fine hair-splitting. Like saying that posters cannot discuss who is right but only what various groups believe. But ... any serious discussion of what different groups believe must surely at some point discuss why they believe this or where the idea comes from. I suppose you could say, for example, "Some Christians believe baptism must be by immersion while others believe that sprinkling is completely acceptable." But anyone really interested in the question would want to know the basis each gives for its position. So are we really going to quibble because someone said, "The Bible says X" rather than, what, "Some people interpret the Bible to say X"?
The site policies include the classic paradox of politically correctness: They state that posts cannot discuss "truth" or debate who is a real Christian, but must accept all beliefs. But then what about the belief that truth matters and that not everyone who calls himself a Christian really is a Christian? (Any more than anyone who says he is not a racist is really not a racist.) How can a site that calls itself "Christianity.SE" ban discussion of the question of what "Christianity" is? Surely that is the most fundamental question underlying the whole site. Suppose someone on Stackoverflow -- the Stackexchange site about software development -- posted a question about a problem he was having with the Java programming language. And suppose someone then replied, "The program excerpt that you have given will not work. The documentation produced by the international standards committee responsible for Java says that ..." Would you say that the appropriate response of moderators would be to delete this answer on the grounds that debate about what is or is not valid Java is not acceptable? That if the poster says that he believes this is a valid Java program, that we all must accept that? If I said that I thought that Muslims and Buddhists are Christians, would you say that site policy means that that statement must be accepted without question or challenge?
Well, if someone wants to discuss and debate what I say here, I'm happy to participate in such a conversation. If you think I'm insane and my criticisms are too stupid to be worthy of reply, that this forum is headed in exactly the right direction, that's fine too. I've said my piece. :-)