A user deleted content in my question that took me almost 30 minutes to type up... so if I sound mad it is because I am (it feels like my time was unfairly stolen from me).

Could I get some help with what I'm being told about this edit in the comments to my question please?

I think this editor is being unreasonable and is overly-narrowly applying some ideal about "never having lists in questions because that always makes them too subjective and instantly in the format 'I like X, what do you like'?"

I'm asking because I don't want to just have an edit war, which I could very easily and fanatically do, (though he might then flag my question as inappropriate to assert his personal control to get the outcome he wants), but rather I'm looking for input from many instead of letting just the one person unilaterally dictate to me how he's going to run my question for me on the site.

Even if the consensus is that the list I included should be deleted, I think the edit was NOT in the spirit of what the edit privilege should be used for. I edit posts on stackoverflow ALL the time... to improve the grammar or format the code or add a link or state an important caveat. But I would never just delete whole sections I don't like. That in my opinion should be handled through communication with the poster, because even though we are able to edit other people's posts, the original poster still owns the question unless it's been made community wiki. Some respect of the poster's intent and time seems in order to me.

Just in case the comments get deleted, here they are for the record:

Hi Erik, list questions, especially list questions that provide answers in the body, aren't constructive here. There is, however, a good question without the list, so I've edited your question to remove your rules for crowd-sourcing a list. You can always provide your examples as an answer to your question, but keep in mind what types of answers work well here. – Mark Trapp

@Mark The faq doesn't say anything about "list questions". And I don't think I provided the answer in the body. The point of the list was to save any answerers the work of thinking about every possible important item, so they could focus on the ones that the contract missed. To me it seems a very answerable question. If I rephrased my question "what are the other points we missed in this contract" will that avoid all appearance of answering the question in the question? It was kind of brutal to slash what took me 25 minutes to distill and type up. – Erik

@Erik from the part of the FAQ I linked to, "To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where...your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”" See also the explanation of the second guideline for constructive questions in the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective article I linked, which explains the problems with list questions. – Mark Trapp

@Erik Your question is fine as it is now: the only thing I removed was the list and the request for a list. As I said in my earlier comment, you're welcome to offer your own research as an answer instead: doing so would have the added benefit of getting separate feedback on what you've found so far. – Mark Trapp

@Mark If I provided program code I had already written and asked what was wrong with it, you would hardly say "don't provide the answer with the question", even though the answer would repeat most of my code! You would understand I was showing respect to the participants by not making them produce the entire piece of code from scratch. If I show the contract we have now and ask for critique of it, this is not even close to "I use X, what do you use?" It is much closer to "here's my code, what's wrong with it?" – Erik

  • 1
    Please comment when you downvote. It does make a difference.
    – ErikE
    May 5, 2011 at 18:45

2 Answers 2


I think I agree with Mark here. As a moderator, he is well-versed in the aspects of the FAQ and types of questions that work well on Programmers. I'm sorry that removing the list comes across as a waste of the time it took you to type up the points, but I believe it is done to make the question more answerable and easier to read. Including a long list as part of the question makes it more difficult to provide good answers and harder to process the question as a whole.

As Mark mentioned, the points you made would be valid answers themselves and you're welcome to post them as such. That would maintain the acceptable an Q&A format and your time spent distilling the contract down to those points would not be lost.

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    Are you agreeing with him because he's right or because he's "a well-versed moderator"? Frankly I reject the latter, it's immaterial here, so I hope it is only because of the former. Second, even if removing the list makes the question more answerable and easier to read, I still find doing so without discussion to be exceeding propriety.
    – ErikE
    May 5, 2011 at 18:40
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    @Erik Naturally, I'm agreeing because I think he's right.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 5, 2011 at 18:44

A user deleted content in my question that took me almost 30 minutes to type up... so if I sound mad it is because I am (it feels like my time was unfairly stolen from me).

It's not lost. What you typed is still there in the revision history - if you take Mark's advice and convert it to an answer, or merely wish to reference it later on, you won't have to type it again.

But I would never just delete whole sections I don't like.

And you shouldn't. Your personal preference, void of any justification, is not a reason to edit. However, if the choice is between closing a question as not-constructive, or editing out the section that makes it not constructive, then by failing to edit you're doing the author a disservice. Don't be timid in your edits - as I noted, the system tracks revisions, so what you delete won't be permanently lost.

Some respect of the poster's intent and time seems in order to me.

Assuming the poster's intent was to get an answer to his question, edits that further this goal are in line with it. Authors who are so attached to their words that they recoil at the thought of anyone else touching them have been discouraged from using these sites in the FAQ for a long, long, loooong time - pussy-footing around users who can't accept that is a disservice to both them and the site.

  • Thanks for the input. This was more helpful to me to accept the input than just saying "I agree with the action". For what it's worth I have no problem with edits themselves. One of the edits he made at the same time really was a good improvement and I appreciate it. Other edits he made I'm not completely happy with but not in the slightest mad about since I'm free to change them if I feel strongly enough about them (and I haven't decided yet). This is not about never wanting any edits at all.
    – ErikE
    May 5, 2011 at 18:55
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    @Erik: I have no real opinion on your edited question, other than that the list was a huge distraction from your primary question. Mostly just wanted to address your comments on editing - I see a lot of folks who would rather damn a borderline question than transform it into a good one, purely from some misguided sense of respect for the author - yes, the author should be respected, but take that too far and you end up in "we bombed the town to save it" territory.
    – Shog9
    May 5, 2011 at 19:10

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