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I recently answered a question which was promptly deleted by a mod, I realized now. I know I am new in this site, but I have been a long time user of SE sites and I think this decision is flawed. Here's why:

  • First off I think my criticism is on point. Those of you who have been a SE user for a long while must have seen your fair share of such questions. They don't age well. This has been discussed over and over again..

  • Secondly, the answer actually addresses the shortcomings and potential pitfalls, with relevant examples.

  • Last but not least, I did finish off with actual advice which answers the question.

By deleting an answer like this, you are essentially making it unaccessible for new users as well as the OP. It's not like I could have fit all that content into a comment...

I think this is a case of overzealous moderation. If it was SO where you get thousands of questions, and many useless answers, I'd get it. But for a site in Beta, I think it's a bad idea.

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First of all, thank you for coming here and posting in such a civil and calm way. That is very much appreciated and isn't always easy when you feel you've been slighted.

Here's what I was thinking when I deleted your answer. First, most of your answer was a critique on the question. While I don't disagree with any of the points you raised, critiquing the question isn't a valid answer. Also, even absolutely valid criticisms, as yours were, are likely to be taken the wrong way so I felt your post might lead to more drama than the question was worth.

Only the 5th paragraph of your post was actually directly answering the question and that was:

I would echo on the previous answer and suggest that you get a good laptop (enough cores and ram, good battery life, light to carry etc) and try to see if your institute has access to some computational resource. There are many national clusters that provide access to large number of nodes and/or nodes with up to 512GB (or more) RAM, redundant and practically unlimited storage. Possibly nodes with GPUs etc..

You are recommending a "good" laptop with "enough" cores and RAM. Presumably, if the OP knew what constituted a good laptop and enough cores and RAM, they wouldn't have needed to ask the question in the first place :)

So your answer looked to me like an attack on the OP. A mild, civil and justified attack, mind you, but still not something that belongs in an answer. And I didn't see that it was providing a specific answer which is why I didn't just edit the commentary out of it.


Here's a screenshot of the deleted answer for those who can't see it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sure, that's the only way to have a fair discussion :) But regarding the statement "Presumably, if the OP knew what constituted a good laptop and enough cores and RAM, they wouldn't have needed to ask the question in the first place" honestly if you dont know what constitutes a good laptop you have no business doing bioinformatics :) In any case, I meant no attack but rather to give description of why the question is a difficult one to answer, and likely not relevant in the long run. I see your points, and respectfully disagree, but that's ok as long as I am concerned $\endgroup$ – posdef Feb 5 at 20:51
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Your answer contained no concrete hardware specs.

Questions like that usually get closed due to being "opinion based", which is fair enough. Though I'll note that there needs to be a place for those questions and if a site like this ever wants to dominate bioinfo Q&A then it will need to address such things every year or two.

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    $\begingroup$ There actually is a site for this: Hardware Recommendations. $\endgroup$ – terdon Feb 5 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, but you'd figure the people in a given community would generally give better recommendations. $\endgroup$ – Devon Ryan Feb 5 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Ah right, I thought you were suggesting that there should be a place that isn't this one. I guess we could do hardware recommendations if the question were specific enough. Something like "I will be analyzing whole exome runs of human, and will need to store N samples' data, what do I need?". If it is specific enough to have a definitive answer, I don't see why we can't field it here. $\endgroup$ – terdon Feb 5 at 20:12
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I don't think "doesn't age well" is grounds for question deletion, especially in a Bioinformatics setting. That criticism applies to a lot of the answers that I've given.

When I've noticed that an answer is popular and includes out-of-date information I update it. This is allowed, and seems to be expected. Things change over time, opinions change, and different solutions bubble up as people discover better ways to do stuff.

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Having read the responder I support the site admin for deleting the post as part of its long term direction.

The thing about the Bioinformatics site is that it is very notably less aggressive than the much larger "Stackoverflow" site. This is fundamentally why I quit getting involved there, not for want of expertise. There are some legends in the coding world that routinely post on Stackoverflow: David Cross is almost as famous as Damian Conway in Perl and routinely contributes. In fairness some posters on that site are persuasively encouraging "Modern Perl" against the tide of Python/Javascript (Cross is one), but there are routine posters who are just plain rude.

There is no problem with "aggression" if you are right, but if what you are saying is possibly opinionated or else not exactly the whole truth is a bit off-putting. I've given an example below.

From a technical point of view, I like the responder here pointing out GPU. There is no doubt this is a correct answer in specific context, but there was no underlying explanation about what GPU was about. GPU is very cool and a GPU cluster very, very trendy in Tensorflow calculations, but the OP needed to be informed of the calculations where GPU is required, and what the whole GPU rather than CPU thing is about. I thought GPU was for gamers until I got involved in Tensorflow.


Example A good example of "aggression" concealing a informatics truth is the question

"Can I hide my Perl code from prying eyes"

The answer is a resounding "yes" there are quite a few ways to do this and if layered would really lock it down, but the Perlish response is "no its open source" and everyone applauds. Now this answer isn't true, but no-one wants to describe the ways to do this because the responder saying "no its open source" will attempt to unpick the proposed solution and this defeats the entire object of concealing code.

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