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Regarding this edit:

https://parenting.stackexchange.com/revisions/22031/2

A moderator has stepped in and removed the answerers suggestion of a personality test to see which subjects may be more appropriate for the child. The context of the original question was about what to do with a child interested in, but currently lacking talent in music.

I can see that the merits of such a suggestion may be highly subjective, but should the answerer be allowed to include it?

Wouldn't a more appropriate response have been a comment to that effect and potentially a down-vote?

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    I'm interested in seeing community input on this. I will note that there are also 4 deleted comments which debated the usefulness of personality tests, and a flag (although on which of those four comments, I'm not sure); this is a level of activity that can attract unusual moderator attention. – Acire Sep 15 '15 at 15:21
  • Can I suggest editing the title (since it currently assumes intent that isn't discussed in the question, and also isn't the motivation for the edit) -- perhaps "is it appropriate to remove potentially controversial recommendations from an answer"? – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 12:07
  • Perhaps "Is it appropriate to remove recommendation because another user doesn't agree with it / finds it controversial". Almost everything is "controversial" to someone, somewhere. – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 12:11
  • I'm not too worried about the exact phrasing, just the broad meaning that is conveyed to the reader :) Your suggestion is fine. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 12:15
  • Although the edit comment did seem to imply personal preference - "please don't argue the value of personality tests for this situation"? – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 12:51
  • I'm inclined to believe the editor's position as stated below and assign that to poor edit phrasing. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 12:52
  • Perhaps. Without personal preference as a factor I don't understand why it needed to be edited for balance? – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 13:13
  • You're welcome to leave your question title intact, then. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 13:17
  • @Erica I have already changed the question title based on your recommendation, as I'd like more (neutral) community input. – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 13:21
  • Ha, I didn't see that, sorry. I'm at work and not paying complete attention ;) – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 13:21
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As the moderator who made the edit, I can explain my reasoning. Please pardon the length of the post as I am re-posting the comment thread. I agree with you that this was an iffy edit; I wrestled with it myself.

Wouldn't a more appropriate response have been a comment to that effect and potentially a down-vote?

Absolutely...(...) if it weren't for the comment thread which did affect my decision-making process (I neither down voted the answer, commented, nor upvoted any of the comments, just to be clear.)

There was an argument in the comment thread beneath the answer in which the user strongly defended use of the Myers-Briggs personality test, which was brought up in the original answer.

The original answer (part deleted in the answer is in italics):

I wouldn't discourage following musical talent. Although he may never be good, it may be a good release when he needs to think. Thomas Jefferson was not amazing but often played the violin when he needed to think things through.

We tend to gravitate toward things at which our personalities excel. You could even have him take a personality test and look at other things he may enjoy.

The comment thread then consisted of the following:

  • X: Is there any evidence that personality tests do anything except make money for personality testers?
  • Answerer: You don't have to pay take a personality test. Just go to 16personalities.com. People have been studying personality types send Plato and Socrates. Each came up with different personality types the value different things in different ways. There is a lot of science behind personality types. David Keirsey describes how personality types determine how we evaluate and view our self worth, our self-esteem, and our self image. David jerseys book comes as a paperback and you can buy them supercheap secondhand. – hazmat 2 days ago
  • X: Sorry, but Myers-Briggs is total bunk.
  • Answerer: Hey grew the article that we are not strictly one type. It is a spectrum and it is important to understand that. It does not mean that we do not fit into categories or that we do not value things differently. I also agree that the coaching industry that is been built up around this is total garbage. But let's not throw out everything because of some scammers trying to take advantage of people. I have personally found that personalities make a big difference in what type of job people enjoy and where I can put them when I hire them.
  • (continued) Answerer: I agree with the article that we are not strictly one type. It is a spectrum and it is important to understand that. It does not mean that we do not fit into categories or that we do not value things differently. I also agree that the coaching industry that is been built up around this is total garbage. But let's not throw out everything because of some scammers trying to take advantage of people. I have personally found that personalities make a big difference in what type of job people enjoy and where I can put them when I hire them.

Someone then raised a flag against the (referenced) comment about the MBPT being bunk.

At that point, I had several choices. Was the comment constructive? It was certainly constructive to the conversation. I could have left the entire comment thread alone, dismissing the flag. However, I tend to try to respect the opinions expressed by the community through flagging (that's part of how a community participates in self-moderation.) It's very unusual for me to dismiss a flag.

The entire comment thread was all about a personality test, which was not pertinent to the OP's question (How should a parent advise a child who wants to become a musician even though he is devoid of talent?) So the entire comment thread was deleted.

The next part is the one you question. Why did I remove part of the answer?

In this case, a user (not me) supported an argument that the MBPT was useless. By removing a flagged comment against the MBPT, I thought the fairest way to resolve the conflict was to remove the part of the answer which states (in an unsupported manner) that a personality test could help the OP decide what things his son might enjoy other than music.

It's definitely a judgement call, and meta is the right place to raise the question, so I'm glad you have raised the issue.

Probably tipping me in the direction of the edit:

A lot of the answers on this site are unsupported opinion. Since babies don't come with a definitive instruction manual, parenting to a large extent will be opinion-based.

I myself would like to see more answers on this site supported with a bit of research, especially when they espouse a course of action which may or may not really address the OP's question. That does influence my moderating.

Had the user rolled back the edit, I would have been fine with that, since I was on the fence anyway. Had the user supported his recommendation in the comment thread, I would have edited that into the answer after removing the comment thread.

So, as I mentioned before, it came down to a judgement call. I didn't actually remove part of a user's answer because I didn't agree with it (there are many things with which I disagree stated in answers. If I removed them for that reason, that would be vandalism.) I hope that you can see the comment on the edit in light of the whole picture. I see in retrospect that it sounds harsh. For that, I do apologize sincerely.

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  • A user not liking an answer or disagreeing with it isn't reason to edit IMHO. What's the point in the voting system if you can just flag a non-spam, non-abusive answer? – Michael Sep 15 '15 at 20:41
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    Mikaveli - a big part of mod activity is removing those pieces that actively contribute to a worse question and answer experience. I'd have to support Anongoodnurse here - removal of this element and the comment thread helped keep the important part of the answer without attracting all that discussion. – Rory Alsop Sep 15 '15 at 20:43
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    The removed portion of the answer didn't seem to address the issue and brought in an entire new topic/discussion that seemed a bit of a derail to me. It was like answering an A problem with a B solution. But what the OP of that answer could do is substantiate their comments of a correlation between personality and aptitudes (which may be a topic worth its own question!), and put the information back in with references. Since edits aren't permanent, I'm not seeing the problem with this currently and (possibly) temporary solution. – user11394 Sep 16 '15 at 2:42
  • Their point was basically "if they aren't good at music, have you considered trying to find something else of interest to them?". Which seems valid to me. Parenting.SE seems to be moderated too much on personal ethics and ideology... – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 8:03
  • Also, regarding the comments (that I didn't ask about), describing something as "total bunk", isn't very constructive and would seem to violate the "be nice" policy. You can dispute an approach, but saying so politely is the way to do it. Saying "Sorry, but Myers-Briggs has been widely discredited" would not have attracted the flag. – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 8:55
  • @Mikaveli The comments do need to be considered as part of this answer, since they're what led to the edit. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 11:16
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    @CreationEdge Realistically, the original question is essentially (quoting from its title) How should a parent advise a child who wants to become a musician even though he is devoid of talent? — and the removed portion was one of very few answers which actually provided an action for the parent to take (look for an alternate passion, here is one method of finding it) rather than reframing the OP's problem as not really a problem. I think it could have been better phrased, though. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 11:43
  • @Erica Do we want to discourage alternative solutions then? As that's the implication of the edit... – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 11:46
  • @Mikaveli I'm attempting to moderate the discussion by providing viewpoints for everyone to consider. Please don't assume you know my stance unless I've posted an answer. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 11:47
  • @Erica I made no such assumption, edited for clarity. – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 11:51
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    @Erica Perhaps, but it seemed out of nowhere to me to mention personality tests specifically. I don't see the correlation. I get suggesting alternatives, but I wouldn't say "Have you done genetic testing? Genetics can influence our aptitudes", and I think people would have had a bigger issue with that statement, even though it's the same premise. – user11394 Sep 16 '15 at 13:11
  • @CreationEdge If the last sentence was edited to read "We tend to gravitate toward things at which our personalities excel. You could even have him look at other things he may enjoy." it may have still conveyed the intention of the original answer? – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 13:15
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    @Mikaveli Probably, and I doubt anyone would argue about reinserting it with that phrasing. I get excising it as a moderator until it's fixed, but as a user I'd probably have made the edit to be similar to your last suggestion. – user11394 Sep 16 '15 at 13:20
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    This does seem like a tough call, but the rationale given here for removing part of the answer is excellent. What was removed was, by itself, not a problem, but the context of the comments changed that. Its important to remember that not all moderation activities are in response to what we see; much of the time there were things exacerbating a situation that were already moderated. – user420 Sep 22 '15 at 12:19
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When editing a question, we're presented with the following 5-point prompt:

enter image description here

I believe these types of edits change the meaning conveyed by the original author and are disrespectful, by removing potentially helpful answers provided in good faith.

Even posting a "wrong answer" (which is difficult to qualify on such a subjective topic as parenting) is a valid action. If the answer attracts a number of votes (positively or negatively), the community has expressed its opinion on the helpfulness and validity of the answer.

With the specific answer in mind, I mentally questioned the value of such an approach, but expected different people to view it more or less helpfully.

From @anongoodnurse's answer to this question:

In this case, a user (not me) supported an argument that the MBPT was useless. By removing a flagged comment against the MBPT, I thought the fairest way to resolve the conflict was to remove the part of the answer which states (in an unsupported manner) that a personality test could help the OP decide what things his son might enjoy other than music.

So, a comment against MBPT was flagged and the editor made the assumption that a pro MBPT part of the answer should be removed to balance the situation. To me, this logic is flawed:

  • Firstly, being neutral on the topic, I would have assumed the comment got flagged for being rude (describing something as "total bunk") rather than their opinion. Was any specific reason given for the flag?

  • Secondly, the answer did not actually endorse the MBPT and simply referred to "a personality test". From the answerer's comment mentioning free online tests, this would seem to actively preclude MBPT as it's proprietary (and they typical charge a fee).

  • Thirdly, if a comment provides a different perspective, that shouldn't prompt the answer to be edited to better align with someone else's point of view (though they're free to down-vote and / or add their alternative as an answer).

There answer wasn't suggesting forcing the child down a different path in life based on the result of one test. Instead, they merely recommended that the parent tries to find new areas of interest they may enjoy. That seemed like a positive answer to me.

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  • The question of topicality also arises around editing, however. On a question about (say) playground safety, if an answer provides additional tips about playground etiquette, then that isn't necessarily central to the answer to the question even though it may be part of the answer as a whole. This is a tricky area to navigate :) – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 11:14
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    The steer we're given on other SE sites is that while broad questions are bad, broad answers are good (as long as they also address the specific question). – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 11:39
  • I refer you to this answer which is a pretty well supported summary of the community editing process. Also, there seems to be more going on here. You edited an answer of mine, changing it significantly (to which I didn't object) and have accused me of a personal attack in a comment thread. This is ok, but please note the double standard. – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '15 at 16:56
  • "Instead, they merely recommended that the parent tries to find new areas of interest they may enjoy." No, no one could have objected to that statement. It was more akin to "You can try consulting chiropractors to find new areas of interest they may enjoy." Yes, the statement is absurd (or at least meant to be), but it's a direct analogy. – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '15 at 17:05
  • I did edit your post, applying the standard you've applied to a number of other answers. I did this as I felt it was off-topic and as somewhat of a test - I wanted to see if the community approved similar edits from a non-moderator. I feel your subsequent comment was a veiled attack - and not constructive to the content of the post. – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 18:36
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    @Mikaveli - The fact that my answer disagreed with your position, and that you edited it to make it less impactful is an example of exactly what you're decrying in this answer. My "subsequent comment" was not a veiled insult. It is my opinion. – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '15 at 18:50
  • Comments are for clarification and constructive criticism - not opinion. You only include it as an attack. – Michael Sep 16 '15 at 19:06
  • Re your first bullet: The standard comment flags (e.g. "rude" or "not constructive") do not have a reason provided. Only "needs moderator attention" provides the option to fill a custom reason. – Acire Sep 16 '15 at 21:21
  • To avoid muddying this question, I've posted another relating to my edit of @anongoodnurse's answer: meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/947/… – Michael Sep 17 '15 at 8:54

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