This answer, which has 43 upvotes, has been locked since yesterday: https://workplace.stackexchange.com/a/46616/12321

I'm not sure it's worthy of my personal upvote, but as I cannot vote on it (since it is locked) and since it had a rather strong momentum in earning upvotes from other people, "locking" it seems rather unfair. It's as if the site moderators have determined to block an answer they dislike from being voted on.

I have put a lot of time into the StackExchange sites. One of the reasons I have done so is because I believe they are the fairest way that I've seen online to put forth reasonable solutions and have the group decide on the most optimal ones.

I'm calling for the end to this answer's "locked" status, so that people may vote on it, and for this not to happen again. I'm expecting reasonable conversation around it.


I have since discovered that the mod who locked it was participating in the "discussion." http://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/23748/discussion-on-answer-by-blankip-how-to-politely-decline-a-handshake-due-to-relig

This is a direct conflict of interest. A mod is a judge. In societies where such things are taken seriously, judges recuse themselves to avoid the appearance of impropriety. This sort of thing is a problem, and StackExchange needs to get out in front of it and address the issue.

Why this question is not a duplicate of What right do mods have in reconstructing my answers and comments?

This question asks about the locked status of an answer. It does not ask about the rights of mods to alter answers or comments. Therefore it is not a duplicate of the question that does ask that.

The question I raise is about process, and giving an answer and its author fair treatment under rules I have agreed to that allow me to continue contributing to this and other StackExchange sites. I'll probably be talking in front of several groups (students and meetup group members) about my experience with StackExchange, and this sort of thing certainly colors my viewpoint.

  • @blankip perhaps you might have something to say here.
    – Aaron Hall
    May 17, 2015 at 1:40
  • 1
    possible duplicate of What right do mods have in reconstructing my answers and comments?
    – gnat
    May 17, 2015 at 16:55
  • 5
    @AaronHall - There is no rule that says moderators should not actively participate in this site. Site moderators are selected in part due to their experience with the community and with Stack Exchange's mission. As mentioned below, the post was locked because it was generating rude, off-topic, and non-answers, all of which are not part of our mission to make the Internet a better place. If you wish to contact Stack Exchange for more clarification, please use the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page. Hope this helps clarify.
    – jmort253
    May 17, 2015 at 18:02
  • 7
    Aaron first, as jmort said, mods are allowed to participate on the site. But if you inspect the comments there carefully, my participation was primarily to redirect blankip to more-constructive participation. Not only is that not a conflict of interest, but an astute reader would likely see it as the first warning bell: a moderator is telling you to knock off the arguments in comments. May 17, 2015 at 19:15
  • @MonicaCellio that's not the way I read it. I read it as you arguing the point under discussion. I think you need to pick a hat to wear.
    – Aaron Hall
    May 17, 2015 at 20:22

4 Answers 4


That one question already has resulted in 150+ deleted comments between the question and several answers, many of which are quite offensive. The majority of the rest of the deleted ones are not constructive and/or off-topic.

There are have been multiple different discussions ongoing on various posts there which belong in either chat or on this meta site, not on the posts.

In addition to the large number of off-topic comments, there are nearly forty flags on various components of that question of all manner -- nearly all valid.

There are also multiple answers there which do not try to provide a constructive solution to the OP's problem.

Everything there is now locked.

Response to comments/updates

Should it be unlocked? There are currently three meta posts which relate to that post - two of which are unresolved, one of which has been investigated by multiple SE employees (I don't know if any have read this one). At this point, given the prolific rate of flags generated by that post, the blatantly offensive comments completely violating the SE be nice policy (see this post for a full list of the deleted comments), and minimal value in unlocking the post I am unsure it will ever be unlocked.

Users - a plethora of users - continued to post offensive, off topic, and meta discussions after multiple moderator comments and explanations. This is why most of the posts there are locked as:

This post has been locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated. For extended discussions, please use chat.

Is it wrong to delete comments?

Stack Exchange isn't a discussion board. It's a question/answer site. See the section on comments for the role of comments. This is the policy we as moderators are following when deleting comments.

If you do not believe this is how comments should be used, I encourage you to ask a question on the main Stack Exchange meta site to generate support for SE changing their policy on how comments work.

Was treatment of the answer biased?

The question I raise is about process, and giving an answer and its author fair treatment under rules I have agreed to that allow me to continue contributing to this and other StackExchange sites.

I am going to write at length about the actions taken on this specific answer, so you can better understand the actions taken and why.

The answer in question here, while overall somewhat popular (controversial - its received the fourth most downvotes of any answer remaining on The Workplace), does not actually answer the question. The asker asks, "how can I not shake hands with people in the workplace, because of my religious beliefs?" and this answer says, "you have to either shake hands or quit your job."

This is not helpful to anyone looking at this question and is among other reasons why that post is controversial.

See how to answer, specifically:

Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”. Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

After considerable comments and discussion, (including input from Monica via comments) that answer finally got an actual "answer" on the fifth revision. I use the phrase "answer" generously here, because rather than attempt to help the asker, the poster gives two possibilities and then explains how people will find it discriminatory - without trying to even provide any advice to the asker in how to address these issues.

As a side note, this is also interesting to me in that it effectively takes information directly from the other two answers at the time. In other contexts it's quite clear the author does not believe you should use any content first posted by others - however their answer blatantly copies content from two other answers there as their "alternative" - from posts which were in fact present and viewed by the author.

Presenting possibilities as "answers" and then proceeding to only explain reasons they are going to fail - with literally no attempt made to help the asker avoid these pitfalls - is not helpful. A constructive answer would help the asker overcome the pitfalls and be incredibly valuable.

Then, after all this, there were revisions made that expanded upon the already present theme in the answer that "to work you need to give up your religious beliefs - or quit." This was articulated in the edit to remove it. Note that the answer picked up flags after the edits were rolled back, which means the language there is still offensive to others reading the question.

The question is "how can I politely decline a handshake [due to religious reasons]?" It is not, "please provide commentary on whether or not I should follow my religion and what do you think about this?" Monica locked the answer when the author persisted in editing this commentary into their answer for the reason: "This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved."

Some good reading would be from the be nice section of the help center:

Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all.

Honestly, I'm surprised someone from the SE staff has not come by and deleted that answer outright given how strongly and intentionally it violates the above policy. The site moderators have been exceedingly generous in allowing the language in that answer to stand in spite of the clear policy on "Be Nice" as applies to bigotry based on religion. If anything our attempts (primarily from the other moderators, since I removed myself nearly entirely from moderation on that question given I had an answer there) to remain impartial have made us allow inappropriate content longer than otherwise would be fair.

Some questions are hard to answer. That's fine. But the proper response to hard questions isn't an inflammatory post which basically says "... then find work elsewhere. This is how we like doing things in the US of A."

Hopefully this helps you better understand the why actions were taken on this answer the way they were.

  • 2
    I don't think locking everything is at all constructive. In fact, the commotion appears to have died down. Now that the dust has settled, I think it apropos to reopen everything.
    – Aaron Hall
    May 17, 2015 at 3:07
  • @AaronHall All the hubbub was because the question ended up in the Hot Questions list. Locking the whole page for a few days was a great idea.
    – user15729
    May 17, 2015 at 6:15
  • 2
    @AaronHall, keep in mind that locking a post is something we don't do often, and only when it's necessary to prevent our site from breaking down. As enderland mentioned, the amount of flags, off-topic commentary, non-answers, and rudeness reached a threshold where locking the post seemed to be the best way to cool things off without us playing whack-a-mole with all of the flags. We'll look into whether or not we're clear to unlock it. Hope this helps clarify.
    – jmort253
    May 17, 2015 at 14:02
  • @AaronHall FYI - I edited in a large response to your additions to your initial post here. Hopefully this will help you better understand why the moderators here acted the way they did.
    – enderland
    May 17, 2015 at 23:33
  • 1
    Offensive, rude, and abusive comments should be handled with suspensions/bannings. Especially in situations like this. May 18, 2015 at 18:47
  • @ReallyTiredOfThisGame - I believe that all of my responses/comments were very even on my answer. We had a few people that went slightly overboard but they were just expressing their opinion one way or another. The only abusive comment I read was made by a SE employee towards me and was deleted. Nobody is talking about him being suspended though - the mods/employees just upvoted his harassing comment.
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 19:20
  • 2
    @enderland - Please explain how my answer has any sort of bigotry in it? What specifically was bigoted in it? I was pretty clear that I felt that EVERYONE SHOULD BE TREATED THE SAME. By pointing out that some people might find the person not shaking hands a bigot/sexist is not bigotry. By stating the opposite stance and deleting my answer, I find it VERY sexist. Actions speak louder than words and you allowed pro-Muslim discussion but not pro-woman. Is your take on bigotry a reflection of SE and should this be its own meta question?
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 19:24

I put a temporary "content dispute" lock on that answer after the author rolled back a moderator edit and because things were exploding in comments and on meta. I wanted to prevent edit wars while the meta discussion happened.

I wanted to lock it for two days but that wasn't an option in the interface, so I locked it for a week. Locks can be removed early of course.

The other answers were not causing problems (other than inappropriate comments, which mods were deleting), so I only locked the answer that was an active source of trouble. I saw no reason to prevent activity on the question or on other answers. (I have not reviewed occurrences in the last ~28 hours yet, so this answer does not take into account more-recent developments. I'm just explaining why the lock was added.)

  • 2
    Ah great, then you can unlock it?
    – Aaron Hall
    May 17, 2015 at 2:56
  • 2
    Can, yes. When and whether anybody will I can't yet say, because I see a lot of new meta activity that I'm still catching up on and I need to check in with the other mods. May 17, 2015 at 2:59
  • 1
    @AaronHall for an example of how content dispute lock gets removed, refer revisions history of a similarly disputed question. Per my observations, moderators tend to remove dispute locks after a week or two; if I spot a question hanging loner than that, I would consider flagging or asking about this in chat / meta
    – gnat
    May 18, 2015 at 9:48
  • 1
    Did you mention that the edit that I rolled back was research related to my question and another not refuting another mod's answer (with research)? Do you have a specific reason that I couldn't add research to my answer - isn't this what SE is about? You and enderland also made comments that my answer was insensitive but this isn't in your answer? So we have two big questions here - why would you delete research from an answer and why was my answer insensitive?
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 19:17
  • Did you read my answer to your other meta question? I've already addressed the edit and am not going to do so again. Jun 1, 2015 at 21:33
  • 1
    Does anyone not working for SE or a mod think that Monica answered these questions in this question - meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/3160/… I didn't see any specific stance on anything. You said you didn't like what I said. What made it offensive? Which word(s)? How is it offensive? Is it offensive to you or by SE guidelines? Jmort didn't say that it was offensive, he said I didn't answer the question. So what was offensive?? Again answering with circular logic. 3 answers with no answer looping.
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 22:15


I unlocked the thread, and I deleted the two posts on the question that did not answer the question. Regardless of voting, Stack Exchange sites require that answers actually answer the question; they are subject to deletion if they don't.

Goals of Stack Exchange - The Mission

Stack Exchange is a great platform when it comes to finding answers to real, actual problems we face in our daily work lives. What makes this platform so amazing is how it works to reduce and eliminate noise, which thereby raises the signal and makes it easier for a person landing on this site from search engines to answer the following questions:

  • Is this question similar to the problem that I am currently facing?
  • If so, is there an answer to my question on this page?

On Stack Overflow, I've found that, within seconds or minutes, I either find my answer, or I immediately go back to Google and modify my search query. If it weren't for the reduction in noise, many of us would have the misfortune of searching through forum pages of non-answers, hoping that somewhere in the noise is that gem, that answer, that solves our problems. Such was life in the forums before Stack Exchange came around.

Community Moderation and Voting

The voting on Stack Exchange, and the community moderation, are two tools that help us answer the above two questions quickly. Questions that don't fit the site scope are oftentimes closed by the community, and answers on questions that do fit the scope are ordered and ranked by community votes to help us quickly find the best answers.

In most cases, when action is necessary on a specific post, the community can take action. In those cases, I try not to get involved unless the answer as to which action should be taken is extremely obvious. But answer moderation is tougher. The community has less tools to work with to take care of content that doesn't fit the scope. Down voting works for content that is wrong or content that is incorrect, but voting is not for content that doesn't answer the question. This is where elected community moderators come in and where it becomes our responsibility to act.

In this case, the two posts in question fundamentally do not answer the question, something that is paramount to Stack Exchange and a requirement of content posted in the answers section. Although one of those posts is indeed highly up voted, votes alone do not excuse content that does not meet Stack Exchange guidelines of answering the question objectively, factually, and honestly. Popularity alone does not excuse us from our responsibility to uphold Stack Exchange's mission to make the Internet a better place through high quality Q&A.

How to Restore the Deleted Content

The authors of the posts, and any users with at least 10k reputation on this site, can read and continue to edit the deleted content to bring it within site guidelines; specifically, it must answer the question, and the tone must be objective, be free of the emotional undertones and shock value, and be backed up with facts, references, or experiences that happened to you personally that demonstrate you know what you are talking about. If this happens, we can review the content and possibly restore it, if the revised content fits the Stack Exchange guidelines and mission.

For more information on what makes a good Stack Exchange answer, please read How to Answer, and for more information on why content that doesn't answer the question is not welcome on Stack Exchange, please see Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, and Real Questions Have Answers, and The Forum Problem.

  • 2
    Many questions on the Workplace have an answer that comes down to "Bad idea - don't do that". There are many people who want to vote for such an answer on this question. So there should be one that says exactly that. Of course, exact wording can be discussed, but deleting all answers that say "don't do that" is wrong.
    – Sjoerd
    May 23, 2015 at 22:48
  • Note that it was impossible for days to update those answers, and now they have been deleted without any chance to update them in a reaction to the criticism. I consider this bad.
    – Sjoerd
    May 23, 2015 at 22:50
  • I've added personal experience to my answer. I don't see any offensive words either, and I've added references that support my claim about the customs.
    – Sjoerd
    May 23, 2015 at 23:11
  • 3
    @Sjoerd - Your post was simply telling the op to fit in with local customs because it's the local custom, and then some photos of people shaking hands. There was no mention of personal experience or research done that indicates this is the correct course of action. Also, even in a "Don't do this" scenario, we still want to see objectivity and for the actual question to be answered by making the assumption that the op will still want to solve the problem as indicated in the question. Such an answer would need to be more than just two lines with no thought, logic, or reasoning behind it.
    – jmort253
    May 24, 2015 at 7:21
  • 2
    The answer also shouldn't contain such raw emotion, as it's indicative of a lack of objectivity. Workplace SE isn't a platform to judge others; it's a place to find answers to questions about how to navigate the professional workplace. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    May 24, 2015 at 7:22
  • "Don't do this" is raw emotion? Would adding "please" make it polite?
    – Sjoerd
    May 24, 2015 at 14:06
  • Example of other answer that says don't: workplace.stackexchange.com/a/655/34797 . And see this answer that literally says "No, there isn't." at the top: workplace.stackexchange.com/a/12190/34797
    – Sjoerd
    May 24, 2015 at 14:25
  • 1
    I am not sure who was judging who. My answer clearly says that everyone should be treated the same. While your answer says nothing specific your actions do support a judgment. You have decided that a user bringing up the right of women to being treated equally is considered offensive and that religions have the ability to trump equality. So in a nutshell Muslim rights more important than women's rights. This is just your actions though which I believe are more powerful than words - locked or not.
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 22:05
  • @Sjoerd regarding deleted answers, their author (and actually, also any other user with over 10K rep) can see these, edit and flag for undeletion
    – gnat
    Jun 3, 2015 at 16:35
  • @gnat Thanks. In the meantime, I've added a new answer with improved wording, so there is no need to undelete the old answer anymore.
    – Sjoerd
    Jun 3, 2015 at 21:48
  • 1
    Thank you Jmort. I completely agree with this decision. And for the record I am not unsympathetic to many of the arguments made in the answer, but it was primarily a diatribe and did not belong here. Jun 5, 2015 at 14:08

It was locked initially because it "did not meet community guidelines". And this was in no way directed at my answer not answering the question - jmort's really poor excuse to just do whatever he wants because he works at SE. And I understand that SE owns this so they can say whatever they want, delete whatever they want, and treat people on here however they want.

The mods said that my answer was offensive. I was simply bringing up that many people would believe their action (of not shaking hands) as sexist. It is really easy to see how SE/mods feel about the sociological ladder. It is OK to bring up the rights of Muslims, but it is "not meeting community guidelines" to defend women over Muslims. This is what it comes down to.

I am a very very long time user of SE and have never been involved in anything like this. I have over the years seen the mods and some of the employees of SE step over the line of fairness. But then when I called them out with a complete set of FACTS both groups started to personally attack me.

What is funny is that I have been away for the past two weeks at our company's global tech conference (so sorry for the late answer). SE came up more than once and people were blown away that I didn't speak more as I have been a huge proponent of SE. But I have been burnt many times dealing with vendors with big attitudes and egos and I think that maybe that is where the internal culture at SE is going. I also feel like jmort and the mods (as well as other employees) have basically picked Muslims over women. I for one can't back a company that feels like women are second class citizens. And I will recant this statement if someone at SE can logically explain to me why it is OK for people to have pro-Muslim answers but you delete the one that was actually about treating everyone equally (pro-women if you will).

So why did my answer get locked? Because you have mods that got caught doing things they shouldn't have, you have a long time user that called them out, the mods then have a SE employee verbally harass the user, lock the question and then think of a broad excuse to why it is locked. By jmort's logic we should probably lock about 20% of the answers across all of the SE sites.

Please also note that I had added two additions to my original answer that supplied research to the answer and refutation of another answer (of course a mod's answer). These additions in no way shape or form were anti-SE guidelines but kept getting deleted by the mods. No one has given me a specific straight answer for why these were deleted or my question was locked. According to jmort's own answer here my answer would be valid had they not deleted info from it before locking it.

Also note - that 90% of the votes on meta is mods/SE employees so here come my downvotes. And also the question only points to a small % of the comments between the mods and I. If you read their comments and then jmort's answer on why he deleted my answer you would think we were part of some Abbott and Costello skit. The mods keep arguing that my answer was offensive, the original SE employees also pretty much called me a bigot, and now jmort is claiming my answer doesn't answer the question. It is funny that the mods can't give me an answer to what is offensive but even funnier that SE draws up the illusion that I didn't meet another guideline - therefore answer deleted without answering why defending women's equality is offensive. What I would like to know is this a stance of SE or is this just some rogue people saying things in the use of the SE name?

And also the answer was DELETED not locked.

  • 1
    Well, +1 from me, they don't tolerate dissent really well here, but we'll see what happens. Good luck!
    – Aaron Hall
    Jun 1, 2015 at 19:08
  • @AaronHall - It isn't dissent. The mods kept telling me my answer was insensitive. I kept asking how it was insensitive. Well these mods must work in HR because they are experts at talking while saying nothing. Now it is another excuse it is locked.... I had mods firing in on all cylinders telling me that my answer was insensitive and that is why it was locked. I still have not had anyone even come close to explaining why it was insensitive. All I get is circular logic. I am taking this to my SE sales rep and see if their employees reflect their beliefs.
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 19:12
  • 3
    The addendum in my answer on your meta question addressed your complaints about the edit. I suggest you read it. As for the rest of your post here, until you show some ability to absorb corrections of your mistaken premises I see no point in trying to discuss it with you. Jun 1, 2015 at 20:59
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio - No it didn't. Just because you say you answered it doesn't mean you did - at least two people commented that you didn't. I made the comment in my answer here that the mods have gone around in circles saying "nothing". By you pointing out that you have another answer that says nothing is beyond circular logic. You have yet to specifically say what I said was offensive or insensitive. Just saying what I wrote is offensive in no way makes it true or is an answer. By jmort's answer here your answer should be deleted right?
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 22:01
  • 5
    I stand for Stack Exchange's mission, which is to make the Internet a better place by providing objective answers to questions in Q&A format. This is not a site for debate or discussion, and what you are missing is that you didn't answer the question. You side-stepped it by making assumptions about the op's motivation and injected your personal opinion based on your own interpretation of the op's motivations.. That is not what SE is about. If you have more questions please use the contact us link at the bottom of this site, which goes directly to Stack Exchange.
    – jmort253
    Jun 1, 2015 at 22:22
  • @jmort253 - In no way shape or form did anyone even come close to even throwing out my answer didn't answer the question - which it clearly does. Only after the mods locking it for offensive content and your employees harassing me did you come up with this excuse for deleting it. It is phoney. There is NO WAY in the SE community would think that it isn't an answer. I can put it on meta right now and let the votes take place in comments - no mods/SE employee votes count - let's see what happens. You tell me I skirted my answer when that is your excuse? Come on.
    – blankip
    Jun 1, 2015 at 22:28
  • 8
    Hello. Jmort doesn't work for Stack Exchange, he's a volunteer :) But, I do - I'm the director of Stack Overflow communities. I've offered to speak with you about this if you'd care to email me, but I haven't heard from you yet - here's my email again just in case it slipped by in the avalanche of comments that were coming in: [email protected]. I hope to speak with you soon.
    – Tim Post
    Jun 2, 2015 at 13:15
  • 1
    @TimPost OP may be mistaken about jmort because of jmac
    – gnat
    Jun 2, 2015 at 19:51

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