I tried to write a response to I believe I have solved a famous open problem. How do I convince people in the field that I am not a crank? that mentioned an achievement of my own that I thought was much bigger than it was, and respectful empathy for referees instead of viewing them as obstacles. It was deleted, ironically enough. Did I do wrong by including a link to my website, or did I come off as a crank, or something else? There were no comments, positive or negative, and it had two upvotes before being deleted five hours after it was posted.

I'm not sure it's my best work but I tried to have a heart to heart comment to someone dealing with being outside of the climate of opinion whether he made a legitimate discovery or was a legitimate crank. Is this kind of heart to heart (or attempt) outside the purview of academia.stackexchange.com? Was it deleted because of execution or intent, or was part of it just too strange for the person reading it?

I made a distinction (which I invented or reinvented) in the theory of other minds as discussed in reference to the spectrum: I distinguished within theory of other minds issues between a theory of like minds (which can be described as "Other people have minds just like mine"), and a theory of alien minds (which means "Other people have minds as much as mine, but they're often different from mine."). Was the reference to "alien minds" construed as ufo stuff or the like?


2 Answers 2


Your answer received multiple flags from the community indicating it as "not an answer", and was therefore deleted by a moderator. Indeed, your answer appeared more as a long comment, empathizing with the OP, rather than as an actual answer to the question, which is "what to do in this situation?".

Academia.SE is a place for questions and answers, and although your answer would have some merit on a more traditional forum, it is not really a good fit for the format here.


I found the OP's answer to the linked question to be interesting. I didn't understand all of it, and I didn't agree with every part of it that I understood, but overall it was one of the more thoughtful and thought-provoking answers I've encountered on the site.

I am disappointed that your answer was deleted, especially on the grounds of being "not an answer". Of course it was an answer! Empathizing with the OP and giving extended advice about how other people may perceive his work and indeed his mental processes in a different way from his own is a very relevant and penetrating answer. To claim that this thoughtful post was "not an answer" is a bit insulting to Mr. Hayward. Maybe you don't agree with it; maybe you don't even think it will be helpful to the OP (though I think it could be); okay. But to think that it is not an answer is a distressingly bad faith position to take.

I also want to point out a nuance in Charles' answer. He wrote:

Your answer received multiple flags from the community indicating it as "not an answer", and was therefore deleted accordingly.

This seems ambiguous to me. An answer which gets flagged enough times by the community will be automatically deleted, and then it can be undeleted by community members as well. But this is not what happened here. Rather, the answer was deleted by a moderator, with the effect that no community member can vote to undelete the answer. Thus I find the description of this as a community reaction a bit disingenuous. I also don't understand or agree why moderators need to act in this way to delete content. In my opinion moderators should only delete posts which are really not answers, e.g. "Buy VIAGRA at this website".

I am also not sure that there has been complete honesty about why the answer was deleted. So many answers on this site primarily empathize with the OP and give bigger picture information rather than specific advice. If this is done well, such answers usually get upvoted, and in fact the vote count on this deleted answer is +2/-0. When I saw the answer deleted, my guess was that it had something to do with the Mr. Hayward's reference to something on a personal webpage. I didn't find this linking practice to be inappropriate myself but the idea that it might be seems more defensible than the actual reasons given for deletion. If that is the real reason, we should get it out in the open.

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    I clarified the point that it was indeed deleted by a moderator, I didn't mean to imply that it was deleted by the community, but only that the moderation action was triggered by flags. In addition, there were more flags indicating as not an answer than upvotes.
    – user102
    Mar 31, 2014 at 14:19
  • @Charles: Thank you for clarifying. Let me also say that the site mechanics set things up for the moderators to take more unilateral action than I would prefer, so one should understand my criticism as being primarily directed at that rather than personally at the moderators. Apr 2, 2014 at 3:17

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