Schrodinger's Cat Strikes Back

Import of Endangered SE-Questions

As announced in my last post, I like to introduce the prototype of our new Q2A-plugin for the import of endangered SE-questions. For the user it has become the simplest and most comfortable solution I can imagine. Starting point is the link to the question on any SE-site loaded in your browser, as for example:

SE link

Copy this link. Note that the complete link is required; do not use the shared links at the bottom of the questions. Then you may select the menu option “Import SE-Question” on our Physics Overflow site, which is only visible and accessible to dedicated users like administrators or moderators (selectable by the super administrator):

PO menu

Paste the link copied from the SE-site into the appropriate field of the import dialog:

Import SE

Select the desired Physics Overflow category and click the import button. In a little while, the process announces the successful import of the complete thread containing the question and  all answers and comments:

Import SE done

The import is made using the StackExchange API. This API implements throttles, which reduce the number of daily calls to 300 for a single IP, as long as the application has no valid access token. If the application has an access token (obtained via authenticating a user), this number is 10’000 calls per day and per IP. My plugin requires typically two calls for each import (one for the thread and a second for the user data), as long as no more than 30 users have contributed to the question. For every 30 users more, again a call is required (I have found questions with more than 100 contributing users). This means that without an access token, about 150 questions per day may be imported. I have no idea what happens, when this quota is trespassed. The API returns the remaining quota of calls, which is divided by two in our plugin and indicated in the dialog window (see image above). A part of an example import is shown in the next picture:



Attribution is regularized in the API terms of use, which point to the Stack Exchange Terms of Service. As far as I understand, we are allowed to copy content from SE-sites, as far as we follow the rules under this last link. My proposition is to put an attribution line under every imported question, answer and comment, that looks like this:

Attribution details

Like this, the SE rules and the rules of the  Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license should in my opinion be fulfilled. The exact date and time of the import is added, because it is not possible to synchronize edits that are made on SE after the import. So the import is a snapshot of the state at the time indicated by this date/time. The API also provides no way to import the edit history of the questions.

If anybody has more knowledge about attribution to SE, I would be glad to get some feedback. By the way, shouldn’t we also think about terms of use for our site?

Remaining Issues

There are some issues on importing user identities, which I try to explain below. Users are imported exactly the same way as during the migration of the closed SE.TP, with their display name and email hash. The following cases may occur:

  • User no more registered on SE-site. In this case, there exists no link to the user profile on the SE-site. The plugin then allocates the post to a user “UnknownToSE”, which is hidden in the list of users, similar to the voter introduced for the import of SE.TP questions.
  • Collision with an existing user name on Physics Overflow. A user has registered with the same display name on PO as the user to be imported. In this case, the plugin checks the email hashes of both users. In case of a match, the imported user is assigned to the existing user. If the hashes are different, I have not yet a useful solution. Actually, I use again the user “UnknownToSE”, but this is not a good solution. Any ideas?
  • Collision between identical users from different SE-sites. A StackExchange user may post for instance on SE Physics and also on SE Math, but using different email addresses. I have observed that such cases appear quite often. In contrast to user IDs on different sites, the only stable ID is the account ID of a user. Using the StackExchange API, it is possible to find this ID for active SE-users. However, the Area 51 dump did not provide this ID.

Any ideas for the solution of these issues are helpful.

Next Steps

I think it is slowly time to prepare the takeoff of Physics Overflow. In my next post I will make a proposition for this process. I hope Dilaton will have recovered soon and will be on board again. Get well soon!

Admin Dashboard Settings Part 9: Spam settings

The menu Spam in the Admin Dashboard allows to tick certain check marks to avoid PhysicsOverflow to get clogged with spam, noise, or generally trolled by ill meaning folks, which I think is important. Also, from a legal point of view we will be responsible for what gets posted on our site, so there will certainly be a need for people who watch out a bit and help with detecting and removing really bad things …

The first few options deal with settings concerning the registration and confirmation of emails by new users:

  • Request confirmation of user emails: I will have to ask Polarkernel if this is needed for the Regain TP account plugin, currently the check mark is set
  • All new users must confirm their email: Stack Exchange does not have this and I am not sure if we need it either
  • Enable moderation (approval) of users: this seems too restrictive IMHO
  • Email me when a new user registers: I think we don’t need this
  • Temporarily suspend new user registrations: this might be a good option for our technical private beta to come, to prevent too many users to register already. The intention behind limiting registration during this test phase is that we do not want to worry too much about loosing nice serious content while testing. Polarkernel will probably write more about this soon …

The next few options allow to enable CAPTCHAs under different conditions. I personally think that having to deal with CAPTCHAs all the time in cyber space  (to comment in blogs, etc) sucks; but who knows, if bad spam issues should arise, we might use it ? For example if certain “EnergyNumbers” and other “friends” decide to massively spam attack PhysicsOverflow  etc, it might come in handy  😉

  • Use captcha for user registration:
  • Use captcha on reset password form:
  • Use captcha for anonymous posts:
  • Use captcha if email not confirmed:
  • Use captcha on feedback form:
  • Use captcha module: here you can only choose reCAPTCHA whatever this means …

Then you can use moderation for things that might get troublesome (but normally they shouldnt IMHO). I am not sure if we need these, and rather think we should avoid copying the paranoid negative attitude of the Meta Stack Overflow (MSO) crowd who always assumes the worst about the character and intentions of other people, which leads to the well-known large bureaucratic overhead, draconic punishments,  and oppressive overmoderation of most parts of the SE network …

  • Use moderation for anonymous posts:
  • Use moderation if email not confirmed:
  • Use moderation for users with few points:

Next comes a text field, where you can list the IP addresses of trolls that should be banned. Maybe we could gather the IP addresses of people who we do not want to see on PhysicsOverflow by all means in advance, I have several (user) names in mind (joking) … ;-P

Finally you can rate limit many actions, which is good for keeping spam bots out I think. Unfortunately these options are not effective to keep out the spam bots developed by a certain aggressive and destructive System Administrator who tests and trains his malware (which is intended to interrupt any serious theoretical physics discussions everywhere in the internet as soon as certain keywords like SUSY or ST appear) on his personal homepage …  Such spam has still  to be taken care off manually … ;-).

  • Rate limit for user registrations: 5 per IP/hour
  • Rate limit for logging in: 20 per IP/hour
  • Rate limit for asking questions: 20 per IP/hour, 10 per user/hour
  • Rate limit for adding answers: 50 per IP/hour, 25 per user/hour
  • Rate limit for posting comments: 40 per IP/hour,  20 per user/hour
  • Rate limit for voting: 600 per IP/hour, 300 per user/hour
  • Rate limit for flagging posts:  10 per IP/hour, 5 per user/hour
  • Rate limit for uploading files:  20 per IP/hour, 10 per user/hour
  • Rate limit for private and wall messages: 30 per IP/hour, 5 per user/hour
    These limits might need to be set to higher values, if we want to use user walls as chat rooms

Is a reputation driven privilege system appropriate to implement community moderation on Physics Overflow?

On Physics SE, community moderation is implemented by means of a reputations dependent privilege system, which means that the more reputation a user obtains, the more power he gets to take part in the moderation of the site. However, a necessary precondition for this approach to work properly is a strong positive correlation between the (physics) knowledge of (in moderation issues interested) users and their reputation.

On Physics SE, this indispensable correlation is not as strong as it should be, and the site is at present mostly governed and moderated by people who are not well-respected and achieved physicists themself. Too many high rep (>3000) users (and even moderators) are not knowledgeable enough about advanced physics topics at a deeper technical level,  but represent vigorously the Stack Exchange guidelines, and hyperactively take part in moderation issues in the (higher level) review queues.

This has the detrimental effect that too many good and from a physics point of view legitimate and very interesting questions get closed based on Stack Exchange political reasons. In addition, recent discussions revolving around tightening up the anti-homework policy on Physics SE, initially intended to improve the level of the site and the experience for experts who do not like to be bothered with bad basic homework questions (which is good), is now implemented in a way that by abusing the way too broad notion of  “homework-like”,  not only bad effortless low-level homework gets closed but  high-level technical (and sometimes even conceptual) questions about advanced physics topics, get persecuted  too. Due to the dominance of the bad reviewers mentioned above in the close and reopen review queues, it is then for example almost impossible to get any good question that should not have been closed to start with or after an improvement, reopened.

To return to the intended topic of the post after this detailed rant ;-), from my long-term observations I think the violation of the necessary condition for community moderation by a reputation driven privilege system is to blame for the bad shape of Physics SE at present: A year ago, an explicit externally driven symmetry breaking (about the details I talked enough here 😉 …) took place,  which triggered a transition of the site from its unstable academic in spirit high-level phase to its lower-level SE politically overmoderated present state. (The question, if the present state is another false vacuum which could decay further to a still lower level, is subject of ongoing research … ;-P). After the phase transition, the number of popular, very basic, and bad homework questions ramped up. This brought (by means of the reputation based privilege system) too many people, who are not knowledgeable enough about advanced physics topics, but SE politically very active, into positions to determine the scope of the site (> 3000 rep). It is them who are dominating for example the close/reopen queues at present, which is not good as explained above.

The only way to prevent such a thing to happen to our Physics Overflow when using a points based privilege system, is first of all to set it up outside the Stack Exchange network … ;-). Second, the intended graduate upward level of the content has to be vigorously maintained and defended, such that people not knowledgeable enough about advanced topics but interested in power games or what ever, never get into a position which allows them to influence the scope and moderation of the site.

An alternative to relying on a points based reputation system for community moderation too heavily, is to maintain meta review lists for the community to decide about important issues (taking the request for reopen list of Maths SE and MO as a role model), and let then execute predetermined trust worthy members the moderation actions agreed upon by the community. This would also solve the issue that in Q2A moderation actions such as closing, reopening, deleting, etc are implemented to work only unilaterally. David Z would just love this … ;-P

The community review threads could for example be put down in a subcategory  “community moderation” in meta. Basically we would need such meta lists at least to do the following things:

  • reopen questions (review queue for reopen votes)
  • closing questions (review queue for close votes)
  • deleting posts (low quality review queue)
  • undeleting posts
  • import specific questions from Physics SE or another SE site (Polarkernel is working on this)


For example, the meta list taking the role of the reopen queue would  look like this


The basic idea to is that the question itself serves as some kind of an introduction to the particular review queue, and in the answers question can then be nominated (linked to) for reopening. The community can up/down vote each answer, and as soon as an answer attains say, a net score of 5, an appropriately empowered user can reopen the question on the main page. The other review lists will work in the same way.

The nice thing in Q2A is that it is possible to put additional links into the navigation bar, such that we can some kind of spread out the review queues (meta lists) we know from Stack Exchange there 🙂

Navigation Bar 2

When we want to do community moderation by using such meta threads, this would also have some implications on the settings of the permissions, which have already been discussed before:

So I would suggest to set the permissions such that on Physics Overflow

  • closing
  • reopening
  • deleting
  • undeleting

can only be done by Experts, Editors, Moderators, and Administrators, whereas everybody who has the power to vote (users with 15 points as on SE), can take part in deciding what should be closed, reopened, deleted, or undeleted, by voting and discussing in the corresponding meta threads. A question to clarify is, if everything should be done exclusively by means of these review meta lists, or if obvious spam, abusive things, etc can for example be deleted directly and unilaterally by the people who have the appropriate permissions, etc

Suggesting and reviewing edits can be done on the Mathematics and Physics Wikia as suggested by Dimension10 (the link could be added to the navigation bar too), such that the permissions to

  • Approve or reject posts
  • Recategorize questions
  • Edit any (!) questions
  • Edit any (!) answer
  • Edit any (!) comment

can be set to Experts, Editors, Moderators, and Administrators too, who will then make the approved edits. It seems a bit annoying that Q2A  seems not to discern between edits on ones own posts (which everybody should be a able to do directly without review) and editing other people’s stuff.

An important follow-up question, which is beyond the scope of this already “too broad” ;-P post is, who should be our Experts, Editors, Moderators, and Administrators, how will they be chosen, etc …

Concerning choosing moderators, Dushya had the very nice idea of mailing to university professors when the time is near to go online and ask them, if they would like to help us by being moderators for PhysicsOverflow. Getting back some TP.SE moderators would be nice too I think … 😉

Tag wikis do now work by implementing the corresponding plugin to, such that for example a short description of the tag, a link to a more comprehensive Wikipedia article on the Mathematics and Physics Wikia, and even a funny icon describing the tag, can be assigned to each tag. For example when clicking the string theory tag, you see the short description and the list of questions with this tag (don’t shoot me, it is not the final string theory description but a simple example 😉 …)

String tag wiki

Now I wish all of us a Happy New Year 😀 !


Approaching the Goal, Technical End of Year Report

Soon, we have end of this year and it is time to give you some information about the technical state of the project. There have been many hours of frustration, but I think, nonetheless, I have some fine results to present. Let me go through the different subject studied or realized:

LaTex in Markdown Editor
The issue of this editor is that markdowns are represented by so called escape sequences, as know from the programming language C or C++. For instance \n is an end-of-line r \t is a tab. In order to be able to represent the backslash character used for these sequences, a double backslash \\ is used. During the transform of an edited text into a html-coded text, the Markdown Editor “eats” one of these backslashes, which was the reason for the issues that Dilaton mentioned already in this blog. I have found a way of preprocessing the edited text by replacing Latex sequences by tags and inserting these blocks at the end by a postprocessing. This worked fine for the live preview, but by unknown reasons not for the real posting. After some days of frustration and anger, I gave up.

Dummy Voter
I was not happy with the solution of thousands of dummy voters, escaping at the end of migration, but leaving their votes until a recount showed, that the cat was dead. This is too near to Schrodinger’s cat for me. Now I have replaced this solution by a single voter (do you guess its name?) with increased rights, who inserts all votes from TP and makes itself invisible for everybody after that. Like this, this solution will survive all recounts during the life of the site. For this solution I required one solely line of core hack in Q2As code (this is the first time up to now).

New editor, LaTex enabled
The WYSIWYG editor delivered with Q2A is based on CKEditor. Unfortunately, the implemented version of CKEditor does not support LaTex. In the meantime, there exists a new version of this editor, which supports LaTex, but it was not possible to introduce it into WYSIWYG. Therefore I have developed a new Q2A plugin, which supports this new version. This new plugin supports many nice features, as can be seen in the following screen shot:


LaTex code may be inserted using a special window, where the LaTex code can be written (without $ or $$) using a live preview either as block or inlined:

latex_editor       latex_editor_inline

A source editor enables the user to insert any desired html-code:


I am sure you will like this new editor plugin!

Regaining Accounts for former TP users
This issue is solved! I have written a plugin that allows former users of SE.TP to regain their account in the migrated Q2A site. I have added a login link into the side panel near the attribution message:


The user sees then a login page with a short explanation of the login procedure:


If he gives the correct credentials as he used on the former SE.TP site (checked using MD5 encryption of his email address), he is logged in as a normal Q2A user:


He is then enabled to change his account data (email address, password, etc.) and may access his old posts.

That’s it for this year!

I wish Merry Christmas to all of you and a happy new year with a successful start of this new site!

Admin Dashboard Settings: Part 5 – Posting

The menu Posting of the Admin Dashboard allows to customize different things related to posting questions and answers, as you can guess from the name 😉

Some basic options can be enabled or disabled by a check mark. I write down here what personally would choose, so please say so in the comments if you disagree

  • Close questions with a selected answer: nope, and in addition until now we rather tended to refrain from choosing a selected answer anyway
  • Allow questions to be manually closed: yes
  • Allow users to answer their own question: yes
  • Allow multiple answers per user: yes
  • Allow questions to be related to answers: don’t know what this means
  • Allow comments on questions: yes
  • Allow comments on answers: yes

Then you can choose either the Markdown Editor or a WYSIWYG Editor as the default for posting questions, answers, and comments. Here, I think we should choose an appropriate Markdown Editor, see also the discussion about Plugins.

Next, you have the possibility to provide custom messages that appear in the forms used to ask, answer, and comment which can be activated by a check mark. These features are similar to what Stack Exchange applies to overpatronizing users by writing “don’t say thank +1” there etc … ;-).

  • Custom message on ask form – HTML allowed
  • Custom field for extra information on ask form
  • Custom message on answer form – HTML allowed
  • Custom message on comment form – HTML allowed

Some minimal criteria posts have to fulfill can be specified next:

  • Minimum length of question title: 
  • Maximum length of question title: maximum possible is 800
  • Minimum length of question body:
  • Minimum number of tags: 1
  • Maximum number of tags:
  • Use commas as the only tag separator: yes (check mark)
  • Minimum length of answer:
  • Minimum length of comment:
  • Check email notification box by default:

As this has nothing to do with political moderation ;-), I think we can use the SE settings where possible here.

After this comes a text field for censored words, you have to separate them by commas. As we are, conversely to what Stack Exchange thinks, grown up intelligent people who do not need to be patronized by telling us how we are allowed to communicate with each other etc, we probably don’t need this. However, be writing some awful political terms SE often (ab)uses there, such as “broken window”, “big city problem”, “not constructive” etc, this feature might be useful as a detector for SE politicians who are trying to undermine our site  … ;-P. That the SE typical political overmoderation can indeed completely destroy several years old beta sites by continuously and strongly acting against the community, you can see for example here.

Ok, back to business 😉 … Then come some options related to define related questions:

  • Check for similar questions when asking: yes (can be enabled by a check mark)
  • Similar questions matching: here you can choose widest, wider, default, narrow, narrowest
  • Maximum similar questions to show: maximum 50

Finally, you can specify some settings concerning tagging :

  • Show example tags based on question: yes (even though we do not expect to have as many askers as Physics SE who do not even know enough physics to choose appropriate tags and therefore create tons of silly unprofessional ones 😉 …)
  • Example tags matching: widest, wider, default, narrow, narrowest
  • Show matching tags while typing: yes (can be enabled by a check mark)
  • Maximum tag hints to show: maximum 50

Generally, I think we should seriously discuss what Physics Overflow urgently needs before going (bugfree LaTex, TP users can reclaim their posts and accounts, attribution of questions not taken from the TP data dump, …?) online and which less important but still nice to have technical issues can be deferred a bit and resolved while the site is already running, in the near future, maybe before Christmas.

Migration of SE.TP to Q2A, part II

As always in IT-projects, the devil is in the details. Looking more deeply in the result of the first migration results, I found some issues that had to be corrected. Mainly the issues around the curious LaTex phrases I mentioned in the last blog have been a pain to solve. Mainly the unwanted changes in character sets during the whole process (reading xml, treating text in php, transfer to database, compilation to html-pages in Q2A) and the treating of html-tags have been awkward. However, we have now a local site with all posts and votings (still useing the dummy user hack) of SE.TP migrated to Q2A, as shown in the following example:


Note that two subcategories SE.TP and SE.TP.Meta have been created. As an example, how attribution (at least for SE.TP, but not yet for SE.Physics) could look like, see the text at the right side panel. LaTex look now fine in all posts. Also Meta has now been included, as shown in the post from Shog9 with with its far-reaching consequences (the SE.TP site has been closed a short time later):


I’d like to discuss some spots on the continuation of this project:


We have now two subcategories SE.TP and SE.TP.Meta from the closed SE beta page on Area 51 Stack Exchange. A simple method to handle attribution for these posts would be a text as in the side bar as in the sample above and to prevent users to insert additional posts in these two categories. Binding attributions to single posts would require a core hack in the Q2A-code and take much time and risk. Actually I do not yet know how imported posts from the running SE.Physics site could be handled.


The SE.TP dump contains an additional file called history.xml. It contains change history with the following type-ids included

  1. Edit Title – A question’s title has been changed.
  2. Edit Body – A post’s body has been changed, the raw text is stored here as markdown.
  3. Edit Tags – A question’s tags have been changed.
  4. Rollback Title – A question’s title has reverted to a previous version.
  5. Rollback Body – A post’s body has reverted to a previous version – the raw text is stored here.
  6. Rollback Tags – A question’s tags have reverted to a previous version.
  7. Post Closed – A post was voted to be closed.
  8. Post Reopened – A post was voted to be reopened.
  9. Post Deleted – A post was voted to be removed.
  10. Post Undeleted – A post was voted to be restored.
  11. Post Locked – A post was locked by a moderator.
  12. Post Unlocked – A post was unlocked by a moderator.
  13. Community Owned – A post has become community owned.
  14. Post Migrated – A post was migrated.
  15. Question Merged – A question has had another, deleted question merged into itself.
  16. Question Protected – A question was protected by a moderator.
  17. Question Unprotected – A question was unprotected by a moderator.
  18. Post Disassociated – An admin removes the OwnerUserId from a post.
  19. Question Unmerged – A previously merged question has had its answers and votes restored.

In my opinion it could be very complicated to write a program flow that inserts all these changes into the actual site. What is your opinion, is that really required? It may delay the start of the new site for a long time if we would implement all these tags. To give you an idea: Only the simple migration of the actual local site required more than 600 lines of code. Does anybody have an idea, if the dumped posts from SE contain the posts before or after these changes?

Account recovery

As proposed by Dimension10, the easiest way to recover the accounts of former users would be the check with the existing hashes with MD5 encryption. I will write a plug-in, where the user may enter his email address and password as he used in SE. Both will then be checked against the MD5 hashes in the SE.TP dump. If successful, their account will be automatically restored. Writing such a plugin should be quite easy (except the devil …).

Migration of posts from SE.Physics

I will study a direct access using Stack.PHP and Stack Exchange API to SE.Physics . If the primary keys of the database (user ID and Post Id) are available, it should also be possible to write a plug-in, that enables users to insert single posts directly from SE.Physics. However, the issue of attribution is not yet solved. The community should also discuss, who shall have the right to migrate such questions.

Admin Dashboard Settings: Part 3 – Permissions (and first thoughts about community moderation in Q2A)

In this post I’d like to explain the privilege system Q2A offers, and then motivate a discussion about what is the best way to set up moderation. At the beginning we will have to deal with the handicap that there is not yet a  large community (or  promotion of the site will have to work exceptionally well) and many or most of us will not yet have the rep corresponding to their knowledge and expertise, which makes community moderation based on rep dependent privileges a bit difficult.

The settings concerning the privilege system of Q2A can be accessed under the menu point Admins/Permissions .

There is the following hierarchy of roles, users of the site can take, I’ll list them starting with the ones which should be the least powerful:

  • Unregistered users ( := anybody)
  • Registered users
  • Registered users with enough points
  • Editors
  • Experts (technically created by Moderators and Admins)
  • Moderators (technically created by Admins)
  • Admins (technically created by the Super Administrator)
  • Super Administrator (created during the process of initializing the database as far as I understand it)

The permissions for the following moderation actions are fixed in Q2A and can not be changed (without the help of a good hacker 😉 …)

  • Blocking or unblocking user or IPs: Moderators and Admins
  • Approving registered users: Moderators and Admins
  • Creating experts: Moderators and Admins
  • Viewing user email addresses: Administrators
  • Deleting users: Administrators
  • Creating editors and moderators: Administrators
  • Creating administrators: Super Administrators

These are some kind of Super-Powers that should really be only accessible to people the community fully trusts, if that privileges should be used unilaterally at all (?) … And of course there is nothing that prevents us from deciding in a community driven procedure who should be the experts, moderators, admins, if and when users should be blocked, etc by discussing, polling, or other means in the appropriate Meta (sub) category.

For other privileges, the permissions can more or less flexibly be customized (the / means or):

  • Viewing question pages: Anybody / Registered users
  • Asking questions: Anybody / Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Answering questions: Anybody / Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Adding comments: Anybody / Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Voting on questions: Registered users / Registered users with enough points
  • Voting on answers: Registered users / Registered users with enough points
  • Voting posts down: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Recategorizing any question: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Editing any question: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Editing any answer: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Editing any comment: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins
  • Editing posts silently: Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins / Admins
  • Closing any question: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins
  • Selecting answer for any question: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins
  • Viewing IPs of anonymous posts: Anybody/Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins
  • Viewing who voted or flagged posts: Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins / Admins/ Super Admins /
  • Flagging posts: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins
  • Approving or rejecting posts: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins
  • Hiding or showing any post: Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins
  • Deleting hidden posts: Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins / Admins
  • Posting on user walls: Registered users / Registered users with enough points
  • Vote on comments: Anybody / Registered users / Registered users with enough points / Experts, Editors, Moderators, Admins / Editors, Moderators, Admins /Moderators, Admins / Admins

As you can see, some privileges can be made rep dependent similar to how it works on Stack Exchange. We already said that accepting answers is probably not needed, and indeed it seems that in Q2A this feature would give people the power to accept answers to not only their own questions (will have to check this). The yellow features and privileges are not known in Stack Exchange.

A possible way to initialize a rep dependent privilege system is what SE does, to make only viewing questions, asking, and answering possible for free, whereas  allowing other things dependent on rep (or points). One has to be careful, because some privileges do not behave in the way known from Stack Exchange. For example as it stands, there seems to be no possibility to roll back edits, I am not sure if this is due to some still open issues with the edit history or if we will have to find another solution for this. Closing and reopening questions is unilateral, such that the action immediately kicks in if users, who have the power to, push the button. Approving or rejecting posts I do not yet fully understand …  Hiding and showing posts seems to be some kind of “soft deletion” which you can do on SE with your own answers for example. But again, in Q2A the people who are given the power to do it can not only “soft delete” their own posts, but any questions and answers. Hidden posts can obviously get “hard deleted” to getting rid of them. I am not sure about the technical difference between hard and soft deletion, what effects the two things have on the underlying database etc (maybe Polarkernel knows …  😉 ?)

As already mentioned, setting up a good fair community moderation  might be a bit a challenge at the beginning, when the community is still small and there are not yet enough highly reputed users who can efficiently make use of a rep dependent privilege system. A possible (potentially stupid 😉 …) workaround that comes to my mind is to make heavy use of the possibility to poll in meta “list questions” ;-P  about higher order moderator actions such as closing / reopening /deleting / etc. In fact, Dimension10 was faster than me LOL 😀 and has just written an article about community moderation by meta posts  here
To this I basically like to add that we can steal the Requests for Reopen Votes thread from MathOverflow (and Maths SE) and make a similar one for Requests for Close Votes, too. The idea is that if you think a question should be reopened you can say so in an answer and shortly explain why. Other people can then vote on this answers and discuss the issue in the comments below. If the score of the answer passes a critical positive number X we agree on, say for example +5, somebody who has the power to reopen can do it and edit the notation [reopened] into the first line of the answer to say that it is done. A request for close votes thread could work in the same way, such that a question mentioned in an answer gets closed, as soon as the score of the answer passes for example +5, too.  The other things suggested in Dimension10’s post ( tag synonyms, “burnination” what silly word is this, it is NOT in the dictionary …? Should int not rather be burnication …? of tags,  FAQ questions, suggesting categories, etc) could work in a similar way. Not sure, if we would need some kind of “Request for Delete Vote” meta thread too …? Obviously bad things such as spam, offensive and insulting stuff, crack, etc should probably be deleted faster (?) by handling the flags, otherwise for non-bad things I think we do not want to get infected by the Stack Exchange deletism 😉 and rather preserve things including comments and “robust” discussions which are allowed (!), as they do on MathOverflow .

Admin Dashboard Settings: Part 2 – Points (rep settings)

As Polarkernel pointed out  here, there are some issues concerning the correct installation of the votes for from TP.SE imported posts (and any posts imported from an SE data dump ..?) .

This has among other things the effect that it is not straight forward to recalculate them after for example a decision to change the rep a user earns for an up vote on his question from 5 to 10 (as it was when I joined Physics.SE …). So these rep settings for different events as up/down votes, accepts, etc should be settled before importing the TP questions. As some people said, things that worked on Physics SE should not be changed, so I suggest to apply mostly the same settings. The points for different events can be customized by going to the Admin Dashboard and chose the menu Points. I will now list the available options, together with the SE settings:

  • Posting a question:   0 points
  • Selecting an answer on your question:  2 points
  • Per up vote on your question: 5 points
  • Per down vote on your questions: -2 points
  • Limit from up votes on each question: ? not available on SE
  • Limit from down votes on each question: ? not available on SE
  • Posting an answer: 0 points
  • Having your answer selected as the best: 15 points
  • Per up vote on your answer: 10 points
  • Per down vote on your answer: -2 points
  • Limit from up votes on each answer: ? not available on SE
  • Limit from down votes on each answer: ? not available on SE
  • Voting up a question: 0 points
  • Voting down a question: 0 points
  • Voting up an answer: 0 points
  • Voting down an answer: -1 points
  • Multiply all points by: 1x
  • Add for all users:  1 point

BTW isn’t it some kind of fun that we can now choose these setting on our own … 😉 ?

Concerning the limits from up/down votes of question and answers, I would personally set them to a large value such that these cutoffs have no impact and our site is renormalizable … ;-P.

General Remark: I think it would be a good idea to write the settings we agree on in these Admin Dashboard discussions down in the respective posts, such that we have them ready when we want to go online. This holds for Dimension10’s post about the General Settings too.

Nice to have features of the data import facility

As already explained, the early data base of the new physics site will contain all of the Theoretical Physics SE questions, plus selected questions from elsewhere (mostly Physics SE I guess for now). There are some attribution issues we have to respect (some boring tasks can hopefully be automated), and importing Theoretical Physics questions works already reasonably well 🙂

Polarkernel now kindly asks us to specify the most important features we’d like the data import facility to have, such that he does not have to provide everything that could be imagined per default. As I see it, it would be nice to

  • get some tasks in the context of attribution  (adding the links and the Physics SE symbol) automated.
  • let the former TP users access their old posts and accounts. This can probably be resolved by setting up an appropriate meta thread where they can reclaim their account (if the forgotten password facility can not be used for some reason).
  • be able to select questions to import from Physics SE data dumps by tag and / or users, to get the most interesting ones without introducing too much low-level noise.
  • be able to “real-time” import questions from SE data dumps while the site is running online.

The possibility to salvage Physics SE questions in real-time while the new physics site is running online, seems to become more and more important unfortunately: in the context of upcoming changes in policies, Physics SE seems to gravitate towards closing and deleting everything that is currently tagged homework, including very high-level advanced topic technical questions listed in this chatroom that have wrongly attached this tag to them (!). The new books policy, which finally replaces the since a year enforced rule  that any questions asking for study material / references as naturally defined and needed by serious students and researchers, are forbidden, is finally implemented. However, the relaxed rule does only apply to future questions. Old reference / study material  questions (again as defined by researchers instead of SE politicians …) will most probably get destroyed  and the information they contained hidden (from the related question detector and the search facility of Physics SE) in graveyards called tag-wikis. Even questions that are only 10 days old (!) and that have been asked correctly according to the new books policy, will rather get destroyed than reopend …  The terrible idea of hiding very useful content in non-searchable for people logged in (but googlable) tag-wikis almost nobody looks at, came of course up on MSO and some people who for some reason are always fond of the worst unhelpful up to destructive ideas and policies posted on MSO, can not let go and accept that some of these fads may fail on some (non Trilogy) sites in the network …

… but back to business now ;-), I’d like to ask anybody interested to add additional ideas and thoughts about what would be nice and important features our data import facility should have, in the comment discussion.

Migration of SE.TP to Q2A, first results

Hi all. I am the “nice, friendly, and very competent informatics expert” (thanks to Dilaton!) that supported the installation of the Q2A test site on the laptop of Dilaton. I have been made an author of this blog by Dilaton so that I may report here about my progress directly to this community. I will support Dilaton and this community for the technical setup of the new site. Actually, I am writing a php-script for the migration of SE-dumps into Q2A and got the following results:

Good news first: It was possible to migrate users, questions, answers and comments properly into the database of Q2A. The posts look fine, beside of some curious LaTex phrases (identical to the original text in the dump) that I do not yet understand (although I know LaTex very well). I will care later about that. The posts are searchable; the database seems to be build completely correct. Also the statistics (number of questions and answers and the related points for them) for each user is correct.

User emails and passwords in the SE-dump are encrypted. We will have to setup a process, which allows all old users to reclaim their original posts, while hackers and trolls remain outside. This will not be very simple. Maybe, the “forgotten password” utility will provide a means for that, but then, the correct email addresses of the users will be required. Maybe, somebody of you has an idea?

There is an issue in the introduction of the original SE.TP votes. Q2A stores votes related to the posts (questions and answers) and additionally to the users that gave the vote. It does not allow a user to vote more than once for a post. The relation of the votes to the users is only visible to the administrator. However, the SE.TP dump does not provide this relation. There is only a relation between votes and posts, the voting user is unknown. I order to insert these votes, I had to create several thousand dummy users, each one voting only for one post, and at the end to delete all these users. After that, the corresponding points for the users and their statistic are properly set, as long as the admin does not recount the posts in the database. However, this recalculation could be required sometimes to keep the database free of corruptions. Maybe I should provide a script to the admin that resets these old votes after such a recount.

As a next step I will care about the issues in the compilation of LaTex within the markdown editor. I hope that is not required to write a new markdown editor 😉


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May 2022