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I am posting this because of a particular instance (an answer which was recently deleted, most likely because it was considered spam), but I am hoping that the discussion here will be useful for other cases in the future.

This question, tagged and asking for "a rigorous statistics course or textbook," currently has +6 upvotes, -0 downvotes, and three answers: Two are scored +3,-0 and one is scored +0,-1 and is deleted (and so is not visible to those with "low" reputation). So it seems that the question is acceptable and answering it is acceptable.

All three answers recommend material that seem to be created by people other than those who posted the answers. That is, it is not obvious that the answerers are involved in self-promotion. The deleted answer is recommending material presented in a website and the other two answers are recommending a textbook. The deleted answer was posted by a user with 1 reputation and the other two answers were posted by users with higher reputation (24.6k, 437). The user with 1 reputation is a member of eight Stack Exchange communities, having a reputation greater than 1 for four of them.

In my opinion, the deleted answer is not spam and should not have been deleted. I do not see how it is considered spam but the other two answers were not.

I see nothing wrong with the deleted answer, and it is possible that I will post a similar answer in the future. I want to understand how "spam" is defined in Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange so that I will not post answers considered as spam in the future.

Perhaps the moderator who deleted the answer can explain their reasoning?


As requested in a comment, here is the text of the deleted answer:

As a student of mathematics taking a statistics course next semester, I have been plagued with this problem. I have found a solution in "Lectures on Probability Theory and Mathematical Statistics" by Marco Taboga, which is a collection of many lectures and exercises from the website https://www.statlect.com/.

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I remember my thought process here and it was erroneous:

In the queue for flags, here was an answer with

  • a negative score
  • that is mostly a link with no other information
  • from an account with no rep
  • that was flagged as spam

I saw this as "multiple people have checked this is spam, and it looks like it is; easy."

On second look now, it is a fine answer, and it only had -1. Probably just one person gave it both a downvote and a flag, and probably that one person did the same amount of checking as me. My logic here was incorrect -- my job was to go a little deeper to check to see if it was really spam or a real answer to the question, which I failed to do.

I've undeleted that answer (and given it +1, so it currently stands at 0). Thanks!

But the answer to the more comprehensive question "what counts as spam" could still use some discussion for sure.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for this. $\endgroup$ Jan 12 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelReyesNoche for that specific answer, the community-built spam detector bot "Smoke Detector" analyzed the post and reported it as potential spam due to similarity with the common spam approach. Looks like someone did flag it as spam. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Jan 18 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. thanks for the info. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 13:11
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Separately, I didn't delete this answer, because:

  • It is a link, but also contains other information about what is behind the link

but I really have no idea if that answer is appropriate for the site. Other opinions welcome. It did get one flag for spam, but I feel like maybe the question itself is the problem rather than the answer..?

Demanding that the answer be from an educator instead of from the publisher would be very difficult to enforce; the publisher could just name themselves "educator" and we would never know. So it seems bad to go down that road and inevitable that we have to keep answers like this one. Again though, I'm not sure.

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  • $\begingroup$ For the answer that you link to, I was also hesitant to flag it as spam because although the poster does not explicitly state that they are the publisher of the book, they made it apparent by their chosen user name. $\endgroup$ Jan 27 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ I flagged that answer as spam in the review queue precisely because (1) the author of the answer does not explicitly mention their connection to the work and (2) the answer reads like an advertising blurb. I feel like keeping that answer around gives folk permission to use MESE to advertise their wares. :\ $\endgroup$ Jan 30 at 18:23

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