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The question Has any prior accident been caused by a psychologically unstable and/or suicidal crew member?, in the day since it has been asked, has garnered 16 edits, has been closed and re-opened, and has attracted no less than 33 comments. Furthermore, of those 16 edits, four were rollbacks. I'm sorry to say that I didn't look at the edit history and realize the edit war that was happening when I made my edit.

Currently, the question does not contain any speculation, but the title does contain the unfortunate phrase "psychologically unstable." To the best of my knowledge, this phrase has no medical meaning, but it is rather offensive. I would just edit the question to change it, but I'm wary of touching this particular question. What should be done? Both in general with this question, and about the specific phrase that I don't like.

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    $\begingroup$ For one thing, we probably need an automatic warning that gets triggered on the edit page in the event of an edit war. Essentially the same edits have been made multiple times and they've been reverted by the author each time. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 28 '15 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab There is an automatic warning we get for comments, and the question can also be flagged. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 28 '15 at 6:31
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 I meant a notice on the edit page to alert a potential editor of an ongoing edit war so that they wouldn't make essentially the same edit that has already been reverted multiple times (or at least they'd know they probably shouldn't be doing that before doing so.) $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 28 '15 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab or even easier, any time there's two (maybe three?) rollbacks on a question, flag it for a moderator $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 28 '15 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab The system generally relies on users to flag questions for that (and this question garnered quite a few flags since I first looked at it this afternoon - it just happens none of the moderators have been around to deal with the mess until now. <brandishes Blessed +8 BanHammer of Post Locking>) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 28 '15 at 6:39
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Generally I like to let the community resolve these things on its own, so I'd been largely ignoring this question, but 16+ edits and 30+ comments is a bit much. I have purged the comments on the question (you can find them here) and locked it to prevent further edit-warring until a decision can be made as to what we should do with this question.


My two cents:

  • The question is On Topic
    At it's core it is asking "How many aircraft incidents resulted from deliberate malicious action by a crew member, such as attempting suicide?" - this is certainly a reasonable question to ask.
    As another point in the question's favor, it's got some pretty good answers on it.

  • The question needs to be reworded
    however at 2:30 in the morning I certainly don't feel up to rewording it now. I am certainly open to suggestions for a new title and a better question body though.

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  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. It's 2:30 here, too, so I'll take a fresh look in the morning (well, maybe afternoon, depending on how long I sleep...) $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 28 '15 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ Why does it have to be reworded? I don't see anything there that's a real problem. People seem to be complaining that "psychologically unstable" is insulting and vague, but it's also immediately understandable and I have no idea what a polite, precise alternative might be. FWIW, the FAA AME guidance uses the term "psychiatric conditions" so perhaps that could be an 'official' alternative, although personally I don't find it much different. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 29 '15 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife I'm guessing that you are looking at the current edited version. Take a look at the edit history to see why it jangled so many nerves. $\endgroup$ – Simon Mar 30 '15 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon Yes, although I did read the edit history and comments my point is that the question has now been revised and edited enough that I don't see any need for more changes. But voretaq7 seems to think that it should still be reworded further, so I'm wondering what he's basing that thought on. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 30 '15 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife I think the intent of the question (at least as I understood it above) can be more clearly captured in a rewrite. I'm not a fan of "psychologically unstable" because its a presumptive scope, and the question contains core assumptions ("a lot of psychological tests") which are pretty much wrong in at least a few major jurisdictions, should be the subject of a separate question, and are not really adequately addressed in any of the answers so far. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 30 '15 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 OK, I think I see what you're getting at. My opinion is that this is (now, after all the edits) a case of "I know it when I see it" and refining the wording of the question doesn't seem to have any substantial benefit in terms of making it clearer, more precise, or easier to answer. But feelings are running high on incidents right now, of course... $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 30 '15 at 16:15
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As far as the particular wording of 'psychologically unstable,' perhaps a more precise phrase could be found to replace it, but I don't think the mental health issue should be edited out entirely against the question author's wishes. This seems to explicitly violate SE's policy of not changing the author's intent in edits and is a rather substantial change to the meaning of the question. Some of the title edits significantly broadened the question to the point where it would have included things like terrorism, for example. That essentially makes it an entirely different question from what the author was asking about.

Regarding changing the meaning of a post, the help center page on editing states that edits can be used:

To clarify the meaning of a post (without changing that meaning)

(emphasis is theirs)


As far as the question itself, it's not speculating about anything and does not seem to violate Aviation SE's on-topic policy with regards to not speculating about recent events. Asking a question that occurred to you because of a recent event isn't the same as speculating about what happened in that particular event. The question also has several good answers (including a rather highly-upvoted one) that answer the question without any speculation at all about the recent incident.

What our on-topic policy says about recent incidents is listing this as explicitly off-topic:

Accident speculation
"What happened to Flight 12345?" when the incident is still under investigation

Note that it is the speculation about recent incidents (or inviting such speculation,) not the mere mention of the incidents, that makes a question off-topic. Given that the answers aren't speculating about the incident (or even mentioning it in most cases,) I'd say this question did a reasonable job of not inviting such speculation.

Frankly, most of the comments on that question seem to stem from the edit war on the question rather than the content of the question itself and probably should have taken place here in meta or in chat. So, thanks for asking here. :)

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  • $\begingroup$ "This seems to explicitly violate SE's policy of not changing the author's intent in edits and is a rather substantial change to the meaning of the question." Wow, I didn't realize we had a policy like that! In fact, I assumed we had the exact opposite policy - to always work towards making a better resource for the internet, even if that means significantly changing the intent of the original question. Any chance you have a link? $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 28 '15 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ @raptortech97 From the "How to Edit" box that appears on the edit page itself (at least in some cases... maybe only on sites in which you have lower rep?): "clarify the meaning without changing it" $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 28 '15 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ ah, I usually use the app, so I rarely see that. $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 28 '15 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ @raptortech97 I overlooked it when I briefly glanced earlier, but the page on editing in the help center does explicitly mention this policy, also. I've edited the answer to include a quote and reference. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 28 '15 at 7:03
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The first paragraph is a statement about speculation. In my opinion, removing it does not change the meaning of the question in any way. The OPs assertion is that is adds context - but to what end?

I passionately believe that we have no business in partaking in or adding to theories about ongoing investigations and previous meta discussions have shown this to be the will of the community.

Once the official report is available, it will be made available to all concerned parties. Until then, theories about the mental state of the person involved should be treated as speculation.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd also like to note that the involved person's mental health is private health information, and I don't believe it should be discussed here even if it does end up in the final report. $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 28 '15 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ @raptortech97 I tend to disagree with that. Accident reports always include lots of touchy issues, especially in fatal accidents, but the aviation community doesn't learn by not talking about them. The primary reason that aviation is as safe as it is today is because we've fostered a culture of learning from previous mistakes and spreading what we've learned from them as much as possible within the aviation community. Wild speculation is both unhelpful and disrespectful, but we don't need to go to the opposite extreme of letting more people die because we didn't learn from the past. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 28 '15 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab yeah, I thought about it for a while, and I'm starting to think you're right. Especially if we don't use names $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 28 '15 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab I agree. But what is the problem in waiting for the report, since to learn lessons, you must know what subject you are studying? I also suggest that speculation in public is little better than tittle tattle and gossip and serves no useful purpose. $\endgroup$ – Simon Mar 28 '15 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Simon Yes, I agree with you there. Speculation isn't helpful. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 28 '15 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ As the question was originally written it was borderline off-topic (it was asking for contextual information using the Germanwings incident as an example), however our policy on such questions has been to rewrite them to be generic. I believe that can be done here (and has already largely been accomplished by simply removing the reference to that incident). The question is factually answerable (based on prior reports) and does not require speculation on any ongoing investigations. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 30 '15 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that we already have an established policy for questions asking about ongoing investigations, which is basically "We won't engage in speculation on the main site." $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 30 '15 at 16:14
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After the latest edit stripping the banter, the question is fine.

The use of an imprecise term in the title is not ideal, but we all know the gist of what she's asking, at least enough to have produced nice answers.

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