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Some comments or answers ask users to alter their behavior on Stack Exchange. For example, critics may ask the questioner to modify their question, comment, or answer to fit some particular characteristics the critic has in mind. I understand there are the obvious feedback mechanisms like downvoting and flagging, but is it ever appropriate to act as "Stack Exchange police" and directly ask users in comments or answers to behave differently on Stack Exchange? If so, when, why, and how?

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If we're SE police I better get a Tazer –  Ben Brocka May 17 '12 at 1:32
    
Yes. That is what the comments are for. Stack Exchange is not a forum, it works differently. –  Ephraim May 17 '12 at 1:37
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There's nothing wrong with nudging users in the right direction provided that the comment is polite and well mannered. –  The Anti-Santa May 17 '12 at 1:44
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Timing of this post is aweaome, since Today itself, I was planning to go on a downvote spree on bad-quality/link-only/code-only answers on SO--since nobody else seemed to want to do it :P –  Manishearth May 17 '12 at 1:45
    
Possible duplicate (or opposite) of meta.stackexchange.com/a/2373/167443 –  Jim May 17 '12 at 2:10
    
@Tim I do this daily. Don't feel left out. –  Cody Gray May 17 '12 at 7:55
    
@TheE It's easier for you, you have extra rep over 20k. I don't care much about privs on SO, but I'd like to keep my 500rep abilities :). So I'll earn rep, burn it, earn, burn, and so on ;-) –  Manishearth May 17 '12 at 8:03
    
@Tim Ah, in that case, you could just leave -1 blah blah blah comments. Just the thought of being downvoted is enough to make some people cry themselves to sleep at night. It should send a powerful enough message (coupled with some constructive advice), without costing you any rep. –  Cody Gray May 17 '12 at 8:08
    
@theE good idea, but I think burning rep is fun on SO.. I'm not really planning on posting a lot there, and it's too hectic for me (so extra privs won't help me much) Yesterday I got 100 SO rep just because I asked for clarification of policies wrt an answer of mine here on MSO. I plan to have fun using up 50 downvotes :D. Yeah, commenting will be a given, at any rate. –  Manishearth May 17 '12 at 8:16

3 Answers 3

In general, yes. That's called "Community moderation" . Telling users that so-and-so is discouraged/against the rules is a good thing. We work differently from a forum, and this is what comments are for--to help others improve their post(s).

The cases you're talking about may be different, it looks like you're talking about people who are being over-nitpicky. Examples please?

If you see something you don't quite like in a comment, flag it. If it gets declined, the decline reason may be informative (you can see a list of your flags if you click the number next to "helpful flags" on your profile)

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This is especially true for new users who may not be aware that SE is different from a forum (as noted by @Ephraim), that community standards require you to "be nice," that saying "thanks" is best done by upvoting, etc. etc. A lot of this stuff is not intuitive and people may need help figuring it out. –  Scott Wilson May 17 '12 at 1:43
    
@Scott the whole engine is nonintuitive :P Good point though, added a bit. –  Manishearth May 17 '12 at 1:47

Stack Exchange is actually pretty complicated, and we have pretty high quality standards. SE really doesn't work without this sort of community moderation. The FAQ can't explain everything nor can moderators; there are too many users and too many things to explain everything to everyone unless the whole community is involved.

When a user doesn't quite "get" how something works or should works on Stack Exchange, you help them and the community by nudging them in the right direction in a polite and civil manner. It's not "policing" or "changing their behavior" so much as it is teaching them.

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YES.

If users are asking questions that are out of line with the StackExchange model (such as gimme teh codez questions or broad, subjective, discussion-oriented questions), they are going to get a lot of downvotes, closures, and deleted questions.

If left unchecked, this will lead to clutter of things the rest of us don't want, and the user will likely get question-banned.

It is best to let users know what they are doing wrong, why that particular is not a good fit for the site, and what they can do to improve. This leads to less garbage content, more acceptable content, and the user not getting question-banned.


As for the "when, why, and how" (or at least the when and how, since I believe I've covered the why), comment on their post and politely explain the reason their content is not appropriate, and (if possible) suggest how it might be fixed. Alternately, depending on your reason for needing to direct their behavior, you could directly edit the post, and then leave a comment (or use the edit summary) to explain why you made the edit.

Lasty, the when. Whenever you see content in need of improvement. Seriously. If it needs a fix, or a user needs some advice, step in and lend a hand before they get barraged with downvotes or question-banned..

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Further reading –  Jim May 17 '12 at 2:13
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Definitely lead by example when possible. Trying to describe to someone how they should edit their post is far less efficient than simply making the edits and then explaining why. Of course, that's not always possible... But when it is, jump on it. –  Shog9 May 17 '12 at 3:06

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