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Many hard-working, diligent people here have felt unjustly insulted and dumped upon by the 'STOP!' message. Maybe we made an honest mistake, maybe we hit a bum audit.

The stern wording is justified by the need to discourage robo-reviewers. So, why not have different wording for 'isolated incidents' and for 'repeat offenders'? Save the hectoring message for users who are on their Nth failure in some time period. For the rest of us, how about a respectful message that encourages our ongoing volunteer efforts?

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Agreed in principle, although since I still fail the occasional audit, I will eventually see the stern message anyway. – Robert Harvey Nov 7 '13 at 21:50
@RobertHarvey "on their Nth failure in some time period" (emphasis mine) So that would mean if this is their 5th failure in the last week, for example. – Servy Nov 7 '13 at 21:57
Well, maybe you just soften the message then. I read "their nth failure in some time period" as "temporary review ban." – Robert Harvey Nov 7 '13 at 21:58
a complementary feature request could be "Make a ruder, harder audit failure message for repeated patterns of abuse" – gnat Nov 7 '13 at 22:13
...and then make them progressively harsher. "Would you mind paying a bit more attention?" => "Please pay more attention." => "Why aren't you paying attention?" => "You're the cause of my misery, you failure." => "Why don't you just stop your lousy reviews now, you utter, atrocious failure?" – Emrakul Nov 8 '13 at 3:48
Yep. In fact, this may be why I lost interest in reviewing. – halfer Nov 10 '13 at 2:02
But are the "robo-viewers" really even going to see the message? By definition, they are robots, and robots don't have feelings at the current point in time, so it doesn't matter how harsh the message is, since the people you are targeting with the message are robots. – Santa Claus Nov 10 '13 at 3:45

I have to agree. It seems that if we were going to give the benefit of the doubt to anybody, it should be reviewers.

To simplify , perhaps we may consider a broad solution such as - changing the message "STOP" to something like "Please watch out, you encountered a test!" Or such (i.e taking into account Robert Harvey's comment. rather than differentiating the two types of mistakes.)

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I've never understood the reasoning for yelling at us. The robots clearly continue until suspended, and the rest of us are offended. – Rosinante Nov 7 '13 at 23:55
@Rosinante Yep. It doesn't matter what you tell the robots. – Santa Claus Nov 10 '13 at 3:47
@Rosinante There is a difference between robots (e.g. scripts) and robo-reviewers (people who pay no, or not enough, attention while reviewing and just review 'for the badges') – Sumurai8 Nov 10 '13 at 10:25
@Sumurai8, there's no sense in offending the human robo-reviewers either though (though they're probably the least likely to care about the tone of the warning message). Your goal is to get them to change their behavior (either by getting them to review better or stop reviewing), and generally the best way to get someone to do what you want is to be nice to them, not shout at them. – Ben Lee Nov 14 '13 at 21:55
@BenLee My answer on this question outlines why I think the current text is better than any suggested (softer) message would be. Long story short: I don't think the current message is offensive, but very to the point. Any softer message would not work for anyone. – Sumurai8 Nov 16 '13 at 4:56

I have a proposed solution, assuming that Stack Exchange developers don't update the messages. You or someone else could create a Stack App that replaces the STOP message with something else. It could be something friendlier, or if you're a bit of a masochist, you could follow Emrakul's suggestion and replace it with a series of ever worsening self-hate messages the more reviews you fail.

It's true that most of the automated messages on Stack Overflow aren't the type that make you feel bad. They're well-written, objective, and neutral, which is everything that most automated messages should be.

A similar issue came up before regarding suggested edit notifications, where Jeff Atwood says automated notifications should never tell you that you suck. If these messages are making people feel that they suck, perhaps the messages could be reworked to be a little softer while still maintaining the same standard where if you fail X number of reviews, you're banned from reviewing.

After all, being nice has nothing to do with lowering standards. It's about giving people information they need to be successful in a positive way and then taking immediate action if they fail to digest that information.

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What might be nice is a kind of "severity level" of the warning, which would be a permanent state of the user account and decay with a streak of successful audits (superlinearly, I should say). When an audit fails, the user would see a message appropriate for their current severity, and their severity level would be increased (by an amount varying monotonically with the current level). So if you're generally good and slip up, you don't take a big loss, but if you slip up repeatedly, you quickly become very suspect, and failing an audit at a high severity level would get you review banned. Something like that. Just so that it feels like you're earning some kind of trust by doing lots of correct edits.

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TL;DR; The bolded text achieves something a 'softer' text doesn't achieve. An audit is also a way of providing feedback to the reviewer. A system with different 'severity levels' can and will be gamed.

I disagree that the message should be changed. The text STOP! Look and Listen. is meant to grab your attention, to make you stop reviewing for a second and to make you read the question to understand why the correct1 action should have been taken on this review. It grabs your attention like no other 'softer' message would do. Because it is short and because it is so to the point, it feels like:

  • They are being serious about it
  • You should re-read the question to figure out why this question was handled different than you wanted.
  • You've failed an audit. You should feel like you've failed an audit, because people don't like failing anything. It should put you on your toes. You should feel that you have to be more careful when reviewing other questions to avoid failing more audits.

You don't see if you 'fail' to correctly review an other item in the queue apart from the audits, unless you decide to go through your own reviews and see what other people choose. 'Failing' normal review items doesn't offend the system, but instead 'offends' real users who are angry that their question/answer were misjudged. That's worse, and because the reviewer can't get feedback on that, they should get feedback through audits instead. Therefore each individual audit that you fail should always make you feel that you failed it, to achieve above 'feelings'. The actions taken on a failed audit (e.g. review ban) will however be less severe or non-existant if you have more 'good' audits.

For those reasons a message like Could you please take a minute to read this text about failing an audit. would not work. Sure it is a lot more friendly, but it also feels they are not serious about the message they try to tell you. Therefore while reading the messages you don't feel like you should change something about how you review, if you obliged to read the message at all. It would feel like they can't care less about how you review.

If you review a lot, you should know that you should read a failed audit as criticism, and handle it accordingly. You read it, you take the important things out of it that you want to do better next time, then you let it go. A review audit is not to discourage you from reviewing, but to make you better in it and/or force you to always pay close attention to what you are reviewing.

As for the text below the bolded text, I believe it already says something along the lines of "Don't worry, this question was already handled accordingly, but please take a moment to re-read this.". The rest is just a plain description of what the audit is, what the result was of that audit and what the correct1 action would be on that audit. That's 'soft' enough for me.

An other concern of having a 'severity index' with incrementing more negative feedback, is that it allows people to game the system. Robo-reviewers can simply robo-review until you get the one-but-worse 'severity index' text, then properly review a few to wash away this 'severity index' and then continue robo-reviewing. I would not like that to happen.

1 What is correct according to an algorithm will never be 100% accurate with what a group of humans find correct.

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Your last paragraph makes a very fair point. I'm glad I got to it, perhaps a tl; dr section at the top? – Richard Tingle Nov 10 '13 at 10:28
I am really bad at TL;DR;-kind of sumaries, but I gave it a try. People should honestly just read the entire text. – Sumurai8 Nov 10 '13 at 10:47
My fundamental disagreement is this: the rep-farmers aren't going to read any of this, and the rest of us just get slapped. – Rosinante Nov 10 '13 at 13:49
The actions taken on a failed audit (e.g. review ban) will however be less severe or non-existant if you have more 'good' audits. You sure about that? – Qantas 94 Heavy Nov 10 '13 at 14:02
@Rosinante A failed audit is not the same as a slap for all the work you have done. It is a message stating you have failed an audit, listing the expected input and your input. It is feedback. - As for the rest of your comment. There is a world between 'badge-farmers who will not read anything' and 'good users who have never failed an audit'. There are people out there that are willing to put effort in reviewing to get their badge, only because not puting effort in will get them banned. The message is for them. – Sumurai8 Nov 10 '13 at 14:08
@Qantas94Heavy One of the factors for a automatic review ban is having a bad succeed:fail-ratio of audits (ala: If you -do- put effort in reviews, you should not get into a situation where you fail a significant amount of audits). I am not sure about other factors. – Sumurai8 Nov 10 '13 at 14:13

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