I've had some users post answers to my questions on SO that were really good and really courteous/polite. It was one of the reasons I decided to start using SO on a regular basis. I was wondering if having a "Politeness" score in addition to the the reputation score would be something that would benefit SO.

I feel that reputation is a reflection on the technicality of the answers/questions of the user, where as the Politeness would be a reflection of the user in general.

I suggest this because one of the first main points addressed in the FAQ is Be nice. Users are motivated to answer questions honestly because of Upranking, but there isn't (as far as I know) any motivation specifically for being nice.

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I would love that Politeness meter next to Flag Weight :-) –  YOU Apr 22 '11 at 1:44
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The nicest answer in the world is useless if it doesn't work. Being "nice" is one of those things where you really, really don't want to mess with intrinsic motivators, IMHO. –  Shog9 Apr 22 '11 at 1:46
    
I think this is the feature in the Dream. –  YOU Apr 22 '11 at 2:39
    
Yes, I agree that nice < correct. But nice + correct > correct for me. I don't want to find a punishment for rudeness, because I can count on one hand the number of rude comments I've received; I don't feel it is an issue at SO. I just want to give more to the handful of really good and really nice replies I've received, and maybe give a little extra push for a few kind words now and again. I like to feel that I have good questions/responses, especially when that validation comes from really smart people. –  joe_coolish Apr 22 '11 at 4:10
    
people being polite on the internet is very rare and even more rare is, coders being polite on internet (all that coding frustration, it has to be let out somehow). so, "get used to it" is what i did, and now i am one of them. so -1 cause life sucks and it always will. –  Optimus Sep 25 '12 at 21:09
    
@Optimus: Wow, that's a massively deconstructive comment and that's a pretty terrible world-view you're exhibiting there. The internet (and SO in particular) should never be a place for people to vent their frustrations by being rude. Yes, certain people use the anonymity of the net to act in a way that they never would in normal society, but we don't want to be conforming to this behaviour; we should shun it! –  sjwarner Nov 18 '12 at 10:05
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Polite is when you help a random stranger solve his problem, expecting (almost) nothing in return. Why not just leave it at that? I get the fact that being courteous/polite would really make some people feel better about the community as a whole, but I still think that the primary purpose of the site is to provide answers to questions, regardless of how they're provided (within certain limits, of course).

That's one of the reasons why some people go out of their way to edit posts that contain please and thank you; in the end, it's just noise. We know you're thankful, you don't need to write it over and over again in questions.

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I love the spirit of this suggestion. I've been thinking all day about how an important part of the mores and norms of Stack Exchange is that we have collectively agreed to be nice. I've noticed this most when somebody shows up and unilaterally decides that they have a right to be non-nice and then gets offended when someone in the community calls them on it...

Anyway, yes, we care about being nice; that's a fundamental part of the joy of participating in Stack Exchange, it makes the world a better place, it makes the Internet better, and it leads to the extremely high signal-to-noise ratio throughout Stack Exchange.

As for whether or not we can rank based on it... that's leads to a more interesting sociological question.

Would a politeness score really influence behavior? It might, to some degree. I would estimate that about 20% of Stack Exchange users are actually incentivized by our reputation and badge systems, while the other 80% are slightly amused or indifferent. That's OK, because the reputation system and the badge system still serve for everyone to understand what we value as a community. Even if you don't care about earning reputation, you understand, for example, that this community values answers that receive a large number of upvotes.

That said, there is some complexity involved in adding a "politeness" feature. It's one more thing new users have to learn about, so it might serve as a barrier to entry. We'd have to find some place to put it in the user interface where it wouldn't add to the clutter. And there would be more work involved in "evaluating" an answer. Instead of just saying, "Yes, this answer makes me happy, thumbs up!" you have to decide (a) whether it's factually accurate and (b) whether it's polite. So the mental burden of voting just went up a bit.

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What would a politeness indicator be used for? I see answers (and questions) ranked more highly because they were phrased with care and respect, and vice versa. If the only use of a niceness score is another number displayed beside a user's posts, I don't see much benefit that politeness-weighted rep doesn't already provide. Now, if a high score unlocked something special, like early access to privs, or... –  Michael Petrotta Apr 22 '11 at 2:13
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You could probably base it on flags... But I still hate the idea. Yet another reason not to even bother trying to explain down-votes... –  Shog9 Apr 22 '11 at 2:18
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The most... problematic... users don't care about rep, and wouldn't care about a politeness score. In fact, I could see it going the other way - playing lowball Politeness Score Poker. And, I'm polite for my own reasons, not to maximize an integer. I worry about what minds will do if politeness becomes another counter to max out. –  Michael Petrotta Apr 22 '11 at 2:21
    
@Michael, How one's can play Politeness Score? By being nice? That's a win-win situation, isn't it? (Although I am not sure this is doable or not) –  YOU Apr 22 '11 at 2:27
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@Shog9 and @Michael are trying to say that some people will have fun trying to get the LOWEST politeness score, whereas, intrinsically polite people will be polite anyway. –  Joel Spolsky Apr 22 '11 at 2:33
    
Politeness score should allow negative numbers, so may be there is no LOWEST? –  YOU Apr 22 '11 at 2:37
    
Wow, I love the comments! I do agree that politeness would be difficult to integrate, but I was thinking something like with xbox Live, where you can prefer/avoid others at the user level (via the User profile page). As for an incentive to why you should be polite, what about something like a user setting/priv, that you only see the questions asked by polite users :) That way, if you're frequently rude, less people (higher priv'd people AKA the people you want seeing your question) will see your question(?) idk, just thinking of a motivator –  joe_coolish Apr 22 '11 at 3:59
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More is not always better. In this case, you are asking users to vote based on "good answer/bad answer" and another score on "polite/not polite". I think the simplicity of a single score already encapsulates people's views about rudeness. I know that some users get fewer up votes, not because their answers are poor, but rather because people are unwilling to encourage a-holes. Conversely, I also see some answers which could be written better get upvoted because the author is genuinely a nice person. I also not saying that this goes to the extreme of wrong answers getting upvoted. Thus, IMO, the system already encapsulates the concepts of politeness in the sense that a-holes generally do not get the votes they should based purely on their answer. Actually, I'm a bit surprised that Joel would be entertaining the idea given his FogCreek mantra of encouraging simplicity in order to get people to use the system.

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