Years ago, in the days before StackOverflow was a "professional" (I laughed when I read that) place to go and get and provide assistance, there was essentially one goal for SO. The founders wanted a Q&A site that would make the web a better place, especially for developers. In order to achieve that goal, it seemed as though everything boiled down to just one rule.

Simply put, "Don't be an ass"...

I've been observing some of the discussions the past few weeks and decided to raise a question about what we need to do as a community to get back to the days past where the site was more fun to use and reconnect with some older users...

As it turns out, the question I asked were essentially completely ignored. The ensuing answers and comments I think show the very bitterness I was hoping we could identify ways to move around. Rather than anything that would be constructive towards identifying ways to move forward, the responses all were negative and not one person provided an answer to the questions asked. Comment battles ensued and now the question has been closed as "not constructive".

Question 1

What do we have to do as a community to reconnect with our past?

Question 2

Do we even care about it?

The very feelings and emotions towards SO that I highlighted in my post standout more than ever now and the only thing that has been proven is that what I'm seeing and have been feeling are also being felt by others.

So I conclude with my final question...

What happened to the don't be an ass rule?

Is this rule still around? Is it still enforced?

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    Exactly. Such is the "glory" of meta now. They just close questions they're afraid to handle. – Mystery Mar 5 '12 at 15:56
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    re: "SO used to be a great community to banter with other geeks," you now have the option to use Chat. This keeps questions on-topic rather than mindless banter. – user7116 Mar 5 '12 at 15:58
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    @sixlettervariables - Most of the bantering was done on META. Tough issues were discussed as the site was building. Feature requests were made. This was a time when SO had 4 to 6 employees... And since not everyone looks at chat logs, it doesn't necessarily provide value to the occasional person looking for info... – RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:00
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    And again, these comments here ADD NO VALUE. The post title and question at the bottom clearly raise a question. If you want to add value, I'd suggest you answer the question. – RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:01
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    @RSolberg: what if we don't believe your question adds value? Is it wrong to vote to close your question or leave a comment? – user7116 Mar 5 '12 at 16:03
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    @sixlettervariables - your comment seems to re-enforce the premise of this question. – Adam Rackis Mar 5 '12 at 16:05
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    @AdamRackis: his question presupposed that voting to close his previous question was because the users were being asses. I guess I don't read too much into the actions of internet peoples. – user7116 Mar 5 '12 at 16:07
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    @Purmou Links or it didn't happen. – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:08
  • @sixlettervariables - Considering you've not voted to close this, I'm guessing you don't feel that way... But thanks to casperone, we now know "Don't Be An Ass" is still very important. So maybe what you're saying is that you want to be an ass and don't want to not be one? – RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:09
  • @casperOne - it was the one I referenced in this question. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/124591/… – RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:09
  • @RSolberg: I don't have any problem with your question, nor any problem with people closing your question. I really don't see how that relates to being an ass. I will agree that due to the red state/blue state mentality sweeping the SE-nation (is that a thing?) we've had an increase in vitriolic commenting. I just don't agree that your closed question is an example of that. – user7116 Mar 5 '12 at 16:12
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    @RSolberg: I think you'll find questions that read like a blog post (e.g. "venting" about user behavior) are going to get closed more often than not. It has little to do with being civil. – user7116 Mar 5 '12 at 16:16
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    There are multiple ways to be an ass. For example, asking questions like "Why are all you being asses?", but phrased in a passively-aggressive manner. This is akin to "Have you decided to stop beating your wife yet?", not a very productive way to have a discussion. – Cody Gray Mar 5 '12 at 17:21
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    The short version is that it is closed because there have been a lot of varied complaints on meta recently and the discussion in the comments has verged on acrimonious. If people feel that your question is contributing to the bad blood they're going to come down on it. Breath deeply; have a nice, soothing cup of cocco; and repeat "this to shall pass" until you can believe it for a few minutes running. It's the only thing that works for me. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 5 '12 at 19:14
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    @casperOne: You can just look around at closed questions to see examples of my claim. People just don't like to have discussions about things that they know are wrong, so they close them just so they don't have to deal with the trouble of "making yet another user understand." (And that's not a quote that somebody said--it's in quotes because that's usually the way it goes.) – Mystery Mar 5 '12 at 22:21

Yes, the rule is still in place, and it's codified on every site in the Stack Exchange network in the /faq:

Be nice.

Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

As for whether or not it's enforced, yes, it is.

When the following is observed:

  • Behavior in a single instance that is so egregious
  • A pattern of behavior which persists over time (which are monitored and recorded to varying degrees)

Which indicates that someone is violating the spirit of this rule, then moderators/SE employees will engage in a range of actions to rectify the situation.

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  • Thank you for the response! – RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:07
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    @RSolberg Thank you for being nice! – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:08
  • Where'd all that useless meta rep come from? I was within striking distance of meaninglessly surpassing you on Friday :-O – Adam Rackis Mar 5 '12 at 16:10
  • @Adam-Not-Replete-With-Rep Depends on who you ask. As part of the meta police I have access to rep gain that those I oppress will never know of. =) – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:11
  • I guess I'm now considered "old school" because I used SO before it was a professional place. I always thought "don't be an ass" would only lead to a better community and making the web a better place was awesome... Apparently there are less and less in my boat... – RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:11
  • @AdamRackis Oh, and I noticed that about the rep standing, which was odd, because I accidentally clicked on the standings in your profile and noticed where we were. Serendipity? Me thinks not. – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:12
  • @casper - I will create a sock puppet account on SO, write a script for it to flood the site with spam, and while you're cleaning it up, answer questions with my proper account on both SO and MSO until I have the lead in meaningless rep. Profit! – Adam Rackis Mar 5 '12 at 16:15
  • @RSolberg I can't answer that, as I can't tell you what other people think (nor do I want the fruitless task of trying to tell you that). Whether or not there are less-and-less in "your" boat is also debatable. I think what you're observing since reputation tracking has been "improved" has definitely brought out the worst in the vast majority of us (myself included) and I, for one, don't have a problem with asking those questions. – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:15
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    @AdamRackis You two better watch it; you're dangerously close to not being real SO users anymore – Michael Mrozek Mar 5 '12 at 16:16
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    @RSolberg However, the canonical reference for your questions at this time is currently "Community-led deletionism: a protocol for sanity" by Shog9, which really is the place to center all of this. I can't speak for others, but my take is that your questions, while having well-intentions, don't add much to what Shog9 already said and they didn't feel the need for duplication, given the existence of that post. – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:17
  • @Michael - is my subversive inclutionism going to get me blacklisted??? :-O – Adam Rackis Mar 5 '12 at 16:18
  • @Adam-Sock A wager, perhaps? I might be busy deleting a whole bunch of stuff but surely I can make time to engage in a rep-whoring bet on meta. =) – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:19
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    @Michael - Evan Carroll ftw. He's the most adorable troll I've ever seen! – Adam Rackis Mar 5 '12 at 16:24
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    @AdamRackis I made the mistake of engaging yesterday, Michael swiftly reprimanded me for that. The system of peers works! – casperOne Mar 5 '12 at 16:32
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    @Adam: You misspelled "durable". – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 5 '12 at 19:18

It's worth remembering that the culture of meta is not the same as the culture of the content sites (and should not be). "Be nice" applies, but not "be nice to ideas", indeed you should be pretty frank about what you consider to be bad ideas. If you work at it you can be respectful of the people advancing those ideas at the same time.

I would encourage you not to take this last fortnight as representative. Several long simmering conflict have all come to a head at once (coincident with--and perhaps partially because of--the roll-out of the real time reputation management).

It's time for everyone to take a few deep breaths...

I've see two big issues discussed over and over again this last week

  • Moderation transparency and accountability.
  • The effects of the long-term trend toward less inclusive definition of "on-topic" for Stack Overflow and the recent uptick in application of the new standards.

Both of these are emotionally charged issues and for good reason. It's not like the moderators don't try to do the right thing as much in the open as possible, nor are either the deletionist or the inclusionists without good arguments.

There is a effort underway to make the moderation process more transparent, and the CC license insures that we can save all the deleted content. There is still the matter of how to save the data and the matter of what to do with rep earned in good faith (and for all that I am a staunch deletionist, I think this is important), but these issues can be solved.

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  • Amen. People just need to calm down and focus on the issues at hand. As with other types of content here, we need to address the ideas and not the person. I disagreed with a recent deletion, but my argument was purely about the specific content in question, and I still have a lot of respect for those who made the original decision. – Brad Larson Mar 5 '12 at 20:27

As CasperOne points out, the FAQs imply just that.

Be Nice.

Nobody can be nice for you.

I think that such a rule should always be enforced. Humans need some sort of restraint (or we'll end up with deletion wars or worse ducks).

Fun fact: People tend to take on a new personality online, and more often than not, that personality is not always a civil one.

There are several notable trolls on StackOverflow, and they have been suspended for long periods of time. However, there is only so much that can be done to enforce the rule. Realistically, the best way to enforce this rule is for each user to check their own behavior. Moderators should step in where it's clearly necessary, but beyond that, there's little that can be done.

Yes, it's still in effect, each user should police themselves.

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  • 2
    Reminds me of a line often stated on an old Linux forum I participated in many moons ago: "Just because I'm not paying you doesn't give you the right to be a dick." Basic human interaction should always involve a level of etiquette and decorum, regardless of the medium used. Some people think, "Hey, I'm allowed to be an ass if I want to!" while others think, "I could, but why would I want to be like that?" In the grand scheme of the internet, Stack Overflow seems to be a pretty good job of attracting the latter, though some of the former will always slip through. – David Mar 5 '12 at 18:14

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