2

I would like to make a suggestion. I suggest that SE considers adopting a policy of Not discussing members publicly on the site. To me it is totally at odds with the sites aim of being Q&A and not a forum, and it brings down any professionalism the site seeks within certain sub sites.

There are ample means concerned members can communicate privately. Through flags, mods opening private chat for a member and email.

I believe by raising the bar on this type of behavior and encouraging members to stay on topic on meta and in public chats, will help to maintain a steady user base on the beta sites. In the smaller sites, community cohesion is vital for the sites to truly blossom and succeed.

I am not saying everyone needs to agree, that would be stale. I am suggesting that back biting of any form be stamped out. With the degradation of social boundaries in many societies, the, relative anonymity provided by the internet, the adoption of such a policy would only assist in circumventing some troubles experienced on the site.

Although the site adopts a policy of transparency, it also has a policy of respectful etiquette between members: What kind of behavior is expected of users? Be nice. I honestly think the site needs to make some clear decisions and give clear direction about it's policies about members discussing other members.

SE may already have a policy in place; if so it is something that needs to be implemented and this begins with the instruction of moderators.

Note: It would defeat the purpose of this post to provide examples. There is sufficient evidence of this on the Stack Exchange sites.

  • 14
    I can't help but think there is something specific on your mind. Shame you don't feel you can share that. – Oded Sep 15 '13 at 18:25
  • 14
    If someone clearly breaks the rules etc. and it's visible for any regular user I don't see why such a user shouldn't be called out on meta as long as it's constructive and not just for the sake of calling that user out. – ThiefMaster Sep 15 '13 at 18:30
  • I am referring to prolonged discussion about users. Does Stack have a clear policy, if not, can there be one? If no, then shrugs ok – anon Sep 15 '13 at 18:33
  • 4
    This is why I keep destroying the specific-user tag here on Meta. That tag's existence only encourages users to bring up private issues that probably ought not be brought up. – animuson Sep 15 '13 at 18:34
  • @animuson I am not calling out this meta or anywhere in particular. and I totally agree, didn't know people were creating a specific user tag. – anon Sep 15 '13 at 18:35
  • Isn't that already pretty much a policy? Or is the situation different on other metas? – Bart Sep 15 '13 at 18:48
  • @Bart There have been at least 4 posts on Physics meta of this type. And a couple more such posts elsewhere that I've seen. There's one such currently active post on a particular meta. – Manishearth Sep 15 '13 at 18:54
  • @Manishearth Okay, I was unaware of that. Over here when a specific user is called out were usually reasonably quick to suggest to flag for mod attention (if appropriate) and not call a user out. – Bart Sep 15 '13 at 19:00
  • @Bart yeah. Not so easy elsewhere. – Manishearth Sep 15 '13 at 19:02
  • 3
    I've done my best to clean up (via editing or deletion) the Physics meta, and passed a link to this discussion to the mod team there. If you see something like this crop up again, don't hesitate to just jump in and fix it. – Shog9 Sep 15 '13 at 21:17
  • @Shog9 so will it hereafter no longer be possible to challenge any moderator actions ...? – Dilaton Sep 16 '13 at 0:33
  • Sure it is, @dilaton - see my answer. Public gawking at others' predicaments is less excusable though. – Shog9 Sep 16 '13 at 2:00
  • 1
    @Dilaton If you look at the types of questions listed in the meta question there, none of them involve discussing specific users. The only difference here is that suspension discussions (rather than all meta-mod challenges) are not allowed (due to it being intrusive, incomplete knowledge, and the fact that anyone supporting the suspension needs to make a personal attack to make their point). Arguably they were never allowed, Physics Meta is the one place I've seen them happening even though I've seen controversial suspensions elsewhere. – Manishearth Sep 16 '13 at 3:03
23

Yes please.

Rationale

Meta discussion about other members easily spirals out of control, and in the end becomes a train wreck post where all kinds of unwanted discussion is happening.

In the end, there really is no point discussing a particular user's behavior on meta. If one "supports" the user, there isn't any problem, but if one finds the behavior undesirable ... that user will effectively have to post personal attacks to make his point.

This makes any meta discussion on the topic lopsided — so what's the point?

The categories I've come across

To give more specific categories of such posts that I've come across (and showing why each is undesirable):

  • "Are the posts by X acceptable?": While it's fine to call out a type of post, don't call out the user. This emotionally charges the question, something which is better avoided. Focusing community attention on a particular user may lead to nasty episodes. If one wishes to call out a user, a private mod flag ought to be good enough. If one wishes to discuss it a bit, asking the mods to create a private room works.
  • "X is a troll": The post itself is basically a personal attack.
  • "X has a suspicious rep history"/"X is serially downvoting me": Belongs in a flag.
  • "Why was X suspended?": This question is totally pointless because, besides being a form of rubbernecking, it asks a question that cannot be answered by the ones who are qualified to answer (i.e. the mods)
  • "Can X be unsuspended?": There's no point doing this on meta, for similar reasons as the one above. The contact us form is a better avenue for this.

I don't recall any other types of posts (feel free to comment if I've missed something).

Chat

Chat is supposed to be more liberal. However, discussions like the ones listed above are unwanted there for similar reasons.

Positive discussion about a user is OK. "JonSkeet is awesome" is a perfectly OK thing to say in chat; indeed, it's one of the fastest known ways to get the Talkative/Outspoken badges. Even a positive discussion about a user's behavior ("I really like how X does Y") is fine.

Constructive criticism between two friendly users in chat is similarly OK.

But a negative discussion, well, it goes into icky territory again. It's best to avoid this. Thinking back, I myself have participated in such discussions, as a moderator with others in a public room. Note that these are discussions in chat about chat behavior (usually of a user that was chatbanned before their eyes). But these could have been similarly avoided.

While thinking about discussing users in chat, this following chat message by Brandon Enright comes to mind:

In my opinion we shouldn't use this chat to discuss the shortcomings of other users. [...]

| improve this answer | |
  • "X has a suspicious reputation history" – animuson Sep 15 '13 at 18:43
  • 1
    I agree with discussing posts, not users... What about chat? – anon Sep 15 '13 at 18:45
  • @animuson danke, added. – Manishearth Sep 15 '13 at 18:45
  • @ThinksALot Added a bit abut chat – Manishearth Sep 15 '13 at 18:53
  • 4
    "X is serially downvoting me" Ive seen this one because ive been on the recieving end. Worst thing was I hadnt actually down voted at all. Just left a comment one one question – Richard Tingle Sep 15 '13 at 20:04
32

This has been the de facto policy here for as long as I can remember. We strive to discuss actions not users, behaviors not people. This attitude follows directly from the standard philosophy of the main sites: we strive to focus on obtaining accurate and helpful answers, regardless of who writes them. If there's a problem, you should describe the problem and point to examples of it: "how can we prevent good posts from being deleted?" is preferable to "how can I stop Shog from deleting my posts?"

Now, folks tend to make a bit of an exception when it comes to moderators: because of the privileges granted to them by the community, it is occasionally seen as appropriate to call them out by name so that they can address an action taken while moderating the site. Even in these cases, civility is required.

It is never appropriate to resort to personal attacks. If you see a post attacking another user, either edit to remove the personal comments and refocus it on whatever behaviors are on topic, or - if it seems unsalvageable flag it - either as "offensive" or for moderator attention with a description of the problem.

See:

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    Of course it's preferable. Nobody can stop Shog from deleting posts. ;) – Adam Lear Sep 15 '13 at 22:19
  • What can be done to stop open discussion of users in chat, if chat is flagged which moderators see the flag? Just ones for that particular site? And yes Anna, Shog shall be henceforth known as the Skeet of Meta or Meet or Sketa 162k yup yr Skeet worthy :) – anon Sep 15 '13 at 22:49
  • 1
    @ThinksALot: depends on what the discussion is about. In general, the rules in chat are much more relaxed when it comes to this sort of thing - it is a much more people-oriented medium. But if someone's tossing around insults or personal attacks, flag it - any moderators currently using chat will be notified. – Shog9 Sep 15 '13 at 23:34
  • @Shog9 even easier thanks.wips.com/block-site-extension ;) out of sight out of mind – anon Sep 16 '13 at 0:01
  • 1
    That works too ;-P – Shog9 Sep 16 '13 at 0:02
12

I definitely don't want this to be a rule. I used to be active on some other forums and this exact rule was used to forbid any discussion of moderation activities. Someone would post "does anyone know why X is suspended?" and a mod would comment "we never discuss a member" and usually delete the whole post, too. Or someone would post "several of my posts have been deleted, can anyone tell me why?" and the post would be locked so no-one could join in the discussion. It led to a very secret-police feel that is in complete contrast to the atmosphere on meta.

Gossiping, back biting, and negativity should not be allowed. But a blanket "no discussing other members" rule has, in my experience, led to more harm than good.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I'm not sure that "several of my posts have been deleted, can anyone tell me why?" is an example of what the OP is talking about though. – Bart Sep 15 '13 at 19:37
  • 3
    Thing is, once you have a rule "no discussing a specific person" it can (and I have seen it) be used to shut down all discussion of any moderator actions, since they typically affect a person. I would rather we kept rules about being polite and being nice. – Kate Gregory Sep 15 '13 at 19:39
  • 1
    Yes. The problems that are put forth in this proposal can be dealt with socially: tell the person who's being rude about another member to stop being rude. There can't be a blanket provision on ever discussing a particular person; sometimes a particular person really is a troll. – jscs Sep 15 '13 at 19:57
  • 1
    @KateGregory Sure, and in that case you can just email team@. On most forums there's no higher authority; no oversight. Here there is. Trust me, it's better to keep suspension discussions off site. – Manishearth Sep 15 '13 at 20:13
3

"I suggest that SE considers adopting a policy of Not discussing members publicly on the site."ThinksALot

Does that mean we are taking down the Jon Skeet Facts? No. They are awesome.

Questions about specific users are often closed though. They are discouraged, and I agree that "back biting" should be discouraged as well.

I think that this policy is unofficially adopted at least - if there is a specific issue with a member, then flag one of their posts and explain the issue. The option "other" specifically states: "(needs ♦ moderator attention)" and your flag will be viewed by a moderator.

If member "X" is capable of causing a meta post, then it is more than likely there exists a member "Y" also capable of the same behavior. The better way to address the member is to start a conversation about the shared behavior.

As for chat, it is a little hard to regulate that. Flag a message if you feel it is offensive and it will be reviewed. Spamming flags tends to be discouraged.

| improve this answer | |

You must log in to answer this question.