Do some Stack Exchange sites have nicer cultures than others? How does one develop a positive culture in beta and afterwards? What makes an SE culture decline in civility (even in long run, and perhaps especially for larger sites)? What can be done to prevent some of the negative effects of large scale SE sites.
My definition of positive culture
A positive culture promotes professionalism, civility, and leadership skills in a way that recursively acts in a way that becomes self-sustaining (thus "culture").
A positive culture is one that encourages everyone to do the right thing. Upvote when needed. Downvote when needed.
The following "Example 1." and "Example 2." show "comment-as-implementation". That's not the real point. I'm not saying "this is exactly how it 'should' be." I'm suggesting what a Culturally Positive community would "kind of" look like. It could be implemented in a number of different ways.
Suppose a new member posts a question and it gets downvoted -2. A positive culture would have anyone who's been around longer than a few weeks comfortable telling the person not what they did wrong, but what they could do to improve:
- "Welcome to our SE. You could improve this post by providing more detail on X and expanding your explanation of Y."
A positive culture would reward the above comment with at least a +1, and possibly (especially for lower rep members), another comment:
- "+1 on community building: good comment explaining what to improve instead of what is wrong!."
That not only rewards good behavior, but it also makes it explicit to **everyone why it's good behavior** and what type of behavior is expected. That provide a model for others to follow. People don't RTFM, but they do read other comments especially when upvoted. Rep points are fun, but (for many people) social pats can have far greater meaning and value.
Someone says in a comment, "Your answer is obviously wrong, it's only your opinion, the way it really is, is blah blah (my opinion)". A positive culture would encourage anyone to comment,
- That's a bit heavy handed. Skillful commenters would say, "You may want to caveat your post with more disclosure of fact vs. opinon. My opinion is..."
Other people upvote the person's comment that illustrated positive behavior. If that person has low rep, only one more comment saying, "+1 for community building." Also, the Answerist could comment,
- "Thanks, I've updated to caveat my opinion".
And that comment would get upvoted because it's demonstrating exceptional attitude towards a misguided critical comment.
In a Positive Culture, the burden of RTFM is reduced because it's clearly demonstrated every day.