UPDATE: We've incorporated lots of the feedback below into what we think is a much better version than the one we proposed originally. Thanks a ton for all the input, and let us know if you like the new version:

The NEW new "Be Nice" Policy ("Code of Conduct") — Updated with your feedback


Original Post:

We don't spend too much time talking about our code of conduct; the rules are few and fairly straightforward, and most people abide by them, most of the time. But some of these guidelines, while obvious to our core community, are often unknown to or misinterpreted by newcomers.

One of the oldest, most important, and perhaps most misunderstood policy is Be Nice, which reads:

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

Please note that expletives are not allowed. If you use expletives on this site, you may be issued a warning or a suspension.

That's a good policy, full of broad philosophical wisdom... But with the strange exception of "expletives", it doesn't do much to help folks understand how to apply that wisdom. It focused on what will happen if you violate the rules, but without being exceptionally clear on what "be nice" actually means. It's quite possible to read it as, "So... be myself but don't cuss or I'll get suspended?" - and many have done just that.

To help reduce this confusion, we've rewritten it to better reflect what makes Stack Exchange a far more pleasant community than many others on the Internet. Additionally, we provided some instructions on how to report rare cases of bad behavior; new users aren't always sure how to go about doing that, so we wanted that information to be more readily accessible.

The expanded guidance lives on its own help page, available on every site for easy linking (at /help/code-of-conduct).

The finalized guidance lives on its own help page, available on every site for easy linking (at /help/be-nice).

Here's the updated guidance in its entirety:

What is Stack Exchange's code of conduct?

This community has earned a reputation for avoiding ugliness, harassment, and bigotry because people like you have refused to allow it. Please treat others with respect, assume good intentions, and let us know if you see something wrong. This isn't always easy, so we created a non-exhaustive set of principles intended to help all of us communicate well. Here are some specific guidelines to keep in mind:

  • The real-life test: You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague. Always conduct yourself in a respectful manner.

  • We're all in this together, so be welcoming and patient. Remember that everyone here is either generously donating their time to help others, or is trying to learn something or work through a problem. Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be patient with others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

  • Focus on the post, not the person. Keep it professional, and avoid criticism of the author, (as opposed to the post). Don't make assumptions about a user's identity, and avoid references to demographics unless they are an essential part of the question or answer. Refrain from name-calling and other ad-hominem attacks.

  • Choose your words carefully. Expletives are generally not allowed; don't be vulgar. Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke: if it isn't appropriate at work or home, it is not appropriate here.

  • Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable. Sexually suggestive language, imagery, and attention are not appropriate for any part of $SiteName, including meta and chat. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please alert the site moderators immediately by flagging the offending post(s). Moderators and/or Stack Exchange staff will investigate the issue and take appropriate action. For the rare case where you think only Stack Exchange staff can handle the situation, contact us directly.

In summary, have fun, and be good to each other.

Is there anything we missed that is essential for creating the expectation that Stack Exchange communities are civil and respectful?

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    I think it's excellent. It steers clear of too much precision, which invites legalistic rule-gaming, and too much vagueness, which invites honest misinterpretation. – Ben Kovitz Oct 6 '14 at 16:49
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    Whoa! this exists? 3 years and didn't know. That might be a problem in itself. – djechlin Oct 6 '14 at 17:36
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    Why are "gender" and "gender identity" two separate items in the "Be civil" bullet? On the internet, no one knows your real gender anyways. "Politics" would be a good item to have in that list. – Josh Caswell Oct 6 '14 at 18:14
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    So can respond in the same way as I would in “real life” e.g. if 1001 people come to my office demanding answers to daft questions they don’t have the skill level to be able to understand the answer to and have made no effort themselves – Ian Ringrose Oct 6 '14 at 18:28
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    Any chance of extending this code of conduct worldwide? – Peter4075 Oct 6 '14 at 18:35
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    Sure, I understand the difference, but then why not include both "race" and "race indentity" in the list? Or "physical disability" and "mental disability"? By including these two subfacets of one facet of personality, you're emphasizing it. Is nuanced gender-based incivility a significant problem on Stack Exchange? – Josh Caswell Oct 6 '14 at 18:38
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    Why are 'Expletives not allowed' yet the linked answer has more votes allowing them than disallowing them? – Rapptz Oct 6 '14 at 19:16
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    -1 You just took all the fun out of Politics.SE :P – yannis Oct 6 '14 at 19:28
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    Does the current text really cause all that much confusion? And if so, is that really confusion of the sort that would be addressed by the new text? I'm not against introducing it, but if you really need a clear explanation on how not to be an ass, then ... well ... – Bart Oct 6 '14 at 19:43
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    One minor thing, since it's already live on all sites, "Proposed" doesn't really fit. – Shadow Wizard Oct 6 '14 at 19:47
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    The main problem I see with any of these efforts is trying to force people to read them, never mind hope that they understand them or care enough to actually abide by them. I know users with six-figure rep that either don't know 90% of that text or refuse to demonstrate that they do. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 6 '14 at 20:38
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    FYI name calling is generally not an ad hominem attack - this fallacy is a pet hate! Name calling is only an ad hominem if used in an attempt to prove a point. i.e. "you are stupid therefore this question is stupid and your code is stupid and that's why your program is broken". "You are stupid" on its own is horrid and should be avoided, but it's not an ad hominem. Just sayin'! – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 6 '14 at 21:58
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    I think requiring people to talk to everyone the way they talk to their boss undermines the credibility and usefulness of these rules and suggests a rather parochial view ... for many people, being honest with their boss can be extremely dangerous. – Jim Balter Oct 7 '14 at 7:54
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    @JimBalter: I agree with this. If nothing else, the way people talk to their boss varies hugely across the globe so, assuming this rule is intended to reflect some American model of workplace behaviour, it would seem to be uselessly Americentric. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 7 '14 at 8:28
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    "We're all in this together, so be welcoming and patient." - Please browse the Stack Overflow front page for half a year, filtered by the tags python and Java. If you manage to do so and remain "welcoming and patient" even in the face of total crap questions, I suggest you quit your current occupation and aspire to become the next buddha. Not that I disagree with "don't be an ass", but that sentence feels just like a slap in the face to all of the people who complain about question quality on SO - especially the "everyone here [...] is trying to learn something" part, which is simply untrue. – l4mpi Oct 7 '14 at 13:05

37 Answers 37

Expletives are generally not allowed

I didn't like it before, and I don't like it now. An expletive is a word that fills space without adding any semantic content (meaning), or that's only for stress. Examples are on earth (in "why on earth did…"), the heck (in "what the heck is…") and, yes, some other, vulgar things. Expletives are (or should be) allowed: you should reword this rule to disallow vulgarities, not expletives.

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    Or maybe "profanity" would be clearer. – Fish Below the Ice Oct 6 '14 at 18:51
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    "Expletive" is a common polite term for curse word. The top definition for "expletive (noun)" in your link agrees: "A profane, vulgar term, notably a curse or obscene oath." It's not wrong to use the word. – John Kugelman Oct 6 '14 at 18:52
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    I was going to complain about the pedantry of this response, but in thinking it over there's no real reason not to modify it to "obscenity in general" or something like that. Avoiding people complaining seriously about just this issue is probably worth it. – Jonathan Garber Oct 6 '14 at 19:17
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    "Expletive" has a common meaning (curse word / profanity) and a technical grammatical one (space filler without adding meaning). I don't think it'll really trip anyone up, but "profanity" seems to be clearer so we can use that. – Laura Oct 6 '14 at 19:26
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    What about "RTFM"? – atmelino Oct 6 '14 at 19:32
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    I don't think people would think mistake it as the linguistic "expletive", especially seeing that it is used in the context of a rule of conduct. Or perhaps you mean something else? – 3 to 5 business days Oct 6 '14 at 19:41
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    @atmelino - Read The Fine/Free/Formidable Manual? what's wrong with that? – SeanC Oct 6 '14 at 20:11
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    You want posts full of filler words? That is like, OMG, so totally the absolute best-est kind of way to get on point or not rambling type answers and other sort of repsonse like thingies.......... (Have I made the point yet? NO FLUFF EITHER!) – Affable Geek Oct 6 '14 at 20:24
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    @atmelino I would argue that RTFM violates "Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know", before it violates "no expletives". The equivalent polite way to say it is "By the way, here's the relevant documentation [link]" – Michael Berkowski Oct 6 '14 at 20:48
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    @meta.michael: I would avoid making it sound like reading the documentation is an after-thought or optional possibility that the OP may be interested in exploring if they get some free time one day. It should be made clear that reading the documentation is an absolute necessity in our trade, and certainly something that is expected of OPs. We can do that whilst being polite about it, of course, but let's carefully choose our language so that the importance of this act is not lost in translation. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 6 '14 at 22:00
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    I would recommend "vulgarity" over "profanity" if we're gonna change it, @Laura - "profanity" has a much, much more restrictive meaning by default, and folks can (and have) argued that their vulgarity, while offensive to others and problematic when it comes to web filters, is not actually profane. – Shog9 Oct 6 '14 at 22:25
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    Another point why I would prefer vulgarity (or even profanity, although Shog9s remarks are spot on) is language: I think I speak English reasonably well, but I had to look expletives up (for the exact meaning, guessing from context it was quite clear). I think it simply is a not-commonly used word. Vulgarity is quite well-known, also because it is very similar to the latin, french and german (and possibly others) versions of the word. Please keep in mind that many people here speak English as a 2nd language and such language subtleties will be missed by most of them. – dirkk Oct 7 '14 at 7:33
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    "It's not wrong to use the word." -- "Profanity" is clearer, less ambiguous, more accurate, and pretty much better in every regard than "expletives", so why rationalize the use of the latter? As for "vulgarity", it's even worse ... completely vague and subjective; just look at the definition: "the state or quality of being vulgar" and dictionary.reference.com/browse/vulgar – Jim Balter Oct 7 '14 at 7:59
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    For non english speakers expletive is maybe just the same as if you talk about quantum holonomy - just a collection of letters. – Trilarion Oct 7 '14 at 8:49
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    @Trilarion: Absolutely! I am not a native speaker of English, but consider my English to be good. But I had no clear idea what "expletive" meant. I would've understood "vulgar", "vulgarity", "cursing", etc. far easier. – stakx Oct 7 '14 at 9:30

I think it's fine, but... Some observations.

"You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague." The people who don't need to hear this already understand it, and the people who do need to hear it already think they're doing it right.

"We're all in this together," "Focus on the post, not the person." If you want people to avoid some specific behaviors, then you need to be specific about what those behaviors are. Those of us who have been here for awhile already know what you're talking about in these paragraphs, but the new people don't. "Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable. " -- That's specific.

That said, we need to retain the right to say "well, this is how it is, I've made the decision, and that's it," without having to fall back onto legalistic rule structures. One of the problems with civility is that it's defined differently in different cultures. "This is offensive to you, but it's not offensive to me." I avoid this problem during moderation by taking the position that it's worthy of moderator action if it "has become a distraction to the community."

So I think it's probably a good idea to specifically codify those things that apparently fall within the legal realm (i.e. harassment and discrimination), but attempting to explain to folks what "be nice" means, well... Saying "be nice" really ought to be enough, as those folks who don't seem to understand what that means will either figure it out and change their behavior, or find somewhere else to go.

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    This: "has become a distraction to the community"; that's the same standard I try to use when determining whether to get involved. (Of course; it's easy for us to use that as a standard for ourselves, but, well... back to what you are saying otherwise!) – Andrew Barber Oct 6 '14 at 19:07
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    +1 for being specific. Related: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/270402/… – jlstrecker Oct 7 '14 at 17:51
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    Offensive is difficult to define, as it's very subjective. I don't think you can prevent everything that someone might find offensive. Nor should you I think. But I think a notion of intent might be more useful - if I say something crass, then a polite nudge is better. – Sobrique Oct 8 '14 at 15:21
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    @Sobrique: That's why "has it become a distraction" is the metric I use. – Robert Harvey Oct 8 '14 at 15:22

I find the phrase

Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable.

bothersome - and it feels like it was written by a lawyer. That long list comprises "legally protected characteristics", but it fatally does not include "stupidity" and "laziness". And there is plenty of both on these sites, and there are plenty of people who attack others (incivilly) because of it. By omitting those "unprotected" characteristics, you make the whole rule set feel like it was drawn up by lawyers instead of a community that cares about its members. I recognize that it could be argued that they fall under

any and all other type of personal attack

but it still feels wrong. I would like to suggest alternative wording:

Be civil. In your comments and answers, address the issues raised by the question - avoid any type of name calling, harassment or verbal attacks on other community members.

It would be very good to include a sampling of "acceptable" examples of strong language - because it's not clear to me that we need to remove any kind of edge from our language in order to make the site successful. This might usefully make the subject of another Meta post; but it would definitely include

  • the right way to say RTFM
  • the right way to say "let me google that for you"
  • the right way to say "look in your lecture notes"
  • the right way to say "did you actually read that link you posted"
  • the right way to say "as written nobody can answer your question"
  • the right way to say "fix your grammar and spelling you lazy so-and-so"
  • the right way to say "that doesn't even compile without errors / warnings"
  • the right way to say "I can tell English is not your first language[...]"

etc... because all of these opportunities arise frequently, and all of them can easily be written in a way that offends (I did not attempt to write an "approved" version in the above...)

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    Practical and to the point. Thank you very much for formulating the list of do's and don'ts. – Deer Hunter Oct 7 '14 at 3:51
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    I completely agree. I was going to add another entry to suggest changing "Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable" to Attacking or harassing individuals is unacceptable. to bypass the legalese. Glad to see someone already suggested it! – wallyk Oct 7 '14 at 4:36
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    @wallyk - I like your phrasing. – Floris Oct 7 '14 at 5:02
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    what does the F in RTFM stand for? – CashCow Oct 7 '14 at 9:57
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    @CashCow let me google that for you. – tripleee Oct 7 '14 at 10:29
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    The problem is that the manual is 300 pages long and would take a month to read, and the user has to deliver the solution today, ideally within the next hour. There are loads of people happy to answer the question for free in exchange of 10 reputation points... Besides, when I google it, I get hits on stack overflow. – CashCow Oct 7 '14 at 10:41
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    @CashCow - if you get hits on SO, your question should probably be closed as a duplicate... We need to avoid any SE site becoming a "do my work for me (for free)" site. At least I believe that's how most of us feel. "Ask interesting questions - not ones that you could answer yourself with minimal effort." But let's remain civilized while we say that... – Floris Oct 7 '14 at 11:24
  • @Floris If I don't get any hits on SO, unless it's about a brand new technology, the fact that nobody has asked it before in 5 years or whatever means it's unlikely anyone will want to ask it again in the next 5 years, so it's not likely to be of general interest to the public. – CashCow Oct 7 '14 at 11:36
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    @CashCow - if that's really true then we might as well close shop... of course "hits" is not quite the same thing as "answers", and I think there's some mileage in the old filly yet... – Floris Oct 7 '14 at 11:58
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    @Floris Open for questions relating to new technologies and new answers to old questions where the technology has moved on such that there are new ways to solve old problems. – CashCow Oct 7 '14 at 12:15
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    Your point is taken. The tone and level of detail we were going for was tricky: providing enough examples that it's absolutely clear what constitutes a violation of our code of conduct, but without providing a list that seemed exhaustive and would invite people to argue "but [something or other] wasn't included in that list, why'd you suspend me?!" We can probably do better with that sentence, though, so thank you for your input. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:32
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    Pointing that "English is not my first language" was really useful. I really suspected it but I wasn't sure. You know, living in a non-english speaking country and family. Please replace it with a practical actionable response like "please improve the question" or "This question need to be edited to a more natural English.The original author does not seems to be the right person to do it". – borjab Oct 7 '14 at 15:31
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    In addition to the "it looks like it was drawn up by lawyers" concern, I also feel concerned that a list of specific personal attacks invites rules-lawyering. E.g., someone could claim that "Well, you're from (country), so of course you wouldn't understand", which is clearly a personal attack, was okay because nationality isn't mentioned in that list. I would greatly prefer not to list any specific examples, and just leave it as general, to prevent rules-lawyering like that. – rmunn Oct 8 '14 at 3:27
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    @BenMillwood - I think the problem with stating "protected characteristics" is that you leave the door open for "well, you didn't say I couldn't ..." for all the things you didn't think of. I think ALL personal characteristics should be included - which leads to "talk about the question, not the questioner" as a guiding principle. See also Laura's and rmunn's comment. But it's good to hear different viewpoints - that is the point of having this discussion in the first place, right? We're all here because we want the communities to be the best they can be. – Floris Oct 9 '14 at 2:15
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    Does "be nice" means "be nice at any cost"? For example I don't see anything wrong with "did you actually read that link you posted" or "that doesn't even compile without errors/warnings". They're not offensive and they stress about site rules: first do your own job then ask here in the proper way. – Adriano Repetti Oct 9 '14 at 8:12

I really like the updated guidance, but somehow I also think: Are they really necessary to that extent? I cannot remember I have seen anyone being "harassed" by "on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion"... Are there any IRL examples of that?

It is not meaning that I don't think rules like that should be part of the overall Stack Overflow code of conduct. Just thinking, one could think there is a real widespread problem about harassing people on Stack Overflow for things like gender. This is not the case, at least as far as I recall what I have seen on Stack Overflow in the past two years and four months.

However, I have two real observations:

  1. A non-native English-speaking person can by accident write something that native speaking people find offending. I am not a native English speaking person. It is not always clear to me, before hitting "add comment", for example, how something (like a certain word) can be (mis)understood. So you could add to the code of conduct, that people also (to some degree) should be indulgent if it is clear, that the "offender" was not trying to be evil by purpose.

  2. Something I really think is missing is: "Don't be arrogant". This is the worst part I have observed actually happening - more skilled people being arrogant to newbies, to the best scaring newcomers away. Be nice to people, even if you think a question is trivial, or an answer is "stupid".

Just my two cents.

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    Just a point since your profile indicates you aren't in the US - that wording about harassment you quoted appears to follow similar wording in the "Equal Employment Opportunity" laws in the US. Those even passingly familiar with US employment law will recognise it. As you indicate, it sometimes needs extra explanation for non-US people. – Greg Hewgill Oct 6 '14 at 18:55
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    Yes, it's necessary and has been a real problem in the past, but this isn't a post to talk about the examples. I like your second point about not being arrogant, but I'm willing to bet that nearly no one self-identifies as arrogant, so wording it that way probably isn't helpful. I'll think on it and see if I can come up with a different way to address that. – Laura Oct 6 '14 at 19:07
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    @GregHewgill, we have the same thing i Denmark by law. Actually nearly the exact same word by word, even in the same order. It is called §266b or the "bill of racism" (if I translate correct into english) so it is not new to me :) In Denmark any website, or anything expressed on any website, is automatically under that official law. You can be punished by fines or jail. So personally I really dont need an extra explanation, I just wonder why this is nessecary to emphasize for SO, because honestly I havent seen anyone being harrassing other people on SO because of racism, sexuality and so on. – davidkonrad Oct 6 '14 at 19:17
  • Ah ok, I didn't know that same US-civil-rights-movement-era wording was also adopted by other countries too (the corresponding law for New Zealand is pretty comprehensive). I get your point about it not appearing to apply much to SE sites. – Greg Hewgill Oct 6 '14 at 19:19
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    I strongly suspect you've never seen an instance of harassment on SE because when it does happen, the moderators delete it before more than a few people get a chance to see it. I know I've flagged comments for garden-variety "this argument is not constructive" and had moderators react within minutes. People do take cues from the behavior of those around them, so the less harassment gets through, the less likely it is to appear in the first place. – zwol Oct 6 '14 at 19:19
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    @GregHewgill, I think it is the other way around :) The danish law is highly based on the UN universal human rights, not so much US employment laws :) – davidkonrad Oct 6 '14 at 19:31
  • Indeed, you're right. I'm going to quit talking now so I don't embarrass myself further. :) – Greg Hewgill Oct 6 '14 at 19:33
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    @Laura, a note of arrogancy would be really cool to me. As I now have realized, I only know a small area of the SO / SE family of sites, but this is something I have observed, and annoyed me a little bit. And I think it has become worser, or more frequent, since I started out for 2½ year ago. – davidkonrad Oct 6 '14 at 19:40
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    @davidkonrad Um, "Buddhism and so on" is NOT an area where harassment takes place; I'm lol'ing a little at that, but not in disrespect or ridicule of you! Harassment of various sorts has occurred on parts of the larger SE sites, but not much of a religious sort. which is in fact what you meant. I will behave myself, and forego details as Laura sensibly suggested ;O) – Ellie Kesselman Oct 6 '14 at 20:24
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    "Don't be arrogant" won't work, for the self awareness reasons others highlight, but something like "try to be sympathetic to those who know less than you," or the like may convey that idea without the pejorative self-selection issue. – Jaydles Oct 6 '14 at 20:34
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    @Jaydles, you could not do better than that? [refering to arrogance] – davidkonrad Oct 6 '14 at 21:06
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    @Jaydles What a llame ignorantic answer - you dont know what I mean, you can impossible know, because I'm better than you. – davidkonrad Oct 6 '14 at 21:08
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    @davidkonrad, just to be clear: I agree with you that this is a good idea to include, but agree with Laura's point: The wording needs to help people recognize it in themselves - no one thinks they're "arrogant", but many well-meaning folks can understand that they sometimes may fail to communicate kindly, etc. (My specific verbiage was just an example.) – Jaydles Oct 6 '14 at 21:38
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    @davidkonrad Lol, a lot at this (llame ignorantic) – Ellie Kesselman Oct 6 '14 at 21:56
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    assume good faith (be indulgent if it is clear, that the "offender" was not trying to be evil by purpose) and be nice (even if you think a question is trivial, or an answer is "stupid") are great points – jfs Oct 7 '14 at 12:39

Do we really have to call out "don't cuss"—it sounds like a schoolhouse rule for a bunch of kids that don't really understand what being civil means. On the whole lowers whatever code from a positive ensemble designed to promote elevated dialogue into some checkmark set of rules where I feel I could whine "BUT I FOLLOWED EVERYTHING, Y U BAN?!"

Rather than admonishing us salty swine, I'd rather see something like (please note that I am not a wordsmith and you should not use the following)

Choose your words carefully. Stack Exchange (or $SiteName, what is this, PHP?) is used at work and home, by people across the globe. Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke. Be appropriate and maintain a level of professionalism...yadda yadda.

For those that choose to interpret such a statement as "I do what I want", in practice things would remain basically the same. The warning could explicitly direct them to the policy post that swearing is strongly discouraged, and excessive use (presumably they've used some already) may carry with it consequences.

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    dear me I golly hope this isn't fricking PHP ;) That aside this is kinda the exactly same as the previous "be nice" and we know that didn't work as good as originally planned. – Vogel612's Shadow Oct 6 '14 at 17:06
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    hmmm... isn't dissing php some kind of inflammatory remark? care to stand up to your words? :) – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Oct 6 '14 at 17:10
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    Can you articulate what utility swearing has such that the current policy is a problem? Note that when it has obvious utility (such as when it's necessary in a relevant quote or somesuch topical use), the current rules do allow it. Beyond that necessary use, what use does swearing have here? – SevenSidedDie Oct 6 '14 at 17:25
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    @SevenSidedDie don't construe this as me advocating for more swearing, I just don't like the "feel" of the "don't cuss" rule for reasons mentioned. The other rules seem to cover it anyways, "shouldn't...wouldn't talk to your boss", "Be civil" – Nick T Oct 6 '14 at 17:32
  • I think I'm (and possibly others are) unclear on what this answer is pointing to as a problem then. If it's not wanting the rule relaxed, what is the problem with the rule? Its phrasing? Existence? Check-list-ness? I'm suspecting the latter now that you've eliminated "swearing should be allowed" as the intention and I'm looking for other interpretations, but I'm still guessing too much to feel like I understand the post. – SevenSidedDie Oct 6 '14 at 17:37
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    Honestly, I was going to skip over the "expletives aren't allowed" part, but one of my illustrious colleagues said "I cuss at my boss all the time!" so we left it in. ;) – Laura Oct 6 '14 at 17:37
  • @Laura, then mention that. Calling people names, not using strong words in general. – otus Oct 7 '14 at 7:59
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    @FélixGagnon-Grenier Defending php is inflammatory, not the other way round. ;) – CodesInChaos Oct 7 '14 at 8:21
  • @CodesInChaos Which is the problem... – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Oct 7 '14 at 12:31
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    Is it me, or is "to cuss" an American term for "to curse"/"to swear" and therefor not very well-known outside of America? – Mark Rotteveel Oct 7 '14 at 14:47
  • @MarkRotteveel perhaps it is; I was using it intentionally as it (for me at least) evokes a certain schoolyard vibe. Is there a similar term in BrE for swearing that doesn't sound so clinical? – Nick T Oct 7 '14 at 16:08
  • I think "cussing" falls under "language intended to offend", and think that might be a better metric. That way you cover swear words, lewd terms and racial epithets. (And don't cover inadvertent ones, such as a variable name that happpens to be an expletive in another language). – Sobrique Oct 8 '14 at 15:24
  • @Sobrique Many of the words used and apparently blanket-banned are often not intended to offend. Their meaning and level of offensiveness can also vary a lot in different dialects. – Bob Oct 9 '14 at 9:20
  • Granted - but I think it's impossible to avoid accidentally offending people, and really - it shouldn't matter too much. That's a very different thing to doing it deliberately. One's a matter of tolerance and education, and the other... well, is just bad behavior on a community site. – Sobrique Oct 9 '14 at 9:24
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    SE is coded in god-like C#, not profane PHP. +1 for pointing this out. – Won't Oct 9 '14 at 13:34

Assume good faith

Assuming good faith is a fundamental principle on Wikipedia. It is the assumption that editors' edits and comments are made in good faith. Most people try to help the project, not hurt it. If this were untrue, a project like Wikipedia would be doomed from the beginning. This guideline does not require that editors continue to assume good faith in the presence of obvious evidence to the contrary (vandalism). Assuming good faith does not prohibit discussion and criticism. Rather, editors should not attribute the actions being criticized to malice unless there is specific evidence of malice.

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    The second sentence of the new page says, "Please treat others with respect, assume good intentions, and let us know if you see something wrong." (bolded here for emphasis) The fact that you missed it means maybe we should call more attention to it, though :) – Laura Oct 6 '14 at 19:31
  • I edit Wikipedia, but we aren't Wikipedia. @Laura I think it would be a good idea to call more attention to the "assume good intentions" portion here. I missed it! – Ellie Kesselman Oct 6 '14 at 20:16
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    Yes, I see now! I think this should be a separate bolded point. – Count Iblis Oct 6 '14 at 20:40
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    @Laura For what it's worth, I thought "Assume good faith" is more to the point than "We're all in this together, so be welcoming and patient" – 3 to 5 business days Oct 6 '14 at 21:09
  • And while we're at it, quote Hanlon's razor. – Raphael Oct 7 '14 at 19:22
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    I think "assume good faith" is the wrong standard here. Most questions, especially by new users, are blatantly help-vampire questions. Assuming they were intended to be good questions is a bad idea. Assuming that most users either would (try to) write good questions or go away if they understood the system is a good idea. But that's not the same as the Wikipedia standard; there, you're supposed to assume that the editor understands the point of Wikipedia and is trying to act accordingly, while here we're better assuming they don't get the point, and that's why they've written a bad question. – abarnert Oct 7 '14 at 22:13
  • @abarnert I agree that "assume good faith" (AGF) should not be used here in the way you would use it on Wikipedia w.r.t. newcomers; this site is different from Wikipedia. AGF should be in general be taken as a general attitude of tolerance toward criticism, it is helpful when there is a potential for disputes due to criticisms of the conduct of users. In practice AGF in case of dealing with students would mean that students who seek help with homework here would be asked to be a tolerant w.r.t. criticism about showing effort. – Count Iblis Oct 7 '14 at 22:59

The "Be civil" section isn't really about civility.

Civility is courtesy and politeness, contrasted with rude or aggressive behavior. Most of that stuff is actually covered by the "Focus on the post, not the person" section.

As written right now, the "Be civil" section is more about something else: outright hate and hostility that transcend mere incivility. I think another label would be better — partly because I think this is a bigger deal than merely being civil; partly because I think your community standards should stress that merely adopting the veneer of civility isn't enough to make harassment or group attacks acceptable on the site.

(I like that section overall. It's very important. But putting "Be civil" in front of it obscures the true meaning of that paragraph.)

  • 4
    A hearty "right on!" to "...should stress that merely adopting the veneer of civility isn't enough to make harassment or group attacks acceptable on the site." – zwol Oct 6 '14 at 19:20
  • I'm curious how you think the language can be modified to stress that adopting a veneer of civility only doesn't cut it. I thought the language was pretty clear that harassment and other disrespectful behavior was off-limits, but if that's not coming across, I'm open to suggestion for how to make it more obvious. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:34
  • @Laura Just the section title. It's not really "Be civil," it's... I don't know what a concise alternative would be. "Respect," probably. Gonna ask around for some more options. Again, just the title -- I like the rest of that section text just as it is already! – Alex P Oct 7 '14 at 14:39

I'm a fan of the older version, and I will certainly miss it. This feels clunky in comparison. It's wordy, not very readable.

It's simple - It doesn't look like it was written by a lawyer. It put across something that really is a simple concept. It treats people like adults, and leaves room for the community to interpret it. It sums up things fairly succinctly. It makes a much more natural way to start things off - even if you go in detail.

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

may be a nice way to start the new code of conduct, and a nod to what we've used for years.

Other issues I have with the newer version would probably be fixed with a little bit of compression, I suspect

For example,

Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – – and any and all other type of personal attack for any reason is unacceptable.

This is much more inclusive, without sounding like its written by a politically correct committee. I can think of other sorts of incivility that could occur on a tech centric site.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please alert the site moderators immediately by flagging the offending post(s). Moderators and/or Stack Exchange staff will investigate the issue and take appropriate action. For the rare case where you think only Stack Exchange staff can handle the situation, contact us directly. feels like it has better flow

Sexually suggestive language, imagery, and attention are not appropriate for any part of $SiteName, including meta and chat.

On the other hand may fit in better under the bit about language - since it deals with language use.

Choose your words carefully - what you say reflects on the site and yourself. Expletives are generally not allowed; don't be vulgar Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke and sexually suggestive language, imagery, and attention are not appropriate for any part of $SiteName, including meta and chat: if it isn't appropriate at work or home, it is not appropriate here. Bit of repetition there, since you're talking about the same things

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    This doesn't need to be readable as no one will bother once this question disappears from the front page. – user147520 Oct 7 '14 at 12:43

The real-life test: You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague.

I think "including a boss" here makes this too broad. I might comment a bad question on an SE site with, "This question is ill-posed. You might like to read [some wikipedia page] to understand the terms you're using, and then come back and edit your question." I might even say something broadly similar to a new colleague if they're saying stupid things. I wouldn't say that to a boss or a customer. Is it really your intent to outlaw a helpful and neutral, if curt, moderation comment as "not nice"?

I try to help poor questions or answerers by suggesting how they might improve their post. If I were restricted to only things I would say to my boss, a lot of those close- or down-votes would become silent, simply because there are things you can't say to a boss, however politely.

Remember that everyone here is either generously donating their time to help others, or is trying to learn something or work through a problem. Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions.

This is usually but not always true. Assuming good faith is usually a good idea, but we do get visitors who spam the site or post inflammatory and/or offensive rants simply because they're frustrated with life. If everyone on every SE site were trying to help others or solve a problem, we wouldn't have spam flags and the other moderation tools, or even a guide to "being nice".

I can agree with the sentiment behind this suggestion. For example, when the same user repeatedly posts the very same question, I don't get aggrieved and tell them they're a bad person for wilfully posting duplicates; instead, I explain that it's counter-productive on SE sites, and how to edit a question to add more information. But the absolutism of "everyone here" and "every question and answer" are demonstrably false. A rule that's overtly based on false premises disrespects the people who are supposed to follow it, and will never be respected or followed. This statement needs to be weakened with an "in general", or a complete rewording, in order to be any use.

Could I suggest that for the religion sites (Biblical Hermeneutics.SE, Buddhism.SE, Christianity.SE, Islam.SE, Judaism.SE, and the like), this language is going to cause confusion or consternation:

Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable.

I know there is going to come a point when someone who simply disagrees with something somebody has written is going to say "The mods are suppressing me." Islam.SE has its Sunni-Shia problems, Christianity.SE has its users who particularly "oppressed" and it is very easy to get one's nose out of joint. Furthermore, we are all sick of jabs that some people want to take in the guise of a question or answer, no matter how disingenuous.

At our best, the religion sites work very hard to remind everyone that we are secular (even if most of the members are believers) and that we are actually NOT interested in debate. On Christianity.SE, in particular, we regularly tell users that we are different from other sites.

Even with all of that, users will feel oppressed. They will feel their ideas are being singled out and attacked. For the religion sites in particular, this language may be helpful:

Please note that Stack Exchange seeks neither to promote nor discourage any viewpoint. On religious sites in particular, we do not wish to encourage ongoing arguments amongst religions or within sects thereof.

Questions and Answers should be neutral in tone, supported with historical and verifiable resources, and not used for proselytization or denigration. Evaluating the merits of ideas or behaviors within documented established traditions of the scope of a given site is not an attack. Demonstrating that a particular argument is outside the expressed tradition of the site is not suppression or oppression. Without exception, Stack Exchange religion sites seek to be academic resources and conform to norms of behavior one would find within the academic environment that studies them.

If your professor would call you out for a statement, it is out of bounds.

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    Religions themselves often have a clear opinion about gender, sexual orientation, etc.. However, this does not allow posters to attack each other on these basis. – Mast Oct 6 '14 at 19:21
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    That is exactly what I am saying. Be neutral and support. Explain don't attack. But don't lie either. If a religion is against a behavior, don't try to say it is. – Affable Geek Oct 6 '14 at 19:22
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    The "If your professor would call you out" is a great test. Saying "The book of Romans calls homosexuality a sin" is a very different statement than "<Insert derogatory term here> deserve hell." – Affable Geek Oct 6 '14 at 19:23
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    @AffableGeek You meant "If a religion is against a behavior, don't try to say it is not", yes? – Ellie Kesselman Oct 6 '14 at 20:13
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    You are correct @EllieKesselman. :) – Affable Geek Oct 6 '14 at 20:21
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    But who professes the professors? – Peter Turner Oct 6 '14 at 21:37
  • As you know, this is nothing new - folks have tried to use such reasoning to censor posts they disagreed with in the past, and no doubt will in the future. And the solution - as again, you know well - is to fix the questions. You've probably seen this too, but there's a relevant discussion on Meta History Stack Exchange... – Shog9 Oct 6 '14 at 22:38
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    "Religious" sites on SE will always be a problem. I'm a Christian, and I've been on CSE... I no longer visit (for probably well over a year(?) now). Why? Because it is an open platform for people to poke fun at us and then pretend to get mad if we don't play into their little game. It's basically a "skeptics" (pff... yeah right) site by a different name. – RolandiXor Oct 7 '14 at 0:23
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    "Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable. " -- This should be especially emphasized on religious sites. Fundamentally hostile ideas and attitudes should not be encouraged. – Jim Balter Oct 7 '14 at 8:15
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    "Because it is an open platform for people to poke fun at us and then pretend to get mad if we don't play into their little game." -- It's called being honest. No belief is immune from criticism, and no demand that criticisms are to be banned should be honored. "skeptics" (pff... yeah right) -- Now that is the sort of ad hominem comment that should be banned. – Jim Balter Oct 7 '14 at 8:19
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    No belief is immune from criticism -- of course not. But a couple of christians should be able to discuss christianity without feeling under constant attack or demands to justify their beliefs by atheists or people of other beliefs, and vice-versa. If that's impossible on those sites (and I don't know, I don't have a dog in this fight) then that seems wrong to me. – Rob Moir Oct 7 '14 at 11:12
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    @AffableGeek - the problem is that a large segment of US population sees absolutely NO difference between these 2 statements: "The book of Romans calls homosexuality a sin" is a very different statement than "<Insert derogatory term here> deserve hell." - and that includes BOTH religious bigots and left-wing bigots alike in terms of not seeing the distinction. – DVK Oct 7 '14 at 15:44
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    "If your professor would call you out" isn't a useful guideline for people who don't have a professor, or who have only interacted with professors who are disinclined to duel. – Peter Taylor Oct 7 '14 at 16:07
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    I would suggest that religion sites could work out their own policies, which would be in addition to the network-wide code of conduct. If they adopt your proposed language, great! I'm not sure it's a good idea to add stuff to the network-wide code of conduct that is only relevant to religion sites. Nothing says that the network-wide code of conduct is the end of the story. – D.W. Oct 8 '14 at 1:16
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    I don't think the expanded version is particularly useful even if limited to the religious sites: it's basically just a "This is how the vague and general civility rules particularly apply to this particular site" boilerplate which is probably better off not being a boilerplate at all, rather it should be hashed out in each site's respective metas. – goldPseudo Oct 8 '14 at 1:29

Two minor typographic issues. Normally, I'd just edit the post to fix them, but it isn't clear that will work as desired here.

Keep it professional, and avoid criticism of the author, (as opposed to the post).

If you removed the parenthetical, you would be left with a comma followed by a full stop (period). The comma is therefore unnecessary — the brackets (parentheses) already serve to separate the comment from the preceding text.

The second is potentially more debatable:

– and any and all other type of personal attack –

I'd use 'types' in place of 'type', but you can argue for the singular. If it were "and all other type of personal attack", I think the singular would be wrong. If it were "and any other type of personal attack", the singular is OK, but "and any other types of personal attack" would also be OK. So, on balance I suggest it should be "and any and all other types of personal attack", but I won't be heartbroken if the change is not made (even though it will grate mildly on me every time I read it).


Tweaking the second issue

Looking at the second issue in the larger context, the suggested revision would leave a problem with agreement (of verb and noun) in the use of 'is' versus 'are'. Italics mark changes rather than emphasis.

Original:

Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable.

First suggested revision:

Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other types of personal attack – is unacceptable.

The 'is' is correct for the non-parenthetical statement; 'are' should replace 'is' for the parenthetical comment. This is a problem.

I suggest a slightly bigger rewording to keep the intent but fix the grammatical agreement:

Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion is unacceptable – and so are any and all other types of personal attack.

Or even, using a more active voice:

You may not attack or harass individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion. Any and all other types of personal attack are also unacceptable.

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    Thanks for the copy edit; I'll incorporate it into the larger update I'm doing based on other feedback here. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:40
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    Excellent copy edits. – T.J. Crowder Oct 7 '14 at 21:01

You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague.

For the love of all that is pure and true, please delete "a boss".

We want folks to tell the truth and to be frank and to the point.

We don't want folks self-censoring or window-dressing like we do when we talk to people who have more or less arbitrary power over our livelihoods.

Plain "colleagues" is just fine.

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    Answering questions on SE, like a boss. – Agi Hammerthief Oct 7 '14 at 13:44

I remember some Internet celebrity developer, Joel something or other, the name escapes me right now, pointing out that people don't read.

If they're not reading the shorter guidelines we have now, why are we expecting them to read longer ones?

Statements like this always tends to be overwrought and overdone, and I can see that happening here. We really should be able to say "Treat others with at least as much respect as you would like to be given yourself. That means no bigotry, no bullying, no stalking, no trolling, no rudeness. By all means disagree with something if you need to but attack the ideas, not the person. If you don't behave you will get your ass bounced out the door. Discussion over thanks for coming"

I don't believe this proposal will improve things:

  1. The people who aren't reading the current guidelines still won't read them.
  2. The people who consider themselves to be special snowflakes will continue to do so.
  3. Overly-complex statements are open season for rules-lawyering jerks to whinge once they get banned.
  • On the meta of a site I'm active on, some questions have come up about conduct in recent months. Having a more expanded Code of Conduct would actually be really helpful in circumstances like that. (And not because of terrible circumstances either; it's just come up as relevant to certain events, and the discourse has been mostly respectful.) – doppelgreener Oct 7 '14 at 14:13
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    @doppelgreener I'm not against the idea of improving the CoC per se, I just don't see the mealy-mouthed attempt in the question as an improvement. I think that the attempt to over-clarify certain terms in that example ultimately weakens the message. That's my objection. I'm only advocating that the CoC should be as short and to the point as possible because I think that usually achieves the best result, not because I'm personally allergic to reading... – Rob Moir Oct 7 '14 at 14:26
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    I completely agree with you that some people just won't read regardless of how much or little information there is for them to consume. With the expanded code of conduct, though, experienced users can direct other people to a page specifically dealing with our expectations for behavior; those who care about the community can read it and those who don't will at least be unable to say they didn't know they were violating a rule. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:43
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    I love the short version you've posted. People don't read, but the subset who do, tend to only read short things. So give them a short thing to read that captures the essence. You've done that beautifully. – T.J. Crowder Oct 7 '14 at 21:21
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    This is what I was going to say, only far more succinctly than I would have said it. :-) When a code of conduct turns into a list of specific rules, it tends to invite rules-lawyering. "But it didn't say I couldn't do X," when X was clearly rude, harassing behavior (which someone had forgotten to include in the specific rules). MUCH better to keep it simple. – rmunn Oct 8 '14 at 1:56

Drop that boss, I am a volunteer

Word like "boss", "client", "customer" is not appropriate when targeting volunteer audience. Stack Exchange users contribute freely, in their free time, at their own terms and you shouldn't expect them to treat others like a boss.

Now, don't get me wrong, I find "talking like to a boss" fantastically efficient approach. I've seen it used frequently in comments at Workplace.SE and it's... wonderful. Ruthless analysis of what's wrong with the post, packed into explicitly friendly message1 looks and works great, even (especially!) when used against very low quality, heavily downvoted posts.

I am trying to learn this way myself and wouldn't hesitate to personally recommend it to anyone. But no matter how I like it, it simply has no place in a general guidance for volunteer users.

PS. Wonder if this was introduced as a "duck feature".

  • I think almost everyone, whether they have a job with a boss (or colleagues) or not, would understand what is meant there. The phrasing doesn't imply you have a boss or colleagues. I don't see what the problem is here. – Duncan Jones Oct 8 '14 at 13:20
  • @Duncan boss is a "person who exercises control or authority"; one I'd take an extra effort to avoid coming up as confrontational when delivering negative message. I learned (rather hard way) to properly talk to boss at my paid jobs and I am learning to do so here (as this seems to be efficient approach). And I believe this is not appropriate in a guidance targeted at users who contribute voluntarily, that is because they want to and not because they are forced to – gnat Oct 8 '14 at 13:36
  • Ah, I understand. So your complaint is not about the choice of words being offensive, but rather that we don't need to be that polite to people we are choosing to help in our spare time? – Duncan Jones Oct 8 '14 at 13:44
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    @Duncan something like that. Boss assumes authority, dependency, obligatory job, stuff like that. Volunteers don't have bosses. As for being that polite, I would be happy for guidance to somehow promote / encourage this, but word "boss" just won't let it fly. No sense to put in good advice that will be psychologically rejected by audience due to poor wording – gnat Oct 8 '14 at 13:48
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    @gnat I think we need an example in that sentence, since plenty of people have no qualms being rude in real life. Do you have a suggestion for what we can use instead of "boss or colleague"? – Laura Oct 8 '14 at 13:50
  • @Laura if I had a suggestion, I would already make it, right here in the answer. :( I need to chew it out, maybe I can wordsmith something. Tough part is, "talk like to a boss" makes such a good match to the way of communication I'd want to encourage, that makes it harder to figure "boss-free" alternative – gnat Oct 8 '14 at 13:52
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    @Laura Would it be sufficient to just write: "You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, whom you respect.". It may also be nice to drop the double negatives (shouldn't and wouldn't) when you next edit it. – Duncan Jones Oct 8 '14 at 13:57
  • @Laura I would probably buy wording like proposed by Duncan ^^^ in comment above. Key word respect could work about as good and is boss-free – gnat Oct 8 '14 at 14:05
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    @Duncan: From what I gather, the intent seems to go far beyond that. The intent appears to be to explicitly disallow statements like "your assumption is wrong; here's why" and "your code is buggy; you have the loops on lines 40 and 41 in the wrong order." I think this is ridiculous, but perhaps "Don't say anything you wouldn't say to a well-behaved 5-year-old in front of her parents" fits better. – tmyklebu Oct 8 '14 at 14:13
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    @tmyklebu Wait, what? The two examples you gave are totally fine...you're allowed to tell people they're wrong, we just want you to be nice about it. – Laura Oct 8 '14 at 14:31
  • @Laura: OK. That's not what I got from the "your boss" passage. It sounded to me like you wanted people to engage in active coddling while pointing out errors. (No, this isn't explicitly written anywhere in your policy. I inferred it from the "be civil" and "choose your words carefully" bullets.) – tmyklebu Oct 8 '14 at 14:46
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    @Duncan, cultural differences (also mentioned in other answers or comments about the "boss" phrase) are still an issue with "someone whom you respect". E.g. since you appear to be a fellow Brit, you will probably recognise that some of us tend to be politer to people we despise than to people we esteem (and possibly also politer to people who aren't present than to people who are and can hear our tone of voice). – Peter Taylor Oct 8 '14 at 19:01
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    @PeterTaylor Brit style politeness is one I find to be especially helpful here. The worse the post, the harder I aim to criticize, the more polite I want my message to appear, to avoid being distracted by whining about "negativity", "rudeness", "personally targeted downvotes". Lazy suckers dropping their thoughtless dumps at us surprisingly tend to put much more effort into complaining about "unfair treatment" and I try to do my best to avoid wasting my time messing with that – gnat Oct 9 '14 at 6:47

Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions. 

What does that mean, really? That we should hold that a priori, before reading a single word of the post? Or that we must hold that view despite any kind of evidence to the contrary? Because if we did that, we would never have reason to flag any post.

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    It means that good intentions are the default assumption, in the absence of evidence to the contrary. When a post starts with "Hey, Buttwads:", you may consider that to be evidence to the contrary. But, if someone posts a dupe, for example, you should not assume they are "too lazy to even bother search for dupes." The "good intentions" assumption is that "they don't even know they're supposed to do that, and the dupe suggester probably didn't show them the right target." (To be clear, it should still be closed as a dupe, but comments (if any) should be educational, not critical. – Jaydles Oct 6 '14 at 21:43
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    @Jaydies That's a good explanation. Perhaps it could be added, because it's not at all what the rule says. – Dan Hulme Oct 6 '14 at 23:54
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    Hey Buttwads...I really like @Jaydles comment and I agree – Nick Manning Oct 7 '14 at 18:36
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    @NickManning, let's try to stay respectful: It's Doctor Buttwad" - I didn't spend all those years earning a PhD in Buttwadology only be addressed as plain old "Buttwads." – Jaydles Oct 7 '14 at 20:04

Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable

This list is very US-centric, and you're the international site. I would add explicitely to that list the nationality, native language, as well as financial status.

Please notice that we are an international site and English is not the native language for all of the participants. Don't laugh at someone's mistakes. If the mistake is obvious, just fix it, otherwise ask for clarification.

  • Could you help me understand what you mean by the list being US-centric? All of the items contained in that list seem like they would apply to any person, anywhere in the world...I understand your wanting to add nationality / native language to the list; I'm just not clear on what you mean by the rest of the list being US-centric. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:46
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    @Laura I mean that it lists explicitely the discrimination issues typical for US, for example concentrating on race. In the Europe, nationality is more the issue, for example. Most Europeans are of the same race, but they are discriminated based on their nationality. And the language issues are probably the most heavy discrimination factor in the international community (while not so obvious in the country where everyone speaks the same language). It's more about accents and the missing items. – Danubian Sailor Oct 7 '14 at 15:08
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    It sounds like a good solution would be to add 'nationality' to the list, and have a section that comments on being generous to people who aren't native English speakers (or the site's primary language, in the case of the non-English sites). – Keen Oct 7 '14 at 16:13

I think the following sentence should change from:

Refrain from name-calling and other ad-hominem attacks.

to:

Refrain from name-calling and other personal attacks.

I'm an articulate speaker, with English as a first language, but I had to follow the link to find out what ad-hominem means. I suspect many others will do the same.

I think when you have to provide a link to a Wikipedia article to explain a phrase, it's not suitable for a help article.

  • I agree. I also think the word "expletives" is not a commonly used word and could be substituted to make the meaning clearer – joshlk Oct 8 '14 at 8:57
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    The proposed change would also save us from all those overly pedantic debates about when a personal attack actually is argumentum ad hominem and when it's not. – yannis Oct 8 '14 at 9:34
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    I'm also interested in not alienating people. Nothing makes you feel more stupid (or inferior to the author) than having to follow the thoughtfully provided links to understand the big scary word. – Duncan Jones Oct 8 '14 at 9:42
  • Ad-hominem attack? Stack Overflow podcast episode 41 is required listening. See also An Open Letter to Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood. – Peter Mortensen Oct 10 '14 at 17:05

Laura, sorry, here's another answer for you to read :)

My aim has been:

  • reduced text - more chance of people reading it.
  • make headings work in isolation (for people who will only skip).
  • reduce what I feel is redundant be civil - be respectful.
  • remove specifics of types of harassment. Harassment is harassment, the type is immaterial.
  • Include reference to culture/language barrier.
  • I also prefer 'avoid' for vulgarity, not an outright ban.

What does 'be nice' mean here at Stack Exchange?

Here we do not accept the unpleasantness that characterises much of the internet.

Be respectful: you are communicating with real people, treat them as you would wish to be treated.

Be welcoming and patient: everyone here is either helping others for free, or trying to solve a problem. Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions. Be patient with others who may not know everything you know.

Don't get personal: direct your criticism at ideas, not at people. Insults, harassment and personal attacks will be sanctioned.

Choose your words carefully: people of multiple cultures and languages are present here, what you write may be misunderstood, and you may be misunderstanding what you read. This also applies to humor.

Avoid vulgarity: if it's Not Safe For Work, it's Not Safe For Here either.

Abandon useless disputes: if you find yourself losing patience, walk away, someone else will take care of it.

Report bad behavior if you feel that you are being harassed, or you see someone else being harassed, flag the offending posts. You may also contact Stack Exchange staff directly if you feel that it is necessary.

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    A very good write-up. Wish it could be merged with Floris' practical suggestions. – Deer Hunter Oct 9 '14 at 11:05
  • That's pretty good, but I don't see the point of "be welcoming and patient" and "abandon useless disputes." I don't really like calling your document a "code of conduct," though, since that carries with it a connotation of a set of absolute rules. You've written a concise guide to civilised behaviour, not a ilst of enforceable rules. – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 15:21
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    This is very, very good. The "walk away" clause would definitely be nice to have included, and the "bolding for skimmers" is also well-thought. – Josh Caswell Oct 9 '14 at 19:36
  • @tmyklebu - a list of enforceable rules still relies on community moderators. – Deer Hunter Oct 9 '14 at 19:37
  • @DeerHunter: Yes. My point is that making things like "abandon useless disputes" into rules means that whether a dispute is "useless" and whether it's been "abandoned" are now subject to review by moderators. Same goes for whether I chose my words carefully enough. That doesn't strike me as a positive development. – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 19:39
  • @tmyklebu, point taken, what do you think now? – Benjol Oct 10 '14 at 4:39
  • @Benjol: I think you nailed it. – tmyklebu Oct 10 '14 at 13:30

Journeyman Geek makes good points about keeping things succinct. In my opinion something like:

What is Stack Exchange's code of conduct?

Treat others with respect, assume good intentions, and let us know if you see something wrong. Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

  • You shouldn't talk to anyone in a way that you wouldn't do in person.

  • Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions. Everyone here is either generously donating their time to help others or is trying to learn something or work through a problem.

  • Focus on the post, not the person. Keep it professional, and avoid criticism of the author. Don't make assumptions about a user's identity, don't do name-calling or other ad-hominem attacks.

  • Choose your words carefully. Profanities are not allowed. Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke; if you wouldn't say it to a stranger then don't say it here.

  • Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, religion or any other type of personal attack is completely unacceptable. Sexually suggestive language or content is not appropriate for any part of $SiteName, including meta and chat.

If you are uncomfortable with how you or another user is being treated, alert the site moderators by flagging the offending posts. Moderators and Stack Exchange staff will take appropriate action. For the rare case where you think only Stack Exchange staff can handle the situation, contact us directly.

The point is to keep things shorter and digestible without reducing the actual content of each point. Your current version gets so long and rambly it's hard to remember any point but the one you've just read.

Remember that everyone here is either generously donating their time to help others, or is trying to learn something or work through a problem. Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions.

That just isn't true of 90% of the questions here (or at least on Stack Overflow). Not because the askers are bad people, but because they don't understand what the site is about. Until they learn that, as pure as their heart my be, their intentions are not good for the site.

On top of that, often they're not actually trying to learn something or work through a problem, they're just trying to get an answer they don't have to work through. Which isn't an evil thing to do, but it's not good for the site.

If you go in expecting that many people will be help vampires because they don't know any better, you can try to guide them in the right direction—and many of them will turn into good users (and many of the rest will leave).

If you go in assuming they're already good citizens whose intentions are aligned with the site, you're either going to misinterpret their questions and handle them incorrectly, or get angry at them.

So, as nice as "assume good intentions" sounds, I think it's actually counter-productive. Assume they're good people, and that they want to become good citizens and learn what the right intentions are, but don't assume they already know.

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    Aren't their intentions are good enough for us to gently educate them about the purpose of the site? Newbies are not coming here thinking: "Yeah, I know I'm supposed to RTFM and think through the question and post an MWE and only ask questions that are on topic, but screw that. I'm going to try to get an easy answer anyway." They just see that questions get answered, and don't now what to do next, so they ask an inappropriate question. (People first learning in a domain often haven't learned how to develop a good question. Helping them do that does more than helping them participate in SO.) – Mars Oct 8 '14 at 0:43
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    @Mars I wasn't suggesting we shouldn't educate anyone. I was merely suggesting that you can't force the education, and being nice about it 80 times a day (and getting worse) gets old & tired. You can write all the nice text you want, but there's always going to be a disconnect - the veteran has no idea if the newbie has read it and is ignoring it, or just doesn't know that it exists. The newbie should be smart enough if their question gets down-voted or closed, especially with comments/reasons, to maybe go read the FAQ now without needing kid gloves and hand-holding. Most don't though, IMHO. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 8 '14 at 0:54
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    "That just isn't true of 90% of the questions here (or at least on StackOverflow)" - Remember that this says "Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions", not that "Every question and answer is posted with good intentions." The difference is huge. You might be right that not every question is posted with good intentions, but at the same time... the site might be better off if we act as if it were true -- if we phrase our comments and answers as if we assume that questions were posted with good intentions. You can still vote however you like. – D.W. Oct 8 '14 at 0:58
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    To be more specific: Can you give concrete examples? Can you give an example of a comment you would post, in response to a question, based on the assumption that the author might be a help vampire, that wouldn't be just as good if it were phrased based on an assumption of good intentions? (Also: If you are assuming that the user can be guided in the right direction and can turn into a good user, aren't you implicitly assuming good intentions?) – D.W. Oct 8 '14 at 1:00
  • @AaronBertrand, OK, fair enough. One thing I've noticed on SO, in the different languages that I pay attention to, is that there are different newbie patterns with different tools. Also I don't pay attention to the most popular languages, usually. You are probably experiencing the problem more than I do. (For example, Clojure newbies catch on pretty quickly, because they usually have some programming experience. NetLogo newbies are common, and often very clueless, but innocently so. But there aren't very many NetLogo questions, so one doesn't get tired of them.) – Mars Oct 8 '14 at 3:54
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    @D.W. IMO the problem is the heading of that section, especially the "be welcoming and patient" part. Some behaviour is simply unwelcome on SO, and we should certainly not be welcoming in response to it. If someone post a badly formatted and unresearched question amounting to "google something for me" or "do my work please", we should make it very clear that this type of question (and by extension, any user asking these questions) is not welcome at all. If we sugarcoat this too much, we might as well just abandon any notion of question quality completely. – l4mpi Oct 8 '14 at 7:31
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    @l4mpi Certain types of questions being unwelcome is an entirely different issue from being welcoming to people. You should still be trying to make an effort to make users feel welcome, even if they don't know all the rules at first. It's possible to tell someone they're question is not a good fit here without making them personally feel like they don't belong; that's what we're getting at here. – Laura Oct 8 '14 at 13:53
  • @Laura I object to the idea that I should make users feel welcome who post content that is utterly unwelcome. I would rather make it very clear that they, by extension, are only welcome to actively contribute if their contribution holds any value to the community. Otherwise, they are only welcome to passively lurk until they learn the rules and expected behaviour of the site. – l4mpi Oct 8 '14 at 14:00
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    @l4mpi You don't have to go out of your way to make anyone feel welcome, you just have to refrain from actively making people feel unwelcome through the words that you choose. Being nice doesn't mean not down-voting and closing a crap question. Being respectful simply means not telling the person to take a flying leap in the process. We have things in place to help folks learn how to ask better questions as they continue trying. If you can't say anything nice, then talk with your votes. – Tim Post Oct 8 '14 at 14:39
  • @D.W.: My point is that assuming the question was posted with good intentions, instead of reading it and immediately recognizing that it wasn't, will cause you to bend over backward to make excuses for bad questions, ultimately hurting the asker rather than helping him. (And if it doesn't do that, then it's just a meaningless platitude, so who cares either way?) And on your larger point, that's exactly the point I was trying to make: there's a difference between being a good person (which we can assume) and being a good SO citizen (which we can't). – abarnert Oct 10 '14 at 17:31
  • @D.W.: As for more specifics: I've posted many comments explaining to people why their question is not a good question, and what they can add to it (which may take some work on their part) to make it a good question. If I were assuming they'd already put in the work, and therefore tried to figure out how to tease a good question out of their incomplete nonsense, they would never get an answer, or at best it would be useless to the site. This way, sometimes they do the work—and then they get a good and answer, and we get a good question and answer that improve the site. – abarnert Oct 10 '14 at 17:34

This proposal seems ideal to me. Encouraging people to act well is always a good idea. I do, however, propose an addition.

It is mentioned clearly that discrimination against minorities is unacceptable, and this is laudable. But we need one more step. There are also those who accuse others of such discrimination falsely to allow them to trigger a flow of downvotes. I recently witnessed this happening to another user on Travel.

The biggest problem with such accusations is that many people trust others to have read and understood deeply the content so accused, and are therefore willing to let it be as 'probably true'. Even if they don't agree, they may not flag, subconsciously considering the topic 'tainted'.

So, I propose that the name-calling part could be improved with some extra detail: "This includes accusations of sexism, racism, and homophobia. Whether it is true or not, one of the two deserves a flag."

I do not know any other way to encourage that people take extra time to read posts before judgement. Prejudice against someone because the next post included the word "misogyny" targeted at them falsely is a serious problem.

I just want to be sure to address the fact that being wrong about this subject is as dangerous as ignoring real discrimination.

  • I think your point is mostly covered by the "assume good intentions" bit at the beginning of the page...I think it's important enough to call out more explicitly in the bulleted list, though, so keep an eye out for an update. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:41
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    @Laura: Thank you. This vector of attack has been growing of late, and it is good to see that a site as widely used as the Stack Exchange is willing to take a stance against it. – Magus Oct 7 '14 at 15:38
  • I think a blanket ban on calling people out on violation this section of the rules is misguided. I think I agree with what you're getting at, that this section of the rules doesn't address all the real-world instances of these issues, but a blanket ban on calling out instances of this essentially discourages meaningful analysis and discussion of instances of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. – Keen Oct 7 '14 at 16:11
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    @Keen: I agree, but such discussion should generally be restricted to the chat. Meaningful analysis is hard to carry out in SE comments, and is not effective against those who hold very strong opinions. These matters inflate to flame wars and name calling very quickly, more so than nearly any other topic. I want to encourage careful thought about things, which results in flagging. I do not want to see people be influenced by others' opinions on this subject, because sexism and racism place a stigma on their target whether called out truly or falsely. Having it too openly displayed is harmful. – Magus Oct 7 '14 at 16:21

This is horrible. It's longer than the old one, and it says less.

This community has earned a reputation for avoiding ugliness, harassment, and bigotry because people like you have refused to allow it.

Among whom has "the community" earned this reputation? What qualifies as "ugliness"? Harassment and bigotry are genuinely bad, but you've written this like you have no idea what they are. Furthermore, I don't see why you'd fill space in a "code of conduct" with something like this.

Please treat others with respect, assume good intentions, and let us know if you see something wrong. This isn't always easy, so we created a non-exhaustive set of principles intended to help all of us communicate well. Here are some specific guidelines to keep in mind:

The real-life test: You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague. Always conduct yourself in a respectful manner.

These two sentences are contradictory. I treat people disrespectfully in real life quite often if they're disrespectful themselves or if they're about to do something dangerous and they don't seem to realise it. Are you sure you meant to write the first sentence?

We're all in this together, so be welcoming and patient. Remember that everyone here is either generously donating their time to help others, or is trying to learn something or work through a problem. Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be patient with others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

This is false and everyone knows it. Lots of people come to Stack Overflow, because they're in the middle of an interview and they can't solve the problem, or because they have a homework assignment that they want someone else to do. Writing this sort of thing in an official document discredits both the document and its author.

Also, why did you need to bring up the "respect" thing again? You've already said it.

Focus on the post, not the person. Keep it professional, and avoid criticism of the author, (as opposed to the post). Don't make assumptions about a user's identity, and avoid references to demographics unless they are an essential part of the question or answer. Refrain from name-calling and other ad-hominem attacks.

You already covered "keep it professional" two paragraphs ago.

Choose your words carefully. Expletives are generally not allowed; don't be vulgar. Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke: if it isn't appropriate at work or home, it is not appropriate here.

Why weaken "expletives are not allowed" by inserting a weasel word?

Not everybody is from your home, not everybody works with you, and certain things that aren't appropriate in polite conversation may well be appropriate at work or at home depending on the particular situation. Why are you making assumptions about our lives one paragraph after you implored us not to make assumptions about others?

Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable. Sexually suggestive language, imagery, and attention are not appropriate for any part of $SiteName, including meta and chat.

You covered harassing people already. I understand that the explicit enumeration is required for some legal reason.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please alert the site moderators immediately by flagging the offending post(s). Moderators and/or Stack Exchange staff will investigate the issue and take appropriate action. For the rare case where you think only Stack Exchange staff can handle the situation, contact us directly.

This adds something to the previous "Be nice" section. Why not just add this to the old page?

This, however, requires people to read, which as we've seen on some sites with on/off topic, people just don't do.

This very incident happened earlier today, when a user (not a new user, either) had a question closed for being off-topic (shopping reccomendation) and got very upset and offended about the question being closed. This could have easily been avoided by simply reading what is on-topic before posting his question. Link to question here, soon to be deleted.

enter image description here

Full-size image.

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    (Un)fortunately this misses out comments from the OP which have been deleted because they were (correctly) flagged as offensive. – user147520 Oct 7 '14 at 13:41
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    @tombull89 - I am a mod at Money.SE, and we get this same thing now and then. I personally try to welcome the member, and give advice on the nature of the appropriate Q&A before the DVs start or question is closed. For your example, the member clearly has anger issues that are outside the scope of SE. When someone goes off like that, in my opinion, there's little hope to keep them as a member. I am tired of "but my question is about money, how can it possibly be off-topic?" But it's still my job to respond. Kindly. – JoeTaxpayer Oct 7 '14 at 15:30
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    You really think Ortund's problem here is due to a "lack of clarity about what acceptable behaviour is and isn't"? And it's not just that he decided to act childishly? And that he won't act childishly in the future if he has to read someone's ramblings on civility, sex, and professionalism? – tmyklebu Oct 7 '14 at 22:17
  • Sure, of course this isn't perfect. The proposed code of conduct is not a silver bullet. It won't solve all problems. There will still be some problems it doesn't solve. That doesn't mean it is worthless to try to document expectations, though. There will be some users who might improve their behavior after a kind note and a link to the code of conduct, and isn't that enough to make it a positive thing? – D.W. Oct 8 '14 at 1:08
  • Could you please start removing avatars and names when posting such screenshots? PS or MS Paint might help you to not call single people out. Public shaming is not a good thing. – kaiser Oct 9 '14 at 1:04
  • Actually, this is exactly a situation I think we need to deal with. Not the original poster, but the responses to said poster. Maybe one comment in that screenshot is civil, and even that one is debatable. When someone gets like this, we still need to follow the rules, and avoid provoking them any further. Something like "Just because you see someone else being even extremely uncivil doesn't mean you should respond in kind," would be a great addition to the conduct code. Across the entire Internet, it is the most common mistake, even made by people who are otherwise impeccably nice. – trlkly Oct 9 '14 at 1:56
  • This post itself seems to fall outside of the rules as just posted. If you're trying to talk about a systematic problem, there's no need to call out the specific user, and you can censor their name. Leaving their name in, IMHO, counts as a (mild) form of harassment. – raptortech97 Oct 9 '14 at 2:43
  • I believe if there is a way to transfer this question to the relevant forum organically, this actually wouldn't be a problem. His question was innocent enough, I believe. And unlike many people here, most people don't have a lot of time IRL. It's going to be irritating. – hrshi1990 Oct 9 '14 at 6:09
  • @trlkly what is debatable about my comment? – user147520 Oct 9 '14 at 6:23
  • @trlkly: I think the responses to the asker here were appropriate once he decided to lower the level of discourse. I do not think you're going to stop humans from reacting like humans by instituting a bunch of rules. – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 14:39
  • @raptortech97 the name is a pseudonym, it's in an image and so not going to show up on Google when people Google for the pseudonym, the user doesn't know they've been posted about, and nobody who reads this is going to care enough to go out of their way to interact with that user on SE just to be a dick to them. Where is the harassment here? I literally have no idea what potential harm you could be seeing in 'calling a user out' besides the ones above, nor what definition of "harassment" you're using such that this qualifies. – Mark Amery Oct 12 '14 at 12:09

I want to suggest adding the following:

Do not provoke: If your post (especially comments) can be interpreted by reasonable people as having an intent of provoking negative response from other member(s) of the community then it is not welcome here. If you can not post it a way that is not likely to be taken as provocative then do not post it.

I think most of the behavior we are wanting to curtail happens in comments and are the result of comments that would fit in here. These comments are in general not constructive or productive anyway and even though often they have a legitimate concern they often seem intentionally phrased in a way that is intended to provoke rather than to help or clarify.

  • I don't think any criticism has ever been written that can't be "interpreted by reasonable people as having an intent of provoking negative response." People can be really, really sensitive. – tmyklebu Oct 8 '14 at 14:04
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    Its one thing to upset someone its another to post with the intent of upsetting someone. Most people can see the difference when they are not the target of the comment. It gets harder to differentiate when you are the target though I will agree. And for the record I am open to edits to make this clearer or more easily assessed – Chad Oct 8 '14 at 14:08
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    It's one thing to post with the intent of upsetting someone and it's quite another to post in a way that someone else will interpret as upsetting. It's impossible to ban the former, so you're proposing to ban the latter. It's massively overbroad. – tmyklebu Oct 8 '14 at 14:18
  • This is a good thought, but I'd say -- at least in its current wording -- that it fails the "people who need to be told this aren't going to recognize it" test. I will think on different ways of writing it. – Josh Caswell Oct 8 '14 at 18:29
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    @JoshCaswell - My thought is it gives the mods some latitude in making judgement and the community some teeth in complaining about the less helpful posts. – Chad Oct 8 '14 at 19:02
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    @tmyklebu I think it is generally possible to determine whether someone posted with the intent to offend. The only real exception is when they deliberately try to hide their intentions. Sure, the latter may get off light, but we should still stop the former. I also don't buy that posting in a manner that most people would not find offensive is all that difficult. And, when you do accidentally offend, apologies go a long way in helping with the problem and indicating you didn't mean to provoke. – trlkly Oct 9 '14 at 1:46
  • @trlkly: Sure. But, in anything close to a borderline case, different people are going to come up with different answers. What do you do then? – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 1:47
  • @tmyklebu To answer your question directly: have both sides make their arguments, and then have a moderator make the final decision. But my point is that I don't think this situation happens as often as you'd think. Usually there's just one person who mistakenly thinks the person intended to offend--the person who got offended. Outsiders looking in can usually tell that isn't the case. On the other hand, if someone means to offend, I think pretty much everyone agrees, save for maybe the guy who is always somewhat acerbic. – trlkly Oct 9 '14 at 2:35
  • @trlkly: I (now, after Laura clarified) believe this rule is intended to give moderators more to stand on when they do clean up offensive material. Currently they are quite conservative doing so, and I hope that continues. However, the rule enforced by moderators is something like "if the moderator who sees your material thinks it's clearly off-base, he will delete it." This works and does not require moderators to judge the poster's intent. What do you feel this proposal would add or subtract from the status quo? – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 13:13
  • @tmyklebu - I think that people who do not have a history of this type of behavior get the benefit of the doubt, and those that are regularly being warned about it do not. If the regular provacateurs want to continue to participate then they will need to go out of their way to make sure they are not being provacative. That is really the goal anyway. – Chad Oct 9 '14 at 13:24
  • @Chad: Do the "regular provocateurs" on Workplace and the like somehow fail to violate the "be nice" rule or the thing Laura currently has up? If not, why is another rule necessary? – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 13:37
  • Its not just the workplace. And yes there are alot of creative programmer types here that are really good at going right up to that line or appearing to be on the right side of that line but know that what they are doing is likely to cause problems. – Chad Oct 9 '14 at 13:40
  • @Chad: How do you propose to fix this problem that you perceive? Your current suggestion does not appear to do anything to anything other than encourage moderators to censor more liberally. – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 15:17
  • @tmyklebu Through community moderation and flags. That is how it is supposed to work. The rule just makes it explicit that this type of behavior is to be avoided period. – Chad Oct 9 '14 at 15:32
  • @Chad: So basically you're proposing...no change at all? By adding a paragraph about provocation? – tmyklebu Oct 9 '14 at 16:36

Stack Exchange currently permits "sexually suggestive language and imagery" where its use is essential and strictly on topic. We have a biology site where I don't think you want to ban discussion of the biological aspect of sexual relations. We also have religion sites where matters of sexual morality often reach the hot list.

Users should be encouraged to be cautious, to report sexual harrassment, and yet to welcome honest on-topic enquiry.

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    The rule seems more to prevent things like sexist or crude remarks. Frank, on-topic discussions of sexual topics aren't related to this rule. – Keen Oct 7 '14 at 16:16
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    @Keen, I am sure that is the intent, and I fully support that intent. Further, I think it might discourage provocative question titles, that I also think are harmful to the communities here. But I want to highlight the possibility of collateral damage to frank, explicit Q&A about sex. – Qsigma Oct 7 '14 at 18:45
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    @Qsigma, I encourage you to give more concrete examples of how you think this langugae could cause collateral damage. Right now your comment is a bit abstract. – D.W. Oct 8 '14 at 1:04

The spirit of the updated laws is awesome. But--first, despite the length my comment will accrue (& it will)--I <3 Brevity. Please; forbear a moment with an old EULA hostage-negotiator & reference publisher? Responses to the actual wording, imvho, point to a general issue: the code tries to cover the widest possible range of infractions, & thus creates the wrong kind of stack. The user-objections imply that some of this rewording is less suited to an FAQ-friendly code of action than it might be to a "See also:" reference at the end, or a EULA (sorry). Example: instead of simply declaring that "Ad hominem attacks are unacceptable in any circumstance. Period" we are given instead a lengthy definition of "ad hominem." Such a definition vastly increases the likelihood of people begging questions like that of "expletives", while in fact, defining either is unnecessary in a basic code.

It should be possible to work in a (very) pithy preface defining "civil" language & demeanor on this site--because, this code is exemplary--but removing the contractual legalese should enhance clarity & increase adherence to le Code Stackexchange. Besides, a code of conduct like this deserves better than to stray into "defined, for the purposes of this Agreement" territory, as though it was attempting to sneak T&Cs past the unwary.

For the benefit of users who need clarification of a term like "expletives" (tho' that might cover more ground if "condescending or judgmental modifiers & expletives" were classed with ad hominem attacks as point-blank unacceptable): definition of a few choice terms could appear after the body of the text, with a link to a preferred dictionary for readers seeking further enlightenment. PS: Ty for removing the vague & always-suspect "nice" :).

Wouldn't "Attacking or harassing individuals is unacceptable." be much simpler and more complete than the current list of specific offenses?

As written it sounds like only some kinds of harassment (those explicitly mentioned) are unwelcome. For example, harassing and attacking someone on non-personal grounds seems to be all right (like when their posts use a programming language I don't like).

If indeed all forms of harassment are unwelcome it would be much simpler to just write that. That would then obviously also contain harassment based on gender, harassment based on age, ...

I really hate it; I think the former version was much better.

I am talking about a bunch of sites (so, Unix & Linux, some others coming out of Area 51 now), not Stack Exchange in general: those places are not work, aren't home, it is not out with friends. Maybe the company behind Stack Exchange would have a big advantage in making this like a workplace, I don't know. Anyway, I do not like bullying, but direct, honest, flamboyant, frank and maybe rude talking is often part of what places are full of nerds, not geeks, like I am.

I would reword the whole paragraph to

Do not say anything Linus wouldn't write in LKML.

  • Not "Do not say anything Ulrich Drepper wouldn't write?" Or Theo de Raadt or something? :) – tmyklebu Oct 7 '14 at 16:18
  • @tmyklebu "Do not say anything you ever thought the average 40yrs old linux guy would say in front of L.Poettering". Deal? – guido Oct 7 '14 at 16:43
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    Yeah, because LKML is such a shining example of tolerance: lkml.org/lkml/2014/10/6/432 lkml.org/lkml/2014/10/4/79 – Brad Larson Oct 7 '14 at 16:51
  • @BradLarson I think you missed my point in the previous paragraph. That kind of message you linked, may fit a ml but obviously not a q&a site. It is gratuitous, off-topic, nerdy and very sad; but anyway I would hate somebody censoring that in a mailing list. Nothing to do with plenty of other technical messages there, with a similar tone, and the fact that that tone could be acceptable in here. – guido Oct 7 '14 at 17:13
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    @guido - Those kind of messages have no place in a mailing list I'd ever want to participate in. Linus himself is not a model anyone here should follow: arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/… . Frankly, if he behaved on SE the way he does on that mailing list, we'd probably end up having to suspend him. – Brad Larson Oct 7 '14 at 17:22
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    @BradLarson the world is beautiful because it is varied; if SE will take another route it is perfectly fine with me, i'll participate whenever i want - and following the rules - yet my ideal model was a technical slashdot. Conversely, censorship is a real problem in today internet, and the is not a model anyone here should follow really really makes me sad. – guido Oct 7 '14 at 17:27
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    @BradLarson: Yes, crazies sometimes post to LKML. Seems like they're usually ignored or TTFO, and LKML winds up being a wonderfully productive place of discussion. Doesn't seem like any sort of pasteurisation effort is needed there. – tmyklebu Oct 7 '14 at 17:35

The real-life test: You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague. Always conduct yourself in a respectful manner.

This is ambiguous. Everyone behaves the way they would talk to somebody in person; If they're rude here, there's always someone they'd be rude to in person. Replace with: "...in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, in a professional setting, including a boss..."

We're all in this together, so be welcoming and patient.

The "we're all in this together" is patronizing and inflammatory. It adds nothing; remove it.

Choose your words carefully. Expletives are generally not allowed; don't be vulgar. Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke: if it isn't appropriate at work or home, it is not appropriate here.

I think this is more clear:
Choose your works carefully. Avoid all offensive language, including offensive words, phrases, and jokes. Remember that what you post here effectively becomes your résumé; moderate your language accordingly.

There is precious little that the new (old?) code adds to the table. It reads like something promulgated by the Office of Harassment Prevention and Groupthink.

  • There's too much talk about sex in the policy. Sex harassment, gender discrimination, sexual images. Can be replaced with "Stack Exchange doesn't care about sex, and you shouldn't, either".

  • Is issuing the code of conduct really necessary? A well-behaving community already does moderate all the stuff you mentioned and plenty of what has gone unsaid. The be nice rule was elegant in its simplicity and reliance on community consensus.

Printing out new policies every other week is a sure sign of bureaucracy. Are you sure you want to turn Stack Exchange into another Wikipedia?

EDIT: based on Robert Harvey's remarks, I can understand that this policy is written by lawyers and is intended to exculpate Stack Exchange as a business entity from allegations of sitting for so long without a formal anti-harassment code of conduct. If it is mandated legally, I see no point in discussing it. Simply lock the post, and be done with it. Also be done with the spirit of community moderation, as well.

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    "promulgated by the Office of Harassment Prevention"... you and I had the same gut reaction there... but I disagree with the "essentially about sex" bit of your post. – Floris Oct 7 '14 at 4:02
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    @RobertHarvey - at least part of the "Focus on the post" item mentions the other user's identity. "Be nice" captures all the nicety and leaves out the legal detritus, instead. – Deer Hunter Oct 7 '14 at 4:05
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    Yes. Given the stark difference between the very specific legal verbiage and the very general "be nice" guidance, I'd say that a significant portion of this policy is legally motivated. It's unlikely that the lawyers will see your point of view. – Robert Harvey Oct 7 '14 at 4:06
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    @RobertHarvey - then why should the community ever bother with discussing this code? If it is pushed on Stack Exchange sites from the powers-that-be and cannot be changed without proving you're a member of the ABA, there's no need in asking the question. – Deer Hunter Oct 7 '14 at 4:09
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    -1 for yet another knee jerk reaction to the company seeking input on an integral part of the network. – Vogel612's Shadow Oct 7 '14 at 7:37
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    @Vogel612 - why seek input if the policy is already set? – Deer Hunter Oct 7 '14 at 7:39
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    They wouldn't seek input if it were... This isn't a blog announcement. It's a meta-discussion for a reason. And your answer is frankly speaking not constructive to that discussion... – Vogel612's Shadow Oct 7 '14 at 7:40
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    @Vogel612 - there's big difference between genuine discussion and an attempt to legitimize pre-cooked policy. – Deer Hunter Oct 7 '14 at 7:42
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    I will just ... no nevermind. I think you are seeing this from a negative viewpoint. I will most probably not be able to actually discuss with you. So... YMMV ;) – Vogel612's Shadow Oct 7 '14 at 7:52
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    Just to clarify: this isn't written or motivated by our lawyers. It's motivated by Stack Exchange caring about creating a place filled with respectful and respected individuals. We've noticed some issues with behavioral expectations not being clear, so we're trying to clarify expectations. We want to signal to new users that harassment, disrespect, and other undesirable behavior isn't tolerated here, and to make sure all users can agree on the basic categories of behavior that are not allowed. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:51
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    If you don't care to discuss the content of our code of conduct, that's perfectly fine. I've actually gotten some useful feedback here about changes we can make to the wording to make things clearer, though, so I'm pretty happy with this thread. It can all still be summed up by the phrase "be nice"; we've just provided some expanded guidance for times when it might not be so obvious to a user. – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:53
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    @Laura - although putting the changes live could have been postponed till some reasonable time has elapsed since the beginning of the discussion in Meta. There, perhaps, lies a watershed between listening to opinions and autocratic decision-making. – Deer Hunter Oct 7 '14 at 15:04
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    +1 for the original answer and +1 after the edit. if this comes from the layers of SE, we cannot do anything else that embrace it, but as there is no point in discussing it, do not make it like it was a community product – guido Oct 7 '14 at 18:05
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    Just to be crystal clear: Not one single lawyer was involved in this. And it had nothing to do with liability or other legal concerns. It's okay to think it's too long, or specific, but please don't think it's some kind of legal CYA BS. It's just about being as clear as we can about what you can expect here. – Jaydles Oct 7 '14 at 20:14
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    It doesn't really matter if people read it on their own @WarrenDew (although it would be nice). I'd go as far as saying that most people on SE don't even need to bother with it at all. For the few that may step out of line every now and then, it would be nice if we had clear documentation to point them at and help them understand the error in their ways. – yannis Oct 8 '14 at 14:17

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