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?

  • 56
    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
  • 30
    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
  • 23
    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 The Dragon 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
  • 22
    "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


"This community has earned a reputation for avoiding ugliness, harassment, and bigotry" - so it sounds like we're in pretty good shape, no? So why do we want to change things, again? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • 2
    I'd love to see evidence in support of this claim. – Steve Bennett Oct 8 '14 at 15:08
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    I don't know. I personally have a real problem with there being a censor for politeness. It just goes against all evidence of humanity we've witnessed so far. What this site needs to make as its core aim is honesty and the truth. Keeping bars on human behavior (proven wrong in human history) is not the way. Expletives can be bad, but they can also be necessary. Wilful emotional blindness keeps this site open for abuse and out of touch with reality. – hrshi1990 Oct 9 '14 at 6:12

I'll post a few rules on the quality and respect I believe to be important :)


  • Search before posting either answers or questions - try not to duplicate (well-known :) )

  • If you posted an answer, evaluate all another answers as if you didn't post an answer, vote on them to reflect quality, don't downvote other posts to raise your post up

  • Don't post answers or questions just to gain reputation, because it will be negatively reflected on your posts (again, quality)

  • Don't complete review tasks to get badges, it will reduce site's quality and will (of course) lead to review suspension

  • If you see that a post has some typos, don't be lazy - correct them


  • Don't abuse your privileges - otherwise you don't merit the reputation you have

  • Do not touch "dark past" of any of users - its between this user and moderators

  • Don't measure reputation of the OP as the quality of the post, don't vote on the post considering only reputation of its owner - any trusted user can post a bad answer and any new user can post a genius answer

  • Respect new users: they base their first opinion on the replies they received to their first posts

  • 13
    This is about a general code of conduct for personal behavior on these sites, not elements specific to Stack Exchange. The above points might belong somewhere else, but not in a typical code of conduct. – Brad Larson Oct 6 '14 at 18:01
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    How should respect not be part of a code of conduct? I agree with you the quality part doesn't fit, but that's only half the post. – Mast Oct 6 '14 at 19:15
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    I think most people assume the first half of the post takes greater priority than the second half. Why else would Quality come before Respect? Having said that, I think downvoting for the sake of raising your own is not nice. Maybe remove/disallow votes if you provide an answer. This removes the opportunity for self-interested individuals from downvoting someone else's answer. – Sun Oct 6 '14 at 19:28

In my opinion, if you are hoping to create an inviting and helpful learning environment, define "harmful behavior" as impatient, demeaning, unhelpful, unkind, or sarcastic and then suspend or expel members who engage in harmful behavior.

Are consequences necessary? Yes, they are! Consequences are necessary for the same reasons that necessitated a code of conduct.


  • 2
    I assume this goes for users that post questions and those that try to figure out what the answer could be? A recent example: do you saw Code of Conduct message? Go away, if cannot really help. Thanks. Is that worth a suspension and if yes, for which user? – rene Aug 8 '18 at 7:00
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    Note: this question is obsolete, and there's no real point posting feedback on this superseded text. It's already been rewritten. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 8 '18 at 7:41

I simply want to agreeably say, Amen!

Edit: I have read and re-read the "Proposed new code of conduct for all Stack Exchange sites" and I have decided to be positive and support the "Proposed" Constitution just the way it is, I don't, in my sober mind find anything missing or wrong. That's why I said: AMEN! as in, It makes sense to me the way it is proposed, no less, no more and I fully second the motion

  • 2
    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Oct 7 '14 at 11:22
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    AMEN means "So be it"... I have read and re-read the "Proposed new code of conduct for all Stack Exchange sites" and I have decided to be positive and support the "Proposed" Constitution. That's why I said: AMEN! as in It makes sense to me the way it is proposed, no less, no mere and I fully second the motion – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 11:30
  • Why the downvote?... The Question was: Is there anything we missed that is essential for creating the expectation that Stack Exchange communities are civil and respectful? and my answer simply states. NO, I read everything and I think it is perfect the way it is... So, why downvote?... Is it a crime to appreciate a well written code of conduct? – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 11:54
  • I am not permitted to upvote, as yet, so am attempting to work within the constraints. Regardless, my remark re "nice" was perhaps superfluous (ty ;). – b1tca Oct 7 '14 at 12:23
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    This is a comment. Answers here should provide some insight or propose some change, this answer doesn't do any of these. It's plain noise. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Oct 7 '14 at 13:52
  • OK, one more try: edit the updated content for clarity. As it stands it does not read like a viable Code of Conduct. Cut excess definitions or implement them as suggested here, which are in line with comments by other users. The intent is admirable, but to be a viable code of action it requires some ruthless editing. And the last comment is Unacceptable under the proposed update even sans edits ;). – b1tca Oct 7 '14 at 14:31
  • 1
    This answer is fine; I basically asked a yes or no question at the end of the original question above, and this answer says "no, you didn't miss anything." – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 14:57
  • @Laura so you're OK with 100 "Yes" or "No" answers? Isn't it just noise better suited as comments? – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Oct 7 '14 at 15:17
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    @ShadowWizard I'm okay with one "I don't have anything to add" answer :) – Laura Oct 7 '14 at 15:24
  • So am just being victimized for giving my honest opinion??... 2DownVotes??... Don't I have the right to approve of a well thought out Proposed new code of conduct for all Stack Exchange sites Why make my HARD-EARNED privileges suffer? – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 15:54
  • @ShadowWizard Why should I "propose Change" if everything is ok to me.... Why Change what is very intelligently written by someone/people wise enough to draft such a conduct?... I like it the way it is, what's wrong with me liking something that is good according to me??? – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 15:58

Read the complete code of conduct. I am in 90% favour of it. It is very important to follow the site behaviour to make it user-friendly and positive. Harassing someone or down-voting individual only because you don't like his/her posts is unacceptable. Writing jargons is a bad idea to express yourself here.

But after reading the code of conduct from start to end I feel that a computer generated post can follow this code of conduct in perfection. Your answer must be an answer in the way as we develop a software and it output the exact result according to the input given. Else your post is a bug.

  • 7
    Harassing and downvoting are very different things. Downvoting is certainly the expected response when a post is of bad quality in your eyes, ideally followed by comments. Harassing is completely unrelated. As an example, I downvoted your post because it is, in my eyes, of low quality. – Camilo Martin Oct 8 '14 at 1:09

I think it could stand to be much more proactive on addressing gender, in particular. I know women who simply refuse to post here. The proposed wording (outlawing "attacks" and "harrassment") wouldn't give them much confidence that they'll be looked after. It doesn't rule out sexist jokes or sexist examples, for instance.

Stronger wording would say something like:

Women are very welcome here. Any behaviour that makes women feel unwelcome or uncomfortable will not be tolerated. This includes sexist jokes, sexist examples, sexist language, or reference to gender when it is not relevant.

  • 9
    If something you say to someone else could be interpreted by a reasonable person as being (1) threatening, demeaning or insulting and (2) deliberately so, then I'm certain that we've defined 'not allowed' without having to be any more specific than we're already being, in any case that it could possibly manifest. Sexist remarks or jokes fall squarely into demeaning in my book. I am glad that people are thinking well beyond themselves here, it makes me feel good that you folks want everyone covered. I think we've got that with what we have. – Tim Post Oct 8 '14 at 13:56
  • 1
    @TimPost Ok, here's a different part of the same issue: the language in the code of conduct is about what the victim of personal attacks etc needs to do about it. Could there be clearer statements about what will happen to the person doing it? (Compare confcodeofconduct.com) I just get this uneasy feeling of "We all have good intentions here, right guys?" and not much serious weight behind it. – Steve Bennett Oct 8 '14 at 14:09
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    @SteveBennett, that choice (focusing on the good actors) is deliberate. Goals in order are: A) To let the good guys know they shouldn't see BS here like on much of the internet, (and what to do if they do), B) to remind those of us with flaws who mean well what to be especially careful of, and C) to give us, mods, and others a little (broadly worded) air cover to point to when we do nuke really bad stuff. The reader should want to believe they can be one of the good guys - if they're committed to the dark side, threats here won't change that, and we're happy suspending them anyway. – Jaydles Oct 8 '14 at 14:15
  • I removed most of the comments here; they were tangential, argumentative, and not working towards any resolution, and many were rather rude. You can disagree with the answer, but do so constructively, and use chat if you want to have an extended conversation. – Laura Oct 10 '14 at 16:03

Speaking for myself, I find the quick and silent downvote of a question by the people who run these sites to be the total antithesis of "nice". It's one thing to downvote newbie questions that are clearly someone asking for answers to their homework, but it's used far too often on other occasions. It never fails to make me angry, since it ignores the thought I did put into the question, to the point where I will shy away from using Stack Overflow which was once a very useful resource. All this code of conduct stuff is making the site worse.

As for "not enough research shown", I never post anything on Stack Overflow unless I've done quite a bit of research beforehand even if I don't necessarily post citations to prove it.

  • 21
    Downvoted for caring way too much about random downvotes. – ceejayoz Oct 6 '14 at 18:31
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    Voting is intended to convey a judgement about quality and the fidelity of that signal is more important than 'being nice' if that would otherwise require dishonesty or dissembling. – Kenny Evitt Oct 6 '14 at 18:37
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    Really? The silent downvote frankly reminds me of high school. You're not one of the cool kids, we won't even talk to you. You want civility, you should have the civility to explain why you're doing the downvote. If you don't have time to do that, don't downvote. How would you make the question more useful? – Steve Cohen Oct 6 '14 at 18:39
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    This answer has absolutely nothing to do with the proposed code of conduct. – Josh Caswell Oct 6 '14 at 18:43
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    People are already encouraged to explain their downvotes. There's nothing more that can or should be done about that. – yannis Oct 6 '14 at 19:00
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    You can't force people to be courteous. If someone isn't interested in explaining their downvote, they won't, and there's nothing (productive) we can do about it. – yannis Oct 6 '14 at 19:04
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    If you can't force people to be courteous, what's the point of a code of conduct that says "be nice"? – Steve Cohen Oct 6 '14 at 19:05
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    The code of conduct refers to your interactions with other people. Voting is an interaction with a post, not a person. – yannis Oct 6 '14 at 19:09
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    What @Yannis said; I can remain civil (as I am here), and yet down vote your post (which I have here). While people are encouraged to explain their votes, it's not required. Adding such a statement to the Code of Conduct would certainly seem to be doing more than 'encouraging'. But ultimately, it's also outside of the scope of a Code of Conduct. – Andrew Barber Oct 6 '14 at 19:11
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    Requiring me to provide an explanation every time I downvote an obvious piece of crap would get old very soon @sunk818. – yannis Oct 6 '14 at 19:38
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    @sunk818 the purpose of SE isn't to cater to the lazy, the offensive, the illiterate, or the rude. – enderland Oct 6 '14 at 20:42
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    @sunk818 That's the point. You're making the assumption that votes are personal. They are not. They are judgements of post quality, and any barrier thrown in the way of voting (up or down), means less of it will happen. Can't really get an accurate assessment of a post if you're telling those who downvote that they have to justify it. – fbueckert Oct 6 '14 at 21:05
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    This is a great example of why we felt we needed to expand "be nice" into a full-on code of conduct: "nice" is subjective. Being civil and constructive toward your peers is admirable; self-censoring in fear that someone's feelings will be hurt isn't. Being nice does not mean being dishonest. – Shog9 Oct 6 '14 at 22:24
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    downvoting/upvoting is a signal, a measurement. It's like looking at a meter that swings one way or the other. If SO/SE wants me to contribute to that process of signal generation, then requiring an explanation for downvoting cannot be mandatory. If it is or becomes mandatory, my process of contributing to signal generation will be drastically curtailed. I don't care if that is rude or not. It is a factual statement of what my behavior would be. I have niether the time nor the motivation to be engaged in an argument about every vote I cast. I would prefer not to vote, in that case. – Robert Crovella Oct 6 '14 at 23:06
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    @New Stack Exchange is very welcoming, as long as you make a minimum effort. Asking a question that can be answered by Google is a waste of everyone's time. If you're not feeling welcome because your questions are being downvoted, you may want to consider the possibility that other people are not the problem. – Ian Kemp Oct 7 '14 at 9:02

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