Update: Thanks for all the additional feedback below. We incorporated a lot of your suggestions, and this is going live (as https://meta.stackexchange.com/help/be-nice).
We're also looking at ways to get this in front of more new users when they sign up, to help them start off on the right foot.
Whether you've come to ask questions, or to generously share what you know, remember that we’re all here to learn, together. Be welcoming and patient, especially with those who may not know everything you do. Oh, and bring your sense of humor. Just in case.
That basically covers it. But these three guidelines may help:
Rudeness and belittling language are not okay. Your tone should match the way you'd talk in person with someone you respect and whom you want to respect you. If you don't have time to say something politely, just leave it for someone who does.
Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions. Don't expect new users to know all the rules — they don't. And be patient while they learn. If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you. Everyone here is volunteering, and no one responds well to demands for help.
Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples. If you see them, flag them:
- Name-calling. Focus on the post, not the person. That includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to posts (like "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny").
- Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all. (Those are just a few examples; when in doubt, just don't.)
- Inappropriate language or attention. Avoid vulgar terms and anything sexually suggestive. Also, this is not a dating site.
- Harassment and bullying. If you see a hostile interaction, flag it. If it keeps up, disengage — we'll handle it. If something needs staff attention, you can use the contact us link at the bottom of every page.
We're proud to be a large, user-driven space on the internet where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent. It's up to all of us to keep it that way.
In summary, have fun, and be good to each other.
Okay, that was great feedback.
We recently proposed an update to our longstanding "Be Nice" policy, which was extremely well-received by the community.
But we also got a ton of awesome feedback on how to make it even better. The content and themes in this version are close to identical, but we re-organized it, and made a bunch of tweaks to and how we said things based on your input.
Some of your specific feedback that we incorporated:
- It had way too much emphasis on words George Carlin likes to say. (NSFW.)
- A number of terms, such as "expletive," "ad hominem," and a bunch of others simply do not mean what we think they do.
- Most people don't like to read; those who do, don't like to read much. (Too long, too many points, and lacked a concise summary.)
- Along the same lines, the old policy was elegant in its brevity.
- Folks assumed lawyers had something to do with all this. Not a single lawyer has seen this, so our tone was clearly a tad off in a bunch of ways, probably including "Code of Conduct", and a bunch of other very formal phrasings.
- There were too many items in the top-level list.
- The "list headers" didn't really convey what they were going for unless you read the detail, too.
- A few of the key ideas appeared in multiple sections.
- Some people wanted more detail and examples (for clarity), others wanted less (for broader applicability).
- The more you try to make a list of people who deserve to feel welcome, the more people focus on who's not on it, or who think it's designed by lawyers.
- A surprising number of us have really terrible bosses.
- Some people felt it didn't speak clearly enough to arrogance or condescending language (that some might argue wasn't technically "rude").
- "Assume good faith" was an important idea, and should be more visible.
- Terms like "civil" are well-meaning, but so broad that pretty much everyone always thinks that's what they're doing.
- The word "sex" appearing so often actually may have been conveying a tone that was essentially procedural, which was undercutting what we actually wanted to emphasize: Everyone should feel welcome here, and any behavior that makes women, people of color, old white dudes, or highly technical dogs feel unwelcome based on just being in that group will not fly.
- Updating the help center while we were getting your feedback made some feel like we wouldn't really use it. This should alleviate that concern, but the point is fair. This time, we're holding off on the update until we get any additional suggestions on this version.
We incorporated some aspects of all of the points above.
The big-picture changes that feedback drove:
- It starts with a four-sentence policy that harkens back to the the original. You missed the elegance of the old guideline, and not everyone has long attention Smurfs. You were right, so there's now a very short intro that captures the policy and is very much in line with the original.
- The more specific version can be summarized in three (bolded) sentences. And even if you read it all, it's still a little shorter.
- Tone better conveys community expectations, not legal BS.
- It explicitly highlights the need to be respectful of answerers, too.
- Principles when possible, examples where needed. We included specific examples only where we've seen confusion in the past.
We think this version is a much better representation of what we all wanted to convey, but if you have new notes or suggestions, feel free to post them below. We'll take that feedback, make a couple of tweaks, and then post the new version on the Help Center.
Oh, one more thing:
What we expect as a community is important, and you made this a lot better than we could on our own.