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.

Final version:

Be Nice.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Original Post:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The more specific version can be summarized in three (bolded) sentences. And even if you read it all, it's still a little shorter.
  3. Tone better conveys community expectations, not legal BS.
  4. It explicitly highlights the need to be respectful of answerers, too.
  5. 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:

Thank you.

What we expect as a community is important, and you made this a lot better than we could on our own.

  • 67
    With "If you don't have time to say something politely, just leave it for someone who does." I see you've incorporated this philosophy into SE ;)
    – ChrisF Mod
    Oct 10, 2014 at 15:39
  • 45
    Well done! Short, to-the-point, non-lawyery, and nearly impossible to misinterpret. Oct 10, 2014 at 16:13
  • 30
    +1 for "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." I'm tempted to suggest that should be in the actual text, although I guess it's not a good idea to be too jokesy about what is potentially a serious misdemeanour.
    – IMSoP
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:15
  • 15
    @Jaydles In that case, I think that the so is taking away the seriousness of the phrase
    – Lamak
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:30
  • 16
    The old one wasn't terrible, but comparing the two this one is a whole lot better. Kudos.
    – roippi
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:43
  • 93
    "This is so not a dating site" is idiomatic and may not be well understood by non-native English speakers. "This is not a dating site" is clearer.
    – Jagular
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:11
  • 37
    Nice job! One teeny, tiny grammatical nit-pick, if you're in there anyway: "Be welcoming, patient, and assume good intentions" breaks parallelism; the "be" doesn't match up with "assume...". "Be welcoming and patient and assume..." works, or you could write "be welcoming, be patient, and assume..." (but the repeated "be" is a little clunky, so maybe s/be/remain for the second one). Oct 10, 2014 at 17:59
  • 24
    This is better, but I find "Don't expect new users to know the rules — they don't" to be problematic. I thought we were plastering the rules in new users' faces and expecting them to either read and abide or deal with the consequences? I'm sure I've heard mods support that position before. Are we now giving a green light to every newb who didn't bother checking out the rules for the community they just joined? Oct 10, 2014 at 18:02
  • 35
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit No. For new users, there are a lot of things that are weird/different on SE compared to most places people type on the internet. We're saying to be patient while they learn the rules, and be helpful in pointing out the one or two things they need to know in the moment rather than summarily dismissing them for "not checking out the rules". To keep in mind that it takes a long time to know all of SE's quirks by heart. To assume that people aren't trying to piss you off by doing something against the rules. Just set your default attitude to patient and welcoming.
    – Laura
    Oct 10, 2014 at 18:16
  • 24
    This does not prevent anyone from downvoting or closing bad questions or deleting bad answers...but it's better if you do that while also pointing out where users can go to learn how to post better, and to be nice about it.
    – Laura
    Oct 10, 2014 at 18:18
  • 21
    @Laura: I have to be honest: I set my default attitude to patient and welcoming some four years ago and it got old real fast... especially with those users who don't bother to learn anything no matter how "nice" you're being. Sometimes being "nice" just entirely disincentivises them from taking any personal responsibility whatsoever. After all, why bother learning the site rules if people will be nice to you and solve your problems for you regardless? Anyway, consider this my sign-off on these updated rules. Oct 10, 2014 at 18:22
  • 12
    Clarification request: Does this 'code of conduct' apply equally on chat, as well as the Q&A sites? If it does, there's going to need to be some form of clarity on what constitutes vulgarity, etc. Additionally there will likely have to be some form of 'grandfathering' of now-contravening content.
    – rolfl
    Oct 10, 2014 at 19:20
  • 38
    In all seriousness, I feel unwelcome by the flood of unmitigated garbage new users post on technical sites, like my home site, ServerFault, and I notice a distinct lack of anything in the new code of conduct to mitigate that. If anything, this encourages or excuses the n00bie practice of clicking through all the help pages, posting crap and then whining about the mean mods who downvoted/closed their post without explanation or justification. Oct 10, 2014 at 20:11
  • 48
    About chat, I'm pretty sick of the idea that a room is allowed to spew vulgarities and borderline-abuse, and generally act like ten-year-olds who've just heard about fart jokes, and then play the "room culture" card. I think "be nice" applies to all SE-hosted content. For that other stuff -- find another site. Oct 10, 2014 at 22:08
  • 22
    @Iain (a) that assumes it's always the same people and they post only drivel, and (b) as a moderator I don't feel I have the luxury of ignoring people (who might be making messes in my site's rooms, for all I'd know). But I'm not just saying this content annoys me; I can read past it. I'm saying that it has no place on SE, regardless of what the people in those rooms want. Respectful discussions about difficult/controversial/explosive topics are fine, but SE's quite-reasonable standards here should extend to all parts of the site. Oct 10, 2014 at 22:32

29 Answers 29


That's a lot better!

Remarks on the content

Don't expect new users to know the rules

“the rules” → “all the rules”. Saying that new users don't have to know any rule won't go well.

We're proud to be one of the few large, user-driven spaces online where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent.

I don't think that boasting here sets the right tone.

Copy editing

  1. You're using hyphens as a clause-separating punctuation. These should be em dashes.

  2. If you see them, flag them:

    Linkify “flag them” like (or instead of?) “flag it” below.

  3. they're apple to

    ”apple“ → “applied” (I think)

  4. posts. ("lazy", "ignorant", "whiny", etc.)

    The full stop goes at the end of the sentence, after the closing parenthesis.

  5. If the other party keeps it up, flag it it.

    “it it” → “it”

  6. If you think something needs SE staff attention,

    “SE” → “Stack Exchange”

  7. use the "Contact Us" link found at the bottom of every page.

    Linkify “Contact Us” in the text?

  • 20
    re: boasting. How about something like "We want to remain one of the few large, user-driven spaces online where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent." Oct 10, 2014 at 16:08
  • 19
    @FishBelowtheIce "We want to remain one of the few..." kind of implies "We don't want competition." Oct 10, 2014 at 16:20
  • Gilles - thanks! A couple of the copy items are done, since Billy caught em. I'll fix the hyphen=>em dashes when I make the next edit. Both your content points make some sense to me, but I want to think on them a little and see what others suggest in the comments here.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:22
  • 5
    I'm a little conflicted on that last line. I like it; it has a nice ring to it. On the other hand, you do have a point when you say it sounds like boasting.
    – TRiG
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:25
  • 7
    also re:boasting: I think the problem with this is that this may well be true, but it can leave the impression that you just don't notice harassment/define harassment differently/etc. Thus, it might lead to people not flagging it, but leaving the site instead. I would just remove the sentence completely (which would also make the policy shorter). Alternatively, @FishBelowtheIce suggestion could be used, replacing remain [...] where with be a [place/community] where.
    – tim
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:29
  • @gilles, wrt "all" the rules, we went back and forth ourselves. The problem is that no one can really define which ones they better have learned if they want people to be patient. What we want to convey is that whichever of our rules they seem not to know, that's not an excuse to be belittling: Assume they mean well, would be happy to follow it if they knew it, and help steer them as such. (To be clear, if they violate well-known societal rules, "Hey, imbeciles..." that's a whole 'nother story.)
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 18:36
  • 5
    I, for one, have no problem with the boasting. The high signal-to-noise ratio is the main thing that makes Stack sites wayyy better than forums, etc. for finding information.
    – endolith
    Oct 10, 2014 at 21:07
  • 1
    The boasting bit's good and should stay. It's an important cultural difference between SE and many other places. People are strongly influenced by societal norms, especially if they're consciously aware of them.
    – AndrewC
    Oct 10, 2014 at 21:24
  • 20
    'One of the few' could be wrong now, or change tomorrow. Just use 'a'.
    – user207421
    Oct 10, 2014 at 22:56
  • 2
    Saying that we are proud doesn't necessarily mean that we are boasting. Recognising one's achievement is a good thing. And SE staff aren't saying "look how good we are", they are saying "look how well we've all done". It recognises effort and the fact that we stand out in the crowd (Internets).
    – Möoz
    Oct 12, 2014 at 21:31
  • Re. the full stop - in this case there should probably be two periods - one after etc. (it's an abbreviation of Et cetera and so should have a period to denote removed letters at the end) and one outside the brackets. A house style then might indicate that ending a sentence with two periods doesn't fit, and so omit the last one. Oct 13, 2014 at 8:31
  • 1
    @Zhaph-BenDuguid Yes, it's the period after “posts” that needs to be moved after the closing parenthesis. The period after “etc” stays where it is. House style or not, the period after “posts” is wrong. Oct 13, 2014 at 9:33
  • Good point - I missed that one entirely - perhaps enbolden the one to move ;) Oct 13, 2014 at 9:37
  • 3
    PErhaps This is a site where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent. with words to suggest we want it kept that way. No need for the comparison - we know we're superior already :-)
    – gbjbaanb
    Oct 13, 2014 at 15:18
  • 3
    In regard to the boasting, I suggest removing the comparison and simply state, "We're proud to be a large, user-driven spaces online where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent."
    – user232569
    Oct 15, 2014 at 16:50

Harassment and bullying

Harassment and bullying. If you find yourself in a hostile interaction, disengage. If the other party keeps it up, flag it. If you think something needs staff attention, use the "Contact Us" link found at the bottom of every page.

I think that this paragraph is a bit ... off.

  • It should be named "Reaction to Harassment and bullying" or "Dealing with Harassment and bullying", because that's what it is about.
  • "If the other party keeps it up, flag it": This sounds as if I shouldn't flag it when people are harassed/bullied, but only if it continues for some undefined amount of time. I would assume that even one inappropriate post/comment should already be flagged.
  • If I am being harassed/bullied, it is my responsibility to disengage? Maybe something like "do not escalate" might be better.

I would probably rephrase that whole paragraph to:

Dealing with Harassment and bullying. If you see harassment or bullying, flag it. Try not to escalate the situation further. If you think something needs staff attention, use the "Contact Us" link found at the bottom of every page.

  • 13
    I see your point on the Header and content not being a perfect match, but I think it's important to keep the bold headers aligned with "Things that are 'being a jerk'" I do think your other proposed language is probably better at conveying "we'll handle it" than "it's your job to do things when bullied." I'll wait for more feedback, but we'll probably incorporate that- thanks!
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:11
  • 5
    Changing the paragraph header doesn't make sense: with your proposal, it looks like you should flag it when you see “dealing with harassment and bullying”. You lost “disengage” and replaced it by “escalate”, and that's a biggie: you're making it look like the victim is equally guilty (of escalating). Oct 10, 2014 at 21:16
  • @Gilles Well, I think the header would better fit the content of the paragraph. And Some possible actions when confronted with harassment or bullying is a bit long :) I see your point about escalating, but I still think it's better than the original disengage. But I guess the whole paragraph would still work well without Try not to escalate the situation further., and it would be shorter as well.
    – tim
    Oct 10, 2014 at 21:26
  • 1
    I agree with the point here. "Harassment and bullying" doesn't seem broad enough for what the description describes. @Jaydles How about just, Being hostile or something equally broad for the header? Maybe Arguing? I like Arguing for that header; I think it better captures the spirit.
    – jpmc26
    Oct 11, 2014 at 0:09
  • 2
    I think the issue of what to do if you are being harassed or bullied or witness harassment or bullying belongs somewhere else, linked from this document (unless you add something in general about what to do when you see violations). One thing to consider is that the language implies that only the victim should report/flag harassment or bullying.
    – Elin
    Oct 11, 2014 at 22:29
  • 5
    The definition of harassment includes "repeatedly". Knowing humanity as you do, and our propensity to exact harsh revenge over trivial debates on compiler minutia, which do you think would prompt the desired result "disengage" or "try not to escalate"? The latter encourages "I was trying not to escalate but he kept being a jerk…". The "escalate" wording is weak and affords the presence of two jerks; the "disengage" wording is succinct and obvious if you are violating it (regardless of what that jerk does).
    – msw
    Oct 13, 2014 at 8:36
  • Cant help people who have already suffered and lost many reputation points !! Oct 15, 2014 at 16:24

Quick copy fixes: (I'd edit the post directly, but I want to make sure the changes end up in the final copy that goes up on the site.)

Your tone should match way you'd talk ...

Missing a "the" before "way".

That includes terms that feel personal even when they're apple to posts.

"apple" is probably supposed to be "applied".

If the other party keeps it up, flag it it.

Double "it" should be fixed.

Also, the abbreviation "SE" is used once, without the full term "Stack Exchange" being used. Yes, a lot of us here on MSE understand it, but it probably ought to be expanded out for the sake of new users.

  • 3
    +1. Done, done, and... I cut the "SE" entirely. You were right about the abbreviation, and it's implied by staff anyway. (I'm going to resist the urge to accept this answer as "probably the only changes needed".)
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:05
  • 18
    @Jaydles I'm not sure that the fact that moderators and staff are different people is that obvious to new users (especially non-native English speakers). Oct 10, 2014 at 16:30
  • 13
    @Gilles: Many new users can't even grasp the difference between moderators and normal users with edit ability, let alone staff. Oct 10, 2014 at 18:06
  • RE: "SE usage" - not to mention that it falls against the "Proper Use of the Stack Exchange Name" policy: As a name, Stack Overflow, is always written "Stack Overflow" (two words, capital letters). Currently, all Stack Exchange Network sites follow this convention.
    – KyleMit StaffMod
    Oct 10, 2014 at 19:17
  • Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. won't be tolerated. At all. (That list is deliberately incomplete — when in doubt, just don't.)

Why is it necessary to highlight protected classes of people? And that last bit throwing in everybody else is ... I'd say insulting, but that's a bit too passive-aggressive for me. It would be unnecessary if you didn't trot out the standard people-of-this-category trope.

How about we be inclusive and simply state that you cannot be bigoted against ANYBODY for ANY REASON?

  • Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals, whether by accident or by intent, will not be tolerated. At all.

There. Now everybody is included, and nobody is an afterthought. Simple and direct.

  • 34
    I can see the message being: "Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups won't be tolerated. At all.", but the "whether by accident or by intent" seems a little too much for me. People might get "accidentaly" offended by a lot of non offensive things
    – Lamak
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:30
  • 27
    I agree that it would be ideal to have no examples. But since this area is close to zero-tolerance, we felt the need to use just a few examples - the fewest we thought would cover possible ambiguity resulting from different perspectives. Some individuals may personally think offending gay people, say, or people of faith, isn't bigotry. We wanted to make clear that we do, but the idea was just enough examples to imply the other ones ("sexual orientation" should imply that trans-status offense isn't cool; "religion" should imply that atheist offense isn't cool. (I deleted our comments above.)
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:33
  • 10
    @Lamak Two points. First, you're missing the start of the bullet: Bigoted speech. I'm regularly offended by PHP, but a PHP question isn't bigoted. Point two: You can say something bigoted by accident, and it doesn't matter--it should still be removed. So the point of saying "by accident or by intent" means that no matter what the bigoted speech will be edited/removed.
    – user1228
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:34
  • 12
    @Jaydles giving examples isn't necessary. We all know what bigotry is. Giving examples only makes it look like the examples are the important ones. Everybody else is just an afterthought.
    – user1228
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:35
  • 4
    @Lamak: Notice that the rule targets the language---it focuses on the post, rather than the poster. "Not tolerating" said language means moderators can wipe it. I'd expect something similar to the status quo where the poster only stops being tolerated if he establishes a pattern of unreasonable speech.
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:43
  • 16
    Now people are vying for Most Protected Status. My point stands.
    – user1228
    Oct 10, 2014 at 18:34
  • 9
    @Won't your first comment is also a pretty good reason not to use your wording. A person using PHP might be offended or even alienated by comments making fun of PHP. But do we want to regulate making fun of PHP? And even if we do, is it at the same level as bigotry? Your wording would let people argue that yes, it is the same and according to the Code of Conduct, those comments have to be deleted.
    – tim
    Oct 10, 2014 at 19:12
  • 5
    @Lamak: People might get "accidentaly" offended by a lot of non offensive things. ...and respond by calling the person racist wrongly, resulting in 4x the harm to an innocent. People on a crusade against the evil they believe they see before them can do a lot of damage.
    – Magus
    Oct 10, 2014 at 22:25
  • 6
    Your suggested correction is so broad that it doesn't say anything specific. It becomes a summary of the entire policy at that point. Highlighting "protected classes" makes the point here: this item is about prejudices and insults that are targeting a specific class of people. Saying that it's insulting to "throw in everybody at the end" just seems overly sensitive, in my opinion. @Magus Responding that way would violate the "harassment and bullying" clause, making both parties at fault.
    – jpmc26
    Oct 11, 2014 at 0:04
  • 17
    I think it's important to identify certain classes of people because those people have borne a disproportionate amount of bigotry and discrimination, both in society at large and within tech in particular. Nobody was ever driven from their home for liking PHP.
    – dpassage
    Oct 11, 2014 at 5:47
  • 6
    @Magus: Seriously? Being called a racist is 4x as harmful as being at the receiving end of racism? ...
    – tim
    Oct 11, 2014 at 7:05
  • 19
    The literalism being shown here is astounding; this isn't law and —perhaps more importantly— this certainly isn't common sense. The whole need for a "be nice" rule shows that some people don't understand how to interact with others. Examples (it is clearly spelled out that they are just a few examples) of serious bigotry are welcome for people who think it's otherwise justified to attack people based on their <insert characteristic here>. Adding examples does not weaken the stance at all.
    – Oli
    Oct 12, 2014 at 1:08
  • 6
    As I posted above, "Bigot" is the number 1 favourite insult of the left (liberals/progressives) in the UK. It's not a neutral word, and using it implies a particular political viewpoint. I would feel happier if this word were removed altogether, and the general concept described in more neutral language. Oct 13, 2014 at 10:43
  • 7
    @tim: Falsely. Being on the receiving end of racism is clearly harmful. But racism is generally seen as something to be hated these days. Someone expressing racism is, with good reason, considered an idiot. But getting labeled racist falsely? They'll be treated with the derision worthy of a real racist by huge numbers of people. To be labeled as something utterly worthless for something you never did is truly awful. I just want the rules to make mention of this. It deserves careful reading and flagging. Again, this is about people who meant nothing offensive. They don't deserve hatred.
    – Magus
    Oct 13, 2014 at 14:56
  • 5
    Disagree. It's been my experience that sites whose policies specifically call out specific types of discrimination end up having less of it, across the board, than sites which just go "Don't be bad." Probably because the former are establishing a clearer community standard of what exactly they don't want.
    – Alex P
    Oct 13, 2014 at 16:22

Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. won't be tolerated.

I don't like the bigotry blanket clause, as it will enable bigotry instead of the opposite.

A religious group is likely to find offensive some talk about abortion. Should we disallow any talk about it? Blasphemy laws are not OK, I came from a country with one. Do we want to enable that kind of bigotry?

Creationists are likely find offensive any talk about paleontology which does not support or include their wrong views.

Atheists find offensive any talk about the origin of the universe which is in contract with the scientific view. I, as an atheist, certainly find any such talk offensive, but I hold my breath constantly trying to respect everyone's right to be wrong. Should I be allowed to go around and delete such content as offensive?

No, this rule is badly worded. Any such rule should be around the mens rea -- about the intentions -- and categorically not solely about the effect.

Language intended to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. won't be tolerated.

This is the only possible way this could work.

  • 11
    One major drawback of your proposed wording is that it is well-nigh impossible to determine the intent of another person's actions unless they proclaim it.
    – user642796
    Oct 11, 2014 at 10:24
  • 13
    @ArthurFischer agreed, but that's not a good reason to create a rule which acts as if the intent was always the negative one.
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 11, 2014 at 10:37
  • 11
    @sklivvz, I get the concern you have, but what you're effectively proposing is to cut the section entirely: if declared intent is (effectively) required, we're going to find ourselves dealing with a few people making it very clear that they "don't intend to offend, but just personally think all people in the [whatever] group tend to be [something insulting]". I think the language as written is pretty clear to most people, and on this point, I'm very comfortable with how the mods have always handled situations, and I think this may slightly reduce how frequently they need to.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 11, 2014 at 11:53
  • 2
    I note without any further judgment that all three of your examples are specifically about the 'religion' item in the list.
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 11, 2014 at 13:24
  • 4
    @sklivvz, the worry I have is that even when intent seems evident, putting it in the policy makes for a really hard argument - we, or the mods, have to argue that we know someone's intent who claims it's different.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 11, 2014 at 15:03
  • 12
    And I do think the type of offensive behavior we're aiming at here should be moderated (edited or deleted) in many cases where no offense is intended. EXAMPLE: I have older acquantences who use terms like "Orientals" (for people, not rugs) or "retarded" and genuinely mean no harm, and actually try to adjust when reminded. But, that language isn't cool here, and if it's used, it should get edited or deleted. In cases like that, where no bad intent is likely even there, I'd only gently warn the poster. But the policy shouldn't imply that the language is allowed due to good intent.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 11, 2014 at 15:06
  • 4
    I broadly support your concerns here, but I agree with @Jaydles that requiring intent to offend is clearly wrong as well because it ignores offences that merely stem from a gross lack of concern about giving offence. If I'm the sort of person to cheerfully remark to a fellow programmer on SO about how the failings of some library written by a woman/black/queer/whatever proves the inadequacy of that whole class of people at programming, I'm probably genuinely not trying to offend anyone, but it's still bigotry and should be purged.
    – Mark Amery
    Oct 12, 2014 at 14:24
  • 13
    @Jaydles 'Oriental' being offensive is, I think, a purely American thing, and I wouldn't edit or delete comments using the word. I'm from the UK and have rarely encountered the idea that the word is offensive; indeed I've used it in front of Oriental friends without so much as a raised eyebrow. I suspect the US/UK difference stems from the fact that in the US an 'Asian' is assumed to be Oriental (and you explicitly refer to Arabs as Arabs), whereas in the UK an 'Asian' is by default an Arab or Indian (and the word 'Arab' is borderline offensive), so we need 'Oriental' to disambiguate.
    – Mark Amery
    Oct 12, 2014 at 14:35
  • 7
    @Jaydles similarly, I gather it's perfectly normal in Australia and kind-of-accepted in the US to refer to homeless people as 'bums' - that would be considered outrageously offensive in the UK and you would never hear anyone say it. I wouldn't suggest censoring that word, either. Trying to figure out the boundaries of offensive language when (even within the Anglosphere) different cultures have different standards is tricky.
    – Mark Amery
    Oct 12, 2014 at 14:43
  • 7
    @Jaydles: I think the union of offensiveness standards in Canada, the US, and the UK might simply make very difficult to talk about this subject. "Indian" in Canada either refers to people from India or is a racial slur for First Nations people and Inuit. The US government has designated "Indian reservations" that are not reservations for people from India. From what I gather, "Asian" in the UK does not typically refer to East Asians, but rather South Asians such as Indians, so replacing "Oriental" with "Asian" in the name of inoffensiveness will change the meaning of a sentence.
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 13, 2014 at 0:52
  • 4
    @EKW In Italy they regulated by law with funny and unintended consequences. You can't curse any divinity, such as the Holy Ghost, but you are free to curse any other figure of Catholicism, such as the Virgin Mary. Then again, some other religions get "offended" by even naming their divinity (Hail Xenu!)
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 14, 2014 at 0:37
  • 3
    Hopefully, the moderators will ALSO "be nice" when honoring this instruction, when considering what language to untolerate / edit. Obviously demeaning remarks like "what do you expect from an Oriental" get firm treatment; less clear cases like "I love Orientals, you're so helpful" get more gentle guidance, like "many people consider that an offensive term, did you mean East Asians?" The wording "likely to" encourages more common sense than "intended to", which may encourage more bickering. Oct 14, 2014 at 8:50
  • 8
    @SeanGugler If someone says "I think the bible is fantasy" and someone else replies "I am offended by that", what is the correct guidance that moderators should give?
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 14, 2014 at 9:08
  • 3
    A rule directed at users is useless if it isn't about intent ... I can't do anything about the unintended consequences of my behavior (other than improving my causal models). And it must be intent to offend, specifically; if I know that someone will be offended by something I say, I still have the right to say it if that's not my intent. And rules directed at moderators cannot free them of the hard work of making judgments, and those judgments must be based on whether it is reasonable to be offended, not merely on whether someone is.
    – Jim Balter
    Oct 15, 2014 at 6:29
  • 5
    @Sean There is no way that I can think of in which "I think the Bible is fantasy" should be of offense to anyone. It expresses a personal opinion and is obviously not intended to offend. However, someone could claim to be offended by it. IMO, it should not be moderated as it expresses a legitimate opinion in a non-confrontational way. However, according to the proposed rule, it should be removed, no ifs, no buts. Of course, that's not the spirit of it at all. I am just worried about people abusing it (especially on religion sites).
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 15, 2014 at 22:25

Although I'm honestly not sure if this is am improvement on the older, shorter "code of conduct," if we're going to go the verbose route and expand it, I think there's a glaring omission which is danced around and alluded to, but not actually addressed: New Users.

On the bigger and more mature/older communities, the semi-recent changes to increase visibility in Google has brought in a large volume of new users, and a highly correlated influx of absolute crap masquerading as posts from new users. And, to be fair, we can't blame it all on Google, as a decline in quality (whether real or perceived) and an increase in snippiness have been recurring themes on the meta sites of Server Fault, Stack Overflow and Super User for years.

Experts, the people who give good answers, are the core of any Q&A site. Anyone can ask a good question, but not anyone can give it a good answer - it even says so on the Stack Overflow blog. Without people to give good answers, the community will die, or become another Yahoo! Answers clone. And, as amusing as it is to read many of those train wrecks, that's not what Stack Exchange is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be about high quality questions and answers, which is not a possibility if the experts aren't retained to answer questions.

Frankly, this whole revision to the code of conduct comes off as an admonishment of the existing community (at least to me), and barely recognizes the frustrations that many of us feel that generally cause the community to be less than pink-and-fluffy. That's not right, and it's not beneficial to Stack Exchange as a whole either. When volunteers feel under-appreciated/ignored/disrespected, they stop volunteering. For a network that relies on volunteers to create its content, that's a big deal.

In order to set expectations (or at least have something to point to) and to throw the long-time contributors a bone, there really should be a section in there for new users. At Stack Exchange, there are expectations of new users and questions, and that really ought to be in the code of conduct. I believe that not laying out the fact that there are expectations on new users and posts contributes to the whining and moaning and general butt-hurt expressed by some new members when their garbage gets downvoted and closed.

Off the top of my head, I would suggest something like:

Respect the community. Stack Exchange cultivates communities of experts to provide high-quality answers to your questions. Please be respectful and considerate of their time and expertise, which they donate for free. You can do this by using the site search feature to look for an existing answer, checking the help center for information about community standards and expectations, and looking around a little to make sure you're in the right place before making a contribution.

  • 7
    I think that belittles new users, implies that they're not experts, and that they have a lot to do before they can join that community of experts. None of this is necessarily the case (although there are many users for whom that is true, of course). I agree with your point, I just think it can be said without implying that just because I'm new here, I am in some way inferior to the long-timers. Oct 11, 2014 at 8:54
  • 4
    Generally, new askers aren't experts, and many new answerers aren't either. Perhaps something like "We're glad you want to join the community" might help? That adds an implicit expectation that new participants should at least be aiming for expertise themselves, and gladly includes any who may already have it. Oct 11, 2014 at 10:09
  • 14
    I'm a little thrown by the idea that asking everyone to avoid being rude, belittling, cynical or a jerk is admonishing existing communities - that is not the intent at all. Are some regulars occasionally rough on new people? Yup. But this is even more important for new people, who need to learn how to behave out of the gate. And listing a bunch of the specific things askers should do doesn't really fit that well into the "Be Nice" policy, but we did explicitly add the point that askers should think about how to help answerers help them, be patient, and rememeber they're volunteers here.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 11, 2014 at 12:04
  • 10
    @Jaydles it definitely gives the perception of being directed at the existing members, and it creates the implication that we're not doing a good enough job of certain things. (If the existing folks were nice and patient, they wouldn't need to be told to be nice and patient.). As to the bit about new users, thinking about how to best get help is not enough. Posting crap is harmful and wastes the time of everyone who has to read or deal with it, but a lot of new users don't get this. It needs to be said (politely) that low quality and off-topic contributions are prohibited. Oct 11, 2014 at 19:53
  • 16
    The #1 rule for new users should be learn how to ask a proper question. #2 is don't expect others here to do your homework for you. Oct 12, 2014 at 13:32
  • 1
    @Jaydles, my issue with the text in this answer is it implies that newbies and experts are disjoint sets ("your questions", "their time and expertise"). On more than one occasion, I've asked an expert I know to contribute an answer to SO. Oct 12, 2014 at 17:17
  • 2
    @Jaydles Is this being shown to new users upon signup? If not... don't you think that kinda defeats the purpose of this? No new user would ever discover it unless we put it in front of their face -- and even then, they probably won't read it.
    – hichris123
    Oct 12, 2014 at 21:02
  • @hichris123, once it's finalized, we are planning to look at ways to get it in front of a lot more new users. (We're already working on getting more of them to "tour", which both helps them with the basics, and emphasizes how to ask a better-quality question)
    – Jaydles
    Oct 12, 2014 at 23:57
  • 3
    +1 I do think its important to remind people that respect is a two-way street. It's pretty clear from the state of some of the posts we all see at times that not every 'newbie' respects the time and effort of the people they expect to help them. I've got no problem with whatever variation of 'don't be rude' is decided upon but there's a limit to how much respect I have for people who don't respect us.
    – Rob Moir
    Oct 13, 2014 at 21:03
  • 3
    As a new-ish user myself, I feel this "Be Nice" guide is talking to me also, not only the elites. It sets expectations for engaging and contributing, whether I am a beginner who wants to fit in or an elder who may appreciate the reminder. Oct 14, 2014 at 7:53
  • If the offered text said anything at all about new users then Paul might have a point, but since it doesn't, he doesn't.
    – Jim Balter
    Oct 15, 2014 at 5:11
  • Imho this does not add anything significantly new that is not already expressed in point 2. of the proposed CoC. You want to embrace new users, not scare them away.
    – nathanvda
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:51
  • 1
    @Paul I agree with you - upon reflection, I don't much like the wording either. Someone else would probably be better equipped to write up those sentiments in a friendly/nice, non-patronizing fashion, as I don't think I'm well-equipped to do that. Oct 15, 2014 at 15:08
  • @JimBalter, the answer clearly is around "New users", as the first paragraph says. And although the offered text doesn't use that term, it clearly indicates that I, the reader, am not (yet?) part of the "community of experts" and this dichotomy is what I was commenting on. The text about looking around before contributing is pretty clearly aimed at newcomers, too. Oct 15, 2014 at 15:14
  • 3
    OMG, some people are experts and some are not ... the horror! And the text doesn't make any such division; experts should respect experts too.
    – Jim Balter
    Oct 15, 2014 at 19:28

Don't expect new users to know the rules - they don't.

I see a problem here. If new users don't bother to learn the basic rules, why are other users expected to treat them nicely? "Be patient" directly translates to "incentivise bad behavior, it won't be judged."

  • 35
    I think Gilles suggested change of "Don't expect new users to know all the rules" is a better wording. Oct 10, 2014 at 16:32
  • 24
    "If new users don't bother to learn the basic rules, why are other users expected to treat them nicely?" well, here is one crazy thought: maybe just because we all are humans (unperfect creatures who tend to make mistakes) it is good to start conversation with politeness rather than rudeness. I'm not saying that you should provide full answer to newbie OP, but showing him/her mistakes and giving links to appropriate meta or help center article would be nice. Also don't be afraid to vote to close question or use downvote (this is not rudeness, but fairness).
    – Pshemo
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:44
  • 12
    I changed it to the suggested "Don't expect new users to know all the rules" - we do expect new users to put some effort in, but established users need to keep in mind how overwhelming it can be to try to learn all the rules at once, so everyone (new and established users alike) needs to be patient. And being nice, and being patient, doesn't mean allowing bad questions, it just means no one should be a jerk in the comments.
    – Laura
    Oct 10, 2014 at 18:22
  • 2
    We're still debating the best approach here internally. We do want to get new users more educated out of the gate, (and we're testing something now that looks like it'll boost "tour" visits A LOT). But the problem with "all" is that everyone frustrated thinks their pet peeve is the one all new users are lazy/terrible/evil for not learning. Okay, maybe that's just me, but what should come through loud and clear in this section is that NO ignorance of any of our rules justifies belittling language or treatment.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 21:00
  • 2
    Being impatient and rude certainly won't incentivize them to stick around long enough to learn the rules. You can be patient while explaining the rules they violated. Decide for yourself if they showed enough effort to earn your review, but don't be rude if they didn't. Oct 12, 2014 at 0:27
  • 2
    Just combine two sentences ("Don't expect… while they learn") into one: "Be patient with new users while they learn the rules." Oct 12, 2014 at 7:23
  • 1
    @Jaydles "But the problem with "all" is that everyone frustrated thinks their pet peeve is the one all new users are lazy/terrible/evil for not learning." -- That makes no sense at all ... removing "all" just makes that worse, whereas adding it makes the statement correct ... just as we expect C++ programmers to know C++ syntax and semantics but we don't expect them to know all C++ syntax and semantics.
    – Jim Balter
    Oct 15, 2014 at 5:18

Less is more. The longer you make this list, the more it leaves out. All this can be reduced to:

  • 'thou shalt not make personal remarks', which covers 90% of it, and
  • 'thou shalt be civil and professional'.

I must say, contrary to several comments here, that both the worst and the most common offenses against both that I've seen, over several years, have come not from seasoned veterans, which is whom these guidelines seem to be addressed to, but from newbies.

  • 5
    I agree, most of the people who should read this are the kind of people who don't like to read too much. Oct 16, 2014 at 2:04
  • 1
    However, many people don't know what a personal remark or civility or professionalism is... Mar 26, 2018 at 10:25
  • @Discretelizard Some people: yes; 'many': no. And those that don't need to learn, both here and in life. And many more people than 'some' won't even read the policy anyway.
    – user207421
    Apr 28, 2018 at 22:47
  • @EJP Well, let me rephrase it. The problem is actually that 'civil and professional' is something that varies inter-culturally and hence if we look at 'in life', people from different cultures will likely be perceived unprofessional or uncivil. Of course, SE is in a sense a culture of its own. But we cannot expect newcomers to know what that is and many have wrong expectations (e.g. "This is a forum, right?" "These guys have to help me, right?"). Hence, merely asking to be 'civil and professional' seems to be too vague and unhelpful. Apr 29, 2018 at 8:55
  • @Discretelizard That's a problem without a solution, but we can at least be civil and professional and non-personal by our own standards. We all have to learn it. Newbies too.
    – user207421
    May 3, 2018 at 7:33
  • Well, I think the problem has a solution: make a list of some good practices that are specific, instead of asking people to follow some vague specification. In other words, I think a solution is to make a list with specific points on it, after all. May 3, 2018 at 13:53
  • @CamiloMartin Exactly so, and they are the ones who only read the first sentence of an answer, which typically doesn't contain the entire answer, or even any of it, and bitch and moan about what only the first sentence says. It's tedious.
    – user207421
    Nov 2, 2018 at 2:55

My English is not well, but I have problem understanding the structure of this paragraph:

Be welcoming, 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.

The headline seems address one group, those who are supposed to help others, but in the text two groups are addressed, both people who want to help others and the people who seek help.

It could be:

Be welcoming, patient, and assume good intentions. Don't expect new users to know all the rules — they don't. And be patient while they learn.

Make it easy for others to help you. Don't demand. 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.

  • 1
    Structurally, your point is strong (maybe you're not giving your English enough credit). It would be technically better organized that way. But I two of the three ideas (being patient and assuming good intentions) actually apply to both groups - askers who are impatient, or who assume that those telling them it's impossible to help them without more info are being pedantic meanies are one of the main groups this section is talking to. I agree that "be welcoming"'is less applicable to that group, but think that's worth it to not have a whole 'nother section.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 12, 2014 at 12:47
  • 4
    Thank you, whatever you prefer. However still when it starts by "be welcoming" and immediately you talk about how to answer a question; my mind apply be patient and assumes good intention to the replier (who answers). I mean be patient with those who don't know the rules and assume they don't have bad intentions....
    – Ahmad
    Oct 12, 2014 at 13:06
  • 5
    I think Ahmad's suggestion makes both statements clearer overall.
    – Rob Moir
    Oct 13, 2014 at 12:11
  • 1
    I'm having an issue with a user right now who can't accept that he hasn't answered my inteded question. Now its a pretty deep question but he keeps shoving it back in my face that "THATS HOW IT IS". I think something ought to be added that includes staying cautious that you may not understand the goal of the person's question. In such a case, clarification should be requested and thats it. I hate someone blurring details and telling me to leave a highly technical matter alone.
    – chrips
    Mar 18, 2019 at 7:27

Two sentences in the updated version add a weird, unnecesary attitude to the reading.

[...] At all.


[...] Also, this is so not a dating site.

Both sentences have a belittling tone (as if the reader of the policy has been prejudged) which arguably self-contradicts one or two other bullets in the policy; and each could be removed without removing substance from the policy.

  • 3
    At all basically serves as an exclamation point, which I think is a good thing. And it might be clear to you that the previous points imply that this is not a dating site, but there are a LOT of people out there who would benefit from reading this explicitly ("What? I'm just flirting, I'm not harassing or being inappropriate", "I'm not being vulgar or sexual! Can't you take a compliment?", etc).
    – tim
    Oct 12, 2014 at 9:53
  • 7
    Agreed. I don't think "Also, this is so not a dating site." provides any clarity or value. If a statement with this sentiment needs to be included I think it should be stated as unambiguously and succinctly as possible. However, that would degrade into listing all the things that SE is not; A dating site, an auction site, a mermaid, a stray dog, those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, Et cetera. Oct 13, 2014 at 10:24

Overall I like it. I missed the initial consultation, but comparing the two, I much prefer this version.

A few comments that I haven’t seen elsewhere (based on revision 7 of OP):

If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you.

The obvious follow-up question is “how?”. At the risk of putting too many links in this policy, I wonder if it might be worth linking to a site’s How do I ask a good question? page.

Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples. If you see them, flag them:

Why is the “flag it” text in the fourth bullet point linked, but not here? Seems inconsistent.

If the other party keeps it up, flag it. If you think something needs staff attention, use the "Contact Us" link found at the bottom of every page.

I don’t know how to phrase it without it becoming too wordy, but I think it might be worth adding something here to clarify the difference between moderators and staff. For new users (and maybe some not-so-new users), I don’t think it’s clear where the line is drawn. I think removing “SE” was actually a small regression.

We're proud to be one of the few large, user-driven spaces online where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent.

I’ve read this sentence four or five times, and it rubs me the wrong way.

I think the wording confuses what we’re proud of. The use of “one of the few” is misleading. We’re proud of the fact that we’re a respectful space on the Internet, not that it puts us in a small group.  I don’t think we’d mind if that group suddenly got bigger, but that’s what it suggests.

I’d reword it to remove “one of the few”:

We're proud to be a large, online, user-driven space where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent.

  • 1
    Agree with most of this - will incorporate some of it for sure in the next edit.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 11, 2014 at 11:06
  • 2
    +1 for "proud to be a [...] space where". Oct 13, 2014 at 17:11

Minor nitpick, but the 'so' in 'this is so not a dating site' is probably a bit too colloquial for non-English speakers, and will trip up attempts at Google-translating too.

(And as others have said, I'm not entirely convinced that it's worth including anything about flirting)

I also think that an acknowledgement/reminder of the language/culture/humour barrier is valuable. (Shameless plug: see my attempt, which I still prefer - it's 40% shorter...)


I may not reflect everyone's opinion on this, but being a user since when some questions like "strangest language features" were allowed, and seeing them be all relegated to the past, it feels like the phrases "bring a sense of humor" and "have fun" are giving new users false hopes :)

  • 5
    I miss Fridays in Iceland, too.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 16, 2014 at 3:08

Is "don't be a jerk" going to help at all?

Jerk is very loaded. I think on this side of the water being called a Jerk may mean more than on your side (perhaps it's just me).

Putting that completely aside.

What use is it?

Anybody who is doing things which come under the points subordinate to Jerk will just read to Jerk and say to themselves "well, that's not me, I can skip that bit" (who, after all, sees themselves as a Jerk - or even if they do, they'll just chuckle and think "Yep, that's me. And that one. Oh, didn't think of that, must try it out..."?).

Anybody who comes to that list can say about someone "look, you're being a Jerk, it says so here". Not a defusing measure.

Expanding from the original brief paragraph has introduced a problem. The brief paragraph has one target audience, everybody. The detailed version has two target audiences, generally, those who ask questions, and those who reply. It becomes awkward by not explicitly dealing with the separation, yet if it were to deal with it explicitly you end up with "us" and "them". One set of rules for us, and one for them.

Although the little corner of SO that I inhabit is quiet, both in terms of questions and in attitude towards those questions, I would guess and expect to be correct that most of the "abuse" on SO is against those asking questions, and dealt out by a minority of more experienced people.

OK, pointing out bluntly that someone is lazy for not even referring to a manual for syntax or looking up an error message is rude, but I can phrase the same content with words themselves that cannot be argued to be inflammatory. The further problem is that I'm not intending a sub-text of "lazy", I'm trying to assist by pointing out how they can help themselves.

I think it is also pushing water up hill to make something which becomes more specific but also applies to all sites. On SO, do we really have much "homophobia", for instance?

I'm getting to much prefer something more along the lines of the single paragraph for an all-encompassing SE Conduct Guidance, and for the individual sites, with their individual Communities, to come up with Conduct Guidance of their own. The Community on each site will be the primary police force, judge, jury and executioner, so they should make the law.

I have an interest to declare. I believe I've already been reported under number two. Andrew Barber has my full permission to confirm. How my attempt at assistance, which was a long detailed comment, followed up, after becoming aware that the OP had his eye on number two, by further detailed explanation, in the now-deleted comments, was interpreted as not being welcoming, patient, and assum[ing] good intentions I am at a loss to know.

I think the introduction of something like this is going to cause an unexpected deal of frustration and confusion.


May be a minor point...

If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you.

I would suggest one more word:

If you're here looking for help, ...

Otherwise it's not clear right away whether help seekers or help providers are addressed.

In general, it's a variation of Jerry Maguire's "help us to help you", which I've used several times when prodding new users to add more beef to their questions.


I really like it. There's only one part I don't like:

Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples.

Personally, the aggressive attitude isn't likely to help. I see two main "users" of this page:

  • People looking from confirmation that they can get help, or people looking to get help.

  • People who are pointed at the page because they were involved in (or came across) some kind of incident.

In the first case, the language is needlessly hostile. In the second case, it's accusatory and likely to incite defensiveness.

Putting a positive spin on it would fix that. I'd steal the title for this section:

Community Guidelines

<!-- The other stuff -->

  1. Be nice. These are just a few examples of unacceptable behaviour. If you see them, flag them:

<!-- and so on. -->

A little extra advantage is that "Community Guidelines" just sounds more official. "Be nice" is good, but I don't think it should be the title.

Minor points, though. I like it.


A couple of grammatical issues.

to ask questions, or to generously share what you know

No comma needed after "questions".

we’re all here to learn, together.

No comma needed after "learn". If you are trying to emphasize "together" maybe bold font or a rephrasing would be in order.

bring your sense of humor. Just in case.

That period (full stop) after "humor" should be something else. "Just in case." is not a sentence.

And a "me-too" on a point raised by others.

Don't expect new users to know the rules — they don't.

(except for those that do because they read all the help pages.) How about something like:

New users may not know all the rules. Don't criticize or ridicule them for that, but do gently and politely help them learn.


I really think the last line needs to be changed from:

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


In summary, be excellent to each other. Party on dudes!

  • 1
    How can this possibly be downvoted? It is technically correct - the best kind of correct :)
    – JK.
    Oct 13, 2014 at 0:26
  • 5
    "Dudes" is a gender specific term, a gender neutral proposal such as folks is better. Oct 13, 2014 at 5:18
  • 5
    @InfiniteRecursion: Its etymology is gender-specific, but it's not a gender-specific term in this context. But then the etymology of folk is probably gender-specific, too, as it likely referred to a "host of warriors."
    – Flimzy
    Oct 13, 2014 at 10:32
  • 2
    While I appreciate the sentiment, your otherwise most excellent suggestion will make the statement harder to parse if English is not your first language.
    – Rob Moir
    Oct 13, 2014 at 12:10
  • 1
    @InfiniteRecursion Mankind is also gender-specific if you're nitpicking, but I've seen many women that are part of mankind. And they can work man-hours, too! Oct 16, 2014 at 2:08
  • 1
    @CamiloMartin: And the point is? Do the female members of this community like me need to live with such words in the "help-center" just because there are tons of gender-specific words in the world? Oct 16, 2014 at 4:12
  • 4
    I don't want to party on, dude.
    – rene
    Oct 19, 2014 at 13:25
  • @rene FINE. The party can go on without you! Mar 26, 2018 at 10:27

If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you.

I wonder what this means?

How exactly is a newcomer to go about making it easy for others to help? Is there anything in here that is not already covered by the rest?

Here is what I think it should say: ""If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you: make sure your question is as complete, concise, clear, and polite as you can make it." ( With credit to Codeswitcher for suggesting the wording, though his exact suggestion is waaaay too longwinded. )

  • 9
    This is meant to set new users up with a mindset that encourages thinking about "What would make it easier for me to solve this if I were the other person? It may not explicitly tell you to think about things like language, what you tried, the results so far etc., but it helps to establish that thinking about the other person's situation will help everyone.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 10, 2014 at 21:02
  • At Server Fault we have, and link in one of our close reasons, a meta thread on how to ask better questions. A well asked question with sufficient, relevant detail makes it easy to help with a good answer. A bad question, like "why is my server crashing every Wednesday?" Is basically impossible to answer. Oct 10, 2014 at 21:10
  • "This is meant to set new users up with a mindset that encourages thinking about ..." The intention is faultless, but I do not believe that this sentence will achieve anything of the kind. To me, it is just verbiage. Oct 11, 2014 at 1:03
  • 1
    It could be made more clear: "If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you: give some thought as to what it will be like for people reading your question, and make sure it is as complete, concise, clear, and polite as you can make it." Oct 13, 2014 at 17:14

I really don't like how passive agressive this is.

"this is not a dating site"

Oh, really? I was almost sure it was.

"don't be a jerk"

But I love being a jerk!

"will not be tolerated. at all."

Not even a little bit...?

Edit: I would re-word them as:

"this site is not meant for social or personal relationships"

(you don't need to be specific about what kind of personal relationships people can't form here, because in reality all of them are discouraged not only by rules but by how the site works.)

"avoid personal offenses"

(even non-self-admitted jerks, i.e., everyone, can sometimes admit to having personally offended someone. "jerk" is an all-encompassing, childish, finger-pointing personal insult. Not really helpful.)

"has no place here"

("will not be tolerated", especially with "at all", seems to imply that the user will do these things if not reminded not to. "has no place here" can even serve to redirect some people back to /b/ and tumblr.)

  • 3
    Do you have suggestions as to how those phrases can be improved? I don't really see the problem with saying those things, but maybe it would help to show us what they should say instead. Oct 16, 2014 at 4:31
  • 1
    @doppelgreener edited. I was more concerned with these snippets being bad enough that almost anything would be better, though. Oct 17, 2014 at 4:27
  • "this site is not meant for social or personal relationships" - I don't think this is on the mark. First, I do have social relationships that have developed here and it's great. Heck, on Role-playing Games we have a well-knit community that new people get brought into all the time, and that's awesome. But the thing you're replacing comes under the heading of "inappropriate attention", so you're losing the intent that this is not meant to be about hitting on poeple. Oct 17, 2014 at 5:09
  • @doppelgreener I don't know about rpg.SE but through years of usage only once or twice have I ever taken some conversation to a personal (friendly) level and I would be ok if it was regarded as de-railing and modded out. The fact is that you have no PM system, no "personal wall", and even talking for more than a while in the comments between two people will tell you to go to chat (and arguably chat is a different place with different rules about what's the purpose of the place and all). The main sites are pretty unfavorable to social, personal relationships and bonds (unlike facebook et al). Oct 18, 2014 at 15:09
  • Note that I consider this excellent, because this site focuses on the contribution and not the personal emotions of whoever wrote it. White, black, man, female, beautiful, ugly, nothing personal matters here and I think this distance from the "book cover" aspect of human relationships is what makes this website so inclusive and productive. It's not just about not being a dating site, it's much more restrictive in both spirit and user interface, and that's awesome. Oct 18, 2014 at 15:13

While I like what you're doing with this, I confess that "Be Nice" rubs me the wrong way -- let us say, I come from a culture where "nice" has strongly negative associations.

I would like to counter-propose Be Kind, as avoiding that problem and being a much stronger statement of what it is you are asking of your users.

Or alternatively, my favorite, Be Excellent to Each Other.

  • 4
    Do you mind my asking what strongly negative associations you associate with "nice"?
    – Laura
    Oct 13, 2014 at 19:27
  • 6
    @laura Several things, some somewhat exclusive. "Don't contradict or disagree". "Unctiousness"/"manipulativeness". Gender performance policing and sexism, q.v. "Nice girls don't"/"Nice Guys(tm)". Vague standards of conduct which flexibly are used to repress people unpopular for being minorities, and exonerate people who have more social status. Oct 13, 2014 at 21:37
  • 6
    @laura, to add to that: consider that we have a society in which "niceness" is very much a gendered behavioral expectation, that lands unfairly on the shoulders of women. I... do not think I would ever tell a woman to "be nice", because holy patriarchal gender norms, Batman! And I've noticed a lot of people have that reticence. So when I hear a site address the audience "Be nice!", I wonder if the site owners envisioned any of the audience being women, or if that's evidence they assume a male audience. Oct 13, 2014 at 21:45
  • @Codeswitcher I just want to point out that the onus of "nice guy" is much more negative to males. Being a nice guy means taking care of a girl's needs, being a nice girl means being taken care of in a receptive manner. Sure, there's a pressure involved in sitting on a pedestal, but you can't ignore the hurdles of building and mantaining this pedestal. Also, you get easily offended. Oct 17, 2014 at 4:09
  • 1
    Wow. I had to run to Websters and look up the definition of nice! I'm not sure what your sources are for these negative connotations that you claim adhere the the word nice, but I have yet to see a reputable one that agrees with your assessment. Perhaps you could cite your source? Thank you!
    – Elder Geek
    Jul 22, 2016 at 23:05

If you think something needs staff attention, use the "Contact Us" link found at the bottom of every page.

Why is staff italicized? It seems to imply some manner of saucy tone, and I wonder if maybe it could just be font of a normal stress.

  • 2
    It emphasizes the difference between room owners, and actual employees and mods of the stack network. Oct 14, 2014 at 17:22
  • 1
    Okay, but doesn't the word "staff" emphasize this in itself? To me, I don't see the italic and think to myself, "Oh of course! They mean mods!" Oct 14, 2014 at 17:31
  • I agree with @Sterling, and more: in my opinion it's emphasized to make it clearer that involving staff is an extreme step that shouldn't be done lightly. Oct 14, 2014 at 17:38
  • I think you're thinking too hard on a small detail -- it would almost be hypocritical to have a "saucy" tone whilst trying to emphasize that the Stack network should be nicer and non-condescending. Oct 14, 2014 at 17:39
  • 1
    @ShadowWizard It sort of implies that staff are on some sort of higher level from normal contributors. This goes against the community spirit and seems to drag the whole CoC down Oct 14, 2014 at 17:55
  • Because staff is above other users or moderators. It's a dry fact, nothing against any spirit. Oct 14, 2014 at 18:55
  • Why not just write that down then and be clear about it? Oct 15, 2014 at 12:15

Mine is only a minor point that I made in a comment some time ago. It is probably a point more appropriately made in the comments, but I feel it was buried there, as I made it right before a rather drawn-out, arguably off-topic, conversation started up.

Here is my comment as it appeared above:

Contractions add to the laid back tone and are generally seen as informal and unprofessional. In my opinion, they are perfectly fine for this situation. That said, spelling some of them out can provide subtle emphases. For example, "Don't expect new users to know all," could be written as "Do not expect new users to know all," the spelled out contraction is much more forceful. Generally speaking, I would consider leaving contractions in the headers alone, while spelling out those in the finer points. It's a minor point but I wanted to mention it, sorry if someone else already did.

And these are the changes I would recommend based on it:

In this first sentence I would recommend expanding the contractions but I do not think it is necessary.

Whether you have come to ask questions, or to generously share what you know, remember that we are all here to learn, together.

'you'd' probably can stay but 'don't' in this section has to go.

Rudeness and belittling language are not okay. Your tone should match the way you would talk in person with someone you respect and whom you want to respect you. If you do not have time to say something politely, just leave it for someone who does.

Changing the first don't into 'do not' carries much more force. Leaving the second as 'don't' makes it a much lighter tone for the aside. Saying 'you are' as opposed to 'you're' makes the statement that much more forceful (and I think in this case clearer).

Do not expect new users to know all the rules — they don't. And be patient while they learn. If you are here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you.

I have mixed feelings about this case. As it is a summary of the following section I think it keeps a significantly friendlier tone to leave it as 'Don't'. That said, I have serious misgivings about starting a sentence with a contraction.

Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples. If you see them, flag them:

This one just feels more appropriate as 'they are'.

That includes terms that feel personal even when they are applied to posts (for example, "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny").

I cannot stress this one enough. 'won't' presents almost a joking tone, but 'will not' suggests weight of force if the rule is broken (much more so than the 'At all').

Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all.

Another 'don't' in aside, I would probably leave this one alone as it lightens the tone.

(That list is deliberately incomplete — when in doubt, just don't.)

I don't believe for a second that 'We're proud', but I might believe that 'We are proud' (optionally you could italicize the we).

We are proud to be one of the few large, user-driven spaces online where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent.

'It is' gives force to how important this is, in a way that 'it's' simply cannot do. (You might consider italicizing 'all of us' here as well)

It is up to all of us to keep it that way.

Granted, the changes I proposed don't really change the content, and the subtle changes to tone may be lost on many english and non-english speakers alike, but I feel the use of contractions only served to lighten the tone (something which obscured the meaning in many areas).

Anyway, sorry for the delayed response.


Very nicely done.

I think Be Nice. covers the bases well. Let's face it:

Rudeness and belittling language are not nice. Nor is name-calling, bigotry, harassment or bullying. None of these could be considered nice in my humble opinion. Vulgarity is in the eye of the beholder and can flip flop regionally, but I'm sure were all grown up enough to attempt to avoid that. Inappropriate attention could be misconstrued.

I think it's hard to run afoul of any of these finer points if you are actually attempting to follow the first one.


I think the subtitle of Bigotry of any kind should be expanded to Bigotry, stereotyping, or discrimination of any kind.

Thinking back to my junior high health classes, the two terms we learned were stereotyping and discrimination. Bigotry (or the more specific terms for it like misogyny) never came up in those classes. It's not hard for me to imagine that a young new user might only know one of those terms, and that bigotry is not one of them.

Additionally, some might have a narrow definition of bigotry, say limited to misogyny and homophobia, even though what is meant is clarified. By being very clear from the outset we limit the possibility that the rule is misinterpreted.

  • 1
    Eh. I don't think I've talked to anyone in my adult life without somehow stereotyping him. On SO, for instance, I quite often make assumptions about an asker's motivation and competence level and I try tailor my response to what I see. Sometimes I click through to the user's profile. (Student? Hobbyist? Researcher? Professional? Which stereotype is most likely to fit given the user's question history and the demographic information on the profile?)
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 11, 2014 at 2:07
  • 2
    Are we stereotyping when we use male gender (he, his, him, etc) as the general pronoun for someone on the site? I don't know what the gender balance is, but I suspect it is probably 90% male to 10% female, or more skewed than that, even. In case of doubt, assuming male is fairly safe, but that could be stereotyping. Oct 11, 2014 at 3:17
  • 1
    @JonathanLeffler: I was taught that "he" is gender-neutral rather than masculine. The real or perceived gender ratio of SE sites does not appear to be relevant.
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 11, 2014 at 4:55
  • 8
    @tmyklebu wikipedia says this: The use of "he" to refer to a person of unknown gender was prescribed by manuals of style and school textbooks from the early 18th century until around the 1960s and Since at least the 15th century, "they" [has] been used, in an increasingly accepted fashion, as singular [pronoun]. [...] It is widely used and accepted in Britain, Australia, and North America in conversation. I wouldn't use generic he nowadays, but either rephrase or use they.
    – tim
    Oct 11, 2014 at 9:55
  • 1
    @JonathanLeffler As long as you only base your pronouns on this assumption, it's not really stereotyping. If you change your answer because you assume the OP is bad at math/programming, more emotional, etc (because you assume that she is a woman), that would be stereotyping. If you only base your assumption on statistics, it's still an assumption I wouldn't make, and an assumption that can be excluding, but it's not stereotyping. But I would also be against using stereotyping in the Code (see tmyklebus explanation).
    – tim
    Oct 11, 2014 at 10:10
  • My original comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Thanks @tymbleku (and tim but SO shouts at me when I try to tell you both in a single comment) for the information — I'm sorry you spent time writing up good explanations for me (when in all honesty I already knew what you you said). To all others, please do not spend time educating me — unless you particularly feel I need educating on the unwisdom of the comment I made or something else tangential to its content. Oct 11, 2014 at 15:07
  • My original comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Thanks @tim (and tymbleku but SO shouts at me when I try to tell you both in a single comment) for the information — I'm sorry you spent time writing up good explanations for me (when in all honesty I already knew what you you said). To all others, please do not spend time educating me — unless you particularly feel I need educating on the unwisdom of the comment I made or something else tangential to its content. Oct 11, 2014 at 15:07
  • 2
    "I was taught that "he" is gender-neutral rather than masculine." -- It hasn't been for decades ... every style guide reflects the change.
    – Jim Balter
    Oct 15, 2014 at 6:42
  • I'm sorry but banning anyone from the use of grandma as an example of a low-experience user is simply you imposing yourself on others.
    – MrYellow
    Nov 1, 2018 at 20:52

I'm not sure if it's just programmers; but in general all forums I've been on, there's a group of the in-crowd, who believe they own the forum. Instead of being nice and helping folks, many of them become super-critical bad mentors. All because "you didn't do it right" or other petty things. They are not teachers rather they are accusers of lack of knowledge which is why we're here in the first place.

Being nice means that we should assume that any post we participate in, should be from the perspective of a teacher or a learner. Not a critic, not a super-programmer, just a mentor, or a learner. That's it, no more no less.

The only time I get cross with others is when they roll out the six guns, and it that case they deserve to hear my inner thoughts.


I happened to be looking at the Stack Exchange Terms of Service, and saw the reference to the Ubuntu Code of Conduct which is also supposed to be obeyed when working in the Ask Ubuntu site.

The Ubuntu Code of Conduct has a lot in common with what has been produced here.

  • That's funny - it's completely coincidental. We looked at a couple of others (which wasn't much help), but not that one.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 15, 2014 at 20:03

Mention downvoting

This is an excellent revision. I was reminded, however, that while downvoting contributes to the quality of Stack Exchange, it may be perceived as nastiness, causing confusion about if and when to downvote.

Here's a very rough attempt to address that, but I'm not sure where it would fit in or if it is neccessary in context.

If you feel a question or answer could be improved, and are willing to give feedback, downvote it and leave a nice suggestion. Remember to upvote if the entry improves! But if you feel a question, answer or comment is not nice, do not downvote it - instead flag it for removal.

  • 1
    hmmm, on reflection maybe this is too much info given that whoever reads this may not have downvoting privileges yet, and should be educated about them when they get them ... maybe still worth mentioning about how to respond to downvotes (nicely)?
    – lofidevops
    Oct 14, 2014 at 12:34
  • 5
    I don't like this because it seems to suggest you should never downvote if you are not also willing to leave feedback or a nice suggestion. That's simply not the policy -- downvotes can and should be used even in the absence of other feedback.
    – Ben Lee
    Oct 16, 2014 at 0:44

Don't expect new users to know the rules - they don't.

This would be arguable, I think. There is certainly someone who will read them before posting. So stating that new users don't know the rules may hurt the new users who have already read them.

If you see them, flag them

Beep. Maybe remove the last "them"?

Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. won't be tolerated.

I think isn't (instead of won't) would be better there, because you don't accept this language already, but with won't it looks like you won't accept it in the future and now accept it.

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

Of course, have fun, but... don't make fun of all surrounding you. Also, "be good to" can be replaced with respect, can't it?

  • 1
    Whether such language is tolerated might be hazier on religious SE sites. If you search for "Leviticus gay" on the Christianity SE, for instance, you might find people declaring stuff like "I know that homosexuality is a sin" or "No, God did not make you gay."
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:44
  • 1
    @tmyklebu you seems to misunderstand me :) edited.
    – nicael
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:47
  • I still don't see what you're going for.
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 10, 2014 at 17:45
  • 7
    I believe that nicael is distinguishing between "won't" which has a mild implication of something that happens in the future and "isn't" which indicates that the lack-of-tolerance is currently in force -- without saying anything pro or con about the actual policy. Oct 10, 2014 at 19:08
  • @DaleWilson exactly.
    – nicael
    Oct 10, 2014 at 19:10
  • @DaleWilson: Gotcha. A wording tweak. I completely missed that bit of awkwardness. Thanks
    – tmyklebu
    Oct 11, 2014 at 0:19
  • "be good to" includes everything that has a positive meaning. I doubt anybody does not include respect with "being good to" someone. Oct 17, 2014 at 4:30
  • "Language likely to" is future tense and is the subject of the sentence. As such, "won't" is correct, using "isn't" would require a rewrite of that sentence. (I think using the future tense here subtly enforces the implication of possible repercussions for such language, which I do not feel the present tense version of the sentence is capable of doing.) edit: holy-indefinite-batman "I think...subtly...implication...possible...do not feel..." Oct 20, 2014 at 15:48
  • >Don't expect new users to know the rules - they don't. All this means is that new users very likely mess up due to not knowing the rules. If you explain it, be gentle and include a welcome message. This way it is clear that you see they are being new and are gently taken care of! Mar 26, 2018 at 10:28

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