The revised "Be Nice Policy" states:

Don't be a jerk. .... Inappropriate language or attention. Avoid vulgar terms and anything sexually suggestive. Also, this is so not a dating site.

When a clarification about how this applies to Chat room on the Stack Exchange (Stack Overflow) sites, the response given was:

  • Clarificantion request: 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.
  • Clarification response: - nothing official yet ....

  • In another answer, Tim Post states: .... There's less ambiguity for moderators to deal with when enforcing it, and less ambiguity for folks simply wondering what's expected of them. Don't be surprised to see folks widely linking to it in comments / chat / etc.

  • A direct, non-official response from Chris S suggests: I would say the rules apply to chat with exceptions for vulgarity on a per-room basis. Patrons of the room should come to some kind of consensus as to what terminology is acceptable. Malicious behavior - bullying, harassment, and bigotry - is never acceptable however.

Questions:

  1. Are the expectations for Chat the same as the expectations for Q&A sites?
  2. If not, and chat rooms can have exceptions to certain policies, how should those exceptions be 'published' so that people know which rooms are allowed these exceptions?
  3. Are the degrees of 'profanity', or 'vulgarity' different for chat as opposed to main sites?
  4. If a particular chat room requires additional code-of-conduct 'rules' that go beyond the 'Be Nice Policy' (i.e. be Extra Nice Policy), is that allowed too, and how should that be published? (Already chat rooms can enforce 'topic for the room', can it enforce a 'topic and conduct for the room'?)
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    I'd hope not. I'm a massive advocate of letting chatrooms handle their own problems. There's obviously disagreement. Site culture isn't an excuse to be an ass. Site culture should to an extent decide what's acceptable. This, of course this can change over time. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/188879/… sums it up pretty well – Journeyman Geek Oct 13 '14 at 1:10
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    I really hate the whole "room culture makes it OK for me to turn this room into my private drinking club" idea. I don't have a real problem with the milder "swears" (for lack of a better word atm) but if you're being particularly obscene and someone flags it I'm going to approve it. What might be appropriate for your drinking club or bedroom is most certainly not OK on SE. "Room culture" should never be an excuse for being a jerk. Otherwise only trolls are likely to be the offended ones. – ɥʇǝS Oct 13 '14 at 4:53
  • @JourneymanGeek This is where I disagree with you. Someone walking into a room full of NSFW content and adults acting like they just turned 13 and learned how to swear shouldn't be sworn out of a room just for thinking there might be a problem. Many places have a "harder" culture, but like I mentioned above this should never be an excuse to be a jerk, which too many places use it as. – ɥʇǝS Oct 13 '14 at 4:59
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    That's clearly not what I said. I'm not even sure where I said NSFW content and immaturity were fine. I said I prefer chatrooms handle their own problems, and made qualified statements of support for site culture, and that that was a mutable thing. I tend to feel that the fact that the rooms are indexed by search engines is probably a better self regulator for non-trollish folk than anything else. – Journeyman Geek Oct 13 '14 at 5:13
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    @ɥʇǝS The thing is that "swears" isn't a useful proxy for "being a jerk". The two are orthogonal. – Jenny D Oct 13 '14 at 10:30
  • @Jenny I don't believe I was equating the two. It is related, but not the same. I said I'm fine with some swearing, it's the obscenity that I take a problem with. Sometimes this includes swearing, but usually it isn't about that. – ɥʇǝS Oct 13 '14 at 14:42
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I actually think Robert Harvey's answer hit just about all the key points, but it's hard to "officialize" someone else's answer with an edit or comment, so here's a "very important most officialest statement."

Yes, the "Be Nice" policy applies to the entire site, including chat.

No, that does not mean that there is a new war on swear-words in chat. But that's because there isn't one anywhere.

We deliberately wrote this part of the policy to:

  • Give pretty unambiguous fair warning that some language and behavior is likely to be moderated, and you shouldn't be shocked if it is, but...
  • The language deliberately implies some contextual consideration. "Inappropriate" suggests that local norms can and should have some influence. And "avoid" and "unwanted" leave room for situational... reasonableness, for want of a better term.

At the end of the day, the key underlying themes of being respectful and inclusive will be what matter.

If some chat rooms users regularly write out the words in "WTF," and everyone seems comfortable with it, I probably am too; as it happens, I curse a lot in real life. On the other hand, if someone complains that that language makes them uncomfortable, we're likely to ask everyone to pull it back to using initialism, out of mutual respect.

On the other hand, some types of language won't be welcome under almost any conditions. Just as examples, jokes about sexual assault, or use of the "n-word" will be deleted, and likely result in warnings or worse, even if no one in the room complains. (The only likely exceptions there would be a discussion of legitimate issues around those things, like the ELU question on the "n-word"s etymology.)

When in doubt: Keep an open mind, err on the side of mutual respect, and be flexible when you mean well, but you're being told that your choice of words makes others feel unwelcome.

There are more than 20,000 instances of "fuck" present in the chat.SE rooms, not counting private rooms used for moderation. I think this clearly shows that a certain level of crude language is widely tolerated in chat. SE never stated that the "no expletives" rule on the main sites doesn't apply to chat, but we can certainly observe that it isn't enforced in practice.

While the "no expletives" rule isn't enforced in any systematic way, occasionally a chat message simply containing an expletive (not directed at anyone) is still flagged, and reasonably often validated. This is something that I consider problematic, there are already a few thousand "fuck"s in the room, why does suddenly someone care about the latest one? Rules that are so rarely enforced are simply unfair and useless.

I don't think the "no vulgarity" rule should apply to chat, it has never been enforced systematically. Of course rooms should be free to disallow any profanity, if they want to.

The other parts of the code of conduct certainly should apply to chat, I'd argue that they can be even more important in chat than on the main site. Abusive behaviour shouldn't be tolerated on chat, like it isn't tolerated on the main sites. The "sexually suggestive" and "not a dating site" rules might even have been written with chat in mind. There have been cases of rather creepy behaviour of that kind in chat, they weren't tolerated in the past and won't be tolerated under the new code of conduct as well.

Room culture is no excuse for abusive behaviour. This is one of the reasons why I think the profanity rule should be clarified, as it is often a distraction. Even if the chat message that was flagged contains some bad words, odds are the reason it was flagged wasn't those words alone.

  • @Iain Google is always showing the count much higher than the actual results... try going to page 53 and see what happens. – Shadow Wizard Oct 13 '14 at 7:28
  • @Iain I used the internal chat search for this – Mad Scientist Oct 13 '14 at 7:39
  • @Iain scroll down, do you have more results? – Shadow Wizard Oct 13 '14 at 7:45
  • @ShadowWizard I believe google is counting occurrences of the word, not just messages containing the word (as chat search appears to do). For example The first result contains a message with 80(ish) occurrences. – user147520 Oct 13 '14 at 7:59
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    Also @ShadowWizard I believe you fully understood the meaning and intent of my original comment. Unfortunately you went out of your way to (try to) put me down :( I am though ok with this as, this is the 'culture' of meta ;) – user147520 Oct 13 '14 at 8:21
  • Not trying to put anyone down, @Iain, just sharing something I learned to fix a common mistake. :) – Shadow Wizard Oct 13 '14 at 8:34
  • I think this answer says it better than I ever could. People gonna swear, nothing we can do about that and I don't see why we'd try. Usually when something gets flagged it isn't about the swear word in the message, but the behaviour around it. – ɥʇǝS Oct 13 '14 at 14:46

I'd hope not.

I'm a massive advocate of letting chatrooms handle their own problems. There's a few elements here which don't entirely seem to be addressed adequately in my opinion

I hang out on a few rooms and I've heard of incidents that have happened in other places, so I'd hope I have some insight into the user side of things.I recognise not everwhere's the same, but I'm a regular on the chatrooms of at least two of the trilogy, quite a few other rooms, and am reasonably aware of some of the shenanigans people get up to.

Firstly, context is essential. A hamhanded attempt at a universal set of rules to do with language use is probably going to end up unintentionally clearing out some rooms. I'm not talking places named after female body parts (which is probably the intention here), or those gentlemen who think trying to pick up girls on programming or computer chat (WHY? WHYYYD), which need to be smacked down.

As a counter example somewhere like the comms room may use stronger language, joke about violence yet be an inviting place to the sort of person who's cool with taking a moment to read the channel topic, listen a bit, then chat. I don't think anyone gets abused there, but occationally folk take issue with the language used, and flag things months after the fact.

Usually when people get told off, its cause they completely ignore the "This is not a place for live help" notice on the channel topic, and very often its polite.

Its also a good example of self regulation working. There used to be a bit of a channel tradition of posting ... somewhat borderline NSFW pictures there (which stopped after a polite user request), and I haven't seen the famous barrel of lube in ages for the same reason. Site culture evolves.

Being nice doesn't necessarily mean completely clean speech (but of course, a chatroom where half the words used are vulgarities would be horrid), and I suspect hamfisted, tone deaf regulation of what is acceptable would do more harm than good.

A reasonable course of action for a single instance of what may seem to be abusive would be to decide on the intent and the history of the user and room in question, and deciding whether to take action, rather than having a very strict high bar for what is acceptable.

If a room as a whole is problematic, well, that's a whole different matter - but generally I've not seen it being a massive issue. IIRC the last time it happened a community mod handled it.

Having a strict set of regulations on what is and isn't acceptable, right down to the 'kind of language' that's accepted in general ought to be a last resort in my view, and probably mean that community and 'moderator' moderation have failed.

I strongly second Journeyman Geek's answer, but would like to clarify it a bit more.

I'm a Comm's Room user. I feel more welcome and at home there than in any other chatroom. The reason for this is that the chat room, at least during the hours when I'm usually on, is a place where actual sysadmins hang out with one another. This makes the chat different from e.g. the Unix/Linux chat room, where you might have a lot of younger users and which thus needs to have a different culture and standard.

I've only rarely encountered instances of people being jerks in the Comm's Room. When it's happened, I can't recall that it ever had anything to do with "bad language" or "expletives". It had to do with someone not respecting another person - e.g. homophobia, transphobia, ableism or some other variety of classing a group of people as less worthy than others.

It's entirely possible and regrettably common to be this kind of jerk without once resorting to coarse language. It is equally possible to be a good person while using words that many people don't want their young children to hear. I greatly prefer the latter environment to the former. That's what we have in the Comm's Room - a place where I've been able to rant about discrimination against me as a woman in IT, and getting support. My words when ranting about it were not free from expletives, nor was the support I was getting. There have been other topics there dealing with problems that adults face in their lives; topics that I'm aware that some parents don't want their children to know about, but which have been handled with empathy and helpfulness by the denizens. Yet, if we were to avoid "vulgar words", we would barely be able to talk about these things.

Another issue is in-jokes. There are some terms that are in common usage in many forums where sysadmins hang out, and which have been used in the Comm's Room - resulting in flags, and, in one case, accusations of impersonation by a moderator of a different part of SE.

This is what we mean by "group culture" - not a culture where people are routinely harassed, but one where people are being supportive and empathetic as well as having fun, with their own in-jokes and standards. While I completely agree that "it's our culture" shouldn't be a free pass to be abusive to others, I will also strongly emphasize that I believe it to be beneficial to SE as a whole to allow the denizens of a chat room some leniency in determining what their own standards for language and topics should be.

Are the expectations for Chat the same as the expectations for Q&A sites?

Not exactly. For one thing, you might actually be able to get away with asking the question "What is the best programmer cartoon" or "What is the best physicist joke" in a chat room.

If not, and chat rooms can have exceptions to certain policies, how should those exceptions be 'published' so that people know which rooms are allowed these exceptions?

There aren't any exceptions. The "be nice" policy applies in the chat rooms just as it does on the main sites. This is especially true of the "don't be a jerk" rules (all of them).

Does this 'code of conduct' apply equally on chat, as well as the Q&A sites?

Yes, it does.

If it does, there's going to need to be some form of clarity on what constitutes vulgarity, etc.

No, there is no such need. If you need a metric, ask yourself the question, "Is this behavior becoming a distraction?"

Are the degrees of 'profanity', or 'vulgarity' different for chat as opposed to main sites?

They can be. It is generally understood that the chat rooms are a bit more relaxed than the main sites.

Common sense dictates that, like any other public venue, you lurk for awhile and find out what the prevailing culture is. Otherwise, you're just Pee Wee Herman stumbling into a biker bar. Or a hapless C++ newbie crashing the Lounge without putting on their flame-proof underwear first.

Regardless of the number of four-letter words, "be nice" still prevails.

If a particular chat room requires additional code-of-conduct 'rules' that go beyond the 'Be Nice Policy' (i.e. be Extra Nice Policy), is that allowed too, and how should that be published?

How would that work, exactly? Would everyone who enters the room bow slightly at the waist, and take their shoes off before speaking?

A direct, non-official response from Chris S suggests: I would say the rules apply to chat with exceptions for vulgarity on a per-room basis. Patrons of the room should come to some kind of consensus as to what terminology is acceptable. Malicious behavior - bullying, harassment, and bigotry - is never acceptable however.

That's good advice. However, I also like this:

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.

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    I find this answer to be less helpful than I hoped. It misses the point in some instances, and asks more questions than it answers. Are the expectations the same on chat as Q&A? Pointing out that you can chat politely, on chat, and not chat, politely on main, is not helpful. The question was about the be-nice policy (focusing on vulgarities), not what's on topic. Then you say that "there are no exceptions", which you follow by saying "It is generally understood that the chat rooms are a bit more relaxed than the main sites.". It's contradictory. – rolfl Oct 13 '14 at 13:12
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    You then ask, (demeaningly?): "Would everyone who enters the room bow slightly at the waist, and take their shoes off before speaking?" Perhaps some rooms saying: "The topic of this room is discussion related the site ABC.se. Swearing is not allowed here, and any discussion of (politics|religion|relationships) should be taken to room XYZ. Violators will be kicked!". If you consider that to be "bowing slightly at the waist" (which may be appropriate for a (Catholic|Karate) rooms) or "taking off your (virtual) shoes", which is respectful in some contexts too, then sure, that's what I mean. – rolfl Oct 13 '14 at 13:22
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    Finally, the last two items... You say it's good advice that "rules apply to chat with exceptions", and then also say you like: "I think "be nice" applies to all SE-hosted content. For that other stuff -- find another site." and "I'm pretty sick of the idea that a room is allowed to spew vulgarities" .... which one is your answer? – rolfl Oct 13 '14 at 13:24
  • @rolfl: Your response to my bowing at the waist and taking off my shoes remark is very telling. I tried to make a valid point, and it appears that you became (slightly) offended. How about this: can you behave like an adult? If you can, then you're probably welcome in the chat rooms. If you can't, or you don't know or can't figure out what being an adult means, you're probably not welcome there. – Robert Harvey Oct 13 '14 at 15:14
  • As to your observations about my responses, I guess that's what you get by asking so many questions in the same meta post. – Robert Harvey Oct 13 '14 at 15:16
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    I think your statement: "How about this: can you behave like an adult? If you can, then you're probably welcome in the chat rooms." is exactly why this meta SE question is useful. The issue is not whether 'I' can behave like an adult. The question is whether I could/should expect everyone else to behave as adults too. Your follow-on is: "If you can, then you're probably welcome in the chat rooms. If you can't, you're probably not." which implies that you expect adult behaviour from everyone. So your 'final answer' is that be-nice and vulgarity rules extend to chat too. – rolfl Oct 13 '14 at 15:19

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