Is there a way a member of the community can tell other members of the community that they are factually incorrect about their ongoing behavior, and offer them assistance or teaching, so they could modify their inadequate closure/reopen from a empirical/objective technical point to certain topics in Stack Exchange?

  • 10
    This question seems kind of vague. Can you offer more context?
    – Wold
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:00
  • 6
    Like this?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:06
  • @Wold I don't offer context precisely because the parts involved will feel like I'm calling them "idiots", without that being my objective.
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:07
  • 1
    @animuson that could be, just that unlike that one, I don't have the backing of a CM and the problem is empirically of technical nature, rather than pure behavior one.
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:09
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  • 3
    Wait, are you calling me an idiot? ;P
    – ɥʇǝS
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:10
  • @ɥʇǝS no, just that is rather discomforting that the expertise on a topic is disregarded, and that's one of the reasons why I believe in the SE model: The experts words are valued.
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 21:12
  • 3
    @Braiam I understand you don't want to point out the specific behavior that concerns you, but can you provide a little more context? Specifically the root issue seems a little unclear to me. Are you saying that community is providing factually incorrect answers, or that the community is misusing the features of the site? Oct 25, 2014 at 21:59
  • 4
    I would point out that each SE site is distinct in the culture and community that forms around it. On P.SE, there is a tendency to delete (attempts at) answers that don't meet the quality threshold desired (which would have a 'looks ok' on SO) - which doesn't match the delete guidance MSE gives. Math.SE, for example, appears to love answers of the form 'hint: tan(x) * tan(90 - x) = 1', which, well that community seems to accept. MathOverflow and TCS appear to be ok with big list soft questions which have difficulty elsewhere. So note that the culture of the SE needs to be taken into account.
    – user213963
    Oct 25, 2014 at 22:11
  • @psubsee2003 "Are you saying that community is providing factually incorrect answers" lets say that is. The community is closing as duplicated questions which target answers are irrelevant and incorrect in their context.
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:07
  • @MichaelT pointing users to the incorrect, unhelpful answers, and saying that it answers their questions? Seems like no site should adopt that culture, don't you agree?
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:09
  • 2
    Not sure why so many dvotes, or votes to close. This is a valid question, albeit a little unclear, and people should be glad of users like Braiam spending their time wanting to help others and the sites out! So much non-constructive negativity towards questions on metas these days, and so ironically on a question asking how to tell others their approach is wrong...
    – James
    Oct 26, 2014 at 13:01
  • 4
    @James Downvotes say "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful." I didn't downvote, but that's probably why people did.
    – hichris123
    Oct 26, 2014 at 14:42

5 Answers 5


Is there a way a member of the community can tell other members of the community that they are factually wrong about their ongoing behavior

Yes, there is: vote, or politely comment.

Beyond that, one member of the community trying to tell others how things should be done does not work very well. This is the reason why there are moderators and other administrators, and community managers.

If your communication needs go beyond polite commentary, voting, and what's acceptable on meta, then you should approach a moderator, who can deal with, or escalate it appropriately.

As a regular member of the community, you can only use the tools available to you, and one of those tools are moderators. Moderators and community managers have more to work with, and can approach things with different tactics that are not available to other members.

offer them assistance or teaching,

That's what SE is about, if delivered in the context of the Q&A structure.

so they could modify their inadequate response to certain topics in Stack Exchange?

If other members have inadequate behaviour, feel free to downvote their activities, and flag the more serious things for moderator attention.


Well, if you want any chance at all at being listened to, you start by not approaching the issue (whatever it is) the way you are. At all.

You guys are all wrong. I'm right. So here's what you're all gonna do from now on: [...]

Has about 99.42%1 chance of:

  1. Annoying everyone
  2. Making everyone not take you seriously (and/or try and nitpick every little detail)
  3. Making you look foolish if you missed something

(Or all of the above, and then some. Including the 100% chance of making you look arrogant.)

If there is some behavior you're seeing that, in your opinion, is detrimental to the site, start a meta post about it. Your post should:

  • give one (or a few) examples of the problematic behavior
  • explain why you believe this behavior is problematic
  • explain what you think should be done instead.

You should not:

  • single out individuals (usually)
  • be condescending
  • digress (or lump a bunch of unrelated issues in one post)
  • rant.

If it's the first time this comes up on that meta, label it as a , and ask for feedback.

Important step comes next: read the comments and answers with an open mind. Be ready to see opinions that diverge from yours and try your best to understand them. Be ready to make concessions.

Be ready to change your mind, even if only a little bit.

If the discussion pans out and you have support for your cause, move on to feature requests if necessary, or ask for the post to be featured if all that's needed is a bit of publicity - a blog entry might be in order too.

If it doesn't pan out, well, at least you'll have learned something about that community. Let it rest for a while.

1Some people can pull that off. But that requires very well honed writing skills and/or some form of preexisting respect and/or authority (think: gurus).

  • 1
    Let me ask a question: what is "the way you are"? And from where in the world are you pulling that quote?
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 22:56
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    It's "the way you are [approaching the issue]". You come across as arrogant, very sure of yourself, and very sure that everyone else is completely wrong. There might be some language/cultural thing at play here, but that generally doesn't work well if you want to persuade people to change the way they're acting.
    – Mat
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:03
  • 1
    Looks like the quote is paraphrasing the way you are approaching this situation, based on your question.
    – user273376
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:05
  • Correct me: now I have to act all submissive and servile, even when I have the confidence and knowledge? Seems ilogical, if you don't show confidence, how do you expect the rest to believe you?
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:06
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    There is confident, and there is arrogant - they are very different, if you are arrogant, people will not follow your lead (and not fulfill your requests/ideas etc)
    – user273376
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:09
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    There's a very wide difference between being servile and submissive, and being arrogant. You don't have to be servile or submissive to explain what you think should be done. What you must avoid is being condescending. You are confident and have knowledge - great. Other people have knowledge and experience too, and generally different from yours. Don't insult them, @Braiam.
    – Mat
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:10
  • Ahh, there we go "Don't insult them". How in the world are you able to do it? Please, teach me a sure fire way, because seems that for me is impossible! Each time I point that something is wrong, it reads as an insult even when there isn't the intent of making an insult, When I want to insult someone, I make sure they know I'm trying to insult them. So, whenever other people feel insulted, isn't that my propose, I'm just giving a honest through of what's wrong and how we could solve them, I even offer solutions and support so the problem gets corrected. So, how would you approach the issue?
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:21
  • @Gone I'm not following, where's the line? Because, I'm, apparently, very arrogant.
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:22
  • @Braiam never said you were arrogant, Mat's post and comment pretty well explain it well.
    – user273376
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:27
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    @Braiam: "wrong" is actually a loaded word. As soon as you associate it with people's behavior, you're making a moral judgement. "Closing question X is wrong. You should [...]." vs "Closing question X is problematic because [...] and I think doing [...] would be better for the site. What do you think?" might mean the same thing in the end, they're completely different from a "human relations" point of view. Think diplomacy. You're in a negotiation. You can't dictate your will.
    – Mat
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:32
  • I said "something is wrong", not "you are wrong". Let me put it this way: we are doing X wrong, because Y and Z reasons. There's a better way to do it, A, which has B, C and D advantage over our current behavior. How was that? BTW, I never said anyone is wrong, I said the "behavior is wrong".
    – Braiam
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:36
  • 3
    A friendlier way could be: the way we are doing X is problematic, because Y and Z reasons. Doing A could very well be to our benefit, which has B, C and D advantages over our current behavior. `
    – user273376
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:43
  • 4
    @Braiam: "behavior is wrong" - how do you think people who exhibited that behavior interpret that? Behavior doesn't happen in the abstract, it's the result of people's actions. If you start with "We are doing things wrong", you're better off. Less arrogant. But try and drop the whole "wrong" thing and highlight the actual problems. (BTW, you said: "tell other members of the community that they are factually wrong about their ongoing behavior". You did say they are wrong.)
    – Mat
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:44
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    @Braiam Gone & Mat have good points. Please stop with this "hidden agenda" stuff -- they're trying to help you and provide an answer to your question. If you don't like it, that's okay -- but it's not okay to tell people that they have hidden agendas and they're not trustworthy.
    – hichris123
    Oct 26, 2014 at 0:12
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    No hidden agenda @Braiam, none at all, as hichris123 said, I provided that example to try and help - but if you're going to accuse me and spit my help in my face, I am not going to bother. Good luck.
    – user273376
    Oct 26, 2014 at 0:52

First and foremost, be factual and be polite. Let the facts, with proper citations speak for themselves.

Talk about the issues not the people.

On a wider, political aspect (essential, even if it leaves an odd taste in my mouth) make sure people know and support this - maybe over chat and the local meta if necessary. This might also be useful since its more likely that such answers get floated to the top.

SR was mentioned in the comments - that's a super specific case, and was basically a kick in the yannowhat that was needed to set the tone of the site. It was necessary to kickstart a nascent community culture.

In this specific case (as vague as it is) I'd suggest making a case for a correct community FAQ/canonical question, and closing dupes to that.

  • "correct community FAQ/canonical question, and closing dupes to that." well, that's exactly part of the problem, there isn't a single correct answer, but multitude of them, and the "canonical question" is abused. I agree with what you say, except the polite part, apparently I'm not polite.
    – Braiam
    Oct 26, 2014 at 0:23

You need to make a technical case for illustrating your point.
If that doesn't work, and the entire community is still going against you, consider one of the following:

  • Your argument wasn't understood. I've written enough on the internet to know that not everybody gets what you're saying the first time around. You have to identify that and make sure people are on the same page before you can progress.
  • Your argument wasn't convincing or its urgency wasn't convincing enough. Even if people agree, they might not agree enough to do something about it. Changing things can often mean work.
  • The point of contention is subjective. You might be right but so might other people with opposite points of view or alternative solutions that might have fewer downsides.
  • You're flat wrong.
  • They really are idiots.

It's possible even that more than one of these applies at a time. Whatever the issue, you need to identify the problem in each case.

Mat's answer already does a pretty decent job at illustrating what people should be doing... But you seem to be struggling with the nuances so I'll address this with my actual experience with you on Ask Ubuntu. I merely suspect you're talking about us. Even if you aren't, some of your comments above suggest you're struggling to apply what people are saying to how you're posting. Also:

whenever someone comes to me in a roundabout way, it inspires mistrust

I'm going to come at this head on and address the actual problem as I've seen it this past year or so. It may seem personal or off-topic but a lot of people struggle with communication. Similar guidance might help all of you.

Good communication isn't about being right. That certainly helps but we're people not robots. The way you communicate makes up a significant portion of how people deal with you. Repeatedly riling people up the wrong way might prejudice people against you.

In my experience, sometimes the way you talk to people on AU and MAU has bordered on abusive. I don't want to leave that unqualified. You're a smart chap and we'd love you contribution on the site so it's not in my interest to belittle you, but you have had a caustic effect on users and moderators alike.

  • You occasionally don't know how or when to let things go. You have nibbled at the same topic again and again and again, seemingly until you get a positive-scoring question. Learn to back down when everybody openly disagrees with you.
  • You have ended up in edit wars over things like tags that the community has already shown they don't want.
  • You have made big changes to the site without engaging the community first.
  • When you do, your imperative tone means many of your "discussion" threads sounds like you're barking orders at people.
  • We've had to step in multiple times to warn you about abusive language. Escalating here makes any communication infinitely harder. As soon as you're rude, people turn off.
  • And when none of that works, you have bitched about the way we do things in other sites' chat rooms. I personally appreciated comments like this :(
  • Worse, you've pulled users in from other communities to push your will.

These are the things I don't appreciate. These are the things that work against you when you start a new Meta post demanding a big change. They've all added up to make communicating with you exhausting.

So two suggestions to turn this around:

  1. Work on your manner. Learn what annoys people and stop doing it. I'm sure it's not as simple as that but it's clear a pattern has emerged that has altered how people perceive and interact with you.
  2. Be part of the community you want to change. It can seem like you're standing on the outside shouting in. Be friendly with some of the users in the community. Discuss things in that community's chat rooms.

If you can treat a community like colleagues instead of obstacles, you might achieve more with less effort.

  • 1
    This answer sounds too personal and abusive. I am only active in a single community (SO), and our mods never communicate like this on meta posts afaik. Oct 26, 2014 at 10:25
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    @InfiniteRecursion It has effectively been asked why there's such an uphill struggle so I'm explaining. Somebody already did this generically and the OP didn't understand. I'm just adding detail. I'll happily take a few negative votes if it can help the OP take corrective measures.
    – Oli
    Oct 26, 2014 at 10:32
  • 3
    It's not "just adding detail". It's taking an abstract discussion (however useful those may be) to a personal squabble you and the OP apparently seem to have on a site that's not MSE. Not necessary I'd say.
    – Bart
    Oct 26, 2014 at 10:42
  • 2
    "Focus on content, not the user"-that's a fundamental policy of SE. This answer takes it to the level of a personal squabble, as Bart already noted. Oct 26, 2014 at 10:50
  • 1
    Look, I completely agree that this is way more personal for a abstract, generic, problem, but the problem the OP is experiencing is neither abstract nor generic. The "content" I'm focussing on is the problem. Mat's answer should have been enough but the comments clearly illustrate otherwise. People have talked in innuendo and just got it thrown back in their face.
    – Oli
    Oct 26, 2014 at 11:01
  • And your hours-after-the-fact "it's not us, it's you" answer achieves what exactly? Stress-relieve? Understandable from a personal perspective perhaps. There seems to be a history there we are unaware of. But as an answer ... meh.
    – Bart
    Oct 26, 2014 at 11:19
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    @Bart Stress relief? The only thing I want to achieve here is to allow the OP to identify possible shortcomings, learn from them and function on our (and others') Meta in a way that benefits all of us. I have no other agenda. To quote Braiam: "whenever someone comes to me in a roundabout way, it inspires mistrust"… I'm just giving him what he wants.
    – Oli
    Oct 26, 2014 at 11:46
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    "We've had to step in multiple times to warn you about abusive language."- looks like a clear violation of moderator agreement, for your own benefit on your post, using information you gained as a moderator. That is what I meant by personal, apart from direct statements such as "Braiam is correct, everybody submit." Not even the paid community managers get close to your tone. Such kind of squabbles are disappointing from both of you. Oct 26, 2014 at 12:50
  • 5
    All the instances I'm talking about have happened in public. There's no inappropriate disclosure here.
    – Oli
    Oct 26, 2014 at 12:57
  • I appreciate that, and I have requested the CMs to take a look. Oct 26, 2014 at 13:44
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    @InfiniteRecursion this is not a violation of the moderator agreement, there is no PII here. Pointing out problematic behaviour of a user in public is usually not done by moderators, but this is not a strict rule and there are valid exceptions (this is a general statement, I don't know enough about this specific instance to make a judgement). Oct 26, 2014 at 14:27
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    Yes @Mad, that's why I have pinged the CM's in the tavern and shared my previous comment about mod agreement with them, they will take a look and handle the situation. As we all know, there is a modus operandi for all mods. Here in the question OP didnot mention any community in specific, but a mod came from a site and disclosed internals of a specific community. In this answer, author assumes the problem is about AU and then focuses on user, instead of content. Oct 26, 2014 at 16:00
  • @InfiniteRecursion Nothing was disclosed that isn't public.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Oct 26, 2014 at 16:07
  • Good to know @htes Oct 26, 2014 at 16:21
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    I replied in detail in chat, @InfiniteRecursion, but to your "content not user" concern... It's worth noting that there's no specific problem to be solved here in the question - the request for guidance here is impossibly broad, which all but forces answerers to play Daniel: "tell me my problem, then tell me the solution". Oli, no doubt well aware of the history behind this request, did a pretty good job of that - but still the question remains too broad and I've closed it as such pending an edit that focuses on a specific problem.
    – Shog9
    Oct 26, 2014 at 19:04

Your original question sounds like you just need to use comments, flags, and voting.

Your additional comments adds more context, and you should add that info to your question.

The community is closing as duplicated questions which target answers are irrelevant and incorrect in their context

Users can get it wrong, incorrectly flag as a dupe etc.

You can vote to re-open such cases, and leave a comment on the question saying "This is not a dupe of [link] because of XYZ".

Don't tell people where they are going wrong, tell them why you think something else would be better.
Then you're not focusing on their mistake and more saying I think it could/should be this, which is the same path, highlighting an issue, but less blunt or personal.

Also people who can be educated will probably learn and improve naturally over time, their just seeing "this is not a dupe because of XYZ" will be enough.
However, those who cannot, will not, or do not care about improving their ways won't be educated no matter what you do.

Also, remember - you will be wrong at times too.

..pointing users to the incorrect, unhelpful answers, and saying that it answers their questions? Seems like no site should adopt that culture, don't you agree?

People will be people. and with mixed views and opinions often we disagree with one-another. The site offers tools to combat this, and you can get them to work in the interest of the site.

Stack cannot control what people post as it's an open community, it can only offer tools to aid in an attempt to allow good content to be shown, and poorer content to be pushed out of the way.

Comment and tell them why you feel the answer they linked to is not correct for this question.

How to do this without insulting them? :

Tactful (click me)

Ahh, there we go "Don't insult them". How in the world are you able to do it? Please, teach me a sure fire way, because seems that for me is impossible! Each time I point that something is wrong, it reads as an insult even when there isn't the intent of making an insult,

It's all about a friendly contrary opinion, which is how we all learn from each other, rather than just pointing out someone is wrong, which is how we all feel stupid, defensive, and argue with each other.

Try to see the problem with what they posted or linked to as less an issue or disagreement between you both, and more about helping each other find a good solution for the problem at hand.

Try to move it away from:
"This person is wrong"
And onto a thought more towards:
"These facts are wrong"

In doing so, you are then more likely to engage in a civil and tactful discussion with the person discussing your thoughts towards their code/text/answer, rather than as directly at them personally for being wrong.

You don't have to be blunt, such as "You are wrong - I am right".
Nor do you have to talk in fluffy clouds and rainbows, just remember you are also part of the same community they are, one big team - yes that sounds sickly, but you know what I mean, we're all here trying to help each other.

So leave things open for for discussion between you, and such a small change in your words returns a big potential difference - such as:
Instead of:
1. "You are wrong because of X and Y"
2. "I don't think this is right, because of X and Y. What do you think?"

The big difference there is with 1 you attack "them" or "the person" opinion directly, and shove in their face "you are wrong". This doesn't leave much room for a civil and mutual discussion, and they are likely to come back with "No, you are wrong, because of ABC".

Whereas with 2, you leave it open for a civil debate, and gives them every opportunity to say "Ahh, I didn't think about that, thanks", or, "Ahh yes, but what about Z", then you can either say "I don't think Z matters because of.." or, "Hmm, I hadn't thought about Z, you are right".

You should also identify unfriendly people, as no matter what you do, they will be unkind, uncivil, or rude etc.
There is nothing you can do with these people other than not engage in a war with them, and walk away and leave them to spend their lives being ignorant and always right.

  • Awesome, constructive and positive message here
    – user273376
    Oct 28, 2014 at 7:15

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