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Going forward, “rep-whore” (and its derivatives) will be treated like any other term that’s inconsistent with the community’s “be nice” policy: it will be removed.

It’s totally okay if you’ve used it in the past.

Nobody’s judging the many users who’ve used it. And users will NOT start being suspended/banned/fed-to-the-Sarlaac for using it in the near future without knowing about the change. We’re all partly products of what’s “normal” in our environment, and for a long time, use of that term was normal, and intended as a shorthand for “users who know a behavior is harmful, but do it anyway, entirely because it generates rep.” It was used - without malice - by good-hearted users in lots of old posts. It has probably been used by employees occasionally in the past. There’s no shame or judgment implied here; it’s just time to recognize that it's not consistent with "be nice.” And its use actually undermines our ability to get the most out of needed discussions on user behavior, incentives, etc. To be clear, it is absolutely okay to talk about specific behaviors that may represent unintended consequences of the rep-based feedback loop, and to continue to question them - just don’t do it by name-calling.

The short version of the "why"

  • It’s inconsistent with our “be nice" policy:
    • It’s vulgar, and may be construed as being gendered (albeit not intentionally, in my observations).
    • The term makes the problem about the person, not the action. (And it doesn’t help to verbify it as “rep-whoring” - that’s still only describing it as something a person-type would do, vs. a specific thing that was done.)
  • Naming “user types” with pejorative terms tends to lead to over-use of those terms, and undermines actual dialogue that might help us better understand what's going wrong.

That really covers it. But we like to be as open as possible about our underlying thinking, so if you're curious, or have a lot of time to kill...

The longer version

The term clearly doesn't jibe with “being nice”: Here are the relevant parts of the Be Nice policy:

  • No 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").*
  • Rudeness and belittling language are not okay.
  • Avoid vulgar terms and anything sexually suggestive.
  • Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions (emphasis mine)

Frankly, those are good enough reasons - this community has always been fairly united in our commitment to discuss problems openly, but with strong commitment to respect and courtesy, and a focus on the content or behavior, not the person.

So, even if this term were super-useful in helping us solve problems and improve the site, I think most folks here would agree that we shouldn’t be scrapping big chunks of our “be nice” policy just for the sake of expediency. But here’s the funny thing:

Using terms like “rep-whore” tends to undermine our ability to break down situations and learn where the system does have real problems or unintended consequences.

Labeling users with names that almost no one would call themselves reduces two-sided discourse and learning. We actually learn the most when we listen to those who don’t agree with us (yet, anyway - I like to think they’ll eventually come around). But when we say, “the problem is rep-whores,” to explain someone answering questions that we think should be closed instead, it reduces the number of folks motivated to say, “Oh, hey - I guess I’m one of those ‘rep-whores’. Is that what you call someone who just answers questions when they can, but doesn’t keep track of what’s on- and off-topic?” Note that I’m not saying that’s usually the actual case, but the problem is that we'd never know if it were. By just describing it as “rep-whoring,” we've cut off much hope of learning if another motivation might apply - we’ve assumed we know the motivation, and given it a nasty name, so any users involved who might wish to actually explain their motivations don’t even think we're talking about (non-whore-esque) folks like them.

There’s a funny thing about naming something. Once a thing has a name, you tend to start seeing it everywhere. That's part of the positive power of language: by giving a complex thing a shorthand term, it’s easier to identify it quickly, just by matching a couple of key variables. Heuristics like that are what let us function at higher efficiency. But they come with costs: false positives and loss of nuance. The entire point of these types of categorization is to allow faster pattern matching, with fewer inputs and less analysis. But that means that things with some shared attributes, or even just similar ones, can get (wrongly) lumped in buckets pretty quickly.

Which is how we find ourselves making assumptions about others. I may think:

“Someone who answers a question that we’d normally close is obviously only motivated by rep, and clearly doesn't care that it’s hurting the site.”

Maybe. Maybe they are only motivated by rep. Or maybe it’s something else: Maybe they don’t know (or care) what’s on-topic; they choose to answer questions where they can help, but don’t want to have to also serve as a filter for what’s currently allowed.

Personally, I happen to think that’s okay. I’m actually good with the idea that helping here doesn't require, “helping in all the ways, including ones you don’t enjoy.” Now, you may not agree, and think it’s a problem. That's good! And if that were the situation, that’s what we need to be talking about. But by ascribing the problems to “rep-whores,” I’ve eliminated that fact-finding step, and potentially even prevented us from getting to some of the real issues that we might want to discuss, all to save a few minutes by slapping a convenient name on the situation.

Caring about getting lots of rep is a little like caring about getting lots of money - it seems to be a problem that is only diagnosed as afflicting other people. Posts about rep-whores are pretty consistently written by folks who say they’re not at all motivated by rep - that they would only do things for more altruistic reasons. Which… I happen to believe is true. I think almost all of them are actually motivated by the desire to help, or to contribute to a useful resource. So here’s the question: given that we know we’d only choose behaviors if we thought they were good for the site, why are we so quick to assume that rep is the primary driver of others’ behavior, regardless of the harm it might cause? I think part of it may be what's apparently known as the actor–observer asymmetry/bias. The gist is this - when you swerve your car without warning, you know you’re a responsible driver coping as best you can with challenging circumstances - you saw something in the road, or your kid finally succeeded in pitching a gummy bear into your ear. But when you see someone else swerve their car, you assume they’re a bad driver. Or texting. Or drunk.

In conclusion… Let’s keep talking about rep, and unintended consequences. To be honest, we want people to care about it, but not too much, and not as an end unto itself. Rep is supposed to be motivating, largely as a feedback loop. It's designed to confirm that you’re achieving what you all really came here to do: share your experiences in way that generates a resource that will actually make a difference. That little green "+10" is a proxy for someone saying, "that was useful". Your effort here mattered. So it’s okay to like getting it. I do. But it’s also okay - in fact it’s important - to call out places where it may be over-incentivizing things we don’t want. Let's just do it without using terms that’ll make Julia Roberts sad:

enter image description here

For now, don’t worry about purging old uses of the term. This isn’t intended to create a lot of new work, particularly for mods, so we don’t want folks searching through tons of old posts and throwing up hundreds of flags. But if you run into new uses of the term, treat em like any other thing inconsistent with “be nice” (edit ‘em out when possible, etc.)

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    Let's erase all the offensive words from dictionary, this world would become a better place </sarcasm> – user202362 Jul 29 '16 at 1:27
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    TBH, changing something that's this heavily ingrained into the very culture of the sites is a longshot at best. If you're gonna force it by means of banning people, expect to lose a lot well-respected users. – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 1:41
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    @Mystical I don't think anyone would argue that the cultural component can be snap-changed, but as with any social change, the first step is awareness. – Aza Jul 29 '16 at 2:06
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    @Emrakul I have a hunch that bringing awareness might actually trigger the Streisand effect which could actually increase its usage. It's not like everyone knows what the term is. It's mostly localized to long-time users. But if you try to massively publicize it (like in the title of a post)... well... – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 2:12
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    @Mystical Maybe in the short term. It's like gay marriage - when it started to become a public issue, people became more aware and openly insistent about what they felt was right, on both sides - but respect for others will win out in the long run. – Aza Jul 29 '16 at 2:14
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    Finally. Nice to see this shift. – Keen Jul 29 '16 at 2:21
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    @Mysticial - It isn't like this is an overnight change. Stack Overflow moderators have been telling people that we're uncomfortable with that term for years, and it's been a one-click-delete trigger for at least the last several months: meta.stackoverflow.com/q/325996/19679 meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/313790/… . At least from what I've seen, when people are nudged away from using the term, that tends to stick. – Brad Larson Jul 29 '16 at 3:15
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    The rationale implies that the term "rep farmer" should also be verboten. – Josh Caswell Jul 29 '16 at 3:25
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    I do not recall any examples where the term was applied to an identifiable person, rather than descrbing a pattern of behaviour of an otherwise not identified group of users. – Raedwald Jul 29 '16 at 8:37
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    "Caring about getting lots of rep is a little like caring about getting lots of money - it seems to be a problem that is only diagnosed as afflicting other people." Sorry, this is completely mistaken. I used to refer to myself as being obsessed with rep all the time, and still regularly call myself a "former rep maniac" (though I've been self-censoring myself on the W-word for a while now). To judge from comments about this post here and elsewhere, I'm by far not the only one who applies such terms and attributes such motivations to themselves. – Rand al'Thor Jul 29 '16 at 11:21
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    The idea that erasing a word from the community's allowed vocabulary would make discussions somehow more productive and "nicer" is completely absurd. Using labels to identify and categorize users who we can't treat cordially, who have demonstrated they are on the site for the wrong reason, and form the antithesis of a content-, rather than people-based repository of knowledge allows us to effectively talk about these problem users and find solutions to the problems related to their existence. Marking problems as problems isn't offensive, it's honest and it's above all productive. – bjb568 Jul 29 '16 at 12:34
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    There are so many feature requests which should be prioritized so much higher than this which are getting no attention, and this is, apparently, what Stack Overflow, Inc chooses to pursue. If you can control the language used in the discussion, you can control the discussion, I guess, and it's time to rein in the users a little more. Got to slowly bring the users around to this company's beliefs about words and word usage. DOUBLE PLUS UNGOOD – Adam Davis Jul 29 '16 at 14:01
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    This seems very SJW: well meaning but not thought through. Banning language always results in new terms being used. Rather the underlying issue that is causing the term to be used in the first place should be addressed. After that pejorative uses should receive appropriate moderation. – Mgetz Jul 29 '16 at 14:50
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    @gnat Agreed. Based on what I've been seeing for the past few years, SO/SE has been increasingly desperate to shed the whole "SO is negative" image to outsiders. And they're getting to the point that they're willing to try anything - including alienating the very users who are providing the content that run the site. Sure little things like banning +/-1 or keywords like repwhore/vampire may be small, but it does add up in the long run. At some point, people are gonna start snapping. (i.e. YCS) And when that happens, the very users that were once valued become trolls. – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 15:35
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    So, I finally dug up the context for the comment ban from two years back, @Mysticial. Turns out, there was a group of people hanging out in chat who liked to descend upon answers to questions they didn't care for, downvote regardless of merit, and throw out these vitriolic comments to try to discourage them from answering. So you got folks with thousands of answers to their name - literally "the very users who are providing the content" - being attacked by a group of bar-flies who've already given up. And you're concerned that discouraging vitriol is gonna drive folks away? – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 16:41
63

Yeah... This seems like a good idea. The term has moved from its original jocular uses to something considerably more mean-spirited. I suspect most folks using the term now have some sort of nasty boogieman in mind rather than good ol' Marc Gravell.

And when folks here are more concerned about what other people think of them than they are about programming, I think the term becomes decidedly counter-productive, no less a distraction than rep itself.

FWIW, "whore" has triggered fast deletion on flagged comments for quite a while, and has been banned outright on Stack Overflow for over two years because it was being used to harass people:

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    I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. I don't have any problem at all with banning the term "whore" network-wide, even though I think the whole clbuttic pr0blem is a whack-a-mole. What does disturb me a bit, though, is the "thought police" mentality that seems to have crept into SE. – Robert Harvey Jul 29 '16 at 15:55
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    @RobertHarvey - I'm surprised to hear you say that. One of the primary roles of moderators on the Stack Exchange network has always been to make sure people are treated with respect. This and other recent code of conduct announcements have been merely codifying informal policies that we've applied for years. This isn't "thought police", it's just formally stating policy on behaviors that many people have believed were inappropriate for a long time. Every person visiting these sites deserves to be treated with respect, and rudeness in comments reflects badly on every contributor here. – Brad Larson Jul 29 '16 at 16:10
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    @BradLarson: It's kind of hard to explain. This decision is a by-product of SE's obsession with inclusiveness. SE doesn't interpret new visitors asking flagrantly off-topic questions without making any attempt at learning the first thing about the site or its culture as rudeness, so we put in word filters but never solve the underlying problems. – Robert Harvey Jul 29 '16 at 16:17
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    @BradLarson it would be nice if this would work. But it doesn't, "how come that after years of plugging user's mouths and twisting their arms with summers of love and hunting the snark the second top question at MSO is 'Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late?'" – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 16:17
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    @BradLarson I think Robert hit the nail here. It's not the word that were're all raging about. Nor is it merely a matter of just being rude vs. nice. Or course it's better to be nice. Of course calling people a whore is rude. It's the fact that SE is slowly trying to control the way we think. That crosses the line for a lot of people. – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 16:18
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    Ok, as much as I enjoy 1984/Newspeak references, this is a bit of an exaggeration, @Mysticial. Generally-speaking, folks aren't calling askers whores; this is directed at answerers. So we slowly build up this culture of... Well, bullying. Not, "what did you see of value in this question" or "edit unclear questions if you want to answer them" or even "please don't answer blatantly off-topic questions", but "don't repwhore". It becomes a bad-apple problem: the folks who've already given up participating trying to ruin it for the folks who haven't. – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 16:31
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    @Shog9 I wonder why those folks gave up participating. Perhaps we should focus on that? – Shoe Jul 29 '16 at 16:33
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    Directing people how to behave in comments (politely or not) is a waste of time anyway. I've been doing this for awhile, and I could probably count on the fingers of both hands the times someone actually took my advice. – Robert Harvey Jul 29 '16 at 16:40
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    Which is why I've become fond of these blacklists, @Robert. Folks hate 'em of course, but they've been surprisingly effective when it comes to discouraging "monkey see, monkey do". – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 16:45
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    Kinda makes this whole meta post a tempest in a teapot, doesn't it? You could have just quietly added the word to the blacklist and avoided this whole kerfluffle. It's not like Jaydles is asking the community whether we should do it or not. – Robert Harvey Jul 29 '16 at 16:47
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    Really, @Shoe? "Someone's unhappy and lashing out at others - let's not ask them to stop until we've tried everything possible to appease them". You try that with a 3-year-old, you find that now they throw a tantrum every time they're in the checkout lane. And programmers can be almost as savvy as 3-year-olds. – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 16:47
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    And the comment got censored because it contained the N-word. I guess that proves my point. Just mindlessly censoring everything that looks bad without taking a look at the context. – Shoe Jul 29 '16 at 16:51
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    Yes, it does, @shoe. What, did you not know that we censor overt racism? Not as part of some grand scheme to stop racism, but because it's vile and has no value to what we do here. Also, please don't try any more "clever" replies (what next? Implying we don't censor overt sexism? Attacks on religion?) - if you got a point, you can make it without turning this into a thread that's gonna be uncomfortable for arbitrary groups to read. – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 16:52
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    @Shog9 The word here was clearly not meant to be racist. It was an example of a context where banning words doesn't really help the underlying issue. – Shoe Jul 29 '16 at 16:54
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    Yeah. You just threw it out there as an example of a word with a long history of being used to hurt and belittle people that you should be able to use in other contexts because... Just stop. I don't know what your point was other than to derail this thread, @Shoe, but you've at least accomplished that. Congratulations. Now go sit in the car. – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 16:55
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+300

TL;DR:

Please don't just try to cure the symptoms when curing the cancer is this simple.

Retract reputation gained from questions that are closed (or that were closed within a certain time frame, starting with the creation of the question), and you'll most likely fix this whole rep-system-abuse that's been going on for way too long.


When I first read the title I was feeling happy. I felt excited. Simply because I thought to myself "Hey, they're changing something! Maybe it'll put an end to all the rep-vampires!".. But no. All you're doing is banning a term that has been used for ages, because it's pejorative.

Congrats.

Yes, this term is pejorative. And yes, it is negative. And yes, it - just going by the wording - does target the person instead of the action. And yes, it is highly unprofessional. And yes, that is a problem. But it's not the problem!

Note: I highly support banning this term, I just don't think that it'll change anything on its own, except for frustrating people even more.

Why do terms like this exist? Why are users calling other users out for "rep-whoring", "rep-chasing" and other terms? Because it's an actual problem that has to be dealt with. So instead of just straight-up banning the term what you could've done instead is taking care of the problem.

How?

Retract reputation gained from questions closed for specific reasons. It's that simple. It would end the FGITW-problem, it'd prevent the usage of terms like "rep-whore" (simply because the action that "rep-whore" describes is no longer existent), and it shouldn't be that hard to implement, whereas solely enforcing a term-ban would do two things:

  1. It'd certainly cost you a part of your user base. I don't think I'll have to explain why.
  2. It'd require a lot of resources. I burn through a lot of flags everyday, I'm present in the SOCVR-room & I do a lot to keep this site clean from trash, spam and the like, but I don't want to hunt down a certain term, and, taking into account how long this term has been used, it'd be a lot of usages to hunt down.

Why is this such a big problem?

Because it defies the purpose of this network. Stack Exchange is supposed to be a Q&A-network, right? The ultimate goal is to have a collection of every possible question, alongside with the correct answer. In order to have a collection of that size you'll have to filter out the garbage, and that's what a lot of people are doing by using the tools given to them, flags, close votes and hammers.

Reputation on the other hand is the currency of this network. It depicts - to a certain extent - how much "trust" you've gained, and how much effort you've put into this project. However, thanks to people answering questions FGITW-style, this currency loses its meaning.

(Side-note: I am not talking about new users. I try to explain them the system that Stack Exchange is based on, and move on. I'm talking about the high-rep users that do this knowingly, as in answering known duplicates, off-topic questions, and so on.)

In my opinion these people are actively damaging the Stack Exchange network. The reputation system is getting abused, and yet they can continue what they're doing. All I can do in this case is downvote it, but - in most cases - the OP has already upvoted & accepted that answer, so my downvote does what? Lower his rep gain from 25 (Upvote + Accept) to 23? To be honest, I can't be bothered.

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    I largely agree. Instead of (or in addition to) banning the pejorative, let's actually fix the problem. Not giving rep on closed posts would be a fantastic step. – ssube Jul 29 '16 at 15:06
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    Note that the question says "...it’s also okay - in fact it’s important - to call out places where [reputation] may be over-incentivizing things we don’t want. Let's just do it without using terms that’ll make Julia Roberts sad." If there's a big problem, say so! Just do it without using an offensive term :) – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 15:29
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    You tricked me into downvoting for a sec while I read your intro :) -1 for supporting getting rid of the word +2 for proposing that it's replaced with an actual solution to the problem. The phrase doesn't matter as long as there is an attempt to fix the problem in SE, which there hasn't been so far. – bjb568 Jul 29 '16 at 15:40
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    This is the solution to the root problem. I hope this is considered as there will be plenty of other problems resulting from playing wack-a-mole with all the problems resulting from FGITW and answering questions which ultimately end up closed. – enderland Jul 29 '16 at 17:33
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    Kinda conflicted on this. On the one hand, removing rep from closed posts (or at least rep from voting - essentially the rep-denial part of CW without the mixed-message) would solve a lot of problems even if it did nothing to discourage the problem you're concerned about. On the other hand, it feels like punting; we should probably just be deleting more of these. – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 17:43
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    @Shog9 I agree with you on this. But I think there's potentially two parts here: 1) The ones that should be deleted aren't because the barrier to deletion is too high. 2) When they are deleted, the people losing the rep may not be getting the message they should stop answering crap. I don't know what the numbers are, but if the roomba kicks in 1 month later, the person probably won't be aware of what's going on - let alone know to avoid bad questions. – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 17:49
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    @Shog9 the reason they don't get deleted is because questions with an answer that picked up a few upvotes isn't roomba'ed. If you make it so there is less incentive to answer them, more would get roombaed. – enderland Jul 29 '16 at 17:49
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    IOW, if we want people to stop answering bad questions, we need to both take away the incentive and to communicate it properly. – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 17:53
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    The communication thing sounds like the missing piece here, @Mysticial. I feel like we wait waaay too long to give folks a heads-up that they're answering something sketchy. I'm skeptical that doing anything after the answer is posted will produce good results, but there may be a window of time before that would do some good... – Shog9 Jul 29 '16 at 18:50
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    @Shog9 how about giving a heads-up to folks that they're answering a possible duplicate? "...a modal popup to the answerer if the question is voted / flagged as duplicate. With the link (or better yet, full text) of possible duplicate and a message like: There is possible duplicate here, please make sure that you don't repeat already existing answers..." – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 19:14
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    @Mysticial stats are here: "Median time to first close flag or vote: 7 minutes Median time to answer: 6 minutes". Quoting self, even with hands tied behind their backs, voters almost catch up ("7-vs-6"). If you shift gameplay a bit on their side, things will likely change, there will be more chances for flags to get there before answers – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 22:53
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    @Shog9: "we should probably just be deleting more of these" Are there any plans to get delete vote review queues, or is there some other strategy for more effectively deleting old, low-quality closed posts that for one reason or another are immune to auto-deletion? – sumelic Jul 29 '16 at 23:53
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    this answer is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty: "Please don't just try to cure the symptoms when curing the cancer is this simple". Helps to understand why such a nice looking announcement has got 49 downvotes – gnat Oct 14 '16 at 10:54
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    The incentive structure is the reification of the will of the organisation. If the organisation wanted to identify duplicates, there would be a positive incentive to do that. As it stands, the organisation does not wish to identify duplicates, it merely pretends to want to do that, because that would put off a segment of users, and they make their money selling ad impressions. – Ben Jul 13 '17 at 7:04
52

It's time...

...it's time to keep the promise made three months ago:

we'll start looking at increasing the number of close votes based on rep

You seem to be blaming users for unnecessary rudeness and trying to cut their ways to express it. That may be true and right, but if you think of it the root cause for their attitude may lie elsewhere.

For example, if many inappropriate questions aren't closed quickly enough and this makes a wide open door for answers to leak into them, it may cause negative feelings for those who care about content quality. If this is the case, banning particular negative terms won't help. The negative feelings will stay; people will simply invent other terms to express them, and things won't really get nicer.

I think it's time to look closer at these things in the historical perspective.

For example, how come that after years of plugging users' mouths and twisting their arms with summers of love and hunting the snark, the second-highest-voted question at MSO is Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late? Makes one wonder if this way works, doesn't it?


You see, negative feelings (and their respective terms) may simply indicate that a community lacks power and tools to protect itself from inappropriate content.

I heard that the author who best explained these matters is a member of Stack Exchange's board of directors -- (Clay Shirky) -- maybe it's time to have a word with him.

thing you have to accept: Members are different than users. A pattern will arise in which there is some group of users that cares more than average about the integrity and success of the group as a whole. And that becomes your core group, Art Kleiner's phrase for "the group within the group that matters most."

The core group... was undifferentiated from the group of random users that came in. They were separate in their own minds, because they knew what they wanted to do, but they couldn't defend themselves against the other users. But in all successful online communities that I've looked at, a core group arises that cares about and gardens effectively. Gardens the environment, to keep it growing, to keep it healthy.

Now, the software does not always allow the core group to express itself, which is why I say you have to accept this. Because if the software doesn't allow the core group to express itself, it will invent new ways of doing so...

I think it would be very nice of you to pay a bit more attention to the concerns of your core group.

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    @bjb568, it's fine if you don't like the "be nice" policy. It's also fine to argue that it's a bad policy, and that we should be happy to trade being respectful to each other for being more effective. But it's not fine to ignore it deliberately. Kindly re-phrase your comment. – Jaydles Jul 29 '16 at 13:36
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    @Jaydles I have no issue with the "be nice" policy. I fully uphold it as something every member of the community should abide by. But treating SE as a social media site that focuses on users rather than content bugs me. I fail to see how my comment above violates any site policies or in any way negatively affects the site. In any case, I can't edit the comment past 5 minutes. – bjb568 Jul 29 '16 at 13:40
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    Finding issue with common phrases that people use constructively and further assuming non-abidance to site rules because someone uses the phrase in a discussion about the phrase itself is not rational. Behavior like this by the leaders of the community is what misguidedly drives the community into destructive actions and changes like the summer of love. – bjb568 Jul 29 '16 at 13:43
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    @Jaydles I for one like the "be nice" policy. It could help me brag about my posts on programming topics without fear that folks looking at the site will find it polluted with rude / snarky comments. What I don't like is that policy doesn't seem to work, "how come that after years of plugging user's mouths and twisting their arms with summers of love and hunting the snark the second top question at MSO is 'Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late?'" – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 13:46
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    Completely agree. Give those who care the means to (more) efficiently close/delete whatever needs that action. You won't have to deal with perceived problematic behaviour if you take the opportunity for it to spawn away. And maybe that even means custom measures for some of the smaller sites. Large communities can count on large active user-bases, but what works there may not apply to some of the smaller sites within the network. – Bart Jul 29 '16 at 13:58
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    On SO we have effectively lost the ability to dupe close and prevent this. I max out anyone's real rep at 50K because that is probably all they have done for the site anyway. Mainly because I am not so fixated on the rep thing. Why others are is beyond me. – Drew Jul 29 '16 at 14:36
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    As the question says: "...it’s also okay - in fact it’s important - to call out places where [reputation] may be over-incentivizing things we don’t want. Let's just do it without using terms that’ll make Julia Roberts sad." – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 15:21
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    @Jefromi I "called out" these places about 35K times in last two years. I did it completely within terms and means provided by Stack Exchange system, without any trace of negativity in comments, I did nothing that could make Julia Roberts sad. Now I wonder how come that it continues and seems to only get worse – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 15:50
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    I want to be pretty clear that fixing things that actively deter people from contributing and fixing the root causes of them aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. We're not going to say "everyone just stop saying rep whore" and call it a day, we're going to continue working to make sure your experience isn't frustrating, too. The quality project is something we kick off every year and a half, where we look at what we did last time, how usage patterns evolved, and we hone in on what else we can do - that's coming up again soon and we've already got a lot of ideas [1/2] – Tim Post Jul 29 '16 at 16:19
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    I'll be posting about this probably within the next two weeks, defining some pretty clear goals we want to meet, and setting a timeline to execute against those goals. No one is ignoring the fact that our most engaged users get frustrated by also worrying about users we can't engage due to perceived rudeness or hostility, this is just an opportunity to cut back on the latter which we're taking now. [2/2] – Tim Post Jul 29 '16 at 16:22
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    @TimPost what about the promise to start looking at increasing the number of close votes based on rep? – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 16:23
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    @gnat That's one of the things in scope this time. Along with a more guided version of the ask question page that very new users will see, and a bunch of other stuff we wanted to do last time but scope just got so crazy. – Tim Post Jul 29 '16 at 16:24
  • 3
    Discussion started here – Tim Post Jul 29 '16 at 16:44
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    would be interesting to hear from (10) users who voted this down. Quoting Robert Harvey, "For those of you who are downvoting, there's clearly something here you disagree with. While you're certainly in no way obligated to explain your downvotes here or anywhere else, this is a meta site. The purpose of meta sites is discussion, and it might be useful if you articulated your concerns. I can only imagine that you fundamentally disagree with the premise of my answer, unless you don't like my tone. Either way, it would be nice to know." – gnat Jul 29 '16 at 18:49
  • 2
    @TimPost where's the post? :( no activity stackexchange.com/users/20808/tim-post?tab=activity – Braiam Aug 29 '16 at 15:00
24
+400

This feels a bit like bowdlerisation. I've personally avoided it and favour the term 'Power Gamer' or 'Bounty Hunter' (drawing from my mispent youth as a pen and paper gamer).
To me the 'be nice' policy isn't about language use. It's about ensuring that as many of my users (as a mod) feel as comfortable as possible, and I've almost never seen the term used as such.

I've never seen anyone actually use the term 'repwhore' in anger. It's used in terms of 'repwhorage' in some situations. (Interestingly, the term's been only used 6 times on Root Access. Mostly by me, referring to me. I encourage others to try this on, and it's been used 4 times on meta SU -- this isn't exactly common.) It might be different on other sites.

I feel 'be nice' is not about the words; it's about the actions and overall intent. If someone on a site I'm seeing went "hey, I'm not comfortable with someone calling me a repwhore" I'd obviously encourage the person who used that term to be more precise over what issues they have are. If someone called themselves a repwhore, or referred to an answer as repwhorage, it's a very different thing,

So, I think the solution here might not be to worry about the term. If it needs to be gone, encouraging precision and focusing on the actions is good moderation.

So as a mod, it feels like it's an attempt to solve a non existent problem. We can simply deal with people not being nice for its own sake without declaring war on a phrase.

  • 5
    @randalthor Intent matters a great deal, but not all language can be excused by good intent. Some things just don't feel good to hear, no matter how the speaker intended them. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 14:42
  • 3
    @Jefromi I tend to disagree - and I feel this is the most balanced opposing viewpoint to this. I must admit, part of my issues seem to be something like this is counter to the general spirit of self-regulation many sites have. I'd also note, I could not have gotten my point across without using that term - which mildly annoyed me to be fair. – Journeyman Geek Jul 29 '16 at 14:47
  • 1
    @JourneymanGeek The only really solid absolute policy here is "don't say this thing which is offensive but somehow was tolerated for a long time." The rest is guidance about how to be extra nice; if you feel you need a label still, as long as you don't use a blatantly offensive one, you're not going to be stopped from getting your point across. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 14:54
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    To address your answer more directly: I don't think this is bowderization, because the term was already making a lot of people uncomfortable. I know the people using it didn't see it that way, and so like Jaydles' original post I don't want to blame them for it, but that doesn't really change how it sounds to readers. That is, the intent excuses the unknowing offense, but it can't excuse deliberate ongoing offense. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 15:26
  • 1
    @Jefromi: "It's not bowdlerization if people are actually uncomfortable"? Really? That's amusing. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 24 '16 at 22:16
  • @NathanTuggy I fail to see what's amusing about the notion of people hurting other people's feelings, possibly knowingly. – Cascabel Aug 24 '16 at 22:50
  • 1
    @Jefromi: No, what's funny is the smug assumption that that wasn't what bowdlerization was originally. The superior attitude toward those foolish, prudish people of the past who … basically were just making the best solution to the problems they had, and who ended up with solutions surprisingly similar to the ones we use today! Bowdlerization is just the idea that there are people capable of discerning what phrases are unhelpful for public morals and then replacing those with more suitable terms. The only difference is in the particular set of public morals chosen. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 24 '16 at 22:57
  • @NathanTuggy "Bowlderization" has strong connotations of impairing effective discourse, and unnecessary removal of language. That's not really the case here - we're talking about a term that actually causes offense, and was being used to harass people, and a concept which can be easily discussed without that term. Still, I was careful to say that I don't blame people for using it in the past! And... if you want to mock that kind of thing as "public morals", well, keep in mind that you're on a site with a Be Nice policy. We've chosen to enforce rules about how people treat each other. – Cascabel Aug 24 '16 at 23:07
  • 1
    @Jefromi: I don't object to it, as long as people are honest about it and aren't painting themselves as somehow above those in the past who made awfully similar choices. Also, there actually have been a number of people here making fairly persuasive arguments that this is a concept that needs to be discussed, not censored -- especially given that trivial replacements of "rep whore" are likely to prove just as problematic and will thus get banned as well. So yes: this is in fact almost exactly the same thing, all the way down to some people being legitimately offended. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 24 '16 at 23:11
  • Okay, well if you define bowlderization to be the process of stopping people from saying things that legitimately offend others, then yes, this is bowlderization (and much of Be Nice is too). I'm not sure that's how it was meant in this answer, though. And discussion of the concept is most certainly not banned. Even the OP says that it's fine to discuss rep and unintended consequences. It's things like "user X is clearly Y just to get rep" that you want to be careful about, but even then, you're certainly not going to get flat-out censored. – Cascabel Aug 24 '16 at 23:18
-3

For what it's worth, if anyone wishes to call me a whore - either for rep or otherwise - I find this acceptable. I cannot guarantee a third party won't moderate our communication regardless, but i'm just going on-record as saying I do not feel people who say this to me are breaking any sort of social contract. I will not accept intimidation, name-calling, or nastiness; but if i'm being whore-like, whorish, or just generally whorey, then please do call me out on it. It's much better that I stop than I continue in ignorance.

I'm not going to give a short and long version of why this is the socially responsible thing to do, instead i'll make 2 points:

  1. I have seen the word 'whore' many times on the internet, and 99.999% of the time it was used for it's more modern definition - that of someone doing something unpleasant for some unrelated gain. Yes it might have started with sex for money, but these days it could be posts for rep, moderation for power, click-bait for ad revenue, etc. To stop using this word's new definition because that new definition has become more popular than the original definition will only, in my opinion, preserve the nastiness of the original definition and in the process we will lose a useful adjective.

  2. This one is a little harder to explain, but essentially, SE in its current form is really rather good at moderating intimidation, name-calling and nastiness. That is because the whole context of the interaction is right there for all to see, mods can be summoned near-instantaneously to pass judgement, and most of the time they do so very well. This is important, because when it comes to nastiness context is everything. To ban a word regardless of it's context is anti-logical, anti-social, and ultimately anti-progressive. People must have the freedom to offend others, and to ultimately be banned for it. SE is fundamentally a democratic website, and for some words to be banned due to a technicality before they can go through the democratic process of being read would be at odds with the site's culture.

  • 5
    If the meaning of a word actually changes to a more positive one, that's cool. However, the fact that you see it as having changed in that way doesn't really make it so. Plenty of people still use it with intent to offend, and many people still find it offensive. So sure, you can tell everyone that you're okay being called a whore. But you don't get to decide that everyone else should be okay with it. – Cascabel Jul 30 '16 at 23:31
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    Banning a word is deciding what everyone else shouldn't be okay with. – J.J Jul 31 '16 at 11:09
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    No, it's simply acknowledging that enough people aren't okay with it. – Cascabel Jul 31 '16 at 11:15
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    Ok, so when do we review the banned-words list? Yearly? Who will be in charge of deciding which previously-banned words are now OK? Will the banned words list be made publicly available, or will it be secret? – J.J Jul 1 '17 at 10:52
-5
  • People are supposed to be seeking rep.

  • If people seeking rep are doing the "wrong things", you are giving rep for the "wrong things".

  • The main "wrong thing" is duplicates which are answered instead of closed as duplicates.

Flagging a duplicate gets no rep.

Answering "how to make teh join" or "fix this pivot for me" will get you 50 points even though it is an exact duplicate.

That's the problem you need to fix:

  • Add 10 Rep for everyone voting to close as duplicate (when subsequently closed).
  • Negative rep for answering when the question is later flagged as a duplicate

Then people will stop doing that. Not until.

The incentive structure is the reification of the will of the organisation

  • 3
    The problem here is you've now added a strong incentive for people to vote to close questions that aren't actually duplicates, because they'll get rep for it. Such a system would also incentivise people to vote to reopen the obvious dupes that they've answered to remove the rep penalty. So while the current incentive system is indeed broken, you've just changed how it would be broken. – Servy Jul 12 '17 at 20:51
  • 1
    @Servy: You could ameliorate that problem by only giving rep if the OP agrees that the post is a duplicate. – sumelic Jul 12 '17 at 21:06
  • @sumelic Now you're back to it being easier to just post an answer, as it'll get you more rep for less work, than trying to convince the OP to close the question as a duplicate. – Servy Jul 12 '17 at 21:07
  • Removing reputation from closed question has been suggested already, but there were some made-up reasons (like 'don't penalize people when "good" questions closed later as dupe or whatever' or 'people would need to think before answering; unacceptable' (exaggerated)) so people can still keep their precious reputation points. I guess the discussion about removing rep points from deleted posts was similarly dragging. – Tom Jul 12 '17 at 21:52
  • You only need one person with a gold badge in the tag to close a question as a duplicate. As for reopening, as mentioned, you've now changed the incentives dramatically. People who got rep for closing it won't want to reopen it even if they later realize the question isn't a dupe, and people who answered it are incentivised to vote to reopen even if it is a dupe. All around you're adding lots of reasons for people to vote or not vote on things other than whether the question is actually a duplicate. – Servy Jul 13 '17 at 13:09
  • So you're saying that people are currently doing abusive things because that's what the system incentivises, but if we change the incentive system they won't do abusive things just because that's what the system incentivises, they'll just start doing the right thing all of the time? I just don't see that happening. If you incentivise people to vote to close questions, they'll vote to close questions, even if it's not appropriate. If you incentivise people to reopen questions, even if the question is a duplicate, they'll do that, etc. – Servy Jul 13 '17 at 14:08
  • @BensaysNotoPoliticsonSO People are doing the wrong thing because they're incentivised to do the wrong thing, so if you incentivise them to do a different wrong thing they'll do that other wrong thing. I don't know why you are finding the argument so hard to follow. – Servy Jul 13 '17 at 14:46
  • I guess so, apparently despite discussing incentives in your answer you don't actually think that incentives alter people's behavior, even though you said that we should change the incentives to change people's behavior. – Servy Jul 13 '17 at 14:57
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Ben Jul 13 '17 at 15:01
-12

I've never used the term rep-whore and I agree that it sounds pejorative and belittling. Those who answer off-topic questions just to earn a few tens of reputation points should be called SE user because we did it one way or another in the past. However, what do you call a user who constantly answer off-topic questions?

The linked question was posted on English Language and Usage, What's a less offensive substitute for “rep-whores”? and it suggests multiple alternatives.

(In order of the number of upvotes)

Rep-hound

Rep-farmer

Rep-junkie

Rep-monger

Rep-minded

Rep-reaper

Rep-chaser

...

  • 27
    You don't call the user anything. See this comment on the question – ChrisF Jul 29 '16 at 8:13
  • 3
    The real issue is not using the word "whore" but the fact that we're name-calling and that earning rep / liking to earn rep / doing this for rep is not bad. It's just someone's motivation. By removing use of this verb, they want to look at what can be abused or considered unfair. Please read the main post. – Ave Jul 29 '16 at 11:18
  • 1
    @ChrisF Who are you to tell me what to do and what not to do? Where are you from? – Rathony Jul 29 '16 at 13:14
  • 2
    @Rathony He's a moderator on like half the SE sites. So be careful who you pick your fights with. – Mysticial Jul 29 '16 at 13:49
  • 3
    @Mysticial What makes you think I am trying to pick a fight with ChrisF? What does his being a moderator have to do with any comment I make? Do you mean I need to fear him/her just because (s)he is a moderator of a half of the SE sites? What is going on on Stack Exchange? – Rathony Jul 29 '16 at 13:55
  • 2
    @HDE226868 Well, how does "You don't call the user anything." sound? I was being sarcastic about the question which tries to retire a perfectly well defined and broadly used word adding many other words users can choose from when they feel reluctant to use the word rep-whore. I don't think I have missed anything. This is closer to censorship than expanding "be nice" policy and Stack Exchange should be better than that. I have never seen the word used directly towards a user. Have you? – Rathony Jul 29 '16 at 14:39
  • 5
    I've seen the term used plenty to refer to specific users. If you haven't, maybe the sites you frequent are better behaved than some, or mods have cleaned up quickly. See also Shog's answer. This is a well defined but offensive term, and telling people use it is just an explicit, public application of Be Nice, not censorship. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 15:10
  • 3
    @Jefromi You can't stop the gun violence by just saying "Don't use a gun.". You have to make an environment where using a gun is not necessary. Just retiring the word doesn't prevent rep-hounds from trying to earn reputation points from questions normal SE users are busy downvoting and close-voting. Then, what should we do? I think Seth's answer hits the nail. – Rathony Jul 29 '16 at 15:26
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    @Rathony It's not either/or. There are as always issues with the sites that need to be addressed, and there are also in this case people being less than nice about how they raise those issues. So what should we do? Keep fighting to fix the issues, but do it respectfully. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 15:28
  • 2
    @Jefromi Yes, of course, respectfully. But not by telling the users what to do and what not to do. We have mechanisms to deal with offensive words. – Rathony Jul 29 '16 at 15:31
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    @Rathony Think of this as a public clarification that this term isn't okay and we're going to start consistently applying those mechanisms, plus some additional food for thought about constructive discourse. I agree that ideally we shouldn't have to post specific advice about specific words. Unfortunately this term was tolerated to some extent in the past, and some people still think it's okay, so it merits a little extra attention. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 15:36
  • 3
    For the record, I've deleted a lot of comments where someone was called this as an insult. They were clearly intended as insults, were flagged as such, and were removed by moderators (or more recently, the system itself). You don't see many of them because they are actively removed. Even on Meta.SO, we commonly delete comments containing this because they are usually intended to insult or demean certain people. – Brad Larson Jul 29 '16 at 15:52
  • 2
    @J.J And it's a correct explanation. Multiple mods and CMs here have said so. People have been using the term as an insult and to harass people, and that's not okay. – Cascabel Jul 30 '16 at 23:28
  • 1
    @ChrisF: If you're calling a user's actions to be "rep-whoring", aren't you calling that user a "rep-whore"? (In other words, what's the difference?). Imo, naming the action or the user are both the same. – Cerbrus Aug 1 '16 at 6:36
  • 2
    @Cerbrus not really. You can say someone is posting what looks like spam without calling them a spammer. The same applies here. – ChrisF Aug 1 '16 at 6:47

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