This is actually something that just came up internally that we've been pondering. We want to have a bit more guidance around these issues, especially for our moderators, to prevent some of the very negative experiences we've been seeing around some particular users over the years that originate around Meta questions.
Focus on the problem, not the user.
There's a reason we always kill off the specific-user tag every time it appears. Focusing a Meta question around a specific user almost always leads to a horrible situation. Yes, it can be difficult sometimes to bring up an issue without mentioning a user, but users should try their hardest to leave links to user pages out of their question at all costs. Instead, describe the issue generally.
- If someone closed your question, focus on why was the question closed rather than why is this user closing questions.
- If you think someone is abusing the review queue, focus on what appropriate review behavior is rather than is this person abusing our site.
- If you are concerned about something in a user's profile, focus on what content is allowed in profiles rather than is this user allowed to have this.
If the community reaches a consensus on something being inappropriate, then you have an action item. Go flag one of that user's posts or use the contact form to report the behavior, referencing the Meta question. Never call out the user on Meta directly.
Even in cases where the user's name is very easily accessible (for example, in a case where you link a question and their name is visible right on the page), directly mentioning the user in your question shifts the focus away from your actual problem and onto the user in general. That kind of focus shift isn't necessary and only distracts others from the real issue: the behavior.
What if you were in that situation?
Nobody really enjoys being called out about something they've done, but there is a way to ease the pain. Bringing up an issue in a generalized way invites the community to discuss an issue in more neutral context, which not only benefits the community by focusing them on the issue, but also benefits the user whose behavior is being discussed.
Pointing at a specific user and shouting "you're doing it wrong" at them only stirs up their emotions. Depending on the user, it might get their adrenaline pumping, could make them extremely confused about what they've done wrong, or could just make them feel awful about themselves. That's not entirely fair in a situation where they may simply not have understood what they were doing, or were legitimately trying to help out and just went too far.
A neutral setting is much more inviting for that user to come in and participate in a calm manner and explain their reasoning behind the behavior.
It's far from a perfect solution, still fairly subjective, and very much still up for debate.
- If the question can be generalized in a way where users are not mentioned in the question at all, users and/or moderators should simply remove those mentions from the question.
- If the question cannot be generalized because it requires specifics, or removing the user's name from the question would not help the situation (damage is already done), moderators should delete the question immediately and leave an explanatory comment advising them to flag or use the contact page.
- Comments which point out the specific user or discuss the user's actions other than the behavior currently being discussed should be immediately deleted. Meta is not a place for creating a log of a user's past history or misdeeds.
That's still a pretty big judgement call, but we want to emphasize that mentioning users is inappropriate. Discussing a specific user in a way that just starts airing their dirty laundry is never constructive, no matter how civil the conversation is. We've seen plenty of conversations that remained fairly civil on Meta, but had disastrous consequences on the main site and even off-site.
Your goal in asking a Meta question should be to find out what the correct behavior is, not to correct the behavior yourself. If your question happens to achieve correcting the behavior, great, but that shouldn't be the focus. We are not here to shame users until they feel they have no option but to leave completely.