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At The Workplace we often get issues where people need to deal with issues that are controversial or the issues are sensitive to certain people. These questions often result in storms of comments that are little more than opinion sharing, and arguments often about a tangential issue, or the goal of the question itself. These goals are usually not illegal or immoral but rather there are camps of people who believe that no one should want to achieve them because of personal opinions.

We would like to attempt to preempt some of these comment storms with a post notice that, when combined with moderation, we believe will help reduce the amount of vitriol and comment chatter in general for these types of questions:

This question deals with a topic about which many people have strong opinions. We respectfully ask that answers keep their focus on the question, and that those answering refrain from sharing personal opinions unless relevant to answering the question. And as always, please remember to Be Nice

Original Meta Request on the Workplace Meta: Can we get a be nice post notice for questions that deal with sensitive issues

  • I remarked The workspace tend to attract direct answer too, no gray line, I guess it bring more direct comment discussion (bad or good it can be) – yagmoth555 - GoFoundMe Monica Oct 6 '17 at 19:13
  • hmm not sure if feature request is the right tag or if it should be support. – Chad Oct 6 '17 at 19:21
  • I assumed Post Notices were per site and could be maintained by moderators on their site in addition to the few default notices. – rene Oct 6 '17 at 19:30
  • @rene - That was my first thought when we came up with the idea in chat. But were quickly corrected. – Chad Oct 6 '17 at 19:31
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    Yeah, you need an Feature Request: meta.stackexchange.com/a/191984/158100 and then a CM will handle – rene Oct 6 '17 at 19:33
  • sorry for my question, but the request is a post notice on answer, and your text explain you want to stop comment storm, how it's linked ? – yagmoth555 - GoFoundMe Monica Oct 6 '17 at 22:43
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    This would be very useful on Politics as well. – yannis Oct 6 '17 at 23:59
  • @yagmoth555 - Actually it would go on a question as a warning when a question starts attracting problem comments and answers – Chad Oct 7 '17 at 4:51
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    This would be nice on Parenting too – SomeShinyMonica Oct 7 '17 at 6:10
  • On what questions wouldn't this apply to? If it's always the case, why single out some questions? – curiousdannii Oct 10 '17 at 8:13
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    @curiousdannii There's questions where this is a problem and questions where it is not. This would only be applied to questions where it's a problem, just like all of the other post notices. – Catija Oct 10 '17 at 13:03
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    @curiousdannii certain hot-button topics seem to consistently produce explosions, yet are on-topic and thus valid questions. On The Workplace we've had problems when religion, sexual identity, or discrimination are core to the question, for example. – Monica Cellio Oct 10 '17 at 17:54
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Quoting my answer on The Workplace Meta:

We discussed this request internally a few weeks back, and then I kept my eyes open with it in mind.

Here are, I believe, the key factors to consider when constructing such a post notice:

  1. Responses to the question have already gone off the rails. All of the proposed notices here serve only to remind readers of things they should already be keeping in mind when responding to questions. Or responding to anyone, anywhere, ever. The only reason we'd need a special notice is that things have broken down to the point where an extra reminder is needed.

  2. It's worth mentioning comments as well. In fact, comments seem to spin out of control a lot faster than answers in these scenarios, so I'm kinda inclined to focus on them more than answers... But realistically, soapboxing in either venue is a problem and we need to discourage both.

  3. The notice needs to get to the point, fast. If folks are already inclined to ignore basic etiquette because they feel it's sooo important to jump on their soapbox FOR THE GOOD OF HUMANITY... There's already a good chance they're gonna ignore anything meant to discourage that. Subtle, passive, lengthy reminders and links to other pages aren't gonna cut it - we need to convince readers that soapboxing is going to be a waste of time in as few words as possible.

With that in mind... Here's what I've implemented:

Controversial Post — You may use comments ONLY to suggest improvements. You may use answers ONLY to provide a solution to the specific question asked above. Moderators will remove debates, arguments or opinions without notice.

the notice as it appears in the moderator UI

This notice is now live on The Workplace and Interpersonal Skills. If it proves effective, it can be added to other sites as-needed.

  • You might already be aware of this, but I opened a discussion about this possibility also on Academia.SE. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 1 '17 at 14:54
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    I think the notice could be improved by sticking to ONE form of emphasis. – henning -- reinstate Monica Nov 2 '17 at 12:50
  • My only regret is that I couldn't cram in a bullet list. – Shog9 Nov 2 '17 at 16:27
  • Thoughts on changing the wording slightly? post >> topic/subject? – Catija Nov 2 '17 at 20:55
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+50

Yes Please! This IPS Moderator would love this, too!

In our short ~100 days on Interpersonal Skills we have had several posts with root problems that relate to extremely divisive issues but the issues being discussed are often irrelevant to the interpersonal interaction and answers and comments that only tell the OP that their choices are wrong while ignoring the question aren't useful.

We have since created a site policy that answers should respect the decisions that the asker has made and not try to change their minds. This is described in my answer to the meta question To what extent do we respect the OP's request? This policy is based on a similar one on Parenting: What should we advise when one disagrees with the premise of a question?

From HedgeMage's answer on Parenting:

In these cases, I feel it is best for the offended party to pass the question by. If one doesn't practice $whatever, then one is not likely able to provide expert-level advice on it. All that is accomplished by soapboxing is to create a community with an agenda, instead of a community that provides information. I believe that responding to "How do I $x?" with "Doing $x is inexcusable and/or evil." is inappropriate, and should be dealt with using downvotes and/or deletions to prevent shrill bickering over our differences from obscuring useful information that the questioner is seeking.

Most importantly, it is never appropriate to post an answer that does not directly answer the question asked.

So, in addition to having this extra post notice, I would like to request that we be able to link it to our meta post on the topic (if applicable) so that we can point users to the specific site policy in addition to (or instead of) the general "Be Nice" policy. Since these policy links are unlikely to change, I'm guessing this is something that can be done per-site but doesn't need to be moderator configurable. We can give the CMs/Devs a link if that's simpler.

  • Even if the situation is different between the sites, the sample wording of the post notice would be useful in both cases. Anything I can do to limit the likelihood of another one of the Vegan Questions on IPS would be helpful. – Catija Oct 6 '17 at 19:47
  • I miss understood what you were saying. sorry. I thought you were saying we dont need a post notice just a different policy. – Chad Oct 6 '17 at 19:49
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    Does that help? I wrote it in a weird order so it may not have been super clear. Oh, no... I like the idea of the post notice... I want it and I want to link to my meta post. – Catija Oct 6 '17 at 19:51
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    I understand this perspective, but there needs to be a distinction for the situations where you can tell a user not to do X. We have a specific discussion on this at Workplace. It's the difference between asking "I'm vegan, how do I get my coworkers to stop making fun of me?" and "I'm vegan, how do I get my coworkers to stop eating meat around me?" For both we want to prevent discussion of veganism, but encourage answers on how to behave professionally. – David K Oct 10 '17 at 12:35
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    @DavidK I'm not sure I understand. We have no problem with answers telling people "you can't force your coworkers to stop eating meat around you" We can not have answers that say "veganism is dumb" or "eating meat is evil". We have a related meta post that discusses this on IPS. As long as the moderators understand this difference, though, I don't think there's a problem. – Catija Oct 10 '17 at 13:02
  • @Catija Sorry, I commented before following all of your links (cardinal SE sin, I know). I think the discussion on IPS is in line with our stance at the Workplace, but HedgeMage's answer on Parenting doesn't really address that sometimes the best response to "How do I $x?" is "Doing $x is inexcusable." – David K Oct 10 '17 at 13:17
  • @DavidK The parenting quote is designed to prevent that to some degree, though. To some vegans, eating meat is inexcusable and to some parents, corporal punishment isn't acceptable... but the latter isn't universally true. Telling someone that spanking isn't a valid way to parent when the question is "we use spanking in our household..." – Catija Oct 10 '17 at 13:24
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    @Catija I think we are in agreement on how questions should be handled and are just debating the interpretation of HedgeMage's answer at this point. – David K Oct 10 '17 at 13:34
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I would very much like something like that too.

As an active user on the workplace, we often times get questions where a bit of sensitivity and more general niceness is needed. We don't usually shy away from controversial topics, so a notice to make it abundantly clear that discourse on these needs to be respectful would I think serve to make some people think twice before posting, which is sorely necessary on these topics.

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