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On Hinduism Meta, I often find users citing answers posted on this site as if they are rules.

I was of the impression though, that rules are the ones which are covered in the Help Center.

  1. So, are some of the highly upvoted answers that are posted here considered as rules? Or only the accepted ones are rules? Or something else?
  2. Are all the rules not given on the help page linked above? Or in other words is it enough for any user to study only the help page to get acquainted with the site rules or does he need to study all the questions and answers as well? If not all, at least some?
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    If there's any question that should get an answer from an SE employee, it's this one. – Fabian Röling Jan 19 '18 at 7:37
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    Are you going to use the highly upvoted and accepted answer on this *Über"-meta question as a rule to silence the other users citing highly upvoted and accepted meta answers? – rene Jan 19 '18 at 8:06
  • It depends on what conclusion we arrive upon after the discussion is complete here. But it's more about getting myself acquainted with the "rules" here than any other things. @rene – Rickross Jan 19 '18 at 8:14
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    Can you give some example ? – Ankit Sharma Jan 19 '18 at 9:32
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    there is a tag faq used to denote "more official" kind of meta posts, it is even treated differently by a system (eg regular users can't add this tag) – gnat Jan 19 '18 at 9:42
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    @gnat yes one of the given answers says that too. I got some ideas 1. They are more like guidelines rather than rules. 2. Even when we are applying some, it makes sense discussing, taking the particular topic/situations we have on our hands. – Rickross Jan 19 '18 at 11:53
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It's worth thinking of SE as a place where the rules are somewhat like the British legal system. Considering the varied situations we face, while the general help center, and other official sources of guidance take precedence, we often end up having to interpret or clarify these things.

Meta is very often a place where we discuss best practices or try to interpret the rules to fit certain situation. Personally rather than looking at just the votes (which can be an indication of popularity), I'd look at the source (a CM or dev's words have greater weight), and whether the posts actually fit the situation.

There's also often some subjects that come up often (and SE uses FAQs to catalogue them, instead of blog posts), and are canonical posts that should be taken as definitive.

There's also some specific issues - like scope - that are unique to the site, and SE posts on MSE or about other sites may not be true.

To use the legal metaphor again, MSE is basically a source of "precedent" that's useful for trying to make a case for something or other. That said, whether it's relevant depends, and it really depends on the topic.

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    I have no idea how the British legal system works. Could you please explain that? – Donald Duck Jan 19 '18 at 17:31
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    erf. that's like a whole set of wikipedia articles - take a look at the article for common law, compared to civil law. I believe aspects of the american system are similar. Essentially though, we work off a set of fixed, semi-immutable rules, as well as a body of decisions made based off those, rather than having a fixed, rigid set of rules that are the only thing we consider when deciding what to do. – Journeyman Geek Jan 20 '18 at 1:24
  • I think that part of the nuance in British Common Law is that some of the rules are unwritten, and formed by decisions, not "laws". See 1, 2, 3 – whiskeychief May 9 at 10:14
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It is interesting that a search of the Help Center (which you linked to) shows only two pages with the word "rule" (and for both it is part of "As a general rule") and there is only one with the word "rules", and that leads to the Be Nice policy.

The more I use Stack Exchange the more I realize that rather than rules, the network is guided in its behaviour by two policies (Be Nice and Privacy) and many guidelines which are outlined in the help pages of each site, the Meta of each site and the site you are on here (Meta Stack Exchange).

The guidelines that I follow, and trust, the most are those that are either in the help pages, or tagged with and/or highly upvoted on a Meta site.

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    So you mean it is enough to go through the posts that are tagged with "faq"? But your answer also says that highly upvoted answers are also treated as rules. So, how many upvotes exactly do they need to be counted as rules? – Rickross Jan 19 '18 at 7:14
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    You've missed my point - the Stack Exchange network operates on guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. There is no threshold of upvotes that codifies a guideline as a rule. Learning the guidelines that the community follows involves having an overview of the Help Center and an increasing familiarity with the FAQs and any highly upvoted Q&As that appear to have achieved consensus. The guidelines evolved fast when SO/SE started and continue to evolve more slowly as each day passes. – PolyGeo Jan 19 '18 at 7:20
  • Ok. So those faqs are guidelines and there are no hard and fast rules and moreover the rules or guidelines are always evolving as time passes by. That's good to know and it cleared my confusion. – Rickross Jan 19 '18 at 7:23
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    The Meta is more like guidelines... – muru Jan 19 '18 at 11:01
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    @Rickross There most certainly are rules. There just aren't very many of them. Things like the T&C, the information in the help center, etc. are rules. For example, you need to be 13 years old to use the site. That's not a guideline, that's a rule, that posts all have the CC-By-SA license attached to them, or that questions need to be clear are also rules. Things that users post on meta and that others agree with are either people's interpretations of those rules, or guidelines that the community (or portions of it) has come to agree on. – Servy Jan 19 '18 at 18:26
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    @Servy Thanks for ur thoughts. @@Poly i have not selected ur answer as i can select only one. But ur answer did clear many of my doubts and moreover between ur answer and the selected answer, there is not much difference. – Rickross Jan 20 '18 at 14:23
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TL;DR : There are many "rule" like posts among the guidelines which are not to be discarded or ignored as a whole while taking a decision on per site metas.

Highly upvoted answers of this site are not only cited on Hinduism meta but on other per site metas as well.

The reason users cite it is Meta Stack Exchange is a meta-discussion of the Stack Exchange family of Q&A websites. So, users from all the sites take part in it. It is called as mother meta and all other sites are child metas. But this is not the only reason it is cited.

  • It has been around for a long time and there had been many constructive discussions. So, it is possible to find an appropriate solution from already discussed question. When a situation arises, we obviously look back into the past on what others did to face the situation. In the same way, when a similar situation occurs on a per site meta, it is natural that a post from this site is cited as an example. Help will be given at Hogwarts Meta Stack Exchange to those who ask for it (properly).

  • The community manager team are more active on the site and write posts regularly than other meta sites. So, posts on this site are more likely to get an answer from the official source i.e., CM or developers. Changes of policies, rules, guidelines are discussed here. So, these posts carry more weight as sources on other site metas too.

  • Users are not from only one site. Inputs from different users are given here. So, there is a scope of more useful and helpful discussion. (This post is a live example because you already got answers from two diamond moderators of other SE communities). So, highly upvoted answers are applicable to child metas most of the time.

In some posts here, useful posts of child metas are also cited here. It depends on the usefulness of the post and how much it is applicable to the situation faced on other metas.


For your first question,

Apart from , help center and answers from official sources like direct answers from community managers team, many meta posts can be considered as rules and followed not because just of votes, but due to the content and solution applicable to the situation we are facing. e.g : This post about chatty comments can be applied across the network.

This post can be followed too.

There are topics where MSE posts can/should be followed without any doubt like canonical posts like Not an answer, when to flag comments, closing questions as duplicates etc.,

There are some situations, where the decision should be taken based on site specific meta decisions. So, meta posts do not matter much there except for reference.

We cannot guarantee accepted answers as guidelines because in some cases, OP accepts the answer he likes rather than giving more useful information.

Highly upvoted answers can/should be followed based on the useful information it provides.

For your second question,

All the rules are not given in the help center. For example, the privileges page says about approval of tag wikis. But it is not explained what process is to be apply to review wikis and excerpts. The guidance given is not very much useful. In this situation, the relevant meta post becomes important. They should be followed just like rules. Same applies to all the review queues. So, we can't just say meta posts are not rules. There are also guidelines which are not to be discarded while participating on other sites. It is a mix up.

It is enough to be clear with the help center and of respective sites (what is on-topic and off-topic to ask. Policies they follow which are derived after a constructive discussion like comment policy, spoiler policy). Here meta SE does not play any role. Child meta does). But when a situation comes, it would be very helpful to know the guidelines of Meta Stack Exchange also. It is almost not possible to know each and every post of MSE as there are thousands of them already (That is the reason users from other sites refer MSE).

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