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One of the more common defenses I've seen for rude/discriminating behavior is justifying it with multiculturalism.

I know that sounds odd on its face, so let me explain...

Users seem to be justifying behaving badly by claiming that it's the norm in their neck of the woods. Sometimes that's even accurate, but I suspect, more often than not, it's just a lame excuse.

Admittedly, some places seem to be ok with some kinds of discrimination, it's a sad fact of the world. Some places have made a little more progress, and while that's great, they're still fighting to make it a little better... Stack Exchange seems to have become one of the latter places.

I'd prefer that Stack Exchange communities put their own culture first. As in:

We don't care where you come from, you still have to treat people like people here.

That seems to be a corner stone of the Be Nice policy, at least as far as my reading of it. Although this can apparently be interpreted more than one way.

To flatly come out and say:

It's not ok to treat X that way.

Can be considered rude in some cultures, if you're going by the standard set by a given culture. How they feel about how X should be treated is culturally ingrained, often backed by eons of tradition, religion, and so on. This obviously creates a big stumbling block...

What I would like to suggest is plainly saying that Stack Exchange is a community with its own culture, and the norms and rules of our culture come first.

We don't want to offend users from any part of the world, from any religion, or culture, but when it comes to some things... Well... That's just how we do it here. This is what our community feels is right.

Thoughts?

  • On matters of etiquette ("thanks" and the like), I might agree. But there can be other areas where the culture of SO needs to bend to the culture of the real world. – Nicol Bolas Apr 27 '18 at 6:20
  • @NicolBolas What might those areas be? – apaul Apr 27 '18 at 6:22
  • I donno, "It's not ok to treat X that way." is literally a cornerstone of my moderation style. And what's wrong with folks working out what to do with common sense? And could we have some specific examples please since... its not quite clear what the goal here is, and the eventual end result. – Journeyman Geek Apr 27 '18 at 6:34
  • @JourneymanGeek I didn't intend to say that folks weren't making an effort, but very clearly there's some problems on the table. Today's blog post seemed to try to highlight that. – apaul Apr 27 '18 at 6:39
  • More that sites can work out what needs to be done, with a bit of broader guidance, rather than a strict, universal code of "how we do things". I for one would take sexism on SU quite dimly. – Journeyman Geek Apr 27 '18 at 6:40
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    @JourneymanGeek That's kinda my point... When users want to say "That's how we treat women where I live" I think the appropriate response should be, "well, that's not how we treat women on SE" – apaul Apr 27 '18 at 6:46
  • @JourneymanGeek: Put another way, sometimes Lower Elbonians really just need to learn to adjust to SE culture, rather than primarily the other way around. Put even more bluntly, "Elbonians" can have cultural values, or at least habits, that we don't like, and don't plan on ever liking or tolerating. That's OK. (SE can still make a good effort to understand Elbonians in order to handle their culture shock and help them adjust as much as possible, of course.) – Nathan Tuggy Apr 27 '18 at 7:04
  • But do we need a rule to stop them from filling our living room with mud explicitly? – Journeyman Geek Apr 27 '18 at 7:05
  • @Journeyman some examples: meta.stackexchange.com/a/309538/217863 – apaul Apr 27 '18 at 16:22
  • @apaul none of them from SO:) – Martin James Apr 27 '18 at 21:15
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    @MartinJames Also... I don't believe I referenced Stack Overflow at any point in my question. Feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken. – apaul Apr 27 '18 at 21:28
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Hmmm...

I'd prefer that Stack Exchange communities put their own culture first.

We already do this. In fact, it's probably the root of an awful lot of the complaints that we get, since the shared Stack Exchange culture is significantly different from the predominate cultural norms of the 'Net, and even moreso when you take certain Eastern cultural norms into account.

And... Even though we kinda know that an awful lot of folks showing up here suffer from culture shock, we're often not that great at acclimating them to it. Seasoned member unutbu wrote about this recently over on MSO:

My early confusion came from a conflict in cultures perhaps not dissimilar to they one some new-flowers face when asking questions to us overflowers. But I believe we tend to learn to adapt to the culture that we are in. So let's try to welcome / acculturate new-flowers by trying to be respectful and patient while showing by example how people are expected to behave on Stack Overflow.

Truth is, we're often very brusque about how we introduce these norms to new members of these sites; we may even betray our frustration with seeing so many of them by going out of our way to chastise others for their transgressions.

Should we abandon our culture then? Certainly not! Doing so hardly solves the problem of culture-clash, nor is it in any way practical to even attempt it. But we would do well to remember the reasons behind our little rituals, so that we can better explain them to others - and reminding ourselves that the fixtures which we take for granted can look very strange and confusing until folks become accustom to them.

We also need to remember that Stack Exchange has grown considerably over its life - not just in size, but in breadth of both topic and diversity of culture. Participating on TeX is not the same as participating on Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair and neither are anything like participating on Worldbuilding; while all these sites share many common attributes, their individual cultures also have much that is unique or at least uncommon - cultural exports work by persuasion, not edict. This isn't done in the name of "multiculturalism", but of practical necessity: what works for one topic or group may destroy another; if we're to host these diverse topics on our platform, then the folks involved must be free to adapt to what allows that to happen effectively.

Over the years, I've had to explain again and again to people whose culture dictates that they must upvote their superiors' posts that such behavior is forbidden here; numerous others have faced this same task. It would certainly be less work to just abandon our own goals and expectations in the face of such pressure - but the cost of doing so is the slow destruction of much of what we've built here.

So we patiently provide the same guidance again and again, day after day, year after year, to each new member who makes the same mistake. And they learn, and they adapt, and we are all better for it.

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    Again, I feel like this is already covered - it's never been OK to treat women like property on Stack Exchange, and I've personally banned multiple people who've tried. I suspect there's some missing context here. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 1:49
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    Ok, I scanned the thread there @apaul - I'm not sure what sparked it, but am I correct in summarizing it as "you and another user disagreed over the probable meaning of women's attire in public situations in Thailand"? I'm really not wild about some of the language in that thread, though I can't tell at a glance if it's the other user being crude or if that somehow ties back to a question on IPS. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 2:03
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    Ok. So, there's nothing in there about Thailand, Germany, or any other local culture that I can find - which makes most of that chat conversation a non sequitur at best; I've deleted it. The main-site question was about communication, which does not in any way warrant a debate over womens' dressing proclivities outside of the specific context defined there; the meta question was about someone feeling they have a right to kibitz on the main-site topic, which they do not. Thankfully, none of it was about how women should be treated on Stack Exchange, which is what I had feared. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 2:16
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    However... Much as we might wish otherwise, nothing we decide here is going to have much of an effect on the cultural norms in Thailand apart from perhaps influencing one particular German guy's interpretation of them. So I'm still unclear where you were going with this request. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 2:17
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    I don't see how anything I said would give that impression. This is not a soapbox for folks to promote such things, which is why all of that user's comments to that effect (at least, the ones outside of your chat room) were deleted... two weeks ago. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 2:21
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    That's one of many users, who've used a pretty lame "this is how it works where I come from" excuse. Or my personal favorite "this is how it works in the real world". Figured it was worth driving the point that it isn't how it works on SE, because it comes up often enough. – apaul Apr 28 '18 at 2:26
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    Actually... I'm becoming increasingly curious about the chronology here. Presumably you saw this guy spewing this crap on the post, and saw the mods clean it up. Then you saw the meta post and more cleanup. And... Three days later, you invite him to a chat room to spew more of it, and don't clean it up? What the hell, man? – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 2:27
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    So yeah, here's how SE's culture applies to this situation: don't do that. Don't give people a damn soapbox for that crap. And if they try to do it anyway, flag it instead of encouraging it. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 2:28
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    A very old cultural tradition on Stack Exchange is to focus on behaviors vs. labeling, @apaul. We don't vote on who has to wear the label "bigot" (or "troll", or "vampire", or...) - we dictate acceptable behavior: no bigotry. Also, that's sort of a definition that mostly just makes the definer feel good. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 3:50
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    What would it accomplish, beyond fodder for more arguments? If you say, "don't do that" and they do it anyway, standing around discussing which label to apply is a waste of time; shut it down. This is what kills so much time on IPS: folks will point out a problem and then stand around for the next 6 hours saying "nuh-uh! uh-huh!" at each other as though that resolves anything. Either the problem exists or it doesn't; calling the author names isn't fixing the problem. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 4:02
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    We have a direct statement. I linked to it above. The blog post references it. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 4:23
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    How is that in any way more direct than what we have now? – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 4:52
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    It leaves TONS of room for interpretation. Any time you stop looking at what folks are writing and try to put them into boxes based on what you think they believe, you're in the weeds as far as getting any kind of consensus. You're defining a problem based on who you think you've been arguing with rather than what they said... But I gotta tell you: even the blatant, over the top literally cartoon Nazis we've been blocking for months across the network don't sign up with "Occupation: antisemite" filled in on their profiles. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 5:01
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    I appreciate the flattery, but... Most folks using these sites don't know me from Adam. And giving someone who is spewing hate a soapbox for the sake of being able to publicly condemn them, while certainly cathartic... Still gives a soapbox to someone spewing hatred. It isn't worth the price. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 5:10
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    Heh... If you haven't noticed, I love to argue. If I could justify it from the results, that'd be all I'd do here. But I can't. The more pitched battles you fight, the fewer people remain save those who just want to fight. – Shog9 Apr 28 '18 at 5:30
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One of the more common defenses I've seen for rude/descriminating behavior is justifying it with multiculturalism.

I think there are some issues on Stack Exchange as regards to the "be nice" policy. And I'm not a fan of multiculturism at all - I think it's used to excuse a lot of bad things. So I'm listening.

I know that sounds odd on its face, so let me explain. Users seem to be justifying behaving badly by claiming that it's the norm in their neck of the woods. Sometimes that's even accurate, but I suspect, more often than not, it's just a lame excuse.

I've seen plenty of users being unpleasant. And not just new users, or users from distant lands with different cultures - I'm in the UK by the way. But I've never seen multiculturalism used as an excuse for unpleasantness on Stack Exchange. Maybe I've led a sheltered life.

Admittedly, some places seem to be ok with some kinds of discrimination, it's a sad fact of the world. Some places have made a little more progress, and while that's great, they're still fighting to make it a little better... Stack Exchange seems to have become one of the latter places.

A lot of places are OK with some kind of discrimination. Only they sweep it under the rug or call it "affirmative action" or somesuch. But I haven't noticed much in the way of discrimination on Stack Exchange. I've noticed that some longer term users aren't always nice to new users, but I don't think that's discrimination per se.

I'd prefer that Stack Exchange communities put their own culture first. As in: We don't care where you come from, you still have to treat people like people here.

I agree with that. And I would venture to say that that's the intent. Perhaps the real issue here is Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?. If people aren't being nice, then surely the moderators need to do something about it? And if they don't, then somebody needs to have a chat with them?

That seems to be a cornerstone of the be nice policy, at least as far as my reading of it. Although this can apparently be interpreted more than one way. To flatly come out and say It's not ok to treat X that way can be considered rude in some cultures, if you're going by the standard set by a given culture. How they feel about how X should be treated is culturally ingrained, often backed by eons of tradition, religion, and so on. This obviously creates a big stumbling block...

There is the saying When in Rome. I agree with that. A lot of people do.

What I would like to suggest is plainly saying that Stack Exchange is a community with its own culture, and the norms and rules of our culture come first.

Who wouldn't agree with that? Provided that culture has that be nice ethic of course.

We don't want to offend users from any part of the world, from any religion, or culture, but when it comes to some things... Well... That's just how we do it here. This is what our community feels is right. Thoughts?

I share your sentiment. But the bottom line is that I haven't noticed that this is a problem on Stack Exchange. I guess what I'm saying is that for this one, we really do need some examples. I know that can be problematical, but I see no other option here.

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