Through his never-ending sense of wonder and curiosity, my colleague Jon Ericson recently posted some findings on his exploration into the possibility of ...hastily written... questions essentially becoming an (inevitable or not) self-fulfilling prophecy.

While we're getting a little out in the weeds there, something sort of smacked me as I read it, sort of like when Shaggy stepped on a rake as Scooby chuckled. I couldn't find a good image of that, but this one illustrates the concept:


I found Jon's closing to be extremely compelling; I'll quote the relevant part here:

To casual visitors, question comments are more visible than answers. We know from talking to people who don't contribute that one reason is because they see discouraging comments on the site. In sum, leaving a negative comment on a bad question:

  • encourages the OP to ask again and
  • discourages anonymous users from asking a question.

There's a certain feeling you get when you realize that one of your worst perceptions was just validated beyond purely anecdotal evidence — it's something along the lines of giddy-nauseous. Spending years working the flag queue I'd seen this behavior, but never thought to (or even knew how to) test it. But, I immediately became thankful for two things:

  1. Jon ends most of his posts with a plain English summary, and,
  2. This, as we confirm it more and more, is relatively easy to fix.

That leads me to make my next assertion:

While comments are treated differently than standard posts when it comes to their expected life span, the tone and civility of comments should be no different than what we expect in regular posts.

You don't often see condescension like did you even Google it? as an answer, at least not one that stays around very long. Why would we tolerate that in a comment? The appearance of our community created by subtle put-down comments such as "that's such a silly approach" is as incorrect as it is unfair to the countless people that go way out of their way every day to show others how far the limits of patience can really be tested.

So, what should we do?

The first thing we should do is actually the first thing we shouldn't do, which is we shouldn't make even more people feel bad about a bunch of comments that we're pretty sure nobody intended to be toxic. This isn't a blame game, unless someone has a history of coming a bit unhinged, but we already deal with that as an exception.

Don't feel bad about not being a saint; being okay with not being perfect means being okay with stuff you didn't think enough about prior to typing vanishing on occasion. It happens.

If folks do the following things:

  • Avoid unnecessary sarcasm (which, especially online, is almost all sarcasm). There are ways to get it right, but it's hard, and opportunities to nail it are rare
  • Avoid subtle put-downs and rhetorical statements like "Did you even try Googling?" or "Are you too lazy to run it and see?"
  • Avoid accidental misinterpretation of your comment by being deliberately explicit about your intent. For instance, if the question is about 'foomatic': "I'm not asking rhetorically; I really want to help you with this, I just want to be sure you also searched for 'foomatic'" is a lot better than "Did you even search? what for?"
  • Flag not just comments that clearly cross into the territory of being rude, but also those that seem more like condescending / mean-spirited 'jabs' than actually attempts to help someone (use "Other" if it seems problematic, but doesn't quite fall into obviously rude)
  • Lead by example by spending 50 - 100 more characters to deliberately show that you at least considered how someone would receive your comment
  • Refrain from commenting if you're not willing to make an earnest attempt to check for tone. Remember, comments under questions can be more visible than answers, and we're all accountable to the perception they create
  • Try not to provide full answers in comments; if you end up working a problem out in comments, please move it to an answer. We know you're trying to help, but the system expects answers to questions. If we're reiterating that comments are ephemeral (and they are), we have to caution against leaving good information in them that needs to last, too

... we'd be in a much better place.

As we work to make our be nice policy into a more codified and formal code of conduct, we're being much more deliberate about what kind of language isn't acceptable, but we don't need to wait for that document to be done in order to curb this problem by just not adding to it, and cleaning it up as we see it.

We know we have more work to do with question quality, and we're doing it, but this is important, too.

We pretty much already have this policy, we're just calling on everyone to enforce it more consistently, and treat the language used in comments with the same scrutiny that we apply to posts. It's something we can do, now, to make folks less apprehensive about jumping in.

We need to do that, pretty urgently, or we'll be the only kids playing in this pretty elaborate pillow fort we built together :)

Questions? Thoughts? Have at it.

  • 134
    Refrain from commenting is much of what I've learned is the best thing to do. That's best of any guidelines I've ever read @Tim. Jun 26, 2018 at 18:51
  • 111
    I've never understood why people thought "be nice" was something you only had to do sometimes. Where was Mr. Rogers in their childhood??
    – Joe
    Jun 26, 2018 at 18:58
  • 16
    @Joe In the land of make believe. Some kids never got to visit there :(
    – user50049
    Jun 26, 2018 at 19:03
  • 47
    @πάνταῥεῖ yup - I just downvote them. Quicker and safer. No expanding 5 words in 50 to 'appear' nice, and no target username:) Jun 26, 2018 at 19:06
  • 22
    'like when Shaggy stepped on a rake'... I read that as 'Shoggy':) Jun 26, 2018 at 19:17
  • 13
    As an added suggestion, can we lower the trigger for migrating to chat? That'd help clear out a lot of back and forth, arguments, pile ons, and other behavior that can lead to a spiral of unintended sarcasm and hostility. Granted, that can just lead to moving it elsewhere, but chat mods are far more plentiful than site specific ones.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 26, 2018 at 19:19
  • 20
    Another comment - it may sound silly, but I always try to think of something nice to say, in my experience it helps soften the tone, even when the rest of the comment is critical of the post. For example, instead of "This wouldn't work when X", "This is a good option when Y, but it doesn't do Z so X wouldn't work if that's needed."
    – Kobi
    Jun 26, 2018 at 20:09
  • 139
    If we're going to treat comments more like posts then perhaps we need to be able to vote them down as well as up? Right now there's no disincentive to use bad language.
    – DavidG
    Jun 26, 2018 at 22:01
  • 13
    In addition to overt condescension in comments, I also see a milder variation: a lack of respect for the question. For example: "Why are you trying to do that?" or "Why are you using Tool X when you could use Tool Y instead?". The tone of such comments is superficially neutral, but they disrespect the OP by completely ignoring the actual question, and never contribute anything of value.
    – skomisa
    Jun 26, 2018 at 22:27
  • 18
    @DavidG Good thought in principle, but in practice snarky harsh comments tend to get upvoted.
    – apaul
    Jun 26, 2018 at 23:41
  • 48
    @Joe At the risk of sounding snarky - they probably grew up in a country that isn't the USA. Which is, I believe, most of them. Jun 26, 2018 at 23:54
  • 59
    You might want to start by cleaning up a lot of Jeff Atwood's snarky and rude comments and posts. The big boss started the culture and everyone else followed. As for "examples", I am pretty sure you can randomly pick any 10 of his posts or comments, and find at least 3 to 5 of these.
    – Masked Man
    Jun 27, 2018 at 4:15
  • 43
    Have you guys also considered hiding comments on the question by default (until "show comments" is clicked) if you don't like promoting question comments more than answers? I get that they are relevant to the asker and to other people interacting with the question, but not so much the passive reader. (Whereas comments on answers can often point out "hey, don't do this, it's dangerous!" and have more value.)
    – Troyen
    Jun 27, 2018 at 8:38
  • 163
    This is an XY problem!. If the problem is: To casual visitors, question comments are more visible than answers, then the obvious solution would be to adjust the visibility of comments on questions to casual users, not to stop trying to help the OP ask good questions by commenting. Since comments are often meant to address the OP, they're not that useful for these users. We could collapse all comments on questions by default for logged-out users.
    – Erik A
    Jun 27, 2018 at 11:00
  • 50
    I think a better use of time would be discouraging hostility from new users when they encounter enforcement of quality standards. There'd be a ton less snark if there was valid recourse against the new users who just don't care and want their question answered, quality be damned. As it stands, they have no skin in the game, so they're free to be as hostile and rude as they want. And all we can do is take it.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 27, 2018 at 14:07

36 Answers 36


Ironically, or perfectly, this started as a response to a comment.

That's the nature of online communication... It's easier to take the wind out of someone’s sails with a quick public snark than it is to engage in the labor of changing hearts and minds. But... Something being expedient, doesn't make it good or right.

I seriously doubt that you'll find anyone who's been around long who hasn't done it. We're all probably guilty or culpable. If we haven't openly snarked, we've all probably upvoted someone who has. I certainly have, on more occasions than I would like, or care, to admit. (If we're being completely honest, most of my meta unicorn dollars probably come from being awful to someone...)

It doesn't mean that we can't or shouldn't try to rise above. Rising above seems to be what SE is ultimately about, right? Sometimes rising above means letting go of the past. We just have got to learn from it and move forward.

It looks like SE is slowly and painfully growing a conscience. We're collectively learning that while our goals are noble, how we achieve them matters. If our network-wide goal is to make the Internet a better place; it's time to leave the tactics of the past in the past.

One of my favorite quotes has come to be:

the phrase she hated the most was, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ She would say, ‘No it f—— doesn’t. It’s chaos. It’s all random, it’s horrifying and if you want to try and reduce the horror and reduce the chaos, be kind that’s all you can do.’ ”

It’s chaos. It’s all random, it’s horrifying and if you want to try and reduce the horror and reduce the chaos, be kind that’s all you can do.

It would seem that many of us have been trying to reduce the horror and reduce the chaos by being unkind. The data shows that it isn't working. Let's try something else.

  • 5
    If we come across people who - wittingly or unwittingly - are adding to the horror and chaos, need we also be kind to them?
    – AakashM
    Jun 27, 2018 at 9:34
  • 8
    I really don't like the strawman you're setting up right at the beginning. The comment you linked to brings up an incredibly valid point, and you're dismissing it out of hand because you don't like the tone. And you're building your entire argument around that premise. As it is, snark is incredibly subjective, and I can absolutely guarantee that people will flag constructive criticism as rude because they don't like the message, no matter how nicely it's worded.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 27, 2018 at 14:03
  • 2
    There's some goodness in this answer that leaves me puzzled at why it has not attracted more up votes. Is this a flag that there is a deeper cultural problem, or is it that the style of presentation isn't pushing the right buttons? Jun 28, 2018 at 3:03
  • @KorvinStarmast Probably both, but it probably doesn't help that I have a history of being confrontational and snarky.
    – apaul
    Jun 28, 2018 at 3:19
  • 5
    @AakashM: "If we come across people who - wittingly or unwittingly - are adding to the horror and chaos, need we also be kind to them?" No, but being unkind to them isn't going to make them stop "adding to the horror and chaos", is it? So what's the point of being unkind to them? Making yourself feel better about losing a minute of your life to reading a homework dump question? Just downvote and move on. Jun 28, 2018 at 3:57
  • @NicolBolas "just downvote" isn't that unkind?
    – AakashM
    Jun 28, 2018 at 7:59
  • 4
    @AakashM yes, but it's the least bad choice overall. Apart from outliers, nobody can agree on what is ' too snarky' or 'acceptable' so, to avoid any misinterpretation, not commenting at all is an effective strategy for curators. Nobody can say/flag/blog/totter, rightly or wrongly, that your comment is r/a, and it's quick - you can move on to a Q/A that may deserve more effort spent on it. The losers are OP's who could genuinely benefit from an effective comment - OK someone always has to lose out:( Jun 28, 2018 at 10:33
  • 2
    I have tuned my SO 'no comment on questions from <50' rules a bit. No-effort requirement/homework dumps get down/close votes, no comment ever. New accounts that show some effort may get a concise one-liner that strictly addresses a problem, (eg .a quote of the line of bad code with an exclamantion mark). Others may get an extended clarification request/whatever. I treat answers as I have always done: only downvote and comment if the answer is totally incorrect and cannot possibly work. Jun 28, 2018 at 10:43
  • 7
    @AakashM: ""just downvote" isn't that unkind?" No. Voting is not for the OP; it's for other people who see the question. Jun 28, 2018 at 13:19


  • I agree with this Tim Post's post.
  • New question askers (like me) have to deal with the frustration of learning the nuances of what makes a question good and bad by having well-meaning and sincere questions shut down for legitimate reasons. They may also have to deal with the frustration of still not having the answer to a question that is important to them.
  • Adding snark to the unavoidable frustration of learning to contribute well to Stack Exchange sites makes it very difficult to want post again (citing personal experience), even for those who are willing to put forth the effort to try to do things right.
  • Comments should therefore be civil and hold an unambiguously considerate and helpful tone, even if the question turns out to be poorly formed, not thought-out, unanswerable, or one more duplicate in a pile of countless duplicates.

The long version:

As a big user of this site in terms of reading posts, and as a fledgling user in terms of posting questions, this topic is very important to me.

When I asked my first serious Stack Exchange site [x] question ever, it got shut down very rapidly, probably because of the way it was phrased. I was a little hurt and confused. I'd done a lot of work on my own to address my own question, and it was hard to understand why that wasn't good enough to warrant getting some help. I did some extra work and learned more over time about the meta and what makes questions good and bad, and my next question was better. Great. Good for me, and good for the Stack Exchange sites for providing resources that can help me understand and improve.

However, I always have a slightly sick feeling whenever I post a question. I will have done 3 or 6 hours of research and have meticulously formed my question and have continued to search for answers, but I know deep down that in not many more hours someone is going to find my question to be a duplicate or a poor question. They will flag it as such, and shut down my mini-forum on whatever it was that I wanted to know. I also know that either the moderator or another established member is going to deliver some subtle stinging remark about what I should have done or why the question was stupid.

I brace myself and post anyway, because usually someone will come to the rescue in an answer or comment before the question gets locked and help me understand in what ways my question is a duplicate, and link me to a few helpful previous questions while adding an additional insight. It's then that I know what the question that I was searching for was, along with some great answers. And when the question gets shut down, there are often links to additional similar questions that I didn't know were actually my question, so that's also a bonus.

It doesn't help me to take the step of posting to know that someone is going to say something to put me on the defensive, and that the person is often going to be the crotchety and tired-sounding moderator who shuts down my question. I can deal with it, because I know that text which may sound pointed and accusatory is often not intended that way, despite some of it clearly being intended that way. Either way. I try to answer those remarks as neutrally as possible.

It’s hard work to try to understand something that I'm not grasping while also working hard at asking a useful question. It makes things harder to sometimes need to defend myself against the eye-rolling attitudes of those who understood my topic well enough to see that my question isn't unique or especially helpful to the world at large; and especially when the remark contains more characters of snark than of characters about what was wrong. It's humbling enough just to see what they see, and it is encouraging when I see that they don't fault me for not knowing.

  • 6
    There is the help, tour, poicy, rules and millions of examples to check out. They are not very good 'nuances'... Jun 28, 2018 at 7:34
  • 5
    About duplicates: getting your question marked as a duplicate is not punishment of you or your question. It is common for two people to ask the same question differently. (I learned that as a flight instructor). Once the core issue is recognized the two questions are linked. Multiple ways to ask the same question all get pointed to the stack of answers (good, bad, in between) to that question no matter how it has been phrased. When your question gets marked as a dupe, you are contributing to the knowledge base in the Stack that will help someone in the future. That's a good thing. Jun 28, 2018 at 13:48
  • @KorvinStarmast - great point, and that does help. As I say it's always great to learn what question I'm really trying to ask, and hopefully that directs other people in the right way too. It's just that the attitude of the comments can really make a person feel sheepish about that contribution.
    – jlsecrest
    Jun 29, 2018 at 13:20
  • @MartinJames - And that's just it. There are a lot of things that one has to keep in mind as one gets the feel of what's expected here. It's great that we have the resources to help with that. It can be tough to get sharp criticism via the comments though, when one is doing their best to contribute in accordance with the community expectations.
    – jlsecrest
    Jun 29, 2018 at 13:25

I would advocate for banning "passive-aggressive" (I currently do not know a better word) comments. I often read comments which essentially complain about something (like "no original research"), but they do not say this but only imply this, sometimes with a bit of sarcasm and sometimes just by their tone.

I think they should be deleted. Especially because most of them are kind of "no effort by the commenter". They should either have just flagged the post (if they really think it is bad in one of the flag categories) avoiding the noise in the comments or commented something useful (i.e., where to start researching or what is missing from the question).

Currently it often feels like somebody is just commenting for feeling superior. Either implying they flagged the post for the same reason they imply in the comment or even not flagging but just complaining arrogantly in the comments. This does not add any value to the question, for the user or for the site at all.

  • 5
    People often assume malice when there is none.
    – Kevin B
    Jun 28, 2018 at 15:14
  • exactly! narcissistic personalities know very well how to crap on you in the most insidious ways that can be defended as polite and that is not what I said or I was joking.
    – user148287
    Jun 28, 2018 at 17:44
  • 5
    @downvoter care to explain? is probably the most abusive and rude thing I read everyday. It is passive-aggressive public shaming and should not be allowed on the site. Especiall if show your work type comments are not allowed, that should not be allowed either.
    – user148287
    Jun 28, 2018 at 17:46
  • I said to users with catastrophal spelling to use sentences, write "I" in uppercase and so on. I got temporary suspension for that. The mod said, my comments are "passive aggressive". Since then, I think the "passive aggressive" is just a cloudy terminology without any real meaning. But I am also more careful, I do this only rarely, and edit their posts many times. I did not vote your answer.
    – peterh
    Jun 28, 2018 at 18:53
  • 3
    It's often not passive-agressive, it's active-defensive. The OP is happy to waste users' time on bad questions, and SO contributors don't want to be drawn in to doing all their work for them: I agree that such posts shoudl be just downvoted/closed, but declaring such motives as 'aggression', 'feeling superior' or 'arrogance' is itself rude and abusive:( Jul 1, 2018 at 19:32
  • The comments I mean are the arrogant ones. Be constructive or just downvote, but do not make other people feel uncomfortable. Even when they are actually stupid, don't do so. Most people do not ask to waste your time, but either you're misguided to be rude in the comments or you actually have a point but the poster did not know better. So be constructive or do not comment. As said, if you think the question wasted your time, then do not waste additional time by commenting on it.
    – allo
    Jul 2, 2018 at 8:59
  • 3
    @JarrodRoberson "downvoter care to explain?" is a perfectly fair comment. It's not abusive or rude.
    – Flimm
    Jul 2, 2018 at 15:11
  • 3
    People do not need to insult you to be rude. Often some questions are a downright abuse of our time. Others are genuinely asked. It is not easy to tell them apart. Honestly, what confuses me more is some cultural clash in cultures/individuals that need validation in everything they do and ask questions for which they already know the answer. Jul 3, 2018 at 7:52
  • 1
    @Flimm it can surely be seen as rude. It implies that the downvoter just does not care whereas it's much more likely that they did not have any extra time to spare or made the conscious decision to no explain so as to avoid targeting. Sorry, it IS rude, and I will now be flagging all such snark responses as r/a immediately, Jul 7, 2018 at 9:23
  • @MartinJames Considering this whole thread is about being welcoming to newcomers, I really think we shouldn't start downvoting newcomers' posts without explanations, especially if there are putting in effort and trying to communicate. There are many questions on meta about this, see meta.stackexchange.com/q/135/162948 and meta.stackoverflow.com/q/252826/247696 .
    – Flimm
    Jul 9, 2018 at 11:58
  • @Flimm sure there are, and all but one are duplicates from OP's who did not bother to search first. Aug 29, 2018 at 12:33
  • 1
    @peterh: No matter how such comments are phrased, it is futile. If they cared about their readers, they would already have done it at the time of posting. It is not a matter of skills or typos; they have the minimum-effort attitude, and the minimum amount of work is the only thing they care about. May 7, 2023 at 15:02
  • (r/a = rude or abusive (a flag)) May 7, 2023 at 15:07
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum True words are not beautiful, beautiful words are not truthful.
    – peterh
    May 7, 2023 at 21:44

It will be hard to follow :-) But the direction is good. I think, somehow the users with between 500 and 2,000 reputation points should also be stimulated to visit the first-posts and late-answers review queues more, and do their comments there super-politely.

A question is also a resource, a resource for the answerers wanting to earn reputation points.

My personal reason to ask few questions is that they are handled unfairly by the voters, in my opinion. Comments in negative tone do not harm me, and I see them as hints to decrease the count of the unfair downvotes.


I read the post as a policy statement, and many answers and comments as critique of possible (but not yet proffered) implementations of the policy, instead of the policy itself. Let me offer a thought as to a possible implementation of an aspect of the this policy, for community discussion.

Since a huge increase of moderator flags, especially flags on comments, are a concern (perhaps the major concern) to a number of users, specifically because of the increased work load of the elected moderators, perhaps we should increase the number of moderators proportionally... Wait! Hear me out.

How many university students or junior programmers would be ecstatic to have the phrase "Stack Overflow Moderator" on their resume? There certainly exists other professions for many of the other Stack Exchange sites. But, how many of those individuals are currently qualified to be a full moderator? Probably none. But, many are in fact qualified to be supervised by current moderators, especially in the relevant task of interpreting human conversation. (I am not claiming all are; if all were, we wouldn't have this problem or discussion in the first place.) What if a system similar to the following were implemented, to curate the ranks of the "junior moderator" (j-mod):

  1. Instead of community voting, nominations would be taken from trusted community members (current moderators, university professors, business executives, whoever the employees of Stack Exchange decide). Those nominees would be invited to take part in a very short remote interview with a 'senior moderator' (one of the currently-elected moderators), take an online assessment (so senior moderators could see the quality of work, and the 'j-mods' could experience the type of awful work they would be doing), and higher performers would be given the status and access, always on a probationary basis, to deal with only a certain kind of flags, the type of which we are discussing here.
  2. A new review queue would be created (I know review queues aren't universally adored, but the system is already set up), so that senior moderators (only) would be able to supervise a representative sample of the j-mods' actions. The exact figure of what that 'representative sample' would be would be an important discussion point (whether 50%, 0.1%, or a sliding scale based upon how many reviews have already been passed, or something else), but that proportion of all work, for each j-mod, would be added to the queue. I would assume the easiest way to do this would be to simply to automatically take a 'screenshot' (historical snapshot) of the post and all comments, at the moment a flag begins to be handled by a j-mod, to be used as the 'before' for judgement by the senior moderators, but there are certainly others here smarter than I that can figure that out.

This would require a new queue for moderators, but it could also replace some of their work in comment flagging, so it might be a wash in time spent. This would require periodic short interviews with young or entry-level individuals, which is also a time concern, but I would assume that there is a significant percentage of current moderators that would be very happy to a) have more positive interaction in building up the future of their profession/hobby, or b) would be happy to add to their own resumes that they supervise (interview, hire, fire, etc.) a large number of junior staff in this volunteer position.

There is also the concern of turnover, because of the demographics from which the j-mods would be taken. I say that is not a very great problem, because of the relative low time put into training each j-mod. I do understand and agree that implementing a training program would be extensive, maybe almost as extensive as that of current moderators, but it needs only be implemented once. If the j-mod doesn't understand the training and can't get their answers via meta, or has too high a work load this semester, or has too many failed audits by senior moderation, or who knows what, you just interview the next j-mod on your list. I don't think I am naive to think that a well worded email sent to university department heads all over the world would get more response than could ever be handled (in regards to Stack Overflow, at least). It would be an unpaid internship, and the j-mods would be treated accordingly: respected as humans, but if they their quality or production is low, they are out. And they are welcomed to interview again next semester if they want. If more incentive than internship experience is needed to attract, the j-mods can get reputation points for their work, a shape (not diamond... triangle?) for their publicly shareable profile, probably other incentives that should be easy to provide.

Remember, no matter how many j-mods there might be at a given time or their turnover rate, the senior moderators would still only handle a percentage of all the flags, and then only in a review queue. If the flag was handled properly, it would take only seconds of the senior moderator's time to approve, and if improperly, it would be simple to revert the j-mod action, and then they would fix it correctly (which they would have to do anyway, were there no j-mods). I think this is a net time gain as well as a welcome increase in variation of moderation tasks (and decrease in the greatest bit of negativity and filth) for the senior moderators.

Some have voiced their concern that they don't want more flags, because they respect the time of the current moderators, and don't want to increase their workload. This suggestion would solve that, because those people would know that such flags would not, in fact, go to the current moderators, but to the 'j-mods'. I can't speak for every culture where Stack Exchange finds itself, but where I live, "give it to the intern" is what you do when some task really ought to be addressed, but you don't want to bother a current employee with something so tedious or odious. If active users knew that comment flags would be addressed by an intern, they would be much less reluctant to flag the comment. And that, I think, is one of the goals of the OP, to increase flagging of such unnecessarily negative comments, dramatically. The actual handling of it, through moderator action, is likely, to lead to success in another goal, the reduction of the unnecessarily negative comments in the first place. (I choose not to define 'unnecessarily negative' here, it seems that Tim Post and Jon Ericson have already defined it.)

A new problem this might create Stack Exchange-wide, is the problem of incorrect moderator action. That is easy, I think... every time a j-mod handles a flag on a question you have commented on, you get a canned message in your inbox. The message suggests that, if accidentally, some important and politely voiced information was removed; the user may simply check the post and add the information back in a new comment. Could this create the equivalent to "edit wars"? Of course. Then the senior moderators would step in. The j-mod would leave a comment similar to the one about conversations moved from comments to chat, and if the j-mod's actions were particularly grievous, that comment could be flagged by the user for a senior moderator. In the beginning, there would be many users offended by j-mod action, but in time everyone would get used to it, and the amount of required senior moderator intervention would die off. It may not be perfect, but problems caused will be rare (perhaps less rare than when a current moderator makes a mistake or controversial decision, but handled similarly), and all users will still have the chance to be heard. It also addresses one of the concerns heard in this Meta post, that there isn't any current feedback for when a comment is inappropriate and needs removed, for those users whose 'snark' is unintentional and would improve if appropriately informed.

I do want to address another possible concern with this method. In Meta, we often see a problem brought up, and then someone suggesting that the best solution to the problem to be an extensive IT project to change the very UI or database or whatever of the entire Stack Exchange network. Those are rarely well received, because that is not an answer to the OP. When someone brings up a problem, in Meta or otherwise, they want some action, something that they and like-minded or similarly situated people can do about it. Or, it is a rant. If Tim's post is a rant, then I just wasted my time with this answer. But, if not, what can he and similarly situated people do? Normal people who post in Meta can't make, or expect to be made, large changes in how Stack Exchange works (the IT aspect or the culture). On the other hand, Tim Post and similarly situated/like-minded people have the resources of Stack Exchange behind them, and seem to think that this policy is required for the longevity of the network. If that is the case, this is not an overambitious project. In other answers, the idea of changing the UI (dramatically) to hide comments, or even do so based upon user reputation points, whether you are the OP, whether you are signed in, etc., has been brought up. Tim even responded to that, and instead of talking about how large an undertaking that would be and would be impractical, he said that it has been tried, and even seemed open to trying it again. Creation of another queue and training for j-mods is probably less work than such a UI change.

The only thing this answer does not address is the urgency voiced in the original post. I don't see how Tim Post and similarly situated/like-minded people can possibly make such a sweeping change urgently, other than through a well-publicized rant and crossing their fingers. But publicizing that significant organization resources are being devoted to change the Network, in order to address the problem, might count as 'well-publicized', and might (probably not) also catch the eye of those that have already judged the Stack Exchange Network previously, and found it wanting (accurately or otherwise).


It seems no matter how much effort I put in, the best I can do lately is 0 votes because there is no great mystery to my projects for those who have the experience to answer my questions.

I lost my ability to ask new questions at some point yesterday, despite having a rating in the mid-20's, without notice. The FAQ says this is because I am not contributing enough or that (in as sterile language as you can imagine) I ask 'bad' questions.

But I spend over an hour putting each of my questions together just hoping to avoid ridicule, so I am convinced the real problem is that I am not perceived as having interesting questions and am being punished for it.

I bring this up, because I hope this culture changes. I believe it will make the rest of the community more open and beginners more willing to participate if questions that boil down to syntax errors that are due to the OP's lack of experience to identify aren't panned or downvoted. A little restraint can go a long way.

  • 4
    This offensive rant is not a valid answer. Jul 2, 2018 at 11:10
  • 1
    I would just like to say Welcome to the meta-effect!.
    – user148287
    Jul 2, 2018 at 16:38
  • 7
    But I spend over an hour putting each of my questions together just hoping to avoid ridicule. I all seriousness if this is true, you should spend that time with a step debugger and learning how to read stacktraces for comprehension. A quick random review of your questions reveals that most are either typos, errors with explicit clear error messages in the stacktraces or just plain logic errors that a step-debugger + some patient critical thinking would solve.
    – user148287
    Jul 2, 2018 at 16:41
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    The feedback you are getting from the community is this not your personal debugging/tutor service. Is that sufficiently less sterile. In your case, as it stands the system is working as designed as far as I can tell.
    – user148287
    Jul 2, 2018 at 16:45
  • 3
    I haven't asked a question in ages. I find that in the process of drafting the question, I figure out what my problem was, and from there, the solution.
    – Yoshiyahu
    Jul 2, 2018 at 19:39
  • Learning takes time. Writing posts that doesn't fit the site is the norm rather than not when you're new here. The solution is to observe, reflect, then post again.
    – Passer By
    Jul 8, 2018 at 10:09
  • This seems to be about questions rather than comments.
    – Raedwald
    Nov 3, 2019 at 19:44

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