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TL;DR: We've put together a code of conduct (CoC) that is a bit more comprehensive than our existing be nice policy because we feel that our current policy isn't meeting our needs.
In the beginning, there was 'Be nice'.
Treat others with the same respect you'd want them to treat you. We're all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know. Bring your sense of humor.
And that's all we needed when we started. Stack Overflow began with a large group that were fairly avid readers of Coding Horror and Joel On Software. While many of us sort of knew each other from interacting on both blogs and via mediums like Twitter, what can be said is, through our shared interests, we had much more in common with one another than we had differences. For many of us, Jeff & Joel spoke to the majority of what we valued and were passionate about.
We had essentially one rule: be nice. But, it was seldom, if ever that we actually had to enforce it. We were a group that, despite numerous geopolitical differences, essentially behaved the same through the handful of circumstances one might encounter while using the site.
Sure, the mechanics of the site encouraged sincere collaboration, but many missed that we were already a community that (mostly) agreed on the fundamentals of many things needed for our group to self-govern; it wasn't just the software and gamification that was creating a runaway success.
From our bootstraps, we showed tough love by editing and voting ruthlessly, but we were a small enough community that we could sweep away criticism by accurately stating this is how we like it. We and the site were something new, and people wanted to be part of both things. And we grew, wow did we grow; what an amazing machine where one could plant a programmer and grow a good communicator.
And then, there was 'Be nice'.
Maybe in context, we could call it 'Be Nice(r)?'
We expanded our policy a little bit, because it was simply too ambiguous. In fact, a key balance point that we struggled a bit to find in our initial RFC for the re-write was just that, breadth vs. depth:
Some people wanted more detail and examples (for clarity), others wanted less (for broader applicability).
We knew we needed to create something where folks embraced the intent, or spirit of the document, rather than using the document as a checklist of stuff to avoid moderators, while giving some examples of what's bad for use as landmarks. But, the voice of the policy was still better not do that rather than here's how to not do that.
Since then, we've absorbed an enormous amount of feedback from people that have interacted with our sites for the very first time, some stuff has been pretty consistent across rather vast groups of people.
We fell short in our 'Be nice' re-write in the following ways:
We needed to write for the best of folks in our community. Off-putting things tend to mostly come from folks who will probably only ever blow their top once. We have moderators to deal with the tiny fraction of people that never care about rules, so our code of conduct needs to mostly resonate with the overwhelming majority of people we really want to keep. We need less over-posturing for troll dispatching and more guides to help decent folks avoid more common pitfalls.
Codes of conduct help identify your community to the outside world, and help people decide if your community is a place where they'll feel safe and flourish. Our expanded 'Be nice' policy doesn't hold up to much scrutiny if you're fresh from seeing a bunch of nasty comments go unmoderated because they weren't technically rude.
We're at a point where 'Be nice', which first originated in a group where we pretty much already had a strong social contract, just isn't enough. What worked well for hundreds isn't working well for millions, and we need to write something more comprehensive.
But our policy is short on other things, too. What we need is a formal code of conduct that's similar to what free / open source projects and even conferences use in order to set behavioral expectations and norms.
The difference between what we have now and what a formal code of conduct would look like is best expressed by simply showing you our first draft of a formal code of conduct.
For your feedback, we're presenting our initial draft of a real Code of Conduct.
Even if you don't agree with all of it, do you feel that this is a reasonable code of conduct? Does it affect your recommending Stack Overflow as a resource in any way? How so?
Is anything in this document, including its purpose, unclear to you in any way? Are there any instances where you'd suggest alternate language or copy? Where? Why?
If you're a long-term contributor, how does this document impact your feelings toward new users and their needs, if at all? How does it impact your feelings toward the company? Or, more broadly, did this document inspire any metacognition at all?
If you're someone who wants to contribute more often, or have felt yourself sort of stuck on the fringes, how does this document change your perception of the site, if at all?
We're open to all feedback.
We understand that not all of you feel like this is necessary, and we understand that truly being inclusive means making sure everyone has seats at this table too, as long as we can possibly extend one. That means we need a civil dialog, so we're asking for any negative feedback to be respectful and honest. Please remember, we're listening to you as well as many, many people that simply aren't comfortable coming here, and a big part of our goal is going to remain to include them.
We'd like feedback by Wednesday, July 11, 2018, however this question will allow for feedback until a final draft is released, at which point this question will be closed as a duplicate of that one. We'll monitor for new answers as long as this remains open.
Please, post an answer and avoid comments if you have anything of substance to say.
We'll respond to comments that are readily and practically answerable with a few dispassionate sentences, but if you've got anything even remotely substantive to say, we're asking that you leave an answer. Using comments instead is actively harmful because it requires us to spend more cycles moderating and archiving than actually engaging.
We'd like everyone to remember that we're talking about ways to be nicer to one another - so please, let's have a conversation about this in the spirit of that intent.
We're in the process of gathering a lot of feedback through UX research and having a bunch of conversations with interested groups to gain a variety of perspectives. The more open and specific you can be about any concerns that come up as you read this draft, the better our next draft will be. For instance, it's fine to say "that scares me but I'm not quite sure why".
Thanks for reading this far, and let us know what you think!